The Magic Trick
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Special for Valentine's Day
By Marc Porter Zasada
SOMETIMES romance proves even harder than love. After all, love conquers. Love endures. Love can be found in rumpled living rooms at the ends of tired days.
But romance is different. Romance requires special conditions: a windswept cliff, a small private table, a long moonlit drive. Romance does not endure. No, like a magic trick, it always demands the element of surprise. And it's just as fragile: a single stupid remark or a traffic jam can easily kill it.
In movies, the failure to conjure romance often leads to comedy.
Tonight, the Urban Man would show his magnficent wife that he still understands romance -- that he can still call it out of the night like a happy and unexpected spell. So I make the mistake of saying, "let's head out into the city and see what turns up."
I should know that you don't do that in L.A. You don't drive up Pico or even Sunset and "see what turns up." It's not like you'll accidentally run across a charming little caf- or a cobbled square between the Office Depot and the Taco Bell.
Still, as we pull out, I'm thinking how the most romantic moments cannot be reserved in fancy restaurants or purchased through Ticketmaster. I'm thinking how the most romantic moments really do occur through serendipity. You know, like in the movie Notting Hill when Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts climb that fence into a private London garden?
Maybe tonight will bring remarkable coincidences and unplanned moments when we'll feel free and unafraid, young and reckless.
At first I head vaguely for the Hollywood Hills. I'm thinking...maybe drinks at Yamashiro with the twinkling lights of the city spread beautifully at our feet. I know that romance does not require film star looks, but it does require a kind of alliance with beauty - like when a man presents a bouquet of flowers or a woman suddenly dresses up. When you stand together on a moonlit night, I figure you're saying, "We're not just people who know responsibility and disappointment, we're also part of this pretty picture, here."
In L.A., moonlight is hard to find, and beautiful moments often depend on twinkling lights -- even if they're just strung in trees or hung in Italian restaurants.
Unfortunately, I didn't plan on the traffic along Sunset and I've forgotten the turnoff and when I finally mention Yamashiro, my wife says, "Are you sure? I always feel like that place is a tourist trap."
"Who cares," I say with a Hugh Grant grin. "We're out for a romantic evening."
"I don't think I'd really enjoy it there," she adds, and as we sit through three changes of a traffic light without any idea where to go next, romance evaporates from the car and comedy looms. I'm thinking I should have used Ticketmaster. Even now, I should probably abandon serendipity.
But at last, the Urban Man gathers his courage, reviews the essential elements of romance, says, "Trust me," and pulls off into a mini-mart to buy some chocolates. Soon we're roaring up Laurel Canyon towards Mulholland, where the traffic and the sky clear. Like a Hollywood hero, I trust to luck -- and sure enough, I find a large gravelly turnout where other cars have gathered. It's cold, there's no fence to climb, but I do take my wife by the arm and walk to the edge. Here the city stretches out in fierce colored crowds of twinkling lights and flaming rivers of white and red. Tall buildings make crusty jewels. In the sky, you can even see Orion.
I produce my chocolates. We make our brief alliance with beauty and surprise. The magic trick works one more time.
Copyright - 2005 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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