Some people are bisexual, bimanual, bipartisan, bipolar, bisomething… nothing wrong with that, but me, I am simply bilingual.
It is a mild affliction caused by prolonged exposure to certain species, and I understand that it is a fairly common condition in America.
To avoid this kind of contamination, it is recommended to stay away from the natives, wash your hands often and cross yourself when you hear something that doesn’t sound kosher.

Bilingualism is the subconscious ability to speak two languages fluently. It is some kind of mental ambidexterity. A little bit like driving a car with a stick shift.
When you drive a “stick” you are not really conscious of what you right foot, your left foot, your right hand or your left hand are doing. You let your limbs do their own thing while thinking about something else.
The same goes for bilingual people. They let the “bilingual” part of the brain do the talking while the unilingual part deals with another matter.

The bilingual phenomenon happens naturally for some, and artificially for others.
It happens naturally when parents, both natives of the same foreign land migrate and settle in another country, like America for instance.
Their children will first hear and learn the parents’ native tongue and then unconsciously they will absorb English by osmosis. Without even realizing it these kids will turn into bilingual bots.

For some, like me, this phenomenon didn’t come naturally. It had to work to acquire it.
When I came to America, I was alone and I had to learn how to communicate with the natives in order to fend for myself.
I found television to be of great help. Especially commercials. The Persil “Whiter than white” motto became my mantra. I heard it many times and it showed on bold characters on my black and white TV screen.
Commercials taught me a great deal, I am sorry to say, but what can you do when you have no job or friends to go to? Like all immigrants you watch TV.

When you learn a second language, you translate instinctively into you native tongue everything that you hear or everything that you read.

When I first arrived in San Francisco, I noticed a sign on a window. It said “Venetian Blinds”. This was easy to translate; I assumed immediately that Venetian Blinds was a charitable organization dealing with blind Venetian natives.

As I walked the streets of San Francisco, I noticed this ubiquitous sign again and again and I started to wonder why so many blind Italians had settled in this city.
I knew that the founder of Bank of America was Italian, but did he send for all his blind “paisanos” to join him?

Another day I glanced in wonderment at the Chronicle’s headline. It said in big bold characters “cons escape”.
The word “con” in French means stupid, dumb.
I naturally translated “idiots escape”. I thought that it was a rather strange headline but ”when in Rome, do as the Romans do” and I accepted the fact that in America (the land of opportunities), even stupid people are allowed to escape from a well-guarded prison.
On second thought, if stupid people could escape, what about the smart ones?
San Francisco must have been swarming with smart escapees…

In order to become truly bilingual, you need to throw away the translation process and slip into the skin and the mind of a “sabra” Yank. You need to think and act native. Smoking pot and drinking whiskey might help.
This body and mind transfer is not easy and a lot of things can go wrong. One mistake and you could easily turn into some kind of lead-footed Frankenstein.
This transfer business takes a lot of practice, but being curious and being a voracious reader also helps.

I remember that the word “cockpit” puzzled me (and still does) for a long time.
Did pilots originally fight like cocks in the “cock pit”? Everybody knows that large plane have dual controls, but did or do pilots and co-pilots actually brawl in this cramped space? And nobody knows about it?
I am getting goose pimples just thinking about it.

Some words are also misleading. They are “false friends”. They sound and often spell like words you are familiar with, but they have a totally different meaning.
Take the word “sale” for instance. I saw it on the windows of many stores.
In French it means “dirty”.
Were all these downtown stores peddling some X-rated stuff?
I not totally adverse to some tasteful smut, but still…

But bilingualism is not a terminal disease and it is not genetically transmitted.
Your children, and probably your grandchildren, might become immune to it.

After being immersed in a foreign environment for many years, your native tongue will tend to become a little fuzzy, and with time (and a few pills) you can get rid of it.

But if you get a certain buzz speaking and cursing in the language of you forbearers, by all means, indulge in this guilty pleasure regardless of the Establishment’s frowns.

I am bilingual and metrosexual. Hear me roar!



2012 Interclub tournament

A few days ago, I worried about the sad state of our pétanque field, and about who would volunteer to help cleaning a terrain almost totally smothered by a thick carpet of dead leaves.
I hate to say it, but I have lost faith in the volunteering spirit of our club.
Driving by Saturday morning, I was happily surprised to see a field almost totally devoid of debris and dead leaves.
It seemed obvious that a good fairy came by, and with a wave of her magic wand she did what our club members have been unwilling to do.
But being of a skeptical nature though, I did some discrete investigation and I discovered that our benefactor was not a good fairy but some true-blue club members.
The good fairies who did the bulk of the job were in fact indefatigable Claudie Chourré, Charlie Davantes and a newcomer called Daniel ?.
They were assisted a day later by Fairy Helpers Liv Kraft, Helga Facchini and Emily Etcheverry. Yeah for the girls!
Club fairies, we owe you a big one!

John Morris, Lisa Vaughn, Kevin McGill

Back to the tournament.

I don’t know if it was due to a lack of promotion, but a fairly modest crowd showed up to participate in the 2012 Interclub tournament. We had a total of 40 contestants when a regular tournament usually gathers around 60 people. What is it? EPF? (Early Pétanque Fatigue).

And by the way, tournaments have rules.

The rule number one is to register in a timely manner. And forget the casual phone call. To make the organizers’ job easier, use e-mail. It is clear, succinct and fast. Simply state the number of people coming, spell their names properly and click on “send”. You are done.

Rule number two: be punctual. It is rude and unfair to everybody to hold a tournament hostage because of someone’s tardiness.
I look at a tournament like I look at planes or trains schedules. Regardless of your lame excuse, they will get going on time and so should tournaments.

The contestants of the 2012 Interclub tournament were:

La Pétanque Marinière: 16
Antonia Paulsen, Colette Van der Meulen, Tamara Efron, Alain Efron, Francois Moser, Eva Lofaro, Gilles Karpowicz, Claudie Chourré, Minette Etallaz, Jean-Claude Etallaz, Henry Wessell, Emily Etcheverry, Jean Etcheverry, Mireille Di Maio, Rene Di Maio

Valley of the Moon: 6
Joe La Torre, Maggie Lane, Barbara Hall, Holly Sammons, Jean-Michel Poulnot, Bernard Passmar

La Boule d’Or: 6
Luc Pouget, Jean-Claude Bunand, Joss Krauer, John Krauer, Alain Gusella, Gustave Foucher

Petaluma Valley: 6
Ed Porto, Teri Sirico, Hans Kurz, Wolfie Kurz, Bleys Rose, Sabine Mattei

Sacramento: 6
Denyse Haney, Kevin McGill, John Morris, Lisa Vaughn, Marie Ann Curley, Pierre Bremont

The weather (always important) was good. A little chilly in the morning, but plenty of sunshine in the afternoon.
Coffee and croissants were served before the tournament started

The tournament was very efficiently managed by David Riffo. And I applaud his decision to have timed games. I think that too many people are taking an inordinate amount of time to ponder a playing strategy.
Three 13 points, 50 minutes games were played in the morning. After 50 minutes Dave blew his whistle and all games had to stop. Good move.

In the afternoon, the format of the tournament was changed from doublettes to triplettes.

The finalists were determined as usual, by a combination of wins and points accumulated during the morning games.

They were:

Marin 1:
Antoine Lofaro, Rene Di Maio, Jacques Sarafian

Marin 2:
Gilles Karpowicz, Mireille Di Maio, Tamara Efron

Barbara Hall, Holly Sammons, Jean-Michel (le Facteur) Poulnot

San Francisco:
Alain Gusella, Steve Paulsen, Gustave Foucher

Ed Porto, Bleys Rose, Wolfie Kurz

Kevin McGill, Lisa Vaughn, John Morris

The tournament blow by blow:

  • Marin 1 hammered Sonoma: 13/0
  • Petaluma clobbered San Francisco: 13/3
  • Marin 2 defeated Petaluma: 13/6
  • Sacramento eliminated Marin1: 13/12

Marin 1 (Antoine Lofaro, Rene Di Maio, Jacques Sarafian) was doing very well until its match against Sacramento.
Our guys were leading 12/8 and their victory seemed assured when a lucky (?) shot from Kevin McGill hit the cochonnet and send it flying.
Game over for Marin 1. Adieu veaux, vaches, cochons…

The final game opposed Marin 2 (Gilles Karpowicz, Mireille Di Maio, Tamara Efron) and Sacramento (Kevin McGill, Lisa Vaughn, John Morris).

Surprisingly enough, it turned out to be a lopsided contest. Due to superior pointing by Sacramento, Marin 2 was annihilated by a score of 13/2.
Sorry fellow Marinites and congratulations to Sacramento!


PS: To look at pictures of recent events, turn the sound on, click on the “Home” link at the top of the page, and click again on “My photos” located on the right side of the page. Enjoy.


Dédé, Part 2

All characters appearing in this essay are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


But first, he had to secure the services of one of these two fellows.

He knew that Le Gros Robert was a serious eater and he thought that he would be easier to seduce him than the Corsican, so he decided to approach him first.
Since Dédé’s wife was an excellent cook, he resolved to entice le Gros Robert through his stomach.
-Hey Robert, he asked him one day, do you like pheasant? I got a couple of them and if you are available next Sunday, I’d be happy to share them with you.

Le Gros Robert was a little surprised by this unexpected invitation, but he was not a man to pass up a good meal.
OK he said. Very kind of you. Thank you.
-What are friends for? My wife will be very pleased to see you, said Dédé grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Next, Dédé decided to focus his attention on a female partner.
Good female players were also well aware of their talents and as much in demand as their male counterparts. But they were also more difficult to read… and they could keep a grudge for a very longtime…
Damned women!

He approached Pauline first. She was an excellent player but she also had a sharp tongue.
-Hey Pauline, he said, you look good today. Is that a new haircut? If you were not married, I would make a pass at you.
-Dédé, if I didn’t know you any better, I would think that you meant it.
-I meant it Pauline, I meant it.
-OK Dédé, what do you want? You are not buttering me up for nothing… You must want something…
-Pauline you are unkind. Can’t a guy pay a compliment to a lady without having any second thought?
-A normal guy yes, but coming from you it sounds a little odd… So again, what is it that I have that you want?
-You are a little harsh Pauline… but since you ask… How would you like to play with me at the Cup tournament?
-The Cup?
-Yes Pauline, the Cup. I am looking for a good female partner and I thought of you first.
-I see.
-I’ll probably play with Le Gros Robert… If you join our team we’ll have a dynamite formation…
-Very kind of you, but I don’t care much for Le Gros Robert… and frankly Dédé you get on my nerves…
-How is that?
-You talk too much Dédé, and this is one of the reasons why I won’t play with you.
-Pauline, I promise to keep my mouth shut. Let bygones be bygones… play with me and you won’t regret it.
-No Dédé I am sorry… I won’t play with you!
-OK Pauline, I understand your reluctance to play with Le Gros Robert. But I am pretty sure that I can get the Corsican to play with us instead. You don’t have anything against him, do you?
-All right then, if I get the Corsican will you play with us?
-I don’t know… You caught me off guard…
-Don’t you want to win Pauline? Don’t you want to see your name on the Cup?
-All right, all right… if you get the Corsican, I’ll play with you guys.
-OK Pauline, it’s a deal. I’ll get Pasqualini. But promise to turn down any other proposition…
-I promise.
-You won’t be sorry Pauline, I promise you. The three of us will be unbeatable.

It had not been as hard as he thought, but now he would have to dump Le Gros Robert and entice the Corsican instead. After all, he had not formally asked the Gros Robert yet. He simply invited him for dinner.

But the Corsican was a touchy fellow, and any careless comment could be taken the wrong way. He would have to be very, very careful…

A few days later, he approached Pasqualini who was practicing his shooting on the pétanque field.
Dédé couldn’t help but admire the little fellow’s dexterity. I absolutely need to have him on my side, he thought.

Hey Nunzio, he called out, that was a great shot!
-Thank you.
-I wish I could shoot like you.
-It’s a question of practice. The more you practice and the better you’ll get at it.
-Still, it is a gift Nunzio, and you have it. By the way, how is your mother?
-She is fine. A little arthritis, but otherwise she is OK. Thank you for asking.
-Family is important Nunzio.
-Yes it is.

A little silence ensued.
After a while the Corsican stopped playing and asked:
-Do you want something Dédé?
-Me? No… I was just admiring your shooting… But actually yes…
-Yes. I wanted to ask you if you would be willing to play with me in the Cup Tournament?
-The Cup hé? You are not the first to come calling…
-Did somebody else ask you?
-What do you think Dédé? Am I not good enough?
-That’s not what I meant Nunzio… Everybody knows that you are a great shooter. But you should not play with just anybody… You need good partners. Guys you can count on…
-Like you maybe?
-Yes like me. I am a good player Nunzio, you know that. And I have already been asked…
-By whom?
-By whom? By Le Gros Robert for one.
-But I’d rather play with you. You and I are “paisanos” Nunzio, we understand each other…
-That’s true… but I have to think about it…
-Take your time Nunzio, take your time… but I need to know fairly shortly.
-If you are in hurry Dédé, you can go with le Gros Robert.
-But I’d rather play with you Nunzio.
-OK then, I’ll let you know in a few days.
-Capisco Nunzio, capisco.

Well, he thought, this guy is not a pushover. He knows his worth. I might have to sweeten the pot to get him to play with us. But what is his soft spot?

The Corsican was a rather ascetic fellow who had no known vices… I hate this kind of guys thought Dédé, but there must be a chink in his armor and I’ll find it. Everybody has a weakness, or a price.

To be continued…