It’s 2015, I’m sitting in the reception area of the Holiday Inn at Hawthorn, a district of Los Angeles. It’s around 8 weeks after the Paris terror attacks and having seen how the American TV news media are still wringing every once of value from that story in that exaggerated USA News Anchor style, I’m beginning to get my head around the American TV networks.
CNN just love the fact that they have a Paris correspondent and think that it’s the coolest thing.
Fox News say that it’s all Barack Obama’s fault.
Everything else seems to fall somewhere in between. I’m both mystified and confused. You call this news, guys? Wow. I thought it was bad in the UK….
And why do the news anchors and on-location reporters have to talk so slowly and theatrically in such strange tones, as if they’re talking to a five year old?
Anyway, it’s a lovely day, typically LA in January, cloudless skies, gentle warmth. I’ve had a short stroll around and I’m sitting waiting in the hotel reception.
A black guy sits on the sofa beside me, I nod, “Morning.”
He’s an older man, smallish, slightly built. A casual shirt, some jeans, clean and tidy, looking freshly scrubbed from the shower. He’s carrying a small back pack
“Good morning. You’re from Engerland, right?”
“Yes I am.” I hadn’t realised it was that obvious.
“I heard you talking at reception. That’s cool.”
He’s a nice guy and we have a short chat and I’m enthralled by our cultural differences. He’s from the south, travelling by road to meet his family in northern California. He talks about some strange collectable coins that he’s found from a rare year and how he’s going to give them to his children, as they’re becoming very collectable. He takes one out of his pocket.
Then kind of realises that I look confused. American vintage coins aren’t my strong point.
“This is just conversation, right? I’m not trying to sell you anything.”
We both laugh and the conversation moves along. We talk about world events, what’s happening and how he sees things as someone who has never travelled outside of America and only ever seen American news channels.
I ask, “Why does everyone hate Obama?” He’s getting criticised on Fox News for everything to do with the Paris attacks, not going to Paris himself and so forth.
“We don’t. Most Americans think he’s doing the best he can in the circumstances. It’s the media that hate him.”
He pauses, thinking about the Paris thing.
“So, those fanny pack things that Europeans wear. It’s not because they’re gay or anything?
I’ve no idea where that one came from, but it was funny. He’s a nice feller.
“Ha, no. What makes you say that?”
“Well, they all seemed to be wearing them in Europe, on the news. I figured they couldn’t all be gay, but I’m OK with it if they were. That Paris attack thing, that’s terrible.”
“Paris. That’s not in Engerland is it?”
“No, it’s in France on mainland Europe.”
“Geography was always by bad subject, sorry if I offended.”
“Of course not, why would I be offended? I have no idea where most American states are located.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Some people just don’t like the idea of others learning stuff.”
Then he says something.
“Where I’m from, they still hang the black man.”
I glance over, smiling, expecting a punch line.
He’s not laughing.