I wouldn’t go so far as the three-time world-champion Óscar Friere, who reckons that the Tour de France is “the most boring race of the year” — has he ever watched the Tour of Qatar? — but this year’s race did make me wonder how many more like it the old institution can take. Institutionalization is the Tour’s great burden, or at least its double-edged sword. For the casual fan it is the ‘race of record,’ cycling itself. Those who follow the sport more closely understand that while the Tour is undeniably the most competitive, and therefore the most prestigious, among the three Grand Tours of Italy, France and Spain, it often not the most interesting.
As The Berkshire Review has grown, we have developed certain international centers, where our writers either live or often return. Our coverage in these locations will continue to grow and become more comprehensive with time, and others will be added to them. But these are not all, you will find reports from Chicago, Madison, Wisconsin, Virginia, Turkey, and Poland. If you are travelling or looking for a place to settle, you will find this list of our local “portals” helpful.
A successful public space, they say, is one where the citizens block the steps. So suggested urbanologist Lewis Mumford nearly a hundred years ago. I’m not certain he would have had San Francisco’s busy Union Square in mind, but he may have, even then. What Mumford never envisaged, surely, was the odd and telling assemblage of human beings who make the Square the center of their lives and a Rorschach test for the character of one of America’s great cities. I am one of them. For those of us living downtown, it is the front yard.
Le Tour de France, comme un voyage à la lune ou une mission de la navette spatiale, est une espèce d’art performatif. Le parcours est dessinée, mais un scénario imprévisible se déroule toujours sur les routes de France. La plupart des Tours de France depuis j’ai commencé à faire attention en 1989 étaient dominés par les grands champions comme Miguel Indurain (cinq maillots jaunes) et Lance Armstrong (sept), avec les brefs interrègnes. Le Tour de 2011, possiblement le meilleur, est peut-être le Tour qui rompra cette modèle de “star-système.” C’est le premier Tour vraiment post-Armstrong, post-Armstrongiste.
Grace peut-être au dessin supérieur des routes français, le parcours du Tour n’est pas le plus difficile des trois grands tours (de la France, l’Italie et l’Espagne). Si le Giro d’Italia, incroyablement dur dans les années recentes (deux ascensions de Mt. Etna dans une journée!?) est une sorte de free jazz, le Tour de France est peut-être un big band de Glenn Miller: structuré, populaire, avec ses conventions familières et ses variations subtils entre les éditions qui se produit des énormes différences de scénario. Le parcours et les ambitions des 198 coureurs créent des histoires grands, petits et insolites, surtout cette année.
The Tour de France, like a moon landing or shuttle mission, is a kind of performance art. The route is predetermined, but the scenario which plays out on the roads of France is always unpredictable. The majority of the Tours since I started paying attention in 1989 have been dominated by the likes of five time winner Miguel Indurain and seven time winner Lance Armstrong, interspersed with brief interregnums. If we are lucky, the 2011 edition, the greatest I have seen without a doubt, will be remembered as the Tour which broke this “star-system.” It is certainly the first truly post-Armstrong, and post-Armstrongian, race.
The only real way to travel is to travel aimlessly, without a destination, purpose, or agenda. One should have only the vaguest, dreamiest intuition that the country travelled may be of interest. Once, when I was still working as a curator, my then wife and I went on holiday to a Central American country, largely because it lacked a museum, or at least a museum that would prove irresistible to either of us. We were mostly likely wrong in that assumption, but I can’t say, because we never visited the museum. Neither did we visit the capital city’s renowned German restaurant, nor did we indulge a weakness for souvenirs, although we did seriously discuss the adoption of a small mutt, who decided to follow us on a late night stroll through a port city.
“The Master Plan suggests an architecture that, despite its scale, will not overshadow any of the spaces that are, in and of themselves, naturally beautiful. The exception to this is the library and hotel pier. A reference to tall ships that once docked at the harbour’s edge and the hotel and library are expressions of the magnificent ability for a building to almost walk on water. This architecture will provide necessary markers in their own right.” -from the Barangaroo Public Display, March 2010
Jonathan Van Allen’s family and staff had no time to grieve. The day after he was killed in an early morning, one-car accident they had to put on an elegant wedding reception at a restaurant that would soon be Jonathan’s third in South Berkshire County.