During a bicycle ride through TriBeCa today, I came across some Bastille Day festivities on West Broadway, where a large crowd had gathered to play petanque on a sand court set up for that purpose in the street. There was a brass band playing music and a petanque tournament was in progress when I arrived, in front of the Cercle Rouge Brasserie, a French Bistro that is apparently named after the 1970 movie, Le Cercle Rouge.
This Petanque player’s energy was an amazing thing to behold; my drawing does not fully convey the intensity of his focus as he took his position to make his shots. The other players were much younger than him, mostly college kids, jostling each other and laughing, their energy loose and scattered by comparison. This man became completely rooted to the ground when he lined up to shoot: his gaze penetrating and precise as he bent slightly at the waist, his right hand poised for a moment like a discus thrower in an olympiad. I could almost feel the line of force radiating out from his face across the court. He was good, too: his boule frequently landed within an inch or two of the jack. After finishing a round, he would take a drag off of a little cigarillo before casting the circle for the next shot, saying nothing the whole time. Petanque, I recently discovered, actually means anchored feet.
On 10th Avenue and 20th Street, right on the edge of the Chelsea Art District, this accordionist was busking on the corner, his back turned towards the avenue, facing the parking garage that sits nearby. I noticed him as much for his outfit as his music: he wore a helmet modeled after a Star Wars character the entire time that he was playing. He would not remove the helmet even to wipe his face (it was a bit warm outside), but instead would deftly lift the mask partially away and run his hand underneath: I wondered if perhaps he was trying to conceal his identity. At one point he began playing a Philip Glass theme that I recognized, then segued abruptly into La Marseillaise and the theme from Star Wars. He was still there when I rode by again an hour later, groups of art tourists walking by tossing money into his open case.