it's the next day, so lets see if i can wrap up the commentary.
i almost didn't make it home. somehow lufthansa had my tickets screwed up, so i was on standby for the flight. there ended up being a couple seats left when everyone boarded, so i didn't get to stay in germany for a day. uncle johnny was very effective, marching us from person to person inside lufthansa until someone made a call and a seat was guaranteed. i was sorta hoping it wouldn't work; i'd have enjoyed spending an evening hanging out with him and ursula and alex and levin and martin. levin is huge. he's started school. alex has him going to a waldorf school, and she's going back to school for speech therapy. i don't know what martin does, but he's very cool. i get a good feeling from him, so i'm happy for alex.
last night after we dropped my dad off at home (and after i fixed the satellite tv - my mother "broke" it), we went out for sushi (i held up a piece of salmon sashimi and told linda "look, it's hardly fried at all!") at the hana, which was wonderful despite the criminal lack of saki. right now i'm sitting down to lunch at the thai orchid in berwyn, which has wonderful thai food (in case you couldn't figure that out). it is so good to be eating food where the major ingredients are something OTHER than grease.
when i got back on the plane, i ended up sitting next to this guy from london, who immediately started complaining that he had hoped that the seat next to him was going to be empty, blah blah blah. mostly joking, but you know he sorta meant it. across the aisle from me was a russian woman (named irena, btw), and next to her was my buddy's business partner. irena struck up a conversation with me, then suggested that she and the guy sitting next to me switch places. later she confided that she'd done this because the guy sitting next to her had bad breath, and the two guys kept talking across her.
i've never met a jewish american princess who was neither jewish or american before. i spent the flight listening politely as she explained the differences between the scent in this gucci perfume vs the scent of the bvlgari, the relative costs of some particular belt in france, italy, and new york, and so on. toward the end of the trip, she said "you're laughing at me." i told her i was, and she said, "that's ok."
the US is the only country i know that makes you fill out multiple forms while you are on the plane for customs and border control. combined with the 3 security checkpoints you go thru to get onto the plane while you're still in the foreign country - we're clearly paranoid, at least in comparison with other countries (many of which have been dealing with terrorism for much longer than the US has). the only other country that has security checks to the same extent as the US is israel, but they really ARE in a state of siege. we just think we are, and then produce the environment to encourage what we fear. it's good politics: you can't be a strong defender of democracy and the american way if you aren't generating an atmosphere of fear and fighting an
enemy more evil than God.
but in reality we really are more at risk now than we have been before, as far as terrorism is concerned. the most dangerous thing is a lawless or desperate state. iraq now is far more of a threat to everyone than it had been before. our presense there has galvanized support for the extremist elements throughout the islamic world, and is threatening to throw the entire middle east into chaos. in the meantime the former soviet union is still in a state of disarray - insufficient support of the fledgeling democracies there have created nostalgia for the "good old days" of the soviet union, while failure to pay the military and police have allowed for an environment where arms of all sorts can exchange hands with those whom "legitimate" arms dealers will not (or cannot) deal with.
and we're worried about nail clippers.