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It's almost Valentine's Day, and once again Angelenos will set out to conjure sparks of romance in the metropolis. We'll make reservations, drive the hills--but as usual, it won't be easy.
You see, as anyone here will tell you, something in L.A. fights against romance. It's something about the sun in our eyes, the sex on the billboards, the irony in the clubs, the traffic on the Five, or the stainless steel art in the restaurants.
Yes, contrary to popular belief, L.A. is not by nature a romantic town--and we Angelenos, so famous for special effects, often prove clumsy with genuine fire. We know jewelry. We know music. We know good tables. We know how to look young and drive a convertible along Sunset with our arm around someone's handsome shoulders. Surely we are PhD's of attraction and black belts of wild moments--but often amateurs at actual romance.
Maybe it demands some subtlety we no longer grasp. I mean, aren't people romantic in New York? Or Taos? Or somewhere?
This year, I decide my wife and I need to leave L.A. for a little pre-Valentine's warm-up, so we head for that nearby icon of romance...Laguna Beach. There, I plan to direct my own reality show by assembling appropriate elements--blustery mornings, deserted winter sands, larger than usual surf--then let the actors improvise.
Driving down the 405, I note with approval a raft of dark clouds and raindrops on the windshield. I imagine us getting as far as possible from any stray anti-romantic forces emanating from L.A. by standing on a windy balcony over the sea, drinking hot chocolate, and watching the coast lights come up like a string of jewels.
Unfortunately, when we actually check into the room and step out to the rail, the weather clears, and our metropolitan instincts kick back in. We figure we're too restless for a mere balcony and hot chocolate, and we feel compelled to go looking for some better scenario, you know, some really compelling restaurant.
Isn't that what people do in romantic places?
It's cold enough to wear ski caps, not in themselves unromantic…but still. And we can't resist peering into galleries of bad art and shops of impossible clothing. And of course, being perfectionist Angelenos, we can't quite commit to any particular restaurant. As usual, we act like location scouts, ever searching for something just a tiny bit…more atmospheric, a soupçon more charming. One place seems too noisy. Another overpriced. At the low point, we're wandering the organics section of Whole Foods market looking for takeout.
All in all, it's clear we haven't traveled far enough from home.
And then lo, just as we begin a steep descent into despair, we spot a promising Greek place, and the Urban Man recalls the Second Law of L.A. Dynamics: "When you've lost the spark, head for an ethnic joint, because people from other countries often remember, you know, how to enjoy life." The Greek place proves big and drafty, with whitewashed walls and a two-man band playing selections from Never on Sunday. Fortunately, it's nearly empty, so we can move tables twice get the right view. They don't have organics, but they do have a vegetarian platter. The band winks at us, then strikes up that dance they always play in Greek places, you know the one: Da da da da da da da da. The waiter offers a knowing look and suggests the flaming cheese appetizer. As it arrives with a flourish and two-foot blue and yellow flames, romance returns.
And I think, yes, all we really had to do was leave town.
Copyright © 2007 Marc Porter Zasada. All rights reserved.
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