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His goal: peace and a little fun
© St. Petersburg Times
TAMPA -- Alexander Radfar's ambition sometimes bulges with excessive zeal, but it never bursts.
Ambition brought him to the United States from Iran in 1979, where he sought a master's degree in fine arts at Syracuse University. That hope faded as the scholarship he was receiving disappeared when the Shah was ousted. The regime of Ayatollah Khomeini took over and the money to pay for his education in America stopped.
He tried Mercer University in Atlanta, but had to work instead. He made his way farther south arriving in Tampa 22 years ago.
He had hoped to apply his training and experience in art to designing stages and sets for television, but worked instead cleaning and repairing Persian carpets.
Since Sept. 11, however, the carpet occupying the bulk of floor space in the center of his shop is not oriental.
But that gets ahead of Radfar's story.
"Many Middle Easterners come here and maybe want to use the benefits of a free country. I don't just want to use the benefits," Radfar said.
In 1995, he became an American citizen. "I never went back home, but since I got my citizenship, my homeland is here."
In 1996, he opened Oriental Rug Specialists at 4119 Gunn Highway, and the business was doing well. He could see more clearly now the house he had always dreamed of on a golf course with a pool table in its playroom. But the dream was running ahead of reality. The two caught up with each other on Sept. 11, when terrorists brought down the World Trade Center. Radfar was devastated.
Just as much of the world did that day, Radfar sat in front of his television in shock as the buildings crumbled. "When that happened, I couldn't do anything," Radfar, 51, said. "I couldn't work, couldn't do oriental rugs. I couldn't handle it. So I closed my shop and I was thinking about freedom, about real freedom -- and we have it."
As a man with connections to the United States and the Middle East, Radfar said he wanted to do something artistic to say that the people of Iran and the United States love each other even if their governments don't.
The result was not profound. He will not be among the candidates when the next round of Nobel laureates are considered. Radfar came up with a game that combines patriotic American and Iranian themes with a hybrid of golf and pool. With pressurized wood and outdoor carpet, he worked on the concept for several weeks. The prototype of the game now sits in the middle of his shop.
The table itself is essentially two major movable components, one 4 feet by 8 feet, the other 4 feet square. With five holes, the basic table is an L-shape formed by the two pieces, which can be configured to give players 18 holes of a golf course, on two levels and with obstacles. The game is played with pool cues and golf balls.
Features of the table trumpet Radfar's intended patriotic theme. One hole is beneath a Statue of Liberty and says "God bless America" when a player pockets a ball there. Another features Shahyad, "In memory of the Shah," a monument in Iran.
Radfar said with minor moderations, the game table can aim its themes of bridging gaps between cultures and nations by becoming a vehicle for education about other countries. One proposed version of the table features an Eiffel Tower.
Radfar has been fascinated by pool since he first saw the game as a 16-year-old. He said he has never played golf, only the mini version of it found in parks and amusement centers. So to objectively test the game, Radfar invited relatives and a few people who play either pool or golf to try it out. He said they called it challenging and encouraged him to go further with it. He now has patents pending for the table and the several variations of the game he has devised, and hopes a manufacturer will one day produce it.
If, however, the game is not received by the public as well as it has been by friends and acquaintances, Radfar says he won't be too disappointed. "I don't care if anybody buys it right now or not. I just want to send the message: God bless America.
"It may be a good beginning to peace."
Sometimes Radfar's ambitions bulge with zeal.
-- To reach Elijah Gosier, call (727) 893-8650 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.