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A Pause To Reflect

  by Richard Pavlicek

Thanks to everyone who participated in my six-year series of polls and contests, especially those who provided comments, and the regulars who kept me on my toes. Reminiscent of Agatha Christie, and then there were three: a special thanks to Charles Blair (Urbana, Illinois), Bill Cubley (San Leandro, California), and Meelis Tiitson (Estonia), the only persons to enter all 72 events. Little did I realize that what began as a whim in September of 2000 would continue for six years.

It seems a long way back, but I can’t help but recall some of the coincidences and ominous happenings. Indeed, I sometimes wondered if I might be possessed with extrasensory power. Well, hardly. My teachers often said my homework made no sense, so extra sense must be out of the question. Anyway, if you’ve got a moment to spare, drift back with me as I pause to reflect.

Como Esta?

The May 2001 bidding poll was the first instance of a bizarre occurrence. I titled the event, “Catch a Falling Star,” after the song made famous by Perry Como, as a clue to the location of Como, Italy. Curiously, the song became a #1 Hit the same year (1958) as the tournament, so it was the perfect choice. All was going fine until I heard the shocking news that Perry Como died during my poll (May 12, 2001) — and in Florida, only 50 miles from where I live. Is that eerie, or what? I swear, I never touched him! This left me dazed for the rest of the month, but surely it was just a coincidence. Nonetheless, I had great reservations about my choice to use Sean Connery for my James Bond theme in June. Was his life on the line, too? Whew! He made it! My concern may have been unjustified; Goldfinger and countless others couldn’t eliminate ‘007’ so why should I be the first.


Bridge players are accustomed to the number 13, as it’s the sum of all hand and suit patterns. Fear of the number is almost unheard of in the bridge world, although some of my students have made me wonder. Was it a coincidence that the tragic September 2001 attack on our country came during my 13th event? Perhaps more eerie was my prophetic title, “When the Chips Are Down.” The title of course was related to casinos, as a clue to the tournament location in Monte Carlo — I wish to make this perfectly clear, lest I be visited by Homeland Security. Scary. My birthday is September 10, and we had just spent a wonderful evening at my favorite restaurant… then Black Tuesday. Despite all the fear and sadness, bridge players regrouped and the series continued.

Uncork the Champagne

In August 2002, I decided to correlate the idea of defeating slam contracts with baseball, or more specifically, catching a deep fly ball hit by one of the game’s respected power hitters, Sammy Sosa. “Slammin’ Sammy Goes Deep” proved to be a fun event, especially because of some curious terms that are shared by bridge and baseball; e.g., grand slams, doubles, squeeze plays and sacrifices. Foul! About 10 months later it proved that Sammy was not so respectable after all, as he was caught red-handed using an illegal corked bat. I suppose that’s no worse than the steroid scandals of recent times, but it brought up an interesting question: Should I rescore the event based on foul play? Nah, nobody cried foul. If necessary I’ll say the awards were tainted by a foul lie of the Cubs, er, cards.

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The Mummy Returns

Another remarkable coincidence occurred in June of 2003, when I ran my “Valley of the Kings” play contest. The Egyptian theme was inspired by my penchant for those old “Mummy” movies — aah, the tana leaves; the visions of Kharis limping off into the night carrying his “princess.” I remember having nightmares about these films in my youth; but I digress. While my contest was under way, a surprising news story broke: The mummy of Queen Nefertiti, supposedly the most beautiful woman of ancient times, was discovered in the Valley of the Kings. Was I a prophet? No, I hardly think so; but I will prophesy one thing: Any woman whose name ends in titi ought to be beautiful. Smack!

Not Falcon Serious!

For my June 2004 contest, “The Falcon Is Found!” I spun a wild tale about the infamous Black Bird and its treacherous history, culminating in my recovery from a Gypsy, who was unaware of its value. The contest posed only spade contracts in honor of Sam Spade, the fictional detective in Dashiell Hammett’s, “The Maltese Falcon” (Bogart’s classic role). I doubt there is a connection, but next month while at the New York City Nationals, our home was robbed! This was no laughing matter, as we lost many precious things, including our computers. Fortunately, I had my laptop with me as usual, else my life works would have been gone. They even took our fire safe, which had no valuables but only important papers. Oh well; we recovered (I think we’re still married even without our license) but I couldn’t stop thinking about that $28 million Falcon I wrote was sitting on my mantle.

After three years, I can almost laugh about it. Could anyone be that naive? In case the burglars (or anyone else with the I.Q. of a toad) are reading, my January 2007 story “Diamonds in the Ruff” is fictional. That means not true, you idiots, so stay out of my falcon house!

Wilma and Deja Vu

In October 2005, I was preparing my November poll, “Fair Winds on the Plate,” and needed to concoct a story to justify its title. “Fair Winds” actually translates to Buenos Aires, the tournament location (pictured at right is its famous Obelisco) and “on the Plate” refers to the River Plate, or Rio de la Plata. I noticed a weather report that Hurricane Wilma was heading our way, so I decided I would be hired by the National Weather Service to test plate glass during the storm (fair winds on the plate, no?) and my bogus tale ended with the glass being shattered by a flying two-by-four. Oh dear! Eight days later we were hit by the worst hurricane since Andrew of ‘92, losing every tree and almost all of our roof shingles. If that wasn’t enough, one of our storm awnings tore loose and imploded a plate glass window. Is that deja vu, or what?

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New Life and Farewell

On a personal basis, the series had its ups and downs. Certainly, the brightest moment was the birth of my only grandchild, Seth, in February 2004. Rich has become a devoted, caring father, which means less free time, so our online bridge sessions are rare; but having such a wonderful grandson is true happiness. Seth is so bright; looking through a book of dinosaurs at age 2, he would point to each one and announce, “brachiosaurus” or “triceratops.” Say what? Sure kid, whatever you say. Unfortunately, Rich and Lisa live far off in California and can visit only a few times a year (we used to go there but can no longer travel).

In November 2005, I had to bid farewell to my Mom, though at 96 she lived a full life. Mom made it very clear that we should “not mourn but only remember,” as she quoted from one of her favorite poems, “Happy times, and laughing times, and bright and sunny days.” The picture at right, taken in June 2005, shows four Pavlicek generations: Rich, Edith, me and Seth (the shortcake). Alas, a bridge team that will never be.

World’s Greatest Wife

Finally, I must reflect on the wonderful girl I married (1969). Until recent times in illness, Mabel has devoted her life to my happiness and well-being. In the early years of this series, she eagerly entered every bidding poll (sometimes play contests with coaxing). One time I wrote in jest, “Sorry, I couldn’t stop Mabel from entering. I tried everything; I took away her mouse and keyboard, but she kept buying new ones. I hot-wired her CPU from Intel to Mattel inside, which didn’t work either, though her entry was mysteriously signed Barbie.” A few times I even removed Mabel’s name from the overall standings (she agreed) because her high rank might make people think she had unfair advantage. Hardly! She was an excellent player in her own right (Diamond LM) and even taught me a few things — I mean, besides not to double her if I wanted dinner. While she can no longer understand bridge, she finds ways to help me to this day. Indeed, the sunset picture at the top and below was her choice.

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© 2007 Richard Pavlicek