LA life Lucy Broadbent

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I know that Special K, is no longer just a cereal from Kelloggs but the latest designer drug to replace cocaine, and that `Out' magazine has got nothing to do with the great outdoors, but more to do with being gay inside.

There was a sort of embarrassed hesitation around the dinner table.

"Well he's a great author, Lucy," Lana explained, when it had become painfully clear that every one of my friends had not only heard of, but read the works of Alvaro Mutis, who is, for anyone else who might be in the dark like myself, a Colombian novelist.

It seems they had also all heard of a young rapper called Kevvy Kev, an artist called Mitzy Mitz, a fashion designer called Teensy Bits and talked with such familiarity about websites that you'd think they were restaurants; they'd seen all of John Woo's films, read all of Irving Welsh's books and still found time to read the boring articles in Vanity Fair.

Call me stupid. My friends certainly had no qualms. But am I the only one in the world who has trouble keeping up? There are 72 channels on my TV set. That's an awful lot of viewing - especially when all my "remote" seems to tune into is the sanitary napkin with wings ad?

I do my best. I can proudly say that I know that "com" does not mean type in a comma, as I first thought, on the Internet. I know that Special K, is no longer just a cereal from Kelloggs but the latest designer drug to replace cocaine, and that Out magazine has got nothing to do with the great outdoors, but more to do with being gay inside.

But it's taken me some time to achieve this state of smug savoir faire, and sometimes it seems that living in 20th-century Los Angeles is like constantly swatting for school exams to avoid social humiliation, except "F" not only stands for "fail", but also for "frowned upon". First you are expected to wade through the snore-a-thon known as the Los Angeles Times every morning - not that what qualifies as journalism here is likely to keep anyone informed, so you have to read the New York Times as well.

Then there are the magazines. There are so many titles in this country, from Flex the Muscle Monthly to Fighting Females, "all you ever needed to know about guns", that it's a wonder anyone ever makes it beyond the dentists' waiting room.

And who in this town could possibly attend any social gathering without being able to say "I was reading in this month's Rolling Stone..."? Then magazines that you don't buy, you now have to dip into on the Internet. That's when you're not checking out what everyone else is "chatting" about on-line.

Then there are the movies, the radio shows, the TV talk shows, art shows, live shows, theatre shows, cyber shows... I tell myself I can cope. I can. I know I can. But really, now I'm expected to read books as well?

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