The Real Thing
Listen to/Watch entire show:
Every day it may get harder to separate the real from the dramatic, the genuine from the theatrical, the costumes and lights from the heartfelt McCoy. But even here in L.A., we crave authenticity. We don't want knock-offs, we want Diors; not just directors, but auteurs; not mere relationships, but sometimes, by G-d, marriage.
This may be a tough place to pull off the real thing, but that just means we have to work a little harder.
Today, for example, eight of us find ourselves standing around an impressive local backyard waiting for a wedding to begin. The call came just three days ago, and all has been arranged in haste…for reasons which have become obvious. In fact, though we are all close to the bride, none of us has ever met the groom, who seems to have parachuted in with a rented tux, and now stands here nervous, young, and apparently without local friends.
It's okay, Angelenos are used to sudden changes of context. We know it's our job to chat him up, slap him on the back, and do all the things a group of happy villagers would do, if this were not, well, Westwood Village.
Me, I look for omens of authenticity—maybe a caterer, a bottle of champagne, a band—but no such luck. Only a cheerful rabbi from the Yellow Pages, smiling an extravagant smile. Okay, yes, the sky has been painted a promising blue, but that could be true of any L.A. afternoon. And okay, the flowers in the garden sing with glad colors and sparkle with dewdrops—but they've been fresh-planted and sprayed by a gardener who's still working his way along a stretch of impatiens, pulling up the old and pressing in the new. We know it's part of our job to ignore this gardener, and part of his to ignore us.
Suddenly, the mother of the bride emerges in a drop-dead pink suit. She smiles. She laughs at our discomfort. She gives us each a hug and shoos the gardener out of the yard. And when she pops in a CD of the wedding march from Lohengrin, we try to lift the marriage canopy with some conviction.
Now the whole family descends the stair: beaming mother, ironic father, and our wild and unpredictable friend...let's call her Miriam. She will today attempt what must be for her a nearly impossible leap into real life—like a pole vaulter going for Olympic gold.
I see she will make this attempt wearing massive folds of satin and a train of lace. It's a get-up too impressive for so small a crowd, but no one can doubt it's a true wedding dress. Me, I straighten my back. I tighten the corners of my smile. I think to myself, "Perhaps, in the end, authenticity requires just a determined force of will."
The ceremony offers only vague good intentions and a few faint gestures at religion. But by the time food and darkness descend, it does seem like something genuine may have occurred. I mean, maybe our friend really did get married.
Unfortunately, just before we leave, her mother pulls me aside to say, "Great theater, wasn't it? After all, isn't that what a wedding really is, just a superb form of theater?"
I laugh politely, but she has violated the covenant of the afternoon and endangered the collective effort of our would-be village. So halfway to my car, and under my breath, the Urban Man improvises a blessing for Miriam, her husband, and every Angeleno:
"May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord shine His face down on faux couture and hothouse zinnias, on spangled heels and leased wheels, on good intentions and incomplete ideals…and may He grant each of us just the tiniest measure of...the real thing."
Copyright © 2008 Marc Porter Zasada. All rights reserved.
Engage & Discuss
BROUGHT TO YOU BY