I invent a new card game — New York “Bicycle Solitaire” –and encounter a Three Card Incident at Knock-off Alley in Chinatown, corner of Vuitton & Burberry!

I’ve invented a new card game.
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Actually, let me first apologize for being a little late with this announcement –I invented this game about 30 years ago. I realize now that it was selfish of me to keep it to myself all this time.
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It is a wonderful game, but I suspect that I might be the only person in the world who plays Bicycle Solitaire. (But –perhaps not: it may be that there are other Bicycle Solitaire Players out there. It may even be that this time next year we are holding the first Bicycle Solitaire World Convention…where?…Madison Square Garden?…Please, not: isn’t there a Card Venue?…somewhere?)
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But –you say– What is it? How does one play it?
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I was getting to that.
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Thirty years ago I took up bicycling in New York. I bicycled all over the city –from my home on the North Shore of Staten Island, to the SI Ferry, and thence to all parts of the other boroughs….Chinatown for fish and veg…to my printers…to Union Square Greenmarket…to New York Central for my papers…up the westside bikepath (to Fairway Market on Broadway and 74th, when I could still afford halfway decent Olive Oil) …to Bruno’s on Laguardia Place to see my Bruno pals…across the Brooklyn Bridge (The Grand Ride) to Fort Greene to see my web-designing daughter Sion
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Don’t ask me when I actually started, or what inspired me to begin: let me just imagine –without any significant distortion of fact– that one day while riding my bike, I saw…a playing card on the ground, and for some reason or other, I simply picked it up, and when I got home, put it somewhere. It may have been the artist gene or the collector gene or the sociologist gene in play. And possibly all three of them together –at least!
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It’s a fair guess that I encountered, on subsequent bike rides, other single playing cards on the ground as I made my way around and about. And –at home– put them in a slowly growing pile of playing cards.
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At some point along the way –probably quite a long interval between pickups– I checked through the cards. Soon I did a card count on a grid that I constructed for that very purpose –down the left, the denominations from Ace, 1,2,3 to Jack (Knave?), Queen, King; and across the top the Suites –Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs & Spades.
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Now, it’s 30 years later, and since I found a new card just last night (–when getting off the SI Ferry and riding up the rank….Hey! Look at that! A Jack of Diamonds!–) I’ve just done a count.
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In 30 years I have now collected 39 cards –that comes out at about 1.33 cards a year. So, let me suggest that if you want to start your own game of Bicycle Solitaire, don’t wait TOO LONG or you might not get to finish it. Although, to bequeath your partial collection to the next generation is a gesture not to be sneezed (sniffed?) at. But –do start earlier rather than later –1.33 cards a year comes out at about 39.097 years all told! (With about ten years to go, and with NO duplicates, I may (or may not) have started a moment too soon.
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39 cards, out of a total of 52. Of course there were quite a few duplicates, which may or may not be significant in itself. I do have at least one card for each denomination and as many as six: I have six Jacks (but no Jack of Spades) and five Queens (but no Q. of Hearts or Diamonds)
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On certain cards I noted the location of the find –one such reads “Outside the Empire State building”, or, “Grand and Bowery”, a location in Chinatown that I often ride to get my fish (best prices, and very very fresh; I recommend it). I wish I had had the presence of mind to make a notation on all my finds –I realize that there is a Geographic Dimension/Element to the Game of Bicycle Solitaire. Perhaps even a predictive aspect, but that might just be too compulsive for a lot of you. (I don’t regard myself as a Compulsive –at least not in respect to picking up cards, more of a….what….I’m going to call myself a Cultural Anthropologist. Yes, a Cultural Anthropologist! I like that! What do you do? I’m a….Cultural Anthropologist, yes! I’m going to practice that with a W.C. Fields voice.
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But I do wish I had annotated all the locations. You will understand why when I tell you the following story.
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Because of one annotation, I know EXACTLY where I was on the 14th of August in 1993 –I was on Canal St. heading east. I am in that section of Canal that I will dub “Knock-off Alley, corner of Vuitton & Burberry” –probably most of you have bought at least one knockoff Louis Vuitton Bag there — because of the frenetic selling to gathered crowds of tourists by smiling vendors from Senegal, that happens there.
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There is a concommitant-intermittent urban activity that goes with this : the police raid and the subsequent scatter in all directions scurry that goes with it –or just before it, like water on a tiled floor before a squeegee brush!
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Before I relate my story, there is just one more element to include: ask yourself, what other activity might be attracted to such a location? That’s right –a Three Card Monte operation! Also known as Three Card Trick, or –in England– “Find the lady”, it is a popular street scam involving sleight-of-hand with playing cards, and the placing of bets by unsuspecting “marks “. Three playing cards are involved; classically the “Lady” one is invited to “Find”, will be the Queen, usually the Queen of Hearts.
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That was what was going on at Knock-off Alley just as I was riding by. Immediately a Police Sweep goes into action; the Knock-off Vuitton-Vendors scurry and scatter, their engaging smiles rapidly wiped off their faces to be replaced by Classic Classic New York Street “Who-Me” looks of Innocence. Sometimes the New York Street “Who-Me” looks of Innocence has an added edge of “And What Business Is It Of Yours?”
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Also in mid-scurry is the Three Card Monte team, wearing the same who-me expression. (Although, to be fair, theirs is more of a Melt-Away than a Scurry. Never has cardboard box –the disposable playing surface– been so rapidly abandoned.
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[It is at this point that I have to pause in my story to get rid of a Dogging Pun: something inside me wants to use “Dis-card” in this context of “picking up cards”. Amazing, isn’t it, how that resident google-synapse never sleeps, monitors your every word, and then spits out some pun or related figure-of-speech that it thinks is clever enough to mention. Well, I have to throw it a bone every now and again.)]
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As I ride by on my bicycle.
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But what do I see on the sidewalk just next to me?
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That’s right –a playing card. Actually, not one playing card but two, face down. They both have that telltale slightly-bent, sticking-up-in-the-air center that –I suppose–facilitates picking up. .
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Which I now do. (Wow! Two cards in One day –that’s going to bump up my 1993 average!)
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I pick them up, and turn them over, and WHAT do I see. Not just one Queen but two!!! (And yes, two Queens of Spades, as opposed to Queens of Heart!!!
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Why two? Why two the same? And two the same with the same back-of-card pattern, which means to me that buying two distinct packs of cards was involved when the Big TCM Boss was setting up his operation?
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I’ve never been able to come up with a sufficiently satisfying explanation. Perhaps you can.
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There are other engaging stories attached to other individual cards, but that’s my favorite. And certainly the most elaborate.
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GOOD LUCK with Bicycle Solitaire. Let me know how it goes. (Or -perhaps you have invented other Bicycle Games that I can try.)


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