Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Buddha of Westlock

You can see it from several kilometres away, the giant golden Buddha, towering above the fields of green south of Westlock, Alberta. If you didn’t know to expect it, I can see how you might be startled  at the sight. It doesn’t seem an obvious location for a 50-foot Buddha.

So what's the story? The big Buddha  resides on the grounds of the Tay Thien Monastery aka Westlock Meditation Centre, built in 2009 by the Edmonton Institute for Buddhist Studies. The grounds include a residence-type building, a retreat centre, small pond, Lotus Temple, and statue garden.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

We Were Young and Carefree


Laurent Fignon, the bespectacled, pony-tailed French champion, nicknamed “The Professor,” whose palmeres include two Tours (1983,1984), a Giro (1989), and a couple of classics, is probably best known now to a generation of cycling fans as the guy who lost the 1989 Tour de France by 8 seconds to Greg Lemond on the final day’s time trial.

I remember watching this on tv. Even to my 13-year-old eyes, it was obvious this was more than just a race; it was a clash of styles and cultures. Fignon, representing an old-school European approach vs. the American Lemond, using the latest technology (aerodynamic helmet and tri-bars), and a new strategy. Fignon had a significant lead of 50 seconds going into the time trial but Lemond gained 58 seconds that day and the rest is history, as they say. Fignon’s third Tour victory vanished and he became known forever as the guy who blew it, more so than the man who won two. 

Fignon’s 2009 autobiography We Were Young and Carefree (translated by William Fotheringham) is a surprisingly good read--I say “surprisingly” because most athlete memoirs are dreadful. In the realm of autobiography, there’s nothing more boring than a guarded athlete’s sanitized account of all the super-nice people he or she encountered en route to stardom. Autobiography needs conflict, tension, obstacles, attitude--something to provide some dramatic tension. In Fignon’s case, the thoroughly engaging tension in the book comes from the fact that he was kind of a dick--though I mean that in the best possible way.