Bridge Developments

Mini-Mckenney me.
Mini-Mckenney me.

I accidentally shrank the pictures. Oops. I’m going to run with is for a moment. Yesterday Burt and I popped down to Butte to play Bridge with our home club. It was our first time playing in Butte. When we joined the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) we were in Virginia. Our friend Kevin O’Brien recommended we join. In Virginia membership gave us discounted and even free games because we were beginners. They know how to groom new Bridge addicts in some areas. So we signed up under Kevin’s club but we weren’t under his unit. The ACBL uses our Clancy, MT address and it would be normal to assign Clancy residents to Helena but somehow we got Butte. So Butte became our club of record. I never paid it any mind.

Burt and I have gone on our merry way playing Bridge hither and yon for almost two years since Kevin signed us up. Most games we play are in Mexico but for new players we have a lot of mileage. So far we’ve in addition to our Todos Santos unit we’ve hit California, Oregon, Washington, South Carolina, Arizona, Montana, and Virginia. We tried to find games in Spain and Italy but language barriers made the internet sites indecipherable. Then came the phone call. Last year I received a call from a person asking me why I was signed up as a member of the Butte 406 Unit. I said (this is true) I had no idea I was a member of the Butte unit. This person was peeved. How could I not know? I told her the ACBL must have put us in Butte because our address is in Clancy. She asked me to consider switching to Helena’s club. I told her we never played in Helena either and so it wasn’t worth the effort. I explained we traveled full time and it wasn’t worth picking a different club. Click. I was stunned by the short, terse conversation. What was the big deal? Butte gets a portion of our dues. I figured they’d be happy to have money from absentee players.

Now I know why this was so touchy. I was winning the local points race for my skill level and nobody knew who I was. I’d edged out the locals in a masterpoints race. The Mini-McKenney is an intra-club stratified competition. They who earn the most points for their strata in a year win. The local Mini-McKenney prize was going to a mystery lady that had never played a hand in their club. I wouldn’t like that much myself. In my defense, I had no idea I was in some race for points. I found this out when I met a Butte player in the local regional tournament here in Helena a few weeks ago. This woman was very happy to make our acquaintance when I said, “Hey, we’re members of your club.”¬† She lit up and said, “I know who you are!” Bev took out her phone and called up the ACBL web site and showed me I was the winner of a points race in Butte for beginner players. She thought they gave the prize to someone else. I said, “That seems fair.”

Yesterday was the once a month Sunday game in Butte. After Bev’s warm welcome and a follow-up email with an invitation to come play, Burt and I decided it was time to meet our people. We took the hour drive to Butte and arrived just in time to sit down. We tried to get there earlier but road construction slowed the trip. I wasn’t in my chair two minutes when I was awarded the medal for the 0 to 5 points Mini-Mckenney. No ceremony, no words, just the draping of the medal around my neck while I sat at the table. Butte saved the prize for me. What a shock. Thank you, Butte. Thank you, Burt. And thank you Todos Santos Bridge Beauties for all the excellent games this winter. With all of your support I’m in the lead to win the 6 to 20 medal this year. I better knuckle down and stay focused.

Yesterday’s game was a nice round for us. We came in second in our flight and fifth overall. We both know what went wrong and were pleased to not embarrass ourselves our first trip home.

It's so cute?
Isn’t it cute?
0 - 5 MP
0 – 5 MP
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You know your host is bach-ing it when…

Partially eaten dessert.
Partially eaten dessert.

A couple of days ago we played some Bridge with Norm and Howard. Norm is the guy that started us playing. We’re grateful to him for taking us on as a project. To thank him for his help Burt made dinner. Norm’s a bachelor this month. His wife is visiting her 93 year old mother in Sweden. Roxanne does most of the cooking. Norm says she left him a bunch of pre-made meals but he can’t find them. Talk about helpless. After a few hours of cards Burt whipped out some fish Vera Cruz. The cards were okay but dinner was very good. A fresh fish in tomato and orange and olive sauce over brown rice. Beet salad was on the side. Immediately after eating Howard, Burt, and I bade Norm good night. It had been a long day. Half way down the driveway we heard Norm yelling. “Wait, wait…I forgot I have dessert! I have a danish, and a half a donut, and a piece of cake with three bites out of it.” Unable to resist such a tempting offer the three of us turned around to see. How could we resist such salesmanship? Much to our surprise Norm had accurately described his dessert offering. There it was. A half a donut. A danish. And a piece of cake with three bites previously removed. The fork marks were still visible.

Signalling in Bridge is illegal. This means loser.
Signaling in Bridge is illegal. This means I am a loser.
Huntsman spider at Bridge. Notice the flat egg sac and perhaps her boyfriend.
Huntsman spider at Bridge. Notice the flat egg sac and perhaps her boyfriend.
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On the UP side

Did Our Lady hear my prayers?
Did Our Lady hear my prayers?

Burt is off to San Juanico today. While he and the family and a few others try to catch some waves I am here holding down the goat pen. San Juanico is about 5 hours north of here. It’s a small, dusty town known for horrendous winds and long, long waves. If the waves hold and the wind isn’t too bad I’ll drive up on my own Wednesday to meet them. Meanwhile I am responsible for feeding the dogs and Mimi and myself. Tonight a wrangled a dinner invitation from April (she’s gotten over being falsely accused of dogknapping). Today flew by in a miasma of bridge. Every hand seemed disastrous but in the end Roxy and I tied for second place out of 6 teams. Roxy pretty much carried us and I pretty much didn’t make epic mistakes. In 25 hands we only landed at the bottom 4 times. I’m not sure how. Of course this is only adding to the pressure to keep playing. I was feeling¬† ambivalent about the game after a last place finish Saturday and then this happened. Time to eat. Ciao.

My regular partner.
My regular partner.
Cardon Cactus Fruit.
Cardon Cactus Fruit.
Prissy's family
Prissy’s family
Priscilla's 60th Birthday Party
Priscilla’s 60th Birthday Party
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Oh the indignity…

Cape Spiny Tailed Iguana
Cape Spiny Tailed Iguana

Spring is in the air. Yesterday the reptiles decided it was time to wake up. In less than 24 hours I have spotted four Cape Spiny Tailed Iguanas. I hadn’t seen one in the previous two months. Love is in the air. These iguanas are believed to be descendants of iguanas imported to Baja from the mainland by Seri Indians thousands of years ago. The Seri ate iguanas. Some Baja locals still do. These lizards can reach nearly three feet in length but they are now rarely seen much bigger than 16″ because people still eat them. As a food source they are wary of people and I can rarely get close enough for a good photograph. I think yesterday I saw four because they are still wiping the dust out of their eyes from the winter hibernation. Another cool fact: this lizard dens in old woodpecker holes in the large Cardon cacti.

Yesterday’s bridge game was smooth. I made only a few catastrophic mistakes, mistakes big enough to elicit gasps and smug smiles or down turned frowns. Duplicate Bridge has teams of people all playing the same hands. Teams can compare scores afterwards and everyone gets ranked based on what they did with the hands they were dealt. If you under bid a powerful hand you might do worse than a person that overbid and was set only a trick or two. My partner was very supportive and genuinely had an upbeat attitude but I was dealt all the big hands. My cards had way more power than I could handle. The irony of Bridge is that most beginners pray for a bad hand so they can pass and hope their partner does all the work. Failure to exploit your power in Duplicate Bridge makes you a loser even when you win. The more you bid and successfully make the more you earn. Scoring is nearly exponential. Since I am a timid beginner I didn’t bid my good hands high enough and we didn’t score as well as we could. But I played okay. It takes time to build confidence.

Meanwhile, over on another team my SOB, crazy, reckless, nearly insane husband was playing with decorum. He was quiet and focused (who is that guy?) and tried to apply what he had learned. He never got a hand close to as powerful as the hands I was dealt (not everyone gets every hand) but he and his partner, played their cards better. He and Jana got forth place (out of 7 teams). Tori and I came in last. Boo hoo. I wouldn’t even care except Burt beat me. Very irritating.

The last laugh before the game.
The last laugh before the game.
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