Just Another Fan
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By Marc Porter Zasada
Even here in the metropolis, I figure you should sometimes put away your ego and your critical distance. Sometimes, I'm sure it's healthy to become "just another fan." Take your pick: baseball, rock music, opera. A true fan finds...purity of intention, ritual, and romance. He only has to show up on time.
Tonight, it's eight minutes before a Ren-e Fleming recital at the Pavilion, and we find the Urban Man running up Temple street in his good suit. Traffic blocks the intersections and I've ditched my car on Figueroa. At last I reach the Music Center Plaza out of breath, not pausing to savor the lights glittering in the trees, the blowing fountain, or the women wearing white shoes and pearls.
I'm supposed to be writing a review for a local paper,* but I'm really here as a fan. Ren-e Fleming is an operatic soprano of fortysomething beauty and grand pianissimos, and for the first time in my life, the Urban Man is star struck. At the end of a mundane day, I sometimes play her CD's loud in a dark room. Chi sar-? Chi sar-? Che dir-? Che dir-?
Tonight, she could fall off the stage and I'd still write a sparkling notice.
When I was young I mostly resisted...fanaticism. No sports heros. No rock stars...I held myself back. Now at last, I realize that becoming a fan -- of anything--offers a long list of advantages.
First, there's that ritual. At a ballpark, you can descend a sunny grandstand, buy big cups of overpriced beer, and wipe mustard off your sleeve, again and again.
Here at the opera house, the Urban Man likes the well-dressed rush to the seats when they ring those little chimes, and the hush when the lights fall. At intermission, I buy the overpriced strawberries and wipe chocolate sauce off my sleeve.
Really, if you do it right, a fan can achieve the same timeless quality as a Tibetan Monk. Next week, Aida returns to the L.A. Opera...again. I can watch them wheel out the pyramids and elephants...again. Like a baseball game, it will be different, but mysteriously...the same.
Secondly, your time as a fan is free of envy because it's completely impossible that you will ever pitch seven major league innings or walk across a stage with only a grand piano at your back. So it's generally safe to worship the folks who do.
Third, no one has any expectations of a fan, and yet you may still accomplish something. Go to fan websites, and you'll see the prizes: A blurry snapshot. A ticket stub from the third row. Among the many foolish things you will do in this world, your friends will never think you foolish for being a fan. Always, they will smile indulgently.
Finally, fans are allowed to practice a harmless infidelity. You may have a crush on Alanis Morissette without any embarrassment. Tonight, I may nurse a slight crush on Ms. Fleming without offending her or my wife. A diva is, after all, a woman flying first class from stage to stage --unobtainable and perfect.
Tonight, I step on people's feet as a I rush to my seat. I loosen my tie, slow my breathing, and try to fall into the great trance once again.
Sure enough, Ren-e Fleming enters blond and confident. She stands with one hand on the piano and adjusts her irridescent gown. And yes, as she begins to sing, I give myself away.
For a little while, I am no longer critic or urban man.
I'm just another fan.
*Alas, a review never actually got written. If you're interested in my collected L.A. Opera reviews, however, go to www.theurbanman.com and click on "Recent Opera, Music & Theatre Reviews." Ren-e Fleming fans might want to read my highly biased review of her L.A. recital in 2002 which appeared in the L.A. Downtown News.
Copyright - 2005 by Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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