Playing styles

The pétanque season just started and soon there will be a flurry of tournaments all over the Bay Area.

Pétanque is known to be a comradely game, but the competitive nature of some individuals can sometimes morph a debonair looking doctor Jekyll into a Mr. Hyde.

Unlike the easygoing doctor, Mr. Hyde is unwilling to concede a single point without a fight. He will insist on having each point assessed and authenticated, no matter how it looks.
It is his prerogative, but when this happens too often it can spoil the mood and the pace of the game.

Losing against friendly opponents never dampens anyone’s spirit and you are more than willing to shake their hands after a hard fought game.
The same cannot be said about contentious players.

Some individuals on the other hand, will always display a sunny disposition and allow for a friendly game.
This is my kind of people, because after all pétanque is only a game and the fate of the free world doesn’t depend on the outcome of a single game or a tournament.

I daresay that I am familiar with pétanque, and I am also acquainted with many players’ idiosyncrasies.

Some people need to carefully survey the field before committing to play.
They will scrutinize the ground, plug some holes and memorize every pebble. Does this elaborate preparation guaranty success? I doubt it!
So why strain everybody’s patience with unnecessary rituals?

Timid players don’t seem to be able to play without a lengthy consultation with their teammates. It reminds me of generals too fearful to launch an attack.
After watching these people, you feel like counterattacking with a bayonet charge.

Some puritan players will insist on absolute silence and a ban on walking when they officiate. I know that it is the polite thing to do, but are we in church or on a playground? Let’s remain cool about the whole shebang.

Rene Di MaioSome people will crouch and some will stand. Some will use a Zen-like concentration before shooting. Some will play long, some will play short and some will display an unintended Nazi salute after throwing their boules.

This is pétanque and it is fine and dandy, but winning is not everything.

What matters is the high that remains after the game is over.
And you cannot achieve this high without being surrounded by people who care more about the game than its outcome.

To paraphrase Woody Allen, winning is nice but “There are worse things in life than losing a game. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?”


Screaming kids

Most of the time my cup runneth over with thoughts and opinions, but once in a while I hit a dry spell and reach for ideas about my next rant.

When consulted, my muses urge me to go a public place for inspiration.
When such is the case, I proceed to a coffee shop (preferably alone) and while pretending to read tea leaves, I furtively observe people and pass judgment.
Some people claim to never pass judgment. To this I say phooey!
Consciously or subconsciously you always form an opinion about people or events, and I think it is healthier to acknowledge your emotions rather than trying to suppress them.
Let’s call a spade a spade and stop this neutral baloney.

The human fauna comes in all sizes and shapes and offer plenty of fodder for my observations.
Some people are tall, fat, skinny, good looking and not so good looking.
I look and make mental notes.

Adults generally don’t disturb me as long as they keep their voices down, but screaming kids get my goat. Their high-pitched and piercing voices are extremely disturbing and set me (and probably everybody else) on edge.
The obnoxious little buggers shriek and imperatively demand to be obeyed.

Some parents look conditioned and meekly submit to these outbursts.
It doesn’t seem to cross their mind, that the little monsters are rude and disruptive and that they (the parents) could put an end to this rioting it by reaffirming their authority.
They prefer to quietly submit to the diktats of a two-year-old tyrant to keep the peace. Like Chamberlain in Munich!

I hate to think of what kind of teenagers and adults these pre-delinquents will become.

Some parents though fight back and come up with interesting counter-insurgency measures.
The other day, while shopping at a supermarket, I came across a young mother carrying a young child in a sling.
For some reason or the other, the kid started screaming.
The young woman immediately neutralized her kid shrieking’s by shoving a tit in his mouth.
The kid, totally taken aback, grabbed what offered and stopped fussing.
The woman, with her kid glued to her bare tit, continued her shopping undisturbed and for the edification of everybody around.

I am not suggesting that this is the only way to neutralize your kid, but this is a step in the right direction.

Don’t submit to kids’ bullying. You are still bigger and stronger than they are but it won’t last.

Nip the kids screaming in the bud before they become another Stalin or Pol Pot, because the unruly kids of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.



A day at the museum

Last week my wife coerced me into going to San Francisco to view an art exhibit. She used the usual veiled threats (booze, food, sex) to bring me to surrender.

Our midweek excursion day took place on a drizzly Wednesday and I never expected finding such a high number of art groupies at the same time.
Like hungry blackbirds, they flocked to the de Young Museum to peck at the “Girl with a Pearl Earring” exhibition.
I could not help but notice that men were outnumbered by women fifty to one.


Inside the museum we were immediately surrounded by a sea of very determined looking amazons. Many were carrying a water canteen (and various combat items) on their bulging clothes and they looked like battle-hardened veterans ready to storm a well-defended bunker.

If a man were looking for a place to meet a woman, this would be the spot but unfortunately attractive women were few in number. I gather that they have better things to do than watch Flemish art.

To be honest, museums are not my cup of tea. They attract too many people at the same time and I just happen to be allergic to crowds.
When it comes to art, I aim (like a good brandy) to take it in small doses and quietly savor the moment.
I don’t like to be crowded by pushy gawkers.

Museumgoers tend to be broad-butted individuals who are prone to hogging well-known pieces. They camp (for a long time) in front of a painting and are not inclined to share.
I also noticed that they are impervious to nasty stares.

Personally, when I go to an art exhibition, I don’t want to look at a lot of stuff and I definitely don’t want to share my feelings with anybody else.
I want a private moment with a few pieces and I aspire to leave almost immediately after that.
I am definitely not a serial art watcher.
After an hour of continuous art watching I tend to get a rash.

Around noon, by general consensus, we decided that we had had our fill of art and left the building.
I decided to take my fellow adventurers to a little restaurant called “Chez Maman”.
I didn’t know much about it but I liked the name. With a name like this, could the food be bad?

This place is located in the Hayes Valley, at the intersection of Gough and Hayes.
It is small and we had to wait for about fifteen minutes before being seated.

The menu showed “Escargots de Bourgogne” and we all spontaneously went for it.
I also noticed that the word Escargot was erroneously spelled as “Escarcot” but I decided to overlook this.
Then both of my guests ordered grilled Mahi-Mahi and I chose “Mussels Poulette” for myself.

It must have been Maman’s day off, and a Mexican cousin must have filled in for her, because once more the Escargots were tasteless. Alas, alas, alas!

When we brought our concern to the host’s attention he looked surprised (don’t they all) and offered to bring us a fresh batch.
We declined and ordered instead some “soupe a l’onion” and “une assiette de merguez” also misspelled as “meguez”.
(I have noticed that when people misspell the word of a foreign dish, they rarely know much about it.)

The onion soup proved satisfying and so was the Mahi-Mahi.
The mussels “sauce poulette” were OK. Not great, just OK.

At the end of the meal, the host (probably to atone for the kitchen’s sins) offered us a glass of very good Muscat.
Smart fellow.

Would I return to Chez Maman?
Maybe, making sure first that Maman is in the kitchen, and second that she boned up on her “escargot” recipe.
Just to remind you Maman: the ingredients are butter, garlic, parsley and salt. That’s all.

All together, I dare say that our lunch was a tad more fulfilling than the “Girl with the Pearl Earring” exhibit.