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Some slapdash notes on cycling sideburns and ferry menaces while I have five…you know

“There are 104 days to summer vacation,” Gawd help us, and it’s been harder than usual to fit in time to write, what with all the no school for C and having to take the kids outside to do stuff, rather than just have them watch Phineas and Ferb dream up fun summer activities on TV. Never mind the fact that I’ve been spending any free time I have watching the Tour de France (Allez Jens! Allez Chava!). Hold on, I just need to go and examine some Droids fashioned from Duplo. [...] I’m back. They were nice.

T is sleeping, and C is busy playing “Cowboy Lasso,” a game he “downloaded to his brain” (AKA, is playing using actual, not electronic, toys while running around screaming). Actually, I stand corrected: he tells me it’s actually “Cowboy and Cowgirl Lasso.” Very good. That media training I bought him for his fourth birthday was totally worth it.

I just finished watching Stage 11 of the Tour on my phone whilst tidying up the kitchen, so here are a few notes on that and other things to keep my blog going while I am trying to find time to devise some more thoughtful posts. Which I’m afraid won’t come until camp starts again, and the cycling ends, and before the Olympics begin. So basically never. Priorities.

Tour Coiffures. I am no expert on professional cycling, and while there is a lot to say about this incredible Tour, I hardly feel qualified to say much at all online. But I am qualified to make smart-a*s remarks. So. Bradley Wiggins. Much respect. Allez Wiggo and all that. Every time I’ve seen him mount a bike this season my first thought is, “this guy is not kidding around, is he?” I really admire his intense determination to win; you can see all of the hard graft and careful preparation in his riding, and in Team Sky’s riding. Which brings me to my point. I know Wiggins makes every effort to be as aerodynamic as possible. The right gear, the right bike – every move he makes is calculated to the last detail to ensure he doesn’t lose a millisecond to his rivals. He, I assume, like all of the other riders, shaves his legs, just to get that last extra push through the breeze.

Bradley Wiggins leads the Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins leads the Tour de France, sideburns intact. (Photo credit: robkingcameraman)

So why, Bradley, pray tell, don’t you shave those enormous sideburns you have been rocking. I kid, but not really. If you’re planning to duke it out with Vince Noir for the title of King of the Mods, I respect that. But those things on your face must, somehow, cost you a soupcon of time. Right now you’re doing all right, but as you head up the Pyrenees and into the last Time Trial you might want to rethink those face wings. They don’t help you fly. There, I’m done.

Candy Omaha. Here’s another bone I have to pick. We spent last week on vacation down in the Hamptons, on Long Island, and to get there we take a car ferry from New London, CT, to Orient Point, NY. Where, as we drive off the boat onto my native island, it is my prerogative to play a Billy Joel song as we celebrate my summer homecoming. Usually “The Downeaster Alexa.” That is, if the Spotify works, and it usually doesn’t. There ain’t no Island left for Islanders like me, indeed.

The Cross Sound Ferry runs a tight ship, as it were, and it is always fun to spend part of our journey on a ferry rather than in a car. And our favorite boat in their fleet is the Cape Henlopen. Mainly because it has an arcade where C and T can pretend that they are really awesome at Pac Man and some driving games.

The other reason that I like the Cape Henlopen is that it was built as a World War II landing craft, and participated in the D-Day invasion at Normandy, ferrying GIs to Omaha Beach. And now, in its dotage, it schlepps folks to more peaceful beaches, and Mohegan Sun. It was built for battle, not for the level of comfort of a pleasure cruise. There is some seating inside, and just a limited number of banquettes that seat at least six around a table. They’re big.

So why, lady traveling alone, and there are people like this on every passage, do you need an entire booth to yourself? So you can prop your Reeboked foot on the seat while you listen to your off-brand MP3 player (probably to Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits, I’m just guessing)? So you can stare smugly out the window, avoiding the glares of groups of four (or more) who are trying to eat lunch on chairs opposite you? You didn’t even eat! You weren’t even using the table to prop up your copy of Fifty Shades of Gray! You just looked over my head as I picked PB&J (and T) repeatedly up off the floor.

I know what you might say, lady (or gentleman, similarly accused). You’d say you got there first, so tough luck to me. That you deserve to sit there just as much as anyone else. That there is no rule against taking up seating for six for yourself. And this is the only complaint I have against an otherwise excellently-run ferry service. There should be a rule. Even two people in a booth, I can understand. But one? There were lots of comfortable single seats that could have accomodated her; it was just selfishness. And the downfall of Western Civilization.

And “Piano Man” was probably playing too loudly in her ear to hear my remark, accompanied by a gesture in her general direction, “I hope you’re enjoying your giant booth.” But the lady in the booth behind her did hear me, and she looked up from her little game of Uno she was playing with her husband and grown son. Which seems a perfectly reasonable use for a booth. Sorry, I didn’t mean you. Hope you didn’t fall victim to any Draw Fours.

Toward the end of the trip, the booth next to this woman freed up, and I slid T in so he could stand up against the window and eat this enormous lollipop, the long, twisting, rainbow kind stuck on a wooden dowel. I had saved that pop for this long, last leg of the journey. T had already won every video game, said hello to every human and dog on this ship, and said “bye” to every boat that passed. So I can call it only karma that while this woman was on her phone worrying about her lunch plans at the top of her lungs, T whipped that pop straight at her so hard that it rained down in shards all around her, and her special booth (it didn’t actually hit her, thankfully). It was as if the ghosts of GIs lost to Normandy long ago arose from deep within the ship to let the Cape Henlopen see battle once again, reenacting Omaha Beach in rainbow sugar.

To her credit, she wasn’t mad when I came over to apologize, but when I tried to go into her booth to clean up the wreckage she waved me away, saying, “Leave it, the crew will get it.” Well, la-di-da to you, lady. T just fired a warning shot across your bow; hopefully next time you’ll heed his warning. Draw four.

I can hear T stirring so it’s time to call a cease fire in the war against cyclists’ sideburns and single seat snobs. We’re headed out to the swimming hole. There are still six hours to fill with summer fun before bedtime, a glass of wine, and the Tour recap show.

When watching grown-up TV with your kids goes wrong: the Tour de France

Andy Schleck in Paris - Tour de France 2009

Andy Schleck in Paris – Tour de France 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought I’d repost my entry on the Tour de France, and update it with a few notes as it heads to Paris. (And if you want to know what I really think of Bradley Wiggins‘ sideburns, see here.) All I can say is that I should have planned our summer better and put C in camp while the Tour was on, because it starts live every day at 8 am, and before we head to the playground or the swimming hole or wherever we go that day, we’re watching, darn it! And if les enfants ask to switch channels, I will pronounce a firm “non” and fob them off with a baguette…

***

I might defend Caillou, but it’s not like I want to watch that bald a****** all the time. Sometimes, I want to enjoy a television program with my child – it can make for the start of an interesting conversation. Plus, why does my four-year-old always have to be in control of the remote? Can’t a mother take a break and watch her own program for five minutes? But sometimes my well-intentioned attempts go awry. Here’s the first in (hopefully) a series of posts about fails in which I’ve encouraged my four-year-old to watch grown-up TV.

The Tour de France: I can’t be bothered to ride a bike myself (unless my sister takes me to SoulCycle and that’s only because I think I’m going to see a celebrity), but I love watching professional cycling. I love everything about it: the arcane terminology (peloton! lanterne rouge! rouleur! domestique! le doping!); the strategy; the soap-opera-level fighting between teams; the beautiful scenery they blaze past, and the European-ness of it all. I think I like that part best of all.

Plus, watching the Tour is a major time commitment – it’s on for about three hours a day for about three weeks in July. And thanks to the excellent coverage on NBC Sports, I want to watch the whole thing. So I need a buy-in from my kid. Come on! It’s a hot day, the baby’s sleeping, take a little break with your mother and watch a little bit of cycling! We’ll have a cold drink. We’ll talk about the beautiful castles and forests they cycle by. I’ll try to explain the strategy. As we watch I will encourage a personal dream I have in which my two boys grow up to become the American Schleck brothers – they’ve already got the elfin, adorable part down! C could be like Frank, the older, quietly tenacious one, and T could be Andy, younger, a charmer. How proud must their mother be: two brothers, riding together to the top of their sport! Mine could do the same – right? And I, as their faithful and doting mother, could tour Europe with them – The Ardennes! Milan-San Remo! The Vuelta a Espana! – traveling with their team, cooking them well-balanced meals, doling out words of encouragement, fighting off the press and those kissy-kissy podium girls.

It started pretty well – C loves to ride his own bike, so he was pretty into it. He loved to hear about the different-colored jerseys, and what they mean, and how the riders work together, and work so hard to achieve their goals yada yada, and then…CRASH

With apologies to poor Johnny Hoogerland, C just wanted to watch this over and over. And in the telecast, crashes get showed over and over – and there are lots of them. So then, that’s all he wanted to watch. But the crashes aren’t part of a dream du maman. So au revoir, maillot jaune. Au revoir, peloton. Au revoir, dream.

[Update: I should add that Andy Schleck himself, my favorite cyclist, fell victim to a crash at the Criterium du Dauphine, in the run-up to the Tour, and broke his a*s, well, his sacrum. And I did tune in to a press conference on a Luxembourgish website to watch him announce that he would not be riding the Tour. Yes, I actually did that. I feel terrible for him (and his mother), and while I am sad I can't watch him take the yellow jersey in the mountains this year, I am looking forward to his return to cycling when he is fully recovered. His brother, Frank, is still in the race and I hope he sticks it to everyone in the Pyrenees.]

[Update #2: I love Phil Liggett, his call of the Tour de France made a cycling fan out of me. But since I can't possibly comment on Frank Schleck's departure from the Tour, except to say it makes me so sad, I thought I'd give good old Phil a few notes.

1 - It's NI-bali, not Ni-BA-li. Forza lo Squalo dello Stretto.

2- It's Nissan ALT-ima, not Al-TI-ma, bless you for not knowing the pronunciation of such a banal automobile.

3 - I know I link to Johnny Hoogerland's infamous crash above, but I have to say, Phil (and Paul Sherwen), I don't think we need to mention that he flew headlong into a barbed-wire fence during last year's Tour EVERY time his name comes up. We already know; he already knows, and I think he'd probably like to be known as something other than the guy who got hit with a flying Flecha, and then (this one is pointed at the people who make those cycling montages for the TV coverage) cried on the podium when he got the Most Combative award later that day. So let's not mention it anymore. Unless it helps his lawsuit. If that's true, go on and mention it whenever you like. Allez Johnny.]

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