The Iranian, part II
Here's a followup to my piece about my late college friend Ali, written by my esteemed fraternity brother John Caccese who got his undergraduate degree two years ahead of me at Northwestern.
I was glad to read about Ali and I'd like to add a couple of my own remembrances.
Ali did about as good with women as any person I met during the five years I spent in Evanston. He was mostly a happy person (probably due in part because it seemed he had to best women off with a stick) although I do recall him once being really, really down in the dumps. Evidently, he was two-timing a couple of girls and they found out about it and confronted Ali together. That would probably ruin just about anybody's day.
We weren't close friends, but I do remember the sculpture in question very well. I hope somebody also recalls some of the things I'll mention here and can confirm some dates.
Ali was elected an officer of the house, secretary I think, just before I graduated in '78. It didn't last long. Some of those who were there at the time may remember that there were several rich-boy, Iranian ROTC types who were also trolling around NU during Ali's stay. Most of them came from families who were ardent supporters of the Shah.
Ali did not share all of their sentiments.
One of these loathsome, Shah-worshiping ROTC bastards from Iran (I have a good hunch that his name was Paris Avrimides, but I can't prove it) turned Ali in to whatever local Iranian consulate was around (Chicago, I guess) because Ali had a little too much to drink one night and mouthed off saying naughty things about the Shah. Ali got in a lot of trouble and if I recall correctly, had to resign from being an officer of the house because of it.
I don't recall when, exactly, Ali did his sculpture (early '79?) but I do distinctly remember asking, as I'm sure just about everybody in the house did, who the person being depicted in the metal sculpture was. Ali informed me it was, indeed, the Shah. I thought the sculpture was hysterically funny.
I was in graduate school at Medill during the spring of 1979 as the Shah was in the process of taking a powder from Iran, and the Ayatollah was in the process of moving back from France. I remember dropping by the house one day, and upon seeing him I asked Ali a flip question that went something on the order of, "so Ali, who's this Ayatollah guy?" Ali looked at me seriously for a second, then smiled and said, "he is a very good man."
I gave the Ayatollah no further thought, because if Ali said he was an okay guy, that was good enough for me.
A couple of years later, the Ayatollah was firmly in charge, US Embassy hostages had been taken in Teheran and subsequently released, and Iran was certainly not most Americans' list of favorite nations. I got a call from Dave Lazier, who was then President of the chapter, and he told me he had heard (either by letter, phone call or visit) from a representative of the Iranian government that Ali had been killed fighting the Iraqis. I thought I remember Dave saying that Ali was serving on a gunboat, but in all honesty I don't remember all the facts.
To this day, despite being a life-long, card-carrying ultra-conservative, I've never held much ill will towards Iran. Ali fought and died for what he most assuredly believed, and someone in Iran evidently thought enough of his sacrifice to make sure that Ali's Acacia brothers back in Evanston learned of his fate.
We've just passed Memorial Day, and although his loyalties led him to sacrifice his life to protect an Iranian regime many Americans at the time found loathsome (and some, perhaps, still do), to this day Ali is the only person I've ever met who later died in battle for his country. I thought of him this past weekend when my 9-year old daughter asked me if anybody in our family died for our country. I told them a little about Ali. I respected him then for his actions and I respect him now.
If you were to ask me about Ali, I'll tell you this, serious words to be sure, but delivered with a smile, "he was a very good man."
John Caccese '78
John Caccese '78
Thanks, John, for replaying some more 25-year-old memories of our friend. Maybe we'll meet again someday not on this Earth; wouldn't that be dandy (I was going to say "hellacious" but I figure that would be bad luck). Till then, we have just what we remember of one another I suppose.