Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mah Jongg Pack Up

I've torn the 110 year old plaster off the brick wall in my living room, exposing the brick and the workmanship (or lack thereof) underneath. I need to finish the wire brushing tonight and then wash it down and seal it. Then Brooklyn and I plan to pain the other walls a new color. Right now it's still this park bench green. Perhaps Ozark Airline green. But I'm ready for something lighter to fade into the background. The dining room went from burgundy to the palest blue. Something along those lines to go with the mostly neutral furniture and the new brick wall.
But see, I didn't tape the plastic up very well to separate the living room from the rest of the world. So things got really really dusty. I spent today sealing it off more expertly and then cleaning the heck out of the front hall, the steps to the second floor, the dining room and kitchen. There will still be construction footprints all over the first floor, but I can control the rest of the dust now.

So the front hall and dining room were a huge mess, essentially. Lots of things stacked around on top of the regular mess. So I took lots of things down to their foundations, wiped everything off with clorox wipes, and then reassembled.

Including my 4 mah jongg sets.

I have 4 mah jongg sets. My first is a basic white set from the 90s. Nothing to sing about, but it was my first, identical to the one I learned on with my former coworker friend Jody. Then I have a black set with wooden trays. I like it, but it's hard to read the tiles in the evenings so I don't use it hardly at all.

I have two bakelite sets. One has darkened to a beautiful butterscotch, but the tile art is nothing too special. It is typical to many of the sets I've seen on ebay and the like. Two other players in my neighborhood have identical sets. And the last set I own is a butter-colored bakelite with just a slightly nicer tile art. It is my favorite set. The tiles feel right. They sound right when they click together. The trays are pretty bakelite in a variety of colors. This set makes me happy.

These are usually stacked on top of each other on a little built in table in my staircase, with a variety of oddments on top, including a cigar box of all the National Mah Jongg League cards I own from all the years I've played.

I haven't played in almost a year. I used to play regularly--more than once a month with the girls on the block.

But one of the players in my group and I broke up back in February. Long story short, we no longer were any good for each other. I know a mah jongg game wouldn't be right without her, for me and especially for everyone else. And the last few times I did play, it felt like an homage to what mah jongg used to be--a place to be myself, to share myself, a time to deepen friendships and laugh and cry. It really hasn't been that for me in a long time, which makes me sad.

I brought the game to the table, literally--I had the first sets, the first cards, I taught three of the women on the block how to play back in early 2005. It was so far outside my comfort zone to do something like that, and it paid me back tenfold in friendships and memories. I've traveled to play mah jongg at lakehouses with these women. I've gone to a tournament, for goodness sake, and lost embarrassingly badly against elderly Jewish women who knew what they were doing. I taught the game to strangers. I taught it to students. I can only hope that the other players from my group still play and have a good time. I miss it, but really? I miss what it represented.

As I wiped down the cases, getting rid of plaster dust, I debated what to do. Perhaps I'll put them away, safe in a closet for a while and take them out to teach someone else someday. Perhaps my kids can inherit them and sell them and be shocked at how much the bakelite is worth.

Maybe I'll take them down one day and pick up the little green dragons and happy lucky kitty jokers and 8 bams (my favorite tiles) and 1 dots and remember and smile. That will be nice.

1 comment:

  1. I envy you your Bakelite. And that you have brick under the plaster. I have no brick under the plaster.

    I am making the strangest comments tonight.