Small Fish--Big Pond

April 1, 2004

Mr. Waffle

Much of the week leading up to BAT was spent deciding whether to leave on Friday morning or Thursday evening. On the one hand, the per diem I would receive for just showing up at work on Friday morning would come in handy, either for the car I need to buy, or during the two months I planned to take off during the summer. On the other hand leaving at 8:00, to drive 280 miles, in rush hour traffic for the first hour and most heavily trafficked stretch (NJ Turnpike) would mean that arriving at noon would be an iffy proposition at best. And as early as I would have to get up to get to work at 6:00 or even 7:00 would mean that by the time the main even even started at 7:30, I'd already be starting to feel tired.

So I kept weighing the two options and changing my mind repeatedly throughout the week. There was also the issue of having to sleep an additional night in the cramped for focus I was renting, but a solution to that problem at least presented itself when I remembered an offer from a player in Connecticut that I could crash at his condo.

I left for work on Thursday morning without packing my things, already having decided to leave on Friday morning. But a few hours into the day the Scrabble madness set in and began to rationalize skipping work on Friday by concluding that I could win some of that money if I arrived rested and played all my Early Bird games, and that I could blow my work earnings if I was ticketed as I sped towards Westford.


My desire to succeed at BAT was doubled on Thursday afternoon when the votes cast in the rotisserie were published, revealing me to be dead last in my group with only two votes (not my own). I was, frankly, insulted, and determined to show all those nocifers who did not vote for me what I could do. If properly motivated marines like Charles Whitman and Lee Harvey Oswald could accomplish as much as they did, I, with no military training whatsoever, should be able to kick butt in Boston.

I took the opportunity of leaving Thursday to attend the Manhattan club, where I won three of four, my best record at that club, and won a second place cash prize. After club I had to beg off Steve Williams' request for more games in order to get us, me and my #1 fan Kevin McCarthy back to his condo in Norwalk where I was spending the night.

I slept rather well on his floor, and I felt much better than I would have after a night in the Focus. If I did well, in the early bird at least, I'd have to feel additional gratitude for his hospitality.

April 2, 2004

No Matter How Much Time I Give Myself...

As I drove towards Hartford on the winding and laptop unfriendly SR-15, I tried to decide whether I'd have time to detour to Colchester and then visit the other two new Connecticut Starbucks, the latter more directly on my route to Westford. I waffled once more back and forth, and finally at the last minute I changed my mind too late to take the SR-66 exit east, and I continued on up to Hartford and visited the Manchester store, and then Enfield.

I arrived at 103 Elm Street in Enfield, just like the Starbucks web site said. But unless Starbucks had introduced a new "Arby's" style of store, I was in the wrong place. The phone # was also wrong, so I had to call another store to get the correct phone number, then call the Enfield store to get the address, and then backtrack one exit off the interstate. The delay cost me some 10-15 minutes, requiring me to push 80 MPH to reach Westford in time.

As I sped towards Westford on the Mass. Pike, some dimbulb pushing ninety kept speeding up and slowing down, forcing me to react while I was trying to study. I tried to pass her so I wouldn't be behind her, and she starts to race me. I try to pull up next to her with a sign, "I'M TRYING TO READ", but neither the idiot nor her passenger make an effort to look at what I'm doing. Clearly she ignored the part of defensive driving where they tell you to watch the other drivers, for clues as to their intentions. I was relieved when I interchanged onto I-290 through Worcester to I-495, and I made it to the Regency just in time.

The Early Bird Makes Me Squirm

My first game was what I'm calling a "Bob Linn" game, because I don't see how it was winnable. While I was doing so well in club the previous night, I was hoping that I wouldn't use up all my luck before the tournament, and it looks like I was right to worry. Three times I exchanged, and each time I got a clunky rack back. Nothing ever close to a bingo, and so my opponent Bennett Jacobstein was basically playing the board all to himself. As I sat there and took the pounding, I kept thinking "Okay, when do I get to start playing Scrabble, instead of just sitting here holding my yank." And I had given up going into work just so I could make that first game--I would have been better off taking the forfeit.

I had to wait a bit to play Kristen Chew, because, obviously, little Jamie Chew can't be made to wait. Finally we sat down, and when I saw my first rack, AEPRSU?, my first thought was to curse my luck, that I got such a great rack against the bottom player in the group, when I could have used it against #2, or later against #1. I guess the tile gods heard me, and did not appreciate my lack of gratitude, because they punished me by giving Kristen FELINEs to hook to my UPRAiSE. And then tough racks until I got a break with ZED/ZERO to take a lead that I managed to maintain, but only just barely.

DOING was my undoing in my game against Gregg Foster. It seemed like a good idea at the time, scoring 22, despite setting up a six-letter S hook to the TWS. At the end of what was a well-balance game, though, Gregg scored 38 with PRUDEs/DOINGs, and he ended up winning by three.

Game four was another frustratingly close game, nine points this time. I was outdrawn, and I was pestered with bad rack, including a Q I dumped twice only to have Jason play QUIZ. But I still might have won at the end if I had taken more time to play my end game instead of playing quickly to try and push my opponent, Jason Katz-Brown, over time an additional minute. I thought back to Joel's statement in Stamford about how playing quickly was not a good idea (he didn't put it as nicely).

While waiting for the fifth, and meaningless, game, I created a map of the Boston-area Starbucks and noticed that the tournament organizers had picked a lousy venue for the event, in the sense that it was a whopping 6.6 miles from the nearest Starbucks. I was aghast!

Since the fifth game was irrelevant, I decided to have some fun and play it as fast as possible, under twenty minutes if possible, and have more time for dinner. I prepared my plays and calculated the score and just hoped my opponent, Lois wouldn't play where I intended. When she played ODORIZES through my ZEK, I barely missed a bit before responding with GOX for 42 to lead by 3. As her time ticked down, Lois started to get nervous, and began to take a sadistic pleasure in watching her squirm. Certainly I got some good tiles at the right time, and this helped me play more quickly. I only had to use 6 minutes and 28 seconds for my 63-point victory.

I went out for more coffee during the break, and some take-out spaghetti, and then I returned to the hotel, on time for once, and chatted with a friendly face from Dallas, Steve Glass. And then Bruce D'Ambrosio whom I'd met at Yukiko's club in southern California, and then remet at the Newport Beach tournament.

After I registered and went back in the playing room to say hi to some people, I was treated to a special sigh, that of Joe Edley doing the Tai Chi (I presume) described in Word Freak. Then I went over to congratulate club-mate Scott Kitchen on making it into Division 2, dead last at the bottom, a perfect position for ratings gain. And I even managed not to feel envy, and was so proud of myself.

I found my opponent and we verified the tile count. Five were missing. I wondered if the rules allowed us to play with missing tials (yes "tials"--I want to change the spelling--support the movement!).

Sherrie made her announcements, with her usual "shout-outs" to various players around the room. At some point she noticed, to her excitement, that she could swing the podium back and forth. Happy times, at this new hotel. Sherrie kept asking for people to pay attention, but I was distracted because I had coughed up phlegm on my shirt and was figuring out how to get it off.

"Uh-oh, Chuck, they out to get us, man!"

Perhaps it was the PE running through my head that made the difference, like House of Pain back in Skokie, but whatever the reason I got a killer draw in my first game, against Ben Greenwood, thought it didn't look like it early on when, after dumping IOQU and leaving ERT, I drew EEET. It was either exchange again or hang TEETER to open three TWS and hope that Ben would score no more than 32, and that I could hit one of those three. I got lucky and he only countered with one, and I got down REDONS on another, and I was suddenly in the game. I gambled once more by playing IODID for 27 and leaving myself the QA instead of getting rid of it immediately as is recommended. Fortunately, I drew a T and was able to play it later. I built up enough of a lead with those gambles and a couple of good J plays that even when Ben got down his SHORTEnS I was able to maintain my lead for the duration.

During our game, Ben spilled some water onto the tablecloth next to the other two players. Sherrie impressed me by somehow coming up with a spare tablecloth and replacing the wet one. I'll have to keep her explanation for why she had a spare towel to myself, out of politeness. She must have been one of those always-prepared girl scout-type people.

My luck was short-lived, as Ed Liebfried opened his game against me with RAMUDaS*. I had no basis for challenging, but as a matter of fact he misspelled it!!! The rest of the game was just miserable, and when, after a couple of 5-point plays, I finally got down GAINeRS for 81, it was way too late too catch up.

As I waited for Charmaine Wolfe to finish her game, I realized what the problem was--somehow the PE had not been playing in my mind during my game with Ed. I needed to bring that beat back, but I had started to get a headache! I wanted to go out to the car and put on some PE, but unfortunately I had sold all my discs the previous summer when I was raising money to travel to Reno, and later Brownsville/Atlanta.

As a result, I got outdrawn in game three, only pulling Q?. But the cruelest thing about that game was when, after leaving myself EIOU so I could pick up some points with EMF/FA, for once in my life I actually drew three constants, DRT. But as luck would have it, Charmaine lays down an X for 34 points and blocks my only hook. So I go for turnover and draw the blank, but with HOOUUW, I take 31 for WHO, miss RUINOUs next turn, instead exchanging for QPYINR?, and I'm almost 200 down. Finally I get down AURORaE and she challenges. I only get 21 points off the triple I opened, but at least I'm back in the game, and then I pulled RECALLED/E and I'm leading. But she gets the final two eses for MISUSED, and then the other blank. I lost by NINE, so if I had just gotten a blank, or an S. Rats.

I'd gotten so used to starting off losing all my first at these big three-day tournaments, so jaded, that 1-2 didn't even seem that bad to me. I felt I was playing better at least, and if could pull some fucking tiles I might have a chance at boosting my rating.

You Know You Wanted It--The Bathroom Report

Meanwhile, in the bathroom, I puzzled over why anybody would think it was a good idea to have not only automatic soap dispensers, but automatic paper towel dispensers. Why don't these people realize that every idea is not necessarily a good idea.

Outside in the hall I was cheered on by a fan of my writing, one of the few people who had actually put me on his ROT team. Had I not been so tired and had a headache, I might have felt flattered.

As I headed up to the welcome center in New Hampshire, I passed a parking area on I-495 just before Chelmsford. But the restroom was closed, so I kept driving. Succumbing to the magical power of Massachusetts to confound my sense of direction, I got lost and ended up in downtown Lowell. After some driving around, I finally got on US-3 like I had originally intended, and I made it into NH, where the welcome center was all but empty, and open all night.

April 3, 2004

Morning Minutiae

Cramped though I was in that Ford Focus (did I mention it was cramped), I still slept a good eight hours, and I was ready to compete in the morning. I decided to stop at the Starbucks in Nashua for my morning coffee, and the path took me through downtown, where I spotted Jackie's Diner. It had a down-home, non-pretentious, earthy kinda of feel. I wanted to sit a spell, but I took my order to go so I wouldn't be late and get called out by Sherrie.

What kind of backasswards city builds a street with no signage! Bastards! I hate them all! Die, die, die!

So I took it on faith that I was on the Daniel Webster Highway, and I eventually did end up at the Nashua Starbucks to get my morning coffee. But it didn't have T-Mobile, so I had to stop a the Chelmsford one to check my e-mail, because you never know when that life-changing e-mail might hit your inbox.

More excitement in the bathroom as I spotted a player exit a stall and scoot to the exit door--without washing his hands!!! Boy, that guy is lucky I don't know who he is, as that's one of my serious pet peeves. It's not that I'm that concerned about the health effects, mind you. While I haven't done the research, I've heard, and it makes sense, that the genital area is no dirtier than any other part of the body. But psychologically, I don't want to come into contact with another guy's junk. If you think about it, without hand washing, genital molecules will stick to the hands and then be transferred to other people and things through casual contact. And, if you define it rather loosely, since that contact is not consensual, it's like rape. Yeah, the more I think about it, every time you don't wash your hands, you are potentially raping the people you come into contact with.

My indignation was cut short when I heard Sherrie's unmistakable voice coming through the walls, and indication that announcements had started. I rushed to the playing room and started setting up--Sherrie announced that this was the last day of winter. I took notice--was I being kicked out at the end of the day?

Attack of the Space Aliens

It was a frustrating game, the first of the day, against Mark Penhallow. I knew he was going to bingo when he exchanged his opening rack and then played off OE. But I opened with WHAM and then TOWY/WOW/HEY for 44, so I was hopefully. He got down sENTENCE, leaving a TWS, but I was stuck with a clunky rack and could only score 24 off the other TWS he opened, while Mark had the D and got down PARDON for a whopping 46. From that point, it was nearly all pain. I got down ELUTING and gave him the T for AUDITORS. I got 30 off the triple I had opened and he got THEY/THEY/HA/EME for 34. I was struggling to catch up, and when I finally caught a break with RAVIOLIs, I ended up with FFLPSTU for a final rack, and that cost me the game, by 16.

During our game, we had a minor interruption when the sound of what could only have been space aliens' ray guns pierced the room, to the chagrin of many a player. I wasn't worried, having a deal in place with the Intergalatic Syndicate to leave my activities on the planet unmolested so long as I did not interfere with theirs.

Imbalance Corrected

Thought Scott Kitchen was dead last in the division, he had been putting the fear in me of late, both in club, and during our two tournament games in Philadelphia. I'd won our last club game though, so I retained a minute bit of hope that the pendulum was swinging my way. And thankfully, I caught a break. I was expecting him to bingo after exchanging his opening rack, as has been my experience. But his tiles weren't coming together, and when he finally dumped that S for FROSH/CROFTS, I was relieved for the 34 points he had gotten, glad to see the tile out of his rack, and the S hook gone. AmORIST (love that word) got me into a zone of relative comfort, and when he finally got down sCALARS, it was too little, too late. Finally, the universe had found some measure of balance!

Smoke and Mirrors

I tried a little bit of misdirection against Anita Rackham in game 6. She was my third opponent in a row to exchange her opening rack, and I suspected I was going to get zinged whether I played ZIT or ZITI. Sure enough, she gets down RETInAS. I've got RELINER*, which I doubted was good, and no place to play it anyway. I'm about to parallel LINER to her play when I realize I can fit all seven tiles. I gasp in amazement, and as I lay the tiles I hope she will be so impressed by the fit (my best ever) that she'll not challenge. She does hold, and I hold my breath--she just checks to make sure I fit everything correctly, and she lets it go. Whew! Then for the next few turns, I'm paralleling like a mutha, playing LAWINE/LIN/ANE/WAR, then FET/ELF/TIE/LINT, and then OPT/OBI/PEN/TAG. Anita comments on all my "pretty fits". It's anybody's game, but I start to feel confident when I get down SORDINE after having set up the CU hook (missing LUNACIES in the process), but she responds with SONNETs, and it will be a serious endgame. But she's got a clunky rack, EIJLRTY. Mine is clunky too, AEEOQSU, but I manage to score 35 with SUQ/VROWS, a conservative 11 by tucking AE in the corner to avoid giving her a counter play, and then multiple places to go our first with my OE. The best she could come up with was RILY*, which I doubted was good, but I let it go because I could win by just playing out.

Random Acts of Trivia

As I waited for my rematch with Bennett Jacobstein, an unknown player asked about what I'm doing down on the floor with the laptop. I did not get irritated because I was feeling relieved that I had managed to even out early on in the tournament. My experience with most of these long three-day tournaments has been to struggle for most of the time just to get even. So I was cool, but other players must have been feeling some stress, namely the one who shouted out "Can we have some quite please!" in a voice loud enough to startle everyone. I think he was the same one that shouted out a piercing "DIRECTOR!!!" a couple of games earlier, imploring for quiet. And during that earlier game, as I was working out my endgame, Sherrie asked players to stop their clocks for an announcement, and from somewhere in the back some player cries out "Noooooo!", presumably because he was in time trouble. Anyway, getting back to the unknown player, before he walked off, he imparted on me a random fact, that compact discs were invented in 1792. Maybe that fact will come in handy on Jeopardy some day.

Holy crap!!! I was sure that AUTOErS* was good, so I played it instead of OUTEATS, in fact hoping to draw a challenge. I'm lucky he didn't. Then I got down ZESTY for 45, and it was a defensive game from that point on. In one of my most painful, yet effective, defensive moves ever I burned a blank for a 17-point QuEER to kill a hook Bennett had opened. He continued to create open hooks, and I had one scary moment when he lung an L under a TWS, and I could not do a single thing. So I exchanged my MIRRORT rack, keeping the M, in the hopes of drawing intermediate tiles for a counterplay. Luck was on my side for once--he did not have the bingo. I killed the spot, and that was it. Defense, defense, defense was the key to that game.

For food this time I drove towards Chelmsford, and on SR-110 I spotted Joanne's Kitchen, advertising home cooking. The menu could have stood to have more vegetable options, but the mashed potatoes, corn, and meatloaf were decent. My only serious complaint was not being asked if I wanted gravy. I took my lunch over to Starbucks. When I left with my coffee and got out to the car, I realized I had both left my leftovers on a table and forgotten to sugar my coffee. The reason--a barista who, though in Starbucks uniform wearing a collared shirt, had it unbuttoned just enough to give the slightest glimpse of her cleavage. I just about lost my composure, my imagination running wild. Sometimes just a peek can be more powerful than the full Monty.

It All Goes to Hell

I returned from lunch to discover I had moved into 6th place--my 324 spread put me at the top of a group of players at 4-3. This got me to the second table, a position unfamiliar to me. I played Jason Katz-Brown again, and while I managed to pick up the blank after opening with ALBUM, Jason got his ASPIReD down first. A few turns later I found my bingo, GeSTURE and took the lead. I played defensive while trying to maintain a lead, but I still had to find ways to score. With an AEEOORR rack, exchanging could have allowed him to catch up, so I risked playing AERO off the TWS for 20, and I gave him the E for DELUSTER, which I challenged. He cruised from there. How quickly I had forgotten about defense. Why is it so tempting to go for a few extra points?

Game 9 against Don Finkey was a complete disaster. I was never in the game. But the worst part was my embarrassing display of unsportsmanship and abject clumsiness, as, after exchanging my rack and drawing EEOONQS, I became irate and exchanged again, tossing my tiles into the bag, but missing the bag and ending up with tiles on the floor. Far from my most glamorous moment.

A killer draw made up for early mistakes against Isaias Sarmiento, and I recovered much of the spread I had lost. Towards the end, I faced one of those tricky ethical questions. As I drew one tile, I dropped it before it came out of the bag, but I got a glimpse of what it might have been, probably a V. I went ahead and drew another tile, on autopilot, and saw I had a bingo. Then my conscience took over and I called the director over for a ruling. Isaias had no idea what had occured, so Sherrie rule it a "nonevent".

Flirting With Trouble

While I waited for my final game of the day, one of the young Scrabble phenoms came over to talk with me. I'm not sure how she knew who I was, but I was sure that I needed to get control of myself and resist my natural impulse to flirt with every nubile, or potentially nubile, female that talks to me. I could not risk having her even think that I might be trying to flirt with her. As young as she was, I didn't want her saying anything to her mother and causing a ruckus. Not to mention giving the Scrabble community the wrong idea about me. Oh, and maybe ending up on some watch list or web site not of my own making. I had a coworker warn me once that crusing the high schools like Woodsetter could result in my cruising Cell Block C and having the State take care of hosting my prescence on the web. Can't go there!

Partners in Grime

Earlier during the day, I had gotten the impression that Kenji didn't care for me very much. But it just goes to show that you shouldn't rely on your initial impressions. He started chatting with me about my writing, and he was very friendly. We discussed the intricacies of t-shirts as a fashion statement--whether white ones were better than dark ones and such. According to Kenji, white ones were good for showing off stains. I wear black shirts for just the opposite reason. We talked about possibly collaborating on an article to submit to GQ.

The 6 1/2th Circle

Game eleven hurt more than most games I had ever played. I opened with both blanks, so I used one for the 52-point QUOtE, hoping to bingo soon. But my next three ranks contained two or three Is each, and I had nothing. Finally, when I set up a hook and draw into oBVIATE, she took the spot with ANNATES, which was on the list of 2001-3000 most probable sevens that I had not gotten too yet. So I lost my turn, and she blocked the openings she had created. It took four more turns until I finally got down GRAVIEs to take a small lead. I did not even think to block the G that she could play from, and instead I took 34-point with RAZE. She responded with a 33-point FLUX, and I was eager to maintain my lead with the 36-point WEEP on the most glaring triple spot. And blam, she happens to draw into GRANULES to bingo out. After all the effort I had expended trying to get a bingo rack, she played off FLUX and happened to draw four perfect tiles. It just wasn't fair. I had wanted that 6-5 record so badly I could taste it, and dumb luck snatched it from my grasp.

I was truly in hell, the six and a halfth circle, reserved for Scrabblers who don't block bingo lines. I felt completely demoralized, lower than I had felt in Danbury even, where I had a much worse record throughout. Here I was given hope when I tasted sixth place, and then it was snatched from me in the cruelest of ways. Dangling those blanks right in front of me, but giving me crap to go with them. Handing my opponent a natural that happened to block my one line, and another to bingo out. Maybe Sherrie had been right--maybe it was the end of Winter. There seemed little point in coming back. I'd have been better off contacting Matt to see if he could still fit me into Philadelphia. Nah--that wouldn't have been fair to the handful of players who picked me in the rotisserie.

I barely noticed for my sulking, but tempers flared as Sherrie tried to get players to keep it quite or talk outside, as games were still in progress. Had I not been on the verge of suicide, I might have been amused by her tiff with another player, who should have known better. I mean, how hard is it to whisper? And if you have to say goodbye to another player, do you have to shout? I would think expert players would know better.

As I rushed to my car, I groused about how I had been so close to getting to ANNATES in my studies. If I had just gotten through those next 1000 sevens. But of course I realized that no matter how far down the list I got, somebody would play I word I didn't recognize, and I'd lose games because of it.

Lost and Frustrations

As I approached the new Newton Starbucks, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, one of my favorite radio shows, came on. I became quite excited and started making monkey noises. You had to be there. I visited the store in a jiffy so I could get back in the car and listen to the show. I headed next to Cafe Miami, not too far from another new Starbucks I had to visit. I figured I'd order to go and eat in the car while listening to the show. It turned out not to be an issue because, as usual, I got lost several times on the way, even with a map right in front of me. In fact, I can't remember ever having reached my destination in Massachusetts without getting lost. Anyway, the restaurant turned out to be closed. I grumbled and looked up other Latin American restaurants on CitySearch. La Cafetal was not too far away. Actually, nothing is far away in Boston, in terms of Texas distances. It's just that getting there is like navigating a maze. I tried to take Tremont to Mass. Ave, intending to turn left on Beacon. As I looked intently at my map, I noticed these "streets" labeled as "public alleys". Public Alley 429. Public Alley 908. Etc. What the heck is a "public alley". I couldn't ponder the question for long, because somehow I found myself crossing the river. Hey, where'd that river come from? Had I been Will in Bad Boys I would have just pulled a u-turn, but since I had not yet completely slipped into my own private version of reality, I waited until I had crossed to turn around. When I finally got on Beacon I kept saying to myself--"Stay on Beacon. Stay on Beacon." And of course I ended up on Commonwealth. Staying on one road in Boston is truly easier said than done. Finally I reached the restaurant. While not the best Colombian I've ever had, it was worth the effort.

Next I visited a new Starbucks on Huntington Ave. I considered heading back up to the welcome center in NH, or even just to the hotel, as I remembered there were woods behind the parking lot where I could find some privacy. But I decided to stick around town so I could rephotograph some stores in the morning. I drove around for a bit looking for a place where I could park my car and have some privacy. I settled on a spot on Mass Ave on the border of the Back Bay and South End neighborhoods. When I got up to do my business, I had to wander through a park and then down some alleys behind some residences. I was keenly aware that, had somebody been peeking out from a window at that late hour, I would have looked very suspicious.

After about four hours of sleep, I woke up and had trouble sleeping again, so I decided to head up to Cambridge to see if I could locate yet another store whose phone number was not listed on the web site. I wandered around looking for something called "Cambridge Center", but all I saw was the Galleria. I spotted a couple of sherrifs deputies and asked them, but they were equally clueless. By that time I was tired again and found someplace else to sleep, in some office park next to a delivery van.

April 4

A Yeuky (Love that Word) Morning

I woke before 7:00 and thought about getting some more sleep before reshooting some Starbucks. But I was learning my lesson about getting around in Boston, and as expected I got lost several times getting back to the Huntington Ave store. I reshot it and several other stores, including the phantom store in South Brookline that is not listed on the Starbucks web site, nor able to be plotted by my mapping program. Despite having gotten up so early, I lost so much time getting lost that I arrived almost four minutes into my game. It didn't matter. Crappy racks lend themselves to quick play, and I quickly made up the time. Didn't really matter though. Gregg Foster bingoed early twice, with UNMEANT and then EXTERNES, and I was never able to recover.

My game with Ember Nelson was equally yeuky. She opened with two bingos (the first a phony, LUMInAE*) while I was holding a blank. I hate it when that happens. Finally I got my EREcTION, and a few turns later a lucky 56-point QUARK, and it turned into a real contest, but I ended up losing by 8. So many close games this tournament.

During my game with Barbara Revkin, she expressed audible disappointment after I drew the final S to all but ensure a win with PARENTS/SQUINT. I had no sympathy, because, unlike some of my opponents, I had not simply gotten lucky. No, after she bingoed with SiMILES, I, holding an S, calculated that, with only one S and one blank in the bag, it was worth the risk to play QUINT and then take the points with SQUINT. But Barbara played IF next to the TWS column, and with that other S and an F still in the bag, I decided I'd better take the spot. I took it with VANGS, and then I took a chance with BURG, laying the G on the triple line, for more turnover in hopes of drawing that last S. Which I did. After her bingo, I turned over 13 tiles to her 5, and that's why I drew the S.

Why I Am Not an Expert

Because I do stupid shit like trying to hook QUINiNe to AN/DI*/EN/PE. I discovered later that QUINoNe would have fit. I ended up having to burn on blank for a 32-point QUINCe, through the CLIFT Ed Liebfriend had used to block both my bingo lines, and then open a triple line by bingoing with REINDEeR. I just got lucky that Ed couldn't play the triple, and that I was able to take it with GRIDE. I ended up winning, but it was an accident. After I played IVY, leaving myself with OORIE and the hook to go out with, Ed tried to block it with BETHS, but he didn't think to see if I could parallel my play, and I was able to do it, with BO/ER/TI/HE to go out. Ed was rather upset, let me tell you, and I was satisfied to have finally beaten him after 2 or 3 tournament defeats. At the same time my satisfaction was muted by the knowledge that I could just as easily have lost and blown that two-blank advantage. I'll ad that I wouldn't even have had those two blanks on the same rack if I had found BUrGEON or BEGROaN on my second turn. And I had looked for a while, but just couldn't see them.

Outside in the hallway, the player who had pulled that lucky final rack to bingo out and beat me yesterday tells me she did the same thing to some other player. Now where exactly in the vast knowledge of psychology that humanity has built up over the years did she get the idea that telling me this would make me feel better?

Before heading out to Stoughton to visit the last new Starbucks in the area, I stopped at a Starbucks in Lexington with Internet access and computed my rating. About 22 points, or 1 per game. I needed to do better, but I was glad I played. Just being in the same room with greats like Edley, Cappelletto, and Sherman all together was exciting, even if I didn't quite feel it at the time. I guess what I was more disappointed about, than my meager ratings gain, was that I had let down the people that picked me in the rotisserie.

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