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.....

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