Abstractions

Abstractions

“The  difference is that the monumental architecture represents a higher level of  abstraction and conception,”

the Architect says to his Client across a cleanly  designed Eero Saarinen signature tulip table, a lunch of dirty martinis and  finger sandwiches on a cold white tray between them.  “At my firm we feel it’s essential to  integrate that level of artistry, of theory, into our aesthetic.  We want that luxury mix-used residential  sky-rise with retail at street level and subterranean parking to exude concept,” he extracts the toothpick from  his glass, “so the residents aren’t just buying exotic olives in the Whole  Foods downstairs… they are a part of that olive.  They feel the curvature of its structure, can  walk through its center.”  The Architect  pops the oversized, overstuffed martini olive into his mouth and drops the  naked toothpick to the tabletop below.   The Client, a jeans and collared shirt with brown shoes kind of business  man from out of town, grins and takes a swig of his cocktail.

From  their quiet, modern, air-conditioned dining area on a comfortably gentrified  corner of Downtown Los Angeles, the pair observes the bustling work force  moving about the city street.  The men  are separated from the scene by thick walls made of glass that cause the taxis,  men in suits, secretaries in tennis shoes on lunch hour, to carry with them the  sheen of the clearly polished surface through which they are being viewed.  There is a conglomeration of cones  surrounding a manhole cover for no immediately obvious reason, but cars and  people obey these inanimate objects and move obediently around them.  One sedan comes to a sudden stop as the man  behind its wheel leans forward while craning his neck upward.  A woman on the corner drops her cell phone  and points frantically to the air overhead.   For a singular moment everyone and everything freezes.  The Architect and his Client detect a  palpable excitement and look to the street with curious, tilted heads.  The body of a young man falls from the sky  and crashes onto the asphalt without a discernible sound.

“The  thing about Downtown,” the Architect begins to explain, “is that they are  constantly filming.”  He picks up a tiny  sandwich and examines the multicolored layers before nibbling at its corner.  “One day its 6th Street, and the next day there’s a sign up that  would lead you to believe you’re walking down Lexington Avenue.”  The Client sits uneasily behind an empty  martini glass, unsteady eyes and stiff arms stuck to the armrests of a Philippe  Starck chair, hands clamped about the daringly pleasant combination of such  contrasting materials as wood and metal.   The Architect continues without significant pause, “It snowed for a week  in the middle of the summer.  It gets  tough to even know what’s real anymore.   You second guess everything.   Quite honestly, it’s easier just to assume its fake.”

The  Client’s eyes jump around in an effort not to stare at the ceaseless parade  beyond the pane.  He tries but cannot  look away and becomes fixated on the orange traffic cones still positioned  around the manhole cover.  When he can  bare it not longer, the Client says in a breathy gust, “I don’t get it.  I mean, why are those cones there anyway? Do  you think that guy outside is an actor? Was he supposed to land between the  cones or something?”  The Architect faces  the street and gives the scene a thorough examination.  The body has been removed.  He takes note of a van marked Coroner’s  Office in thick, black, official-looking block letters.  Its’ back doors have been flung open but no  one is inside.  Parked beside it is a  white sedan, also marked Coroner’s Office but in a less authoritative  font.  Both automobiles are the utilitarian  white of rental cars and fleet vehicles.   There is a police squad car, a fire truck, and an ambulance.  The city appears to be business as  usual.  A delivery man dressed head to  toe in brown pushes a large cart full of packages down the sidewalk,  obstructing the men’s view for a quick second.

The  Architect turns his attentions back to the table, “I walked up to my Suite one  evening to find the building engulfed in smoke and, I presumed, flames.  The sidewalk was wet and there was a fire  engine parked in front of it with the ladder from its cherry picker propped up  against the outside of the upper story penthouse unit.  I was about to break into a run when I saw  that the side of the fire engine read ‘New York City Fire Department’ and I  realized that all the firemen were wearing FDNY t-shirts.  They were filming a crime show set in New  York City.  That was the last time I felt  anything like that.”  The Client squints  to read the print on the sides of the vehicles outside and furrows his brow.  The Architect waves to get the attention of a  passing waitress; he positions his hand as though it is holding a pen and signs  the air with a smile.