SO CREATIVE!

My dear friend Jan is SO creative and clever!Upon her move to Florida – and after the sale of most of her earthly possessions – Jan no longer had a card table and her new dining room table was just the wrong size for the perfect Mah Jongg game. So, being the very creative person she is, Jan had her equally creative husband create a board to put over her dining room table that would work perfectly for all those lively Mah Jongg games. However, Jan was not content to just have a plain painted board to play our beloved game…no, Jan needed that board to be special. And so, she painted amazing dragons in each corner. Check these photos out – what a fabulous job she did! Hopefully I will visit Jan soon and have the opportunity to play at this fabulous table! Enjoy these photos! Continue reading

THANKS TO ALL OF YOU!

The readers of this blog are simply THE BEST! Roberta, out of West Tisbury, MA, sent this great photo and article from the MV Times to me.

Roberta – we all thank you!!!

Keep those Mah Jongg sightings coming!!!

The boat

Boat with storied past gets a grand restoration

Mah Jong returns to the water after three-year restoration.

A restored 52-foot yawl, once featured in National Geographic and designed by Sparkman & Stephens and built by Cheoy Lee Shipyard in Hong Kong, is back in the water after a three-year restoration by Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway in Vineyard Haven.

“They did a great job,” Pat Ilderton, owner of the Mah Jong, said. He specifically pointed to the work guided by Ross Gannon and Brad Abbott. “They are not only first-class craftsmen, but they are first-class people.”

Mr. Ilderton, a South Carolina contractor, first fell in love with wooden sailboats 25 years ago. One of his employees at the time was a wooden boat enthusiast. “That’s where I got my introduction to sailing and wooden boat ethos,” he said.

Fast-forward to three years ago, when he found the Mah Jong for sale. “I finally had the time and the money to look at doing something,” Mr. Ilderton said.

He was actually in England with Ross Gannon of Gannon & Benjamin, and passed on the purchase of the sailboat they went to see. Mr. Gannon told him about the Mah Jong in Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands. They went and looked at it, but it would take six months for Mr. Ilderton to pull the trigger. Once he bought the boat, it was shipped to Newport, R.I., and then sailed over to Vineyard Haven.

Since then, he’s been saying yes to all of the necessary repairs, including the harvest of live oak in Georgia and scouring eBay and marine shops for brass fittings. The boat’s ribs, floorboards, and planks have been completely replaced, Mr. Ilderton said. The boat’s hull, ballast, and engine are intact. “We basically rebuilt the boat,” he said.

Mr. Gannon said it’s been a great and challenging experience for the crew. “It’s unusual when you find an owner that gives as much freedom to do our best work,” he said. “In his quiet way, Mr. Ilderton pushed us to do the best work we can do.”

All told, the purchase and repairs cost more than $1 million. “With no regrets,” he said. “The boat deserves it because of its history.”

Built in 1957, the three men who commissioned Mah Jong got a deal on the plans for the yawl because they were still available from the Baccarat, also built by Cheoy Lee.

A Southeast Asia sail of the Mah Jong was featured in National Geographic in 1958. “I have two copies of the magazine,” Mr. Ilderton said.

Now that the boat is fully restored, Myles Thurlow of Myles Thurlow Rigging is getting the masts rigged, and Ben Sperry of Sperry Sails is helping with the sails. “It’s a real local effort,” Mr. Ilderton said.

Immediate plans for the 1957 boat include an appearance at the WoodenBoat Magazine annual Wooden Boat Show in Mystic, Conn. Mah Jong will also compete in the Vineyard Cup, as well as other regattas, Mr. Ilderton said. He also plans to charter the sailboat on the Vineyard, in South Carolina, and in the Caribbean, he said. The boat’s captain is Alex Goldhill, a former employee at Gannon & Benjamin.

Though Mah Jong translates to gray sparrow, it’s also a Chinese gambling game.

Mr. Ilderton knows it was a bit of a gamble to buy the yawl and have it restored. “It’s a gamble that’s paid off,” he said. “It’s been great to be a part of this great partnership. I’ve gained a lot of friends. I could see it was a special project for them.”

THE COGNITIVE BENEFITS OF MAH JONGG

Lately I have been giving lectures about the cognitive benefits of Mah Jongg. Our beloved game is not only great fun but it is great exercise for the brain, too! Our wonderful friend, Sandra of Gehazi Collections, found an article from this past April about the resurgence of Mah Jongg within the senior community. The article is from the Patriot Ledger out of Massachusetts and was written by Susan Scheible. A tip of the dice to these beautiful ladies!

The Chinese board game of mahjongg is growing in popularity at local senior centers. “It stimulates the brain,” is a common refrain.

HINGHAM — Lorraine Crowell’s mahjongg moment came three years ago at a retirement community in Florida. “I discovered you can only zumba so much,” the Braintree resident said. “You have to find a sit-down activity. Mahjongg looked like a game that would help my brain activity and I enjoy a challenge.” She now plays twice a week in Hingham.

Rickie Moriarty of Rockland was captured by the Chinese board game when a neighbor recruited her; today she teaches others. “It really uses your mind, its fun and the people are lovely,” she said.

At age 82, Dick Ponte has been mastering mahjongg for 45 years and teaches a beginner’s class at the Hingham Senior Center. One lesson: “You focus on building your hand and don’t have to worry about letting a partner down.”

Challenging but fun, complicated but not impossible, the ancient game that uses Chinese tiles is making a comeback at local senior centers. You can find a drop-in session somewhere almost every day of the week if you are willing to travel and at the Rockland senior center, they are.

“We have people from Norwell, Abington, Weymouth, Braintree, Randolph, Stoughton, Hanover,” Moriarty said. The game of Mahjongg gained widespread popularity in the 1950s and 60s.

I heard about the game’s resurgence from Ginny Ballou. In an email, Ballou described the “Mahjongg Mavens (who) all met at the Hingham Senior Center about five years ago. From there we’ve become a close group who watch out for one another, check in on one another and continue to play mahjongg twice a week. All of us are over 70, several in their 80′s and darn, we are still having fun!!”

Ballou first heard of the game in the 1960s when she was in college and living in Brookline where “everyone played it.” She always wanted to learn and in retirement, when Ponte offered lessons back in 2011, she signed up. By 2013, this social networker was organizing tournaments.

A few weeks ago, I dropped by to see the Mavens in action and was intrigued as they all reached their hands together onto the tables to shuffle the sets of 144 tiles with Chinese characters and symbols. I asked them why they play.

“It’s just fun to play with friends and there’s no real big gambling,” said RosaLee Goldstein of Hingham, in her 80s.

“I thought it would help keep the mind active,” said Carol Anglin of Cohasset. “It’s a lot of fun because you’re not playing against anyone, just yourself,” added Chris Reeves of Hingham. “Socially it’s a great group of women, very welcoming.”

For Cecilia Hanrahan of Weymouth, the concentration the game requires is a stimulating challenge. Ann Millburg of Hingham took Ponte’s beginning course twice to make sure she had the basics.

A week later, I checked out the Rockland senior center where the reasons were similar and the friendships also strong.

Moriarty explained that mahjongg still requires a strategy and an ability to figure out what the other players are doing. “You have to be defensive and know how to sort your tiles based on several different characteristics,” she said.

“You use your brain, you really do,” said Barbara Lathrop of Braintree.

Some pick up the game more easily than others but Moriarty was firm: mahjonng “is never easy.” It takes time to learn. She will sit with a new student for several sessions and then have them join a game just to experience the give and take.

“Don’t give up!” was the take-home message of Ann Shannon of Rockland. “You think it’s hard, but it’s not that hard. Keep on going.”

Reach Sue Scheible at scheible@ledger.com, 617-786-7044, or The Patriot Ledger, P.O. Box 699159, Quincy 02269-9159. Read her Good Age blog on our website. Follow her on Twitter @ sues_ledger.

Sue ScheibleSue Scheible is a staff reporter for The Patriot Ledger who writes a weekly column, A Good Age, about life after 50. In her blog, she shares extra anecdotes about the people she meets, readers’ e-mails, videos, photos and phone messages, and ideas for what to do in retirement or to prepare for retirement. 

EVERYWHERE…

Perhaps the Mah Jongg craze sometimes goes a bit too far…my wonderful friend Charlotte sent the following photo to me from the June issue of Hamptons MagazineJoanna mahjong set, Ralph Lauren ($4,495). 31–33 Main St., East Hampton, 631-324-1222; 41 Jobs Lane, Southampton, 631-287-6953. Bellamy clover tall vase ($350) and clamshell bowl ($345), AERIN. 83 Main St., Southampton, 631-353-3773

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AMAZING!

The other day I told you how my dear friend Jeri was out and about scouting Mah Jongg-related things in NYC for this blog. On a recent visit to the Museum of the City of New York she came across an exhibit of Carrie Stettheimer’s famous dollhouse. As the museum notes, “one of the Museum’s most popular artifacts, the dollhouse of Carrie Walter Stettheimer (1869-1944) weaves together the fashion and style of New York’s Gilded Age in miniature form. Stettheimer worked on the 12-room dollhouse for nearly two decades, creating many of the furnishings and decorations by hand.”

So, why am I blogging about a dollhouse…well, among the many rooms is the Library, which features a beautiful Mah Jongg table displaying a miniature Mah Jongg set, citing that the game is “one of the most fashionable games of the 1920s” 

Enjoy this photo and, if you are in NYC, be sure to visit the Museum of the City of New York located at 1220 5th Ave at103rd Street to see this incredible dollhouse for yourself. 

I KEEP TELLING YOU…

Mah Jongg really is everywhere! My dear friend Jeri has been scouting NYC for me and sending photos of evidence that Mah Jongg has infiltrated every aspect of daily life! As she passed a lingerie store on Lexington Avenue and 64th Street, she came across this bag in their window…I did a little research myself and found out that the store is called Lingerie on Lex at 831 Lexington Avenue (between 63rd and 64th Street) in NYC. I called and spoke with the absolute loveliest lady, Melissa, and she told me all about this darling zippered pouch. It is mesh with raised “leatherette” letters and sells for $25. It is 7″ x 9″. Melissa and her sister grew up listening to their mother play Mah Jongg and became Mah Jongg players and collectors themselves. When Melissa saw this pouch she thought it would be great to hold MJ card, coins, etc. Melissa is such a doll and, if you live in NYC, I hope you will patronize her store. And there is a sale going on right now!

Melissa has two of these bags in stock if you are interested and she told me that she can reorder it if she sells out. If you are out of town or can’t get over there to buy this adorable bag, you can call her at (212) 755-3312.

Much thanks to Jeri and Melissa!

If you see any evidence of Mah Jongg in your neighborhoods, take a photo and send it to me and I will post it!