i saw the tour de france the morning after that last blog post. grandpa had an already-twice-rescheduled dentist appointment to get to, so he dropped me off a the bottom of a category 4 hill and i climbed it en shorts/high socks/straw hat (i've been on the alone game a fair amount since then, including the few days in paris, which actually won't be covered on in this blog post because i'm going to write thematically rather than chronologically) up two km to a nice niche on a steepish slope from which i could see riders from a few turns down. didn't help much -- they zoomed by, it was early in the race and it was an easy climb.
the thing about the tour is that about two hours preceding the riders, there are 180 sponsor cars that ride the same course. the cars are absurd, some like loaves of bread, some carrying waving young people strapped on metal bucking horses, parade floats going 35 mpha. they throw out little souvenirs and promo items, like hats or keychains or snacks or mostly keychains. i was right after a family with lots of children so i was frequently skipped. it's their loss, honestly, because they could have built themselves some serious brand loyalty with a young grad in a new country. i got two keychains, though. and an individual packet of water flavoring. mmm.
the tour is basically a voluntary form of physical abuse and has to be one of the few sports, and probably the only such televised, in which professionals, like, the best in the world at this particular skill, frequently remove themselves from competition. imagine if 40 games into the nba season, bron was just like -- yeah, yo, not gonna make it through this one, folks.. gonna have to call it quits. then, imagine if durant and, like dwight howard said the same within weeks. everyone would be stunned. but that's essentially what happened this year, and a freakish italian named vincenzo nibali did what a combination chris paul/blake griffin player would have done in this season and said 'okay i want to be the mvp because i'm far and away the best player remaining in the league' and then everyone gave up because by mid january he was averaging 28/15/15/5. nibali was also almost undoubtedly on some advanced PEDs, but he seemed very humble and had that going for him.
aside: also as i write i'm in the back of this 12th century church listening to a gospel choir from paris do a sound check for a concert tonight.
ill-fitting nba analogies aside, the tour is quite an event and a great way to feel french.
quick return to the previous aside: soundchecks are the shit. you get to see the starts and stops, the small flairs of skill or stretching or sometimes failing that feels like watching soccer players juggling before practice and do things they'd never do in a game. also it feels like a personal concert. also when they're famous, you get to see them at their most, uh, humble, when they're taking directives and basically waiting on whatever old-ish, always grey haired dude is manning the sound board for their show. they get humanized real quick.
i had more stanford homies visit, and aside from will, they were pretty women, so grandpa was pretty stoked. my friend bonnie is a vegetarian, however, and i made the mistake of mentioning this at a family lunch weeks prior, so it was an oft-pondered topic of conversation amongst extended relatives.
so she can't eat meat?
okay, we'll make fish.
no, she doesn't fish.
(blank stares) ...WHAT? no fish.. no meat.. no eggs? huh? no cheese?
no, no, eggs and cheese are fine, i never said that.
if you weren't at least pescatarian, they assumed you ate literally nothing and would be severely upset at any failure in providing nutrition to a non-eater. one week pre-visit:
god, what am i gonna make?
it'll be easy, everyone else eats meat, she's adaptable, we'll be fine.
yeah, but no mean, no problem. but then no fish, no eggs, no cheese, i mean..
no, god, no, she eats eggs! and cheese! plus we don't even eat eggs that often it barely affects us it's not even a staple of out diet!
day before arrival:
god, and no eggs, no cheese, nothing.
yeah, i know, it's gonna be rough. she's doesn't even eat vegetables.
i'm kidding. and she eats both eggs and cheese as i've previously mentioned.
it was fine. everything ended up great. when bonnie ate cheese, my grandpa was astonished.
*skip paris section here*
right. i'm working at this church built in 1186. it's pretty gorgeous, but also rather plain. i had to learn its scant history to give (very infrequent) tours. i work every day, mornings on saturdays, afternoons on sundays. it's actually painfully boring. truly painfully boring. i am paid to make sure no one vandalizes the church and answer any questions, but 95% of people just go, walk around, and leave. i've gotten more of those sheepish shrug smiles to say good bye and smile nod hellos than the entirety of my life combined.
i'm seeing planet of the apes in french on thursday. i'm going to the home opener of TFC vs Lyon in ten days. i'm getting to see a lot of family that i haven't seen in years that shouldn't be able to go by so quickly before age 22. a train ticket to paris for september 8th has been purchased. things are looking good on the horizon.
- lorrie moore, 'birds of america' -- an early short story collection. all actually very similar in theme and general story and progression along the ladder of abstraction, but lorrie is just too good. she writes broken characters in banally tragic relationships so well.
- tony marra, 'a constellation of vital phenomena' -- supporting stanford writers, borrowed from a good friend, shannon, to whom there is a distinctly personal (not intimate, but obviously meant for her) inscription and signature that i felt a little bizarre and voyeuristic reading. also the book is quite easily readable with fantastic dialogue and a (so far) excellent pace.
- mark oldman, 'oldman's brave new world of wine' -- lighter than the above, still a stanford writer, should prove useful as i try to blend in as a frenchman.