Larry Cohen’s Regional at Sea Buttons

Larry Cohen’s Regional at Sea

Day 2 Monday December 17, 2012
At Sea

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I slept all the way through the night. I awoke at about six, which was late for me. The first scheduled activity was a lecture by Larry Cohen at nine. I decided to skip breakfast and get a little exercise instead.

As I was dressing I watched the television in my room. I was surprised to discover that the available fare included Sue’s favorite channel, Turner Classic Movies.[1] Subtitles in Spanish were included. I was less enthralled with the film than with a commercial (in Spanish with no English subtitles) for a product name Riddex that you plug into the wall. This wonderful apparatus somehow apparently impelled all rodents, insects, and other pests to depart the premises. The commercial even showed cartoon bedbugs abandoning a real mattress as soon as the contraption was activated.

Large color-coded versions of this diagram were located near every set of elevators.

I decided to stop into the Conference Center while it was still early. I was delighted to find that coffee and pastries were already set out. I talked for a minute with Russ Delaney, the tournament manager, who was a fellow early bird. He had evidently seen me looking around nervously for Frank before the game of the previous evening, and he asked me if it worked out OK. I told him that I made five overtricks on the first hand, but after that I had had a great time.

I had learned before we left that the Allure was gigantic. In fact, it was so big that it was very difficult even to describe. There were many parts of the ship that I never got around to exploring. In fact I certainly saw much less than half of the public areas.

The Christmas Tree on the Promenade Deck was about the only indicator of the season.

This approach to cruising was entirely different from the experiences that we had amassed in the nineties. In those days if you ranked the passengers by age we were easily in the lower 50 percentile. Nearly everyone aboard was retired. Families just did not sign up for cruises because there was little for the kids to do. How that has changed! This ship had a rock-climbing wall, a zip-line, and numerous swimming pools. They also had an arrangement with Dreamworks that allowed them to use characters like Shrek and to show Dreamworks movies in 3D. Rise of the Guardians was being shown on this voyage.

Larry Cohen and his wife Maria, who ran the bookstore and prize desk.

I knew that the walking/jogging track was on deck #5. So, I put on my Nikes, walked up the two flights of stairs, and went out onto the deck. There were two lanes – one for joggers and one for walkers – and all the traffic went counterclockwise. When I arrived, hardly anyone was there. The first thing that I noticed was the plethora of inspirational signs intended to encourage the runners and walkers. The track was a little wet, except for the part near the “Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center,” which was very wet. By the time that I finished, however, all the water had been vacuumed up by the staff.

A sign indicated that 2.4 laps constituted a mile. I determined that I had enough time to walk ten laps at a fairly brisk pace. I eventually ended up behind a French couple, who were in turn shadowing another couple. They were all doing a pace that I found comfortable. We passed a lot of walkers and were passed by no one except joggers. I finished at around 8:15, and by then the track was pretty crowded.

Larry introduced the staff. Pictured are Sandi Murray and Marilyn Kay, the partnership ladies, and Julie Cook from Alice Travel.

Some people refused to walk within the designated lanes. Walking side by side disrupted the activity for everyone. There was not much room for passing anywhere, and these people were, without exception, the slowest walkers. Their rudeness was hard to comprehend.

The schedule for Monday was simple: Larry Cohen would give a lecture at 9:00. There would be bridge sessions at 10:00, 2:00, and 8:00. The first two sessions would be open pairs; the evening session was the beginning of a three-night knockout. At 4:30 Larry would analyze some of the hands played in the afternoon game.

Larry’s first lecture was on hand evaluation. Having already read Marty Bergen’s extensive treatment of hand evaluation in his Slam Bidding Made Easier, most of this was already extremely familiar to me. Nevertheless, Larry’s extremely personable speaking style made the session quite enjoyable.

Larry also used a random number generator on his computer to give away a couple of door prizes. The prize was usually one of his books, CD’s, or DVD’s.

This is what Frank had to look at for an entire week.

The first session of the open pairs did not go very well for Frank and me. We had a great deal of difficulty getting out of the blocks, and we ended up with only a 45+ percent game. However, we started to pick up some momentum on the antepenultimate hand (shown at right) in which Frank, sitting East, after a few miscommunications placed me in a very easy 6 contract that for some reason very few pairs were able to find.

Nina Lalin, with whom Frank had played on last year’s cruise, approached Frank about partnering with him. I informed them that Sue and I did not intend to play on Friday, and so Frank would be available for the two daytime sessions.

My view was not much better.

Frank and I ate lunch in the dining room on the fourth deck. I made the mistake of ordering a hamburger. It was really bad. Most of the other people at our table patronized the salad bar, which also featured a few hot items. They all praised the quality and the selection.

Not our waiter.

Our waiter’s name was Edson. I realized immediately that someone famous shared that first name, but I could not remember who. Later it came to me: Pelé, the soccer player from Brazil, whose real name is Edson Arantes de Nascimento.

At our table were six bridge players and a student from San Francisco. Someone asked him what he was studying, and he replied that he was concentrating on acupuncture. That prompted someone else to ask him how one could tell whether one’s acupuncturist was any good. He replied that there were associations that regulated the practitioners. He also said that a good acupuncturist learned about herbal medicines that were good at directing blood flow.

I had to bite my tongue, but I was able to maintain a civil silence in the face of this flood of hogwash. I have no use for distraction therapy.

After lunch I dropped in to our stateroom to see if there was any more news from Sue. I had received two e-mail messages. A guy named Courtney, who was a contractor hired by Royal Caribbean in Jamaica, had arranged for her to stay at the Sunset Beach Resort Hotel. He would also provide her with transportation from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the dock in Falmouth on Wednesday. In fact she would be flying to Jamaica on this very day.

Frank and I caught fire in the afternoon session of the open pairs. We won our section with a 65+ percent score. Despite our pitiful performance in the morning we just missed placing in B.

Dave and Pogo’s interpretation of “formal” differed from mine. I later learned that they were celebrating Dave’s seventieth birthday.

The dress code for supper was “formal.” The couple who sat at our table the first night had departed for a different table. We were joined by a guy name Tom Cheng, who was from Canada. Dave tried to elicit some information from him, but he seemed reluctant to talk about his past. Evidently he was retired, but he now lived in Ottawa.

Sandy Sobel.

We had arranged to play in the evening knockout with Stan and Sandy. We were lucky enough to be assigned to a three-way, which meant that we only had to win one of two matches to advance. Sandy announced to our team that she loved three-ways; everyone tastefully refrained from commenting on that.

Our team was ahead in both matches after the first nine boards, but we came a cropper after the break. Our performance in the second half was so bad that neither match even ended up close. This was extremely frustrating because the second half was only eight boards. I have had a very good record in knockouts, and I could never remember having such a poor showing. The frustrating part was that I could not think of much that I could have done to prevent this debacle.

The hand that sealed our doom was a very distributional one. At both tables North opened 3. Frank, sitting East, held a mediocre hand with six clubs, and he opted to pass. South raised to 4. I had a good hand, but not good enough to introduce a five-card club suit at the five-level. They made 4. At the other table the guy in Frank’s seat bid 5 over 3 and made it. It was a huge swing. I had to wonder if he would have made such a bold bid if they had not been behind at the half.

Oh, well. Tomorrow is another day. The same foursome was committed to play in the Swiss in the morning session on Tuesday, which continued on Wednesday.

When I reached the room I was startled to see that a white swan had evidently flown through the cabin’s porthole and appeared to be nesting right on our bed.

I received the following e-mail from Sue:

Well I’m in Jamaica, mon.  No Problem.  My room is nice & even though there is WiFi only in the lobby, my room balcony is just off the lobby so I get coverage there.  It is a bit dark, though, so watch for typos.  Lots of pools & beaches (including a clothing-optional one nearby, part of this resort.)  If things get boring I may just try it!  LOL.  I bought a new bathing suit because even tho’ I brought 2 they are with you, not me!  They were getting old, though and all stretched out (for lycra).  In fact I bought the one with the skirt I always wear in Hawaii — that was long ago.  I was due.

Courtney was very nice but a little too excited about the prospect of filling in for you on my “honeymoon”! When he realized he wasn’t going to score, he lost interest & headed out. He’ll be back to pick me up at 10 am Wednesday & drive me to the dock in Falmouth.  There is a little train that goes around & tours nearby. I thought I’d like to do that if you will be playing.  When does your session get over?  I’ll try to hook up with you then. When you are done, stop by the room & find me, hopefully. Even though the ship docks at 10am, it has to clear customs before I can board.

I'm healthy and have not had any other incident.  RCCL promised that they would allow me to board after filling out the same simple questionnaire -- which I will no answer NO.  No symptoms.  Flight was uneventful but I was squished between 2 large Jamaican men in the bulkhead seats.  The movie screen would not stay down, it kept retracting.  We figured we got the cheap seats!

This resort is OK but a little “white trashy”.  ALL DRINKS INCLUDED, so that attracts a certain type.  Entertainment (Jamaican drumming & dancing) was OK.  Food was pretty good but very small portions.  Plenty overall because there were 5 courses!  I had Conch fritters with Jamaican hot sauce for an appetizer and they were little! But because I couldn't  decide between the Jamaican spicy stewed mutton or the slow roasted Caribbean pork, he offered me both.  I actually think I liked the mutton a little better.  Both very good.

I don't think that there is anybody here that I am interested in meeting or talking to.  Tomorrow I plan to swim a lot and do laundry (all my clothes) while I wear my bathing suit!  I got really smelly after that flight!

I bought the Internet for 24 hours -- till 11pm Tuesday, so write me before then if you want me to read it.  Well, that's the news from Lake Wobegone . . .where I can't really get into the Christmas decorating spirit and I will puke if I hear “FELIZ NAVIDAD” one more time!

I did not sleep as well as the first night. I kept thinking about the hand that scuttled us in the knockout.

[1]  I later learned that Frank’s wife also loved to watch old movies on this channel.