Mid-Cities was the first tournament that afforded me the opportunity to play up to Division 2, and the decision to do so was tough indeed. I was certain that I could win money in Division 3, money that, in my current jobless state, would come in handy towards going to Reno, and in general. But when I took a look at the list of entrants in Division 2, I saw names of several players I had beaten in the past, in club or in tournament, and also the name of my current nemesis, Traci Nguyen, who had beaten twice before in tournament. I decided I just wouldn't feel right if I did well in Division 3 without having had a crack at beating Traci. But frankly, the name at the top of the list, Mo Davis, and her 1533 rating, put not a small amount of fear in me.
I drove up early on Thursday so that I could attend Mike Willis's Thursday night club. I almost missed the first game because of the horrible rainstorm that brough traffic to a crawl in some areas. It was good to see the old crew, including Josh Jacobs, who had been AWOL the last time I attended that club. Josh is some kind of prodigy with words and has replaced me as the newest rising star in the Dallas Scrabble scene. But I'm not jealous, not as long as his rating stays below mine. I've got my eye on the boy though--I've a feeling he'll be giving me some stiff competition by the time I reach the expert division.
In one of the night's three games, I suffered a brief scare when he played a couple of phone 3s, MIP and WOB, and I found myself wondering if it was me losing my mind or him. The first one I let go because I wasn't paying attention. The second I challenged off the board. It would turn out that not paying attention, rather than knowledge of 3s, would cost me big in the coming days.
Danger, Will Robinson!
After club, I hung out with a buddy in Deep Ellum for a while, and then drove back up the freeway to the 24 Hour Fitness at Royal and Central that has become my home in Dallas since I was kicked out of the abandoned parking lot across from the Art Institute. I had gotten accustomed to sleeping behind the building, because it was darker, and the only disturbance was the DART rail passing by periodically until service shut down for the night. But no more of that. I awoke at some point in the night to see this serious-looking dark man staring in my window, undoubtedly trying to decide whether to try and steal anything. As I started up and jumped to the front seat to start the car, he walked back to his car and drove off, and I considered myself lucky. I thought about calling the police, but what would I tell them? I thought again about how I really need to buy a handgun, but I don't know what I would do with it when I cross over the line into any other state, and heaven help me if I should forget and try to cross into Canada with it.
So I moved out in front of the building, and found a spot under a tree that blocked most of the light from the lamps. It occurs to me that I've noticed a correlation across the country behind the quality of the area, in terms of crime, and the level of lighting in parking lots. Out in the country, it's not hard to find parking lots that are completely dark.
I'd Rather Be Getting Root Canal!
I awoke just in time for what I expected would be my most unpleasant experience of the day, a trip to the dentist. Little did I know that the Scrabble to come would make the dental assistant's poking and prodding feel like a Swedish massage by comparison. Heck, even 30 wasted minutes trying to make my wishes understood at the Consumer Credit Counseling office wasn't so bad by comparison.
I arrived at the conference center at the La Quinta Inn in Arlington barely in time, to learn that registration had been extended for some slowpokes from New Orleans. Something about bad weather and delayed flights.
The late entries caused the divisions for the Early Bird to be reworked, and now there was no one in my division I had beaten in the past.
The tournament began well for me, as I opened game 1 against Barbara Santee (aka The Silver Fox) with INANEsT. But after a few strong plays, including having the audacity to SNATCH my TWS, she comes within 19 points. So I get crazy and bust back with LUNIEST (is that even what it means?) to regain a sizeable lead from which she cannot recover, and I with by 126.
WWF Smackdown, Live From Arlington!
Next up was Carole "The Killer" Miller, #1 in our division. She opened with a blow to the side of the head with a shoe that came out of nowhere. While I was dazed, she leaped over the table, grabbed me by the throat, and knocked my chair back. With one arm reaching behind her, she played JIVED for 50 points. I managed to pull out the sneezing powder that I always carry with me and blow it in her face, and while she dealt with paroxysms so powerful that they blew poor Bill Huttel sitting next to us off his chair, I managed to sneak in some good scoring plays and gain a lead, which I extended with SECANTS. But she recovered from her sneezing and smacked with with a mean backhand, deftly laying down tiles to form a 70-point bingo as her hand swung back. What dexterity! From that point on, she steadily crept towards the inevitable victory, kicking me in the shins under the table every time she scored, and holding her hand over my mouth as I desperately tried to call for the director. Amazingly, nobody else noticed the abuse she was heaping on me, and if you ask her, I'm sure she'll deny it.
In retrospect, the beating I received was not as painful as the eventual outcome of the day's games. But after two games, I still had hope. Oh, how foolish.
My third game was against Linda Villareal, who I now refer to as "The Nemesis". I think the high point of the game was sliding a phony past her, BIOTAL*. After that point, she grabbed the lead and held on tight. Making use of her two blanks for two bingos, while I came up with bupkus. I think I held on to my STNIE for too many turns for too few points before finally giving it up for ALIENS for 21 points. Meanwhile, Linda is over there fishing for a bingo, and she gets it. I draw the Q with no chance to exchange it or play it, even with a U in hand, which is most frustration, and I lose the game by even a wider margin. I know were are not supposed to complain about tiles, but I would be doing a lot of that during the course of the weekend. And thanks to the power of the Internet, I can complain to everyone in the whole wide world.
Enough is Enough is Enough, I Can't Go On...!
My only consolation after two back-to-back losses was that I had already played the top 3 players in the division, and could hope to win four games still. Next was Chip Brown, the only player rated below me. I opened with ENOUGH, thinking back to that reportedly crappy J-Lo movie, and that it was time to put a stop to this madness and win a game. I readied myself to EMIGRATE to the land of winners with a 94-point play that gave me a hefty lead. But then Chip came back with TWISTIER for 90 to regain the lead. I don't feel so bad, because I play XENIA under his play for 38 points, and then draw the Z and spot two places to play it for killer points. And then I go nuts. I realized that Chip had hooked TWISTIER to AFTS, and I knew full well that it was no good, having studied my 3s that don't take an S just a week prior to the tournament. But I hadn't even looked at his play. I just resigned myself to his bingo and gave him the points. This inattentiveness would prove to cost me dearly. So it didn't matter that I played BLAZERS (non-bingo) for 114, plus another bingo, SHIVEReD, to eventually win the game 501-365. I was nothing but displeased with myself for having let him get away with a phony I knew to be phony. Unforgivable that mistake was. And my score could have been better still had I know that ENOUGH takes an S.
Winter, In All His Generosity, Gives Bill His Token Game
I went into my fifth game against Bill Huttel still pissed off. Bill had not yet won a game, and I almost felt sorry for him. But when he pulled both blanks for a pair of bingos early in the game, all sympathy disappeared, and my frustration from the previous game combined with new frustration over the draw in this must-win game. I was a bottomless well of bitterness. The guy admits he is playing lousy and can't win a game all day, and it's against me that he pulls everything out of the bag, leaving me only with the X and the Z and a 100-point defeat. While I admit I played poorly this tournament, I don't think I played poorly that game. I just never had a chance.
Never Underestimate the Value of 4-Point Tiles
Frustrated as I was, I still had hope of winning one more game to place 3rd, or even 2nd. And even drew well against Linda, pulling seven of ten premium tiles. So what the hell happened? Well, the premium tiles don't tell the whole story. She opened with AERATED to an early lead, but I came within 10 points after EARNINgS followed by a 42-point play. I got the J and the Z, but only converted one into a 42-point power plays, and she was drawing most of the 4-point tiles. By turn six, she had drawn BHHWVY to my PKJ for a 76-point lead. Later in the game, I successfully challenged her TUIT/SALTERS off the board, so she turned over a few tiles to pull RENEGES along a bingo AISLE I could have blocked but didn't so I could score bigger points. But when drawing mostly 1-point tiles, what are you doing to do but try and score big points where ever you can? Finally, after having gotten stuck with the Q in my last game against her, I drew it as the last tile in this game. I didn't get stuck with it, but I didn't have a chance to play it for big points. Linda Villareal, "The Nemesis", was well on her way to becoming the bane of this tournament for me.
So there it was. For the first time in eight tournaments, I had lost more than half my games. A beautiful streak ground to so much dust.
I had been looking forward all day to a hearty meal at my favorite restaurant, a Colombian hole-in-the-wall named Casa Vieja. But after failing to win 50% of my games for the first time in all of my eight tournaments, I was hardly in the mood to celebrate. I didn't feel like I deserved a treat, and I didn't want to spend the money that I wouldn't be winning. So I took off for Plano and had a cheapy $2.36 meal with a Chick-fil-a coupon given to me by the receptionist at the dentist's office for not having had change for my $50. The way I played that day, I felt like little more than two dollars and thirty-six cents.
I went over to my home Starbucks at Preston and Park in Plano to meet up with old buddies. April and Becky noticed right away that I was quite. Becky bought me a coffee, which made me feel a little better, but not much. They were playing gin rummy, so I pulled out my word lists, but I didn't feel like studying. I didn't feel like doing anything associated with Scrabble. I felt like doing nothing but bitching and sulking. Even the usual litany of juvenile activities like blowing spitballs and lighting the straw on fire would life my mood. So I bitched and sulked for a good three to four hours.
There was the usual parade of bubbly young girls, a staple at that Starbucks, especially on a Friday night. But I hardly noticed, unable to come out of my funk. I never would have imagined that high school girls would ever fail to cheer me up.
The high point of my evening was when Cory showed up and mentioned the possibility of traveling to Tucson in July. I told him he should forgo flying and let me drive instead, so I could then go to Reno. I had to redeem myself.
After several hours of sulking, enough was enough, and I drove out to Rockwall so I could visit a new Starbucks out there in the morning. Sometime during the wee hours, I awoke to a sharp pain in my back. It was worse when I turned in a certain direction, like to get out of the car. I had no idea what was wrong--I had slept in that car for months at a time with no problems. Am I really getting that old?
A few hours later, I was once again awakened by a sharp cawing as a big black bird landed on my back window. One of the benefits of sleeping in my car under a tree, especially in the rain, is the soothing view out my back window. But a big black bird cawing and clawing around on my roof was not soothing at all. It scared the bejeezers out of me! I should have heeded the omen and gone back to Houston right then and there.
Later still, I was once again awakened, this time by a cacophony of clanging and rattling. Apparently the night shift at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market had decided to make a game of bringing the carts into the store.
No Pain, No Gain
Sometime around 8:00 AM, the sun coming in through the window started heating up the car, and I got up and visited the Starbucks. Then I drove back into the city for a workout and a shower. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to lift or run because of my back pain. The pain reminded me of my friend Dave who showed up at Starbucks last night with a cast around his right wrist, and a red face from fielding comments about not masturbating properly since the incident. But it's more likely he really did injure himself lifting, and I'd hate to have my back spasm with a heavy weight in the air. But the pain did not bother me at all while lifting, and even began to subside. And after three miles on the treadmill, the pain was completely gone. How about that!
However, my allergies, or what I thought were allergies, were really acting up. Once I got back in the car and started driving, I was overcome by a persistent runny nose.
I decided to start the tournament with a good meal, and so I headed to Bread Winners on McKinney, where on weekends they make excellent biscuits. I ordered some eggs to go, and took them to EatZi's where I could get twice as much "fresh-squeezed" orange juice for the same price. Bottled, it doesn't taste as good as OJ truly squeezed before your eyes, but it's a world better than that pasteurized crap you get at most supermarkets and restaurants.
I arrived at the conference center with time to spare for the main event and immediately took an allergy pill, not wanting to have my game disturbed by a runny nose.
I checked-in, then walked into the playing room and sidled up to a player I'd had my eye on during a previous tournament, but as we chatted, she revealed she had a husband. Another prospect eliminated. It's just as well--I doubt I was making a good impression with my constant sniffling and running to the bathroom to blow my nose. Thus far, the hoppin' Scrabble singles scene promised by Fatsis in his book has been a dismal failure.
Better Living Through Science
I begin to suspect that what I had taken for bad allergy symptoms is turning out to be something else. I went back outside and rummaged through my duffle back for a couple of other cold and allergy pills and downed them both. I realize mixing medications is not the wisest of moves, but I really wanted the runny nose to cease before my first game. I remembered back a few years to when I was suffering from bad allergies prior to a date. I didn't want to blow it by blowing it too often, so I went to the grocery store and bought one of every allergy pill. Later on, my nose stopped running, but I started feeling warm all over. Though I recommend against this, if you must overload your body with medication, be sure to take a look at the active ingredients--don't just buy different brand names and expect them to be different medications.
The Nervous Nellies
I was pretty nervous going into game 1 against Matthew Hodge (not Hodge, as I kept referring to him). I shouldn't have asked him how he did in the Early Bird, because his answer, that he won his division, didn't make me feel any better. The medication seemed to have had no effect, and I continue to sniffle, even having to rush to the bathroom during his turn. I found myself questioning my decision to play up to Division 2.
The game began well for me, however, when I played VITTLE, and he challenged and lost. My lead was minimal, but I did get a confidence boost. A few turns later, he almosts played VUGG, but apparently remembered the Y hook to the TWS and left it as VUG. I thought to myself that this guy can make mistakes, and hence is beatable. I was making mistakes of my own. I held onto my J in hopes of drawing the one tile I needed for FJELD to the DWS. But I played DUG instead. So I drew the E I needed, and immediately realized I'd just ditched the D I also needed. D'oh! Then I found myself with JONIEST and wishing that I had gone ahead and ditched the J. Thankfully, I ditched the J got my common list bingo, TAEnIAS, to answer his fLOOSIE, which I really wanted to challenge, but just lacked the confidence. Just as well. It's good. I wasn't feeling at all reassured by a 30-point lead only 8 turns into the game. Towards the end, I play BELIE and he holds, scaring the bejeezers out of me. I know the word is good, but my confidence would be easily shaken all weekend. Finally, the I made the critical mistake. I can't say I might have won the game, but it certainly would have been closer, maybe 10 points, had I not screwed up and thought FIED was good. So I tried to play LIQUIDS (non-bingo) to ditch as many tiles as possible so I could go out. Of course it wasn't good, and I got stuck with my Q to lose by a whopping 88. A pretty bad start, made worse by the fact that it was such a newbie mistake. I don't know where I got the idea that FIED was good.
In light of that horrible loss, I went into my second game against Traci Nguyen even more nervous. My hands were literally shaking as I prepared my score card and score sheet for the game. I found myself doubting fours that I had studied over and over the past few months, like DOUM. The game was neck and neck. I tried to break out with GROdIEST*, remembering a previous game in which someone had played GRODY against me. But I couldn't remember whether the word turned out to be good or not, and I had to kick myself for that. Once a word is play in tournament, I should never ever again forget whether it's good or not. So GROdIEST* was challenged off, and I forsaw impending doom. But after one dinky play, I managed to draw a good tile and jumped ahead with SEnATOR, but my lead was only 20 points after her play. But then I started to run away with it, in no small part to good tiles. But I was happy to get my revenge, finally, any way I could get it. Winning that game took a huge load of my chest, because losing to Traci three times in a row would have been a disaster for my confidence.
Traci Nyugen defeated, my new nemesis was Linda Villareal, whom I faced for the third time in game 3. I genuinely felt like she had gotten the better draw in our two previous games, and I was praying that I could finally draw some good tiles in this game. But it was not to be. She drew one blank early to bingo for 92 and a hefty 82-point lead. I couldn't put the right combination of tiles together, but through solid plays I managed to come withing 6 points by turn 12. But then she drew the X, the other blank, and the remaining S during the last few turns, and I just couldn't counter that combination. She got me again. Three times in two days. I was livid. It was all I could do to politely help put the tiles back in the back and record the scorecard without commenting on how she had drawn 5 out of 6 blanks in three games.
I'm a Little Teapot, Short and Stout...
I felt a little better going into game 4 against Michael Chitwood because I had beaten him in club several times. When I first started at club, I could count on losing to him, but where I am now, I felt confident that I could win. That doesn't mean it would be easy. But I got a bit of luck. His first play was JABBER for 34, and I just happened to have the ED to hit the other DWS for 40 points. Then he played WANGLE, a weird word I don't know, for 27, and the game was tied. It was close all the way until the end, when I struggled and struggled to a bingo that would fit with APOST?E. APOSTle, obviously, wouldn't fit, and of the 20 bingos, I only know POSTAGE, SEAPORT, OPIATES, and the one I found, TEAPOtS for 83, and that was my saving grace. Had I not bingoed, his 41 points for OW/OX/XI would have won the game. The draw was interesting--I draw 4 eses and two blanks, and he drew the high-point tiles and was able to score well with them.
Strike Up the Band
I had sympathy for my fifth opponent, Chip Brown, who had failed to win a game yet. I really wished I didn't have to play him, so he could get his win and I could get one too. But only one of us could win, and if I had to choose, I'd pick numero uno every time. Studying my U-Z 5-letter words paid off with YULAN. Not a lot of points, but it got rid of the YUL that I didn't want on my rack. Chip retorted with an early bingo to lead by 44. But I scored no fewer than 21 points from turn 3 through turn 12, an average of 31.9 points per turn, for a 53-point lead without having bingoed. I did make one mistake though, that I deeply regret--I mispelled PISTIL, laying down PISTLE instead and having it challenged off the board. I shouldn't misspell common words, and so I was very angry with myself. Meanwhile, I had some good tiles, and Chip was doing his best to block the bingo aisles that I was trying to set up. So I had to dig down deep and come up with what I consider my best play ever, rEPRINTS through the E, hooking it to AR/OWN/IT/PILLS, to bingo out for a much-needed (for spread) 130-point victory!
Meanwhile, during our game, out of the blue, very loud Latin-themed music began coming through the walls. I'm sure I was not the only one to think, "What the ...???"
My joy was short-lived however. It lasted long enough for me to see that I was paired with the #2 player in the division, Mark Palumbo. I'd never played him before, and knew nothing of his skill level, but I would have prefered a lower-ranked opponent to give me a better chance at a 4-2 record. I bingoed early with mINUTES, but several strong plays by Mark brought him dead even. Then he played OUTFIRES, and I risked the challenge and lost and found myself down 60 at the halfway mark, against Mark. Not my only mistake. I had to sacrifice points for not remembering if YIN was good, and kicking myself because this was not the first time I had doubted the word. I risked fishing with RETINA on my rack, and drew an A, B, V in succession. So while I scored less than 15 points per turn trying to bingo, Mark was scoring over 15 points per turn, and I was losing ground quickly. The Mariachi band playing next door didn't help. Meanwhile, I was wondering why a player rated 1475 was holding me on words like WANLY and MAE. I found this very strange. In the end, I lost by 116, and grumbled ceaselessly about how I could only draw two eses and a blank against the top rated placer, whilst I had drawn much better against Chip, a lower-rated player. It just didn't seem fair.
I wasn't terribly disappointed by my 3-3 on the first day in division 2, but I still thought that I drew poorly and played poorly. Definitely my worst performance to date.
Where the Soft Toilet Paper Is
By the end of the day, I knew that I was coming down with some bug. My nose was a faucet that wouldn't turn off. I went back into the city and had a simple dinner at Jason's Deli, once again feeling like I did not deserve to treat myself to a good meal. I didn't however, feel compelled to take advantage of being in Dallas with it's plethora of art house cinemas, and took a chance on Matt Dillon's first directorial effort, City of Ghosts. Had I felt better, I would have stayed to see how it ended, but an hour into it I felt so bad I had to leave. But not before stopping at the restroom to fill both my pockets with their soft toilet paper. If you ever want to save money on Kleenex, the bathroom at the Magnolia is where it's at.
I had a rough night outside the 24 Hour Fitness. Besides the runny nose, the muscle ache began. Even though I parked at 9:30 to try and sleep a lot, I'm sure I didn't get as much sleep as I needed for the tossing and turning and waking up to blow my nose and drink lots and lots of water.
No workout for me in the morning. That would have been masochistic, the way I was feeling. No, I just dropped by EatZi's for some eggs and a biscuit and headed on over to Arlington to take my punishment. I downed a double-shot of cold pills before going in, hoping for the best, nasally speaking.
The pairings for round 7 were not up yet, so I muddled about. When they finally went up, I immediately saw a problem. I was once again paired with Mark Palumbo. It was my understanding that we weren't supposed to be paired with a player we had already played until the last round. So I pointed this out to Dee, and she took down the pairings. Meanwhile, some players had already gone off to find their opponents, unaware of what was happening.
I sat and waited anxiously hoping that they would get things straightened out, because I did not want to have to play Mark again, at least not right now. I wanted a better chance to reach my target of six games. The directors feverishly redid the pairings, posted them, and dagnabit, I was paired with Mark again. Apparently, they had fixed it for everybody else, and we two were the only ones remaining, so Brian told us to go ahead and play. I thought about protesting, but I felt like crap, and I didn't really have the energy, and I didn't feel like protesting would make a difference, since I figured pairings were at the discretion of the directors. But I went into that first game feeling like I got a raw deal.
The Raw Deal
To add injury to insult, Mark Palumbo once again repeated his wonderful trick of outdrawing me, leaving me with only the X, S and--whoo-hoo--a blank this time. I started strong, with XENIC for 44, and then I started to screw up. I overdrew, even after taking a close look at the tiles in my hand, yet miscounting anyway, and mixed the tiles on my rack, causing me to lose an S. Thank heavens I did not lose my blank, or I might have gone ape. Then I did something truly stupid. I chose to challenge TEENsIER, even though I figured it was good, because I had PAGODAS in my rack but no place to hook it. I was hoping that by challenging, he would not realize I had a bingo and thus not hestitate to give me a place to hook my bingo. Of course, I ignored the fact that he would most likely play off the TWS he opened up. And that I had a 30-point play, DAGO, that would rid my rack of the D and G and possibly give me better bingo chances, since I was holding a blank and an S. I had wondered whether this tactic could work in practice, and having actually done it, I decided it was the most stupidest tactic anybody could ever come up with, short of showing your opponent your rack to cause him to lose time thinking about your tiles. I ended up playing DAGO next turn and drawing into a bingo to gain the lead. I managed to stay even with him from that point on, but then he started drawing the tiles and I kept making mistakes. Like when I played FLOUT that set him up for a 45-point SUQ. But it gets better. He held me on FLOUT for a while, causing me to doubt the word. I also wondered whether he really didn't know the word, or whether this incessant holding of his was some tactic to pysche me out. Then when he played SUQ I called hold and thought about challenging. Thankfully, he had already drawn his tiles, otherwise I might have challenged and lost. Then later, towards the end of the game, when I was clinging desperately to any hope, againsat hope, of winning, I let him get away with 26 points for QUODS/YOMS, even though I knew that YOM doesn't take an S. I wasn't even looking at the board!!! He could have playing ZGHTFT and I would have let it go, the way I was playing. I wasn't paying attention. I wasn't into the game, or the tournament at that point. I might have well have stayed in Houston and phoned it it. Sure, I drew crappy, but I deserved to lose that game.
And I was a poor sport, to boot, sort of snapping at Mark after the game when he asked if AXENIC was good.
It Gets Better
If I was upset about having had to play the #2 player twice in a row, being paired with the #1 player in the next round didn't help my mood. Prior to the tournament, seeing Mo Davis on the list, and knowing that I had beat her once in club, helped spur me on to play division 2. But with a 3-4 record, I just wanted to win, and I would have loved a chance to play someone ranked below me.
Once again I felt like I didn't get the tiles that I needed to defeat someone ranked so far above me. But this time I didn't play such a poor game as before, and came close. After she built up a good lead over the course of the game, I cut it to 13 points with SILENCeS. But when the remaining tiles in the back were PVLO, all hope of actually winning disappeared.
I knew by then I was out of the money, and all I could hope for was the best finish in the bottom half, but I would still have to struggle for that.
Finally, in round 9, I got to play Martha Bedford. Dee told me she's the one I should have played in round 7. I thought, "Great, now you tell me." I had wanted to play Martha because I had beaten her my first time at Mary's club, and consistently since then. Playing her, I never felt I was playing someone with her rating. In fact, I was surprised when I found out how high her rating was. I couldn't help but feel that, had I played her in round 7, the tournament could have gone a little differently for me.
The game was a true squeaker. She outdrew me, picking up both blanks and leaving me only the J and two eses. And I think she could have won. But I think she exchanged two many times looking for bingos. And she was lucky to get them. Twice she dropped five tiles to draw a bingo, BLITZES the first time, and BITTERS the second time. That was pure luck, in my opinion. But thankfully for me, she lost opportunities to score during her exchanges, and I was able to make plays to counter her bingos. I got one of my own, a natural CANNONS. By the end of the game, it was clear it was going to be a close one. Meanwhile, another player had finished his game next to ours and was complaining about something at the end that cost him the game. I found it distracting, but Martha, running low on time, found it even more so and snapped at him several times to shush. I know I shouldn't wish any other player ill, but I was glad for any little advantage I could get considering the tiles she was drawing. At the end, it came down to her being able to find 3 more points before I went out, and she couldn't do it. Final score was her 369 to my 371. Believe you me, I was shaking at the end of that game from the suspense.
After game 9, we had our lunch break. I went up to the hospitality room but didn't care for any of the sandwiches, finding them all to have sauces or ingredients I didn't like. So I just grabbed a couple of pieces of bread and went off in search of a grocery store so I could buy some yogurt. I had to go further than I had hoped, and while I was there, I decided some more Starbucks might help my last two games. But I misjudged the time, and when I returned to the conference center there was no one about, because they had all start their games. Dee came outside and spotted me and said the games had already started (which I had already figured out). I scrambled to sort out my stuff and get in the room.
I had lost about 7 minutes, which I didn't think was too bad. I played very quickly, and in short order, T.A. Sanders was down to as much time as me. I had the worst draw of the tournament eyet, pulling only the J and a blank, and she zapped me good, by 50 points. I think I could have won with only 10 minutes on my clock had I been able to draw some lousy tiles, but it appears I was fated to draw poorly against all the top-rated players, T.A. being #3 in the division. #1, #2 twice, and #3--what great match-ups I had!
My First Meaningless Game
I knew by game 11 that I had no hope of even getting the best record in the bottom half. So the last game was pretty much meaningless. Still, I was glad to get my revenge against Carole Miller who had beaten me in the Early Bird. I finally drew some tiles and won handily, by 150. Not that it mattered anymore, though.
Not being in any big hurry, I stuck around for the award ceremony, feeling left out after having placed in my last three tournaments. I couldn't help but feel jealous at the newbie Josh Jacobs who not only went 10-1 in his first tournament, but somehow managed to find a girlfriend who not only sat in the hall for two days while he played Scrabble, but gave him kisses between rounds. I had thought that love and success in Scrabble were mutually exclusive.
I couldn't speed away from Arlington fast enough, bitter about the whole weekend, yet at the same time consumed with ideas for how I could get to Reno and redeem myself.
The Long and Painful Road Home
A movie, Levity, helped take my mind off my defeat, for a while at least. But as I drove down to Houston I felt consumed with an overpowering need to play in another tournament as quickly as possible and do better. There was a three-day in Connecticut the following weekend, but there was no way I'd be able to afford it, and that just frustrated the hell out of me.
I didn't make it hope until the next day, because my body was feeling so bad from whatever bug I had caught that I had to pull over at the rest area outside Huntsville and sleep through the night. I started driving again around 3:00 in the AM but only made it as far as the next picnic area before the cars vibrations made might headache too intense too drive. Finally I started driving again at 5:00 and pushed through the pain, not wanting to face the greater pain of Houston rush hour traffic which I'd catch if I delayed any longer.