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The happiest club in town

LO mah jongg players are inviting public for rodeo on Feb. 27

by: VERN UYETAKE - A foursome begins action at the Lake Oswego Mah Jongg Club last Thursday night. An expert player can talk, eat and drink while playing. From the left are Kay Stevenson, Ann Vess, Lynda Brynelson and Carey Stephens.There are 144 tiles in mah jongg, and there are at least that many ways to have fun in the Lake Oswego Mah Jongg Club.

Now the club plans to share mah jongg joy with all of Lake Oswego and West Linn at the Year of the Horse Mah Jongg Invitational Rodeo on Feb. 27 at the Oswego Lake Country Club.

This is an opportunity that should be seized because the Lake Oswego ladies (and one man) make up what a club should be all about. They laugh, eat, drink, gamble, travel, celebrate holidays and make merry.

They can even trash talk. One lady proudly announced that her daughter was one of the finalists for valedictorian at Loyola Marymount University. Another lady shot back, "How did she get those smarts?" and everyone laughed uproariously.

They also play a game that takes tremendous mental powers and concentration. The money involved is not huge. One participant was flabbergasted when she won $3 one night. While the monetary amount for the gambling is low (sometimes 1 cent a point) the prestige is high.

"It's amazing what a woman will do for a quarter," one member said.

For all of this, Lake Oswego owes a big debt to Lilly Logan, club founder, who became the mother of mah jongg here in 2002. by: VERN UYETAKE - Mah jongg newcomer Sue Schmid gets some expert teaching from Lilly Logan, founder of the Lake Oswego Mah Jongg Club.

"I bribed Barbara Sue Seal to give me lessons," Logan said. "She taught me how to play. I loved the tiles. They're beautiful."

Before too long Logan had created a little mah jongg hotbed in Lake Oswego, as curious, tile-loving ladies took the plunge and learned a game that has been played since the days of ancient China. Sure, the players love to win and yell out, "Mah jongg!" But the game is mainly a means for the best things in life. The players (with the exception of Leo Conkle) are sisters of the Mah Jongg Sisterhood.

"We went to my place in the mountains and we didn't change our clothes for three days," said Beth Levich. "We just played, drank and ate. It was like being a child again. Most of us are empty-nesters and this club gives us the girlfriends we didn't have time for before in our lives."

Once a Lake Oswego mah jongger, always a Lake Oswego mah jongger. Leslie Aranoff walked in on a recent Thursday night after having been away traveling for a year. It was like she hadn't missed a beat. Her friends bathed her in hugs, and she immediately sat down, started playing mah jongg and chatting like she had never been away.

The good times do roll at the LO Mah Jongg Club, but the players like to win too. Underneath her serene exterior, Logan is a shark, although a modest one. You have to draw out the information that she has probably won more games than anyone over the years. by: VERN UYETAKE - The sheer beauty of mah jongg tiles is why many people take up the game in the first place. Almost every mah jongg player eventually buys a mah jongg set.

Mah jongg veterans like Logan are held in the highest esteem by club newcomers.

"Those ladies are awesome," said one newbie. "They can play and talk at the same time."

Yet a newcomer should never be discouraged, as Lori Lauber can attest. Mah jongg hope springs eternal.

"I thought I'd never make it," Lauber said. "I said, 'I'll never say mah jongg.' But someone told me to never say never. I won on the last tile. Now I'm addicted. It's terrible."

Yes, terribly wonderful.

The club members have been through so much together over the past 12 years, taking their children through school, college and weddings. Occasionally they have a sad experience, such as the recent passing of two beloved members.

Still, the Lake Oswego Mah Jongg Club is the kind of club everyone would want to belong to. by: VERN UYETAKE - Kay Stevenson looks content with her tiles at the most recent session of the Lake Oswego Mah Jongg Club at the Oswego Lake Country Club.

To play in the Year of the Horse Mah Jongg Invitational Rodeo, send a check for $27 to Lilly Logan at 1821 Oak St., Lake Oswego, OR 97034. The fee includes a barbecue chuck wagon dinner and a barn door prize ticket. All of those attending are urged to wear their fanciest western wear, including denim, boots and hats. The event will last from 5 p.m. "until the cows come home."

The Oswego Lake Country Club is located at 20 Iron Mountain Road.

For further information, call 503-697-3060.

Cliff Newell can be reached at cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com and 503-636-1281, ext. 105.

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