Here I Go Impossible Again

February 4, 2004

It had been four weeks since my last tournament. That was the longest period of time that I had ever gone without playing tournaments that I had easy access to. The first week, I could have driven to Ohio or Michigan, and it my pre-1600 days I surely would have. As each weekend approached, I would feel an increasing frenzy to drive, fly, run, hitch, whatever to get to the next tournament. But lo and behold, when my first post-1600 (and 1700) Friday came around I distinctly noticed the absence of "the need", despite some six or seven tournaments on the schedule.

I was set to play the following weekend in Philadelphia, but fate intervened in the form of a snowstorm, giving me another week of study. The following week was Atlantic City, but the directors would not allow me into Division 1 even with my 1703 crosstable in hand. I opted to avoid becoming 2005's Bobbie Butterfield and skipped the event.

February finally came around, and I decided a month of study was long enough--I couldn't wait too long to try and prove that I belonged in Division 1 or people would start to think I was chicken.

I left work on Friday afternoon early enough to detour to a new Starbucks in Vineland, NJ, that I had originally planned to visit during the aforementioned Atlantic City tournament. On the way up to NYC I pulled off the freeway for food, and I stumbled across a newsstand and stopped in to see if they had any older Playboy special editions, my latest addiction. Playboy special editions are magazines published by Playboy once or twice a month--they contain pictorials cover-to-cover without the clutter of any articles. These special editions are about the only magazines of a "pornographic" nature I can look at, though hardly anybody considers them pornographic because the industry has moved to to stuff so hard that it is almost unfathomable to me how andbody can find it erotic. Really, what remains hidden in Playboy and the soft-core stuff like Maxim is much more arousing than the rags where everything is thrust out there. The only caveat is that you have to suspend your disbelief and pretend that the models depicted in Playboy can actually exist outside the realm of Photoshop.

Anyway, the upshot was that I scored a goodly number of magazines, at least half a bottle of Jergen's worth, and then some pizza, and then some Colombian food in Elizabeth, and by the time I reached Manhattan I didn't have enough time for the nap I would have needed in order to make it through the midnight screening of Blue Velvet, a David Lynch classic I'd never seen. Just as well--the movie would screen again on Saturday night, and going into my "prove-myself" tournament sleep-deprived probably wasn't the best of ideas.

I headed to Levittown where there was a new Starbucks, and the first parking lot that looked good for sleeping happened to be that of a church. I decided against it and moved into the neighborhood adjacent. Sometime during the night I heard a voice saying something like "Hello, hello." I had no idea if he was trying to wake me or if he was talking to someone else. Seemed to me that if he'd been trying to wake me he would have just rapped on the window. Maybe he was just trying to see if there was anybody under the blankets, since I was completely covered. I knew he couldn't see clearly into the car because my windows were fogged. Regardless, I lay still and waited until it seemed quiet outside and moved around the block.

More troubling than the mystery voice were multiple dreams in which I drove a car of a cliff. In the last of the series, my parents were in the car. A truck jackknifed in front of us, and as I swerved to avoid it I drove off a cliff. The car fall in slow motion, and I distinctly heard myself apologizing to my parents. When I awoke, I felt as if the series of dreams had been an omen, and I was worried.

February 5

Once it got light out, I drove over to the Starbucks and grabbed a DoubleShot, incognito, and then back to sleep. Sometime after 7:00 the sun started to glare into the car, and I had to move to the parking lot across the street, in the shadow of a fence. As I tried to get back to sleep, I started to compose the beginnings of a rap song, "The Incognito Negro", that I'm sure would have been a hit. Unfortunately, I was sluggish to grab a pen and jot down the lyrics, and when I tried to remember them later that night, they were gone, except for the words "bass be bumping". Well, those lyrics are in just about every other rap song, so that didn't help. Another opportunity for fame and riches lost forever.

I had set my alarm to give me just enough time grab a bagel and reach Bayside, and then I decided to give myself 10 extra minutes. Good thing, because I'd happened across the popular bagel shop. Despite their being another one down the street, everybody seemed to prefer Bageltown, and I got out of there not a minute too soon, as the line was started to reach out the door.

As soon as I walked into the Adria, Tom Kelly spotted me and reported that people were looking for me to take a fall, predicting I would be back down around 1200 by June. Ah, well you can't be vocal without ruffling a few feathers, unless all you are doing is spouting warm and fuzzy crap. Later, as we were to begin, Frank Tangredi commented that we weren't going to be playing, and he looked disappointed. I wondered if he had been sent with instructions from Koenig and the other members of the Anti-Winter Consortium to dismantle me.

Jack Eichenbaum was rated below me, so I saw him as an opportunity to pick up one of the three games I wanted to win. I figured three would keep me about even, at 1700 or close. A couple of early inspired plays, OEDEMA followed by UNERRING through the E, put me in control. Jack came back within 6 with SORDIdLY, and I held for a good bit, but luckily I let it go and took my 36 for YOWIE. I maintained a small lead and then brought it home in dramaless fashion with the X, J, and Z.

It was my first matchup with Howie Greenspan, just as it had been with Jack, and I fully expected that, if my winning streak was to end, it would be against an 1800+ player. But he surprised me early, giving me a belated Christmas gift, like mana from heaven, a phony four, CABE*. This allowed me to stay a bingo ahead, even after we traded OUTRAGE for AEDILES, and I extended that lead to a full 100 and was feeling pretty good. But 100 points is nothing on an open board with two blanks unseen, and just when I was forced to exchange my Q (no Us, 1 A left), Howie played SMeLTING to come within 38 and create a serious problem for me. I still led by 51, but S was slotted at H5, creating the potential for a big play. The I N G created new bingo lines with the second blank unseen and seven tiles in the bag. And down in the lower right next to the triple column was REX, with both Ps unseen. And I held IOLMNNT. Ouch! My next move was critical, and I couldn't play too many tiles because of the Q. So I played NOM for 13, sacrificing at least 7 points, to try and block that spot. Howie removed the threat of the Q, but he scored 34 doing it and cut my lead to 17. I had drawn a P, and I really saw no choice but to play PI for 25 lest Howie come down with HIPS for 52 and pray Howie couldn't find a bingo through that I N G. I lucked out, and then Howie made his second big mistake next move, playing HILI and forming DEI*, but I had been so focused on working out my chances with my crappy ALNNPTT that I missed it. The bag was empty, and when I caught it I thought to challenge, but even as I called Ginger over I was sure how she was going to rule, that since I had accepted the score and written it down it was too late. I could hardly believe I had missed the challenge. It's a good thing Howie wasn't able to catch up or I would likely have fixated on that mistake and maybe blown the rest of the tournament.

Having just beaten #2 Howie, and not having to face #1 Frank, and having beaten #3 Stu Goldman a month before, I began to have some hope of doing better than three games, maybe even winning. But my next two games quickly dashed those hopes. Furthermore, the tiles I drew, at least against Richard Reiben, validated my decision to skip Atlantic City. When I say I was due for bad tiles, other players say "Bah!", and that luck has no memory. True, but I still think I was due for some bad tiles, and I'm glad I didn't get them against some 1350 player in AC. Even if I had played optimally, like finding SAFETY for 50 over FAY for 21, I still would have been down 150 points after Richards CRESTING, COMBiNES, and ZED left the bag all but empty of power tiles. That game was particularly frustrating because I kept seeing eights that didn't quite play: ZED blocked IDOLATOR, no R for TRINODAL, an E in the wrong place for DELATION, no front hook for ATTLING*.

I didn't have much of a chance against David Stone, but I could have cut the spread if I hadn't made a mistake that, to my recollection, I had never made before. I forgot what the blank was, thought it was an A, and played EX/EQUiTE*. But had it actually been EQUATE, David would have hooked a bingo, so I was chozed regardless.

During lunch, I started simulating the two games I had lost and discussing them with David, and when he left I set about trying to remember that rap song I had started that was going to make me rich. I knew I should have written it down!

Verna Richard Berg was first up after lunch, and I pretty much got a draw like Richard got against me. We ran even for four turns until I got down ELEGIST, and then I picked up a J and a blank and a good bit of confidence I'd get that third game. I debated my strategy, because I held AEINRJ?, but the board was pretty tight. I'd made the mistake before of trying to open it up and getting bitten, so this time I decided to take my 60-point lead and keep the board tight. Then I drew a second blank, and, seeing nothing that scored even 15 without using a blank, I couldn't resist, and I threw a G out there, forming BAG and creating a hook. I didn't get burned, and though I still couldn't get down ReZONeD, ZeROeD for 75 served me just as well. Verna had no hope from that point on, but the question remains in my mind--with two blanks and a 50-point lead, do you open the board?

Stu Goldman had more of a chance against me than our previous encounter, and a serious mistake on my part almost gave him the game. Two early naturals, INDOLES and DAINTIEST, put me in the driver's seat. All I had to do was keep the board locked down when I decided to get greedy and try for MENTORER*. Denied! And then Stu played CISLUNAR through that line I could have easily blocked, to take the lead, and I felt like a real chump. If I lost, I'd deserve it. Thankfully, I lucked out once again after a critical mistake and drew the blessed TRAN for the 45-point TRANQ that gave me the game.

My final opponent was Michael Ecsedy, and he gave me an early gift. No, it wasn't a hook for my UNCLOUD--he played YID instead. So, out of frustration more than anything, I played UNCLOUD anyway (for turnover), and Michael amazed me by challenging my 12-point play. So I picked up the triple I had opened, for 26, and then the double-double ENTOILED for 86, and I was off and running. Michael drew both blanks, but burned them together on a 60-point bingo, much to my relief, and I managed to keep a good-sized lead for the duration. This lead saved me, because, for the third time in the tournament, I made a late-game mistake that could have cost me the game. This time it was mistracking--I thought all the Is gone, and that Michael could not thus hit the triple with his J. Wrong! One was left, and his JIAO for 57 almost cost me the game.

Three critical mistakes, each of which could have cost me each respective game. I could have been 2-5 instead of 5-2. It shook me just to think about it.

Nevertheless, I was in fact 5-2, and, as Frank Tangredi pointed out, that gave me a cushion in case I did poorly in Danbury. And given that I had done better than expected in Bayside (again), I knew that bad tournament couldn't be far off in the future. If I could build enough of a cushion before it happened, maybe I could stay above 1700. I knew I'd stay above 1600, but that wouldn't necessarily guarantee me a Division 1 berth (like in Danbury), and, the thought of dropping back into Division 2 terrified me.

Later, I confirmed what I had been suspecting, that I hadn't gotten a draw as good as a month earlier. Only drew 4/14 blanks, and I won two games in which in I was outblanked in no small part because of early challenges that allowed me to take the momentum. Maybe it wasn't a fluke. Maybe I was ready to play with the big dogs.

5-2 was god enough for second place, much better than I had expected! Meanwhile, David Stone had gone 6-1 for first, meaning that we had swapped places from the previous month. That was fine with me--I had to acknowledge I wasn't at David's level... yet.

The Invisible Man

I couldn't pass up my second opportunity to see Blue Velvet, and I knew I'd not likely stay up 'til 2:30 without getting some sleep, so I prepared myself by engaging in one of my favorite activities in the whole world, sleeping in my car on the streets of Manhattan. It was Saturday night, though, and early, and finding any privacy was pretty non-starter. I needed a different solution to my biological need.

A few years ago, someone stumbled across early notes for a superhero named The Sentry who, had Stan Lee followed through, would have been the first hero in the Marvel Comics line. Cool, huh? Except it isn't true. The Fantastic Four are indeed the first Marvel heroes, and though many people recognize them in large part because of the animated series of the 60s, we can expect them to really hit the big time in the summer of 2005 when the live-action movie is released.

Besides the comic book that began in 1961, there is a more recent incarnation of the Fantastic Four, part of Marvel's "Ultimate" line of comics, new incarnations of their classic heroes. In a recent issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four, Reed Richards explains to the Thing that Susan Storm's invisibility should theoretically be impossible because, if light rays are passing through her eye, then she should be blind. Well, Richards might or might not be right about the whole light-ray thing, but invisibility is most definitely possible, and perhaps even more so in a city as crowded as Manhattan.

My technique was simple. First, I had parked near a sewer grate, one with large gaps (really large). When I needed to go (which was about every 15 minutes). Then I made use of something whose purpose had eluded me for the first 32 years of my life, the hole in mens briefs. I could never quite figure out what it was for, but it turns out a man can stick his joint through the hole. So I pulled out my yang and covered it with various layers of clothing. Then I grabbed a bottle of Tradewinds tea and went over to the grate. I lay on top of it, my unit through the slots (hence the need for them to be large) and went about my business. As you can imagine, laying there on the street, dressed shabbiliy, and holding a bottle, I was about as invisible as it gets.

So I got my nap, which was good, because the film did not start until close to midnight. As I stood in line and waited, I noticed all the good-looking girls about. Cool girls, the type that would come out to a classic midnight film in casual dress, as opposed to the stuck up bar-going wannabe model types that wouldn't give you the time of day.

February 6

After spending several hours rephotographing stores in Manhattan, it occurred to me that I might as well take advantage of my still being there to attend Club #56's informal Sunday session. I wasn't sure where they met, so I had to post to CGP and wait a couple of hours for a response. I still showed up in time for some good practice, including games Joel Sherman and Jason Katz-Brown, visiting from MIT.

When I arrived, I was surprised, and flattered that Larry referred to me as the juggernaut (perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek) and Diane started a round of clapping (because of my Bayside performance). I was genuinely appreciative--I think I almost shed a tear. I had been expecting to see at least a few members of the Anti-Winter Consortium in attendance.

Against Joel, as against Cap on ISC, I reconfirmed my revelation that players of their ilk do not in fact know all the words, as his challenging GONOF revealed. Joel offered me several hundred dollars to keep the revelation to myself, but I didn't even consider it. The light of truth must be allowed to shine! Still, he got the last laugh, as I seriously blundered with REIRONED* and lost the momentum to see the rest of the game fall apart. I did learn something very valuable, though--Joel pointed out that I should been able to infer that REIRON* is no good because I know that IRONERS has no anagram, and thus REIRONS* is no good.

I picked up my first win against Jason K-B, and some confidence for our possible matchup in Danbury, and a serious compliment from Joel after I found the triple-triple bIDENTAL through the T (but not INfLATED or LINeATED)--he said that I might be an expert after all. All in all, a very worthwhile Sunday afternoon.

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