Jaci Stephens: 'I'm still rather suspicious of the whole upbeat, niceness thing in LA'

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Give or take the odd earthquake or two (or, three, to be precise), and the sonic boom (with the unexpected arrival of the Endeavour space shuttle), my life here is quite undramatic.

Imagine my shock, therefore, when I was walking back from the gym and witnessed an outburst of such uncharacteristic abuse that I nearly licked my ice-cream scoop clean from its cone. There I was, licking away, when I heard shouting coming from the car-park opposite. Suddenly, a man with a red face emerged, shouting back at whoever had caused him such distress. "You homosexual!" he yelled. "Your mother's a whore!"

The horror! The horror! Having spent most of my life in the UK, where insults are traded on a daily basis, I hadn't realised how immune I had become to abuse.

Since arriving in LA, I haven't heard one person swear at anyone (my driving aside). In fact, apart from the sound of my own screams when I am told how much I owe at the end of my daily shop in Whole Foods, noise of any kind is pretty absent from my life.

So, hearing the word "homosexual" being hurled with such venom rather upset my equilibrium. And as for "whore" being used in conjunction with anyone's mother, well, that was straight out of Cagney and Lacey, I was sure; and when did that come off the air? About 110 years ago?

You just don't normally get this kind of behaviour in Beverly Hills 90210, the home of the TV series of beautiful people and even more beautiful Chihuahuas who everyone wants to make movies about. Everyone is so incredibly, wonderfully nice, nice, nice. In Whole Foods, they ask me, every day, when I arrive at the cash register: "Did you find everything you were looking for today?" and I always answer, very politely: "Yes, thank you very much." They are so nice to me, and I am so nice back, I have taken to helping pack my own bags, a gesture that has so impressed them that they this week offered me a job.

But the man in the suit temporarily put me in a different frame of mind and reminded me how good it can feel sometimes just to let rip.

I decided that next time the cashier asked me if I found everything I wanted, I was going to answer:

"I found yoghurt reduced to $2.69, white peaches at $2.49 a lb, and cinnamon spiced bread at $7.49 a loaf which, quite frankly, is a joke. And besides: what do you mean by "want"? I want to find the meaning of life, but did I find it hidden among the packages of vindaloo sauce at $4.99 a pack? If I bought a pot of your ridiculously priced watermelon at $6.99, would I find the meaning of life in there?

I want to find a man who prefers to collect Marriott Rewards points than save money by going camping (fat chance, as I am discovering among LA's rather keen outdoor-enthusiast males); or, failing that, any man.

So when you ask me if I found everything that I wanted today, the answer would have to be No."

Soothing as all this LA niceness is, I'm still rather suspicious of the whole upbeat thing. I've always been a fan of what we call "healthy scepticism" in the UK, and have found the endless flow of LA goodness rather indiscriminate. How do you know what's good or bad if you don't have some kind of scale by which to measure things by? My nice LA friends tell me they have no desire to acquire scepticism.

You see what I mean? Nice, nice, nice. Oh, shut it.

So when I heard the car-park man in the suit ranting his rather feeble insults, it awoke in me a very strange desire: I just wanted to hear someone say "You f*****g c**t" – just briefly; anything to remind me of who I once was and where I came from. So I phoned a British friend, who duly obliged.

The truth is, though: all this niceness is rubbing off on me.

So, when they ask me in Whole Foods whether I am able to find everything I want, the reality is that, slowly, I am doing so. I just hadn't realised how long I'd been looking the wrong aisles.



To read Jaci Stephen's blog LANotSoConfidential in full, go to: Lanotsoconfidential.blogspot.com

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