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I like to spend time in Bryant Park, behind the central branch of the New York Public Library. Among the activities you’ll find there is the game of pétanque, a game related to bocce and lawn bowling. You score by getting your ball, or boule, closest to the small target ball, the jack or cochonnet. Unlike bocce, the ball is lobbed, not rolled, and your feet have to be planted in a small circle when you throw. The game originated in the south of France—it was called the jeu provençal or jeu lyonnaise—early in the 20th-century. It has gained ground in New York City, and there are boulodromes in Bryant Park in Manhattan and the Parade Ground in Brooklyn as well as in a couple of bars. I was there early in July, and watched a match for a while. The way the players assessed their positions, and by the way they held their boules while contemplating strategy, took me. The textures of the banged up boules in their hands, and the hands themselves, worn by repeated tossing and retrieving balls from the gravel terrain, really caught my eye.

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