Archive for the ‘Clubs’ Category

Bob L in Arlington

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been learning all kinds of new words and phrases that didn’t exist back in my day. Even the term buzz word, which I guess is what I’m referring to, is new to me.

Anyway, in my travels around North America, I’ve learned about things like jet lag, blogs, text messages, androids for phones (!?!) and, although it’s not really a new term, culture shock.

I discovered what the latter term really meant when I arrived in Texas after visiting Delaware on my trip from one end of the continent to the other (I’ll get to the part about San Diego in another message). Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that any of it was bad. To talk like a Texan, the whole adventure has been a hoot!

But there’s a big difference between Delaware, a pretty small state way back East, and the wide open spaces of Texas. I’m telling you, everything – and I mean everything! – in Texas is BIG. Know what I mean, Pardner? (I like to get in the spirit of wherever I’m visiting, you know).

Just consider the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, where I landed on my way to Arlington, a suburb of Dallas. I thought I was never going to get out of that place. And the traffic – Holy Alamo! – I thought it was rough in Atlanta (it is). I’ve never seen so many pickup trucks in my life. I’m glad I wasn’t driving. The warm weather was a very pleasant change from Delaware, though.

One of the first to greet me in Arlington was game director Dee Berg, who was celebrating her birthday. She is typical of just about every person I met in Texas – very friendly.

Dee Berg

Dee Berg

They also like to chow down with gusto in the Lone Star State, so it’s a good thing the Arlington Duplicate Bridge Club has Helen Nelson, who had prepared dinner for the club for their weekly TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Food, Fun, and Friday) game.

Helen Nelson

Helen Nelson

I enjoyed meeting David Adams, one of the club’s newest Life Masters. His partner for the TGIF game was Diane Quin, who is one of the nice ladies who takes a turn cooking for the TGIF games. Rumor has it that Diane is a gourmet cook. Perhaps I visited the wrong week, although Helen’s chicken and rice was quite tasty and the blackberry cobbler disappeared quickly.

David Adams and Diane Quin

David Adams and Diane Quin

On Saturday, the club held their annual game honoring their members who are veterans. I got to join the veterans who played for free in this event.

That’s me, proudly holding and American flag to honor the vets

That’s me, proudly holding and American flag to honor the vets

What a pleasure it was to meet another veteran, Bill White! He is a legend at the home office as he always sends each month’s masterpoint count in on the first of each month. He also keeps a record of the funds that need to be sent to ACBL from each game and is always prompt with that. On top of all that, I learned that Bill is the club’s webmaster, and I must admit that the web site is the nicest, most colorful one I’ve seen. Take a look at it at http://www.d16acbl.org/U176/ABC/adbc.htm

Bill White

Bill White

You probably know that there are quite a few rather large cities in and around Dallas, including Fort Worth. For that matter, Arlington isn’t exactly a burg.

Anyway, I found out something about Fort Worth when I kept hearing all these people talking about purple frogs. Never heard of such a thing, much less seen one. Then I discovered that they are all nuts about the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, whose school color is purple. Everybody kept talking about the TCU football team being unbeaten and playing in a big bowl game. It seems like many bridge players are keen sports fans. Just part of being competitive, I guess.

Check out that mean-looking horned frog on the pennant

Check out that mean-looking horned frog on the pennant

While I was there, I visited Ranger Stadium, which is in Arlington. Right across the street is Texas Stadium, new home of the Dallas Cowboys. What a palace! I heard it cost more than $1 billion. Wow! When I went to visit, the stadium was hosting area high school teams in playoffs. It’s the largest stadium ever – Texas size for sure! You wouldn’t believe the size of the television screen in there. I found out that the big stadium has a hole in the roof because the structure wouldn’t support a full roof (not the mention that money was getting tight at that point). The situation prompted one of the Cowboys players to say, “Texas Stadium has a hole in its roof so God can watch His favorite team play.” All I can say is that Texas is the place for a stadium like that.

After a day of rest, I returned to the club to join the Easybridge! game run by Tom and Dorothy Moore. There was so much laughter and conversation in the room, if I hadn’t seen the cards I wouldn’t have been sure they were playing duplicate bridge.

Tom and Dorothy Moore, always smiling.

Tom and Dorothy Moore, always smiling.

All throughout my visit, there were photographers following me around, taking shots so I could share them with you. I didn’t have a chance to get a photo of all of them because they were always so busy. The photographers were Marty Schwartz, a chemistry professor at North Texas University; Tom and Dorothy Moore, who took shots at the TGIF, and Mary Ellen Stanton, who snapped most of the Saturday shots. Mary Ellen is the club’s computer guru.

It was a whirlwind tour of Texas, but I’m really glad I went, even though I was so tired at the end I felt I could really relate to something I read about one of those cowpokes, who said at the end of a long day, “I feel like I been rode hard and put up wet.”

There are, Pardner. Head ‘em up . . . move ‘em out! See you in San Diego.

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 . . .

Aloha!

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

In my time “away” from bridge and other things, I was lucky enough to spend time in some beautiful parts of the world. I found the Italian Riviera, for example, to be absolutely breathtaking in spots.

I was not prepared, however, for what I found after I left sultry Atlanta.

As you may know, I headed right for Hawaii – and I was completely blown away. That place is paradise, I tell you: blue water everywhere you look; beautiful, friendly people, plus a climate to die for.

Just listen to me – blown away and to die for are phrases you never heard anyone say in the “old days,” but I have decided that maybe those days weren’t as “good” as we remember. I don’t know who said it, but I like the quote: “If you’re yearning for the good old days, just turn off the air conditioning.”

Not that it’s germane to the topic, but I can tell you that most people in Hawaii don’t even need A/C. They don’t have “good old days” in Hawaii. Today’s days are just like yesterday’s – great!

It takes a long time to get from Atlanta to Hawaii – I was pretty groggy by the time the plane landed – but it’s worth the trip.

I spent the first weekend in Kaneohe, part of Oahu, which also includes Honolulu.

I love the names you hear all around the islands. I found out that Kaneohe means “Bamboo Man.” In fact, just about every place you go has a name that means something poetic or historic or colorful. I learned about a former king of another area I visited, called Kailua (“two seas”). The king’s name was Kauakahiakahoowaha. I didn’t dare to ask what that means. What do you reckon his friends called him?

Anyway, I stayed with Bev and Arnie Drill in Kaneohe and had papaya for breakfast one day. They were very hospitable.

Bev and Arnie Drill shared their home with me.

Bev and Arnie Drill shared their home with me.

Everywhere I went, there was a spectacular view of something, mostly the Pacific Ocean, I guess. You can get an eyeful anywhere, it seems. I was stunned by the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, for example.

I did manage some bridge while I was in Hawaii, specifically the Unit 470 Sectional in Honolulu. Our 50th state has a lively and competitive bridge community, I can tell you.

After that, I stopped by the Kailua Bridge Club and had a chance to meet the owner, Edith Neff. She was just like the other Hawaiians I met – very charming. The club is very nice, and everyone made me feel welcome.

Oops, I’m late for my bridge game. I’ll have to post more about my trip to Hawaii later, so, check back soon!

That’s me at the Kailua Bridge Club.

That’s me at the Kailua Bridge Club.

Hot ‘Lanta, Part 2

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Okay, now – back to my tour of the city.

Not far away from the aquarium is the home of Coca Cola. I guess I had forgotten that headquarters for the world’s most famous drink are right there in Atlanta.

The people at Coke were very friendly, especially the tour guides.

I was hoping to leave the Coca-Cola plant with one of those great-looking red shirts, but they didn’t have them in super-extra-extra small.

I was hoping to leave the Coca-Cola plant with one of those great-looking red shirts, but they didn’t have them in super-extra-extra small.

There’s a big benefit, I guess, to being my size. Lots of people think I’m cute (nudge-nudge, wink-wink), and I’m trying not to spoil that image. Hey, it’s gotten me into lots of places so far, and I like the attention. Bridge people seem to have a lot more fun than they did when I was playing “seriously.”

Don’t you just love that big chicken at the KFC in Marietta? I bet the Atlanta area has the only restaurant that looks like that.

Don’t you just love that big chicken at the KFC in Marietta? I bet the Atlanta area has the only restaurant that looks like that.

I had a great time at The Varsity, an 80-year-old restaurant in Atlanta they call the “Lunching Pad.” I liked the No. 1 Combo at the Varsity – two chili dogs, onion rings and a Coca Cola – but I did have to beg for some Rolaids later on.

There were more stops, including the Fox Theatre and CNN Headquarters. What an eye-opener! I can remember when there wasn’t any television anywhere.

They told me I had to rest up for the Atlanta Sectional Tournament, so I took it easy for a while. One thing about those chili dogs, though – they stay with you.

Yessir – that’s a lot of food. Now you know why I left Atlanta looking to let out the pants. It was worth it, though. Yummy!

Yessir – that’s a lot of food. Now you know why I left Atlanta looking to let out the pants. It was worth it, though. Yummy!

Before departing Atlanta, I must say that bridge in the area is so much more than brick and mortar clubs, or even the one-day-a-week clubs that rent space. What I observed were people who love bridge – especially the directors and managers –working as hard as they can to get other people involved, assisted by players with an inspiring devotion to the game and a willingness to welcome new people. That is one element of bridge that hasn’t changed during my time away.

People who knew me in my heyday might thing I’m getting all soft and “mushy” about this, but my travels have been an eye-opener for me. I can’t wait for the next stop.

Thanks for everything, Dan, and Atlanta bridge!  For more photos of me in Atlanta, have a look at the photo gallery below.


Hot ‘Lanta

Friday, September 25th, 2009

When I started this journey, I didn’t reckon with how much time I was going to be spending in airports. Fortunately, the ones I have seen so far have been very nice.

I was amazed at how busy it is at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?). No doubt that has a lot to do with the fact that it is known as the “busiest” airport in the world based on the number of passengers that go through it.

I must say it was a bit scary making my way to through the terminal – I don’t remember seeing such a high escalator before – you go up after you ride one of those trains that take you from terminal to terminal.

It looked really inviting to get to the top of the escalator and slide down again, but they have these round things every few feet in the middle that keep you from doing that. Oh, well.

I had to go a long way through the airport before Dan Plato – he’s a very entertaining tournament director and club owner – could pick me up. In my day, of course, people could walk right up to your gate and give you a hug right when you got off the plane.

Dan was really great. He took me to the Atlanta Duplicate Bridge Center, where I met the people who run the club – Beatrice Kemp and Dan Papineau.

That's Dan and Beatrice holding me at their club.  Dan was very gentle.

That's Dan and Beatrice holding me at their club. Dan was very gentle.

I overheard Dan Plato talking about me to some people at the club. “Bob,” he said, “arrived in good shape, but he did seem kind of hungry. Maybe we should give him some snacks to take with him before he leaves Atlanta.” Hear, hear!

I blushed a bit when Dan added, “He’s quite darling.” I wasn’t really sure how to take that, but Dan was so nice I didn’t say anything. He even found space for me at his home, and I must say the sock drawer was very comfy. Just the right size.

Atlanta is kind of like Memphis, although it is spread out a lot more and with an amazing amount of traffic. Wow! It’s also pretty hot in the summer with high humidity, but you can’t beat the friendliness of people in the South.

There are lots of things to see in Atlanta. I went one day to the Georgia Aquarium. That was incredible. The displays are really great, and you can get up close and nearly personal – that was plenty good enough for me, to be honest – with lots of interesting creatures. I’m glad that glass in all those tanks is so thick.

I’m not really blue in the face. That’s just the lighting. I loved the Georgia Aquarium.

I’m not really blue in the face. That’s just the lighting. I loved the Georgia Aquarium.

Up to now, I haven’t mentioned this strange method of communication – my blog. If I had said that word in mixed company back when I was young, I would have expected to get into trouble, even if no one knew what it meant. They probably would have just assumed it was naughty. Now it seems like everyone is writing on the Internet. I’ll reserve judgment on the whole thing until after the big tournament this fall.

One very big positive from doing this blog thing as part of my “coming out” is the attention I have received from so many pretty women. I guess I was a bit stuffy back in the day, so I’ll have to say having my image on the cover of the Bridge Bulletin was a good thing. At every bridge club, all the women want to be photographed with me. It’s very flattering, not to mention exciting.

Dan took me around to three really nice bridge clubs in the Atlanta area – Alpharetta Duplicate Bridge Club, Ruff ‘n Sluff in Marietta and the Atlanta Duplicate Center, which I have already mentioned.

I love being photographed with big crowds of bridge players.

I love being photographed with big crowds of bridge players.

All three of the clubs have games every day of the week, and most days there are two games. I also visited games at Roswell Recreation Center, Buckhead Parc and Peachtree Presbyterian Church.

They teach bridge at the big clubs and have lots of games for new players. I was really impressed with the effort to promote bridge – and, boy, do they ever do the food. I might have to visit a tailor somewhere along the line. I tried to resist all the wonderful eats, but I just couldn’t. Between the good-looking women and the food, my will power is about shot.

Check back soon for more about my trip to Atlanta.

More adventures in Toronto

Friday, August 28th, 2009

One day, I went north of Toronto to visit the Aurora Bridge Club, where I met Izhar Hague and his lovely wife, Jane. President Olly Smolak introduced me all around and made a big speech about me. I also met Dorothy Street, who hails from Batchewana, near Sault-Sainte-Marie. She and I had both visited Shingwak, so we had an intimate moment about that. When I told Priscilla Hull that I travel by Fed Ex, she told me she likes a man who comes well wrapped up. My head was spinning trying to keep all those unusual names straight.

Izhar Hague, Aurora club manager, Virginia Smereka, Mary Oglanby and club President Olly Smolak

Izhar Hague, Aurora club manager, Virginia Smereka, Mary Oglanby and club President Olly Smolak

I found out that the Aurora Bridge Club is a non-profit community-owned club that will celebrate its 45th anniversary next year. They have over 200 active members and five games a week. When I found out that they offer lessons for beginners and intermediates at all levels, I signed on for their mentorship program and told them I would be back next spring.

The Saturday before I left Toronto, Alex and I went to Casino Rama, located in the Chippewa nation reserve near Rama in Ontario. Unfortunately, I did not have my birth certificate with me, so I got stopped at the door because they weren’t sure I was old enough to gamble. Someone told me later I probably saved a lot of money.

One of my biggest thrills on my tour of Toronto was getting to the top of the CN Tower, which until 2007 was the world’s tallest free-standing structure. I’m told some structure in Dubai is taller, but I doubt I’ll ever see that. Give me CN Tower any day.

That’s me at the magnificent CN Tower.

That’s me at the magnificent CN Tower.

After the CN Tower visit, I had dinner with Barbara and Roger Murray at Ferraro’s, a wonderful Italian restaurant. I ended up with more ribs, but I already knew not to ask for utensils. I just dove right in with my hands. Thank goodness someone brought me a finger bowl and a big bib.

Never mind the knife – I ate with my fingers.

Never mind the knife – I ate with my fingers.

Before I left, I spent Sunday lounging by the pool at Carriage Hills Resort in Oro-Medonte ON. Fed-Ex lost my bathing suit, so I couldn’t go into the pool. What if my suit shrank? As we used to say: Egad! It was very hot that day, but Barbara’s 6-year-old grandson, Justin, cooled me down with his water-pistol.

Among the many interesting people I met was Ray Lee, owner of Master Point Press and, as I discovered, a very shrewd businessman. I told him I like to write and have been considering putting my memoirs together for publication. He paused for a second and said, “Large weather we’re having, eh?” Well, I guess that’s a project that can wait.

Ray and his assistant, Sally Sparrow.

Ray and his assistant, Sally Sparrow.

I mentioned in the previous blog post that I stopped in Partners while in Toronto. Partners is Toronto’s newest bridge club. It is a lovely venue with skylights and a lovely view. They have games and classes and I had a great time visiting with Suzanne Kosky and Joel Shapiro, the owners. The club’s website is at www.partnersbridge.com.

On my way from Toronto to Atlanta, all I could think about was how friendly and pleasant our Canadian bridge players are. I’m sure I will find some Southern hospitality in Atlanta, too. Tara, here I come!

Adventures in Toronto

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Being in Toronto is a lot like being in Europe. It’s very cosmopolitan, just a delightful city. I can tell you now from first-hand experience that the city has some of the friendliest bridge players you could find anywhere.

The first time I went to Toronto, way back when, the airport was called Malton Airport – no mention of “international” at all. When I arrived in mid-August this year, I noticed it is called Toronto Pearson International Airport. Someone told me it was named for the former Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who actually won the Nobel Peace Prize back when I was playing bridge a lot more.

I was greeted by the exquisitely charming Barbara Seagram and her husband, Alex Kornel. Barbara caught up with me at the airport before I could check out the baggage carousels and get myself into trouble. The next few days rushed by so fast I can’t keep everything straight in my mind even now, so if I get something out of order, you’ll know why.

Barbara and Alex

Barbara and Alex

Getting to know Barbara on the way from the airport made me want to go to the bridge table and be nice to someone – heck, everyone. As many of you probably already know, Barbara pioneered the movement called Zero Tolerance, which means, to sum it up, “Be pleasant to your partner and opponents – or go home!” I can tell you, we could have used some ZT when I first started playing. You had to have a really thick skin to survive.

Barbara told me she picked up the idea for ZT while playing in Bermuda, which has an annual tournament that features everyone dressed properly – no bell bottoms, thank goodness – and being very civil. Barbara says that in Bermuda, they pride themselves on being proper in all ways: “Dress better, behave better.” She told me about an experience at her informal club after her visit to Bermuda. Barbara played with a friend who showed up in a suit and tie. “He proceeded to shake hands with each opponent as he sat down and they treated him so well that I couldn’t believe these were the same people.”

Barbara told me she and Alex used to own the largest bridge club in Canada, the Kate Buckman Bridge Studio. Now their club is smaller. Their games are not restricted by masterpoints but by attitude. Everyone has to be nice if they want to play there.

Some new-fangled practices in bridge are better, after all.

At Barbara and Alex’s club, there is a full-time cook. His name is Jimmy, and they tell me the ladies love him. He provides, great food at very inexpensive prices, and all the women want to know if he is married. As I found out, Jimmy makes the best Greek salad in Toronto. While I was there, he gave me a lesson in salad making. Wow!

Bob L and his new favorite cook, Jimmy

Bob L and his new favorite cook, Jimmy

Barbara was nice enough to take me to Hazel Wolpert’s club. It’s called, appropriately enough, Hazel’s Bridge Club.

Barbara and Hazel Wolpert

Barbara and Hazel Wolpert

Hazel was very charming, as well, and I’m told she is also a superb bridge teacher and a good player. Her son is Gavin Wolpert, recently married to Jenny Ryman (Blue Ribbon Pairs champions), both of whom just won big events in Washington. They are expecting their first baby in September. Hazel’s other son, Darren, is also a fine player. Hazel’s mother, Phyllis Bresge, was a highly competitive player in the world of duplicate as well. Hazel is loved and respected through the bridge world. Her large club averages about 30 tables on most afternoons.

We also went to Partners, Toronto’s newest bridge club. It was impressive.

The following was sent to Barbara by Sarah, a new fan of mine. I think it’s quite clever.

“What a doll! Tell BOB L that I don’t even need ONE SPADE to dig him. He has stolen my HEART, and if he promises me a DIAMOND, he can live at our CLUB. We’ll treat him like the KING he is, and play the fun and interesting game of bridge in our midtown REGAL location. A rousing cheer (but NO TRUMPets) for BOB L and his visit to our wonderful city!”

Well, gotta run back to the bridge table….There’s so much more to tell about my adventures in Toronto and the fabulous clubs and people there. Check back soon for more news!  Take a look at the gallery below for lots of photos of me having fun in Toronto.