Gordon Gekko Can Just Kiss My Ass

November 29, 2003

Word Association

After several days of touring new Starbucks in Albany, Vermont, Montreal, Ottawa, and around Toronto, I got up on Saturday morning and visited a few more new ones before heading out to Whitby. The ice and snow slowed me down, as did not knowing whether the building was on east Taunton or west Taunton, but I guess these laid-back Canadians aren't too worried about starting on time, so I was okay.

Back in college, there was a young lady in our dormitory (or residence halls, as the UT adminitration preferred to call them) who was rather voluptuous (or ZAFTIG, to use a word-of-the-day from a few months back). One night she passed a group of us in the hallway, and one of the other residents, named Dan, came up with a term to describe her that I have liked ever since. Dan was an interesting character himself, having been barred from nearby Tower Records for shoplifting. Anyway, the term he came up with was "well-breasted", and I find it rather poetic.

What does that have to do with Scrabble? Nothing, really, but "well-breasted" rhymes with "well-rested", and that's how I felt as I started my first day. Combined with realizing that the top player in the division was only rated slightly above 1600, and I thought--I can beat this guys. This can be my first real division 2 to come in the money (not counting the one-day in Bayside with a field of only eight players).

Greed is Bad

I gave the first game away for my greed. First, holding IEPRSW?, I could have played NAW/WhISPER for 78. But I decided to try SWIPERs* for 112 and had it challenged off. My opponent, Su Edwards, then surprised me by failing to block the spot, and so I ended up playing the good bingo anyway. Later, with only eight tiles in the bag, I was leading by 47, and I went for the points by playing ZITS at 1D for 46. I figured that, even if she had the tiles to hit the TWS with the Z, she would probably use her blank and score 39, 42, or even 45 points. But amazingly, she found a triple-triple through the Z, GlAZIEST, for a whopping 203!!! Of course I lost the challenge, and to make matters worse, the five remaning tiles gave her GLENS to go out and pick up 28 points from my rack to beat me by 187. From 93 up to 187 down, all because of my folish greed.

During the game I noticed something new--kids used as runners to take challenge slips to the word judges. I didn't like this, because the kids would forget to check the slip against the board, and to show it to the opponent to verify the word. Plus, I didn't like that the adjudication took place away where I couldn't see it. I supposed the outcome is the same either way, but I still didn't like it. Plus, I don't like kids.

End of Turn Irregularity

In game two, we ran into a situation I'd never seen before. I played three tiles and drew the last one left in the bag. Then I completed my tracking to find out what was on my opponents rack, and I noticed only six tiles. Typically when this happens I've mistrack, but usually I forget to scratch off letters, not scratch off extra ones. So I looked at her rack, and sure enough she only had six tiles. I wasn't sure of what the rule was, and she was over time, so I didn't want to stop the clock and call the director because it would give her extra time to work out her best play with the X I knew she had. Furthermore, I had forgotten which tile I drew, so there wouldn't have been a remedy anyway. While I thought about what to do, she made her play and hit her clock, and then I stopped the clock and called the director over and explained the situation. He thought about it, then conferred with a player in a nearby game, and then went up to check the rules and discuss it with his assistants. Meanwhile, I wanted him to hurry up, because my opponent was getting plenty of extra time to work out her final plays. In retrospect, I shouldn't have stopped the clock at all, since I was sure there couldn't be a remedy once I had forgotten which tile was in the bag. Trevor's answer was that, if we could have figured out which tile it was, it would have gone to Yvonne (Lobo). But since we couldn't, the play stood. It didn't make a different to the game--I had an easy win--only to the spread.

After the game, I was pleased to discover that only one player would remain undefeated after two rounds, either Su Edwards or my next opponent, Michael Krepakevich. Fortunately, it was Michael who won, and so I had a chance to take him down a notch and possibly claim first place. I went first, and I toyed with the idea of playing GHAZI for 6 fewer points to try and draw a challenged, but I decided to playing HAZING instead. My lead quickly disappeared as I drew the blank and couldn't play rEPLIED nor find PENcILED through the N, instead made a couple of 5 and 6 point plays, but drawing a glut of vowels each time. I finally said fuck it and played DUKE for 21 to draw ARSSTT?. I shuddered, but really there are eleven bingos in that rack, and twenty-three through the E. I played RESTArTS which had the effect of making another bingo improbable. I then proceeded to close off bingo lines, even after I drew the other blank. Still, I got lucky and pulled FiNAGLE to the S that I had risk hanging out there for the 44-point EMBARS. After those 95 points, it was all over but the crying for Michael.

My spread of 13 was too low for first place, but I was in a much better position that in recent tournaments during which I either forfeited the first game or just lost the first few games outright. I hadn't started off with a winning record, I don't think, since I got up past 1400 and solidified my division 2 standing.

Asians--How Queer

Trevor directed people to a street named Thickton for lunch. I had been there yesterday on the way to visit a fake Starbucks, and if I remembered correctly, the restaurants were primarily chains. So I went to downtown Whitby and found the Rainbow Restaurant. My first thought was that it was a gay bar, but the sign on the window advertised an all-day breakfast special, and that's all I needed to know. It was a small place like I would find in small-town America, except run by Asians, which would be unusual outside of the larger, more diverse cities. But Toronto is a very multicultural city, and Whitby is not that far from the city. The waitress asks me what I would like before giving me a menu, and then she hovers over me. I tell her I'm going to need a minute. Then she brings my breakfast and doesn't tell me (or I don't notice), and it just sits there getting cold.

Next to the restaurant, I noticed that the building, besides being a hotel, also hosted a strip club. I went in and asked a dancer what the rules were. Luckily, they were not to my liking, or I would have been tempted to stay. On the way back to the tournament venue a radio station, not quite local based on the reception, was pumping out some phat beats, some sick-ass hip hop that made me wanna start bumpin'. It was the real shit, not that weak-ass commercialized bullshit you get on most of the stations. I cursed the cheating cheaters that made it impossible for me to wear headphones while playing. As I got back to the building, I realized I would be playing #3, and I thought I might be better of just staying in the car and listening to the music. Maybe lighting up, too--it couldn't be too hard to find some good bud here in Canada--marijuana is, after all, Canada's biggest export to the U.S. Okay, maybe I made that up, and maybe I don't smoke weed, but it just seems like the thing to do here in liberal Canada. But the question is, why was I getting cold feet about my next game. My attitute used to be that I could beat anybody under 1700. Why was I waffling now?

Bonfire of the Vanities (or The Wrong Stuff)

I had her, and I totally let her get away. And I really wanted to beat her, too, because she seemed to be copping an attitute from the start, this Charmaine Wolfe with the fancy name. She was behind the entire game, even after beating me to the bingo. Then I came back with DOUChED, and it was all but over. But I could of high scoring plays on her part combined with dinky plays on my part put her one bingo away. But I thought her final rack was HTWSEIA, when she really had HALITES. I could have blocked the line, but I saw no need, and it would have given her a good counter-play on the triple column. But I mistracked. DOUChED was an appropriate bingo, since I played like a douchebag.

That was two games I had given away. My record should have been 4-0 going into the fifth game, which was my "no chance whatsoever" game against #2 John Lodinkski.

No One to Blame But...

2-3 now, and I should have evened it up against Anita Rackham (who really should change her last name to Rackman). But once again I gave the game away. After jumping to an early lead with PRIZE and sOIREES (and missing several higher-scoring bingos through the P), the board really tightened up. All I had to do was preserve my forty-points, but I decided to take chance so I could extend my lead past bingo range, because I feared that eventually she would draw into a rack that would allow her to use the blank as an S, and I could not block the S hook. She of course played DENTURe through the E I provided, and drew into a crappy Q rack. I knew I had to block QUEY, and I started to block, and then my brain just froze and I moved to block her 18-point TOW instead. Game over, man.

Here's the thing. I'm dying to get my rating above 1500 so I have a better chance of playing Division 1 (in a round robin), or playing up to Division 1, but at the same time I know I'm not playing at the expert level, if I can't even beat this intermediate players. And none of the games I lost came down to word knowledge, which I could correct with further study. The mistakes I made, I have no idea how to correct. I've been tracking since my first day at club, but I still mistrack. I knew I shouldn't have opened any bingo lines in my last game. And putting the Z on the triple-triple line--I couldn't even conceive of her bingoing there.

My last game was against Desiree Gomes, who must be like those Thai players who are great at Scrabble but don't really speak the language, because I had to repeat "My name is Winter" damn near ten times before she got it. It was a blowout. Nothing I could do. Not, that's not true. It could have been a whole different game if I had challenged her second play, BAGLESS*, but it seemed quite plausible to me. And then when she immediately played another bingo, LIQUORS, I got desperate and tried a risky phony, IDOLITER*.

2-5, but it should have been 5-2. No blaming it on tiles this time. I just screwed up, quite plainly.

Dietary Restrictions

I remembered I had leftovers from the Colombian restaurant, and I stopped at a gas station and asked the attendant if I could use the microwave if I bought something. He said okay, but he asked if the food had any pork. I thought about it for a minute. Hmmm... sausage. Hmmm... fried pork skin. Yep, definitely pork, and so he said he was sorry but his religion did not permit it. At a Sunoco, I was able to heat my food, but the attendant, when I asked, said he would indeed mind if I ate my food in the store. Okay, whatever.

Heading west on the 401, I noticed an exit sign for Brock St. Waitaminute! Hadn't I just gotten onto the freeway from Brock St.? For a moment, I thought I had gone through a space warp! Then I looked at my map and realized there were two Brock Streets, in such close proximity as to be confusing. Bad road design!!!

I was so angry at my failures that I didn't feel like having any fun at all. I thought a movie might help clear my head. I stopped at an AMC in Scarborough to see The Human Stain, based on a Phillip K. Roth novel about a college professor who loses his job after using the word "spooks" to referring to a pair of black students who had not yet been to class five weeks into the semester. "Do these people exist, or are they spooks?" was interpreted as racist by the students and the overly political staff of the college. I could relate, having been accused of racism a couple of times in my past. And to a person like me, who would see all prejudice wiped from the face of the earth if I had my way, an accusation of racism is about the worst there is.

On a lighter note, I arrived at the auditorium early and dropped my coast on a the good seat right in the center of the row, just as I like it, but as I sat off to the side to work on my journal without disturbing those behind me, some fat chick decided to sit in the seat right next to mine. So as the previews started, I took the next seat over, and then an even fatter chick decided to sit between me and her friend, instead of on the other side. I didn't want to shift my angle further, so I had to scrunch to the side for the duration of the movie, because this girl was really heavy.

Evening In (or Dorm Life)

I was torn between braving another night in car, which I felt was the manly thing to do, or just caving into human weakness and getting a room at the hostel downtown. I had to go downtown anyway, to visit some new Starbucks in the morning, and I waffled back and forth as I drove there. As I drove to the hostel in downtown Toronto, I noticed the homeless sleeping on the streets. Sleeping in the car like I do, I have the just the slightest inkling of how cold it gets for them, and were I the feeling type, I would have felt for them. I thought of dragging my foam mat and blankets out of the car and finding a street to sleep on, just to experience it, but of course that would have been just stupid.

In the end, I gave in to the cold and took the 24.50 (Canadian) dorm room. I may have sacrificed some of my manhood, but at least I would get to shower, and if fate (or lose cords on the floor) happened to put me in the path of that cutie that I saw playing in the lower divisions, at least she wouldn't be put off by my funk.

I shared the room with two others, a Canadian recently returned to his country after some time teaching English in Australia, and a Mexican. I made my apologies for not being social and promptly went to bed, while they continued to chat. The Mexican, about his married Brazilian girlfriend who wanted him to stay when in fact he had to return to his two girlfriends back in Mexico. And the Canadian, about how the English language program at the school where he was teaching sucked because the focus was on keeping the students happy and raking in the cash rather than teaching English. They must have been charging serious money for that class, because they paid this guy 42.50 an hour (Australian, I presume). That's more than I make!!!

The two went down to the bar to smoke, and I felt asleep. At some point I realized that the Mexican had returned, without making much noise. But the Canadian made quiet the racket. When he finally got into bed, I heard these heavy breathing sounds, like he was having trouble with allergies or something. But then, I started hearing "oh" and "ooh". I know those sounds--those aren't the sounds of pain! Was this guy masturbating??? Did he have somebody in the bed with him? Was he dreaming? He had been drinking whisky earlier, and I thought he might be drunk, and I remembered back to one night in college, shortly after turning 21 and starting to drink every weekend, when I returned to my dorm room, drunk out of my mind, and not caring that my roommate was there asleep. I don't know if he noticed, but he certainly noticed the vomit in the sink in the morning and asked me to clean it up. Anyway, I managed to ignore the Canadian's vocalizations and go back to sleep. Later on, after the Mexican had packed up and left, I heard the Canadian speaking in some foreign language. I'm sure he must have just been talking to himself that time. And here I had been worried about disturbing them with my teeth-grinding.

November 30

7:10 came way too soon, but I dragged myself out of bed. I was pleased to discover my car was still out on the street, and untouched. Ever since the break-in in Montreal that cost me my former laptop, I've been nervous about leaving my car overnight in bigger cities.

After grabbing a danish and visiting the final two new Starbucks in Toronto, I headout out to Whitby. While recording the stores I had just visited, I noticed that the address listed on one of the receipts was 404 Bloor St. West, not 494 as was listed on the Starbucks web site. Oh no! Did I visit the wrong store? And if I did, would I have time to stop back at the correct store and still reach Buffalo by 6:30 PM? But fortunately, when I called to confirm the store number, it turned out to be just a misprint on the receipt. Whew!

I arrived at the tournament venue with plenty of time to be immediately puzzled by the new pairings. The contestant numbers had been changed for the second day--I had never seen this before. At first I thought I'd get another crack at yesterday's #10 Su Edwards, but then Trevor explained that this was a different #10. The sheet also listed pairings for rounds 1,2,3, and 7 (a typo), which was confusing. Everywhere else, they would have been listed as 8-11.

Evening Out

A gamble finally paid off for me, against Gene Rawlins, when I took a chance on GUIdERS/CHINES near the end of the game to win. Funny thing is, I would never have thought of GUIdERS had Gene not played it earlier in the game.

My next opponent was Sid Lashley, who had a 1-7 record. I guess it was his time to get some tiles, but I wish I hadn't been against me. After he beat me to the bingo with MESSaGE, I managed to tie it up even without finding a bingo with the blank I'd been holding. Then he played INTERNE and opened up a triple-triple, but my rack was IIONST?. I had my bingo, sure, but had that second I been an E I would have had something through the TWS. So I play my IONSITe and draw AEEOURD with three glaring TWS spots on the board. He gets PEAR for 40, and I am lucky to manage 29 for UREDO. Still one TWS open, I draw AEEEEUU. This might be the game that pushes me over the egde of favoring exchange, because, while I found 13 points here and 14 points there, I really needed the Q, X, or J to score points. And Sid got all of them. When I finally did exchange, I got some high-point tiles and was able to score with RAH/HAZAN, but then I had one vowel to work with for the rest of the game. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

While waiting for my game with Hilda Schlechter, who really should change her last name, because I think it means something awful in German, I spotted a kid with a nametag that read "John Stardom". Talk about setting some high expectations.

Welcome to the 21st Century

Meanwhile, people keep coming up to me and peeking over my shoulder and wondering what I'm doing with the computer. Working? Writing a term paper? Sweet lord, this is the 21st century! Haven't these people every seen a freakin' laptop before?? I mean, if I were sitting at a table writing with a pen and paper no one would come up. But because it's a laptop, all of a sudden they are curious. I repeat, it's the 21st century!!!

I guess I'm not the only one that gives away games at the very end. With a good lead against Hilda Schlechter, I managed to close down the board pretty well (actually, we both did--I played CLOMP and she played CIGAR). The only two spots left to hook a bingo were MM and BARF. I played CLOMPS/SKEE for 25 and a 102-point lead. Hilda challenged SKEE and lost, and I drew the remaining two tiles, AN. Had she played AE/AY/YE for 28 points instead, she would have ended up with AEIDLN? in her rack, and DENIALs/BARFs for 73. Those 101 points, plus what was left on my rack, even after I made one more play, and she could have won. I resisted the urge to explain all this to her in all its painful detail. It's only fair, because she could have just as easily explained to me that I should have made my blank a U for OUTRuNG instead of OUTRiNG. And at the moment I had been so proud that my study of OUT words had paid off, and that I was learning to make the blank the most defensive letter possible.


Lunch (or "lutow", in Winterspeak) was a surprise, that Canadians, far from Texas as they are, can actually make decent chili. During lunch we were treated to a recorded telecast of the Scrabble All-Stars on ESPN--the uncut version.

When I went out to the car to get my toothbrush ("footbrush", in Winterspeak), I think I frightened an old lady with my random high-pitched utterings of "bling bling, bling bling" and "glee, glee, glee, glee".

My next game was against #1-seed Sharon Moser, who had just come back to Scrabble after a 10-year absence of raising kids and teaching. The advent of Internet Scrabble allowed her to play without leaving the house, and she got the bug again, and decided to come to accompany her friend playing in her first tournament. But enough about Sharon--this log is supposed to be about me, me, me. Knowing about her absence, I did not attempt to play a tight board like I would against a regular 1600+ player. I did better at exchanging, twice, and both times it payed off, the second time with a STANINE. Then I drew TRUN?LE, but couldn't play it. However, a word just came to me out of the blue, AUNTLiER. I had seen it once, I think, on the list of top 7-letter (RETINAL) bingo stems. Ten months after Mike Baron sent me the list, I finally decided it was time to start studying it, and I was glad to see it pay off. Doubly, because Sharon challenged and lost. She almost caught up after GUIdERS (there's that word again), but I managed to preserve my lead to come back to 5-6 and a chance at an even record.

My final game was my chance to pay Su Edwards back for GlAZIEST. But it wasn't an easy payback. The score was close for six turns until she set me up for a 46-point X play (which was better than the 49-point X play using my blank I was considering). Then we traded bingos, and I would have recovered my lead, except KETOS* is no good. We were neck and neck for the rest of the game, and her M, the last intermediate-point tile, would have been the decisive factor, but she made a critical error. I hooked EEL to her PIA, and she challenged PIAL, allowing me to go out first and win. Had she not challenged, she could have played her M for 22, and the best out play I could see still would have left me three points short (before a recount). Su realized her mistaked even as we waited for the adjudication, and boy, was regretting that challenge.

I left immediately after my game, in the hopes of reaching Buffalo by 6:30 to visit a new Starbucks. More...

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