Does there come a time in life when one ought to know about birds? Like, should I know what a yellow warbler is? And what would I have to know in order to know? How to recognize its call? How to recognize it from fifty yards off? A hundred?
At what age do people who know about birds begin to learn about them? Cross over into fully knowing about them? Forty? Fifty? If I know nothing about birds now, but I’m no longer a kid, what kind of life phase am I in? Early adulthood? Pre-middle age?
Would it be better to know about birds or classical music? Or wine? Or architecture? When Los Angeles magazine publishes a spread about the two hundred architectural styles extant in Los Angeles, should I feel grateful that their content is so shamelessly designed to teach me something? Or am I allowed to wonder why this magazine is so certain I know nothing about where I live, when New York magazine is free to assume its readers know enough about New York already?
Am I allowed to wonder why Los Angeles magazine has such a low opinion of me even though they’re right, because I have no idea what the names of any of our architectural styles are, except for Arts and Crafts, because one time my dad took me to the Gamble House in Pasadena? How many New Yorkers can name the architectural styles in their city? Five hundred? Ten times that? More? Say 1% of New Yorkers know their architectural styles, but only .06% of Los Angelenos do. Is that really where we draw the line? Is that the difference between a city that knows itself and a city that doesn’t? Is that the difference between a magazine that tells stories with implicit faith that its city is understood and a magazine that has none of said faith and instead spends all its energy trying to tell me where I live? Is it likely that Los Angeles magazine is going to run a spread on birds soon? If so, would that be a good place to start my education?
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.