In all likelihood, we offended every Iranian that was on that late-night bus to Mashhad. Those that were making a holy pilgrimage to the Imam Reza Shrine – one of the holiest sites in Islam, dubbed “the heart of Shia Iran” – could have been justifiably upset by our display of boisterous disrespect, others may have simmered quietly while trying, unsuccessfully, to get some sleep on their ten hour journey. My only defense is that I was a follower, not an instigator – Knute knew all the lyrics, I was only there as part of the Chorus.
“Every night I sit here by my window (window)” he bellowed drunkenly to our assembled, and equally drunk or stoned choir.
“Starin’ at the lonely avenue (avenue)” We all jumped in on the call and response.
“Watchin’ lovers holdin’ hands and laughin’ (HaHaHa)…with loud exaggeration.
“And thinkin’ ‘bout the things we used to do”
Little did Bobby Darin know that when he wrote the song “Things” in 1962 it would be used as a form of sleep deprivation on unsuspecting Iranian pilgrims ten years later. It was around this time that we started to receive the “withering glances” from passengers in the forward section of the bus.
“(Things!)Like a walk in the park!”
“(Things!) Like a kiss in the dark!
“(THINGS!) Like a sailboat RIDE!
WHAT ABOUT THE NIGHT WE CRIED!…everybody now! etc etc.
We were young, high, and unstoppable. At some point, hijab-covered women would turn and go “Shhhhhh!”…it didn’t work. Even young mothers sporting swaddled babies pleading for quiet had little or no effect. We were having too much fun. “Hmmm”, pondered Knute, “perhaps they are not Bobby Darin fans…how about a little Marty Robbins.”
“A white sports coat and a pink carnation!”
“I’m all dressed up for the dance!”
Knute stood in the aisle swaying and singing as the bus careened through eastern Iran. We were all spellbound by his human jukebox ability to conjure up familiar songs and engage us in rousing renditions. The choir had broken ranks and was now jumping in wherever memory of lyrics allowed…
“A white sports coat and a pink carnation!”
“I’m all alone in romance!”
“Ohh, I love Marty Robbins” (said no Iranian pilgrim ever) “can you sing…“El Paso”?” “Of course, a song of intercultural love, as a metaphor for the abiding respect & love shared between the American & Iranian people”, said none of the young culturally insensitive hippie travellers.
“Out in the West Texas town of El Paso”
“I fell in love with a Mexican girl!”
“Night time would find me in Rosa’s cantina”
“Music would play and Feleena would whirl!”
After a time, the pilgrims seemed to accept their fate and stopped shushing our singing and laughter. Perhaps it was resignation to the forces of youthful exuberance, perhaps through 20 years of – involuntary – pro-Western leadership under the Shah, they had acquired enough tolerance to know that “this too shall pass.” Maybe they just succumbed to fatigue and fell asleep, or, as I noted in my journal, “The people here are so much more friendly than the Turks” …elsewhere, Knute may have been physically restrained.
Was our rude behaviour enough to sway the opinions of some of our co-travellers? Did we tip anyone over into sympathy for the anti-government forces which were growing? “Enough is enough!”…”let’s kick the bums out!” The Iranian Revolution occurred several years later…how many indignities does it take to start a revolution? Knute, Bobby Darin, and the Law of Unintended Consequences.
30 Years later – 25 years after the Iranian Revolution – Knute would rob a bank in Beaverton, Oregon…and get caught. His heist made news under “stupid robber tricks.” Evidently, he brought a gun, a bandana for his face, and a bag for the $188,655 he walked out with – a good haul for a bank robber – but he forgot a getaway car. As a result, he demanded keys from a customer, very politely saying, “I will leave them under the front seat.” The only problem was, Knute couldn’t figure out which key opened up the owner’s car, according to reports, so he took off the mask, and went back into the bank to inquire.
After he finally got the car open, Knute took off, passing a Beaverton police car along the way. The officer received signals from the tracking device planted in the stolen loot, and tracked him down within minutes – and arrested him.
The last we heard he was cooling his heels in an Oregon Detention Facility – no doubt entertaining his cell mates with his Karaoke command of Golden Oldie pop tunes.