Monday, July 6, 2009

New York City and Petanque

One of the reasons New York City is so unique is because of the conspicuous happenstances you come across everyday. You can see a businessman in heels chasing down a bus, a naked cowboy with a guitar in Times Square, the 6 mile expanse of green smack dab in the middle of a high rising metropolis, or a juggler performing on the side of the FDR Drive and merely chalk it up the the fact that anything, and I mean anything, can happen in New York City.

This past spring I was walking around and taking pictures with a friend of mine. I never got a chance to post them and I wanted to because I think they are so quintessential NYC. Not necessarily momentous, but rather a mundane and casual afternoon.

Washington Square Park finally is opened to the public. All the other times I visited in the past 2 years I had the misfortune to see uninviting gates and fence surrounding the area where I used to roam instead of attending classes. This spring day the park returned to what I remember most about New York City, the way people come together to use the public space, in particular the parks that are always bustling with people playing games, catching some rays, walking their dogs, or going for a stroll.

In the park you will often find a group of men throwing around a metal ball. We decided to ask them the name of the game we had seen many times before but didn't really understand. One of the guys told us it was a French game named petanque (similar to Italian bocce or English bowls).

The purpose of petanque, played by millions of French in the summer months, is to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a wooden ball called the cochonnet. It is often played on a dirt surface which I would imagine provides an appropriate cushion for the metal balls being thrown.

You throw the ball with somewhat of an arc as you can see with the guy below. I thought the cigar in his mouth was an authentic touch, because in my mind I imagine lots of men coming together to play, smoke cigars, talk about sports, and enjoy the good weather and company. But that is my interpretation.

The origin of the games petanque, bocce, and bowls, is said to derive from Ancient Greece and Rome. For a full set of rules on how to play petanque check it out here.


  1. I love your blog!
    And thanks for joining A Greater Town!


  2. Thanks Drew! Thanks for letting me know about it.