Last night I went to this thing called Public School, since it turns out I’ll be in L.A. for a while and I’ve long been curious what it’s all about. It’s odd living in an enormous city this week after so much time on the ranch in near-total isolation, but I’m still making the inevitable L.A. versus NYC comparisons, since New York is the only city I’ve ever really known (D.C., I love you too but I left when I was 17 and to be honest you’re not actually a real city).
Despite the last intermittent year in New Mexico, I’ve spent the majority of my time as an adult in NYC, which is going to be the case until I’m over 40. So - my first observation about Public School is of the “this is so different than New York” variety. Despite the introduction explaining the title, I’d always assumed the founders has all gone to public school in their respective towns, thus the name of the show. So did I, but after attending a snooty private collage thanks to my father’s blind dedication to me and willingness to go into crushing debt, I learned that saying the words “public school” out loud in certain New York circles serves as another form of slut-shaming. In fact, slut-shaming is almost more acceptable than school-shaming, since at least so-called “sluts” have an ostensible choice to be so, whereas public school kids simply exist due to accident of birth.
Anyway, back to my intended point. In New York, everything moves so quickly and seems so small that any event, no matter how insular, quickly becomes defined. In New York, Public School would be a stand-up act or a performance art piece or some other needlessly categorized Gawker/New York magazine/Thought Catalog write-up. Instead, the three-year-old event is pure L.A. - a formless creation of people who are just doing something because they can. If you show up to watch you can get a seat, order a calamari and drive home slightly buzzed without stressing about getting in next month after some meddler writes about Public School on a blog or, horror of horrors, the NY Times Style section.
In closing, it was everything I hoped, without all of the anxiety. Host and creator Natasha Vargas-Cooper, whose Tumblr I stumbled on somehow a while ago and who has recently written an excellent piece on bath salts for SPIN, was higher-pitched than I expected, but with skin more perfect than her late-night Photobooth self-portraits reveal. Every last one of her curated performers was honest, funny, and more than a little bit enlightened. The stage welcomed them and I welcomed access to these brains seemingly and gloriously free of the Manhattanite muck.
Long live this western city and my pending auto-loan applications.