Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Max & Jono in The America

a blurry photo of Paradise Cove Beach Café

I got back from The America today and I was very relieved. That place is WEIRD, although I am sure that a lot of that impression comes from the fact that I was surrounded by relatives for half of my trip. My family is like anyone else’s, I suppose: approximately half of the relatives are pretty cool, the other half are mad as a box of frogs, and a couple are absolute retards. I met my new niece who, at 10 weeks old, is pretty cuddly but otherwise shockingly insect-like. I had never realised that babies have very little control over their limbs and move around like a bug that is stuck on its back and unable to right itself.

Because of everything that was going on with family, etc, I barely got any news – I had almost no time to read newspapers and no time at all to get online for real news. I saw a bit of tv “news” and was shocked to find out that the port security-UAE connection was just coming out in mainstream sources. We had some political discussions in DC, but nothing too in-depth. That was a big contrast for me because we seem to talk about politics and Iraq and everything that is going on in the world all the bloody time here in Prague. I felt very out of touch with the world, kind of sheltered, in fact, and I wonder if that is the reality for a lot of Americans (and perhaps people of other nationalities) much of the time.

Washington, DC

Our main purpose in going to Washington was to see friends, which was fantastic. Other than that, our tourist highlights were going out to Great Falls, Maryland and going to the National Archive to visit the Magna Carta and The Charters of Freedom. I had not known that there was an original copy (over 700 years old) of the Magna Carta in the US. Jono, being a limey, tried to claim that it was his, but I reminded him that the Magna Carta also belongs to us as it is the first constitutional document of the legal system that we used to share with England and that is the basis of our own system.

The Charters of Freedom is the collective name for the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It was extraordinarily cool to see the originals. They are still there in their holy of holies being properly protected from the elements, and I was relieved to see that they had not actually been used as toilet paper by anyone.


The main reason for Jono’s and my trip was Nephew #2’s bar mitzvah – hence seeing the plethora of relatives. The weather in LA was perfect, about 21°C (70°F) – a very nice break for us from winter in London and Prague. We took advantage of our free afternoon on Saturday (between the bar mitzvah itself and the party in the evening) to drive through Malibu Canyon and up Pacific Coast Highway, with the top down, to Paradise Cove to sit at a table outside in the sand where a nice lady brought us beers. That was, of course, the only aspect of our stay in LA that was remotely vacation-like.

Oh, and if anyone is wondering about the bar mitzvah – Nephew #2 did very well and made us all proud. Nephew #1, Little Sister and Max also managed to read their torah portions without fucking up. In addition, New Niece’s baby-naming took place at the service – she slept right through it. That evening at the party, having pre-arranged a lift home, Jono and I drank lots of vodka martinis. Of course there is always hard alcohol at our family functions. Nephew #1 asked Auntie Max to order him a drink at the bar, which Auntie Max was happy to do.


Tits Malone said...

Auntie Max welcome back!

I have heard the drive through Malibu Canyon is one of the most beautiful road trips in the USA. Sadly, I have never been to the West Coast of the US so I can't say from expirience.

Also nice to hear that you were a party to Nephew#1's drinking habits.

That's the way to do it baby, get'em young!

AG said...

"Charters of Freedom is the collective name for the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights"

Which one is, or are they all, written on hemp?

Glad you're back.

Monkey's Max said...

AG, I have found an answer to your question:

Urban legend is that the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights were written on hemp paper, hemp being the industrial name for the fiber of the marijuana plant. For some reason, this "fact" is touted by those who seek to legalize marijuana for recreational use. First, it is not clear why the use of hemp as a fiber should mean it should be legalized for recreational use. Second, the "fact" is not a fact.

The Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are currently housed in the National Archives. All three are written on parchment, not hemp paper. Parchment is treated animal skin, typically sheepskin. The Declaration was inked with iron gall ink. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory was commissioned to create a system to monitor the physical status of all three. The Charters of Freedom Monitoring System took digital photos of each sheet of parchment in 1987, each document divided into one-inch squares. Over time, the photos are retaken and compared to the original to look for signs of deterioration. Before the charters were recently reencased for display, a small tear in the Declaration was repaired by adding Japanese paper to the gap. This is the only paper in any of the documents. This is not to say that a copy of any of the documents was never written on hemp paper - just not the copies we see in the Archives Rotunda.


AG said...

You keep hitting me with too many facts. My head hurts and I want to take a nap now.

Anonymous said...

We feel very sheltered being back, and in fact mention it often...so I now subscribe ton the Guardian weekly from the UK at a hefty price and we subscribe to time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, and anything else with in-depth reporting we can get hands on. We DVR (TiVo) the BBC World News and we read BBC online everyday just to get the real dish on what is out there besides Pleasantville...Kirsten