MARCH 12, 2019
My L.A. in Four Locations is a running feature in which Angelenos share the story of their city through four specific places. This week, Ariel N. Banayan leads a tour of his “Tehrangeles.”
A large number of Iranian Jews left their country after the 1979 revolution and many of them landed in Los Angeles. “Tehrangeles” is centered around Westwood Boulevard, but it spreads in many directions.
8400 Gregory Way, Beverly Hills, 90211 — La Cienega Park — At La Cienega Park, there is always group of elderly Iranian Jewish men to gather on the vacant picnic tables and play a round or ten of their favorite game: backgammon. My grandfather would talk with them as I played on the swing set. The older men still seem willing to trudge their way to the park in either rain or sunshine to play a game of backgammon as if the Revolution never happened. However on the rainy day this photo was taken, I know they are at home listening to the local Iranian radio station, enjoying a hot cup of Persian tea, and hopefully sitting in a comfortable chair.
8730 Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, 90035 — Elat Market — Named after the city in Israel, Elat Market caters to the exact tastes of the Iranian Jewish community. At the mention of the name, we immediately know where to buy every popular pastry, vegetable, cooking ingredient from Iran, and more since it’s all kosher as well. As a child, the afternoons when my grandmother dragged me down to Elat, the market evolved into its own experience of wandering seemingly infinite aisles of food never advertised on television, but devoured at every meal. Elat’s aisles feel less like a grocery store and more like a museum or library.
241 S Moreno Dr, Beverly Hills, 90212 — Beverly Hills High School — Beverly Hills High School has a reputation of coddling rich and spoiled elites, which is certainly true to an extent since entertainments like Clueless and Beverly Hills, 90210 mythologize the school’s ethos. But I had a different experience. I played the tuba in marching band, and I filmed the late night school board meetings. Since I graduated back in 2012, they put up a fence to keep trespassers off campus. But I also know a few alumnus and faculty members that believe the fence is meant to keep the public safely away from certain students as well.
1900 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, 90405 — Santa Monica College — A majority of Persian students in high school treat Santa Monica College and other similar community colleges in the L.A. area as the easiest and cheapest way into a guaranteed university. It is safe and relatively easy to succeed while still contributing a decent amount of effort towards school (and choosing the easiest professors). Yet on June 7, 2013, that assumed safety was lost when a shooter came to the library. I was fortunate to have slept in that day, remaining at home. However, the onslaught of phone calls from family members, friends, and other members of my community revealed that certain traumas, anxieties, and fears did not remain in Iran.
Ariel N. Banayan is a dual degree MA/MFA student at Chapman University. He has previously taught children reading skills and literature comprehension in after school enrichment programs, as well as piano musicianship and karate. He received a B.A. in English from UCLA in 2017.