March 14, 2004
The Mystery of the Missing Nibbety-Nob
After a brief trip to Rehoboth Beach, DE, to visit my pseudo-non-girlfriend and also a long-outstanding Starbucks, I decided to head out to Prince Frederick, MD, to visit another new store before driving up to Philadelphia for my date with destiny (aka Stefan Fatsis). I awoke after a night of difficult sleep in a cramped Ford Focus, and I drove across the parking lot to the Food Lion for some vittles. I couldn't find ripe bananas, and then I noticed that my thum-thum was thurting (owiee!). As I took a photo of the Starbucks and then left the parking lot, my mind was distracted trying to figure out which nob I had hit to turn on the rear window wipers that were becoming increasingly annoying. Thankfully I was alert enough to realize I had set out in the wrong direction on the highway and turned around. I looked in the glove compartment but there was no manual. GRRR*! The wiper continued to mock me. And to think that the previous day on Car Talk the Magliotzes had reported that Consumer Reports had given the Ford Focus some award for best in some category--sure wasn't the ease of the controls. Finally, on the verge of madness, I found the switch, utilizing that multidimensional thinking that has yet to manifest itself at the Scrabble board.
My next dilemma was to eat my yogurt while keeping up with the black sports coupe on the winding highway. Perhaps the New Jersey legislature has the right idea to outlaw eating while driving. Nah. I made it into DC and anther Magic Johnson Starbucks with no hiccups. Well, maybe. I stopped at a store in Forestville to take another photo, and as I ran back to my car I heard somebody yell "Hey!" Maybe it was a Starbucks partner, or maybe it was somebody that didn't want to be photographed. I didn't look back.
My visit to the Eastern Market Starbucks went smoothly, and then I drove to a cutely-named pastry shop on the next block, Bread and Chocolate, for a scone. I then backtracked to highway 295 and noticed for the first time a DC highway shield. I guess I'd never really thought about it before, but if you had asked, I would have speculated that there were no freeways in the District of Columbia.
I was faced with a dilemma. Of several new Starbucks to visit in the DC area, a couple were not too far off my route. It would be a shame to bypass them, but I didn't want to leave club-mate Shane Tourtellotte hanging. As I spilled scone crumbs all over my shirt, I feverishly calculated distances and tried to work out just how much time I could spare. I was going to be close regardless, but I was making good time up 295, driving almost twice the posted (and utterly ridiculous) 40 MPH limit. I interchanged onto the Beltway to pick up I-95 north. I had to make a decision quickly. On I-95, I the Calverton exit was coming up fast. How much time would the detour cost me, and could I make it up over the remaining 120 miles?
I swerved towards the exit. I swerved away from the exit. Finally, control of the car was wrested from my hands by the gravitational pull of the Starbucks, and I found myself careening through a residental area populated by a disturbingly large number of cats. Total time for the detour was 16 minutes, and as I speeded on towards Philadelphia at 80-90 MPH most of the way I had every hope of making up the time. But a slowdown here and and a delay there cost me an ever-increasing number of minutes. The greatest delay, that I had failed to factor in, was when I had to exit I-95 and take several surface streets to get on I-76 to the 30th Street Station. I arrived about 15 minutes late, and Shane was nowhere to be found. I figured he had found his own way to the nearby tournament site, but I went inside just to make sure his train had arrived on time.
Finally I arrived at the Parent Infant Center and was relieved to see that Shane had made it. I apologized and assured him I could give him a ride back as long as he didn't let me leave without him. Then I sat down to write and eagerly await the arrival of Stefan Fatsis. I looked at my pairings and noticed was number #5 of 14, which wasn't the best of positions for rating, but not the worst. But my first 5 opponents were 2, 7, 9, 11, and 13, with an average rating of 1406, below mine. Not good.
A Tale of Two Arrivals
Finally, just minutes before, a Person walked into the room who kinda looked like the photo of Stefan Fatsis I had seen on His book jacket. But since a bunch of players had signed up for the tourney after Matt announced He would be attending, I figured I'd see people going up to Him with books to sign or just to say hello. Everyone remained seated, so I thought maybe it wasn't Him. Finally, I decided to just ask, and He replied that he was indeed Stefan Fatsis.
I was overcome with the Spirit of Scrabble, and I fell to my knees to bow and proclaim my unworthiness to stand before The Prescence, or He Who Walks Among Us. He appeared to graciously accept my reverence, but I think perhaps I crossed the line when I began to kiss his feet. It's like seppuku--you must obtain permission to worship so intimately. Or perhaps I needed to apply the anointed lip balm first, to protect His footwear from my filthy, plebian lips.
I regained my composure and sat back down to await my first opponent, who had not yet arrived. Coincidentally (but not ironically) Alan Kraus lived the closest to the tournament venue of all the players. Matt let me have his board to set up. I was in no hurry to start the clock, but I didn't have to worry, because as I made my preparations Alan showed up. I had been worried that I would win by forfeit and accordingly gain fewer ratings points. But what I really should have been worrying about was Alan actually showing up, because he opened with the 50-point GLITZ to create instant tension as we both hoped for the 51-point GLITZIER. I held a crappy rack, but ordinarily I would have played the EX anyway, because I hate to throw back power tiles. But I wanted to improve my chances at IER, so I exchanged. Alan stayed about a bingo away during most of the game, and when he gown down his second, DARLINGS, that was all she wrote.
A Brief Jaunt Through Winnerville
Yolanda Ushry revealed her blanked with the phony LISPIESt*, prompting me to play a defensive game. I got lucky and drew the other blank and got down STRIKeR. Then I played FYAR* for 45, sure it was good--thankfully she let it go. She got down ETOILeS, I counter with the 40-point JOIST, and I was able to maintain my lead despite screwing up and playing too many tiles, BEVEL, to block the B bingo lane, and as a result drawing the Q, which I got stuck with. I think BE for 4 would have been a safer play.
Another successful phony, this time CHARO*, for 38, against Celia Thompson. Not on purpose--just forgetting 4s and 5s like a dotard. It was a close game until I played off the U in my AEIURS? and drew into SERIAtE/NOWt, and then a bunch more power tiles for a good-sized win to get my spread positive.
Meanwhile, Drew Allen, Alan Kraus, and Mark Miller were all tearing it up, with three wins apiece.
Return to Weinerville
I was met with disappointment before my game with Connie Creed had even begun. It had occurred to me that "Connie" could be short for something, and that this could be the "Conelica" that I'd been searching for. But our Connie's given name was of the more conventional variety. And she expressed doubt that any such person named "Conelica" existed, but I remained undeterred, and determined to find a Conelica no matter how long it took, and no matter how many strip clubs and dive bars I had to visit.
Conelica or not, I have to give Creed credit--she took a chance on INLAYERS and got the successful challenge, and later she found the 5-vowel TAENIAE, while I was doing diddle during most of the game. The only thing I saw was IDOLISe, and she blocked the last-chance cut-the-spread bingo just before I got it down. Blah.
My fifth opponent was quite possibly the most annoying person I have ever played. Her mannersisms and utterances through the game irritated me to such a degree that I didn't want to strangle her--why spare the rest of the world such irriration--but I did want to shoot myself. I can't even count the number of times I was thinking "Pleeeease shut the fuck up." In fact, I was more annoyed by her than by the crap that I was drawing. No, actually, what annoyed me the most was that, in the middle of the game, she fished twice and was rewarded with a bingo. Meanwhile, I block twice, but I can't block every line, and she finally draws into AIRWAvES off a A. What's worse--I'm holding a great bingo rack, EIOBLS?, but I just can't see the triple-triple BOdILESS that would have won me the game. And I was looking for the -LESS word too, but I just couldn't see it. So I've no one to blame but myself.
The next game sucked worse. Though club-mate Scott Kitchen managed to get down two bingos, BARRELEd/B and COWrIES, I made good use of the KJXZ and managed to gain a 1-point lead. To get that lead, I had chosen to play DIRK for 25 instead of DID in order to keep the D in case I got the Q. And whadayaknow, DIRK gives Scott the hook for the otherwise unplayable ISATINE, and there goes the game, and my chance to maintain my rating.
I faced Scott again in the final round, and it was a textbook example of how Scrabble can be less forgiving than a woman scorned. Opening with EASTER+E, I made the dubious choice of exchanging the E. First strike. Scott also passed. I drew a U, and I missed AUSTERE. Second strike, and that's all I got. I passed the UE this time, and drew an LX for a 40-point RELAX. Scott got on the board with the 15-point NEE, and then it was all him. OUTAGES, TRAILINg, and OATCaKE all in a row, and only an incredible draw for the remainder of the game could have saved me. I didn't get it.
I was proud of Scott for having finally achieved a 1300 rating with his three wins, but I wished he had not done it at my expense. With a 2-5 record, I might very well end up in the 1300s.
I was not able to storm off to sulk because I had promised Shane a right back. Thankfully, before we left I remembered I didn't know where the Princeton Junction train station was, and I was able to obtain directions from Princeton club director Lynda Cleary. Otherwise I might have ended up driving Shane around in circles, as well as nuts with my babbling and complaining. I waited unless Shane received his prize for winning third place in Division 3, and then we left in a hurry so I could get him to the station in time. I tried to convince him to spend some of his winnings on lap dances at Delilah's, but the greedy bugger just mumbled something about a lifetime supply of Chiclets.
Even without driving like a maniac, for the benefit of my poor Shane's blood pressure, I managed to get him to the train station on time, and then I went back home to lick my wounds. Speaking of licking, as I write this, the dog is licking her ass again. "Will you stop that?" I thought, but she just licked on. Somedays you just can't win.