From the chapter on Los Angeles in an original 1980 hardcover copy of Edmund White's fascinating "States of Desire," borrowed recently with great care but without proper permission from Dean Sameshima's personal library:
But perhaps I've got it all wrong. Perhaps what I call hedonism is in reality a covert spirituality, a luxury that paradoxically confirms a deeper austerity. In A Single Man one of Isherwood's characters, a transplanted Englishman, speaks for Americans when he declares, "We've reduced the things of the material plane to mere symbolic conveniences. And why? Because that's the essential first step. Until the material plane has been defined and relegated to its proper place, the mind can't ever be truly free."
I suspect Isherwood's character may be right, all the more so about the rich gays of Southern California. Their houses -- the lawn, the decor, the pool, the style of architecture, even the paintings of ancestors -- have been ordered up on the phone from the Yellow Pages. Once installed, the "unit" is maintained in the desert by irrigation and air conditioning. Nothing is indigenous to the locale. This sudden, violent importation is the exact opposite of the European's patient hoarding of accumulated, inherited treasure. An Angelean will pay more for a copy of an antique than the antique itself because the act of replication is essential to his vision of life as transient, artificial, and a bit droll. A Buddhist vision, really.
* Image above, "Untitled (older men, 1995)," by Dean Sameshima.