A Fate Worse Than Death

October 31, 2003

Tender May Be the Night, But Most Certainly Not the Beef

I left work around 8:00 intending to treat myself to a triptych of luxuries before starting the drive to the Cape. Well, dinner is more of a necessity, really, but I still consider a $16 dinner luxurious. I chose the Luis Restaurant tonight, a Dominican hole-in-the-wall that I had spotted a few weeks prior. The menu had the beans and rice that I had been missing since leaving Houston, but the beef was tough and dry. I might have groused about the beef a bit, but I was livid over what the cashier did.

Heading out of Elizabeth of Route 1, I spotted a sign for a Loews theater, where I expected to find a Bank of America ATM where I could get cash without paying a fee. I figured it would be just a few blocks down the street. But no, I drove for about five miles, getting lost in the process. All the while, I was cursing myself for not having simply waited until I reached Manhattan. It's a good thing I took the detour, though, because when I got to the ATM I discovered my card was missing. AARRGHH!!

I cannot detail all the epithets I had for that cashier as I sped back to the restaurant, because they might be illegal in some countries, or even in this country, if interpreted as terroristic by the all-hearing eye of John Ashcroft. The delay almost cost me my second luxury, a much needed massage, now need more than ever, as my stress level had doubled. I did not want to miss out on this massage at a great price of $55, which a bit of research will confirm is a bargain for NYC. I had found the ad through this relatively new web site called Craig's List that has exploded in the past couple of years, solely through word of mouth, and, in my case from a report on NPR.

I was not delayed crossing into the city, and the massage went smoothly (massage... smoothly... get it?). But then I had to drive downtown (is that the correct term), first to get cash, and then to the Angelika. I guess it must have been the Halloween crowds, but no matter which street I took I was stuck in traffic. At least I got to see some cool costumes. But by the time I arrived at the Angelika the next showing was at 12:45. By the time I got out, it was past 2:00 AM. And by the time I got on the expressway out of the city it was almost 3:00 AM. The movie, Elephant was worth seeing, for the topic (the Columbine shootings), the director (Gus van Sant), and the filmmaking style (non-actor kids ad-libbing their parts), but in the end I felt let down, unsure of what the director was trying to say about school violence. I was hoping for another massage, of my brain this time, with some thought-provoking issues, but I felt let down in that respect.

November 1

The Fear

I was not long into Connecticut before I began really struggling to stay awake. Everytime I blinked, my eyes just wanted to stay closed. After a few microsecond-long instances during which I started to drift off, I began to genuinely fear whether I'd be able to make it. Thankfully, at that hour of the morning, there were few other cars on the road, and if I drifted off I'd only kill myself. If I did happen to run into another car, it would be his fault for following too closely or not paying attention, so my conscience was clear.

Truth be told, at that moment, what I wanted more than anything else in the world was sleep. After three consecutive weeks of tournament play, I wanted to extend my run, true, but I was ready to say "Fuck it!" and pull over, but one thing kept me driving--the fear that I would be the one to screw up the pairings, especially after Sherrie let me into the tournament after the deadline.

Not too far into Connecticut I had deemed it time to pop that little yellow pill. But it had been nearly eight hours since I ate, and I forgot that Vivarin on an empty stomach ain't the greatest thing in the world. Just past New Haven I pulled into a service area and as I bent over to the water fountain, I suddenly felt very nauseated. I thought to myself, "Not good. Not good. Not good." I steadied myself against the wall until the feeling passed.

As I walked back to my car, I noticed the faintest hint of light starting to appear over the horizon. Never had I been so thankful to see it lighten, as the light would make it easier to stay awake.

The Dopeman

It had been over eight hours now since I had eaten, and I was feeling famished. It was pretty much light, but barely 6:00 AM when I pulled off the highway in New London. I drove around but didn't really see anything open. Not having the use of my laptop, I had no idea where in New London I was, but even in my fatigured state, I could recognize a drug dealer when I saw one. On seeing him, it occurred to me that some methamphetamine might ensure my safe arrival in Cape Cod. Who's to say if would really try something stronger than Vivarin if presented with the opportunity, but I sure as shooting wouldn't trust a drug dealer I didn't know. Whatever I asked for, he could tell me he had it, and I wouldn't know the difference. My parents really did me a disservice by keeping me from learning about drugs when I was growing up, as well as not teaching me swear words in Spanish.

So I drove on, and soon I was in Rhode Island. Since sleep was no longer a possibility, I had time to detour to Newport and rephotograph the very cool two-story store there on Thames. It was a short distance from there to Middletown to visit the only new store in Rhode Island, and grab a quick breakfast.

I reached the tournament site with almost an hour to spare. I quickly registered, and then I asked Sherrie to start my clock if I wasn't there at 9:30. She indicated she wanted me in the room at 9:15 for announcements, and I told her I wanted to get some sleep because I hadn't slept all night. She appeared annoyed. I got the feeling she was the type that need to have things a certain way.

The Case of the Disapparearing Restroom

It occurred to me to check out the playing room, and I noticed some tables with curtains, and one had nothing underneath. Sleep-deprived though I was, my creative cells were still active, and I had an idea. I went back to the car and got my stuff, plus my pillow. I took refuge under the table to try and get even a minute of sleep. Of course I hadn't closed my eyes for a minute before I had to go to the restroom again. But the restroom had disappeared. The cleaning ladies pointed me across the lobby. I was certain I had seen a men's restroom down that hallway, and now it seemed to have disappeared. Just how out of it was I?

I think I managed to lose consciousness for an instant, and I think it helped. When I crawled under the table the second time, Celia Thompson spotted me and I think her jaw dropped in surprise. Then I heard puzzled inquiry from other players, asking if someone was "hiding" under the table. The way they went on about it, you would have thought the tournament was in danger of being infiltrated by Al-Qaeda.

Shooting Myself in the Foot

Sherrie called for people to take their seats, and I found my first opponent, #1 seeded Mic Barron, who used to play in Dallas, dressed up as Zorro. Had I not been so tired I would have been amused. Anyway, I'll wonder forever if I would have made the same mistakes had I not been so tired. Down a bingo, and trying to balance my rack, I made a couple of plays that cluttered up the previously open board. So when I got my bingo, I couldn't play it, and it was my own fault!

LAURA, My True Love

It had been a long time since I had played a triple-triple, BEREAVED, and I owe part of it to LAURA. Not a person, but the five formed when I hooked ENROLL to AURA. Hanging the E on the triple-triple column for only 19 points and turnover was risky, to be sure, but I couldn't see any other way to score and clean up or clear out my rack. This gamble payed off in a big way, because Don Drumm challenged LAURA and gave me the opportunity to not only win 122, but also the high-bingo prize. I wish there were some way for me to tally up how many games I'm winning because of lesser-known fives.

I retrieved my leftover food and asked one of the managers about a microwave. As expected, the hotel did not have one for the guests. I value sleep more than hot food, so I just started to eat the leftovers cold, with the intention of using the lunch break to sleep.

Soy Un Perdedor

After losing to Thomas Stumpf, I should have brought my record up to even by beating Julie. But at the end of a game that was close throughout, I had the better tiles, and all I had to do was keep her from scoring any bonuses with her low-point tiles. But I forget the D hook to REG, and allowed her to play ANODE/DREG for 24 points, and she won by 8. Aaaagh!!! Loser! Loser! Loser! Can't even beat a player who lost all her games!! Loser!!!

All You Need Is Sleep (and Coffee, and a Bye)

I didn't have to camp out in the car, for the first time in all my tournaments, because I was actually sharing a room with a couple of players. As it turned out, the weather was great, and I would have slept just fine in the car. But earlier in the week, when Sherrie let me know I could play, I hadn't known how cold it would get, and I had to decline, or commit to the room right then. The room situtation actually created an ethical dilemma for me. When I arrived to register, Sherrie asked me if I had checked in with the hotel yet. I replied that I had not, and she said it was a good thing because if I had, they would have raised the price. So I was effectively sneaking into the room at a lower rate, and this bothered me. But I was so tired that I put off thinking about it. Later, I decided that since it wasn't me that had made the arrangements, and since I had only agreed to the room at the $33 price, that I wasn't going to offer the hotel any more money. Besides, in an ideal society, all lodging would be free.

As I went to the room, some lady, a bit older than me but not bad looking, smiled and asked how it was going. I perked up, and the first thing I thought was "Hey now, what's this--is she interested?" But of course she only wanted to commiserate about her 1-3 record. Well, I could certainly relate, but we had slightly different attitudes. She was, like, well, it'll get better after lunch. And I was, like, this is fucking miserable. I guess it's all about perspective.

I think I slept for over an hour, not at all bothered by Jamie or Isaias' comings and goings, so tired was I. The sleep clearly helped, and I brought my record back to even after lunch by beating Pat Hennessy and Don Finkey and getting a bye. My loss was to Isaias Sarmiento, who got me back for Bayside.

During my bye break, I headed down to Starbuckss for a pick-me-up. As I left the resort, I spotted this sunset and had to go back to the room to get my camera, but it was worth the delay, as I love sunsets, and via the magic of photography, I can enjoy this one for ever and ever. Boy, I should be writing copy for Kodak's ad agency!

The Mystery Pizza

At a gas station, I bought a soda so I could use the microwave to heat up my mystery pizza. I call it mystery pizza because, as I write this nearly a month later, I can't find an entry in my records of where or when I bought it. This drives a fanatical record-keeper like me crazy. I see myself sitting in a prison cell in the future, thinking back to my Scrabble memories for comfort, reaching the memory of the Falmouth tournament, and stumbling across the mystery pizza. I'd wonder where it came from, and I'd not sleep that night as I racked my brain in vain.

At the Starbucks, I got lucky! No, not with the cute, albeit young, girl whose father looked like he could beat me to a pulp. But I did find a dollar on the floor in front of the register. Hurray for me!

The Mystery of the Missing Wallet

I experienced momentary panic after my final game when I couldn't find my wallet. Turned out I had just left it in the room. Problem resolved, I proceeded to sleep soundly for the next 11 1/2 hours. No late-night wanderings for me, hungry though I was, mostly because of my need for sleep, but also because it's not like I was going to find anything open anywhere nearby.

November 2

Monica the Loose Cannon

I was up early enough to head to Mashpee for some coffee, and to reshoot the store. I asked about a locally-owned place for breakfast, and rather than suggesting IHOP or Denny's, like others typically do, both the barista and the customer immediately said the Picnic Box. It was the type of small, hole-in-the-wall type place that I like, with casual touches like I had to get my own OJ from the cooler and wasn't asked about butter on my toast. And while I waited for my breakfast and studied, some excitement as Monica arrived for her shift. Apparently Monica was known for being a loose cannon. I overheard the manager talking about how she had to bar her from using her mobile phone indoors. Monica didn't do anything outrageous while I was there, but I could tell, just from her loud-talking, that this was a lady with an attitute that could make for frictious situations.

I went back to the Mashpee store for my coffee, and the shift supervisor was very helpful with some information about new stores in the area, which I could not access on my broken laptop. I had called a friend the previous evening and asked him to e-mail me a list of the stores I needed to visit in Massachusetts and Maine, but I would not be able to access the list until I got to Kinko's, and I was sure that I had seen a store on the map that I would pass up before reaching the first Kinko's in the Boston area. Plus, I had to hurry if I was going to make it to the four stores in Maine before they closed, at 8:00 on Sundays, and so any time saved would help.

Despite Sherrie's announcements about not moving equipment, the second day saw several issues with equipment.

Some Improvement

Rematches started with game 9, and so I took Don Drumm to the mat yet again (always fun to beat a player multiple times in the same tournament).

Next was Helena Gauthier. She beat me by 15, but I was still proud of a near-comeback with a 49-point TWS IMaGO play.

Before one of my games, a lady came up to me and said, "You're Winter, right?". She showed me a photo of her son and told me they had named him Winter, because they wanted something relatively unique. Great--now I can no longer claim to never have heard of a male named Winter. Thanks a lot, lady.

Makin' Plans

As the end of the tournament approached, I was still in the running for fourth, and I probably the high-bingo prize as well. I talked to Sherrie about leaving early to give me more time to reach Maine and visit the four new Starbucks there. I did not want to cut it so close that I risked arriving in Portland just after 8:00. Since I had to work in the morning, I could not stay the night and wait for it to open the next day, so it would have wasted all that time and gas. She seemed miffed that I would skip her awards ceremony, but she agreed to let Scott Kitchen claim my prize.

I also had to make certain that I would be playing with my clock so I could leave right away, so I had to figure out where I was playing, whose clock that was, and let him know that I was swapping.

I won my 11th game, which put me in fifth place, and in a large group of players with 6-5 records. As long as I won, and the #3 guy beat #4, or she beat him by a low spread, I would be okay. I won by 68 points, and left certain that I had finally come in the money. But I found out later that Barbara Lowery had won by a large margin to keep her fourth place. Still I won an EOWL for my efforts, and 7-5 was enough to keep my division 2 standing and even gain a few ratings points.

As soon as the game ended I was outta there, rushing up towards Boston and Maine (or so I thought) to visit more Starbucks. More...

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