Show High Interest
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LIKE MOST IN THIS TOWN, the Urban Man carries around snappy white binders of remarkable ideas. Again this afternoon, I find myself sitting in a small airless office with a view of a palm tree and a parking lot, where I pass a binder across a clean gray desk. As always, I see it received with a smile. "Very interesting," comes the instant response. "Let me pass this by a few people and get right back to you." <br><br> The difference between this answer and the answer "No" can be measured in millimeters, perhaps microns. But within those microns lies the glory of L.A. itself.<br><br> You see, in this town, we always show grave interest in one another-s ideas. Whether you suggest a radically new TV pilot, real estate deal or wallpaper for my kitchen, I must listen carefully, then make cheerful and relevant comments. But we have so many ideas to juggle. I hear that Angelenos deal with 40,000 scripts a year -- and heaven knows how many groundbreaking thoughts and last minute reconceptualizations. Inspiration wanders along our freeways and lights up our cell phones.<br><br> We need a coping strategy; and of course, the approach they fail teach you in school, or even on the streets, is: "Show High Interest, Then Stall." If you master this concept, taught only in airless offices, you may find success and even understand your friends here. For those words, "Show High Interest" suggest a reply to almost any question, including, "Are you going to make my party tonight?" -to which the correct answer has always been, "Absolutely, I wouldn-t miss it."<br><br> Which means, of course, you give it a fifty-fifty chance.<br><br> The next two words, "Then Stall" allow you to hedge the market without expending any effort. Maybe you will show up at that party, around 11. Maybe you will option that series, just when the price drops. Maybe you will decide at the last second to join your wife at the therapy session, attend your brother-s bowling night - or pull my binder out from underneath a stack of papers, months from now.<br><br> Your father said, "He who hesitates is lost." You know that in L.A., most decisions, like most relationships, can be stalled - indefinitely. <br><br> But this apparent dishonesty allows us to function as the world-s great crucible of bright ideas, complete with endless views of palm trees and parking lots. For within those microns between "Very interesting" and "No, thanks" the most improbable thought can live a brief life -- and like a seed scattered in the great southern desert, get its tiny chance to flower.<br><br> Today, I exit the airless office without disappointment. I step firmly into a sunny afternoon, where a high wind rattles the palm tree in the great desert of the parking lot. <br><br> Elsewhere, people may be more forthright. Maybe they often say "No." In L.A., we fear no acronyms. We proudly "Show High Interest, Then - Stall." <br><br>
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