Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Colorful males

Often, civic authorities in the great harbor-side city of Sydney become agitated, flustered and indeed overwhelmed by the prospect of dealing with a handful of foreign visitors. This was the case for the APEC summit [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] last year, as suggested in my article of 29 August 2007 entitled Sydney skies [display].

Once again, this histrionic behavior has characterized the present papal festival. On such occasions, normal life in the metropolis is shut down temporarily, and the citizens have to bide their time until the visitors leave. I find this weird. Sydney's a big place, and there should be lots of room for everybody. The local population should normally be expected to carry on calmly with their usual activities, instead of being drawn, by their mindless leaders, into a state of temporary trauma.

By comparison, look at Paris. Over the last few days, the city was host to some 43 heads of state, including a certain unwelcome individual, the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, who could be considered as a huge potential target for assassination.

The City of Light was invaded by contingents of men and their machines for the great Bastille Day parade. But everything went over smoothly in a perfectly friendly atmosphere. And in the evening, beneath the Eiffel Tower, no less than 600,000 people attended a free concert, followed by a gigantic fireworks display.

By comparison, the events planned for Sydney this week will be trifling. There's only a single major foreigner in town, the pope, and everybody is supposed to love him. So, there's no point in disrupting the life of the nation to protect him... even though we cannot of course be certain that, in the midst of all those lovely young people who believe in magic, there might not be a fuckwit with a gun who would be thrilled to consider boring Benedict, for want of imagination, as a bull's-eye.

Compared with last night's excited concert crowd of 600,000 in the middle of Paris, there'll probably be no more than 500,000 calm Catholic attendees at next Thursday's mass... at Randwick, an empty racecourse located six kilometers from the famous harbor-side skyline of Sydney skyscrapers. So, what's all the fuss about?

I hasten to point out that the word "fuss" is no exaggeration. Believe it or not, back in 2006 (when I was last in Sydney), the NSW government actually voted an act of parliament dedicated to this forthcoming Catholic festival, which stipulated that it would be a crime to "annoy" future Catholic pilgrims. It's only today that we hear a lot about this absolutely insane legislation, at a propitious moment when happy hordes of anti-papal Sydney males are contemplating a naked parade through the streets with their pricks shrouded in fluorescent condoms, to protest against Vatican decisions that accentuate the ongoing Aids holocaust in Africa. Happily, a local court has just ruled retrospectively that the "annoy" clause in the Aussie law is bullshit.

Meanwhile, the Aussie papists have donned their brightest robes, and they're awaiting the emergence of the old white-robed German, who's currently biding his time in solitude, apparently playing the piano, in a rural estate on the outskirts of Sydney.

Another male—whom I admire immensely— is attired in a different color, and I'm delighted to learn that one out of three Australians is following this cycling glory, every evening, on local SBS TV.

Faces of great cyclists, who spend their daily existence in a state of physical agony, are often drawn and contracted, as if they haven't slept well. The facial features of Cadel Evans are stark, accentuated, like those of a Biblical shepherd or fisherman, with a mysterious sad smile. A French newspaper said that Cadel looked like an exhausted zombie. Was he really weeping, yesterday, when the yellow jersey was drawn over his injured shoulder? Were his grimaces expressions of intense inner joy? Tears of a wounded giant? In an instant of glory, we witnessed the frail human carcass of a champion who had been crucified momentarily, accidentally, upon the terrible slopes of the Pyrenées. Like a child, after the official ceremony, Cadel Evans hung on to the rag lion, mascot of the French bank that sponsored his yellow jersey. For a moment, the champion cyclist was all alone, with his warm felt animal and his cold solitary glory. But all the world was watching this fabulous hero. All Australia.

Over the next few days, the color of Australia will be neither red nor white, but yellow! Aussie action will be situated, not at Randwick Racecourse, but upon a mythical field of heroes in the south of France. Cycling enthusiasts in Australia will understand what I'm trying to say. Monsieur Evans, the entire nation is behind you, including those who are praying at Randwick. Go for it, Cadel!


  1. I saw the interview with his mother on sbs last night. It made me smile much more than the Pope ever could. Or all those old men in their red frocks.

    Not that I've got anything against red frocks. Or old men. It's just not a very aesthetic combination

  2. Thanks for your comment. I'm immensely pleased that the TV coverage in Australia is enabling Cadel's supporters to see him in action in the Tour de France. For the moment, nobody knows if he's capable of winning the Tour's highest honors. Cadel's major weakness [his Achilles heel, you might say] is the relatively meager quality of his team. We saw this the other day on the slopes of the Tourmalet. Evans was all alone, surrounded by opponents, without a single team mate. Sure, there are stages whose nature is such that a strong team is not necessary: time trials, for example. It's a truism to say that, as long as the leader is getting along well, he doesn't really need team members... except, of course, when the champion in question is a sprinter, who needs to be "led" towards the finishing line and then "launched".

    An aspect of the character of Evans that I appreciate greatly is his quiet and friendly disposition, like the legendary personality of an Outback grazer. He's never flashy, and makes no effort to draw attention to himself. He's the Aussie equivalent of France's Bernard Hinault... who, incidentally, became a genuine grazer in Brittany, many years ago, after his retirement from cycling. Hinault abandons temporarily his herd, every year, to accompany the Tour de France. He's the guy you see at the awards ceremony at the end of every stage, buttoning up the back of the winners' jerseys.