As a record-setting heat wave finally broke over New York City, the Men’s Collective sauntered forth into Central Park on a pleasantly cool Monday night in late July, keeping as they were a post-work appointment with the venerable New York Lawn Bowling Club. Founded in 1926 and playing its matches on a pristine patch of dead-level, member-maintained grass on the west side of the Park, the Club currently boasts more than 100 members, in addition to a well-appointed clubhouse adjacent to the greens.
A friendly – and, providentially, patient – crew of veteran lawn bowlers was on hand to school our gang of novices, and the sport proved surprisingly easy to learn – if maddeningly difficult to master. The game itself is rather similar to bocce, as players take turns bowling (as opposed to throwing, as in bocce) a ball down the green, the aim being to get one’s ball closest to the target “jack.” Of greatest significance, however, is the fact that the balls being bowled are of a slightly squashed, oblong shape, which causes them to curve as they roll, thus requiring extra judgment and skill as one attempts to place them in optimal point-scoring position. Luckily, given this demand for technique, there were no green-savvy ringers in attendance, and the relatively low skill-level of the assembled Men made for close, competitive, and highly entertaining play as they broke off into two-on-two pairings following quick instructional sessions.
Several hours later, just after a one-off, hotly-contested game of “Spider,” wherein every player simultaneously let fly his ball at a single jack, the night ended with sunset, as the sudden onset of a torrential downpour scattered most of the newly-minted bowlers to their various boroughs and Jersey-holes – apparently, if the City wasn’t to soak their shirts with sweat this night, it was destined to do so with rain. Nevertheless, a motley yet jolly grouping of Men – for whom Tuesday morning was but a distant notion – wended their way to and reconvened at P.J. Clarke’s, dripping clothes soon forgotten amidst celebratory drinks and oysters.