The Arab phone

Today we have many sophisticated means of communication, but some people still have a weakness for the “téléphone arabe” (the Arab phone, or bush telegraph). It is a rather ancient methodology, but despite its age, it works remarkably well.

The “Arab phone” is a French colloquialism roughly meaning “fast transmission of information by word of mouth”. It is a close cousin to gossip because what is being conveyed is usually “juicy” and not necessarily true. And since it might not be true, people prefer to remain anonymous when passing on titillating information.

“And why ‘Arab’? Because the expression originated in the 20th century regarding North African countries during colonization, a country where, before modern technologies spread there, important information was already circulating very quickly by word of mouth, via messengers or informants.”

 Lately, the Arab phone has been very active because when you are idle, what can you do? You grab the Arab phone and exchange titillating tidbits with your besties.

Words have no wings, but they can fly a thousand miles.Korean Proverb

Even farther! People are especially fond of sexual peccadillos or famous people’s unethical behavior. Like the college admissions scandal, or the pathetic aborted Mexican vacation of senator Ted Cruz.

Everybody knows that the rich and famous are a caste apart not subject to the same rules as the working stiffs. These people are usually discreet about their misdeeds and none is the wiser, but once in a while they are found out and subject to popular glee.

The Arab phone also works well to express politically incorrect thoughts… or if you have ties to some shady outfits. It is way more discreet than the “do-it-all” fancy mobile phones of today, and you cannot be prosecuted for what you allegedly said. Nobody can seize your Arab phone and search it for incriminating evidence.

In a polarized society dominated by snooping devices, it is much safer to use the Arab phone than the Apple iPhone. And it is much cheaper. If you want a candid/partial report of what transpired at some private meeting, take advantage of the Arab phone to coax information from a friend.

But take everything with a grain of salt… and never trust anybody who loudly proclaims, “ma bouche est un tombeau” (my lips are sealed). The Arab phone is entertaining… but not totally trustworthy.


Sonoma Valley of the Moon tournament

Last Saturday, Tamara and I drove to Sonoma to participate in the Valley of the Moon 2021 Season Opener Tournament. We did this for various reasons.

The finalists: Wolfie, Kevin, Peter, Antoine

First of all, this tournament might mean that after over a year of house arrest, our sentence has been commuted to an early release from imprisonment. We now feel free to visit our friends and share some good times with them.

I also did it because I have not played in a tournament for over a year, and above all because pétanque keeps me humble. It prevents me from getting a fat head and “fart higher than my arse”. On the field, you quickly learn that many people are much better than you and will swiftly bring you down a notch or two. It is highly therapeutic.

Last Saturday then, 23 select teams (46 players) came to Sonoma to compete. They came as far as Sacramento as Tom and Susie Lee did.
Joe La Torre (club president) and Michelle Benton (freelancing secretary?) welcomed us and signed us up for the tournament

Later on, in his welcome speech, Joe told us that the wearing of a mask was optional. Some people (including us) came masked, but many came bare-faced. By now, most of the people have received their Covid shots and since this tournament takes place in an open area, everybody felt (relatively) safe; by the end of the day, practically nobody was wearing a mask.

The games started around 9:30 am and ended up around 6:30 pm. By then it was cold and windy, and many people had already left.

Tamara and I started well. On our first game, we encountered Tom (the Cobra) and Susie Lee. Both good players, but we managed to beat them 13/9. When you win the first game, it gives you a big boost.

In our second game, we faced Evan Falcone and Christine Morier. Again, we did well and won 13/7. This auspicious beginning might shed some light on what I said earlier on. With each win, you grow confident and think that this streak will last.

On our third game, we came across Le Facteur and innocuous-looking Bill Miller. I don’t think that I ever played with Bill and knew very little about him. It turns out that he was the devil in disguise. No matter how well we did, Bill destroyed us with his murderous shots. We lost ignominiously by a score of 2/13… but we still qualified for the Concours.

After lunch, fate threw us in the clutches of Delio Cuneo and Casey Franklin. They won the coin toss and dragged us to a gravelly isolated area to have their way with us. They murdered us 1/13 and we were eliminated from the Concours.

I then changed costumes and slipped into my second role:  story raconteur through images. I could not be everywhere at the same time, but I did my best to photograph most of the players. Some are very photogenic, some less, but everybody seemed to have a good time.

The big moments of the day were the semi-finals and the finals of the Concours. In the semi-finals, Jean-Michel and Bill Miller faced Peter Mathis and Antoine Lofaro. Peter and Antoine prevailed. Then Kevin Evoy and Wolfie played against Ed Clay and Schōn. Kevin and Wolfie won.

In the Concours finals, Peter and Antoine were up against Kevin and Wolfie. All excellent players. Peter and Antoine took immediately the lead and at one time amazingly, they were I believe, leading 8 to nothing.

Kevin and Wolfie got increasingly nervous but finally managed to get on the board. Peter was without question the star of the game. He seldom missed a shot and contributed mightily to his team’s victory. Wolfie is also a great shooter, but I think that he got too nervous to be efficient. He missed quite a few shots.

Finally, around 6:30 pm, the tournament was over.  The final score was 13/5 in favor of Peter and Antoine. Joe La Torre awarded the prizes, I took photographs and it was all over. A great day of pétanque.

1st place: Peter Mathis & Antoine Lofaro
2nd place: Wolfie Kurz & Kevin Evoy
3rd place : Jean-Michel Poulnot & Bill Miller

1st place: Tom & Susie Lee
2nd place:  Bernard Passemar & Adair Hastings


PS: I shot over 500 pictures. When I came home, I had to go through all of them and keep what I judged to be the most interesting. I managed to whittle down this number to around 200. I hope that you will enjoy the show and let me know about it.
Have fun!

Lady strikers wanted…


Generally speaking, when you see me on a pétanque court, I am there to play. But lately, due to a nagging back problem, I had to skip some games and show up as a mere bystander. This temporary setback (I hope) gave me a better chance to observe local players and assess their styles and performances.

Lately,  we have seen an increased number of women players on our field, and I am delighted by this trend. But unfortunately, and despite my urgings, few women volunteer to play as “strikers”. It is a crying shame because if you don’t try, you will never know if you have an aptitude for it or not. And some women definitely have it, and are accomplished strikers…

Most of all, this inclination has something to do with a person’s temperament. The men or women who take up this task are usually known in French as “battant” or “battante” (fighter), someone who reaches for success despite obstacles.

They are pretty self-assured and are not afraid to take chances. And this is good because a pétanque game without any boules clinking is like a dish without seasoning. Dull… terribly dull.

A spectator likes to see sparks and hear the sound of “carreaux” when watching a game. And a true striker won’t let a wall of boules deter him from hitting a valuable target behind any obstacle.

Strikers, like the gunslingers of yore, have different personalities. Some seem to be reluctant to take a chance on a dicey shot; but any true “battant” will go for it, and if successful, bathe in the deserved glory of his/her accomplishment.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” –  Robert F. Kennedy

 A woman who dared to take up the striking challenge has been a certain Tamara (known to intimates as the Blazing Babushka). In the beginning, she was a little hesitant to do so, but with my encouragements, she started to assume her new role and eventually blossomed into a decent striker. She now surprises and delights many players with her newly acquired skills.

Another woman who is showing promises is a person with a thoroughly engaging personality. Her name is Ann K. and she has always been eager to learn and try new things. Give her another year and she will bloom into a great player.

I am now looking forward to next Sunday where in Sonoma we are going to participate in the first official tournament since the beginning of the pandemic. I am teaming up with the Blazing Babushka and I expect her to do most of the heavy lifting.

See you on the battlefield (masked, naturally).