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Oh, Domino!

A Weekly Game Upholds a Cuban Tradition (or Two)
Alejandro Benes
Posted: August 1, 2007

Before we get to the meat of the matter, I got some splainin' to do. First of all, the only name I use in this tale is my own. I have done that to protect the innocent and the guilty. Second, I am Cuban. The significance of that is central to this story.

On Thursday evening, as I was getting ready to leave my home, the doorbell rang. By the time I answered, the UPS guy had disappeared and only a small box from my friend who owns a cigar business in Washington remained. Inside were four La Aurora Cien Años perfectos. These were special cigars that had been featured at a special event in Washington D.C. some months ago. The timing of their arrival was superb.

Every week, I join three friends for what began as a friendly night of dominoes. We play Cuban, double-nine, tournament-style. This is played in teams of two. (Usually the teams change, but we have kept them the same to heighten the competition.) Each game ends when one team scores 100 points. We play the World Series, best four out of seven games, every time. And, to be clear, my team -- the Good Guys -- wins most of the time. That was fine until the trash talking began and the whole thing became a matter of pride…Cuban pride.

My teammate is Israeli. He and I are similar in that we show up and play and don't talk about dominoes either while playing or during the rest of the week. The other team, known here as the Bad Guys -- one born in Cuba, the other born in the United States to Cuban parents -- upon noticing that they were losing pretty consistently, took to practicing and meeting to discuss strategy. I admit that this might have been spurred by my gift to them of a book called How to Play Better Dominoes.

The Bad Guys did win some games and, soon, got so cocky that when they started losing again, they got so bummed that they actually took to saying things like, "Wait 'til next week," or something along those lines. What made winning especially sweet was the other team's propensity for talking trash, even during the games.

"You know, if someone were watching," the Cuban-born Bad Guy would offer as another loss was registered, "they would clearly see that we are the better team." Of course, no one was watching.

If the Bad Guys made a slight or huge comeback, inevitably one would say, "The hunter has become the hunted."

Of course, this was all harmless fun. At least it was until one day the Good Guys got trounced, swept, smushed, annihilated four games to zero. We had done that to the Bad Guys on other occasions, but never had we responded as they did. Here's what the next day's email from one of the bad guys carried:

"The attached picture is certainly worth a thousand words when describing last night's events."


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