Mazzuca: How to spot an American |

Mazzuca: How to spot an American

Recently my significant other and I took a driving trip to California. After visiting my daughter and son-in-law in Santa Barbara, we drove up the coast along Route 1 through Big Sur, across the Golden Gate Bridge, into the Muir Woods, then up to Mendocino and on to Redwood Forest. Our journey continued through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest to Yosemite National Park, and then down to Sequoia National Park before making our way back home.

I was in awe upon seeing my first giant redwood; I mean how often does one come across a tree that’s taller than a football field is long? Fossil remains indicate that ancestors of the redwood family of trees grew worldwide at least 175 million years ago. However the Ice Age wiped out most of them except in California where two types of massive trees still exist ” the giant redwoods and the sequoias.

The average giant redwood is roughly 20 percent taller than a sequoia (the tallest redwood is 379 feet high) but the sequoias are more massive (1.6 million to 2.7 million pounds) and are almost twice the diameter at the base ” 22 feet to 40 feet. It’s also estimated that the oldest sequoias are approximately 3,200 years old (the oldest living things on the planet) while the oldest redwoods are about 2,000 years old.

But that wasn’t the only size comparison that struck me during our trip. The other was the difference between American and foreign tourists. During our trip we overheard numerous conversations in Japanese, German, French and Italian, as well as languages I didn’t recognize. After a while though, we didn’t need to hear anyone speaking to ascertain whether they were Americans or overseas visitors. Just as sequoias are almost twice the girth of a redwood, so too we found that Americans were significantly wider than their foreign counterparts.

We’ve all seen the studies ranking the “fattest” states (usually in the Deep South) to the “trimmest” states, of which Colorado ranks No. 1. But being the trimmest state in the Union also means that most of us don’t get up close and personal with America’s obesity problem on a daily basis. If you doubt that, the next time you’re traveling through Chicago’s O’Hare or Boston’s Logan Airport stop and look around.

Fifty-eight million Americans are overweight; 40 million are obese and 3 million morbidly obese. Even worse, more than 25 percent of all white children are overweight and 36 percent of African-American and Hispanic children are overweight. Meanwhile, European statistics reflect figures less than half that, a likely reason the annual medical spending due to being overweight or obese is now 10 percent percent of all U.S. health expenditures.

Some other interesting facts: 25 percent of the vegetables eaten in the U.S. are French fries; 50 years ago the average restaurant hamburger had 210 calories, today it’s 618; in 1969, 80 percent of American kids were engaged in some type of sporting activity every day, in 2006 that figure was 20 percent; the extra-large clothing industry in the U.S. exceeded $25 billion in sales last year, and roughly 20 percent of the women’s clothing sales in the U.S. are “plus-sized.”

Being overweight and obese are known risk factors for diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood cholesterol, stroke, hypertension, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis (degeneration of cartilage and bone of joints) sleep apnea and other breathing problems, some forms of cancer and a whole slew of other physical maladies.

The causes of being overweight and obese are myriad, many of which are outside and individual’s control ” but not always. Years ago a woman worked for me who was “plus-sized.” Whenever she traveled, the company paid for a first-class ticket because she couldn’t fit into a coach airline seat. As president of the company, I didn’t mind accommodating her special need, and most people in the office were sympathetic to this woman’s weight high school students who have lived here our whole lives, we have seen a multitude of flags from every corner of the globe in our very own town. But it wasn’t until we met Bill Hanlon, a longtime resident of Vail, that the issue of how to fly the U.S. flag was brought to our attention. Bill, who was here when Vail was “just two sheep ranches” in 1967, has seen the valley grow and develop into what it is today; a bustling community, full of patriotic pride and support.

In order to truly respect Old Glory and everything it represents, it is our moral obligation to fly it correctly. This not only applies to the flag of the United States, but also international, state and organizational flags. As Veterans’ Day is just around the corner, we thought we might share some common etiquette that is associated with displaying Old Glory.

When the flag is displayed either horizontally or vertically against the wall or in a window, the union (the blue area with stars) should be at the top and to the flag’s right or the observer’s left.

When being flown with a number of flags of states, localities, or divisions, the U.S. flag should be at the center and the highest point of the group. When international flags are displayed with Old Glory, they should be flown from separate staffs that are the same height and the flags should be the same size. The order for the flags (starting on the observer’s left) is generally national flags (U.S. first, then others in alphabetical order in English), state (host state, then others in the order of admission) and territories (Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, etc.).

Flags should either be taken down at sunset or be lit at all times (whether by sunlight or artificial light). When flying the flag at half-staff, first raise it to the peak for a moment, then lower the flag to halfway between the bottom and the top of the staff. When lowering it, raise the flag to the peak again, then lower it for the day.

During this season of remembrance toward those who have fought and are fighting for our rights to freedom and liberty, please fly your flag(s) properly in appreciation of our brave soldiers and veterans.

To order a free brochure that we have prepared with additional information on flag protocol, call (970) 479-2115. For more information on proper flag regulations from the Independence Hall Association, visit

Pearl Burkham

Harrison Huntoon

Battle Mountain High School seniors and Town of Vail interns

Support Local Journalism