Archive for November, 2009

Bob in Dana Point

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Back when I was a pup and living on the East Coast, California seemed as far away as China. We didn’t have all these fast jets, and driving from coast to coast was unthinkable, at least for me.

Thank goodness travel has improved a lot, as I learned on my trip to Southern California for a visit to Dana Point. It’s a lovely community about 60 miles from Los Angeles. Believe it or not, I found out about Dana Point by going to the Internet and checking it out through Google (what kind of name is that?). What I have discovered about the world in these few months has been astonishing. I’m seeing and using things that no one could have conceived of in the “good old days.” Maybe we ought to just call them the “old days.”

It was a bit scary to read through Google that the 60-mile drive from L.A. to Dana Point can sometimes take close to two and a half hours “because of traffic,” it says.

All I can say is I’m glad I wasn’t driving.

On my visit to Dana Point, I was hosted by Bob Levine – another Bob L. In fact, I’m told it caused a bit of confusion in the Dana Harbor Bridge Club, a great facility and one of the top clubs in the country.

I always comment on the weather wherever I go because I like to go outdoors. It’s fun to play bridge, but when you’re in Southern California, where the weather is almost always fine, it’s really tempting to get away from the bridge table for a bit.

Dana Point4

The photo above is the “other” Bob L with me at a gazebo overlooking Dana Harbor, a really nice part of the California coastline. I guess Bob Levine thinks of me as the “other” Bob L, too, but I guess I’ve been around longer.

Bob Levine is really proud of his dog, Journey, a poodle who was very interested in me when I arrived.

Dana Point1

You never know with dogs, but Journey was more than friendly. I found out from his owner that Journey is “first dog to learn how to play bridge.” The concept is intriguing, of course, and if it’s true perhaps I should recruit Journey as a partner. He is closer to my size, after all, than most others who have offered to play with me.

I was very impressed with the Dana Harbor club. What a terrific facility! As with the other places I have visited, the players were interested, especially considering that while I was there they had two Bob Ls.

Dana Point5

If you have been reading these postings, you know I like to talk. It’s something I’ve discovered about myself since I got “back in the game,” as the Bridge Bulletin cover reported last summer.

Well, for once I’m going to give up the podium for a special occasion. While I was in Dana Point, I met Bob Levine’s friend, Jacob Weisberg, who writes occasionally for the Dana Harbor bridge players. He’s a fun guy, so I thought I would give up a bit of space so you could read his report about my visit. You can see both Bob Ls with Jacob in the photo below.

Dana Point6

Bob L Meets Bob L
By Jacob Weisberg

Did you see the cover of the July issue of the Bridge Bulletin? It alerted ACBL members that Bob L was “Back In The Game” and that we should be on the lookout for him because he was traveling the country and might show up at our club. If he does, it asked us to welcome him.

Imagine the surprise of our own Bob Levine. He thought, “Hey, who is this “other” Bob L? I’m Bob L.” So Bob Levine wrote to ACBL asking about this possible impostor.

ACBL decided to enlist our Bob L in the national travels of the ACBL Bob L. It asked our Bob L to host the ACBL’s Bob L when he came to Southern California.

Of course, our Bob Levine had no idea what this meant. How much did Bob L eat? How much did Bob L drink? What kind of sleeping arrangements would he have to make for the traveler – and what about transportation? Even though the July issue of the Bridge Bulletin showed Bob L with a car, would the vehicle make it all the way out here to Orange County? Would it pass our smog tests? And what would Gayle have to say about this?

Well, it all worked out, and if you were at the club on Thursday, Nov. 12, amidst that giant crowd that virtually overflowed into the street, there was Bob L, at the table with Bob Levine.

Notice, I didn’t say that Bob L was playing with Bob Levine. Fact is, Bob Levine was playing with Gayle Gerth. They came in second in “A” North-South.

So what’s this about Bob L being at the table? Well, my pard and I were East-West, and when we came to their table, there were Bob Levine, Gayle Gerth and Bob L. Yes, there was Bob L, just sitting on the table.

Fact is that ACBL has been sending him to clubs around the country, to be hosted by people like our own Bob Levine.

In a special interview granted to this reporter, Bob L was so thankful for the reception he got from our members. Bob L has been all over the country but nowhere has the sun shined so brightly and the game been so warm, friendly and competitive as his visit with us at Dana Harbor Bridge Club.

Thanks, everyone, for helping him feel so welcomed. When he gets back to Memphis, he’s sure to tell the people there that Unit 538 in Southern California has it “all together.”

Nice job, Jacob. That pretty much sums up my stop in Southern California. I’ll be back before you know it at the Fall NABC in San Diego.

Fun in Fort Smith

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

What is it about Elvis? I can’t seem to get away from him. Okay, I’m just kidding, but I have to say I was surprised when I visited Fort Smith AR that his name came up. Right after I arrived, someone said we should check out the barber shop where Elvis got his first Army haircut. Come to think of it, I remember all the hoopla when Elvis was drafted. Even back East, we were hearing about it.

Anyway, when we got to Fort Chaffee, the darned barber shop was closed. It didn’t matter, though, because I really had a great time in Fort Smith. It’s way west in Arkansas, just before you hit the border with Oklahoma.

Someone at ACBL Headquarters said the bridge players in Arkansas were among the friendliest I would meet (one of them even took his new bride for their honeymoon at the Fort Smith Regional many years ago), and they were right.

The day I arrived, it was a lovely, cool fall day when the leaves were at their peak colors of god, red, rust and orange. The fall colors in New England have nothing on western Arkansas. I can see why people like to live there.

My hostess was Joann Humphrey, who teaches bridge, directs and just generally promotes the game. I especially liked her efforts to get people to join the ACBL.

At Joann’s club, they always have lots to eat. It’s a miracle I still fit in my clothes after hanging out in Fort Smith for about a week.

Joann Bob L & food

Joann runs the Fort Smith Duplicate Bridge Club, where I spent a lot of my time during the visit. One Monday, Joann ran a game for a charity that the club supports. It’s called Bost Inc. They help people with disabilities. It was a 10-table game, and players were asked to come up with an extra $1 for the special game, but the final take was $260. I was impressed with their giving spirit.

Everyone was really nice to me at the club, and because it was the week leading up to Halloween, I got to pose with a jack-o-lantern and a black cat at the club.

Bob L, pumpkin & cat

The bridge players really got into the Halloween spirit. Some players were decked out in costumes for Halloween. In the photo below, you can see Sally and Elvin Frick with Drs. Sam and Annette Landrum, a “policewoman” and “jailbird.” I think the policewoman thought I had been kidnapped (they should have been in DC when I was hijacked, although as you may have read, it wasn’t all that traumatic for me). Actually I was just having a good time trying to decide what to eat.

Fricks & Landrums

One afternoon I visited the Fort Smith Museum of History. This gave me a close look at everyday life more than 100 years ago. I learned that there were 86 federal executions that occurred in Fort Smith between 1873 and 1896. Judge Parker was known as “The Hanging Judge.” I got to see the original courtroom just as it was in the 1800s. I pictured myself with the gavel pronouncing sentence on anyone who violates the Zero Tolerance rules, but maybe I should just use it to conk them on the head. Too bad, though . . . they wouldn’t let me take it with me.

Before I left the museum, I had to stop in at the old-fashioned soda fountain and pharmacy. That really brought back memories of the days when every drug store had a soda fountain and a soda “jerk,” the guy who made your milkshakes and malts. That root beer float was a real treat.

Root beer float

One day they took me to the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, once part of Fort Chaffee. It now occupies about 170 acres. The main building overlooks Wells Lake and I watched Canadian geese swimming around. A large window in the Wildlife Watching Area was a place to sit and relax and view a variety of native birds at the feeders and in the trees. Squirrels were cleaning up the seeds that birds had dropped. There were many models of forest animals around an enormous oak tree and I viewed several live animals as well.

This deer greeted me at the entrance and kept an eye on me when I sat on his back.

Deer

The last stop for me before I departed was to visit a nursing home, where I was introduced to Erna Krone, who taught bridge and directed games for many years in Fort Smith. She was delightful, and I learned from talking to her that she is still teaching at the retirement home. You just can’t keep a bridge lover down.

Erna with Bob L

I hated to leave Fort Smith, but I’m wanted elsewhere in ACBL land. I tell you, it’s hard to keep all these trips straight sometimes. Still, it has been a lot of fun traveling the country and meeting so many bridge lovers, not to mention all the good-looking women. If only I was a bit taller . . .

Bob in Delaware

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

It’s a long way from Tunica, Mississippi, to Delaware – in distance and otherwise. I don’t mean that as a jab at either place. They’re just very different in many aspects.

On the other hand, when it comes to bridge players, especially those who fancy duplicate, they’re very much alike wherever you go. So I was looking forward to a return to the East Coast.

That part of the U.S. – the East Coast, that is – was my stomping ground before I dropped out of bridge for a time, so it wasn’t as though I was heading for a place I knew nothing about.

Delaware motto, as many of you may be aware, is known as the First State because that colony was the first to ratify the constitution after we had won our independence from England. It happened in 1787.

Since my return to the game, I’ve tried to get current on who’s who in the bridge world, so I have spent some time going through old issues of the Bridge Bulletin and the Daily Bulletins from the NABCs.

One name that kept coming up was a very interesting player from Delaware, a guy by the name of Dave Treadwell. I asked about him at ACBL Headquarters, and everyone told me he’s a great guy (he tells jokes that are so bad they’re good, if you get my meaning). I’m told Dave doesn’t go to many tournaments any more, but he does play at clubs a lot. I didn’t have a chance to meet him on my trip, but next time I go back, I’ll try to find him.

On my arrival in Delaware, I couldn’t help noticing one thing: water. It was coming down from the sky virtually the entire time I was there. The local newspaper had banner headlines on the front page about the “Nor’easter” battering the area. It was raining so hard at times the water was coming at us sideways, with the wind blowing steadily at 35-40 miles an hour.

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Soaked by a Nor'easter

Roads were flooded, but that didn’t stop my group – about 40 people – from heading for a tournament in Ocean View. The event was the District 4 North American Pairs Flight C final. My hostess, Dini Romito, told me that her Shuffles Bridge Club has had overall winners in the competition the last couple of years, so her players were determined to get to the event and defend their honor. Well, I can relate to that, so I was honored that they included me in the adventure.

I was very flattered when we arrived at the venue to see that someone had made likenesses of me. Just the face was bigger than I am, but the images were mounted on sticks like masks. It was very impressive.

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Will the real Bob L. please stand up?

I waited through the two sessions of the event to see how the Shuffles players did – and it was worth it. One Shuffles pair – Mary Boyd and Peter Harris – came in first overall. Third overall – good enough to earn a trip to Reno for the NAP final – were twin sisters Linda Regan and Laurie Shelton. They were ecstatic, and I must say I was excited, too.

Before we left, Dini called the authorities to see if a bridge that had been closed earlier might have reopened. It was open again, but they didn’t know for how long, so we took off right away.

We rested for a day before Dini told me she was taking about 20 of her students to the Ocean City Regional. It was there that I met Millard Nachtwey, who I was told is one of ACBL’s top tournament directors. Dini was very grateful to him for “taking great care” of her new players.

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At the Ocean City Regional

Just as I was ready to leave, it finally stopped raining. Nothing, of course, could have dampened my enjoyment of the trip. I will always have fond memories of Dini and her gang.  Below are a couple more photos of my new friends from Delaware.

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Bob in Tunica

Monday, November 9th, 2009

It was good to get back to Memphis for a little while, although I spent most of my time at the regional tournament in Tunica, Mississippi.

In case you don’t know, Tunica is in North Mississippi, not that far away from ACBL Headquarters, and from what I’ve been told, it will be even closer next year when the HQ moves to Horn Lake, Mississippi.

Anyway, we took off from the office the first day of the tournament, and as we drove – it’s about a 30-minute car ride – I kept seeing all these billboards for gambling casinos. Who would have thought that Mississippi would be home to such places! I find it interesting, by the way, that the state law says all such establishments must technically be riverboats (!??!). They get around that by having part of the structure of each casino sitting over some water. You sure can’t tell you’re over water when you’re in one of those places. It’s pretty silly, if you ask me.

The reason I know about this is the other surprise I got – that the tournament was in one of these casinos. Of course, before I dropped out of bridge for a while, there weren’t so many places to gamble – Atlantic City NJ was most familiar to me – and we would never have thought of having a tournament at a casino. Then again, how could I expect today to be the same as the old days?

I had a lot of fun in Tunica, I must admit, mostly from meeting different people.

Tournament Director Su Doe

Tournament Director Su Doe

The Tunica tournament is well attended, so there are lots of TDs around. If there’s one constant in bridge, it’s the TDs. They are still as interesting and people-oriented as the ones I knew “back when.” They dress differently, of course – no suits and ties – but that’s true of the players as well.

Rick Beye shows me how the Bridge Pad works.

Rick Beye shows me how the Bridge Pad works.

I was wandering around the playing room where a pairs game was about to start, and I encountered Rick Beye, another TD, setting up the Bridge Pad scoring devices. I must say that I found them fascinating. My fellow players and TDs from the past would never have believed that so many aspects of a bridge tournament could be categorized as “automatic.” I already knew about ACBLscore from some of the other tournaments I attended, but I didn’t know about the Bridge Pads. The little device sits on the table, and when an auction is completed you just enter the contract. When play is over, you enter the result, and the East-West pair pushes a button to okay it. The result goes straight to a computer the TDs are running, and scores are available after the session nearly immediately. Very smart!

Retired National TD Jack Hudgins, who lives in Memphis.

Retired National TD Jack Hudgins, who lives in Memphis.

After I got a Bridge Pad lesson, I ran into a TD who used to work in the eastern part of the U.S., where I did most of my “damage,” you might say. That would be Jack Hudgins, who worked a lot in the Boston area before moving to Memphis many years ago. Jack told me he still misses the tournaments, but not so much that he would give up his regular golf game to start back up again.

Judy Dever, a bridge player who also works at the ACBL.

Judy Dever, a bridge player who also works at the ACBL.

As you can imagine, many of the people who work at ACBL Headquarters are also bridge players. I like being photographed with attractive women, and the ACBL has its share, as you can see from the photo above. Judy laughs a lot, which I enjoyed immensely. I do think players in this new era have more fun overall than many I knew way back when.

TD Nancy Watkins, from the Atlanta area.

TD Nancy Watkins, from the Atlanta area.

I had a chance to talk to Nancy Watkins, who I met on my trip to Atlanta. She was telling me about all the fun she had running the second Youth NABC that took place during the Summer NABC in Washington DC. Nancy told me about how she got started with bridge and how she and some friends played a lot of “giggle bridge” at her home. I hope I run into her again soon. She is a lot of fun.

Ellie Weems, Sandy Smith, TD Dan Plato and Ginny Claar.

Ellie Weems, Sandy Smith, TD Dan Plato and Ginny Claar.

I had a reunion of sorts with Dan Plato, one of the most fun people I have run into on my travels. Dan is a TD and he hosted me for much of my stay in Atlanta. He is such a fun person that you can’t help laughing whenever you’re around him. He wouldn’t pose for a photo with me while I was in Georgia, but I made him get into the photo above during the Tunica tournament. He complained, but I think he enjoyed it, maybe just a little bit.

As always, the people I met at the Tunica tournament were warm and welcoming. They made me feel really good about getting back into the bridge scene. I can’t wait for the next trip!

More Aloha!

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

It might sound funny to say it, but I never tire of being photographed with smiling bridge players, especially the women. I would have come “back” much sooner if I had known I was going to get such ego-boosting attention. You will note in the photos that they always had some flowers on me. That’s the way they do things in Hawaii, I suppose. No complaints from here, mind you.

On Saturday, I got to sit in on a Youth bridge session at the club. Thanks to Busaba Williams and many of her friends, there is a large contingent of young players in Hawaii. You would think all these young people would all be out surfing 24-7 – How about that? Another new phrase for me – but Busaba, who is an absolute ball of fire, has them bidding their heads off and taking tricks like crazy. It was great to see all the young faces at the bridge games.

One of the young players I met in Hawaii.

One of the young players I met in Hawaii.

I have to say that the highlight of my trip was being invited to the wedding ceremony of Busaba and Luke Han at the Outrigger Canoe Club. Just like so many other spots in Hawaii, the club is in a primo location.

I’m guessing you have heard of Diamond Head, one of the most famous places in all of Hawaii. It’s a volcanic cone that looks like a big mountain from a distance. Lots of people like to climb it, and for good reason. When you get to the top, the view will knock your socks off (I already had that phrase…from the “old days”).

Well, the Outrigger Canoe Club is located below the slopes of Diamond Head and near Waikiki Beach. Okay, I can’t resist: Waikiki means “spouting fresh water.”

Anyway, Busaba and Luke made a fantastic couple, all dressed in white for their wedding day. I wasn’t around when she was chair of the 2006 Fall NABC in Honolulu, but everyone tells me Busaba and Luke made one of the best tournament organizing teams in ACBL history.

Don’t Busaba and Luke look great?

Don’t Busaba and Luke look great?

Their wedding was fabulous, and everyone seemed so happy for them. I didn’t even know Busaba that long, but I would guess it would be impossible not to like someone with her charismatic personality – you might find her photo next to “vivacious” in the dictionary.

After Busaba and Luke got hitched, they headed off for Tahiti. Wow! I dropped a few hints about maybe tagging along, but nothing registered with the happy couple. I can’t say as I blame them. I definitely would have been out of place in the honeymoon suite!

I guess I should check my Blackberry now to see where I’m heading next. Just kidding; I haven’t achieved that level of hipness yet (I have trouble with even the elementary cell phones).

I guess I’ll just go with the flow. You’ll find out next time where I’ve been. See you in San Diego, if not sooner.