The delight of opening a new pursuit…

Consciously or not, every person longs for novelty; for something fresh and unfamiliar that will bring excitement into a monotonous existence. If that longing is not satisfied, dormant Boredom will awake and nag you.
It is a common ailment that can affect humans and animals alike. It silently creeps up on you and insidiously morphs people and animals into unhappy individuals.

Happiness is a dedicated leg warmer

Regardless how contented you are, some day soon you will feel bored, hankering for some novelty. It could be a new phone, a new car, a new job… a new surgery (ha ha ha) even a new relationship…
It does not mean that you don’t like your mate anymore. It simply means that you want to experience something different, something new to spice up an uneventful routine. This is the so-called mid-life crisis affecting mainly quadragenarians and described by the French as “le démon de midi (middle-aged lust).

Novelty serves us for a kind of refreshment, and takes off from that satiety we are apt to complain of in our usual and ordinary entertainments. Joseph Addison

Just like children getting tired of their toys, grownups get bored with theirs. They need a steady stream of adrenaline shots to feel content. Some vacations can fill that void, but temporarily.

“Leave home, leave the country, leave the familiar. Only then can routine experience—buying bread, eating vegetables, even saying hello—become new all over again.” ― Anthony Doerr

Novelty is the antidote to boredom. One must acquire new toys on a regular basis to feel gratified and Amazon shrewdly tapped into that vein; it provides the perfect channel for that craving. You just have to click a button and kindly Uncle Amazon will oblige. No questions asked and it is much more efficient than Santa’s old routine. No letter to write and no anxious waiting period. You can satisfy your longing and play with your new toy within days.

The key to fend off Demon Boredom is planning ahead. One should always have something to look forward to. When I was skiing in France, I remember hearing French people already talking about their upcoming summer vacation.
That’s the way to do it. Plan your future like a D-Day operation. Every month storm a new beach… or a new restaurant.

If you are not careful, “le démon de midi” might creep into your home and wreck havoc with your quiet, happily boring life.


Keep the wind in your cell

No self-respecting teen would ever think of showing up in school without a cell phone; it would be too gauche, too weird, too embarrassing. A cell phone you should know is a must-have component of a teen on the go, and without it, you are nothing, nada, RIEN.

When you are deprived of mobility, staying in touch with your loved ones, your friends, even your creditors, is extremely important and the cell phone is the perfect implement to fulfill that function.

Since I left the hospital, I have been housebound and my only link with the outside world has been this remarkable gadget. Kate, my lady in waiting, is doing her best to coddle me but that’s not enough. She is a great caretaker, but like many pretty things, a little empty-headed. She can cuddle but she cannot cook or even fetch me my slippers.

When handicapped, you have no better friend than your cell phone and I am not embarrassed to say that when I go to sleep I cling to my iPhone like a pacifier. I am not sucking on it, but it is close.

I have become a newborn Christian teenager again and texting, sexting or messaging is now part of my regular routine. I can keep in touch with old partners in crime or plot new escapades from under my blanket. In the mean time, my spies in the field keep me aware of what’s going on outside my small Big House and are waiting for my instructions to proceed.

I could tweet some grandiose non-sense but I prefer not too. I entrust that role to our Tweeter-in-chief who is obviously more adept (?) than me at that.

The road to recovery goes through dark swamps and gloomy forests but my guiding light is the hope of walking unhampered and competing with you very soon.

Before I go, thank you again to all those people who have called, texted, tweeted, visited and made my life so much more pleasant by doing so.

Thank you brothers and sisters!

Ce n’est qu’un au revoir mes frères…


Fourteen steps

There are fourteen steps leading from my living room to the upper section of my condo. Even though I have lived here for a number of years, I was never fully aware of this fact… until now.

Down but not out.

Normally I probably climb those stairs 8 to 10 times a day. No big deal. Just a hop, a skip and a jump, all of this while yodeling. My cat often accompanies me and does this with irritating ease. But lately this trivial activity has morphed into something much more challenging. Since my back surgery, I have to pause almost on every step before trying to conquer the next one. I keep telling myself that this is just a temporary setback, but it hurts my self-esteem… without mentioning my back.

In today’s jargon, I am now what you call “mobility impaired”. I need to use a “walker” for moving from place to place. My own assessment is that it is much too early to pigeonhole me in this demeaning second-class status.
My only consolation is that I can now park in handicapped parking spots. But frankly, I would rather walk a few hundred steps rather than to use this dubious privilege.

A step is not much: in the US it is just 7 inches tall, but lately it seems to have grown taller overnight. It feels more like 9 inches than 7. Is it all these pills that I am popping up?

When I was growing up In Paris, we used to live on the 3rd floor of our building. This gave me ample opportunities to practice what is now called “competitive step climbing.” In those days, like most families, we didn’t have a phone and children were routinely used as unpaid laborers.
Alain, go and get a baguette… Alain get me a newspaper… Alain take the garbage down… Alain get some fresh milk for your brother…

I didn’t mind though. Any excuse was good for me to get out of the house and stretch my short-panted legs. I would rush down the stairs like an avalanche and woe be to anybody standing in my way. I was a real “galopin”.
Climbing back was no problem either. I would go up two steps at a time and I was up on the 3rd floor before you could finish any prayer to fend off the devil and his disciples.

So again, I am no stranger to stairs climbing. In my heydays I could challenge the best of them. You could even call me a visionary trendsetter.

Small steps are good for you. They keep you humble and levelheaded.
Remember Lao Tzu:

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.


All roads lead to Rome

In other words, I just discovered that all the fuc****g nerves in your body meet and hold congress in your spine. After back surgery, whatever you attempt to do is going to instantly send punishing electric jolts to your backbone.

The ugly truth

When you tamper with the sanctity of the flesh, even the most trivial body movement becomes an ordeal. All your muscular efforts are now subject to careful consideration. Is this move necessary or worth the subsequent amount of pain?

You are now dealing with an exquisitely crafted app called “painometry”. This app requires you to use your pain debit card for any extra physical exertion. For instance, for the privilege of standing up you will be charged a certain amount of pain. Same for sitting down or for attending to your bodily functions. And you will have to pay on the spot. As the French say, “No tickee, no washee.”

On the 5th day at the hospital, the dark powers behind the shiny façade of the hospital decided that it was time for me to vacate the premises. A variety of nurses and doctors also concurred to evict me.
I had two options: spend a week or two in a rehab facility or go home with a rented hospital bed and have my live-in lover cope with me. Tamara and I wisely picked the second option.

We started transitioning back from the Vacaville Kaiser facility to San Rafael Tuesday August 8 at 2:30 pm; a long car ride (about an hour) for somebody with a sensitive back condition. Tamara did an excellent job of driving and avoiding the numerous potholes blossoming on the freeway. I am afraid that her bill for services rendered is going to be staggeringly high, but she is worth her weight in gold.

Unfortunately when we arrived in Marin the promised hospital bed and the accompanying walker that we previously ordered were absent. I had to spend an uncomfortable night on a makeshift bed set up in the middle of our living room. In the meantime, due to technical problems the second floor of our condo is now a no-man’s land where squirrels and raccoons roam at will. A new Fukushima. Enter at your own risk.

Facing this new situation, I had to reorganize my life around the living room. And the worse part is that I cannot use my beloved 27” Mac (32 MB of memory) located in the restricted zone. I have to make do with Tamara’s MacBook that is not set up to my own personal specifications. It is like driving a Trabant after having strutted for years in a Bentley.

But beggars cannot be choosers! A reporter must report regardless of what the field conditions are. So it is from my living room bunker that I will be feeding you some tantalizing tidbits of news.

Before I file this report though, I would like to thank all the lovely people who were rooting for me and helped me to keep my spirits up while being tossed like a rag doll in the white waters of back surgery.

See you soon sometimes in a few months in the pétanque’s golden arena. Tata for now my little cochonnets.

Alain aka La Foudre

Keep calm and trust your surgeon

Nowadays, surgery is almost like a rite of passage, a ritual bearing many similarities with the Pacific Line-crossing ceremony. At least once in your lifetime you will have to cross this line ( i.e. go under the knife) and get a fancy certificate attesting to it.

Imperial College Healthcare

There are basically 2 kinds of surgery, benign and major. But regardless of the procedure, one always looks at it with some apprehension. You seldom worry about the procedure itself, but you often feel more uneasy about the sequels and the recovery period.

A surgical procedure is performed to improve the well being of a patient and it is sometimes humorously compared to Photoshop; it removes the unsightly or the unwanted. But such is not always the case. Depending on the dexterity of the surgeon, the results might not be as satisfactory as expected.

Prior to the surgical procedure you should consult with the surgeon and this individual should inspire confidence. He should sound reserved but self-assured and not over eager to tear into your flesh. Personally I would prefer a mature individual who has done at least one hundred similar procedures before working on me.

Surgery is an unpleasant but ultimately a necessary endeavor. When you have clear evidence of a significant problem, you cannot procrastinate. Neither God nor the Devil can help; you must put your faith in the hands of a surgeon and take the plunge.

The man wielding the scalpellum must be confident and clearly explain why and what he intends to do. And it would not hurt to double-check with him to confirm on what part of your anatomy he intends to proceed.
Some women worry about the scars. I don’t. Scars are like tattoos; they can be fascinating and under good lighting conditions they can even look cool.

I will go under the knife August 4th for “Thoracic Fusion for Spinal Stenosis“. It is a major operation and according to the surgeon I might be out of commission for 2 or 3 months. I hope to be fully operational by November, before Thanksgiving.
But after this procedure, I definitely expect to emulate the moves of the  Kizomba group shown below:


The National Order of the Emmerdeurs

In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte had the clever idea of creating the National Order of the Legion of Honor. This prestigious award was intended to pay tribute and reward soldiers who distinguished themselves or died for their country on various battlefields.

Just like the Order of the Garter, or the Order of Malta, l’Ordre National de la Légion d’honneur is a highly respected decoration coveted by many. Wearing the prestigious “rosette” on his lapel is the culminating ambition of many young upstarts.

I, like Napoleon Bonaparte am toying with the idea of creating a new Pétanque Order that I would call the National Order of the Emmerdeurs.
Like any other order, it would single out individuals who distinguished themselves on the pétanque field. Not necessarily by doing good, but by causing troubles. And I am sorry to say that I might be partly responsible for that state of affairs.

I have always encouraged all our members to practice the noble art of “shooting”. Some took my admonitions at heart. They practiced and practiced, until some day, lo and behold, they shot one of my boules out of its exquisite winning spot.
And they committed this sacrilegious act more than once.

In my book you don’t shoot at your coach’s boules! Out of respect for his counseling, you miss your Mentor’s boules. You can come close, but you have to miss! It is the honorable thing to do. Those rogue players who continue to disrupt games with their ridiculous feats become prime candidates to be nominated “emmerdeurs”, notorious scalawags who are known for rattling someone’s cage.

Nobody likes a troublemaker, especially when he does things better than you do. Nobody cares for a chick lecturing a rooster. Right?
All right then… In our club, who deserves to be inducted in that Order?

I nominate Noel Marcovecchio who has had the audacity to knock my boule out of place more than once. He is a traitor and what’s worse a recidivist! Do not let his mild-mannered appearance fool you. This man is dangerous.
On the women’s side I would also induct Verena Rytter who has disrupted many games with her shooting stunts, and some outrageous woman named Tamara who has been trying to emulate her husband’s heroic accomplishments… in vain.

If you agree with me, and I am sure you do, wear a sign on your pétanque bulletproof vest saying “Make Missing Great Again”.


A snapshot’s ephemeral opportunity

A good snapshot is an informal photograph taken rapidly, sometimes without the subject’s knowledge. It is a photo opportunity with an extremely short lifespan, available only a brief moment. A snapshot is a metamorphosing, emotional instant. It glows a briefly and disappears like a ghostly apparition. It is up to the photographer to catch that ephemeral moment at the right time and memorialize it.

“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”Henri Cartier-Bresson

I am a self-taught photographer without pretensions. I just like to take pictures and what I know I today was instilled in me by my numerous failures.
A snapshot to me is different from a “conventional” photograph by the mere fact that it is taken on the fly, often surreptitiously. No serious photographer is keen to show people staring at the camera with a frozen smile on their faces. He wants to catch them unaware of the camera’s glaring eye.

The best way to take candid snapshots is by using a zoom lens. This way you can catch people in a natural state, totally unaware that their faces and their actions mirror their most inner emotions.

A lot of things can go wrong when shooting with a zoom lens. The most obvious is unwanted people or animals bursting into your field of vision. That’s why, when I spot a potential target I keep my finger on the trigger ready to unleash a volley of shots.

The light is also extremely important. Shadows will maim faces and limbs. My favorite time to shoot, especially sporting events, is under overcast skies. It gives you a clear view devoid of camouflaging shades of your subject.

A resourceful photographer should not be afraid to use creative camera angles. Shooting from the rear of the subject rather from the front can reveal some interesting aspects of a person.
If you can catch emotion in a shot, even if the picture is slightly blurred, you can call it a good snapshot.

No use running away; some day unbeknownst to you, you will find yourself in my gunsight viewfinder.


NorCal Inter-Regional Tournament

Sunday July 23rd 2017 will remain a glorious day in the annals of local pétanque. On that day, the 6 major pétanque clubs of Northern California met in San Rafael to compete for their annual inter-club tournament.

Petaluma, Fresno, Sacramento, Sonoma, Lamorinda and San Rafael sent players to defend their respective colors and vie for the coveted cup. Ultimately, the total number of competitors came to 68.

This pétanque tournament, let’s not forget, was organized by the Petaluma Valley Pétanque Club and under the aegis of Ed Porto and Rob Everett they did an excellent job. They even managed to get the show on the road no later than 9:30 am.

Three 50 minutes games were played in the morning to determine everybody’s individual ranking and who would play in the Concours and who play in the Consolante. According to each individual score, eight triplettes teams were then selected to play in the Concours and 8 teams in the Consolante.

A slight digression here if I may…
One the problem afflicting this reporter was to identify all players and even though I am familiar with many of them I could not recognize them all. So please excuse me in advance for misspelling your (sometimes unfamiliar) names.

The second major problem for my alter ego was the weather. It was sunny and bright but there was a catch. In San Rafael we enjoy a fabulous shaded playing area but it is a blessing and a problem at the same time. It is very difficult for a photographer using a zoom lens to take decent pictures in “clair-obscur” conditions. So I apologize in advance for the quality of certain shots.

In the tournament’s Concours finals, Sacramento faced Petaluma. Two good teams. A balanced game. Each side could have won, ultimately though thanks in good part to Brendan Cohen, Sacramento won by a final score of 13/9. The losing team has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

Mone Lee, Brendan Cohen, Kue Lee

In the Consolante, despite our warriors’ best efforts, the Fresno juggernaut demolished La Pétanque Marinière 13/2.

A great day for pétanque lovers!

1st place: Brendan Cohen, Mone Lee, Kue Lee (Sacramento)
2nd place: Bleys Rose, Albert Woodbury, Dennis Zerbo (Petaluma)

1st place: Jer Thao, Bruce Yang, Janice Bissonnette (Fresno)
2nd place: Henry Wessel, Mark Shirkey, Charlie Davantes. (Marin)


PS: Our good friend Gustave Foucher who just celebrated his 90th birthday was recently hospitalized. He will be released soon. Please wish him well. He will appreciate it.

To look at photos of this event, click on the “My Photos” link located on the right side of this page. For best viewing, go Full Screen. Feel free to send me comments.


Anger is a bad advisor

Anger is a raw emotion that drives humans and animals alike to be hostile and aggressive. In Greek mythology, Lyssa was the goddess who personified that emotion and she was volatile and destructive.

Lyssa, Actaeon and Artemis, Athenian red-figure krater C5th B.C., Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Some people, under Lyssa’s influence, let fly an indignant tweet when they are angry. It is a bad idea for Lyssa is a notoriously bad advisor. She will compel you to make hasty pronouncements and bad decisions.
Anger like revenge, is an intricate dish that should simmer for some time and be consumed cold to be really gratifying.

A juvenile will tweet his anger, a grownup will hesitate, a president should not. The leader of a large organization should turn his tongue 7 times in his mouth before uttering anything. Saying something stupid is the role of the vice-president who can be conveniently disavowed when putting his boot in his mouth.

A leader shouldn’t talk before carefully reflecting on what he is about to say. Once set free, a tweet is like a wild bird that will breed, multiply and could become a destructive flock.

It does not mean that he should not get angry, but he should never tweet his indignation. A smart man should learn to slowly digest his anger and use it later in some smart, constructive way. It has been said, “anger is a condition in which the tongue works faster than the mind.I believe that. A fast tongue is like a double-edged sword. It can cut both ways.

Insecurity and impotence are often the driving forces behind anger. Showing rage is like revealing your hand in a poker game. It is a sure way to lose.
Leaders should speak sparingly and carry a big Taser. When accusing and showing anger too many times, they become laughable comic characters that cannot be taken seriously.

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Mark Twain


A hot Bastille Day in Sonoma

Yes it was hot indeed in Sonoma last Saturday; 100 degrees Fahrenheit according to the weather bureau. It was so hot that the best parking places were determined by shade instead of distance.” 

Don’t know the name. Sorry.

Despite this inauspicious condition, between 80 and 100 people attended this traditional Bastille Day picnic/tournament sponsored by The Valley of Moon Pétanque Club.
Granted, everybody did not play but many did in spite of the tropical heat. The VOMPC wisely set up 4 large tents throughout the field to provide some cooling spaces for players and guests alike.
Due to a persistent back problem, I declined to play.

The “mèlée » tournament was organized by Peter Mathis, assisted by Shannon Bowman. Two 11 points games were played in the morning and two in the afternoon. Despite these supposedly short games, some contests lingered and lunch (prepared by chef Marco) was only served around 1:00 pm.
To avoid long waiting lines, tables had been numbered and were called 3 at a time at separate intervals. An excellent idea that worked out very well.

All the attendants were too numerous to be mentioned but I spotted Brendan Cohen, Antonia Paulsen, Patrick Vaslet, Mike Cooper, John Morrison and his wife Linda, Bernard Passemar and his son Robert, Jean-Claude Etallaz and Minette, Gustave Foucher, Bleys Rose, Teri Sirico, Holly Sammons, and a bunch of people whose names I don’t know or escaped me.
Talking about Gustave Foucher, this sturdy gentleman is 90 years old and still going strong. Wish him well.

Jean-Michel Poulnot a.k.a Le Facteur donned his tricolor outfit and (entre la poire et le fromage) sang La Marseillaise with his usual enthusiasm. His fiery call to arms was fortunately ignored.

I don’t know what happened after lunch. Around 2:30 pm, to escape the heat, my wife and I boarded our sweltering batmobile and headed back to the relative coolness of Marin.

If you are curious, you can probably find the results of this tournament on Facebook. Congratulations to the “hot” winners whoever they are.

In the meantime, enjoy my pictures.

Au revoir et a bientôt!


PS: The winners of the tournament

Bernard Passemar, Robert Passemar, John Morisson

To look at photos of this event, click on the “My Photos” link located on the right side of this page. For best viewing, go Full Screen.