“Remain humble or life will do it for you.”

If you are a pétanque player, you might have noticed that this unpretentious game has a way to keep you humble… or cut you down to size.

Young phenom Alex, 14 years old

National tournaments (like Sonoma’s) are a good way to assess your skills. When you start thinking that you are a big tuna, you might discover that your size shrinks significantly when you venture into a bigger pond. There is ALWAYS somebody who will lick you. Surprise!

This sport, like any other competitive exercise, has something to do with physical ability and mental strength. A great player usually starts young, is naturally gifted and gets a lot of practice. You need to play often, preferably with stronger players, to hone your skills.
And you need to control your temper and stay cool under pressure! The mark of a champion is to remain grounded while achieving greatness.

Unlike other sports, age is no handicap in pétanque. Sexagenarians can be as good as teenagers, and young phenoms could deflate anybody’s ego faster than you can utter OMG!

You can spot a “serious” player by the way he/she behaves on the field. Marching back and forth scrutinizing every inch of the ground (?), marking where the cochonnet landed, crouching to assess the topography of the area, mulling about the next move…

As a photographer, I cannot help but notice those things and they sometimes make me chuckle. D-Day required a lot of thinking and a lot of planning. Shooting or pointing should take a little less time.

But who am I to say this? I am an emblematic Pastis (minus the Pastis) player. I only play on weekends and never farther than 30 miles from my abode.

This does not mean that I am not competitive. I am, and I don’t like to lose. But I was a late starter and it is difficult to catch up with somebody who began playing while still wearing diapers.

So I am a journeyman player. And if you play against me, call yourself lucky because you have a good chance to beat me.

If I were a really good player, I would probably be full of myself… the opposite of the wonderful human being that I presently am. And if I were really good, I would probably not lower myself to play with you.

So we are all lucky. Since I am less than great, I remain friendly and humble… and you, you won’t have to be snubbed by a self-anointed champ.

Don’t let me win too often. It could go to my head and make my derrière too big for my britches.


Karma has no menu. You get served what you deserve.

Coup de théâtre!

I have always believed that “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings” and one more time I was proven right. Never presume to know the outcome of an event still in progress.

Yesterday in Sonoma, at the National Men’s & Women’s Doubles World Championship Qualifier, Ed Porto and Ziggy Kessouagni faced Peter Mathis and Jack Vijit (from Chicago) in the men’s finals. Two very strong teams definitely deserving to be in the finals.

If I am not mistaken, everybody believed that it was going to be a very tight contest, all players being equally adept at shooting and pointing.

When the game started, Ziggy on one side and Jack on Mathis’ side were the appointed shooters. Both excellent marksmen.

Score” 10-1

Porto’s team scored first. Then they scored again… again and again. Very soon the scoreboard (watch picture) was showing a dismaying 10-1 in favor of Porto’s team. Unbelievable!

Everybody thought les carottes sont cuites (the carrots are cooked) as we say in French.

But the carrots were only “al dente”. After being extremely accurate and scoring carreaux after carreaux, both shooters started to miss. For a while, it looked like they both lost their bearings. Fatigue, stress? Understandable. They had been at it since 9:00 a.m. and it was now 6:00 p.m.

Both teams reverted roles. The pointers became the shooters and the shooters became pointers. Mathis’ team finally emerged from its comatose state and started scoring.

Little by little, they crept up until the score reached 12/12.

Any team could win. The tension was palpable!

Jack Vijit & Peter Mathis

Finally, around 6:30 p.m. Mathis delivered “ le coup de grace” and it was over. After being on life support for a good 20 minutes Peter and Jack rose from the dead and won 1st place 13/12.

The accompanying pictures clearly show their pent-up emotion.

A movie is likely in the offing. Hollywood already called!

On the women’s side, after a long battle, Juanita Celix & Angie Gleason defeated Kongback & Bissonnette and took 1st place.

Men’s finals:
1st place: Peter Mathis & Jack Vijit
2nd place: Ed Porto & Ziggy Kessouagni
3rd place: John Harris & Mickey Coughlin

Women’s finals:
1st place: Juanita Celix & Angie Gleason
2nd place: Kongback & Bissonnette
3rd place: Vang & Thao

Men’s Consolante:
1st place: J-M Poulnot &  Johnatan Dalmau


Full names and ranking will be updated as soon as I get the data.

Enjoy the pictures. Comments are always appreciated.

Of woman and man

When I see a good-looking woman I naturally look at her… as any red-blooded man would. Similarly, when I spot a handsome man or a fancy car, I will also look appraise them. It is a natural reaction. Regardless of our native cultures, we are all attracted by beauty.

In some countries though, overtly looking or talking to a woman is not acceptable and could even be perilous. This state of affairs has a great deal to do with cultural differences.

Customs and attitudes are often molded by what I consider the biggest bugaboo of them all: organized religion. Any theocratic state is an oppressive state.

Most religions control their congregations by guilt and by fear. If you do this or fail to do that, you will be severely punished. But if you follow our dictums (obey without questioning) you will be amply rewarded… later, much later.
My first question is: how do you know that? Have you ever experienced any of those things?

“Every culture has something to be ashamed of, but every culture also has the right to change, to challenge negative traditions, and create to new ones.” Ralph Nader

Absolutely! Purge religion of its outlandish pronouncements. If something does not sound right, like honor killing and stoning for instance, get rid of it. Nothing, absolutely nothing is cast in stone.

Looking at another woman, even if you are married, should not be construed as a sin, but as beauty appreciation. The same canon applies to women. It is their prerogative to look or talk to anybody without guilt.

My Russian-born wife told me that when she came to America, she was surprised that so very few men looked at her. Did she, when stepping on American soil, suddenly lose all her appeal? An extremely worrisome thought for any woman. In Russia, she said, lots of men would try to catch her attention while In America men seemed afraid to overtly look at her.

Today we are navigating oceans full of uncharted waters. People take offense for an ever-increasing number of reasons and you have to steer your vessel very carefully. The man in the crow’s nest must remain vigilant at all times and warn you immediately about any half-submerged morality iceberg.


Regardless, I will continue to look at beautiful things, even if the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice tries to crack down on my debauched lifestyle.