Friday, July 28, 2006
Hi, Falutin'!
The city and county I live in--both called Riverside--has something of an inferiority complex. Something about being inland with no beach access, the nation's worst smog and 75% of our land being uninhabitable desert overrun by giant tortoises and man-eating lizard-people, all of which has been documented on this blog already. The point is, there's a stigma. One person from LA or Orange County gets a family member eaten by a lizard-person or trapped in a tortoise-stampede and suddenly the whole region is no good.

City and county officials out here have been working hard to reverse that image. Their one and only idea? Culture!

Yes, the exclamation point is necessary. In terms of text, there's really no other way to express the lycra-pants, sequined-jacket, bowler-hat, tap-shoes, jazz-hands, raspy whisper way they mean it. Think of a gay Ben Vereen and you're getting close.

For all the intent, the idea of what actually constitutes Culture! out here is pretty vague. At first it was just Starbucks. Why don't we have a Starbucks? Woe be unto us, how we lament the lack of Starbucks. What are we as a people if we too cannot overpay for our coffee-derived beverages?

Since we were not careful what we wished for (I say "we" as an obligatory nod to my membership in this community, but I would like to make it known that I specifically wished for World Peace... not actual "world peace," that's just what I was going to name the pony) we now have Starbucks. Oh my God, do we have Starbucks. We have Starbucks the way Paris Hilton has crabs. Only we can't claim we got Starbucks from sleeping on a friend's couch.

Next the height of Culture! was a PF Chang's. We're getting one of those. Then it was Crate & Barrel. Again, check.

Now that we inlanders have graduated to the ranks of obnoxious consumers on par with any in the nation, the idea of Culture! is now moving in to the realm of actual culture.

There is no building project on the table now in the Riverside area of any significant size for the region that does not include a performing arts center or gallery space or an open-air mime-run or something. I'm a little divided on the issue. I would really prefer to be able to buy a sandwich without a side-order of interpretive Gujarati folk-dance, but these melding of commercial and cultural expansions seem like they're here to stay.

All these potential new fora for expression has led the foreward thinking powers-that-be to reach out amongst us, the latté-swilling little-people to fill those spaces with our own precious gifts. You know, provided we have any. Or at least enough so we don't embarrass them when the Orange/LA County people are visiting.

I'm not 100% sure I'm on board with this as I fear Riverside will start drawing an unsavory bohemian element to it, which will just make me crazy. I'm not crazy about the sight of women with underarm hair, for starters. And the first motherfucker I see walking down 14th Street in a black turtleneck in the middle of summer gets hit with my car. Fair warning.

But in the spirit of civic-mindedness AND to forestall any Hippie-Artist Invasion by taking up as many of the offered artsy-fartsy patronages myself, I have decided that I will compete for as many of these spaces in our new burgeoning NON-HIPPIE arts community as I can.

First up: the Riverside 10-Minute Play Festival. This is right up my alley as I'm sure Failed Writers from across the region will be entering this contest with far, far too much misplaced, sad confidence. I'm positive I'll win.

The play can only be 10 minutes and it will be performed locally with little budget by local players, so I have to keep it simple. I've been kicking around some ideas for a while and I think I've finally settled on one. Here's a synopsis:

It is night. But then, it is always night... in space! In the not-too-distant future, a small, rugged band of Space Commandos working for the United States Space CIA is sent to infiltrate and destroy the nerve center of a shadowy intergalactic alien terrorist cooperative known as qal-Aeda. On the way to their mission, they are intercepted by a giant, secret qal-Aeda space station which, after a pitched battle, captures our heroes. Once inside, they escape only to return with a ragtag squadron of misfits and ne'er-do-wells to destroy the space station and claim victory for the good ole Space USA. Little do they know that in the confusion of the battle, their arch-nemesis, Soama LaBinden has managed to escape...

I may have to make some cuts to get it down to 10 minutes, but I think it's doable. Already I left out the meteor shower, the talking-duck character and an intense-yet-horrifyingly-prescient sequence where the crew is stalked aboard their own ship by a sentient coffee machine. It's hard to explain it all without the detail. The allegory is kind of complicated.

Anyway, this contest is mine for the taking. And once I'm rich and famous and the King of Riverside Culture!, it's spangled jackets for all. For myself, I ask only one thing: World Peace.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.6



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