A Walk In The Alley
When was the last time you were on your way to a bridge game and went right past Yahoo Alley without stopping in? I can understand the impulse to scurry past as usual. There sure isn't much there to catch the eye of a tourist. Just an old loading dock, a few dumpsters, garbage cans and a discarded box now and then. Not the sort of place you would pick to impress a date. The truth is, it isn't good for much anymore. It's
too small for the big trucks of today to get in and although it does go through to the next street the kids don't use it as a shortcut anymore. Who can blame them?
Who would guess from the picture above that every Saturday afternoon this would be the scene of one of the strangest "bridge games" you have ever seen. This is where the Ryder takes place. You can't see it in the picture, but just to the left there is a fire escape where most of the kibitzers gather. There is plenty of room for all as the old metal stairs stretch all the way to the top of the 4 story building they are on. See the red building that juts out into the alley? That's the back door of the restaurant where they put out scraps for the animals in the neighborhood. Since the start of the Ryder, the restaurant workers know it is better if they split up the scraps and put half on the other side of the alley. That way, the DOGS and the CATS don't fight over them. You can just see the start of where the old loading dock is on the right of the picture. That's where they put the scraps for the DOGS. The big DOG himself usually sits on the dock and guards it. The CATS share is placed on the fire escape at the other end of the restaurant and that's where the huge CAT used to sit until she disappeared. Now the scraps are guarded by many. There are two blue dumpsters on the left which are directly across from the loading dock. They are a popular seat for the rabble rousers on the CAT side of the alley. That's one spot where the spitting and yowling usually starts. Another is a high wood fence just past the dock that runs down to the building on the far right end of the alley. Sometimes, when the CATS are really brave, they cross the alley and climb the fence. They taunt the DOGS from there knowing the DOGS can't reach them. Some of the "heavier" DOGS usually start bumping the fence with their large bodies in hopes of knocking off some of the CATS. Some of the more energetic DOGS run across the alley and once in a while make an attack on one of the fire escapes. Pretty soon, the gauntlet is thrown and picked up. The challenge is accepted and the battle lines are drawn.
Monday is garbage day so by Saturday the alley is usually lined with garbage cans and boxes put out by the stores. The furniture store (the gray door on the right) sometimes throws out some great boxes. Whatever can be moved is dragged into the middle of the alley to serve as tables. When all the tables are set out, they form a solid line down the middle of the alley. There usually isn't room to walk down the alley as there are so many tables. You can see in the picture, a wider part of the alley just in front of the dumpsters and the lighter colored area in front of the loading dock. This is the only area of the alley where there is no table set up. It is left empty on purpose as a meeting place to gather between rounds. A place to lick your wounds or brag about your victories. This is the area they have named "the Lounge". All the kibitzers come down from the fire escape to gather there or on a dumpster to get the best view they can. If you look close, you'll see the old air conditioner above the dumpsters. That spot is reserved for Computemom who is the unofficial "cheerleader" almost every week. You see the corner of the building just this side of the dumpsters? That is the doorway where the "supersubs" hang out. There is no battle in there,
although sometimes someone will shout out encouragement to a teammate. Peace usually prevails there mainly due to the free food and drinks provided. There is also singing and dancing on tables when guest stars like Dottie, Touche, or Lorrrobb visit. The fun, food and entertainment takes second seat whenever one of the subs is needed in the alley. There is a rush to aid a fallen comrade, even a rush to aid one of the enemy who has fallen. That's how the title "Supersub" is earned.
The battle usually rages for about 2 1/2 or 3 hours, or however long it takes to settle the affair. There is always a short period of celebration by the winning side and of course the ceremonial hanging of the banner. That's when a large banner saying either "CATS RULE - DOGS DROOL", or "DOGS are KINGS - CATS need WINGS" or some other such nonsense is strung across the opening at the far end of the alley. Tradition allows the banner to fly until the next Saturday. Sorry you can't see the banner in the picture, but for the first time ever the Ryder ended in a tie so no banner was hung. Once the banner is hung, everybody drifts off vowing that next week will be better. The losers will seek out the dealer and offer better bribes while the winners will seek out friends in the other alleys to tell the story of a brilliant bid or play that saved the day.
So, the next time you hurry past an alley, remember this one. Take a second and look in. You may be surprised at what fun and excitement is going on right under your nose. Who knows, you may find yourself sitting down at a box some Saturday.