A City Pursued by Originality
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A City Pursued by Originality<br> By Marc Porter Zasada<P> THE CHIEF RELIGION practiced in greater L.A. is no longer the worship of money. No, a subtle shift occurred just about the time Franco-Chinese cuisine first appeared on large shiny black plates, and just after Hockney was doing his best work. Yes, the chief religion of our city finally became what we had long pretended it to be: -Originality.- At some point, we became the Mecca of Originality: food, architecture, relationships. I do my part. Each morning, I work on my novel. It-s set in the mean streets of the Big Orange, but trust me, it-s something entirely new.<P> Nevertheless, even the most pious Angeleno has his moments of doubt. <P> Take this warm evening, when I find myself at a fiercely postmodern home in the hills of La Ca-ada. Curvilinear, with surprising peaks, it-s a true original. At sunset, Chairs are set up on a back lawn, and an outer wall of the brightly-lit library has been rolled open to reveal a string trio. Quiet falls as the violinist - a friend of mine - leans into the opening phrases of a piece by Haydn. It-s exquisite, but I continue thinking about that very important word, -original,- about how it sometimes means -new- and sometimes means -old.-<P> I look up again at the house, where each clever finial and unexpected baluster is intended as a coinage, a new thought in the world. -I-ve never seen anything quite like this place,- I told the owner-architect, and it was a sincere L.A. compliment. Even Disney Hall, after all, was not an entirely new thought; Frank Gehry did think something like it, somewhere else before.<P> Along Melrose, our young pursue -original lifestyles.- In Bel Air, lawyers imagine ground-breaking lawsuits on week-days, and novel window treatments on week-ends. Our chefs struggle to create something really fresh with pumpkin. Steve Soderbergh felt he had to make that movie, -Full Frontal.-<P> How often have I have jeopardized my own career by thinking: -If once, just once, I could create something truly original, I would find contentment.-<P> But in a place where newness is everything, no one can ever be content. Sleepless with creative juices, in a city which re-invents itself every night, how could we even consider contentment? <P> Which brings us to the hero of the evening. For all this while, that string trio has been working not to create something original, but to reproduce an -original score,- a thought from 220 years ago. To my friend Endre Balogh, tonight-s violinist, a man wedded to the classics, -original- really does mean -old.- Yes, he adds laughing personality to the Haydn, and may even, for all I know, have taken small liberties with the rhythm. But fundamentally, friend Endre is re-enacting beauty. I have been to Endre-s own L.A. home, and as he plays, I find myself picturing his richly-panelled, oriental-carpeted rooms, filled with antiques and old French woodcuts of musicians. It includes no -postmodern gestures.-<P> Tonight, I wonder if my friend the violinist is content. I know only that the rest of us, architect and would-be novelist alike, have been asked briefly and blessedly not to create, but simply to listen.<P> Adapted from a longer version that ran in the L.A. Times Magazine, April 6, 2004. Copyright - 2004 by Marc Porter Zasada, all rights reserved.<P>
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