Look up

August 3, 2018 § 10 Comments

The Turdy France came and went, and for the first time in decades I didn’t follow it, care about it, or even know who had won until a couple of days after. My sole TdF awareness was courtesy of a friend who texted to say that “Today’s stage was like when the bridesmaid coldcocks the bride, grabs the flowers and ring, smooches the groom and says ‘I do!'”

I went over to CyclingNews and saw that the bridesmaid had indeed made a run at the altar, head down and shoulders squared.

That was pretty much it until last Saturday, when I, Damir and Dutchman Georg were rolling out of Vienna, and Damir said, “The Englishman named G-something is gonna win.” It mattered not at all, at least to me. I’ve made my peace with drugged up entertainment. Some people like it and need it, and that’s okay with me.

Keep your eye on what they want you to keep it on

What’s not okay with me is the way that the TdF, pro sports, the news media, and the streets of Vienna, or any other city, keep your eyes fastened on what’s in front of you. Here you are walking down some of the most beautiful streets on earth and your eye can’t help but focus on the marquis for Rolex or the imposing sign that says Ritz-Carlton.

The Tour does the same thing, of course. It tricks you into looking at what’s in front of you on the computer or television screen, because what’s in front of you is advertising, and what’s behind advertising is the global corporate monolith. You need to look straight ahead in order to keep consuming, which is why the designs are so Facebooky appealing and the colors so innately attractive.

Tilt your neck

One of the last days in Vienna I was returning my wife’s rental bike and had to walk along a bridge over the Donau. Off to my right was an imposing skyscraper with a design that can only be described as fantastic. I snapshotted it and posted it the next day on Instagram, and a follower, an architect, immediately posted the name of the woman who had designed it.

The beauty of the building, and the speed with which the person who really knew what she was looking at identified the architect, struck me hard because Vienna is filled with amazing architecture, but the buildings are whored up with so much signage and storefront modifications that you only appreciate the dangling brand names, never the facades they hang upon.

On my last few days I walked around the city looking up, with each glance realizing how little I knew about the buildings that made up the city. They were clearly from different eras, some built after the war to fill in a gaping hole caused by aerial bombardment, others built in the 1700’s to house nobility, others built two centuries ago as tenements for those who lived outside the city’s fortifications. The more I looked, the more I pondered how ignorant I was, and the more amazed I became at having seen so little in such a long stretch of time. This is the kind of missed picture that people who don’t birdwatch never get to see when they stroll along the beach at Redondo, oblivious to the amazing variety of bird life right in front of their noses.

It’s the same oblivion that we experience when we focus our energies on the Doper of the Day rather than the extraordinary people pedaling bikes around us. After a few days of staring at buildings, my neck got really sore and I went into my favorite bookstore, Thalia, to find something that would be in front of my face but not mass media pablum designed to sell me something I don’t want, don’t need, and can’t use.

And man, did I find it.

END

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