The Quicksilver Effect
October 17, 2003
For a Good Time Drive I-95
I left work early to give myself plenty of time to make the drive from Princeton to Baltimore, in part because I feared the Friday evening rush hour traffic along that route, and in no small part because I loathe my new job, and I couldn't get away fast enough, even if I had to sacrifice an hour's wages.
Traffic was pretty smooth down to Cherry Hill, so I took a detour off I-295 to visit a new Starbucks at Haddonfield and Chapel, where the shift supervisor had a little fun with me by pretending he was going to charge me for the coffee.
As as I approached the Delaware line, I was glad I had left early, because traffic was pretty head across the bridge and through the relatively short stretch of I-95 in Delaware. The speed picked up a bit in Maryland, but I had lost a lot of the time which I had hoped to spend updating my web site with this nifty new laptop. Didn't really matter, because the new Starbucks I visited on Loch Raven was not a hot spot. I stopped by a store near the Holiday Inn to see if it was a hot spot, and it was, but would close at 11:00, so I wouldn't get any time online after the evening's games. I was finding myself quickly addicted to being connected, asking around if this place or that place was a hot spot.
Wo Bist Du Marlon Hill?
I arrived at the Holiday Inn and checked in and then set about to find Marlon Hill and check him off my list of people to meet, but I saw no dreds. I knew what to look for because of the photo on the All Stars web site. Otherwise I would have been looking for a scrawny kid with short, conventional hair, because that's the impression I got from Word Freak.
Game 1 was a literal pulse-pounder, as I could feel my heart beating harder and harder towards the end. I drew the blank on my second turn and had three no-gos in four turns, becoming increasingly frustrated. Then my rack went to hell and my opponent, Joe Geibler, found SALINES. The board was tight, but it didn't matter because I didn't have anything close to a bingo (well, MOVATE? is close, but not close enough). So I thought back to Richard Johnson's writings about the timing of the game and slowed it down, playing as few tiles as possible while scoring. I was still losing by 52 with AEOMTT? in my rack and DIGJNRR in his rack, if I had tracked correctly. Though I started tracking almost immediately, ten months later, I still mistrack quite a bit, so I was nervous as I worked out a sequence that might win. Joe had played KAS at 1K. I could play MOKEs for 33, but I instead played AT at 1L in order to set up a larger play. I could not yet see an out play with my remaining EOMT?, but I still figured I could go out in two turns and make enough points to win. I had tracked correctly, and Joe had no play there and just played JAR elsewhere. 42 points for KAT/ATE/TEMpO + 12 from Joe, and I win by 6, a game neither Joe nor myself thought I could win. I can hardly remember seeing an opponent so stunned to lose a game. I was feeling rather proud of my endgame play there.
I was feeling almost as proud early in my second game when I found EVICTING/G. My satisfactiong was short-lived, as Ed Stewart came back with the triple-triple, REALISED for 140. I came out 75 points worse off those two plays! But I immediatly came back with SWEATIEr/T (missing WASTErIE for the double-double) and it was a 10-point game. A great draw for the rest of the game enabled me to win it handily.
After the game I finally spotted the dreds. I went up to him and said, "You're Harlon, right? Harlon Mill?" He replied, "Yeah, if you want to fuck up my name." Actually, I'm not sure if he said "fuck" or "mess". I'll leave it up to those who know Marlon better to figure out what he is most likely to have said. Anyway, he then said "You must be Winter. Only you would have a sense of humour like that." I guess my reputation precedes me. I asked him about why he posted on CGP like he does, and we got into a brief discussion of how a person should write like he talks.
My three most recent tournaments all used a round-robin format with posters on the wall for writing results, but all three did it in different ways. I like the immediate feedback, but here in Baltimore what was posted was the individuals spread, in black or red to indicate a win or a loss, but no total of wins and losses. I didn't like this because one had to add up the black scores for each player to see what the number of wins was. The tally sheet was also different and confused me at first. Finally, the three divisions were placed in separate rooms, rather that us all being in one big ballroom.
I Bet I Could Beat a Playboy Bunny
I drew some tiles in my third game against Bunny (love that name) Gorchov, but the timing just didn't work out. She opened with ASININE, but N was just what I needed to complement my EEEISTT, but she blocked it. I let her get away with ANEMIAE* for 69 because I could then play AMAZE for 78. But the killer, I think, besides having my GOS* challenged off, was when I took a chance on SOJA/AMAZES for 39 and she had a powerful five, DEIFY, to the TWS for 47. I just couldn't win.
The Quicksilver Effect
I'm reminded of an old movie, Quicksilver in which Kevin Bacon's character Jack Casey is a bicycle messenger who also participates in races. In a scene towards the end, his mentor goes over a tape of the race with Jack character and singles out a point during which he bowed his head. That was the moment at which he gave up on the race.
My fourth game against Jon Garthoff was battle. He opened strong with JORAM, but I came back with REPLATED/R and, three turns later, BOGgIER/G, for a healthy lead. But then he started drawing. First he tacked MAr to JORAM for 54, and then he drew LUSTIER. I debated whether to blocked the ER hook or the open A. Didn't matter, because he could have played URALITES, and I couldn't block both. But actually, letting him hook the ER was better because I countered with ZITI for 39, and it was a 3-point game. Then he added QUIDY to LI for 80 for what turned out to be a phony, and after holding for a while I let it go. But that's not the important thing--the important thing is that I gave up the game at that point. In the past, I would have challenged because otherwise I would lose for sure. But after losing first place in recent tournaments because of spread, I decided to let him win and try to minimize the spread damage. I would learn later that this was a grave mistake. I'm going to have to do some serious thinking about when to go for the win, and when to go for the spread.
2-2, but I wasn't sweating it, because my mind was on getting connected, and how cold it would be in my car that night. And because of the Prozac. Just kidding. Anyway, earlier I had realized that since Wi Fi works via radio waves, Starbucks didn't have to be open. I should be able to sit outside the store and connect. So I headed back to the Starbucks not too far from the hotel and booted up my laptop in my car and found a signal. But it came and went, and moving to a table right outside the door didn't help. I tried another nearby Starbucks, but the same thing happened. I wondered if the hot spot was programmed to shut off when the Starbucks closed.
My Regularly Scheduled Encounter With the Po-lice
But I was tired anyway, so I set about finding a place to crash. I was surprised to find out from a cashier at the Wal-Mart I called that there were no 24-Hour Wal-Mart Supercenters in the area. There probably are, but she didn't know of any, and I didn't want to drive far anyway. So I drove down to a new Starbucks I needed to visit while in Baltimore and found an isolated corner where I hoped I wouldn't be disturbed.
Sometime around 2:30 I felt a light shining in my face and someone speaking loudly "Wake up!". It was the local constabulary investigating a break-in at a nearby 7-11, asking if I had seen anyone. Well, since I had been asleep, of course not. I showed them my articles as explanation of why I was there, they called in their 1020, and then they left me alone. I lay there for a while, and finally decided that even though whoever robbed the 7-11 was probably long gone, it was time to move on. As I pulled out of the parking lot a police car, perhaps the same boys, shined its spotlight in my face. Then the cruiser followed me for a few seconds before turning around.
Channeling Chris Farley
I went downtown because I had another Starbucks to visit their. There's plenty of people and homeless downtown, but also plenty of police. I pulled into the back of some retail complex that included the Baltimore Aquatic Center or something like that, off Pratt, and drove all the way to the end, where the platform met the water. Once again I found myself sleeping next to a van DOWN BY THE RIVER! Some people pay a pretty penny for waterfront property--I was getting it for free. I slept undisturbed until about 7:00, when I heard a voice coming from somewhere. I moved out and parked along a street that didn't seem as heavily trafficked. Occasionally I would hear voices, and once I peeked out and saw a couple of youths doing some cleanup, wearing uniforms reading "Court Mandated Community Service". I figured they weren't going to pull anything now that the sun had come up.
Just Call Me Mr. Timing
I finally got up at 8:19, 1 minute before my alarm was set to go off, and went to visit that new Starbucks at the Gallery at Harbor Place. I couldn't see it from the outside, so I called and the barista who answered explained that they were inside the center, but also that they were not open yet, because their marathon that morning caused the closing off of streets and limited transportation, so she was the only one there. I drove around a few times negotiating the traffic along the blocked off streets, and finally found a parking space that, although illegal, was not conspicuous, and ran inside with my articles, hoping to get her attention despite that she was trying to open the store. But as it turned out, she had been hanging out at the Ravenwood store that I had visited the previous evening and recognized me, so I had no problem getting my coffee. I was only able to take a blurry photo because a security guard politely informed me that photography was not allowed. Usually I would have looked around for the guard and taken the photo surreptitiously, but I wasn't sure if the day's games would be begin at 9:00 or 9:30, so I was in a hurry, plus I didn't want my car ticketed.
Quick-fil-a for breakfast and I rush to the hotel around 9:15, worried that my clock had been started (but preferring to play with less time on my clock than hungry). Games were scheduled for 9:30, so I could chill. I had time for another discussion with Harlon, this time about my name, and why, and how I wasn't a serial killer who changed his name to hide.
In game 5 against Linda Oliver, I'm behind turn 13, when it appears she has the Q and is trying to open a spot in hopes of drawing letters to play it off with. I take the lead with FORBY, and then I block the spots as she creates them. In the last few moves, she ends up with a particularly frustrating rack, SATIRE + Q, she tries to set up a spot for QAT. I block it with TAN, and she plays QATS/STAN. I know it's no good, but my heart pounds anyway while the word judge nixes the play.
My study of fives pays off the a different way in game 6, when my opponent Doug Leighty bingos and leaves me a T, through which I play UNWITTED, taking a chance that I might be good, since I've studied UNWIT. It's still anybody's game until his CONE allows me to play FOXiEST/SCONE for 108, and it's all over. Too bad he bingoed again, cutting the spread to just under 100 points.
I've no chance against Lorraine Burton, but then I have one of my easiest games ever against Jesse Cromer, rated in the 1400s but not seeming like it as I got a killer draw and blew him out by 204 points to get my spread back up.
My game against Marty Fialko was interesting. I build a healthy lead, but I screw up and play COP when I should have played CROP. I was thinking about how the R is a good bingo tile, and not how COP provides a hook, which he was only too happy to take for SAUTEeD. But a 49-point counter play keeps me in the lead. Then he draws WEEPIES for 77, but I counter with the amusing EFF/EF/EF/WE for 52 to retain a nine-point lead. I'm totally in the game until he pulls that second bingo and finds OUTDANcE through the N I should have blocked, as it was about the only place to play a bingo. At least I manage to keep the spread under 100.
Chick-fil-a again for lunch, just for speed, so I can go to the Starbucks and upload to my web site. I was trying to upload my Baltimore log up to 7 games, but I got to chatting with a couple about my Starbucks project and web site.
After lunch, I got MUTEX* past Gary Perman to open for 44, and it was back and forth from there. I'm proud of TURNKEy--I wasn't sure about TRUNKEd. I was irked that when he passed, allowing me to take the lead, he pulled a natural THORNED, his third bingo. He slipped up with PIUS*, I play DJINNI to come within 1, and then I draw AIIOGG? and my heart sinks. I play IGlOO/TI/HO for 23, and I am saved when Gary plays a DJINNIS* combination that I challenged off, allowing me to go out first and catch him with 18 to win by 29.
My New Bumper Sticker: "I Bend Over For Phonies"
Against chatty Kathy--I mean Celia Thompson, whose sweetie Ali was up there in the rankings, I fumbled big time. First I play DUTIOUS* and have it challenge off the board. Then I let her get away with JURE* for 33. Then I let her get away with JURED* for 34. Then I let her get away with FLOUTIER* for 22. What the hell was I thinking??? I was looking at those words and thinking they were no good, but my mouth would not form the word "Challenge". I was saved by two things. First, she burned a blank to play EXOn for 42, and later to play QaT for 31, which probably saved me from a couple of bingos. And I managed to find three naturals, LIAISES, COLTERS and DISTANCES/S. The latter I almost missed in favor of a double-double, CINEAST, but thankfully I convince myself that the AEICDTN rack was too good not to have a bingo (it doesn't, not by itself).
7-4, with three games to go. I didn't know it when I played him, or might have challenged LIQUIDY, but John Garthoff finished the second day in first place with 9 wins. Several players were at 8, and I was at the bottom of the 7-win group. I had a ways to go.
Hey, Where'd That Cousin Come From?
On the way to visit the final new Starbucks in Baltimore, I called my mother to see if my first paycheck had arrived yet. I asked her about a few of my cousins who lived up in the northeast, and I found out that one had just started school, by coincidence, at Johns Hopkins. So I obtained his number and called him and made plans to visit later.
The new Starbucks did not have T-Mobile, so I drove over to the coolest Starbucks in Baltimore, Mount Washington Mill. I picked up some dinner at a pizza place down the street. It's no loss that I forget the name, because the spaghetti was mediocre at best. You don't wanna go there.
The T-Mobile connection at this other Starbucks was unreliable, and while I was anxious to post my log in real time, I didn't feel like driving all the way back up to Timonium. So I just napped for a few hours in the far corner of the parking lot until around 10:00.
I drove down to Johns Hopkins and found my cousin's dorm room. Being in the dorms brought back memories of my days at UT. We walked down to a local coffee bar, Xando. Ever since I started drinking Starbucks, other coffee tends to taste weak. But this Xando crap was just plain awful. It's just as well that I didn't even finish half the cup, because I probably slept better for it. My cousin insisted that I take his bed, and as cold as it was outside, my protests that it was unnecessary were mild and half-hearted. I did him the favor at least of showering first so I wouldn't funk up his bed.
I got up early enough to give myself plenty of time to stumble around the Baltimore streets near the university looking for a good breakfast. I local directed me to a kitschy little place, the Papermoon Diner. The decor was great, but they ain't go no biscuits!!! How far south do I have to go. I've only been in Jersey for a week and a half and I'm already jonesing for biscuits bad.
I had to wait in line for my coffee and showed up a bit late for my first game, as my clock was about to be started. But I guess the caffeine worked in my favor, and I got my revenge against Marty. Those fours fade fast, because I lost a turn by challenging KANA. But I gained it back at a critical moment when he challenged BOUSING, giving me enough of a lead that I won despite his 77-point bingo.
Now I'm in 5th place, and all I have to do to win is to win my game while Garthoff loses his, then beat him, plus making up 800 spread points in the process.
I get away with GAWDIER* to open strong against Tim Margolis, and he exchanged, so now I lead by 96. But I get crap and he whittles away at my lead. I think my luck is about to turn when he plays DUG, which leaves only one U in the bag, making it safer for me to play QUAY at 1J. Then I draw a TS to go with my A, and I think I've got the game in the bag. But he blocks my play with sTOOLING and I lose the challenge. Now it's a game. I gain the lead when he passes and improve it when he challenges my OTTO/JO. If I have any mind powers, I focused them all on Tim so that he would challenge. Then I play SEEL/SPORTS/KAE/DE for 26. He holds, and I hope he challenges that one too, but he comments that he's not going to mess with me on fours after OTTO. The end tiles are in my favor, and after I block his 56-point X play I preserve my lead to win.
John Garthoff won and can't be caught. Had I know he would go on to rack up so many wins I would have challenged LIQUIDY*. Hopefully I will learn that I should not up games like that.
I'm in second place and fear that I will have to play him, lose, and lose out on second play. But they announce that the Gibson rule is in effect, so I play the #3 Ted Mast. I feel good when I play ZEROED for 27 and then draw the Q and J--three big tiles out of the way. I have QJAADDI, and I play JADED for 37 even though it means I no longer have QAID in my rack. I get lucky and draw a U for QUAI and 26 points, but Ted blocks it by using a block for CoX/Jo/AX. So I only play the Q for 14. Ted draws a natural SEATING, then SNIFTeR, and now I've got 55 points to make up with almost all the power tiles gone. I hold the S, and I can play EMBERS for 39, but I want to slow the game down, so I play BEAM for 27 to set up an my S hook to the TWS. I can play BEAMS/STEED for 31, but there is a open C on the board, and I have good bingo possibilities in EEDLRST, so I try for the bingo by played IRED to open up another bingo aisle across the E or D, plus the S hook, plus the C. But I can't find a bingo, and Ted systematically blocks each spot, and my low-point tiles can't make up the difference once I abandon my bingo hopes. Had I played STEED and drawn some high-point tiles, maybe I could have brought it back. I found out later that I missed EMBRACES across the C and also BALLETS/HENT. Rats!!!
The other two eights have higher spreads, so it doesn't matter who wins--I am bumped to fourth or fifth.