No Rome Jokes--I Promise


January 2, 2004

No Time? No Sleep? No Problem!

After flying into Columbia, SC, and then driving 1400 miles into and all around Florida in a Starbucks-hopping frenzy, I found myself in Gainesville, FL at 10:00 PM, with 401.4 miles to the Days Inn in Rome, GA, and 11 1/2 hours until the start of the tournament. If I drove the distance in 5 hours I could theoretically sleep for 6 1/2. Before I left, I e-mailed Erskine letting him know I'd be there no matter what, even if after 9:30, so he wouldn't drop me, and I also followed up the e-mail with a voice mail.

I had barely managed a couple of hours of sleep the night before, so I was beyond exhaustion. But a few cars were moving up I-75 at 80-90 MPH, and focusing on keeping pace with them helped. I also focused on mini-goals, like reaching the Georgia line, and then reaching 100 miles. I didn't quite make 100, though, before reaching the welcome center in Georgia and deciding it was too dangerous to try and drive the 55 miles to the next rest area. So I pulled in and set my alarm for 5:00 AM, which would leave me 4 1/2 hours to drive an additional 317 miles.

At 2:00 AM, I felt better after having slept about 3 hours. I got back on the road, but unfortunately fog had rolled in during those three hours, and this slowed me down, as I had to limit myself to whatever speed the pickup ahead chose to drive. Thankfully, the fog let up and them became intermittent after some hundred miles, and I was able to make better time.

Around two hundred miles, I began to feel the waves of fatigue that signal that I might no longer be able to force consciousness, and I had to take the next exit and rest at a gas station. I don't think I really sleep in that hour, but I felt better nonetheless when I started driving again at 5:20 and was able to roll through Atlanta. Ordinarilly I would not have passed up breakfast at the Flying Biscuit Cafe, but I feared crashing again if I sat down and had a big meal. So I just grabbed some Ick-Fill-Shae and pressed on.

Before exiting I-75 I passed near my cousins in Acworth, but I figured it was too early on a Saturday morning to give them a call or drop by. And at 43 miles from Rome, I didn't figure I'd have the energy that night to drop by anyway. Maybe on the way back to Columbia, depending on my Starbucks schedule.

Erskine congratulated me on arriving on time, and I thought about trying to sleep for 30 minutes, but I didn't think I'd be able, so I just tried to get past my fatigue and made the rounds, greeting people I hadn't seen in months, like Jim Pate from Birmingham and Charlie Alexander from... where is he from, anyway? While I had Jim's attention, I tried to offer a little grafteroo if he would include some special words in the next word list. Cool words like TOID, MOOF, SPUM, TLEEP, SPOOBY, MASTOR, COGELITATE, MJUJUNATION. To keep non-Scrabbling observers guessing, you know. Jim didn't seem very receptive, though, and I suspect if you ask him, he'll deny the conversation every took place.


Will Cooper, Master of Disguise

I'm always afraid to exchange my opening rack for fear of letting my opponent have a big play. Like Mady Garner's DEIFY for 32. Of course, I drew into a bingo, LAMPREYS, but she came back with HOODIES and I couldn't catch up. Rats! A crappy start after having recovered my rating in Parsippany. And I thought HOODIES were supposed to be reserved for dark-skinned folk like me. And Eminem.

My game against Will Cooper was a close one that I might have won with a better endgame. I played my DANIO for 28 first, hoping he would challenge, but instead he score 25 with SHINE under the D. I was focusing too much on my play and the possibly challenge, and not on his counterplay. I don't understand why my ability to see several moves ahead in chess is not carrying over as easily into Scrabble.

As I located the table for my third game, I spotted a player who looked a lot like the Will Cooper that I had just played, but was dressed differently. I experience momentary confusion, thinking there were two players that looked alike, or maybe twins, or maybe that Will had somehow had time to change clothes. My cloudy, fatigued mind struggled to reconcile the evidence before my eyes. Finally, I overcame my hesitation and just asked the guy to explain the mystery. The answer was simple. He had removed his sweater! D'oh!


Anger Managment

I was blown away by David Moerdorf, but what was significant about our game is that I managed to keep from getting angry as the tiles fell into place for him. Even when he blocked my last bingo line and then managed to go out with UNALIKE (through the K), I was chilly chill. Perhaps it was that I was too fatigued to get angry, or perhaps I was finally learning to accept that blowouts will happen.

Mary Ellen Weisskopf had some advice for me during our game. If you're going to exchange, draw blanks, she said. Can't argue with that advice. The two blanks allowed her to play PRiESTESs even though I had tried to block that open S on the triple column. Thankfully we ran out of tiles before her dramatic shift in luck allowed her to overcome my lead, and I was able to eke out my first win. And she was second in the division, so the win gave me some hope at least.


Murderous Headache and Red Rum

My head felt like it was about to burst as I left for lunch. I fumbled as I tried to open the bottle of acetaminophen, and I couldn't get the pills into my mouth fast enough. I wanted to spend the hour and half trying to sleep, but I had to first run to Staples to make a couple of copies of my scoresheet, because I didn't want to risk screwing up my tracking with an unfamiliar one. A red light prompted me to pull into Bojangles for some rice, mashed potatoes, and a biscuit, all of which could be easily eaten without a mess as I drove. I drove like a drunkard anyway, but it wasn't the food--it was that my aching head made it hard to see straight and focus.

At Staples, I demonstrated remarkable patience while waiting to pay 12 cents + tax for my two copies, but when the guy that had been holding me up pulled out his checkbook, that was it. I had to interrupt and ask the cashier if I could just leave a quarter for my two copies. As I left I cursed that check-writing time-wasting motherfucker for not having learned that using checks at checkout lines is so 20th-century, and essentially like stealing precious time from the other customers. Maybe that fool thinks himself immortal, but the rest of us have no such illusions.

Since I started playing Scrabble, I have taken particular glee whenever I notice a word used that I had previously seen only in Scrabble. Words like ET, TONY, and BYRE had all sprung out from the pages of various novels or movies in recent months. This time it was the radio, and BRIO, in reference to some aspect of a musical performance.

There were plenty of cute girls to be found here in Rome, of all places. Though one of them appeared to be a reporter, and another appeared to be here supporting her boyfriend. Or maybe he was just her brother. It didn't matter--I was so deep into my ratings obsession that little else could divert my attention.

I removed my blankets and pillow from my car and slyly skirted them past the desk clerk, hoping she wouldn't notice and wonder what that was all about. I tried first to sleep in a corner of the room next to a side door, but then somebody walked in past me and I realized the door wasn't locked after all. So I looked around and spotted a couple of swinging doors and opened them to see where they led. It appeared to be a kitchen, and though chillier than the playing room, it would work for me. I was glad that I could hear the voices in the other room, because this kitchen area was frankly kind of creepy. It reminded me of The Shining, the Kubrick version. I was glad that I would be discarding the five-dollar cheapie second blanket I had purchased, because the floor, and the walls, looked none too clean. Still, the privacy allowed me to close my eyes enough to recover some of my energy and make it through the rest of the day's games.

A miserable performance, starting off thinking RICY* was good, and later challenging WINY. And though I got away with REWATERs*/E, I had several other real bingos I should have played. I deserved to lose, but it still grated on me to lose to a player who had lost her first four games. Nothing bugs me like helping another player break her losing streak.

So rattled by ILLIEST

Yet another mistake, Jo/oX. Let him get GONEV* past me, not being sure which of the four (GANEF, GANEV, GONEF) was the phoney.

My final opponent of the day, the top seed LaVonne, wasn't feeling well and claimed she'd not slept the previous night. Musta been so, because she started off on the wrong foot by challenging my NEGATIONs, which just happened to be the first nine I had played in tournament! I maintained an 80-100 point lead for most of the game, and then at some point I started to run low on time, in part because I burned a lot looking for the double-double in AEIGNT? + E (in the middle), and in part because she was playing very quickly. I started giving up points by playing too quickly, and when she finally found her bingo, PARTIER, she came within 32 points. And here I made a mistake that could have costed me the game.

Could have lost low on time didn't realize she could go out, would have got stuck with Z, but she challenge PARTIERS. #1 player but very tired--victory muted.

Missed LOMEINS again!

3-5 not disaster since i beat #1 #2

3-5 was definitely not what I had hoped for my first day, but it was not a complete disaster. I had beaten the #1 and #2 players, and as of round 6, the three players I beat held the 2nd through 4th positions, and I had yet to play the lady in first place. And in Atlanta, I think I won all seven games on the second day, so I yet had hope for recovery and a 10-5 record.

After a couple of hours I heard voices outside. I peeked out the window to see a couple, possibly killing time while waiting for a movie at the theater next door, and playing with a rubber ball and having a discussion about where the girl wanted her life to go. I thought about pointing out to them the fact that I was sleeping in the car as an example of where she didn't want her life to go, in the Chris Farley motivational speaker vein.

Since the pair had not even noticed me getting up from the back seat and observing them, I didn't figure them to be the street savvy type that might try to jack me if I went back to sleep. But I was mighty hungry, so I went ahead and lefted.

I usually shun Mexican food in favor of South American, but for some reason I get a craving for crappy Mexican food. No matter where my travels have taken me, even as far north as Fargo, ND, I have alway been able to count on a crappy Mexican restaurant. So it miffed me that in the bustling metropolis that is Rome, GA, I had to drive more than a mile to find one. However, once I entered, I knew that I had hit paydirt--this place would score very high on the crap-o-meter. The karaoke was the first clue. Then the lack of flautas on the menu.

I've never been the suicidal type, but if something was every to push me over the edge, it might be hearing some prepubescent kid's heartfelt rendition of Martina McBride's "Independence Day". Then somebody else take's on Sarah McLachlan's "Angel"--if I don't get my food soon I'm going to end up hating all my favorite songs, I thought.

The crap motif continued when I "food" arrived, gristle and fat pretending to be meat, refried beans with the consistency of thick mud, and an overabundance of sour cream that attempted to disguise how little lettuce (and no tomatos) they had provided. I meant to take a photo to help others avoid find the place (Portales), but I was in such a rush to get away from the karaoke that I forgot.

On the way back to my parking lot, I spotted another restaurant that had been closer, but with a much smaller and hard to see sign. Probably they don't need a big sign because they serve real food.

When I returned to the parking lot at 10:30 I noticed that the movie theater appeared closed. 10:30!!! What kind of a movie theater closes that early on a Saturday night???

Went hunting for Wi Fi, corner Branham & Broad in front of a big house. wonder how long b4 cop

rooni

Hunting for breakfast place.

Waffle house with others.

Though their waffles are consistently mediocre, the Waffle House typically offers up something in the way of local color. In this case, it was the waitress who asked me "Whatcha working on, big bubba?" I couldn't forgive her for being cute, because she was anything but, but I went ahead and forgave her for the thickness of her accent. I figured she couldn't help where and how she was raised.

Never underestimate the power of chance to screw you at the last possible moment. I really needed a win against Jerri Bergeron, who was in second place. And I started off well, exchanging my AILNRTT rack to draw INEARTH. Then I played a defensive game and maintained a bingo lead. I was plagued with vowelless racks but continued to block until finally I was forced to exchange just as she opened a spot for her ENSUrES. The rack I dumped included the Q, and when I played DOSER off her S, I drew back the Q. To make matters worse, she had the remaining T, the remaining U, the blank, and the remaining As, and there were only six tiles left in the bag. There was absolutely nothing I could do, and it completely sucked. She managed to win by 11 with the Q stick, and I felt more cheated than I had in a long time, even more than when Moersdorf blew me out, because I felt that I had worked hard and deserved that game.

By contrast, I have no idea why I lost to Robert Gillis. My draw wasn't that bad, and I didn't see any obvious mistakes.

I had my best draw of the tournament against Margaret Swanson, drawing both blanks an a natural for three bingos. This was the only game so far during which I never felt in danger of being caught, and it was a welcome relief.

I had been looking forward to chance to redeem myself against Charlie Alexander since we played in Lafayette. In that game, I made one of my silliest blunders, missing the TWS and playing my blank for a total of seven points! This time around, after starting strong with SLIVERS and racing to 100-point lead, I thought I might just have him. Learning from an earlier game, I played the true GONEF for 30, and was impressed that Charlie found HYGENIST* through it--so impressed that I let it go despite the missing I. I still had a good lead, but then he played gRUELING and I saw my victory disappearing as I was stuck with crappy tiles to go with my blank. But at the last moment, a hail Mary play, GRINNERs, won me the game. Whew!

I didn't want to leave Rome without a taste of the local cuisine, so I went back downtown and settled on the Partridge Restaurant, where it appears the entire elderly population of Rome goes on Sundays. The only patrons anywhere close to my age were a toddler and a couple of adolescents. Oh, and everybody was white. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I can't help but notice when I find myself in the middle of a crowd that is 100% unalike (is that correct usage)? Reminded me of the first time I walked into the Pancake Pantry in Nashville.

I got a little jiggy with my vegetable plate and ordered stewed tomatoes for the first time in my life. Then I got even more jiggy in the bathroom and brushed my teeth with the underhanded grip that I usual save for special occasions.

Afterwards, I waited for my check for about 15 minutes before I flagged down the waitress and learned they operated on the honor system. I guess what they save on paper allows them to provide a good value like including the sweet tea along with the vegetable plate.

A TOQUET Moment

After building up a 150-point lead with the double-double REGrINDS/G and the 90-point QAIDS/ENS/PAD, I started to panic after Kaaren Dolinsky cut the lead with ENROUTE* and then play KID at B2 to set up the S hook. I couldn't block the hook, and so I started to fumble around. Then something freaky happened. She tried to play DE/DI* and I challenged it off and somehow got the idea that she didn't have a bingo in her rack (instead of just not being able to play it). At the same time, I had CUTLERY (CRUELTY) on my rack, and I became fixated with MONT*, wondering if it was a good hook, or

After the game, I had a d'oh moment as I realized that Mady Garner that I had seen for the last two days was the same person that I had e-mailed early last year about the Pigeon Forge tournament.

speed away, but not upset, just have to visit sbux by 7:00
Listen to Charlieze TYheron monster hope to catch up on movies once the streak ends my word



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