Bridge and Frankenstein

I had hoped Erin would come with me to bridge night; Triangle Bridge Club meets in Durham and Erin and I have been secretly studying Goren, the author of this book I’ve got on Contract Bridge. Shady and Shannon don’t know that we’ve been studying on the sly, but it’s all right because I doubt either of them read this journal. Erin was going to come but she slept late (she works night shift) so I went alone.

My book on bridge, I should mention, is extremely old. The pages are yellowed and look as though they’d been cut. It’s falling apart and I’ve got notes all over in the margins and bits underlined that we refer back to.

The Triangle Bridge Club is off Revere Road in a large impersonal building. When I walked in the leader was in the middle of one of those long jokes old people like so much, where the punch line is about the difference in the way men and women think. What I didn’t realize was that no one plays contract bridge (or social bridge, as they call it) at the Club. It’s duplicate bridge, which isn’t too different except in the scoring and a much higher emphasis on getting game contract during the auction. My partner was an older man with a very hairy face and thinning hair and a big belly with an Einstein sweatshirt. The sweatshirt threw me off. Shouldn’t a foot-high image of Einstein’s face signify something other than warm wear? Either it should be ironic or painfully self-aggrandizing. I assumed the latter. (Only an idiot would be able to wear it ironically, and maybe an idiot wouldn’t be able to laugh at the irony. Too close to home and all that.)

But Tim wasn’t a genius. Not at bridge anyway. He got set twice when I wasn’t even his partner. Let me backtrack. I walked in with my tattered copy of Goren so I could refer to it. People gave me amused glances. Tim came over to my table because there was an odd number of people. He  pushed his large square glasses up his nose to look at my book.

“Goren, huh?” He chuckled. The god on my pedestal felt his first tremor. Erin and I have conversations where we ask WWGorenD? He’s our bridge prophet, the first Teacher.

I said, “Yeah. You know, Charles H. Goren?”

Tim scratched a hairy knuckle and smirked. “I follow Goren when I play with my seventy-year-old parents.”

I assumed everyone followed Goren. The book jacket implied that was the case. Turns out he did make some strides, like in developing point counting. But he’s painfully outdated, according to the people tonight. Know what I felt like? I felt like Frankenstein, from Mary Shelley. Frankenstein (the creator of the monster) is telling the captain of a ship how he got his start in science. He’s a big reader in his youth and runs across some alchemy books and incredibly obscure scientists whom he devours. When he goes to university at Hamburg or somewhere, his professors look at him like a fossil when he tells them who he’s read. Frankenstein is crushed; he’s savored these old prophets and sipped from the chalice of alchemy. They are his Einsteins, Archimedes and Galileos. That is precisely how I felt when Tim said that.

I won’t go into detail about the game differences, but they were fairly extreme. There were even three people who may have been thirty-five. My partner got exasperated with me, and vice versa. I missed Erin very much.  I’m going to the library tomorrow and finding a newer author on bridge.  But Goren will always have a special place in my heart. My old chum Goren.

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