Portland is really good at taking Old World things and riffing on them: bike polo, Norwegian meatballs in a wrap, cello interpretations of Radiohead.
Here's another one: extreme night bocce.
In Italy, the game is played on flat, crushed-rock courts with wooden boundaries to keep the balls from rolling out of the piazza and under your Fiat. In Portland, my friends and I play it in parks at night with LED-lit balls, and anything goes. You can toss the pallino, the little white ball that you're trying to get nearest with the larger balls, wherever the hell you want.
Our favorite place to play is in Cathedral Park. We start at the Urban German Wursthaus—not Italian, but a former Axis power, so it's fine. It has COVID-safe outdoor seating under an awning, schnitzel to die for, and lots of exceptional beer.
After that, we cross the railroad tracks and go into the park. It's best on a rainy night when the towers of the St. Johns Bridge reach high into the low clouds dropping in from Forest Park.
The first few tosses of the pallino usually go on the grass. But soon, someone throws the damn thing overhand into the raspberry brambles, or toward the Willamette, where it can run all the way down the beach and into the dioxin-laced water. (A word of advice: A light-up bocce set costs about $100, so if it's not your set, don't be a total jackass.)
The pallino glows white. The larger balls are lit in color, and it's delightful to watch them fly through the air, leaving—if you've eaten enough gummies—streaks of yellow, red, blue, and green. It's like going to The Dark Side of the Moon at the planetarium, only you get exercise.
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