Wow, was I ever impressed!!! The ‘girls’ (Patty Tucker and Melissa Bernhardt) outdid themselves. My daughter Robin and I volunteered as table monitors so I could see the reaction of the newbies who were anxiously hanging onto every word. Patty and Melissa took turns at the mike .. poised, charming, entertaining and did a marvelous job of relaxing those in attendance. They dealt in bare basics .. just enough to arouse interest, without any pressure, in pursuing local lesson-taking when the visitors return to their native locales, including those Vegasites who were in attendance. One of our local teachers, Karen Kimes, already had people signing up to get their teeth into their newly discovered hobby. It was a refreshing five hours and a feather in the caps of these two fantastic entrepreneurs who presented a first class bridge introduction to Sunday’s recruits. I was the liaison between LBIAD and the Las Vegas Review Journal who, as promised, sent a representative and photographer to witness the Seminar in living color. I look forward to seeing their coverage in the next day or two. A fantastic time was had by all.
Let me begin by stating that perhaps I should have been wary of Horace Greeley’s directional recommendation!
After four days here at the LV NABC, I am ready for the funny farm (and haven’t even played any serious bridge yet). Though the staff is off the charts congenial, the hotel is hopelessly short staffed to the point of chaos, inconvenience and frustration. Our original weekday preordained early registration rate of $49 plus tax for weekdays was only honored for the first two nights of our stay, beginning Wednesday night and since I did not save my confirming emails from three months ago, I waged a losing battle.
The Westgate is definitely not prepared for the bridge throng that has been thrust upon them and understandably so, as the hotel officially changed hands only two weeks prior to our arrival and is in an obvious state of flux. The rooms are reasonably sized and adequate though they offer hardly enough drawer and closet space for our eleven day stay… and …you have to be a Rhodes Scholar to learn to operate their fancy coffee mechanism. After private instruction, I finally got the hang of it. And, by the way, there are two circular coffee cylinders which each room is allotted on a daily basis. Replacements are $4.00 each. Guess someone has to pay for these high tech machines. Can you imagine at $106.40 per night… having to be budgeted to one cup per person. Absurd!!! Incidentally, there is no distinguishing regular from decaffeinated — just one size fits all. Just to make a point, Bobby devoured three cups this morning between breakfast and lunch (they had replaced two from yesterday) which equated to $12.00. It is rather infuriating that you can buy a huge container of caffeine at the market for less… and just imagine how many cups it affords a household. No one likes to get raped!!!
And, how about $4.00 for the consumption of one quart of Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water? Oh, and there is a $10 premium for having a fridge, but I overcame that charge. These old tubs are not accommodated to prevent water from rising above a certain level but I did not become aware of the potential danger until our bathroom floor looked like Lake Mead. Luckily I caught my naive assumption in time to prevent an avalanche of H2O from descending upon my downstairs neighbors.
Backtracking to my unpacking experience, I had requested additional hangers and two luggage racks as the shortage of drawer space is causing us to live out of open suitcases as well — which actually is not such a hardship. The problem? I was held hostage in our room until their arrival. After an hour, I dialed Housekeeping again and inquired about their failure to be delivered. A lovely telephone receptionist kindly explained: “Oh, I am so sorry dear, but there are four or five people ahead of you.” I finally left the room in despair and joined Bobby where he was having a very late lunch. I am basically not a drinker, but that White Zinfandel sure felt great! The food venues are fairly expensive but offer a huge array of restaurants to meet everyone’s diversified needs. However, at the Paradise Cafe, it irked me to spend $3.25 for coffee and $1.95 is excessive for each extra topping for one’s morning egg selection.
The playing space is sensational and rather close to the lobby, but be advised… tend to your needs in advance as the bathroom accommodations are a continent away from the site. One last bugaboo is the playing schedule. I read there were 10 and 1:30 Daylight Pairs in which I played yesterday and assumed what I saw for those starting times today was a repeat performance… Wrong! I missed the small print. When I got in line to pick up my entry at 9:45, I spotted the sign 0-3,000. Absolutely no morning two session pair game for over 3,000 point holders. Who arranged this schedule and why?????
Four days down and seven to go. Ugh!!!
Thanks to the all-out efforts of ACBL Marketing Manager, Darbi Padbury ….. on Wednesday, July 16th, Las Vegas Channel 13 (KTNV) will be doing a feature on both the American Contract Bridge League Summer Nationals and LBIAD being held at the former Las Vegas Hilton (renamed The Westgate) located on Paradise Road. The program MORNING BLEND will be aired from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The Nationals officially begin on the 17th and run through the 27th. This year, LEARN BRIDGE IN A DAY, under the supervision of Patty Tucker and Melissa Bernhardt, will be holding their much publicized five hour seminar from 1:00 until 6:00 on Sunday, July 20th .. an opportunity for both newcomers and old timers. (See details on my earlier blog). Another exciting bit of news .. our popular Las Vegas Review Journal will also be covering LBIAD and have advised that on Sunday they will be sending a photographer in addition to some LVRJ executives to witness LBIAD in action. Las Vegas is proud to be supported by our popular city’s wonderful media!!!!!!!
I must confess, other than the nearby SF National in the Fall of 2012, we have not attended any NABC in five years since our locale hosted it in Vegas. It is hard for me to believe .. as these three annual happenings were an indispensible way of life for me for fifty-five years. I still keep in touch with many bridge cronies from days of yore, but it seems they too are in attendance less and less. I attributed it to normal attrition (ala the aging process), and I never gave too much thought to it when people said that it had become too costly. After all, the fun of playing bridge should not have monetary restrictions. To some people .. it is more important than life itself. Besides, weren’t we talking about pennies? Apparently not! Though early room reservations (especially for the upcoming one) were amazingly cheap at $49 for weekdays, I went into shock when I noticed on the ACBL site today the card fees had skyrocketed in the last few years. It ONLY costs you anywhere from $15 to $20 a session per player, depending upon the type of event you are entering. With the use of Bidding boxes and Bridgemates, wouldn’t you think that the reduction of manual labor (fewer caddies and less directors) would tend to lower card fees – rather than increase them??? Perhaps I am just out of touch. Could some knowledgeable soul please enlighten me?
…and how many players alive today are actually qualified to make that judgment call?
From the endless bridge ramblings on the various sites, countless self-appointed authorities seems to believe that they are in that position. I beg to differ. There is an incredible variance between the classifications… good, great, excellent, marvelous, sensational, up and coming, talented, super, terrific, fantastic, ingenious, promising. etc. The different strata into which these gifted individuals fall is enormous but many mistakenly overvalue their own expertise… not unusual as few bridge players suffer from deflated egos.
I am no fan of the illustrious Blue Team (for personal reasons that are not secret to the public), but there is no doubt that three of their stars (Benito, Pietro and Georgio) were among the best that ever played the game… and on a consistent basis. Bobby is unyielding in his belief that no one comes close to rivaling Mr. Garozzo as the greatest bridge player ever. That is a HUGE statement coming from a world class player himself, but Bobby has vied against just about every renowned participant over six decades and believes Benito has no equal. Witness him in action in the July 2014 Edition of The Bridge World on pages 36 and 37 in an article entitled “Fifty Years Ago.”
Freedom of speech on BW at its ultimate! I am not (and don’t pretend to be) armed with the specifics of what REALLY happened and how all this came about, though I do have my suspicions. It seems like too many strong personalities with their own agendas and boundless influence and power have destroyed the intended elegance of this once respectable and prestigious event. Shots are bring called from on high and the USBF got caught in the middle of the tornado. Could someone explain how we fell from grace — with the whole world kibitzing our horrendous bridge freak show? Is this what our top level game is all about? How can anyone say, "It ain’t broke." It is now! The interlopers saw to it. The question is .. Can it be fixed and how?
How fortunate for us that Las Vegas is hosting the American Contract Bridge League Summer National Championship, beginning July 17th through the 27th. Not only is it a venue for casual everyday social players to enjoy the events and meet new friends, but a site for serious dyed-in-the-wool experts to compete in championship events. Regardless of your objective or experience, you can always pick your spot and sign up to play in a comfortable game – single session, two-session, multi-session, pairs or teams. However, to me, the highlight of this NABC is the exciting LEARN BRIDGE IN A DAY seminar to be held the first Sunday. It is the opportunity of a lifetime for those who have been deprived of the fun and excitement of the most challenging game in the world. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE. Read all about it below .. and follow the simple sign-up instructions!
Since India is one of the most highly populated countries in the world (with China being a close second), it is a marvelous opportunity to open its doors to so many bridge players who will be partaking in October of next year. Hopefully, this will not turn into de je vu as India was slated for the 1985 site, but because of predictable visa issues, the late James Ortiz Patino in 1984 saw fit to move the prestigious event to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Similar roadblocks occurred recently with Bali as the designated site. With this troublesome history of ‘unwelcome visitors’ and their difficulty and/or inability to secure visas, I am assuming these issues have been examined with assurances that visas will not be denied to bridge players seeking to play or watch this universal happening.
Fully acknowledging that this is primarily a bridge blogging site about our wonderful game, I am taking poetic license as I cannot dismiss the fact that what I am about to report would never have occurred had I not been a veteran, dyed-in-the-wool bridge disciple (viewed by some as an ‘addict’). I was about to celebrate a ‘big’ birthday on June 12th. Thus, you will understand how overwhelmed and dumbfounded I was when my friend Martha Beecher invited me to lunch four days prior to the actual occasion — which resulted in my casually entering an unusually hushed room (clad in ordinary everyday grubs) at a lovely Summerlin restaurant to tumultuous shouts of ‘Surprise, Surprise.’ I was speechless (a rare occurrence for me) as I found myself in a catatonic state like rigor mortis was setting in. When I recovered, I saw a room overflowing with three dozen of Bobby’s and my closest Las Vegas buddies (AND… my sister and nephew who had flown in from Philadelphia). It was like someone had psyched on me and I didn’t have the foggiest notion I had been set up.
My daughter Robin (who is blessed with Norman’s genes in many areas, including bridge) commutes between Las Vegas and Scottsdale (and sometimes even LA). Her hectic daily routine is replete with many close friends and poker buddies and devotes time as well to her wholesale DVD business. She has forsaken bridge in favor of poker (sad, sad as her dad thought she had what it takes)… but whatever floats her boat is fine with me! Unbeknownst to me, for the last two months, she had been deviously planning my surprise 80th. In fact, these last few weeks she seemed to be working 24/7 and even got testy when I unexpectedly entered the room while she was plotting away at Bobby’s computer. This was unlike the sweet Robin we all know and love. She just wasn’t herself and I was concerned she was in the throes of a breakdown, overwhelmed by the many responsibilities she had taken on. Wrong!! When I gazed upon the entourage last Sunday, I began to understand her anxiety and greatest fear… my stumbling upon the surprise. Her concerns were in vain, trust me. I never suspected a thing!
My nephew Steven, who flew in from Philly for the occasion, opened the shindig by reading a poem (which I confess is a dim memory as I had not recovered from the initial shock). He prefaced his delivery by asking me to close my eyes as another surprise was in store. My sister Deedy surfaced from behind a drape where she had been hiding. Robin hosted and hid Deedy and Steven who had flown in from Philadelphia a couple days before. As I started to regain my senses (and admittedly I was numb for a while), I walked around to greet my guests who had sheepish grins on their faces as Robin had done a number on me. On the tables were three incredibly adorned centerpieces steeped in large black wicker baskets with mirrored tops where over a dozen pronged picks were imbedded in each to support appropriate ornaments and miniature photos of me at all stages of life (covering eight decades). They dramatized significant occasions of my time on earth (including grade school, junior and senior highs, summer camp, college mementos, hobbies, business ventures, my favorite pastimes and more). The latter included amateur show productions, my twenty-year baseball card business, trotter and pacer ownership, blackjack, blogging, bridging… just for starters). One foot high glittery silver markers with the number 80 were prominently emblazoned atop the remembrances. Robin also reproduced my high school graduation yearbook for people to autograph. Would that not all have sufficed, there were flowers and wall posters with pictures, pictures and more pictures. I wouldn’t blame my guests if they were sick of looking at my face before I even made my grand appearance.
A delicious leisure lunch was served and the show was about to begin. Robin had confiscated not only the pictures… but raided my storage room for copies of lyrics from several amateur shows I had penned for family and friends over a forty-year period, re-worded them to reflect my interests and escapades — updating them to capture Judy Kay-Wolff in 2014. Every song was heralded by a rousing applause as the professional singer and piano player made it reminiscent of a Broadway production which went on for about twenty-minutes. Missing, of course, was Norman (who was a big part of the early productions) and my son Larry who lives on the East Coast. Bobby enjoyed the show… but for a moment we were concerned as he was MIA. He was unfamiliar with the location of the restaurant so he stealthily followed (at a fair distance behind) the car with Martha at the wheel and me as the passenger. His aptitude for directions is not as good as his bridge prowess and somehow he found himself ahead of Martha (whom originally he was tailing)… but eventually showed up a moment after us… with a silly look on his face as the surprise was perfected.
Hold everything… there’s more. Robin also wrote to family and friends from out of town who sent (addressed to her) emails, discs, letters, poems which recounted marvelous, hilarious stories I had long forgotten. Eventually, everything will go into a scrapbook. The magnificence of the many floral arrangements sent across the miles likened my living room to a mortuary… although undeniably nicer to enjoy their fragrances as I live and breathe… rather than as a tribute in the hereafter.
The ‘sweetest’ memento I have saved for last: A personalized Hershey Chocolate Bar. The purple wrapper featured a photo of a curly haired youngster, clad in a short navy coat with a white pique collar, taken on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City… sometime in the mid 1930′s. The front side bore the words ‘Almost 80 — JUDY IS Still a Babe!” Most guests were seen munching on the candy as they said their goodbyes. A few moments ago, as I was checking the exact wording, one of the bars fell off the table and landed on its back. As I picked it up, I accidentally caught a glimpse of the reverse side. It was better than the front. Robin creatively altered the cautionary health information. It said: “Nutrition Facts: Total Fat: Does it really matter? It’s Judy’s Birthday!!” followed by “Sodium: Enough to make you thirsty for more cake.” and concluding with “Protein: What’s that?”
An afternoon I will never forget .. until the dementia sets in.
of the year is June 21st and the ACBL has joined forces again with The Alzheimer’s Association to help raise money to continue to seek a cure for those suffering from this devastating disease. It is about forming a team made up of friends with a common interest .. be it swimming, dancing, hiking, tennis, poker … whatever!! You can read about the event all over the Internet and in the ACBL Monthly Bulletin .. but more helpful would be your participation or contribution. I am proud to say that one of our local Las Vegas Bridge Clubs, The Bridge Club of Henderson, under the auspices of Dixie Sue Allsbrook (702-499-3238) and Carol Warren, is sponsoring this heartwarming happening and local bridge players can participate. There will be three events in which to play: Open Pairs (10 a.m.); Newcomers (2 p.m.); Swiss Teams (6 p.m.). The cost is $10 per player. You can sign up on line by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Bobby and I are playing and hope to see many of our friends this coming Saturday. It is a wonderful cause and I can attest to it from a sad personal experience. My mother, who was a vital, vibrant, bright, creative, beautiful woman was diagnosed with ‘arteriosclerosis.’ at age 60 and was debilitated by the disease for twenty years. Call it what you want .. hardening of the arteries, dementia, Alzheimer’s. It has the same ravaging effect on a normally healthy, productive individual and hopefully one day a cure will be found. Check to learn if there is a participating club near you. YOU can help .. participate or donate!!