Supply & Demand
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Supply & Demand<br> By Marc Porter Zasada<p> EVEN IN HIP LOS ANGELES, expectations must be met. Desire must become concrete. Supply must meet demand. It's an old-fashioned concept, but sometimes life does prove old-fashioned. <p> One day my friend, let's call him Asher, calls me up and asks me to come downtown to help him buy an engagement ring. "It's better with two guys, he says. "I'll be good cop and you be bad cop." <p> "Engagement ring?" I ask. "So it's serious?" <p> He hesitates, "Yes. And the ring has to be serious, too." <p> It's a line straight out of Sholom Aleichem, and sure enough, come next morning, we're walking through L.A.'s Jewelry District in flat wool caps, hands in pockets, ignoring tattered newsstands, glittering trays of white gold, and the blandishments of eager foreigners leaning over long display counters. "We are not young fools," say our caps and our brisk stride, "and we're here to do business." <p> Asher is a scholarly bachelor without a lot of money, but graced with spiritual virtues I've been explaining to women for some time. The woman in question, let's call her Abigail, seemed delighted with these virtues...but now the question of the ring has loomed unexpectedly large. She has given exact specifications: a diamond set in filigreed platinum, accented with blue sapphires. It's called an "heirloom design." <p> Asher has obtained the address of a small, precise Eastern European with a booth in one of Hill Street's vast jewelry emporiums, and we have downloaded a "Diamond Buyer's Guide" from the internet. <p> But as Asher sits down to business, the Bad Cop neglects his duties. I listen instead to the hum of commerce all around us, the exhilirating sense of passion taking solid form every few seconds. Everywhere I look, couples cuddle and young men prove themselves. <p> For a moment, I consider explaining to Asher that the value of diamonds is a fraud. That half-naked miners find them by the fistful in muddy South African caves, and the big cartels hold them back to prop up the price. Did you know that DeBeers commissioned the song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" for Marilyn Monroe? <p> But who am I to ruin the old-fashioned charm of this moment? I'm thrilled that even in hip L.A., jewels can play the same role that flocks of sheep once played in Ukranian villages. <p> Jewels show a commitment to not just a spiritual, but an economic future. If diamonds did not exist, Abigail would have to invent them. <p> Meanwhile, the Eastern European has shown great patience in trying to match supply with demand. He has endured the Diamond Buyer's Guide. He has discovered Asher's price range, and succeeded in doubling it. <p> But timing is everything, and Abigail has been just a little too precise in her demand. It turns out this man does not actually stock an heirloom platinum filigree accented with sapphires. "Of course, he could have one made..." but he hesitates one second too long, and the Bad Cop finally interrupts, "You know, we really should check around at a few other places." <p> "But we've almost got it figured out," protests Asher, now in a fever. <p> I drag him out, and we begin a long, joyless march through the Western Jewelry Mart. <p> By lunch, we're tired and giddy and our eyes have lost their ability to distinguish among dazzles, heirloom or otherwise. When we finally step into the fresh air, the dealers are probably glad to see us go. <p> And the wind up? Desire never becomes concrete. Asher never finds the right ring, never commits to years of payments, and the marriage...never takes place. <p> Sometimes, even in L.A., demand can prove greater than supply. <p> Copyright -- 2004 by Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved. A longer version of this piece first appeared in the Los Angeles Downtown News. <p>
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