In A Bad Place
Updated August 23 2005, 21:41 PDT
August 19, 2005
Bound to Happen
As Reno got closer and closer, my level of excitement had been growing. At the Chevy Chase club, I asked Bob Linn, week after week, if he was excited yet. He wasn't feeling it. The Tuesday before he said it would probably hit him on the plane. Of course, he had played in Division 1 many times.
Excitement combined with anxiety on Friday morning to prevent me from sleeping past 7:30. I was hoping for a couple more hours, to help my body deal with the 3-hour time difference. Not quite sure which was the stronger sentiment, excitement at playing Division 1, or anxiety over the fact that I had not been able to study as much as I had wanted because of the all the media attention I had had to deal with in the two weeks prior to the event.
At work I printed out a bunch of new lists I had been working on--suffixes and prefixes mostly. I fervently hoped that I'd be able to get comfortable enough on the plane to actually get some studying done. In the past, this had not proven to be the case.
I left work just before 4:00 for a 10-15 minute drive to the airport for my 6:15 flight. I expected the line through security at BWI, long during my two prior trips, to be even longer on a Friday evening. It was not, but it was good I gave myself extra time, because I finally ran afoul of the TSA's dreaded "no-fly list". I'm not sure if that was the cause, but for some reason Travelocity had reported that it was not able to employ electronic ticketing for my reservation, and that I had to have paper tickets delivered (at a cost of $30!!!) So I checked in at the counter for the first time in three trips. As the agent was about to hand over my ID and boarding pass, she suddenly pulled it back, said "Hold on," handed me a letter from the TSA, and rushed to the back. I read the letter and dialed the phone #. My mind raced with thoughts of disaster. I would be allowed to board!!! I'd miss the Nationals!!! Meanwhile the stupid TSA music kept playing. Finally, after 10 wasted daytime minutes, the agent came back with a boarding pass.
I was seething as I walked away from the counter. Before, when reading about the "no-fly" list, and how people like Senator Edward Kennedy had been denied board, I had marveled and chuckled at the stupidity of the TSA. But now that it had happened to me, it was no laughing matter. At the same time, I was greatly relieved that I had still been given a boarding pass.
Frontier had Gate D7, and I sat across the hall at D10 to see if I could pick up the T-Mobile Wi-Fi signal I had discovered the previous Friday at gate D12. It was there, and it was stronger! Yay!!! My anger dissipated.
As I sat their I detected a slight odor. Crap! I had forgotten to replace my container of deodorant that had run out. I hoped I'd have a row to myself, for the sake of the poor bastard who might have to sit next to me.
Meanwhile, a representative of Continental Airlines made a second call for volunteers to give up their seats on a possibly-oversold flight. The first offer was for a $150 travel voucher. The second was for $200. It was like an auction!
Okay, So She Wasn't *That* Interested
I was one of the last to enter the jetway (is that the right word for the tunnel between the gate and the plane?). A Southwest Airlines flight attendant arrived after me, and I tried to make small talk. I mentioned the NSC, and she said she loved Scrabble and talked about a scene in The Wedding Planner in which J-Lo's character played Scrabble, and how she had seen Scrabble on ESPN. Thinking she was really interested, I kept talking, and I must have gone a little far with the details about the new word list and how I expected to crack the top 20 because of it, because she started to get a glazed look.
By coincidence, the lady happened to be sitting right next to me on the plane. Her body language indicated she had no interest in chatting. Probably didn't want to get me started on Scrabble again.
Meanwhile, behind us, some guy was getting overly excited about the fact that Frontier planes have a bunny rabit painted on the wing. He must have been on the phone, because he just went on and on and on. I figured the dude was high.
I started in on my five-letter C words until I had to put my seat-tray back up. Once we were in the air, I tried to resume studying, but sure enough, just being in the air caused this discomfort in my head that made studying painful. Crap! Now I know what they say about last minute studying. I also know that at last year's Nationals, John Babina told me that Marlon had said last-minute studying didn't work. Nevertheless, just a few days earlier at the Philly tournament Marlon himself had said he had plenty of time to study during the long bus (or train?) trip to Reno. Interesting.
Anyway, I tried to study by taking breaks after every few words to avoid the headache. It didn't help that my ass started to itch all of a sudden. I glanced at Ms. Southwest. Her eyes were closed. The young couple across the aisle were focused on themselves. I decide to risk some discreet scratching. I delicately shift in my seat. I tried to slide my hand between my jeans and my briefs, but I couldn't seem to find the elastic band. Then it hit me--I wasn't wearing briefs! D'oh! I had run at the gym earlier, and I had not taken a fresh pair into the locker room, so after my shower I just went without, figuring I'd be okay 'til I changed into my pajama bottoms later that night. Aw, crap! I had forgotten to bring my long cotton pajama bottoms in case the temperature in Reno got chilly at night, as often happens in the desert. If it did, I'd need to buy either a blanket or pajamas along with a pillow. I hoped there was a 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter near the airport/hotel.
I managed to study for a few hours, working on Cs and Ds, reviewing 7 top stems, and then quizzing on some 8s from the top 3000. I started to feel a little drowsy. Despite the discomfortableness of the seat, it appeared that I might just catch a few ZZZs... and then we started our descent. Blah.
I had long since decided Quiznos wasn't that good, and overpriced, but they were the only shop I could see near the gates, and I favored sitting and writing and studying over wandering around. Airport food is airport food is airport food anyway, which is to say, crap. $10.43 for a crappy meal, a dry sandwich and chili that looked like they had hand-rationed each and every bean like it was a diamond. At least the Sobe fruit punch was decent, if overpriced to the equivalency of liquid gold. And on top of all that... AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! My tongue! HOT HOT HOT HOT!!!
All Roads Go Through Denver?
I boarded the plane and grumbled that, for the second time, I had been assigned a window seat despite having requested an aisle when I booked the flight. But I quickly forgot about that as I ran into a surprise, Gene Murray from Indianapolis. Later, Greg Edwards from Minneapolis (formerly St. Louis) showed up, but only because of a fiasco with his United flight, something about a plane still sitting in Phoenix. Darn it, why didn't we have travel sets?
The plane departed at 9:20, and with my body being two hours ahead and sleep-deprived I should have been able to doze, but I had little luck with that. I took consolation in making some good progress getting through 5s and stems.
I offered Greg and Gene a ride to the Hilton and picked up my Budget car with only a short wait. The Hilton was the biggest thing in sight, and nearly adjacent to the airport to boot, but there was still some guesswork involved in getting from A to B, and in the end I took us around the entire complex before finding the front entrance. But what the hey, it beat walking or wasting $5, I told the guys.
There was a big sign displaying the NSC schedule, but nothing (that I could see) about registration. I wandered around looking for Scrabble officials, and finally I went up to the hotel desk and a bellhop called Sara Hallock. I was sure she didn't appreciate being disturbed, but if the NSA had been a bit more generous with the late-registration instructions, like posting something coherent on the NSC site, it wouldn't have been an issue. Shit, man, people have to work, and taking extra time off just to register is expensive for those of us who get paid by the hour.
Staking Out my Territory
Anyway, I got my badge, and I headed down Virginia to Kietze, where there was a Starbucks with Wi-Fi and 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter. Basically everything a man needs to build a life for himself. A pillow cost 2.92, a blanket 4.88, and I was proud that that would be the extent of my expenses on accomodations, not counting the gas spent driving the 3 or 4 miles down the street.
The Wal-Mart parking lot was very well lit, and I didn't see any shade, so I drove around the various parking lots looking for a place where the lights wouldn't be in my eyes. The Circuit City lot looked good until I noticed it was full of kids and sporty cars--I figured it was a gathering place before they went off to street race. Another group of kids were doing some filming. There was a guy in the back of a pickup with a videocamera, and the truck would ride filming another kid who was pedaling a bike. Not sure what that was all about.
I found a spot behind a big tent (don't know why there was a tent in front of Circuit City) and slept for a while. When I woke up, I spotted a police truck in the distance. He never bother me, and when I looked again I noticed it was a K-9 unit. I guessed it was maybe to find drugs in the kids cars? Regardless, I moved, over to the side of another building where a Safeway was, and there I slept through the night.
Fightin' da Funk
Right smack dab at 6:30 I awoke to see the sun starting to peek out over the horizon. My body thought it was 9:30, and that combined with growing anxiety prevented me from sleeping any longer.
Virginia St is one of Reno's principal streets, so I was surprised, and a little delighted, to see moo-cows in a pasture right up next to the road, along a strip that I would consider to be quite well within the "developed" area of the city.
After asking a barista to fill up the soap dispenser in the bathroom, I went to work on my armpits. I had been feeling the funk something awful that morning, and since in Scrabble you have to lift the bag above your eyes, you can't really hide the smell by keeping your arms tightly at your sides. I scrubbed with a washcloth like there was no tomorrow, and as I dried with a hand towel I noticed just how hairy I was under there. Now I don't wanna be tripping' on no girly shit, but I had to wonder if shaving my underarms would help keep the funk under control?
Then I had another idea. Next year I should get a group together to share a room, but not to sleep in. Just to show. Okay, since we'd have the room anyway one or two people might as well sleep there each night, on rotation, but my thinking is like twenty or thirty people chipping in, and then taking turns at the shower each night, or every other night.
On the way down to a new Starbucks I passed some place called the South Side Cafe and Supper Club (misnomer, since they no longer serve dinner). A barista at the Starbucks eagerly said they served a good breakfast, so I grabbed my coffee and headed up there. The waitress offered me coffee, and I replied that I had it covered back at Starbucks, and then I noticed she had a grande cup of the stuff sitting on the counter herself. Heh. Anyway, the biscuit was good, but the home fries had a minefield of peppers and onions that I had to avoid.
What the fuck??? How does this Taurus not have a cup holder!!! Dat's wack!
On the way back to an older Starbucks that had Wi-Fi, I caught the tail end of an All Things Considered report on some theater company. During the segment they played a few seconds of songs from Hairspray and A Chorus Line. I've never seen productions of either because I hate musicals. Can't stand 'em. The songs make me wanna run and hide. But I have to admit that I'm by cutting out on an important part of popular culture I miss the references in the other works. For example, that song from A Chorus Line was used just the other night in a fantasy sequence on Scrubs. At the time, I had been completely oblivious to the reference.
I'll Take It!!!
A visited another new store and rushed to the Hilton, arriving at my table right as announcements were winding down. Sherrie, that wacky joker that she is, pretended to start my clock. Ha, ha, ha.
After four plays, my first Division 1 tournament game was effectively over. Ben started off with OPERATE, -4, tAENIA, and the triple-triple DERIVErS to go up by 242. For good measure, he continued to score, with the phony double-double BEIGEST*, and then ELASTINS, locking up both blanks and four eses within six turns. I took the game for lost, and my focus disappeared. I still wanted to minimize the spread, but I got sloppy. Missed the easy COOPERATE. Later I would realize that I had also missed it when I played FORCER. And after his fourth bingo, my mind just wandered, and I let my time dwindle to the point that I knew I was making suboptimal plays. Play like that was going to get my pummeled.
I fared no bettered against Jim Geary. I thought AAHING was a good find, but I was rewarded with AAIUUPS plus Geary's BiENNALE. I knew Jim, the poker player, had to consider bluffing as a tactice. Additionally, before the game, he and I and Ben had been discussing the blowout, and he knew that I had let Ben get away with BEIGEST*. So I thought he might be up to a little sumfin' sumfin', and I challenged. Then I decided to gamble a bit and slot LUAU for six next to the triple column, and of course Jim had an S for 35 points. From that point, I couldn't make anything happen.
Incidentally, LUAU sims highest, over exchanging.
As if my disappointment weren't bad enough, I had to deal with some NSA bullshit. My division leader had asked one of the NSA officials to tell me that I wasn't allowed to use my laptop in the playing room, because it was "disruptive". Never mind that I was in a corner behind the division 1 sign, practically out of sight. She said I had to be out in the Grand Salon. Out there, John Williams and another NSA rep weren't helpful. The NSA rep said that if they let me do it, everyone else would want to do it.
By the end of my third game, my displeasure with the NSA, and my disappointment over the first two games had been washed away, because I beat Trey Wright, Mr. National Champion himself!!! Blam!!! Boo yaa!!! Okay, so I got the better of the power tiles, and he probably played a perfect game, and I surely didn't, but I don't give a fuck--I'll take that victory and milk it for all it's worth!
And it's not like I whomped all over him, either. It was tough. For the third time in a row, my opponent bingoed on his first play, and pulled the blank first. But he hung the E on the triple, and I scored 43 with PUSHER, which, added to my 26 from ZERO, evened out the game. With XI for 38 I took the lead for the first time during the tournament, and then I pulled the other blank and got down MOUsING. Trey came right back with HINGERS to retake the lead, but with 42 for DOYEN I stayed in it. Then Trey's racks fizzled a bit, while I scored with JIAKO and KITS for 32 to go up by 48 with very few tiles in the bag. But I wasn't out of the woods, not by a long shot. With a tile pool of AAAEEIBNRRSTTV, I saw plenty of opportunities to bingo, either to a D at 15A or hooking OF. So I took a risk, given that I didn't have a big lead, and blocked the D with ID for 3 points. Rather than scoring (maybe he couldn't), Trey played for AVID 9 to set up a hook, and the tile pool was AEINRRSTT. I was sure I was going to lose! I had to block that A--there was nothing I could do about OF.
I played CEPE, and when the first of the remaining two tiles I pulled was an S, I breathed a slight sight of relief. The other was a T, and when I quickly worked out that he didn't have the bingo. Heck, he would have put it down faster than I could think if he had.
I tried to be conciliatory and admitted I had drawn the better tiles. Trey did not replied--he just had a blank expression on his face. I just shut up and filled out the tally slip.
I played a sloppy, sloppy game against Keif Smif, and I just couldn't manage to play through some seriously crappy tiles.
I went back to the Grand Salon to have my lunch, and while I typed a lady asked me how I could it so fast. I've always been amazed by the silliness of that question. I don't type that fast. In fact, I don't even know how to type.
Tiles That Only a Mother Could Love
The tiles continued to conspire against me, as, FOR THE FIFTH GAME IN A ROW, my opponent (this time Jim Peters) got a bingo and/or a blank bingo down before me, and always within three turns. I have NEVER had the momentum in this tournament yet! In Jim's case, both, for a 122-point lead, and then an extremely easy time of it closing up the board. I held the blank from turn five through the end, but I couldn't find the few bingos (two were nines) to be had (SILICATE was the likeliest, but the C on the board was a blank, which might have screwed me up).
there were no bingos!!! Bingos within my vocabulary, that is. Best I was given was a crack at bullshit words like SIBILAnT and SIBILATe.
I was playing at the same table, so I put a note on the board saying I'd be out in the Grand Salon (using my computer), and I hoped my opponent wouldn't be retard or a dick and would come out and get me. Well, I don't know if he was either, but sure enough he was just shuffling around the table, looking around, completely oblivious to the sign I had left glaring over the tiles. I had to express my displeasure.
We got down to it, and just when it looked like this might be my game, I got screwed again. Simulation shows that I played a fairly good game, but things just spun out of control. For the first time in the tournament, I hit first with the bingo, CITHERN. But I couldn't get any momentum, because Kevin immediately played BARTENDS, and while I was wondering what to do with my OOIIFMS, he played SPAVIET for 102, and I was looking at AIIOFNS. FA was the right play, but keep double-Is two turns in a row and it's almost a guarantee you'll draw a third. Gave up some equity on an exchanging, but at least I drew into a bingo, a nine, RESLATING, to come within 18 points. But a couple of turns later, Kevin got down ZINGS for 70, and that was pretty much the game. Yeah, both blanks were unseen, but I had to create a bingo line, giving up equity in the process, and Kevin ended up drawing both of them anyway. Totally screwed.
Against Rusty Peltz, I managed to get a bingo down first, for only the second time, but all it did was bring me within a point. So when Rusty came right back with CREMATED to take a bingo lead, I knew that I was cursed. No, seriously, check out this improbabilistic shit. First of all, I only bingoed five times in seven games!!! I don't think that's happened in over year, maybe two! But just as bad, in four of the five cases, my opponent followed my bingo with a bingo, so I WAS NEVER ABLE TO GET THE MOMENTUM!!! IN SEVEN MOTHERFUCKING GAMES!!! Seriously, I can't remember if that shit has ever happened to me, ever.
I had switched tiles with the adjacent board to I could get out of the room ASAP, and I bolted like a bat out of hell. Things continued to go wrong. I grabbed a free weekly and headed out to my car, and as I tried to read it I kept tripping because these steps kept appearing on the concrete, and then kept moving out of the path of my feet! Then, as I drove down to Carson City, I continued the simulations that I hadn't been able to do earlier because of that @#$%& NSA bullshit, and I was having a really rough time of it because the rented Taurus handled like shit. I was weaving all over the road. And no, it wasn't my driving--I do fine in my Civic.
The second of three Starbucks was near a Wal-Mart Supercenter, so after an hour down to South Lake Tahoe and back, I decided to just stay in Carson City for the night and take advantage of the darkness to sleep longer.
I was too exhausted to search for food, so I just ordered some scraps leftover from the Panda Express that was closing for the night. Sucked.
The Worst of All Possible Hells
6:34 this time (yay, four extra minutes), though I might have slept longer had it not been for the sound of the truck starting up, the truck that I had used for shade from the lights.
So I could pack lighter, I had planned to ration socks and briefs over the 9-day trip. I wasn't scheduled for a change, but I felt like my clothes had the stink of failure, so I went ahead and grabbed fresh socks, briefs, and another shirt. I went into the Wal-Mart for a couple more washclothes, and when I went into the bathroom I noticed my hair was fucked up!!! Goddamn it!!! It hadn't even been 48 hours since I'd had it trimmed and cleaned up, because various peoples would be filming me. Is nothing going right? Does every Scrabble trip to Reno have to be a disaster?
By cutting the # of iterations to 500, I managed to finished simming all my games. I was playing just as good or better than recent tourneys. Which just pisses me off, because... FUCK!!! I'm in last motherfucking place! FUUUUUUCK!!!
Meanwhile, at the Starbucks where I was hanging out before the day's games, I was getting a real bad vibe from one of the partners. He was asking me a lot of questions. I had mentioned that I'd be playing Scrabble, and later he asked me if I was watching the clock. "Don't want you to be late," he said. I got a strong feeling he was trying to get rid of me for some reason.
Before our game, Robin Pollock Daniel and I were exchanging fashion tips. I should have stuck to that, because I sure wasn't playing Scrabble. I got much better tiles that the previous day, but I screwed up early. I couldn't figure out what to do with EBDGHL?, so I phonied, BLEH*!!! Granted, Robin would have bingoed elsewhere, and it would have been a completely different game, but since I only lost by 22, that lost turn really haunted me.
In sharp contrast with my mistake against Robin, which I figure cost me the game, Steve Oliger was able to come back from his phony WRESSLER* to play off the WE, leaving ELRSS, and draw into SOLDERS. And this was after he'd already beaten me to the blank with IOdATION. I'd managed to catch up, and just as soon as I did I found myself behind, for the ninth straight game!!!
Against David Pearl, I pretty much rolled over and played dead. HURD* just looked wrong, and I could easily have figured out that it was no good, because I've got the sequence HUIC, HUNH, HWAN memorized, and I know none of them take an S. But I didn't even hold. I'd like to think that if the tournament had been going better I would have challenged.
I sensed there was something really wrong, perhaps even in a supernatural sense. I decided it was at least worth considering cutting my losses, so I went and talked to the tournament director Laura Klein about the possibility of dropping out, given that the division was already uneven and byes were being assigned. She told me she doesn't work for the NSA, and that I really needed to talk to John Williams, so I went and found him. He said that he had personal feelings against dropping out, but that he would raise the issue with the Advisory Board.
Both blanks availed me little against Rod MacNeil, in a game that came the closest to seeming fair, and was dramatic at least. His OUTWILE, my URODELES, his NEGATRON, and my IsOLATE opened the game. I led just barely, but that state of affairs lasted a mere three turns before Rod hit with ZANY for 64. Then I struggled with my racks for several turns, and Rod hit again, FOCUSER. I scored 44 with KIANG and then IRONIsT, but it was too late. And as a final nail, Rod paralleled my bingo with DEXIES for a whopping 91!!!
After the game, I asked Rod if he was on the Advisory Board, and then explained that I wanted to leave. As expected, he strongly encouraged me to stay, and Zek Kaufman piped in, pointing out that he was hardly faring better at two wins. They did not, of course, know that I had filming to do in Seattle, and that the two days of skipped Scrabble would save me having to fly out there later in the year.
Lunchtime, and in past tournaments I would have rushed to try and line up a girl, or maybe a movie, to take the edge of. But the way I felt, there was absolutely nothing on the planet that could have made up for the pain that fortune had heaped upon me. I was numb, so numb in fact that I couldn't even be angry. That would have required effort, and I didn't want to expend any more effort on Scrabble for a short while.
My bad Scrabble vibe continued to overflow into my outside life. This time it was the cheese steak, from some place on Kietzke called Little Philadelphia. If that was the best cheese steak in Reno, like the sign on the marquee said, then Reno was in trouble. Besides the taste, the thing was soaked in cheese, not just inside the bun but outside, making it hard for me to keep my hands clean so I could type.
Hey everybody in Birmingham, Jim Pate says hi!!!
As I sat in the Grand Salon watching a top player parade his hot girlfriend around, I decided that the NSA (not that they need more rules) should institute a rule barring hot non-Scrabbling-playing girlfriends from the playing area, because it's just not right to flaunt them in our faces.
Iffy, Mr. Bye, and Amway
During my game with Iffy, John Williams had asked me to come speak with him. I assumed he had an answer for me. And the answer was that I was free to leave after my last game, and the NSA had no provision for sanctioning me, although they would be disappointed and consider it unsportsmanlike. I had a bye for round 13, and so I went and called Bill the filmmaker and explained the situation and ask him to look at travel possibilities for flying to Seattle instead of Reno. I wasn't completely decided that I wanted to drop out--I would be an excruciating decision, and I knew that I would probably regret it, because I'd always wondered if I coul dhave evened out.
Debbie Stegman finished her game and walked out into the Grand Salon. She tried to be conciliatory, saying my predicament was a good experience. I bluntly replied, "No, it isn't. There's nothing to be learned from this." Except, maybe, how to deal with loss, and that's not what I want. I just want to win.
Terry, who had a horrible experience herself in Division 1 in New Orleans, tried to console me. I suppose she did know somewhat how I felt, but not exactly, because only by simulating games can a player know that he is in fact having really bad luck.
My Favorite Muffin and Bagel
Just before the start of the day's games, Joe Edley stopped me and said some like I needed to move past the losses of the first two days (don't remember his exact words). I told him that he was right in principle, but that I just didn't have experience or maturity to do that yet. Still, I was determined to try, but no sooner had I sat down to play Keith Smith than he opened with cORONAE, and the pain of the previous thirteen games broke through the floodgates to wash away my focus. But I managed to bingo on my third turn, and, in a rare occurence, Keith did not immediately bingo back and I actually managed stay 5-20 points ahead for the rest of the game to finally win by two.
Albert Hahn quickly washed away any satisfaction from my win by taking an early 56-point lead with 24 for FIZ and 55 for XI. A few turns later he bingoed with CEREALS, and then he drew both blanks after that to kill me by 227 points.
The pattern continued in my rematch with David Pearl, who followed my BRASIER with NEUROSAL and then GATHERS, but a blank that I held for seven turns (intentionally passing up MEOUiNG) combined with the second blank to bingo out for the last-second save.
My rematch against Albert Hahn was the worst of the morning. My best play of BWANA to his HAKE, leaving AF, garnered me a blank, but also the Q to go with it. Based on my interpreation of six months of Maven simulations, I opted to take the points, 19, 27, 26, and 30 rather than exchanging the Q (or playing QATS for 14). Finally I ended up with EEEIQS?, and I just couldn't score. Albert had of course beaten me to the bingo, LIMITEdS, but since I held the other blank I hadn't lost all hope. I thought I had caught a break when Albert misplayed OIN*, and I took the extra turn to exchange EEIQ, and I drew EUUB!!! FUCK!!! I was so pissed that I hadn't been able to draw a U in five turns with the Q, only to draw it after exchanging, that I lost my focus and played LUBE/UF* to lose a turn. Fine, Albert had lost one two. Even is even, right? I still the blank. But Albert, who has gotten so lucky against me I have to wonder why he's at the bottom tables, plays of EU and draws into INTERIOR to go up by 138 now, and I'm really screwed. I don't see a way to give myself a good leave and score, so I dump the EUUB and draw EOUFNS?. Don't know the bingo, so I play of FEU (should have been FOU), and I finally get down MISDONe. I was still down 75, so I was going to lose anything, but as a finally insult, my bingo gave Albert a place for PARADES for 92!
My third time was most definitely not a charm. In the way of the disappointing burger from Cabo Cafe, and cheese steak from Little Philadelphia, I should have expected the slices of pizza from Nu Yawk Pizza to suck. And they did.
At the Starbucks, the same partner that was giving me a bad vibe the previous day is (thankfully) heading out for lunch, or for the day, and stops to ask how I'm doing in the tournament. I start to think he's trying to flirt with me, which is the last thing I need. Nor do I need his cute little joke about buying me a dictionary to help me with the tournament. Ha, ha, ha.
I finished making the u-turn to get from Virginia to the ramp for US-395 north, and those cops that were talking to the homeless guy are
More of the same against Zev Kaufman, who bingos on turn two, ERODENT, then four turns later, cENTURY, and then draws the other blank to ensure that I can't catch up.
I finally get a great draw, for the first time in 19 games! Actually, Ron Howard drew the JQXZ, an es, and a blank, but he couldn't get a bingo down, while I got GARNETS and DUOTONES. That was the first time in 19 games I'd outbingoed my opponent.
But once again, I had little time to enjoy my win, because the shit started up again right away in the next game as Amway opened with VIRTUES. Granted, if I had found a better bingo than ADnATION at G4, I would have prevented him from hitting the triple, but it hardly mattered, because my post-bingo draw was CFLNTVW. I played WOLF for 18 and drew CNRRSTV. TORC for 14, and I drew NNNPRSV!!! And meanwhile, Amway played AGITATES!!! I was down 114 points... no, make that 152 points, because I had to exchange my NNPRV while Amway played XI/AX for 38. AIOONSS left me little choice but to tack ION to AX to set up the triple line (since only one es and one blank remained in the bag), and I finally hit by drawing the other blank for SAtORIS. I was down 82, but I slowly began to catch up, fervently hoping the tiles would not run out. Then Amway hit with 51 for PIQUET, and that was the game.
As I headed out to my car, I see Joe Edley talking with someone else, and I want to ask him, "What exactly am I supposed to learn from this? Yes, bad draws happen, but what am I supposed to learn from suffering through bad draws for most of 27 games? And I also wanted to ask John Williams what exactly is the "principle" of sticking it out even though the pounding doesn't let up. That kind of thinking is what kept the U.S. in Vietnam for so long.
I struck out on food for the fourth time, and this time it was CitySearch that let me down. It listed some cajun place on Meadowood Mall Circle, and I assumed it was outside the mall (because I loathe mall food). I should have suspected the place was wack, though, from the girl who answered the phone. I thought she was being a flaky teenager, but when I finally found the place in the mall I discovered she was just a foreigner who barely spoke English. Not sure what language she and the man were speaking, but I was puzzled by the fact that the man kept looking at me and speaking in his tongue, asking about the drink I ordered I think. Did he think I spoke the language??? Anyway, they gave me a lot of blackened chicken, but the beans and rice were light on the beans and very dry, so even though I got a lot of food for only $5 (because she had already shut down the register), I tossed most of it.
I slept without interruption, and that combined with the additional caffeine in my system got me up around 6:00, but I felt fine. Back to My Favorite Muffin and Bagel and then to my new favorite Starbucks in Reno, the one on California.
Several people who knew of my plight had told me that at least it couldn't get any worse, and I tended to agree. But we were wrong, so wrong. It did get worse much worse, to the tune of a 232-point outdrawing by Jim Geary in which my racks never had a bingo except AIICLNS, well beyond what what I've had a chance to study.
Prior to that game, I had been feeling okay, ready to try and win that last-gasp or best-last-day prize or at least go out on a positive note. But that loss hit me hard, and it looked like my bad draws could very well last for most of the 28 games. I jst didn't see why anybody would insist that it was a positive experience to subject oneself to that kind of abuse.
I blew Ron Howard away again, drawing but I wasn't exactly happy about it. I didn't need to draw 9 power tiles in the same game. I needed that luck spread out over more games.
For the first time during the tournament I got consecutive killer draws, and I whomped Ben Withers (though not nearly by as much as he had beaten me).
Keith Smith got the better of me in our third dance, and I had no complaints about the tiles. I missed a bunch of stuff before the board tightened up, and then I still had the better draw, but despite his being low on time, he played a great end game. In the end the game was decided by word knowledge--his knowing JINGAL to score 26, and then JINGALL to score another 16 and win by 4 (or 6 depending on how you count).
I picked up a halfway decent burger from a place called Juicy's Giant Burgers on Wells and took it over to the Starbucks on California. I run out to my car to get my power cord and get in the way of this cute blonde. I apologize, and she says "No worries." When I return, I ask her if she was from Australia. Yes, I was curious, but I just wanted an excuse to talk to her. Later, I saw her walk across the street and into the parking lot of the Wild Orchid, a strip club with a $20 cover at night (enough to deter me). But it was only $10 during the day, and even though it was already 2:15 I had to try to find her. She was definitely worth missing a few minutes of my game, even if I hadn't been tanking. Heck, depending on how open-minded she was, she might have been worth missing the entire game. But when I asked the doorman about her, he said he didn't know who I was talking about, and furthermore that no girls could have arrived recently--day shift started at 10:30.
So I just headed back to the Hilton to try and win three games. Fat chance.
Well, I can't say Ron Howard wasn't due the tiles after I blew him out twice. But still despite his bingoing first with MANWiSE and later the 98-point EXPLODER, I came back with ADENINES and ENTASIAS and, with the second blank, almost had him. I gave up points twice to try and set up a bingo that never came, but I just didn't see a way to score with my one-point tiles.
I waited as long as I could before starting the final game to give Bill time to show up, but he never made it. Still, it was not wasted time, because I was giving a very eager Terry Kang an update on the standings. Apparently there were people all over holding their collective breath to see who would be in the finals. Me, I found it hard to look past my own predicament. Actually, I was trying hard to look past my predicament to California, which would redeem the trip. Heck, if I could visit all the outstanding stores in the Bay Area, I would win!