Irangeles

Broken Elevator, broken English closes social divides in diverse South Florida

For ten years I have lived in a modest 16 story building across the street from the Atlantic Ocean in Hollywood Florida. Years ago, I was living in Hollywood, California, pursuing and succeeding at commercials and walk-ons in television and movies. I no longer had to wait tables at the Comedy Store, and could devote myself full-time to getting acting and extra work.

Unlike California, where I was born, there are tons of these high rises. Mine is one of the smallest ‘boxes on the beach.’ Next door neighbors reside for years without meeting one another. My building was built in the 1970’s as a second home or an investment for Northeasterners who wanted to be able to escape the cold or have an income property. For the last three weeks, only one elevator of the two we have has been working. This has changed the social order in the building.

For example, three times now, I’ve ridden up or down with a brunette woman who looks to be in her sixties, with her darling toddler charge. Clearly she doesn’t speak English, and I noted a wary expression in her eyes, so I tried to break the ice. With the language divide, that presents a challenge.

“Where are you from?”

“Peerrrzzzia,” she purred, as many Iranians do.

“Well, Welcome,” I said, with a smile that reached to my eyes. I love it that people come here. I’m actually quite interested in the Middle East and how it is that some of them hate us Americans so very much.   I asked her how long she’s been stateside.

“Oh, about thirty…” she said, unable to finish her sentence. I understood what she meant.  She left when the Shah was deposed, as so many did.

All those years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles, the influx of wealthy Iranians was such that it was jokingly referred to as Irangeles. They swarmed in and bought up all the parking garages in the cities, and were a sudden presence at the gas pumps. Here in Hollywood, it was reported that the Pilots who flew the 9-11 planes trained here, drank nearby, but mostly hid out, preparing for martyrdom and Paradise.

Funny, isn’t it, that a broken elevator can fill the gulf between distant neighbors and far flung cultures?

Oh, and about that one working elevator…you may as well get in.  Up or down, We’re all going somewhere.