Can't Get No Satisfaction
Friday, November 12
It was a rainy Friday, and it's pretty much true anywhere that people can't drive in the rain, so it's no surprise that I ran into rush hour traffic in Baltimore just minutes after leaving Elkridge, MD. But I didn't mind, because I wasn't at work, and there was a lot to be said for that. Plus, I had my trusty laptop loaded with LeXpert, and my custom list of top-1000 sevens was overdue for quizzing. It was actually only 183--I had previously gone through the list and removed the alphagrams I knew pretty well.
Because I'm not suicidal, I paid more attention to the road than usual on account of the rain, and this slowed the rate at which I could go through alphagrams. In the three hours it took me to reach Philadelphia I only went through 80, but I recognized 60. As I walked into a Pathmark to find a Bank of America ATM and a bathroom, I was actually feeling rather proud that I had achieved 75% recognition after only two passes through the list in two to three months time.
Savvy readers might notice that the quickest route from Maryland to Queens would not be through Philadelphia, but instead the New Jersey Turnpike. I, however, had to return to Bensalem to buy a few more cases of Tradewinds tea because, amazingly enough, I had already gone through 17 bottles in the week since the Philly tournament. That was almost three bottles a day, and half of the supply I had bought. At that rate, it would not last until the next Philly tournament. And, more disturbingly, at that rate, and at 240 calories per bottle, I was going to put on a serious gut if I didn't cut back or sign up with a gym.
I had some spare time still, but I thought it would take too long to detour to the Colombian restaurant in Philly, plus I wanted to save some time by calling an order in advance, so I decided on dinner at a couple of restaurants not too far off US-1 further up the road, in Trenton or in Elizabeth. The wonder meal of beans, rice, and plantains for $5.50 was my first choice, but Sprint PCS directory "assistance" could not find the Luis Restaurant. Nor could the operator find Amifika's (maybe because it's actually spelled "Amefika's". Without being able to call ahead, I had to choose the latter because I couldn't be sure that the former would still be open past 9:00 PM when I reached Elizabeth. And I had to eat something substantial because the temperature would drop around freezing, and I had found that my body generated more heat to keep me warm in the car when I had a full belly.
Even after waiting 20 minutes for my turkey chops, beans and rice, and green beans, I still reached Manhattan in time for my massage appointment. Given the limited range of choices available to me in Elkridge, passing up my chance in New York would have been a disappointment. The higher prices didn't bother me so much now that I was working (which is maybe why my money disappears), but really I'm a massage fiend and I've found nothing near my work.
I went from the comfort of a warm massage table to a side street in Brooklyn near a Starbucks I'd visit in the morning under the Manhattan Bridge. But in a way, I was kind of sleeping under a bridge, and that was just cool. The only disturbance came in the early morning when I was awoken by some noise and my car jolting suddenly. I peeked out from under my blankets to see a sanitation engineer--the jolt had occurred when he picked up the pile of garbage bags I had parked next too.
What wasn't cool was that, around 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, for some odd reason, my cave of warmth was penetrated by cold air. It's possible the reason was that I only had two blankets, instead of the three I had been using earlier in the year. Or maybe the back of the Civic didn't have as tight a seal as the Integra had. Whatever the reason, it's never pleasant to have one's cave of warmth penetrated.
My internal clock was once more spot on as I awoke at 7:37, three minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I didn't need that long to get from Brooklyn to Bayside, but I had other plans scheduled for the morning, namely meeting Bill, a filmmaker working on a documentary about my Starbucks project.
I reached the Adria early enough to notice that I was at the top of the B division and that Arthur Doerson was at the bottom of the A division. It immediately occurred to me to ask Arthur if he would switch places with me, but I had to wait for him to arrive. Ginger kept announcing that she we were going to start, and I grew more anxious as the time neared 9:30 and Arthur was still missing.
Arthur showed up, but he wanted to stay in his division, which is understandable given that the B division was ratings poison with a bottom player rated 942! Aaaargh!!!
My first game was against Barbara Newman, an 1132, a rating I was hoping not to have face again except for open early birds. Of course playing someone with that rating has its advantages, especially with good tiles, and I started off with an easy win and a 167 spread.
Meanwhile, Bill was shooting footage of me, other stuff around the room, like the adjudication computer, and interviewing other players. Unlike at the Nationals, none of my opponents objected to the filming.
I was equally confident against Dolly Silverstein after she just happened to play the W I needed for CRAWLIER. So you can imagine my disbelief when she triple-tripled me with GRACIOUS to lead by 100 points. I was sure I was sunk, but it was early, and I was able to score well on the next two turns and then take the lead with SILENTlY. A couple of turns later, I pulled away with ONSTAGE and began to shut down the board. I couldn't stop her from getting down oUTSHOT, but thankfully I was able to play WEBS for 32 to keep my lead and then leave myself with two places to play the Q for 30+ points. Not only did I come back from the triple-triple, but I won by 64!
Great tiles and a won challenge (WAGONERS) helped me to a 171-point blowout over Barbara Epstein and a 402-point spread. Jim Fonti, however, was no slouch, and though I always maintained the lead, he almost caught me with SNORTeR. 92 points from the Z and X though helped me keep a healthy lead, and once I drew the second blank I was in control even without a bingo.
It wouldn't be a Bayside tournament without some wackiness, would it? In this case, it was The Loud Woman, playing in her first tournament, who seemed to be getting on the nerves of some of the players including Jim Fonti who was at the table next to mine. Then there was an the eight-year-old son of a couple of Scrabblers, playing in his first tournament, who seemed to be confusing Scrabble with a similar-type competition because he would spell the words out loud as he counted up the score (I think). This prompted Jim Fonti to remark "What is this, a spelling bee??" And then there was a little wackiness at my very own table as I commented that I had wanted to play QUIZzED for a long time and proceeded to expose my Q, Z, and blank only to realize I was missing a tile. "Oops", I chuckled as I took my tiles back. Of course this had the effect of making Barbara nervous since I was holding all those power tiles.
During lunch I found out that Ira had passed me in spread with a 235 win. So when I returned and saw that I was playing 942-rated Marci Mikeswell I knew that I had to take the opportunity to run up the score. So even though, had I thought about it, I would have decided HINKY* was no good, and thus the same for HINKIEST*, I would have played it anyway. Later, after she came close with STATIVE, I made a genuine mistake by focusing on whether STATIVES was good and not giving enough thought to whether CONiEST* was good (SECTION wouldn't play, and I wanted to slot the C first for defensiveness). Then with the final blank, I debated whether RERAIsE was good and finally decided that REARIsE* was a better bet. After the game I rushed off to the bathroom to spew more crap, and when I returned to my computer Jim told me that all three of my bingos were phony! I admit I took a perverse satisfaction in that.
I got a little greedy against Steve Williams, when I decided at some point in the game that there was no way I could lose and started to try and set myself up for another bingo. It didn't backfire, but in retrospect I could have lost it if he had gotten just the right tiles.
The grand finale against Ira that Bill was hoping to play up turned out to be anticlimatic because Ira had lost two games and I had already clinched the tournament. Miserable tiles had plagued Ira in the penultimate games, and I expected that he would make up for it in our game. Well, he drew the tiles, but at the wrong time, and I accomplished a secondary goal I'd had in mind over a year, going undefeated!
Of course having players rated 1300 (and dropping fast) 1292 1186 1132 1120 942 in the field took much of the excitement out of going 7-0. I couldn't really take pride in an undefeated record unless most of the players were at my level or stronger.
More wackiness during the awards ceremony when Jim Fonti was the only one down for a special prize in one of the categories. He had already won a special prize, and Ginger only awards one per player, so The Loud Woman took this as an opportunity to "award" herself a tile bag, seeing as how it was her first tournament and she "deserved" it. Gingers assistant (husband?) was not very pleased with The Loud Woman and made a gesture that, if I remember correctly, is of a biting nature in some culture(s). Then there was the eight-year-old kid being confused again, thinking he was in school, because he had his hand raised, wanting to ask if there was a prize for youngest competitor.
Hmmm... maybe I shouldn't make fun of the hand-raising thing, because Jodi, at 27, does the same thing, and she has a bad habit of reading my journals and taking issue with my perspective of certain events.
As I drove into work the day after the tournament it occurred to me that I could have blown my first game at the crucial moment where I turned it around if I had been able to fit the first bingo I saw. Holding EILNTY?, the first word that jumped out was INTErLY*. Thankfully, there was no place for the phony that would surely have been challenged off. Why INTERLY*? Because when I added the word to my list of high-probability sevens I transposed the letters in INERTLY. I didn't catch the error until I revised my list months later, and by then I had gone over the Is enough times that I had no doubt the word was good and would have played it without blinking. I escaped on Saturday, but I continue to live in dread of the moment when I finally lose a game because of a transcription error.