Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

Bob L’s wrapup – the Fall NABC in San Diego

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

What a year it has been! I never dreamed when I returned to the bridge world that I would meet so many interesting people. Everywhere I went – from East Coast to West – I met people with a passion for our game that made me very happy to be part of bridge again.

I can see now that bridge is in good hands. I just heard that ACBL membership is up higher than it has been in many years. People are putting on good tournaments all over North America, our 3200 bridge clubs are thriving, and in 2009 we passed 3 million tables of play for the second year in a row.

It’s true, you didn’t see much of me in San Diego, but I really needed a bit of a rest after all that travel. I basically just hung out in the executive office and took it easy. I did have a moment of . . . well, you might say unease whenever Paul Janicki, who represents District 2 on the ACBL Board of Directors, came around. You may remember that his wife, Julie, kidnapped me during the Summer NABC in Washington and held me for “ransom.” To be honest, though, my experience with Julie wasn’t that bad, although I was a bit disappointed that she kept me in a drawer most of the time that I was being held “hostage.” Really, she was nice, and I was hoping to see her again in San Diego. Too bad it didn’t work out.

That’s me going over the first Daily Bulletin at the Fall NABC in San Diego.

That’s me going over the first Daily Bulletin at the Fall NABC in San Diego.

I must say it was interesting to hang out in the executive office at the NABC. It’s the same room where they worked on the Daily Bulletins, so naturally there was a lot of traffic, especially from members who wanted to report that they had become Life Masters – or had advanced to a new Life Master rank. The Daily Bulletin guys seemed to share the excitement of the new LMs.

I discovered that lots of people at the tournament seem to think that the Daily Bulletin office is where all lost items turn up. I was surprised at how many people came in to say they had put all their important stuff – wallets, purses, credit cards – in the registration bags that all look alike. Turns out lots of the bags “walked off,” probably because they were identical and people got confused. Some of them, I’m happy to say, did retrieve their valuables.

From all I could gather based on the comments I heard, the San Diego tournament was a smashing success, and the turnout was about 1000 tables more than they expected. Seems our players weren’t all that tempted to take time away from the tables to enjoy the outstanding Southern California weather.

Once back in Memphis, I spent a bit of time catching up on the tournament by reading the Daily Bulletins. Boy, that Jeff Meckstroth had quite a year, winning all kinds of ACBL masterpoint awards (Player of the Year, Player of the Decade, most points at the NABC). I won’t be surprised if I hear about him winning the Nobel Prize for something.

Well, that’s it for me in 2009. No more traveling this year, except maybe to the ACBL Christmas party coming up in a couple of days. I hope there’s someone available to drive me home.

All the best to everyone for the holiday season – and Happy New Year!

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 . . .

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.

1

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.

2

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.

5

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.

3

4

 

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!

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!