It was 1995 and the OJ Simpson trial was in full swing. My husband was on secondment to one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world. We were staying in the Waldorf Towers, the... well the posh bit of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel (/http://www.waldorfnewyork.com/towers-accommodations/) From the bedroom we looked out onto the marvellous Art-deco spire of the Chrysler building, Fifth Avenue was suddenly more than just a name, and I spent my first days firmly mid-town, as I was terrified by both the underground and the yellow cab drivers.
As for the O.J.Simpson trial - I'd heard of it at home, but was less than interested. There seemed to be a certain amount of sensationalism involved but as I'd never heard of the accused, and none of the words that seemed to cling to the reportage - "Bronco, Juice, LAPD" meant the slightest thing to me. So by the time I'd arrived in New York I'd forgotten about it.
In the Towers, you have complimentary access to the "Astoria Lounge", a huge space right at the top where you can admire the view,sit and write during the day, but more importantly, you also have round-the-clock access to delicious snacks and drink..
There is also a TV. At breakfast time, this was invariably turned onto the OJ trial. And people were totally spellbound. "Hey, there's Marcia!!", somebody called, and absolutely everybody fell silent. "Marcia?" I thought. But of course I couldn't ask, couldn't ask anything as it would have been a lot like asking "So who is this fascinating Herr Hitler one hears so much about these days?" in 1942. So I kept quiet, and just thought and commented how odd those Americans were. Not only did they wear the most eyebrow-raising casual clohes ever seen in a posh hotel, they also got over-excited about some court trial of an unknown celebrity. Phhh, I thought.
When I was back, something odd happened to me. New York had got ("had gotten") under my skin. That town, it was just incredible - the history! What were people always saing America had no history?! There, you were walking right in it! The 1930's sky scrapers, the little churches in-between, the ethnic quarters... the Beauty!
AND: I became obsessed with the OJ Simpson trial. I read every book I could find, became conversely knowledgeable about the minutest detail of the court proceedings, and to this day could probably win any Mastermind competition on the subject.
All these diverse impressions didn't hang together, and left me curious, so.... yes, America -you taught me quite a lot in terms of intercultural awareness!