Sometimes, I’m a social animal, fun and carefree. When I plan trips to the world’s largest bowling pin, that’s when I know mom’s genes are there somewhere. “Serious me”– the one who recycles the tiny plastic tray in the printer ink cartridge box – is more meticulous and by-the-book. That’s my dad’s DNA.
Frank is a serious traveler. He knows everything about a destination before he ever steps foot on its soil. He’s responsible for my first trans-Atlantic voyage, at the age of seven. (More about that in The Prequel.)
So to have him embrace this quirky little blog, and even do reconnaissance for me while on his current trip to the west coast, is very flattering. But as you can see in the e-mail he sent me this week, he’s struggling to make peace with the “Go BIG” qualifications of seeing the “world’s largest” stuff.
I channeled my mom’s relaxed whimsy as I tried to let him off the hook.
RE: Report from the field
Halfway through our trip to see really BIG things, we’ve hit a few snags. Moreover, this trip has me thinking about our English language and the way we define our words. The word “big” is presenting me with some perplexing questions to ponder.
During our weekend in San Francisco, we visited the Chinatown deemed to contain the largest concentration of Chinese outside of Asia. Does this make it the “biggest” Chinatown? How should we measure “big”? By the number of Chinese living there? By the geographical area? By the population density? Your word “biggish,” even though I really like it, sometimes does not work.
We then visited Yosemite National Park to view the waterfall considered to be the tallest in North America. But, does the tallest waterfall still qualify as truly BIG when there is no water falling? Not a drop!
General Sherman Tree. Credit: National Park Service
Yesterday we visited Sequoia National Park and the General Sherman tree (in the rain), thought to be the biggest tree in the world. However, sequoia trees are generally not as tall as California’s coastal redwoods, so height is not the criterion of bigness used here. Also troubling was the fact that the General Grant tree (the third biggest sequoia) is, at 40+feet, about five feet wider at its base than the General Sherman tree, which would make it the “biggest” tree if width was used as the qualifying criterion. So, what makes the General Sherman tree “big” is its volume and weight, not its height or width (or its age, I might add).
Coming up, Hearst Castle. Is it the biggest private mansion ever built? If so, by what criteria? And, why is Big Sur “big” and Little Sur “little”? What the heck is a “SUR” anyway?
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