One day, several year ago, I made a innocent little comment. I can't remember all the particulars, but somehow I referred to some repetitive thing being like "Groundhog Day." The only response I received was a puzzled expression. "You know, Bill Murray?" The puzzled expression slightly frowned. "But you were BORN on GROUNDHOG day! How could you have NOT seen that MOVIE?"*
It was then that I realized I had once again encountered the unusual phenomena of the black hole. Just what is the black hole? Imagine two years living outside the United States. Without TV, radio, movies, internet, or phone calls home. Do you know what happens? A complete pop culture black hole. Nothing.
Remember the Police chasing OJ's white Ford Bronco down the freeway? How about Waco Texas? Baseball strike that cancelled an entire season? These things are known to Peter only secondhand.
At the beginning the gaps were obvious. He missed the premier of Friends, ER, and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. Poor guy even missed the beginning of Power Rangers and Ricki Lake and the Nanny (I know, what a loss). He quickly assimilated as much as possible. Forrest Gump and Jurassic Park were a must see if you wanted to understand regular conversation. Life is like a box of what?
Years later, he knows the words to I Will Always Love You and Rhythm is a Dancer better than I ever did. Somehow, even immediately after his mission he knew the power of playing Fields of Gold on a date (of course it is hard to go wrong with Sting).
Every once in a while the black hole rears its head again:
"Hello? Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have obvious chemistry! Didn't you ever watch Sleepless in Seattle?"
"Robin Williams, cross dressing at its funniest? How could you have missed that?"
"Tanya Harding- Nancy Kerrigan, it was only in the news FOREVER!"
On the flip side, he can tell you what a big deal it was when Norway voted against joining the European Union, how exciting the Olympics were in Lillhammer, and every Ace of Base song. So he does know some pop culture during that time, its just not our culture.
*On a side note, I made him watch Groundhog Day. After all, it was based on the holiday shared with his birthday. And Happy Birthday Peter!! And Happy Groundhog Day, too.