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A couple months ago, the Urban Man achieved a perfect moment of West Coast sophistication, and I thought it should be, you know, recorded for posterity.
Yes, the evening included wine, cheese and tasteful nudity, and yes it occurred in a private home up in the Hollywood Hills on a cold and windy night. Me, I had driven up the winding roads off Mulholland with some fear. Branches were down, and twice I stopped beneath wildly-creaking eucalyptus to squint at a sign.
But lo, at last I found a house of pleasing post-modernism, where a troupe of Angelenos known as the Guerrila Theatre would be performing scenes from once-banned plays: You know, a bit of Salome. A touch of The Boys in the Band. Something wonderfully offensive from Michael McClure.
Now, as anyone from a red state could explain, the word "sophistication" has two contradictory meanings. Along with "educated and refined," it also implies a certain impurity, a certain tainted worldliness.
And like most well-intentioned coastal types, the Urban Man wants to be sophisticated without becoming a...sophisticate.
It's a delicate balance, but here on the Westside, we meet the challenge boldly.
Before the show, the actors readied themselves for the nude scene from the opening of Oh! Calcutta! by donning white bathrobes and mingling with the guests for warm Brie and chilled Riesling around a coffee table looking out on a little zen garden. Yes, just as red-staters fear, our conversation celebrated rationalism and sensualism, beginning with the angularity of the house, the clever artwork over the fireplace, our daunting arrivals in splendid late-model automobiles, and of course, the sweet, dark nuances of the real estate market itself.
And yes, just as red-staters fear, each of us deplored the irrationality of our president, of censors, of fundamentalists. The problem with traditional cultures, from red states to the Islamic world, someone complained, is their sad tendency to mix things together: science with politics, religion with sex, art with morality.
As a sophisticated coastal people, we realize that life should be carefully separated into its component parts. Politics, law, science, family, religion, and sex should each be valued for itself, but each should maintain its own pristine logic.
I listen carefully, and I think truly, by now, like the gods and goddesses of old, we have become adept in each distinct realm, without undue cross-interference. We make great parents. Great doctors. Great lawyers. Great artists. Tonight, over hors d'ouevres, our conversation displays a giddy, but finely-tuned power, and even though the house does not provide a clear view of the city, we know its lights spread themselves at our feet.
At last someone makes an announcement, and the audience moves to the tiny living room, which has been cleared for some 30 folding chairs. The actors form two lines of white bathrobes in front of the fireplace, and the music rises as they perform that peekaboo striptease from Oh! Calcutta!
It's a little close at hand, but like I said, tasteful; in fact, each scene from each previously-banned play demonstrates the slow victory of a refined point of view over the last couple hundred years.
It's just sex, I think. Just politics. Just religion. Nothing shocking. And surely it's the dream of jealous billions around the world to witness a perfect balance of rationality and sensuality up in a post-modern house in the Hollywood Hills. If only everyone could sample the Brie. If only everyone could taste the Riesling. Unfortunately, that's not possible--and the Urban Man thinks, well, at least I have achieved one brief, but exquisite moment of undeniable sophistication.
Copyright © 2007 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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