I’m in black tie downtown at the Gala Opening of Essa-Pekka Salonen’s final season conducting the LA Phil. The wife is looking gorgeous, all dolled up. We are elated. We have just watched Essa-Pekka conduct Stravinsky’s Firebird. I say watched because amazingly and astoundingly and astonishingly at the climax of the piece real fireworks burst out inside the Disney Hall. That’s right INSIDE! When did you last see a firework display inside a beautiful wooden interior? It, and he, and them were astounding. So we were pretty damn excited as we followed the expectant crowd towards the grub tent to grab a glass of champagne.
We are yakking away excitedly when a young woman in black pushes between us and in the rude way of a certain kind of journalist thrusts a small micro-cassette in my mouth.
“I’m from the New York News” she says. “What did you think of the event?”
Let’s skip the magnitude of the lack of manners and say I am in a magnanimous mood and so I regale her with three or four minutes of extempore appreciation of Los Angeles, the LA Phil and The Disney Hall. How cities like humans grow up – they take time to mature and now the Disney Hall is a jewel in the diadem of LA – allowing culture to grow and mature, for people in this great city to enjoy the fruits of civilization. Things that New Yorkers, for instance, take for granted.
I’m like that. I say things like that. It wasn’t bad. A bit overlong. Clooney would have looked better doing it, but all in all I felt the premise was good, it was well argued, cogent, and probably even true. I felt ok with it.
“Would you mind repeating that she says?”
“My recorder is playing up” she says.
Her hand never shifts from the small black thing thrust at my mouth.
I breathe deeply. I hate repeats. What did I just say? Oh well. I try again. This time I manage to extend my thesis of the life growth of cities, through adolescence, into maturity and senescence, using examples like Vienna coming into maturity with Mozart and London’s cultural rise, and because incredibly I have been here through that time span, I recall how LA use to be a hick town with two-story buildings and no high rises and no restaurants after nine, but how the Olympics changed all that and now with the downtown renovations and the diadem of Disney Hall and the blessings of etc etc. At least five minutes. Clooney would have nailed it. It wasn’t a repeat. It was an expansion. I had grasped the theme, expounded it, expanded it and brought it home.
She looks at me and frowns.
“I’m sorry. Will you say that again.”
I am not a patient man. My wife will testify to that. I don’t happen to believe that Patience is a virtue. It’s certainly nothing I have ever suffered from. In fact, I think Impatience is a virtue. Especially when faced with folly.
I look around for help. My wife, my normal rescuer, is deep in conversation with Michael Gorfaine. For once she doesn’t notice my dilemma.
“No.” I say to the woman in black. “I’m sorry. That’s it. I need a drink.”
I leave her and head for the bar.
Unbelievably she pursues me.
I ignore her as politely as possible while I order another glass of champagne, but she will not be shrugged off. She is banging away at her little black micro machine. Once again she thrusts it towards my mouth.
“Will you say what you just said again?”
I can be quite firm. Even severe. There are danger signals. Even comedians have been known to back off. I am already annoyed.
“No” I say. “I said it twice, that’s it.”
“It’s my machine” she says. “It’s because Mercury is retrograde.”
“Mercury is retrograde.”
“Psycho babble bollocks” I say, beginning to become angry.
“It’s true. Mercury is retrograde.”
“And that affects your tape machine?”
“Oh yes” she says. “See. It’s not working.”
“And you attribute that to the apparent view of the trajectory of a planet inside our orbit?”
I can be quite cutting.
“Oh yes,” she says, “most definitely, it’s because Mercury is retrograde.”
“That is the most stupid superstitious bullshit I have ever heard” I say quite forcefully.
I think for the first time she notices I am a bit upset.
“Or the batteries have died,” she says.