Our bocce court is falling down. It rained a lot this winter – record rains,
they say – and one wooden wall couldn’t hold the weight of the sodden earth
and just collapsed. It’s not that we can’t play bocce anymore – you can play
bocce under almost any circumstance — it’s an adaptable game. You can
play bocce in your driveway or in a field somewhere; you can play in the
middle of West End Avenue if you get somebody to watch out for traffic.
So, we can play with the collapsed wall — all we have to do is throw the
pallino – that’s the little ball that you start the game with — away from that
wall so that it’s out in the open and everybody can get a good shot at it with
their bocce balls. It’s an equal handicap for all.
But Jill, my wife, insisted on pointing out that it looks like shit. She didn’t
put it that way, but her point was well taken. Our bocce court is not going
to draw people in to play; it has no street appeal. So we asked Sophie, our
landscaper and friend, to bring in a local gentleman, a tuttofare, to see what
could be done and give us an estimate. A tuttofare is a handyman, a fellow
who can do any job you have in mind.
The tuttofare came at the allotted time with his son, a boy full in the bloom
of adolescence who would rather be chasing girls on a motorino. But he was
here to learn the family business and he followed his dad around and nodded
sagely in agreement whenever the tuttofare gave an opinion.
Sophie put forth an idea that he could reinforce the walls with cement and
the tuttofare thought about this for a while and then shook his head.
“Not for bocce,” he said. “Cement, no.”
And then he went on to explain that cement would deaden the bounce of the
bocce ball against the wall and that would undermine the integrity of the
game. He was quite passionate about this and his son nodded in agreement.
“You also need a layer of marble dust as the very top layer – polvere di
marmo is the Italian for marble dust – so that the ball rolls truly.”
He measured the height of the rails with a tape measure and then paced the
length of the court a few times, making notes. Then he wrote down a figure,
showed it to Sophie, who then showed it to me. I thought it was very fair
and told him so.
“When can you do the work?” asked Sophie.
The tuttofare shook his head and frowned. “September, perhaps.”
“September?” I blurted in frustration. “I won’t even be here in September
and I have friends – bocce-loving friends – coming this summer.”
“I have other work in July, and August … well, no one works in August –
not in all of Italy. Too hot.”
And his son shook his head in agreement.