Thursday, February 27, 2014

Solitaire: A One Man Game

When I was little, our Uncle Lenny, when he came to visit, taught my little brother and me games with playing cards. I remember him building houses of cards and revealing the fine art of solitaire,
 A One Man Game.

After shuffling the cards in a most entertainingly flashy and adept way, he'd show us how to lay the cards out. The first card, on the top of the deck was placed on the table face up. 
This first card was always important, and he'd
  build the anticipation in us as we waited to see what it was. Him sitting in the middle, my brother and I lying on either side of him, our chins resting on our hands, eyes fixed on his eyes, then his hands, then the turn of the card.

An ace, of any suit, was, as in many other card games, a good first card, as was any face card. The next six cards were then placed side by side by side, face down, and like the return of an old fashioned manual typewriter, He'd return to the second face-down card in the line up, placing a face up card on top of it. The next cards that followed were placed face down upon the cards in the line up, continuing until all of the face down cards are covered with a face up card, and
Each successive card pile gets larger as you go along. 

Once the cards are laid out, you hold the remaining cards in your hand, turning over 3 of these cards at a time, to see if you can use the third card you are dealt, each time repeating the process until you are unable to play the remaining cards. The intention is to get all of the face-up cards, in order, and divided by suit, from the aces on up.
It is a hard game to win. 

He also taught us another version of this game, where instead of skipping three cards, playing the third card only,You play each card, one by one, but you are only allowed to go through the deck ONE time. You get only one chance.
 Uncle Lenny Told us this was a casino version of the game, where each of the face up cards represented $5.  In this Case, Getting a well shuffled deck was top priority. 
The stakes were high.

We didn't see Uncle Lenny often, but he shared with us a game that he found challenging; this one man game; a game that brought him joy. Sharing it with us seemed to make him happy, as he had no children of his own and he lived alone. As a child in a large family, there were two things you valued most: the ready made entertainment that 6 siblings offer, and solitude.

It was a good game for a kid like me to learn, this one man game. Although we had lots of kids in our neighborhood, and I was never hurting for neighborhood companions, the game of solitaire taught me to appreciate individual pursuits, like reading, electronic memory games, jumble puzzles and drawing. 

Enjoying solitude can be a skill. It's a one man game just like solitaire. Your little brother might be looking over your shoulder as you play, wondering what you'll do next, or even making suggestions, but in the end its all about you.  You may have to rid yourself of preconceived ideas to bask in its full value. 

And it's not in the hand you're  dealt-- After all, It's the hand you deal yourself. 
Shuffle till your heart's content, but by all means, make sure all 52 cards are there. 
Get showy with it! There are as many different techniques to shuffling as there are to life-living.
 And that's exactly what we're talking about here. Life. 
Shuffle a little, shuffle a lot. 
Plan out your shuffling before you begin, or make it up as you go along. 
It's your card game.

When YOU decide it's time to lay your cards out, begin. 
You won't have to wonder if its really time, or if the cards have been shuffled enough. 

You'll just know.

You've built your own anticipation in the shuffling, 
and in that moment in time,  you just knew it was time,
 like My Uncle Lenny looking out of the corner of his eye 
to get our attention before he placed the first card, 
you'll begin. 
Did you straighten the cards neatly into a perfect stack before you began to lay them out?
 Or did you leave them as they landed after that last defining shuffle? 
If it matters to you, then it matters. 

Did you line them up neatly making sure they were evenly spaced,
 and that the cards in each pile were evenly stacked on one another? 
Or maybe you didn't pay attention at all to the way the way you laid them out. 

Either way, you laid them as you saw fit. 
Next time you may lay them different. or you may lay them exactly the same. 
Either way, its time to play.

As you scan the seven piles
 of successively larger piles forming the solitaire playing field, 
you may take a big breath before you begin. 
You may not even notice you took a breath. 
You may scan the cards, sizing up the game's outcome before you even begin....
Did you?

I hope you see a Win! 
Did I convince  you earlier when I said it was a hard game to win?

I hope not.
I really.

Hard is in the eye of the beholder. 

I've lost, and I've won. 
I hope you always go in with the intention of winning.
I really hope you do.

You have 52 cards to play and 7 successively larger stacks. 
7 days in a week and and 52 weeks in a year. 

You can play each card ever so thoughtfully, 
or play with utter abandon.
You may miss a defining move, 
you may make a defining move.

If you miss a move, so what. 
If you had seen that move
 you would have made that move.
There will be other moves as you move through the deck.

If you were lucky enough to begin with an Ace, you're already down to 6 stacks left. 
Days and stacks go by in the blink of an eye,
 or they may seem as high as an elephant's eye. 
Seem is the key word.
Have fun with it! 

You're  a little kid lying on the floor, your chin in your hands
your feet wagging from side to side, 
waiting for your Uncle Lenny to place that first card.

Three by three, you turn the cards up. 
some you can use and some you can not. 
Each card you can use reveals another beneath it. 
Another potentially useful card.
Each one you can't hides cards beneath it 
which may or may not be of use.

No use wondering
 if the cards beneath it are ones you can use: the top one isn't. That door is closed. 
No use looking at the closed doors.

When Open ones come along, you'll walk right through them. 
Once you get a flow going, You're on top of the world! 
In the end, there are either cards leftover, which you can not use,
or 4 equal stacks of numerically ordered cards which reveal your singular success. 

Either way, Congratulations.
Either way, you're bound to play again. 
If you're successful, you want that feeling again, 
If you weren't you want another chance. 

You're a Chance taker.
 It's a game, take a chance! 
The stakes aren't as high as they seem. 
This isn't the Casino version. It's the living room version.
You can build your house of cards as many times as you like and in many configurations. It's a one man game. It's your game. 
Start Shuffling.

1 comment:

Corlando said...

Thank you for reminding me of Uncle Lenny. I was young when he died but I do remember that particular occasion. I'm sure I didn't quite grasp the game at that age, but I did enjoy watching him play.