Yesterday, I vacuumed my lawn.

In the interests of full disclosure, “lawn” is too glorious a term for the stray bits of greenery that dot the patch of open ground on the south side of my home in Reno. Most of what had once been a robust example of an English greensward has lost its footing in its native soil under a barrage of pine waste that perpetually attempts – with considerable success – to bury it.  

The principal problem of pine waste removal is that a lot of it is round, small and easily merges with its surroundings.  It can’t be raked in any meaningful way, and any non-atomic-powered leaf blower won’t move the tiny, embedded kernels more than an inch. It is to give the battered bits of grass that still cling to life the hope they need to carry on, that I haul an industrial-quality wet vac out to the south lawn and apply the suction, inch by inch, needed to give hope a chance. 

We’re only five sentences into this reverie and already some of you are wondering, how did my life spiral so out of control that I am reduced to writing confessional drivel about the condition of the native grasses that comprise most of my lawn?  There are several reasons, actually.

  1. It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so skiing is not an option. Just the thought of parking – never mind skiing – anywhere near one of Tahoe’s myriad ski destinations would wrap any sane person’s thoughts in a shroud of a cold dread.
  2. By this time next month, we should have a clear picture of next season’s ski equipment market, including any 2025 models that might leak into retailers’ racks before season’s end. Even if I thought I knew what would transpire next year, I wouldn’t make any friends among suppliers or specialty shops were I to share any privileged information prematurely. Patience, Dear Readers, patience.
  3. There isn’t a trace of snow on the ground. This means that, just below a thin layer of matted leaves, there lies a perfectly good Bocce court, at least according to the time-honored precepts of the Reno branch of the International Bocce Federation. 

The IBF to which I refer should not be confused with the U.S. Bocce Federation, the Federation international de Boules, the Confederazione Boccistica Internazionale, nor with any other bocce-related entity, real or imagined, past, present or future.  There is even some question as to whether the game as regulated by the IBF is even Bocce. 

 We at the IBF tolerate such heretical notions because, unlike our rival organizations, we believe in a free society unfettered by prejudice and bias of any kind. Our rules, while richly detailed efforts to foresee every possibility, cannot overcome the quantum nature of our universe that renders the boundary between “right” and “idiotic” a fuzzy line that oscillates over the truth.

I hope I don’t have to explain that again.

Perhaps if I were to illustrate some of the nuanced ways in which the rules of the game have been interpreted by our venerable Competition Committee, those of you unfamiliar our organization can glean some insight into our operations.

 First of all, there are several unwritten rules that carry the same weight as those privileged enough to be written down. First among these is, all Competitors must have a Drink, and be conscious of its Whereabouts at all times. Non-alcoholic beverages are only allowed if Competitor has a Written Excuse, and it better be a good one. Penalties for not having a Beverage or losing track of its whereabouts include social ostracism and ritual public humiliation.

All rulings by the presiding Referee are above dispute.  Arguments that the Chief Referee is a Russian Blue cat suspected of accepting bribes have already been heard a thousand times and the initial judgment in this case remains in force. No malfeasance has ever been proven.  In the interests of continuity, the Chief Referee in question, one Oscar Wilde, has been granted immunity from all charges, which he has interpreted as grounds for semi-retirement. Any bribes he is owed can be forwarded to his fishing hut in Mustique.

The target ball is named “Dave.” Despite urban legends to the contrary, Dave is not named after anyone, nor it is an acronym or anything clever like that. No one can complain that it’s a hard name to remember.

Occasionally, Dave may be thrown where he is no longer visible, say under a rose bush or into the ivy. This is not a penalty, but if the Player who threw it has no effing idea where it ended up, he or she must forfeit the Throw and, more importantly, find Dave.

At the end of the day, Bocce is all about measurement, and arguing about which ball is closest to Dave is the essence of its charm. While we have heard tell of more accurate devices, the IBF is so steeped in tradition that it recognizes only one infallible measuring instrument, a Reno Gallery of Furniture tape measure whose origins are obscured by myth and the fun fact that said emporium is no longer in business, adding an effluence of veneration to what is already a priceless antique.

When it is occasionally misplaced or simply too far away to retrieve, Players may resort to what we refer to as the Egyptian method, which introduces an entirely new level of potential error, making it a fan favorite. I’ll leave it to you to imagine its particulars.

Well, I can see you’re already bored by this rules barrage, and we haven’t even gotten to Allowed Exceptions, Variables and Structural Biases, which are more interlaced with obscure allusions than Joyce’s Ulysses and Eliot’s Wasteland combined, and therefore rarely referenced in rulings. 

As you can tell, the IBF’s interpretation of traditional Bocce is awash in metaphysical teachings, a major reason for its international appeal. You see, we don’t approve of using a flat, feature-less court with anal-retentive “borders” and such false dualities as “in-bounds” and “out-of-bounds.”  The grounds on which we play are riven with gnarled roots and buried fixtures left behind by early settlers to the region. It is neither flat nor mindlessly biased in only one direction, so predicting the roll of the Ball is mathematically impossible. Hence the Game’s intrinsic attraction to mystics, fabulists and frauds.  Seen in this light, Bocce is, in essence as well as practice, an extended metaphor for life itself.

I know this is a lot to take in all at once, but I wouldn’t have accepted this assignment if I thought for one second that you weren’t up to it. If you think it’s painful for you to read about Bocce when the ostensible reason for my occupying a small space in your mind is to fill it with thoughts of skiing, how do you think I feel?

And on that note, let us hope that it snows ASAP so this will be the last time you are subjected to a tirade about Bocce, no matter how necessary it may have seemed at the time.

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