Mahsa graduated from La Costa Canyon this year, and her mom threw a party for her at a pizzeria in Encinitas.
I showed up late and there was only one place to sit, next to a Caucasian guy named Bray. About 80 percent of the people in the room were Iranian, the ancestry of Mahsa’s family.
I was offered some pizza and salad, and Bray’s girlfriend told me of another graduation — her daughter’s. She’d just finished at Berkeley. She’d already earned a Ph.D. at UCLA. “That’s a smart kid,” I said.
Her daughter was in some gifted-student program and graduated from college at age 16. “She went to Paris and was reading books in French to really absorb the language. It was from there that she called me and said she’d read a book on neuroscience and decided that that’s the field she’d like to pursue.”
Since graduating, she’s had a few articles published in the National Science Journal and travels around the world for her job.
Mahsa had apparently done well in her studies and is headed to college at UC Santa Cruz. I asked what her immediate plans were. She smiled and said, “I’m going to grad night. That’s tonight.”
I asked her mom to tell me about her, and she said, “I could not be more proud, given the fact she’s had to overcome a few obstacles. It has been a privilege raising her and having her as my daughter. She’s a very balanced kid and is very mindful of her impact on others. She volunteered in a nursing home, reading and talking with [the elderly] for over six months.”
I went to grab a lemonade and overheard a few adults talking about the worst movies they’ve ever seen. Someone mentioned Howard the Duck. Another person mentioned a Van Damme movie titled Cyborg. I wanted to add a few of my picks, but there were no empty chairs nearby, so I went and sat down again next to Bray.
I found out he’s a musician. He plays guitar, flute, and sax. He told me he was in a band with a guy from Firefall. It looked as if he was a tad disappointed I hadn’t heard of them. When he told me he was best friends with Stu Hamm, we had something to talk about. We discussed Hamm’s bass playing with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.
When Bray told me he was in a band with Randy Meisner for a few years, I said, “That guy in the Eagles? That’s cool.” He told me about Meisner not getting along with the rest of the Eagles and once being sick and not wanting to do an encore during the Hotel California tour. Henley kept insisting, and Meisner ended up punching Henley, according to Bray.
I told Bray I knew a few people who had met Henley and said he wasn’t very nice. One guy played poker with him in Arizona, and Henley wouldn’t sign a CD for him. Bray laughed and said, “I played in one of their poker games. They get some really high stakes going. It was scary.” Bray went on to tell me about the FBI contacting Meisner once. They asked him why he wasn’t paying restaurant bills. It turned out there was someone impersonating him to get free drinks and food at restaurants. I asked, “Why would someone try and impersonate him? Most people wouldn’t even know that name.” He explained, “That probably makes it easier. Some might recognize that name as a member of the Eagles but not know exactly what he looks like.”
I was enjoying all the music stories with Bray, but I felt I should get to know some of the other people at the party. I walked by two Iranians who were furious about the recent elections in Iran.
I found out the party was going back to Mahsa’s house in Encinitas. I joined them there.
I walked in and heard adults in the kitchen complaining about the Iranian elections. I talked to Mahsa’s mom, who told me, “My older sister is considered the elder now, since my parents have passed away. In our culture, we respect them and seek their counsel. She came to all the girls’ graduations and considers education something that no one can take away from you. Given the turmoil in Iran and the role that Iranian women have taken in this uprising...seeing our daughters graduate and wanting to get a higher education is something to smile about.”
I went back into the living room and heard some teenagers on the couch laughing and joking. Mahsa had already split for her grad night.
When the topic of religion came up, one boy said, “I am a pasta-farian. I pray to a great spaghetti monster in a bowl of pasta that rotates around the sun.” A cute girl with her hands on his knee laughed uncontrollably. An older person standing nearby looked confused and asked for clarification. The teenager continued with his take on heaven and something about it being filled with strippers. The adult headed back into the kitchen.
There were a few dogs at the house. One of the dogs was a schnauzer. The other was a poodle mix, and I was told its name was Bo. I said, “Oh. So, you’re copying President Obama, huh?” A woman turned her head and said, “Yeah, well...we named our dog that seven years ago.”
I sat back down next to Bray, who was strumming an acoustic guitar that had been against a wall. We talked more about music and then played an impromptu version of Name That Tune. I found out he’s collaborated with Laurence Juber, a guitarist who has worked with Paul McCartney. Bray also worked on a project called “Celebrities Reading Shakespeare,” which allowed him to work with Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, and Martin Short.
I talked briefly with the young Ph.D. After she headed out, I told her mom she should be proud. And, somehow, it came out that she was also a black belt in karate. I replied to that with a comment about her not having to worry about any guys giving her trouble. Her mom smiled and said, “She broke a guy’s hand in Vienna.”