Sunday, July 25, 2004

Lance! Lance! (Paris V)

I went to see Lance's victory on the Champs Elysées. I was supposed to meet friends but the crowd made it impossible. There are people everywhere, fighting for a spot that they have reserved, some since early in the morning. An Australian woman is ready to gouge my eyes out
I just wanted to lean on the stone marking the entrance of an underground parking lot on which she was standing. After I told her that I just wanted to lean she just said "Wait until my husband comes back. We'll see what he says".
My hair is covered with an American flag bandanna and I have two small American flags that I wave with the enthusiasm of the newly converted. The race is still far away from Paris but already the crowd is cheering the sight of the famed "Caravan" -- a long litany of advertisements on wheels -- I shout with everyone around. "Are you French?" asks someone next to me. "Oui, " I answer, "je suis French". He clearly does not understand the flags and my head cover. "It's simple", I explain, "it's not everyday that one gets to fly the American flag on the Champs Elysées and live to tell. I wanted to experience the feeling." He laughs. A new American in Paris.

When the race arrives, the spot becomes impossible to keep. I get tired to be pushed and crushed by three or four rows of people behind me so I leave to walk around, still waving my flags. I'm surprised by the numbers of thumb up I get from people around. Not one nasty comment. I see Lance on a giant screen. Everyone is cheering. The national anthem is played. "Over the land of the free and the home of the brave."


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