Monday, September 18, 2006

If Boston is "The Hub," then is Portsmouth a spoke in the wheel? Portsmouth certainly seemed at the center of things over the weekend as two significant cultural events converged on downtown, and I was happy to participate in both of them.

Portsmouth Criterium
Speaking of spokes, wheels were turning fast (exclusive video footage!) (warning - big file!) on Saturday. My troupe and I rode our bikes downtown, partly for some much-needed exercise and partly in homage to Criterium that we were going to attend. The event organizers hit a homerun by instituting a kids race -- they had 45 kids last year and anticipated 120 kids this year, but at the predetermined registration closing time, there was still a long line of hopeful youngsters. They ended up running double heats for all three age groups just to accommodate them all! The helmet fitting/adjustment booth and bicycle saftey check, both staffed by volunteers, was a really nice touch. In fact, my old friend Billy from Exeter Cycles filled my tires as well as my daughter's. Thanks Billy! Our 10-12 year olds loved that they could do the same lap that the pros did.

Anyway, the day was a smashing success from a spectator standpoint. As for the business side, I was pleased to see in this Portsmouth Herald article that only a few downtown shop owners were lamenting the closed streets, lack of parking, and distracted crowds. Some businesses may indeed suffer a one-day hit on Market Square Day and other annual events, but I've always thought this is short-sighted, and this year, it's great to see that they were the exception as more businesses reported more cash in their registers than on an average weekend day.

Indeed, after the women's race, we grabbed grub at Gilly's and Popovers and BagelWorks (different strokes for different spokes?), and between the start of the semi-pro mens and the finish of the pro mens race, we ate and drank at the Coat of Arms. This all on a day when we wouldn't have otherwise been downtown. I recall there was resistance to another event that closed downtown when the Crit idea was first floated a few years back; perhaps the naysaying business-owners spoke too soon?

Telluride by the Sea

Then in the evening, we attended the showing of The US vs John Lennon at The Music Hall. It'll be coming to mainstream theaters, but part of the experience was the crowd at the Music Hall. People were hissing (who hisses anymore?!) at G. Gordon Liddy, J. Edgar Hoover, and Richard Nixon and singing along (pretty well, thanks to good acoustics) to "Give Peace a Chance." You might say it was WILD, man.

The documentary itself, from a film-making perspective, was excellent. But I was blown away by the content, i.e., what it was like in the late 60s and early 70s. My first and overarching reaction was -- with the FBI involved in illegal wiretapping; the administration stubbornly remaining embroilled in an unpopular, pointless, and unwinnable war, and the encumbent president winning re-election despite his questionable character and performance in office -- ummm, what year IS this anyway?! The more things change, the more they stay the same, apparently.

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