Growing up in the Midwest – I won't say exactly when, but if the name Ozzie Nelson rings a bell, you're in the ballpark – indoor bowling was hugely popular. Bowling places were popping up all over, so much so that it was difficult to keep one's mind out of the gutter. Brunswick, maker of mechanical pin-setting machines, was a brand better known at the time than McDonalds… although Brunswick fries weren't nearly as tasty.
Nowadays, bowling alleys are hard to find as cheap real estate in Lamorinda. According to the Yellow Pages, the closest to us is in Costco Country, on Monument Boulevard in Concord.
Although alleys may be on life support, bowling remains alive and well. It's simply moved outdoors. Think of the sport of bowling al fresco. Hereabouts, it is being lapped up in two European flavors: French and Italian.
The former is called petanque (PE-tonk, as in "Honk If You Like Petanque"); the latter, bocce (BOCH-ee) ball. In Italian bocce means kiss, or so I'm told. What do I know, I'm Irish. Both derive from a game originated eons ago by Greeks.
The current form of petanque originated in Provence, France, more than a century ago. An estimated 17 million French play the sport in the homeland.
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