Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Bridge Weekend

"The real test of a bridge player isn't in keeping out of trouble, but in escaping once he's in."

I started playing bridge in the spring of 2001 when I was studying abroad in Scotland. I was there with my friends Paul, Andi, and Alyssa, and we were looking for something to do one night. "Do you guys want to play bridge?" Paul innocently asked. And we never looked back.

We played everywhere. In pubs, on trains, in hostels, but mostly in the common room of my dorm (David Russell Hall or DRH as those in the know would call it). Chris came to visit us for a week or so in the spring and we brought him into the fold. We took our little bridge club back to the States with us, and that's how I met Selvi and Sarah; they lived on the same hall as Andi and Alyssa and would come hang out in the Old Dominion common area at William and Mary when we would get together and play.

We added even more people to the group; Eric and Pete from the concert band, who helped us carry on the club when most everyone else graduated in 2002. I stayed for law school and we brought in Kristin and Jennifer my roommate to keep the club going. I can't remember how often we would meet, but it was at least once a week and usually involved heavy drinking of some kind. Which meant our scores and strategy were somewhat fast and loose. Just like your Mom. Oh, did I mention the your Mom jokes??

But as these things tend to happen, we all started drifting away from one another. People got married and moved, it became harder and harder to get four people in the same room to play in person and life kept getting in the way of playing online in the evenings. So we finally decided to do something about it. We rallied the troops, picked a weekend and a point on the map in between, and agreed to meet up for a weekend of fun and well-mannered frivolity. Well, perhaps not that well-mannered.

"Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand." 

Since we had 10 people getting together and needed room enough to actually play, we decided to rent a house in the Massanutten ski resort off I-81 in Virginia near Luray Caverns. It was perfect; enough bedrooms for everyone, a hot tub, a large dining room table, and a card table and folding chairs. And since we had 8 players, we had just enough people to get two games going.

Of course seeing everyone (Paul, his wife Anna, Andi and her husband Jeff, Selvi, Chris, Kent, Eric, and Doug) was the real highlight, I was a bit worried that we would get there and people would just want to sit around and not much bridge-playing would happen. Well, it turns out I was half-right; there was a lot of sitting around but that's because we were playing bridge all weekend! From the moment we had four people who were awake and in the same room until around 2 in the morning, bridge was happening. Sure we took breaks for food, the hot tub, and to watch the Olympics, but for the most part it was all bridge, all the time. And it was AWESOME.

We kept score best we could, but all the games were fluid with people changing partners constantly and moving from table to table. Basically, we were giant bridge sluts. But it kept things interesting and it gave everyone a chance to play with everyone else. Over the years we had cemented certain partnerships: for example, first me and Andi and then me and Chris, but everyone was fair game this weekend!

"We had a partnership misunderstanding. My partner assumed I knew what I was doing."

All in all, it was too much fun to make it a one-time thing. At the very least it will become a yearly tradition, but I think we could shoot for every six months. And if you want to get in on the fun, it's never too late to learn! The actual play of bridge is very similar to spades, the only real difference is that the trump suit can change based on bidding that takes place before the playing starts. Of course, you never really learn all the tricks of the trade. Just remember: points above the line don't count. 

 The scene of the crime, Moccasin Lodge

 In the hot tub! From left to right, Selvi, Me, Eric, Doug, Paul, Anna, and Chris

 Two tables of bridge at once!

 Group photo!

Me and Anna in the hot tub haze.

On the Radio

Ever since I was a little kid, I've spent my mornings here in DC  listening to the Jack Diamond Morning Show on MIX 107.3. They used to air a "best of the Jack Diamond" show on Saturday mornings, and we would listen to it in the car when my Dad would pick us up from my Mom's for the weekend. So let's just say that me and Jack go way back. Though he is completely unaware of our lifelong connection.

There have been a lot of changes to DC radio in the decades since then. See ya, 99.1, WHFS! It was nice knowing you, Billy Bush! But Jack Diamond always remains the same...and I have listened to him for around 20 years or so.

Every Friday, the Jack Diamond show brings in a live audience (of about 10 people) for Free 4 All Friday. It's always been one of the things I wanted to do, but never seemed to get around to actually calling in to get the tickets, taking the day off, and getting off my ass and doing it. But this past week, I knew I was going to have Friday off (since I was headed out of town for a bridge club reunion...more about that later) and I wasn't going to have to leave until noon. I decided the time was right, and I was ready to be on the radio!

It was way easier to get tickets than I expected; I called Monday morning and told the nice lady who answered how I really wanted to come in for Free 4 All Friday and had been a long time listener. She took my name, age, and email and put me on the list. And that, as they say, was that. And since I am not ever one to go it alone, my friend Chris was along for the ride.

The first instruction we were given was the hardest: we had to be at the studio by 5:15 am. This is, after all, a morning show, which meant that my alarm went off at 3:30 in the morning. I went to bed early the night before to try to get about 6 hours of sleep, but I have to confess I was so excited that I don't think I got more than 3. Still, I was up and out of the house to get Chris by 4:30 and we made it to the studio up near Tenleytown with time to spare. Then we sat in the building lobby until 5:30 when Brooke, who does the traffic on the show, came down and brought us up!

The offices for the station are smaller than I thought (at least as far as we could see).We went right into the recording studio where the gang (Brooke, Ali, and Jimmy Alexander) were all ready and waiting. Unfortunately Jack Diamond himself was not in attendance; he was sick and getting ready to go on vacation. There was some disappointment, but everyone was so nice and funny, that we all had a great time.

In the recording studio!

There were 10 people in the "audience" that morning and everyone was very nice. Maybe it was the early hour, but some people seemed to have really low energy, but you guys know me. I basically took it upon myself to get everyone chatting and excited, and before too long we were getting the "quiet down" signal from Jimmy when we were coming back from commercial. break. We can't have the audience taking over the show!

And the best part was, Chris and I actually made it on the show! Chris got to play the Agree/Disagree game on the air and won a $50 giftcard to the new casino in Anne Arundel, and I got a chance to tell a story about "the craziest thing I ever saw." I self-censored and told a story about a deer trying to leap over a car*, since I figured stories about drug use in Amsterdam were not going to go over well on a family-friendly morning show. Just to clarify: it would have been a story about someone else's drug use, not mine. But still. Methinks shrooms and morning radio are not the best combination.

Chris waiting to play Agree/Disagree

I think because Jack wasn't around there was less on air chit chat between the other hosts and the audience, and more music. But that meant more chances for us to talk with the hosts during songs and at commercial breaks. Everyone was just really fun, wanted to know about the people in the audience, and happy talking. We stuck around until 9:00 and then were set free for the rest of the day. Oh, and did I mention they had most excellent catering from a local restaurant? Definitely worth getting up at 3:30 in the morning! And you're not going to hear me say that about a lot of things.

Oh, and I almost forgot the best part. Everyone in the audience gets a "goody bag" that included concert tickets and other fun stuff. But one person wins a Grand Prize...and it was me! I got a free overnight stay at the Anne Arundel casino (on the executive level, ooh la la), two free tickets to the buffet, and $50 in free slots play. SCORE.

All in all, it was a really fun morning and I hope I get the chance to go back and see the show again...and this time meet Jack Diamond!

 Me and Chris with the morning show gang: Brooke, Ali, and Jimmy. And yes, those are Maryland flag shorts. No accounting for taste.

* Here's the entire crazy story about the deer: I was driving to my Mom's house which is a pretty wooded area of Alexandria. While on one of the main streets, a fawn suddenly darted into the road but managed to avoid the long line of cars. The fawn was followed immediately by Mama Deer, who made the decision to jump over a station wagon that was driving in front of me; she almost cleared it, but ended up getting clipped on the hip by the station wagon's luggage rack (stupid luggage rack) and flipped over the entire car landing on the other side of the road. It was like Olympic gymnast level of flipping. The deer just got up and ran off, and all the drivers were left looking at each other with a "the hell?" expression before continuing our drive.