Some Very Disturbing News!!

There is no doubt that the times are changing. It is just not the same anymore. In more ways than one. This past Thursday I joined my dear friend Paul Trachtenberg for breakfast at the IHOP. I wanted to meet with IHOP manager Miguel. When I walked in, I was pleasantly surprised that there were so many people there. The IHOP was getting back to normal. Not everyone had their masks on but all the employees did.

I thought that I would ask Miguel if we could come back in an informal manner until NASPA said we could reconvene as a fully certifiable Scrabble club. But in fact Miguel told me that we would not be welcome back at all!!! I was devastated to say the least.

During the pandemic the IHOP took a long hard look at the clubs that would use that private room during the week. The higher ups to be whoever they may be decided that none of the clubs were using the IHOP adequately. And as long as social distancing was being enforced, the IHOP did not want to tie up that room. It wanted to use the room for its regular patrons. Therefore no more clubs!! There are other clubs that meet there during the week. Perhaps they sell insurance, have Bible studies and the like. But we are by far the largest club…

For those of you who do not know the history of Scrabble club 34, let me refresh your memory. Somehow Penny Baker who was the director at the time managed to negotiate herself into that playing space in the early 1990s for FREE. That’s right. We have never been charged a room rental for nearly 30 years. This is unheard of!! There are very few facilities that allow a social club to come every week and meet for NOTHING. We also came there every week and ate for NOTHING. In other words, very few of us ever ate there. We were definitely free loaders and poachers if that is the right word. We lived in an apartment but never paid rent. But we never received a “notice to evict” until now that is…

For years and years we came on Tuesday afternoon to play Scrabble but forgot a very basic thing. We chose not to eat there but would go elsewhere to eat breakfast or lunch or dinner. Finally the IHOP wised up and decided enough was enough. There are cameras throughout the restaurant and they were looked at. What they found were very few Scrabblers who ate meals there on a regular basis. In fact Miguel jokingly said that Paul and I would be seen on these videos regularly but very few other Scrabble players. We were the new rock stars of the IHOP..

As we continued our conversation with Miguel, I made my arguments. I felt like an attorney spouting my case in front of the Supreme Court. I told him how we have been at the IHOP for nearly 30 years, that we do utilize the facility and how we are the only customers there on Tuesday. There is no doubt about that. And he knew this. He isn’t stupid. I also told him many other things. Soon after I became director in 2014, I heard through the grapevine that the IHOP was unhappy with us and was going to throw us out for these very reasons.

I met with management at that time and agreed to spend at least $100 on food and drink for Tuesdays. And I made sure that all of us would write the word Scrabble on our receipts to make sure we got credit for this after we ate. However I sensed during this time that some of the servers would not put the receipts where they should be so IHOP management would not know that we were utilizing their services as much as we did.

Miguel told me that he could not even cover the costs to have a server in that room salary-wise because we were not eating or drinking that much. But as I continued to argue my case, I sensed that Miguel’s position was softening. I finally asked him what it would take to let us come back. He mentioned at least $200. I assured him that would be no problem!!!

I don’t know if the IHOP will ever let us back in. That will be up to management. Miguel will not make the final decision but will relay our position to them. But he isn’t stupid. He knows that without Club 34 on Tuesday, there will be very little business for them. ‘To cut off your nose to spite your face”.. Is that how it goes??

If we do not have the IHOP there will no longer be a Scrabble Club 34. It is that simple. I am not the kind of director who will drive all over Orange County looking for another venue. I will not do that!!! If we are allowed back in, there will be some definite changes on how Scrabble Club 34 conducts its business. Some of these changes might upset some of the members and if so, they do not have to come back!!! I have no other choice if Scrabble Club 34 is to live on.

To reach the $200 minimum, each member will have to spend at least $10 to join us. There can be no more dining outside the IHOP between sessions if we are to survive. I will no longer accept these excuses that I have heard for years–“I am on a special diet, I don’t like their food, I am on a strict budget..”” Those excuses will not fly anymore.

Once Club 34 was up and running, I would see 20-25 players for the afternoon and evening sessions. Some of us played both sessions and there would be a few new ones show up at night. So it will be quite easy for us to spend $200-300 a day at the IHOP if all of us spend at least $10 a day. If there are any members who cannot possibly eat at the IHOP, then they will have to pay me $10 to play. That money will be forwarded to IHOP management.

If we are to eat lunch while we play, then there will have to be more space in the room for the food and beverages. I will therefore have to limit the players in the afternoon to 20. When the time comes I will poll all players to find out who will commit every week to show up. You will be on the preferred list and get an automatic bye. The rest of you will have to let me know by email that you plan to attend. When we reach 20, you will then go on the waiting list.

After you eat your meal, you will write the word Scrabble on your receipt, turn it into the server as you have been doing. But now you will write the word Scrabble and your last name on the copy and give it to me. I will turn in all receipts to Miguel at the end of each month. This will assure us that we get credit for everything we do… This will be alot more work for me but I am willing to do it if it means Club 34 survives.

It will be a dark day in Southern California is there are no more Scrabble clubs. Yuki Loritz has already closed her club for personal reasons. I know that the LA clubs might lose their venues when they want to return. That is a definite possibility. So I hope we will be able to stay at the IHOP. Miguel and I agreed to revisit this in 2-3 months after we see how the pandemic winds are blowing. So that is all for now. If you have any suggestions or recommendations, email or call me. I will be glad to listen……

David Poder, Director Club 34

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THE WORLD IS A MUCH BETTER PLACE!!

When a large group of people get together, you can be assured of one thing. We cannot agree about anything whether it is politics, religion, your favorite sports team or whatever. But we can agree on one thing. The year 2020 was the worst year of our lives. Our way of life was severely compromised. No restaurants, no movie theaters, no gyms, no sporting events and no scrabble clubs. For me personally, 2020 was memorable for two reasons: the Super Bowl and August 2. On that day I received the news that any father would love to hear. My daughter promised to deliver me my first grandchild on March 25, 2021….

And there you have it. When a Poder says something, you know it will happen. On March 25, 2021 at 3:10am in the city of Santa Monica Margot Lennon Fhima came into this world at her fighting weight of 6# 10 ounces. I saw her for the first time on March 27 as soon as she was released from the hospital. What a moment that was!!

But getting back to her actual birth, what baby has ever heard the sounds of ‘Here Comes the Sun’, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ by the Beetles and ‘Superstar’ by the Carpenters as she makes her grand entrance. Scrabble will certainly now take a backseat to grandfathering in my life but you will not hear any complaints from me….

A few weeks ago a group of 7 members of Club 34 met at the IHOP for breakfast. We spent 3 hours in our playroom eating, talking and laughing. We all had a great time so we came up with the idea how nice it would be if we could meet in an informal manner one day a week to play a few games of Scrabble. NASPA will not let us meet as a formal Scrabble Club until it gets word from the CDC that it is safe to do so. But why cant we at least meet to play a few games of Scrabble since most of us have been fully vaccinated.

So I went to the IHOP last week to speak with Miguel, the IHOP manager, to see if we could get the room on Thursdays at 11am. I polled the club and found out that 18 members wanted to participate. But Miguel said no. I was shocked to get such a response since the IHOP was now open for indoor dining with restrictions of course. It turns out that the IHOP gets its directives from the Health Department. Right now the restrictions are no more than 6 people from the same family and no more than 2 hours!! So we will have to wait a while longer.

Our very own Desiree Engel will be celebrating her 100th Birthday on April 18. I thought what a great idea if we could have a Zoom party. We wont be able to have an actual party until we reconvene in a few months. But I found out that Desiree’s family will be holding a Zoom party that day. Only a few Scrabblers have been invited. If you wish to participate or send Desiree a card of celebration, contact Maxine Marcus for further information at maximarcus@att.net.

Everyone knows by now how successful Club 34 has become and how fast it has grown in the past 7 years. New players have come to Club 34 in many ways. A few years ago a young man by our standards showed up in the playroom and stayed with us both afternoon and evening on Tuesdays for at least 2 years. He was a welcome addition to Club 34 and a pretty good Scrabble. player. He moved from Houston, Texas, hoping to find steadier work as a German college professor. Unfortunately that did not happen and he was forced to move back home to his native Wisconsin to tend to his aging parents.

It was a personal blow to me to lose such a fine player and an all around great guy. But while he was here, he played our first and only game of Scrabble in German with Inge Weinfeld on a Tuesday evening. When I formed the virtual Scrabble Club 34 last year, I reached out to Jim to see if he wanted to play with us. I found Jim in Minneapolis where he was now living and still looking for steady work. He played with us for 2 months before he found a steady teaching gig and had to drop out. But he did refer Diane Weinerman to us and she has turned out to be a very fine player.

I found out that Jim was having some medical problems but didnt think it was that big a deal until I got the news last week. James Frankki passed away last week from complications to a cardiovascular procedure. He was only 59 years old. Rest in peace my friend………….

More and more of us are getting our vaccinations. Life is slowly getting back to normal. I had dinner for the first time in an indoor restaurant last week. I expect to go to the movie theater in the next few days. I expect that we will have some small Scrabble parties very soon. And by the end of summer or early fall we can go back to a baseball or football stadium. Its been a very hard year but the end is near…………….

David Poder, Director Club 34

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