Friday, May 3, 2003

For the second time in a row, I went into a Scrabble tournament under less-than-ideal conditions. This time around it was sleep deprivation resulting from... well... from not having slept.

I had planned on using Friday to catch up on all the sleep that I had missed in my travels from the west coast back to Texas. Hyper-caffeination and little sleep are the norm for me on long road trips, but I had fully expected to be able to make up for it after my job interview on Friday. And I truly did have some catching up to do, because after finding a couple of Scrabble clubs out in Southern California on Monday and Tuesday, I didn't find a place to crash until late. On Wednesday I killed some time in Phoenix looking for a Scrabble club, and then some time at a club in Tucson, which only gave me around five hours sleep before I started the 900-mile drive back to Dallas. My job interview was not 'til Friday, and the new X-Men movie was not 'til midnight, so I could have napped for a few hours, but I pushed myself past the fatigue in order to make it to Thursday night club for as many games as possible. Before my club in Anaheim Hills on Monday, I had not played in 12 days, and when I looked at my opening rack it took me a bit to get my mind back into the game. I didn't want a repeat Saturday morning in Jonesboro.

After the movie on Thursday, me and my buddies were obliged to stand around and talk for a couple of hours about how good the movie was, how it compared to the comic books, whether it was better than the original, or "Spider-Man", or "Daredevil", ad infinitum. In the end, I didn't get to sleep until after 4:00. I was up again around 9:30 to take my car into the shop for some work before the 450-miles drive to Jonesboro, and I had planned to curl up on the couch in the waiting room and sleep for a few hours. But I just tossed and turned. Next came a job interview, after which I went to the back corner of the parking lot of a Starbucks in Plano where I would meet friend later, but I still couldn't get to sleep. I was starting to worry.

I remembered that I still didn't know where the tournament would be held, and when I went over to Kinko's to look up the address, I noticed that play would begin at 9:30!!! I had assumed 12:00 all this time because all of the previous tournaments I had attended had begun at noon. Holy crap!!! Now I was really running out of time, and even if I left right then, I would only have time for a few hours before play began. So I hurriedly said goodbye to my friends and began the drive. Oh, yeah, I downed a DoubeShot first and bought another for the next morning, as there are no Starbucks in Jonesboro, nor in Little Rock (until June 23).

After a quick shower at the gym, I was on the road at 11:20 and looking at 320 miles to Little Rock. I wanted to at least make it to Little Rock, from which it would be another 133 miles to Jonesboro. I wasn't even to Greenville when I started feeling fatigue. But I focused on Texarkana as my first milestone, and a couple of hours and 180 miles later, I pulled into the truck stop J for some gas, and for some directions on the best way to Jonesboro, either US-67 and then some state road, or US-49 straight in. A waitress pulled out a map and then called over a trucker who said I'd save more time staying on I-30 from Little Rock to US-49 than by taking US-67 and cutting across the middle of rural Arkansas. Seemed to make sense to me. But some old timer outside seemed to think the US-67 route was best, but then he started talking about West Memphis, and I knew he was way off. He was probably thinking of US-63, which runs from Jonesboro to Memphis. Then he asked if I could run him up to the Flying J, or something like that. I couldn't quite hear him, so I kept saying "I can't hear you," and finally he gave up. I think he thought I was on drugs or too tired or something and didn't want to take his chances.

I pulled out of the parking lot, and remembered I needed some drops in my eyes, so I stopped at the red light to put some in, and I heard this voice to my left. "Say man. Gimme some o dat!". I looked to my left, and it was an unsavory-looking type in the passenger seat with muscles and a serious look on his face. I know that sharing is caring, but it was nearly 2:00 in the AM in Texarkana, and so I just put my foot on the gas and turned right to get back onto the interstate, looking in my rearview mirror the whole time to see if they were following, but they just sat at the light, and as soon as my tires hit the on-ramp I floored it.

Shortly after crossing the state line, I felt the need to play Collin Raye's "Little Rock", a truly touching song that extols the virtues of selling VCRs in Arkansas at a Wal-Mart.

The drops in my eyes helped, and I managed to push on past Little Rock and to a rest area 100 miles from Jonesboro. It was 4:30 AM, and I set my alarm for 8:00 to give me 90 minutes to drive the rest of the way.


May 4

At 7:05 I woke and didn't feel like complete crap, so I started driving. The speed limit on US-49 was 55, not the 65 I had hoped, but that only meant I tried to keep it under 80. But traffic was light, so I wasn't delayed behind other cars, except for a few miles from town by a mail truck, and made good time. Amazingly, I wasn't feeling too fatigue after only 2 1/2 hours of sleep. I thought about trying to nap for an hour outside the tournament venue, but I decided I'd be better served starting off the day with a good meal, so I asked some kid at a gas station downtown about a hot breakfast. He, as they usually do, mentioned Denny's and Waffle House, and I had to specify a local place. He asked his father if Tessie's served breakfast, answered me in the affirmative, and gave me some directions. But it wasn't four or five blocks--more like 20. I was about to turn around when I saw the sign for Tessie's Kitchen.

I forgave the fact that smoking was allowed, since the biscuits were decent, and the waitress was kind enough to substitute a hot cake for the grits, though I'm glad I didn't order just hot cakes--not that great on their own. And she treated me pretty decent when, in my accelerating drowsiness, I spilled my juice after tilting the table when trying to steady myself on it after tipping over my chair when reaching for my phone that I had pushed over the edge of the table. I'm sure the scene would have looked great of "America's Funniest Home Videos". I was crashing pretty quickly though, so I quickly finished my breakfast and headed over to St. Bernard's Auditorium, easy to find even without a map of Jonesboro (that I had forgotten to print out) for being just a few blocks off Main St. I downed my remaining DoubleShot and entered the auditorium right at 9:30, and to my surprise everyone was already sitting down and playing. The director Jack Howe was waiting for me at the door and pointed me towards my opponent. Had I not been so tired, I would have been in shock. None of the other tournaments I had attended had started anywhere near on time, so I figured it was just a Scrabble tradition to start late. Not this time. Ordinarily I would have been impressed by the level of organization, but at the moment all I could think was "Uh-oh... better get my mind in the game."

I got off to a good start against Rea Spidel, building up a healthy 87-point lead, though it could have been better if I had seen ZILL. But I picked up 52 points with the Z anyway, so I guess it turned out. I needed the extra points, because I allowed her to cut the lead with the phony ENSOLED. Thankfully, her next strong play was BINGO, and not a true bingo. But she was still but a bingo away, and I wasn't getting the bingo tiles. Meanwhile, I was forgetting whether PUD, FAP, and WUD, were good, and ended up playing OUD for fewer points and a poorer leave. A couple of turns later, she caught up with TITTERS and I got the jitters. Then another strong play and she's up by 17. But then I played AYAH, one of the fours that I had kept forgetting until I did several more iterations of the As, and she challenged, giving me the opportunity to go out and pick up plenty of points from her rack to win by 36!

Despite an even draw and both blanks, Kathi Cann couldn't. I started out with a small lead, which I increased turn by turn, to end up winning by 79. My only worry came early, when I chance MIAOUED to open, and got slammed with three Es for EEEEINC. But I managed to dink away the Es for reasonable points (12, 18, 29) without exchanging, but I still had too many vowels, AEIIUTL, so I successfully chanced a what I figured to be a phony (though unsure), AUTILE*, to cleanse my rack. I managed 341 points without bingoing, though--could never get past the no-gos, ABATING and PARTING. And I caught Kathi's only bingo attempt, WARRENT*. After letting ENSOLED* go in the previous game, I was in a challenging mood.

I almost ran out of time in this game, though, because I had begun jotting down notes about my game. I need to make sure my note-taking doesn't screw up my game-playing.

Two games and no bingos. Hmmm...

Next up was Billie Garver, the lady responsible for the tournament, and one of the higher-ranked players in the field, 1123 to my 1087 (pre-Ardmore). So I was glad for the better draw, seven premiums, but that Q wasn't so great, as it stuck with me way too long. I couldn't even play the QUA I was holding. I took a risk by giving up the U and the A for a 25-point ARUM to the TWS, and I paid for it when she blocked the U I had left hanging. Meanwhile, I found myself forgetting words I had just studied. This time, I challenge KINE. My saving grace was that Billie was just not scoring well. Very few plays higher than 15 pts. So I was able to amass a healthy lead, even with no bingos. My win was assured, which was good, because I was really starting to feel the fatigue at this point, and the onset of a headache. I sat and stared at my final rack for minutes, not able to think of a thing to play. Thankfully, we had a lunch break coming up.

Now I was up 3-0 with a 253 spread, but no bingos, because I failed to chance BRANNED in that last game. I would have been feeling good, if not for the fact that I was feeling like crap. Lunch was being served at the other end of the room, but I just wanted to pick up some fruit and yogurt for later. I asked Jack about the nearest grocery store, but I let him convince me to try the food that was provided. I stood in line like a zombie for a bit, chatted with some ladies about where I was from, and then it occurred to me to at least look at what was being served. It didn't appeal to me, and I wasn't that hungry anyway after my big breakfast, so I figured I'd be better served trying to nap. As luck would have it, there was a partition in the auditorium that allowed me to set up my blanket and pillow pretty much out of sight. I closed my eyes and drifted off a couple of times, but never entered a deep sleep. Still, I felt a little better, and I decided to take the remaining time to find a grocery store and get some vittles for later. Oh, and to pop a couple of pain relievers and a Vivarin.

I made it back from the grocery store at 1:35, because of traffic heavier than I would have expected for a small time like Jonesboro. But my clock had not yet been started, not that it would have mattered to me, since I tend to play quickly when I want to. Vera Clark was my opponent, and she was still relatively new and unclear about all the rules. I tried to help her out as best I could. We went back and forth with the lead at first, but I had a couple of hiccups. First, I overdrew and place one tile on my rack, which meant she got to choose from all of them, and I lost my S, which is why I think the overdraw rule is flawed. To add insult to injury, after she took my S, she bingoed. Then I challenged EXTOL, thinking it took two Ls. A couple of turns later, she was up by 50, but I finally managed a bingo, without even having to NURTURE a healthy rack. Still behind, I made successive strong plays while Vera stagnaed a bit, and in the end I won by 25, my lowest spread of the day.

Now I was 4-0, my best opening ever.

But I had used up my one remaining score sheet from the Houston club, which I had become accustomed to. I now had to use the ones provided, and I did not like the letter layout for tracking.

I shoulda won my fifth game. I really should have. But I let Frank Schin win. First of all, I mistakenly held onto the X hoping to draw an I for a power play with the X on the DWS, AXAL/XI/ILIA. I drew my I all right, only to discover it formed IILA, not ILIA. D'oh! Still, after TENaNTS, I maintained a healthy lead until the very end, when he played KRONERS*. I was still up by 19, with few tiles left, so I let it slide. But then he played FLYED* to the TWS for 42, and since I had a 20-point play to come within 3, I figured I could still win it. But I needed those points on his rack, and I didn't think he'd be able to play them all off, so when he played SHY to the TWS, my heart sank. I went out, but couldn't close the 8-point gap. I shoulda challenged FLYED. I can't believe I let it slide.

Next up was Thelma Litton, the only other Texan in attendance that I knew of. I wondered what happened to the Peppster. Nothing noteworthy in this game, except my boneheadedness in forgetting if DEL was good, and not having yet learned that JUN does not take an S.

Next was Erskine Thompon, tied with me at 5-1, but with a spread higher than my 337. He was the top-rated player in the division at 1178, and the man to beat. He opened low with 8, and I jumped to an early lead with 18, which I expanded with another 24 points after he mistakenly played GRADN and graciously took it off the board without requiring a challenge. I then AMAZED him with another 42 to double my score. I continued to maintain a lead, but he was still within easy striking distance until I bingoed, and the SILENcE was deafening. He was not able to make any headway and I ended up winning by 140 to move into first place. A true relief.

As much as I had grumbled about the 9:30 start time, the advantage was that we were finished by 4:30, which meant I would arrive in Memphis fairly early. After dealing with a tire low on air , then with a problem with my debit car at Kinko's, I was on the road to Memphis by 5:00 and in town by 6:00. I immediately made my way to The Cupboard, where I had had some pretty good home cooking on a previous trip through Memphis. But it closed at 3:00 on Saturday, so I picked up a the local alternative newsweekly to look for recommendations. No list of restaurants--just one profile a place downtown, but no address or phone number. So I headed towards downtown, on Union, and soon ran into heavy traffic, police directing traffic, and guys on the side of the street with signs advertising tickets wanted or for sale. This was a clue that something was going on. Turns out it was the Beale Street Music Festival that I had stumbled across. I wasn't yet famished, but I was really tired and not in the mood to sit in traffic, so I turned onto a side street to make my way away from downtown. As it happened, some guy was pulling out of a parking spot, so I took it and walked to the restaurant on the corner, after asking a guy parked ahead of me whether it was safe to leave my car. The area looked rough.

After listening to a waiter/host/cook/owner list more varieties of chicken than you can shake a stick at, I asked if they served red beans and rice, which is what I was in the mood for. No dice, but he was kind enough to recommend Rum Boogie's, on Beale Street. I walked a couple of blocks down to Beale Street, which was closed off to traffic for the obvious reason that it was packed with pedestrians. Musical acts were playing on the street and in doorways. Signs advising us to repent were visible. And it sure was crowded. But I didn't mind. I like crowds, as long as it doesn't get out of hand. I had to walk a few blocks to find the Rum Boogie Cafe, and I think I got in right before they started charging a cover for the blues act that would soon play downstairs. I was seated upstairs, the smoking section, but that was all right, since it gave me a view down onto the street, where there were plenty of lovely young things in low-cut tops. Despite the view and the music, I tried to concentrate on my 4-letter Ts. The waiter screwed up my order and brought me a full plate of red beans and rice, instead of a bowl, but he let me have it for the price of what I ordered. But I wasn't that hungry I guess, because I barely ate more than half.

I drove across town to the 24 Hour Fitness, only to discover it closed until 7:00 AM the next morning. Didn't really matter, since I've be fine in the back of the parking lot next to the dumpster, but I did have drive back up the street to the Starbucks for a cup of water for the night, and while I was there a DoubleShot for the next morning. It wasn't cold out, nor was it hot, so I figured I could keep the DoubleShot on the winshield and keep it at a reasonable temperature and save myself a few minutes in the morning in case I woke later than planned.

Around 3:00 AM I had slept for about 6 hours and was feeling restless, so I decided to take a drive around town. The city always looks different in the wee hours. People look at you different, with suspicion, when you are cruising around with the windows down at those hours, especially the cops, like the two somewhere on Brooks Ave that gave me the eye. But what came next surprise me. Heading up 3rd St. from the south, I ran smack dab into a traffic jam at 4:00 in the AM. I was totally like, "What the f*!!!". I sat there for a while, crawling along, observing the other cars and the pedestrians. Like this white guy that looked a little drunk, a little nervous, and a lot out of place among the predominantly non-white crowd. Maybe he wasn't nervous, and just drunk and sleepy. Hard to tell. Another guy, in a taxi, reminded me of Ben Affleck. This guy kept looking back at me as I was making notes. I think he was maybe a bit paranoid in his stupor and though I was writing about him. Meanwhile, some asshole blasting his stereo behind me kept trying to get around me, as if he was really going to go anywhere. I considered pulling out my list of words while sitting there, but I decided I'd better keep my eyes peeled. You never know. Finally, some other guy gave up and cut across the lanes and onto a side street, and I decided to do the same. I worked my way over to Main St. and then Front St. and then back to 3rd St, bypassing the traffic jam. By then I was starting to feel tired again, so I took the North Parkway east until it turned into Summer Ave and continued east. While I drove I ran through some of the Ts I'd been studying at Rum Boogie in my mind, and discovered I still remembered some, despite having been fatigued and distracted. So it wasn't a waste of time. I passed by some place called the Pancake Shop, open 24 hours, and figured I might as well have some breakfast and get that out of the way. Nearly 5:00 AM now, and a large group of kids was just now finishing up their night. Okay biscuits and eggs, but nothing to write home about.

I went back to my corner and slept until a bit past 7:00. I got in an upper body workout before my shower, and then had just enough time to pass by downtown and take the photo of Rum Boogie before getting on the road and hauling ass back up to Jonesboro. I used my five-minute grace period to grab some yogurt and fruit at Wallace and Owen, a local grocer I'd never heard of, and I rushed in to the auditorium, the first of the last four participants to arrive.


May 4

I was in first place, but I had two strong players up first. Paula Bullock, a 1116. She stunned me on her fourth turn by using the blank as an A to play QaT for 15 points! Wowsers!! I would never have expected someone with that rating to burn a blank like that so early in the game. Needless to say, I had no trouble that game, winning handily by 80 to get my spread up past 400.

I wouldn't need the spread if I won all my games, but I had another strong player up next, Wendell Smith, #2 in the field. Unlike Erskine, he didn't start off with a mistake, and I would need luck to beat him. Luck that never materialized. He passed to open, and I played with PIXEL for 34. But that was about all the luck I was going to get. He busted out with both blanks for REcItER. But only for 62 points, and I was at 54 after two turns, so I did not worry yet. At least both blanks were out, which would cut down on the surprises. After turn 3 we were tied at 85. I didn't challenge WINKER for 40 because I had a 42-point counter play, which is just as well, because WINKER is good. My rack was ACMOOSU, not the greatest, and after the 42-point MOCK I drew pure DOO, for ADOOOSU. This is the kind of rack I would have to work with while Wendell was drawing power tiles. Even when I managed to nurture an AIRSTF, I drew a V instead of one of the plentiful Es. I stayed with him as best as I could, but every time I thought I was building a lead, he would bust out with a strong premium-tile play--the blanks, the K, the J, the Z. I got esses, but I could never get a bingo rack together. Finally it came to the point where I needed that Q for some points, or to stick him with it. I was holding a U, but he went and drew the Q and played it on a DWS, but leaving it up against another DWS. And despite my U, I had no Q words to match his play. So he scores again with QAID, and that's it, man. Down by 43 points. I have to give it to Wendell though--when I played SUD*, he did not challenge, for ethical reasons. Apparently, another player had told him while we were playing that it was no good. I never noticed. I guess this must be the dark underbelly of the Scrabble world.

Now I'm again tied with Erskine at 7 games, but with a slightly higher spread. But I was pretty hopeful, because I had just played my two strong opponents, which Erskine would now face, while I would play #9 and #11 in the field of 12. I could smell victory, albeit with some trepidation. This was no time to get cocky.

I won't mention the name of my next opponent, because I'd rather talk about my first experience with poor sportsmanship. Actually, I have to mention my opening play FYKE from EEFHKTY. I felt satisfied because it allowed me to use three high-point tiles on the DWS. But really, a better play would have been KYTHE, which I didn't know, or HEFTY, which I should have seen. Anyback, back to my opponent. I had overheard her complaining about men and how they were and why they won most of the tournaments. Then it seemed she walked away in a hurry, but according to her opponent, it was more like a tantrum. And apparently she had tossed her rack and tiles, or something like that, on the board after an earlier game. Well, in hour game, I was getting a pretty good draw at first. I played SCaLPEL with a blank for 97, and then followed it up with a 32-point Q play. She commented that it must be nice to have the gods on your side. But she was able to play off my Q for 26, and I commented that it didn't work out so bad for her. She thought I was being patronizing. I tried to explain that since I had to risk her getting 20 points for the Q just like me, and she did, I wasn't exactly getting 100% of the luck, but she wouldn't listen. Meanwhile, I was one again forgetting my fours, chancing HEET and losing, when I could have played HE for almost as many points. Next turn, I chanced WEEN, and she let it go, but I wasn't sure until the end of the game that it was good. Later, I tried GAWDIEsT, and she challenged it off the board. Poor attitute or not, she knew some words. Finally, at the end of the game, I tried to squeeze every last point out of my out play, and this caused her to just sign the tally sheet before I had a chance to fill it out and walk off in disgust, saying "As if it mattered to get those extra points.". Well, when I've got Erskine Thompson breathing down my back, you bet it matters.

Erskine ended up losing his 10th game, and at that point I was really confidenct of my victory. Still need to win to ensure he didn't catch me with a ridiculous spread in game 11.

Mike Muller from Memphis, who later commented that, by going down to the Beale Street Festival, I had seen more in Memphis than he had in a while, gave me a tough game, and had me worried for a while. I played TOADIEs, one of my favorite common bingos, early on, but he started to catch up right away. He came within four points, and then he slipped by playing EXORT, which I challenged. But a couple of turns later he took the lead by 3, and I started to sweat. But he passed and I regained the lead. Then a couple of turns later he let me get away with ANEAP*, and by turn 13 I was up by 83 and once again feeling confident. He made no more headway, and I cruised to victory.

9-2, my best record yet, and good enough for 1st place. I planned out my route home and had a sandwich and some beans and crackers they provided while waiting for the awards. I tried to decide whether to visit the Starbucks in Jackson and then head to Houston, or whether to let it go a week and visit it on the way out to Philly. I decided I'd save a couple of hundred miles, and gas, by letting it go a week. Since I had quite a bit of traveling in the coming weeks, and my London trip, and then the Arden Cup, every tankful of gas mattered. For that same reason, that $180 prize sure felt sweet, as well as the victory itself. I felt on top of the world, my only concern being whether my new rating would be used in Chicago.

+1 on the premium tiles, 56 out of 110.

As it turns out, Joe Edley announced that he has computed all the new ratings, so I'd better psyche myself up for a higher division and tougher competition in Chicago. It would be tough, with two weeks of traveling up ahead, but maybe 6 hours on the plane back from London would make a difference.

I started my drive back to Texas. Furthering my goal of driving all the interstates and US highways, I took SR-26 west through Cash, AR, to US-67, but I didn't get very far before I started to crash. I pulled into an Exxon station in Newport and managed to doze for a while until the sun came out and I woke up sweating. So I grabbed an energy drink, Venom, "with instant bite", and a Hershey's, my reward for having won, and push on down into Little Rock. I got off the freeway and took US-70 through downtown North Little Rock and Little Rock. Downtown Little Rock is, as expected, quite dead on a Sunday afternoon. No wonder they haven't opened a Starbucks in this town yet.

By the time I reach Texarkana, night has fallen. I was hoping to reach the Starbucks in Longview, TX, before it closed at 10:00 PM, but I didn't think I would make it, so I figured I crash at the border rest area. I asked the security guard about a local place to eat, and he suggested Old Tyme Burger an exit down the interstate. I pulled into the parking lot, the wrong parking lot, which didn't matter because Old Tyme was closed anyhow. I thought a bit, and decided Waffle House was it--I hadn't been in a while anyway. I changed and walked inside, and the waitress asked me if I was okay. Turns out she thought, from the way I pulled into the parking lot abruptly and sat there, that I was about to pull donuts. I assured her that, at 310,000 miles, my car probably wouldn't survive donuts. The waffle was decent, if not great, as they usually are at Waffle House, but I was a bit disappointed that I was the only customer. A large part of the appeal of Waffle House is the interesting cast of characters to be found, but I guess it was too early, only about 9:00 PM. I took a break from studying to catch up on some comic books. One of the waiters picked my brain about physics, wanting to confirm that hot water boils faster, and cold water freezes faster. He had been arguing with customers and staff all day about this. Apparently there is some old wive's tale about how hot water freezes faster, and cold water boils faster, which makes no sense whatsoever.

I crossed the border again and crashed out at the rest area on the Arkansas side. Texarkan is unusual because typically rest areas are located at least 10-20 miles outside town. But Texarkana is on the border, and major interstate borders usually have souped up rest areas called information or welcome centers with better facilities and guards. Anyway, this allowed me to sleep until the wee hours and then, when I got restless as I often do, drive into town to see what was going on at 1:00 or 2:00 in the AM. Well, this was Texarkana, so not a damn thing. So I just went over to the other rest area on the Texas side and went back to sleep.


May 5

I took I-30 west to US-259 south into Longview. I passed through Daingerfield, which sticks out in my mind because of a neighbor I used to have in Plano, a lady of 49 who didn't look nearly that old and was definitely attractive, especially that one time we met friends for sushi and she wore this black Tommy dress. I didn't get any farther than a massage up in her bedroom with her in a nightie and me in my shorts, but the older woman thing for a 25-26 year old kid was definitely exciting. Anyway, she claimed she was working with a general contractor to build a house for Don Henley in Daingerfield.

While I was reliving old memories, my heart jumped as I spotted a sign for gas at 1.14. Of course it was too good to be true--the Chevron station looked long since abandoned. I did find some FINA gas at 1.26, but the catch was the kids wanting to pump the gas for me, for a tip of course. I gave them the brush off.

Further down the highway, I stopped at Old Dad's Restaurant in Ore City, where the waitress suggested that an egg, bacon, and cheese biscuit would be cheapest for me. The same thing I order at Burger King, but ooooh, soooo much better, and not much more expensive, even with a nice tip.

It had been over 24 hours since I had last had coffee, and I was starting to jones pretty bad, and get a headache, which was too bad, because NPR's Performance Today was playing Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 5, and the loud notes went straight to that part of my skull that hurt. I was quite relieved when I drove into Longview and found the Starbucks, thanks to a local. Coincidentally, Sabrina the barista who splashed water on my faced (and comped the coffee as a result) was married to Brad the manager over at Discount Tire, where I headed next to have that tire fixed that had been losing air. It turned out both rears were on their last legs. I couldn't afford new ones in cash, but I was approved for a credit line and drove away after a while with a couple of new tires.

From Longview I continued south on 259 until it turned into US-59 and then split off into US-69 to Beaumont. Along the way, I damn near flipped out when I saw a bee fly past my arm. I have a fear of stinging insects, so I had to pull the car over and try to get the bee out of my trunk. It was stuck up in a corner, and just kept shaking it's ass at me, like "I'm going to sting you" as I tried to get it out. Finally it flew out of the corner, but I couldn't see where it went, so I had to close up my hatchback in case it was still stuck there and thoroughly inspect the front of the car before getting back on the highway. Last thing I need was to be stung while driving--that could be the end of me.

The Starbucks in Beaumont was pretty cool for a remote market.

I got on I-10 and rushed west so I could make Monday night club in southeast Houston, because break time was over, and Chicago was looming.



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