Last week I was sitting here in TCI’s East Coast office staring blankly out the window, a glistening bead of drool pooling at the corner of my mouth, when I got a call from the cycling envoy of Luxembourg to complain that Luxembourg, unlike Belgium, really is a Duchy. It is, on its birth certificate, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, so it was neglectful and shoddy of me to go on and on about Belgium, and its amusing ‘duchiness’ a couple weeks ago, when there’s a real duchy right next door that we should be paying more attention to.
The dude was rude, and I had only just come out of my reflective reverie when he said, “You’re not even writing about cycling properly.” I said, “Hey bud, you know you can’t spell ‘douchey’ without ‘duchy,’ right?” whereupon he hung up on me.
It was probably Fränk Schleck.
Fränk always was the tetchy one, what with all that blood-doping and deal-with-the-devil-making not producing much in the way of actual race wins. And then constantly being outshone by his younger brother, who also didn’t win much. It’s hard to take a grown man named Andy very seriously, though. Honestly. If you’re reading this, and you’re an adult, and people call you Andy, you’re lovable and laughable, and there’s nothing wrong with you, but also sit down and shush, we’re mulling the fate of (theoretically) a nation here.
I’d challenge any of you to name a Luxembourger who is not a Schleck, or as those of us who once followed men’s pro racing down into the sewer of doping, secret doping, and double secret doping, the eternal Schleck-onds (with apologies to Raymond Poulidor).
I was in Luxembourg once for about ten minutes. I took a train from Rheinfelden, Germany, to Paris, passing through … oh, sorry … that was Liechtenstein. Yeah. I have never been to Luxembourg, which makes this review even less useful than usual.
In Luxembourg, they speak French and German, but also Luxembourgish. That’s not a joke. That’s a fact. Luxembourgish is a variation on high German, so it’s guttural and glottal, a heady mix of throaty harumphing and saliva projecting passion. Up until recently, there was a Chi Chi’s Mexican Restaurant in Luxembourg City, (It’s true. Suck it, Liechtenstein.) and I get no-end of mirth imagining someone ordering a chimichanga in Luxembourgish.
If there is any sign of (the apocalypse) end-stage capitalism it is that.
I have a lot of sympathy for Luxembourg though. It’s a small country, dominated politically and culturally by its neighbors. It sits there on the frontier between the romantic world of the French and the technocratic slant of Germany, et. al. Like it’s land-locked cousin, Switzerland, it was also neutral until after WW II, which you can construe as a means of self-preservation or a cowardly way out of a tough situation. It’s not for me to judge.
Perhaps their best strategy, for most of their history as a nation, would have been to turn the lights off and pretend they weren’t home when any of the aggro-nonsense that has marked European history for the last … eternity … was going down. Could you blame them?
Finally, I will say this. Luxembourg is the Grandest Duchy I’m aware of. Much better than Belgium in this regard. Whether it’s being passed on the left-hand side (always recycle) or simply being left to churn out almost-but-not-quite-world-class cyclists, once you’re a grand duchy, pardon me, a Grand Duchy, no one can take that away from you, not even a knuckle-dragging, pseudo satirist like me.