The Many Faces/Phases of Bridge
When I reflect on earlier times, it becomes a mirage as I must confess I have had a many-faceted existence. Like most fortunate kids .. it encompassed a devoted family, wonderful friends, grade school/high school and then college. Before my final semester at Temple University in 1956, I attended Columbia University one summer and an encounter from fifty-one years ago I indelibly remember. On my way to class, I heard screaming and witnessed four fellows card-tossing at each other in the college square; and when I inquired what they were doing, they casually replied with a smile: “Playing bridge.” Really? Coincidentally when I returned to the dorm, I met a lovely girl from Florida and being a Scrabble addict, asked if she played bridge and described my earlier experience with the maniacal card players. Her reply was negative but we made a tradeoff. She agreed to tell me about bridge and I taught her how to play Scrabble. These earlier introductions to our wonderful game were unlike my later experiences with my mother’s friends assembling every week, stuffing their mouths with all sorts of goodies, gossiping and playing some kind of unrecognizable game. In fact, I recall an occasion when my mother was on vacation and I was asked to fill in at one of their weekly get-togethers. Knowing how frustrating it could be to find a fourth, I sympathized and succumbed. It was a fun evening. However, I did learn something from that experience. At one point, when my partner bid 4C, and since it was a social forum, I asked if she used Gerber. After a long pause, she quizzically frowned and blurted out. “No, we use another plumber. Gerber is far too expensive.” Amazing what one can learn at a bridge table. It was quite an enlightening three hours. After college, I went to Junto (the learning Center in Philadelphia) where I enrolled in a bridge course which introduced me to yet another kind of bridge and I became mesmerized and played socially with friends, attended neighborhood games, tournaments .. and eventually the Nationals. That became the world with which I was enamored for over six decades and I thank God to have been so blessed.
Here it is .. 2017 .. and I happily confess our unique game has enriched my life in so many directions, it is hard to count the ways (and ‘counting’ at my age is not as automatic as it was way back then).
When Norman and I married in 1963 and he continued attending nationals, I was busy tending to our youngsters (like siblings — born eleven months apart). But .. after a bit that changed as I was not the proverbial ‘stay at-home’ mom and suggested (convincingly) that we hire the children’s original nurse for our tri-annual jaunts to the NABCs.. and never looked back. Besides bridge, Norman and I found others distractions .. all much easier for me than our beloved game.
We became horse owners (trotters and pacers). Whenever we raced (once or twice a week), whether Philadelphia, New York, Delaware, New Jersey or even Canada, we rarely missed watching our horses perform. Two neighborhood couples formed an alliance with us and we rented a ‘box’ at the local racetrack. It didn’t break us .. but we didn’t get rich either. Sometimes breaking even is good. Got to meet many of the famous international racers and was a good night-time diversion as our children were growing up.
At one point, our young son (a sports devotee) wanted to attend a local baseball card show. He asked us to “buy (rent)” a table, so we obliged. He had good vibes, was enthusiastic and successful, but the timing was bad as soon after our sports card introduction, he discovered girls! Although we made a little money with the earlier shows at which we set up, we found ourselves abandoned and encumbered with a batch of merchandise so we continued reducing inventory, intending to put it behind us. But, that never came to pass until twenty years later (for which we had no regrets). It was so exciting (with both Norman and I being sports freaks), we enjoyed the dealers and customers we met and became licensed as Kay’s Baseball Cards. It went on successfully (mostly locally or an hour drive) — working out of the house at first and then moved to an office/warehouse, ending up with six employees (relatives or close friends). Thus, it was more fun than work; but in 1997 when (as many things do), the hobby turned sour. we sold off much of our remaining merchandise, closed shop and returned to the house, where the hobby originated .. selling some on line and gave the rest to our son. It was very exciting period of our lives. Perhaps one of the reasons was .. our involvement purchasing and displaying a large variety of photos of great sports personalities (a huge seller) afforded us stimulating exposure to so many legendary stars who appeared (and often when the promoter felt the day was slowing down, he offered us autographs at half the going rate, so we did well selling them at future shows and on line as well). But the most fun was getting to hobnob with loads of world famous talented sports figures .. Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams .. just to name a few of hundreds. I must interrupt to add that of all things, they ALSO held a National Sports Show annually where dozens of celebrities appeared during the week. To be perfectly candid, several acted like real hotshots, but many were warm and down to earth. Among the good guys were Yaz, Ozzie Smith, Richie Ashburn, Timmy McCarver, Brooks Robinson and quite a few others who would chat as they personally autographed whatever it was .. be it be a book, a photograph or even a program. It was intriguing to be personally involved with these delightful individuals, if only for a moment or two. Incidentally, I later learned from Bobby there are oodles of universal celebrities who share our love of the game. You’d be surprised. More on that later on. With the exception of the three NABCs or a world championship (on occasion), we rarely took a weekend off from our regularly scheduled sports regimen in all those years. Busy, busy, busy. So, with my various dabblings in other arenas over time, I didn’t have to be a brain surgeon to realize that THE HIGH LEVEL GAME OF BRIDGE .. IS UNTO ITSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
When Norman and I married in 1963, I was a ‘bridge player” .. of sorts. A huge overbid, for sure. I was dazzled by kibitzing Norman and Edgar (whose partnership lasted successfully forty three years (with a two year break before we met) .. and nary a nasty or critical word was exchanged. Amazing! Early in our marriage, I mostly watched and gleaned so much which was foreign to me earlier. I was dazzled by the many superstars I got to know. In fact, when Goren (a good friend of Norman’s) journeyed by train from New York and arrived at our marriage ceremony, his unexpected appearance shut the yapping mouths of my mother’s bridge crowd who always ribbed her, asking why Judy can’t “find a guy.” She apologetically replied. “Where can she meet someone when she travels with that Circus every week!.” In case you didn’t catch it, you guys are the ‘Circus’ to which she alluded. However, it was worth the wait. Our merger lasted 39 years until his death in 2002 after a short illness. It was a wondrous experience and I was relieved he was not in pain and was satisfied to remain widowed with cherished memories at 69, not seeking a replacement. But you know how it goes. One cannot determine what God has in store. What a ‘shocker’ when Bobby Wolff called me with a few words of condolence after he learned of Norman’s death. I almost dropped the phone as he hadn’t said hello to me in forty years, although he and Norman spent time together at dozens of tournaments at the Nationals discussing sports. His contacting me was a nice endeavor (totally ignoring me earlier), so when he won the right to represent the country in Monaco in the late fall of 2003, I courteously/casually emailed him a note of congratulations to return his kind gesture. Too much to recant as the details are common knowledge with the bridge entourage. I didn’t take long after our first face-to-face dinner encounter in Los Angeles and non-stop emails became the order of business the next few weeks, followed by our visiting one another a couple of times. I ended up joining him in Monaco (after my acceptance of his proposal by phone). We were wed on Pearl Harbor Day that year (another day that will live in infamy) and here we are, married over thirteen years and loving Las Vegas. Getting it right twice is an enormous understatement although I have converted from stringent KS (forgive me, dear Edgar) to loose-as-a-goose Bobby Wolff; however, when it works (and I can remember all his various ingenious nuances), I don’t complain. But, bear in mind .. octogenarians don’t absorb like they once did.
I began this blog a few weeks ago which gives you some idea of my earlier perceptions. I had to stop and catch my breath as life has whizzed by so fast .. but I want to share with you more of my delightful interludes which would have escaped me had it not been for this damn game. Later!
Back to the bridge chaos!