Tomorrow we go back to America after three months. It will be a shock. It always is. On some very basic levels the two cultures do not mix. The French are constantly upgrading their infrastructure, which the Americans don't seem to believe in very much--new sidewalks here in Nice, new sub-surface ducts and pipes going in under the boulevard, new lawns and flowers in the public gardens, of which their are many. A second tram line is being built not so much to enhance transportation as to get as many cars as possible out of the center of the city. It's as if city officials were upgrading so as to make life better for everybody. In France the cafes are all around you as everybody knows, and when you sit down to order a coffee a waiter brings it to your table. No waiting in line at a counter and then most likely drinking it standing up. Not important? Quality of life, pal, quality of life. My granddaughter Galen just graduated from Stanford, tuition $55,000 a year. In France tuition would have been zero, and of course free medical care as well--and better care than in America according to stories and statistics I have seen in the NYTimes. Prescription drugs, relatively speaking, are ridiculously cheap here. And taxes, when city, state, sales etc. are lumped together, are not all that much higher than America. I don't mean to suggest France is perfect. It's not, but it does have much in its favor that Americans might look at, and for us going back it will take, as always, a bit of getting used to. Well, September will come and we'll come back here. Carrying on life in two countries is expensive, onerous and sometimes a pain in the ass, but I can't help being American and wanting to live in my own country for a while. And I can't help enjoying France either.
I am touched and also a bit surprised by all the birthday greetings that came in, some from relatives and close friends of course, but many from "friends" I have never actually met and know only through Facebook. Why should anyone care about my birthday, including me since I have had so many? Each one is only another notch in the stick. Trouble is there's not much room left for more notches. I'll have to get a new stick. Anyway, thank you all for wishing me well, and I wish you all the same.
Who didn't believe that Amazon was a monopoly, and trying to become more so? I put 24 of my books on Kindle. I put the same books on The Nook which, by the way, seems to me a much better tablet on which to read books, even though it is not doing well financially. My Kindle sales have been about three times my Nook sales. Anyway, I just received the following notice from Amazon:
A reader named Jock Ellis wrote me: "This being the 20th anniversary of the last death in F1, Senna's, I was pondering your thoughts as to the changes in the sport and what could have been done back when you were covering it to make it safer."
Answer is: Not much. It was a game back then, not a business. Neither owners nor drivers were in it for the big money because there wasn't any. There was no TV, and when TV did come in it was extremely limited for some years, meaning no advertising income. (Also not much fame for the drivers.) Certainly not enough money or fame to pay for today's closed "safe" tracks, and so Grand Prix racing was conducted mostly on public roads. No particular prestige attached to the sport itself, and its "stars," who were unknown ten feet away, died fast, which meant there were no distant, sometimes inor countries clamoring for a race of their own at any price, all of them willing to pour in money, wanting to join the big boys, wanting to touch imagined, international greatness, wanting the avalanche of international advertising and publicity. And so there were only seven or eight races a year, not 25. Small things could have been done, but nobody had thought of the wide tires and other technical gimmicks which, when they did come in, did not at first slow the dying very much. And the drivers themselves rejected seat belts. They thought that driving race cars on public roads was safer without, fearing they would not be able to get out of the wreck and would burn to death. And so it went. What I saw, wrote about and to a large extent lived with, bears no resemblance to the sport today. I'm glad that I was there then, and so close, and if Grand Prix racing was to be what it was, that I got to see it and write about it, and be appalled by it. It was a small brilliant world. I regret it's passing. The much bigger world is richer because it once existed, and if it were possible I might vote to bring it back. Would I really? I don't know.