Thursday, July 23, 2009

jeudi 23 juillet

Today is my 40th birthday, and it's coincidentally the 18th stage of the Tour de France, cycling's premier race, a stage race for the ages.

I thought a lot about what to write for a birthday post, or a 40th blog. What I came up with is this: While Lance Armstrong rides his individual time trial, I'd compose my post. The Individual TT is simply the rider against the clock--rather like a metaphor for life, and at the Tour today, everyone is riding 40.5 kilometers. (If you want to know how many miles that is, don't ask me--rather, I could direct you to some nifty conversion tables on the Internet.) So far, the fastest time is 48:34, by Swiss Mister and fabulous Fabian Cancellara.

But for me, surpise, it's all about Lance. In Fourth place overall in the General Classification after heroics in les Alpes--essentially in service of the stronger rider on his team, Alberto the Condor Contador--he has a shot at putting himself back on the podium in Paris in at least third place, if he can shave 30 seconds from Frank Shleck, who along with his Luxombourgian brother Andy, mowed over the Col de la Colombiere and the Col de Romme in Stage 17. Time to leave nothing on the course. Lance is a just a little over the 17 minute mark, and I'll be hitting the "Publish" button as he crosses the line, about 21 minutes, hopefully, from now.

Enough reportage, however. I'm 40, dammit. No more thirties for me--new vistas, a new decade, a revived artistic pursuit, a lot of hope for myself, and let's face it, for humanity. And how strange--it's just another day, another rotation on the axis, another revolution--for me--of our planet around its star. What have I gleaned from all this craziness? All this zany optimism in the face of a mind-boggling existence?

Well, it's like bike racing---Lance on the Ventoux (a legendary climb, and one of the Texan's favorites and the penultimate Stage in this year's edition before the peleton rides into the City of Light). It's about time--how much we are given, how much we take and what we do with it. We are all caught in a frozen cosmic moment--the length of our lives puny in comparison to the sluglike progression of glaxies and their stars. Here's a parallel: on my computer screen, as I feverishly click between my word processor and Versus's live Internet coverage, a grainy blue-and-yellow Lance is frozen on his bike, trapped momentarily by a spotty satellite or misbehaving ditigal relay. Or more likely, one fewer bar of connection between my laptop and the wireless router out there somewhere nearby, which connects me to the Internest.

And so I stop, hit refresh, repetez la phrase, as Mr. Kingston, our beloved high school French teacher might say. Life is full of these repetitions: "I love you." is a nice one. I say it to my father now at the end of each phone call. He's 80, has emphysema, and still hits the golf ball more cleanly than his younger son--who's 40 today. Have I mentioned?

And boom. Just like that, Phil Liggett's voice pops back on, and I can check Lance's progress. I show about 30 minutes in, on my kitchen timer, which sits next to me and my two bike water bottles and cup of coffee. I am hydrating during my Individual Blog Trial, Inidividual Life Trial, Individual Time Machine.

I mentioned the other day that if I could acquire a time machine, one of the things I'd love to do is to go back and visit particular restaurants in New York that have since closed. Anyone who spends time in Manhattan knows this phenomenon.... one day you walk down the street and that fantasic French/pasta/fusion/Irish pub you simply adored, is a hole in the ground, or boarded up, and you have to check yourself to make sure you're on the proper block--and that in fact it ever existed at all.

Lance, and the rest of us, on the Ventoux. It's an uphill battle, life, in that we slow as we age. Our bones break. The healing is more reflective. George Hincapie, another fine American cyclist, and probably my second favorite rider, rode his time trial today with a potentially cracked collarbone. The pros refuse to go to the hospital sometimes, because they know if the X-Ray reveals a fracture, they're automatically out of the Tour, and they'd rather endure the pain and make it to the Champs-Élysées. Speaking of pain, Lance has lost 40-some seconds to Olympic star Bradley Wiggins. I am facing up to the reality Lance may in fact slip from Fourth to a lower overall standing today. Oh well, and I'm over 200 lbs. What can you do?

Ok Ok!! Yes. I can get under 200 lbs. and shame on me for comparing my weight to Lance's effort today. He puts us all to shame, or rather inspires us to greatness. And we don't have a lot of time left.

A fun little metric I put on the blog is a ticker that figures average lifespan -- you input your date of birth, and it calculates how many days you've lived, and how many likely remain.

Time remaining -- I only have about 8 minutes to find some artwork that accompanies this post if I want to hit Publish when Lance crosses the line. I also have to steel myself for the possibility I'll lose the Internest at a critical moment, and I'll have to pull the trigger on my own. That's all any of us can do, really--another metaphor for life. We all pull our own triggers. Make sense of that as you will!

I hope everyone who reads this enjoys it. I enjoyed putting it out there. Go Lance. Go George. Go Bless Us, Everyone.....

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blaiser's Top Ten Top Ten Lists

Number Ten: Top Ten reasons why the California Raisins had more recording success than the disgruntled second-cousin copycat group, the Idaho Prunes.

Number Nine: Top Ten reasons why people should steer clear of me if any two of the following conditions are in play: When Mercury is in opposition, the moon is full, and the Yankees are playing the Red Sox.

Number Eight: Top Ten reasons why we will still buy Prince CDs even though he did the moral equivalent of MJ bleaching his skin, by converting to Jehovah's Witnessery...
Number Seven: Top Ten reasons why if you and I get into a bar fight using only our cellphones as blunt instruments, I will win, and then still be able to use said phone to call an ambulance for you.

Number Six: Top Ten reasons why three French guys have won one-third of the first 9 stages of the 2009 Tour de France.

Number Five: Top Ten reasons why, despite the superiority of my cellphone, I will never win a bar fight against David Mamet.

Number Four: Top Ten reasons why The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the six.

Number Three: Top Ten reasons why John Ashbery has been writing the same poem all these

years, and it's still a pretty damn good poem.

Number Two: Top ten reasons why, despite many years living in Brooklyn, when I unfold my irony board, I still have a lot of trouble with French cuffs.

And the Number One Top Ten List: two words: Senator Franken!!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike...

I love cycling.

Riding a bike is the ultimate rugged individuality for a liberal hermit. You go from point A to to point B on your own power, and on your own terms. Good for lungs, heart, legs, soul. And you save on tolls.

I love badasses.
Lance, Greg, Jan, Carlos, Miguel..... But especially Lance. And George Hincapie. The Tour is the most difficult endurance sporting event known to man. What these guys go through during 21 stages, 3500 kilometers, in a little over three weeks, is unfathomably, um, sweaty. And they get to eat a lot. And there's brinksmanship with the tactics, and they ride over cobblestones at like 25 mph, and I don't know how long a kilometer is compared to a mile, and the lieutenants exhaust themselves for the team leader in the mountain stages, so that bit by bit, the leaders are stripped away to the last man, who either has the petrol in the tank to claim the summit first, or he doesn't.

Lance has won seven of these mothers, all in a row. During that time, he trained all year exclusively for the Tour, and beat everyone into submission. Normally, I have an issue with Texans, but for Lance I make an exception. By his own admission, not the most talented rider in the peleton, but by God he worked the hardest and he wanted it the most. Add the king of directeurs sportifs, Johann Brunyeel, to that font of desire, and you get the best cycling drama out there.


The Tour is long, and has something for everyone -- the General Classification (overall winner, Yellow Jersey), the King of the Mountain competition (Polkadot Jersey), the Sprinter competition (Green Jersey), the Best Young Rider (White Jersey), even the guy who's Dead Freakin' Last has a special place in Tour lore -- he's called the Lanterne Rouge, or the Red Lantern, a pro cyclist caboose.

Lance on the Tourmalet, Greg LeMond's win in 1989, when he rode the fastest time-trial ever to steal the Tour from Frenchman Laurent Fignon on the streets of Paris, Lance winning a stage after the death of his Motorola teammate Fabio Casartelli, LeMond humbling his French mentor, dubbed "The Badger," on the way to the first American TDF win in '86, Lance on the Ventoux, George Hincapie winning his first mountain stage after serving the glory of others for so long, Lance on L'Alpe D'Huez, Thomas Voekler electrifying all of France by staying in yellow for ten days in 2004, just for the sheer Frenchness of it all.


The spandex-bespecacled peloton, flying
through medieval towns with sunflowers and lavender their permanent spectators. It's gorgeous. And the circus in the mountains. Check out the Basques in the Pyrenees and the costumed fans who wait hours just to sprint alongside their favorites for a few precious seconds in July. Good stuff. Don't forget the team time trials, and the legendary "Blue Train" of Lance's former Postal Service squad.


There are no New York Yankees in the Tour de France.

My grandma became a fan when I helped her move in July of 2004 and we took breaks by watching the Tour.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen -- there's something really great about two elegant Brits dissecting the Tour and its myriad inner tales. There are no better cycling commentators on the planet. Add class clown Bob Roll, and it's a trifecta.

Robin Williams is a huge fan, and used to travel with Lance's entourage, calling him "Brother Armstrong." I like that.

My sister was a Category 2 racer once (nearly pro!). She still rides, and is also into trail running now

In 1999 or 2000, after Lance won, I stapled a Postal Service envelope over the top tube of my bike, and rode a victory lap in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

Wilbur and Orville Wright were bicycle makers before they were aviators.

Stage racing combines teamwork and individual effort, like no other sport I know.

The Tour is an international competition that happens every year, unlike the World Cup and the Olympics.

Queen never wrote a song about freakin' NASCAR.... I'm just sayin'