Bridge Road Warriors: Italy

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I have made every effort this past week to be worthy of that “Good Fork” title, and my friend Paolo Clair insists that if I resided in Italy, I would double in size. Photo: Dr Donna Wood and Lorenzo Tombola

Dr Donna Wood and Lorenzo Tombola
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21:01 25 November 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent
Miles Adkins

Miles Adkins

 “If you not give your opponent an opportunity to make a mistake, he never will”  Lieutenant Miles Adkins, USA Army

 Miles Adkins led a very full life.  A war hero in Korea as a company commander after a battlefield promotion, Miles was an exceptionally accomplished wheat farmer in Central Washington State. A Platinum Lifemaster, Miles was a quiet, but fierce competitor, always ready for a tough match. I was proud to be his partner for the last six full years of his tournament life, winning many of them despite his suffering a stroke that slowed him down. When he left this plain of existence in 2011, more people than I could count lost a great friend.
Dr Wood

Dr Wood

 
Another admirable trait of Miles’ was the speed with which we sought libations and sustenance after the day’s bridge battles were done. Both of us had definite opinions on food, but we would always find some place to dine. These meals we enjoyed in a manner that would make any restaurant proud. The Italians appreciatively say someone is “a good fork”, Miles certainly earned that designation with high honors.
 
I have made every effort this past week to be worthy of that “Good Fork” title,  and my friend Paolo Clair insists that if I resided in Italy, I would double in size. Never fear, I cannot afford another wardrobe. However, I am pleased – and admittedly somewhat surprised – to say that the most consistent restaurant that Dr Donna Wood and myself experienced all week was the one one that makes its home in the Circolo Padova Bridge.
 
Our favorite meal happened Sunday Evening when Paolo Clair’s beautiful wife Antonella prepared an excellent dinner. We are thankful for abilities in the kitchen. Another great new friend we acquired is Lorenzo Tombola, a true patron of the game and an excellent dinner companion.
Perfect Pasta with Clams and Zucchini from Do Forni in Venice

Perfect Pasta with Clams and Zucchini from Do Forni in Venice

         So as we make our way back to San Diego, we thank Paola, Lorenzo, Guisy, Carla, and so many others for their exceptional hospitality. We would have stayed longer, but the Great American Bridge Tour heads to Phoenix on the 27th of November, leaving us less than two days to prepare.

00:20 24 November 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent

CS Lewis

CS Lewis

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement” – CS Lewis

We spent another delightful day at theCircolo Padova Bridge, as Dr Donna Wood and I competed in a special memorial tournament. Our presence guaranteed many players some measure of success, as we were both not good and unlucky – critical ingredients for a less than stellar performance. Yet we still enjoyed the company of our peers, celebrated their success and tipped a glass or two. We look forward to exacting some measure of revenge tomorrow, however.

Club Restaurante

Club Restaurante

Our time in Italy has been exceptionally well spent, as we have enjoyed the company of many fine people who own a sincere passion for the game. Participating in tournaments at a location with a full service drinking establishment is an additional benefit, not to mention that the excellent restaurant located within the facility is worthy of this fine club and we have enjoyed several excellent meals there.

Dont Look at Me in That Tone of Voice

Dont Look at Me in That Tone of Voice

The topic of discussion at one point today touched on the difficulties faced by partnerships comprised of two family members – married, siblings, parent – child and the like. When I have taken on the role of partnership counselor, I recommend studying the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, the great writer who passed away 50 years ago this past 22 November. An entertaining read written as a Demon instructing his nephew on the art of recruiting souls for the Netherworld, it is a remarkably funny and insightful text on how not to have a relationship. I have selected two passages from Letter #3 that all long term bridge partnerships might benefit from reading. I know that I have to peruse these from time to time in order to maintain my own sense of humor. The following discourse relates to an adult son and his mother:

 3. When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy – if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.

We have all certainly witnessed this, as we leave a table bemused by our personal observations of our irritated opponents behavior.

4. In civilised life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would appear quite harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the face. To keep this game up you and Glubose (author’s note – the other demon working on the mother. GSJB) must see to it that each of these two fools has a sort of double standard. Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the fullest and most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or very nearly convinced, that they are quite innocent. You know the kind of thing: “I simply ask her what time dinner will be and she flies into a temper.” Once this habit is well established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things with the express purpose of offending and yet having a grievance when offence is taken.”

Here I am reminded of a situation at my club in Boston some years ago where one partner inquired “No, Hearts?” and his brother shouted “You never think I know what I am looking at!”

A moment passed and then he continued sotto voce. “Oh, sorry, I do have one”.

Just another day at the bridge club of life.


12:27 22 November 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent

 “You can’t get there from here” – Old Down East Maine saying.

Padova streets

Padova streets

It is easy to lose your way in European cities, the streets are rarely straight and frequently poorly signed. Italy has been an exception, for the most part – since I have had good local maps, I have known almost immediately that I am headed the wrong way.

Bennett Murder Trial

Bennett Murder Trial

 Bridge auctions have the same kind of threat, with many players who have a sense of impending doom when faced with particular types of hands.The hands where you do not have a fit for Partner, but have too little to force to game and too much not to invite. Hands where the opponents preempt and you have a suit too good not to bid, but too few high cards to take any action safely. It does happen to everybody, it is just that more experienced athletes do not look frightened. Besides nobody dies if you get it wrong…though there was that incident in Kansas City back in 1929, but Myrtle was not convicted of the murder of her partner/husband. (See Bennett bridge murder for all the details).

 One time at my club I had a player come down to the last two cards in her hand as she was declaring 6. She was on lead holding the 53 doubleton of Hearts facing the 72 doubleton of Hearts. I informed her after nearly five minutes that she needed to play a card.

“If I lead now I am going to go down!”

 “I promise, Mary, if you wait another 30 years, you are still going to go down”.

 We all hate looking bad, we all hate failure in ourselves, but to succeed in this game, you just have to accept it and play on. Perhaps the next hand you will look great!.

 And speaking of great, we had another marvelous day in Italy:

Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

 A pleasant chill in the air greeted us upon our arrival at the Venezia San Lucia Rail Station in Venice. Our host and splendid travel coordinator, Paolo Clair, arranged for two of the bridge community locals to guide us to the water shuttle and on to the Piazza San Marco. Venice is a maze of alleys, piazzas, canals and bridges, but with the help of Venice Tournament Director, Guisy Di Dio and her friend Pupa, our adventures did not include the usual hour and a half of getting lost. Again, Paolo Clair provided for his charges with these two excellent guides.

Caffe Florian

Caffe Florian

After treating us to espresso and brioche at the historic Caffe Florian, they headed to the local bridge game and sent us out on our own. We had a great time picking our way through the city, walking the streets and perusing the shops while enjoying the warming sun of the afternoon – taking time out for the occasional cappuccino, of course. We heard the language of at least twenty different nations as tour groups large and small were efficiently directed by their escorts, scurrying from one site to another with frequent stops for the more exclusive buying opportunities that a fair number of merchants provide. Venice certainly attracts people from the world over.

Do Forni

Do Forni

 Our day in Venice became complete as we dined at a great restaurant named Do Forni. The mussels were amazing and we thank Pippo Montanari for his efforts arranging an introduction to Pasquale, the Maitre ‘d of this marvelous establishment. Try the Blueberry Grappa, truly excellent.

 With many good thoughts of the day, we headed back to Padova, where we discussed bridge over coffee and plan for the tournament at the Circolo Padova Bridge tomorrow.   


15:50 21 November 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent

Voltaire

Voltaire

 “Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity” – Voltaire

We saw an ancient arena yesterday in Verona. We have visited the market areas of Padova. We walked the streets of ancient times in various beautiful small towns and villages of the Veneto area of the country. We have seen beautiful architecture, art and dined at wonderful Italian restaurants.

 Most importantly, we have made many more friends through bridge.

Donna Wood

Donna Wood

   
Carla Pagnini

Carla Pagnini

Circolo Padova Bridge

Circolo Padova Bridge

The Circolo Padova Bridge is a truly beautiful center of the bridge community of the city. A very old structure that has beautiful, open playing space; an excellent restaurant and, of course, a well stocked bar.

Paolo Clair

 Paolo Clair has made our visit beyond special. A superb player in addition to his roles of Board member for the Italian NBO, Committee member for Juniors with the EBL, and Secretary for the World Bridge Federation Junior Committee; Paolo continues to teach High School in Padova. He has revealed many of the joys in this area of Italy, ensuring that not only has our travel been eventful, but educational and fun! As a partner, he is thoughtful and strong, and my session with him was delightful.

We have had many meals with the local players, especially with Carla and Lucas who have hosted us at different times while we ate entirely too much… not that I am complaining, for in fact my job as Co – Host of the syndicated radio show America’s Dining and Travel Guide with Pierre Wolfe and GS Jade Barrett requires some sacrifice. I must sample many wines, cheese and meals or I would disappoint our audience.

I am accompanied on this journey by Tournament Bridge Services , LLC Director of Operations Dr Donna Wood (née Lombardini), who acts as translator, bridge partner and sharer of many courses – she does not eat much, so I save us from shame and finish what she cannot.

What are co-workers for, if not to share the burden?


16:59  18 November 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent

Winged Victory

“It will never fly” – frequent quote when looking at Winged Victory

Due to the late addition of a tournament to the Great American Bridge Tour schedule, I found myself jumping through a few hoops on this week’s journey.

Beginning with a two hour drive from Maryland’s Eastern Peninsula to Reagan National Airport (broken up by the hour I spent co-hosting America’s Dining and Travel Guide ); flew down to Atlanta from Reagan, where after a few anxious moments waiting over a weather delay, I boarded for the four and a half hour flight to LAX.

Paolo Clair

After nearly three hours, I arrived in San Diego to take another five hour flight back to JFK airport in NYC where I connected to the seven hour flight to Milan, Italy. After landing in Italy, I only needed three more hours of rail travel and a short taxicab ride to arrive in at my final destination – Padua, Italy, home of my friend Paolo Clair, excellent player and fine director. Total time in travel: 37:25.

My friends think that the life of a professional traveler is glamorous. 

Milan Centrali Train Station

Along my travels, I had to admire the architecture of the Milan Centrali train station – beautiful tile, beautiful frescoes, interesting exterior stone work. The new Delta International Terminal #4 at JFK has a beautiful new SkyClub, complete with showers, and I was happy to take advantage of them. San Diego also has a new extension to Terminal 1 (complete with an indoor pet relief area) and it has become a much more user friendly airport. The air travel is still too much hassle, with different airports interpreting the TSA regulations a little differently in each locale. While there has been much improvement, the lack of consistency is frustrating to the frequent traveler.

The amount of travel associated with my career as a player includes over 1.6 million miles (2,56 million KM) in the air, well over 1 million miles of driving and another 60,000+ of water and rail transport. Of the four types, I prefer rail the best, though it is not a feasible form when you need to cover over a thousand miles in sixteen or less hours.

Rail not only provides me the opportunity to sightsee, but also rest, as I find sleeping on a plane nearly impossible. Additionally, I have made many fine acquaintances among the rail passengers, more than a few have become lifelong friends.

But right now I will study the inside of my eyelids.

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