Three Times Was Not A Charm

Updated October 26 2005, 22:38 EDT; Revisions in BLUE


October 20, 2005

It was a good thing that the the fire with which I entered the Scrabble scene, that same fire that caused me to lose a job, had cooled. Procrastination on the part of Wal-Mart delayed sign-off of an update to our software, a critical update that needed to be in place for a demo to the higher-ups the following Monday. We were supposed to send a couple of people (not me) out to Alpharetta on Thursday, but because of those fuck-ups in Bentonville, I was stuck at the office on Friday waiting to see if any bugs popped up that needed to be fixed. I fixed one bug in the early afternoon, and I hoped that at our 4:30 conference call the low-level cog charged with making the decision would just go ahead and sign off. But no, the fuckhead decided to wait until 9:00 PM Arkansas time (10:00 PM our time), meaning that I had to stick around (if I wanted to remain in good standing with the company and the consulting agency that placed me).

So I did not leave until just before 10:00, but I still had hopes of driving about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, enough to get me onto the NY Thruway and past the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, which I knew would be heavy with rush hour traffic in the morning. But for some reason as soon as I crossed into New Jersey a dizziness came over me suddenly. I found it difficult to keep my eyes on the road, and I made a snap decision to pull into that first service area. I hoped it would only be for a few hours, but when I awoke at 1:45 after having slept 2 1/2 hours, I felt knackered. Next time I woke up it was a quarter of 6:00, I still felt like crap. I set my alarm for 6:45 (cutting it real close) and crossed my fingers that I would get some good sleep. Not really. I pretty much just lay there while the half of the yellow pill I'd taken, buffered by half a banana, slowly kicked in. I finally decided to go ahead and get up and drive, and whaddaya know, it was 6:43 anyway.

October 21

I made great time while on the Turnpike, partly thanks to a minivan who kept weaving in and out of traffic instead of signaling the left lane blockers (with flashing brights), but then I lost at least 10 minutes when I missed the exit to the GSP, and no sooner did I floor it to try and recover the time than traffic slowed to a crawl. I watched all my spare time evaporate, and it was all the more frustrating because traffic southbound was moving fine, and my exit was only 20 miles away. I was greatly relieved when I finally exited into Paterson, but I had to wait still longer to make up the time, because the shortest (though maybe not fastest) route to the NY Thruway went through town (and a sketchy part of town, at that), on slow surface streets. I wouldn't have minded having to get off the freeway, because I was hungry, but most of the shops I passed in downtown Paterson were closed, there was no bagel shop in sight, and I finally had to settle for a couple of donuts before getting on back the freeway.

I saw no more delays, and around 10:00 I called Annette and reported that I might just be on time, or just slightly late. When I mentioned I was doing better than 80 MPH, she said I didn't have to go that fast--I guess she doesn't know me very well.

Around 11:30 I called Terry Kang in the hopes she and Stefan (Fatsis, not Rau--she swapped with Melissa Block for a year, for a new reality series on NPR) would be there. I was a little surprised that they had arrived, but relieved, because Terry was able to confirm for me that the early bird would be starting late, at 12:30 in fact! That was great! I had time to stop at the new Starbucks in Queensbury and check my e-mail and then get some food. Unfortunately, all I found was Wendy's and the chicken sandwich was so bad I only ate half. I ate fast food (except Chick-fil-a) only infrequently, but I'd found myself losing my taste for it in recent months. I wondered if my reading the book Fast Food Nation had anything to do with that.

On the way from the Starbucks to the Howard Johnson Tiki Resort, a radio station played, of all things, a 80s tune by aptly named artist Howard Johnson, "Things Can Only Get Better". Except that his name isn't Johnson, but Jones, and I'm on crack. Or just getting old.

I pulled into the parking lot of the hotel and wondered where the playing room was. I spotted Jan Dixon-not-Nixon and Lloyd Mills in another part of the lot and drove over to ask if they knew. At that very moment Stefan called to warn me Annette was talking about starting my clock. I quicked parked and rushed in... to find that they were nowhere near ready to start!

After I got the better of Paul Avrin with some good tiles, Annette asked me for a favor, if I could take some photos and post them up on CGP. Kevin McArthy usually did that for her, but he wouldn't be in attendance. Hope he's not doing too bad back home.

Anyway, I had a scary moment against Paul when he challenged off my OLE/ARIAL*. I had been sure of ARIAL* for years! Thankfully, I held the second blank after having bingoed with the first, and the better tiles helped me overcome my blunder.

Three eses and a blank, on a tight board, helped me eke out a nineteen point win against Christopher Sikes.

I had not expected to play Terry Kang again so soon, and given the dreck that I drew, and the incompetent manner in which I played, I wished I hadn't.

As soon as Stefan finished beating me, by a mere nine points, I was sure his phony NUBIA had cost me the game. Except it wasn't a phony. But I'm sure I blew the endgame after he let me get back into it with 51 for FYCES. It was this position where I screwed up--LEE was an awful play.

In the final game, Don Drumm couldn't seem to get anything going. Despite a draw that was hardly overpowering, I still managed to pick up 94 spread points. That was enough to leap over Rau, who was beaten by Christopher Sykes.

While I waited around for my sixty bucks, Lynn Cushman showed up, and I thanked her for entering and pushing Jan Dixon down to Division 2. She replied that Jan was back in Division 1, because Michael Early had dropped out. AARRGHH!!! I wanted my revenge, dammit!!! Jan's good, and better than me, but she's not perfect, and I can beat her if I can draw some freakin' tiles.

I was famished and rushed off to get dinner, but not before Annette caught up with me and asked if I would write some "color" about the event. I explained that I could only write about what I saw from my limited point of view. But I'll do my best. Let's see, Lake George, from what I saw of it the first afternoon, seems like a nice enough town. There are mountains (or do they call them hills?) in the background, and I think people like those. The Tiki Resort had this whole tiki thing going for sure. The Early Bird was pretty uneventful--seemed to run smoothly, except for the occasional reports that someone had moved equipment. Oh, and the light. During my game with Stefan I started to get a headache from the sun's shining right my face. Finally, I picked up a newspaper and used for blocking. Later, I would notice players at the table where Stefan and I had set up our laptops--they (the players, not the laptops) had moved to get away from mean ol' Mr. Sun!

I headed back down to Queensbury to find some grub. I spotted a Friendly's and remembered that somebody had recommended the place, which I had up to that point eschewed for being a corporate chain. Apparently everybody in town liked the place, because it looked like half the population of Queensbury was either eating or waiting for a table. I tried to get an order to go, but the one thing they were out of was the meatloaf. I was too famished to search for anything else, so I settled on the Olive Garden, where the other half of Queensbury was.

I ordered to go so I could wash down my dinner with delicious Tradewinds tea instead of crappy watered-down fountain Coke, and I headed over to the Starbucks. At 7:37 I exclaimed "Oh, fuck!" as a the hint of a headache that I had hoped dinner who chase away suddenly manifested itself fully into our reality, and I winced. I hoped it wouldn't affect the night's games.

Maybe it was the headache that prompted me to do something unusual. I struck up a conversation with a cute-yet-gap-toothed girl as she walked back to her seat from the condiment bar. She was friendly enough as she pointed out that she was with a friend, a guy, who had just arrived.

I packed up my things at 8:15, figuring I'd have plenty of time to reach the playing room. But then the intestinal discomfort that had been building grew to an untenable level, and I had to seek refuge in the bathroom. I struggled with my own nature to get out of there quickly, but some things just can't be rushed. Thankfully, the night's play did not start until about 9:00. Well, I take back the part about the thankfully. My headache had gotten worse, and the fake Excedrin wasn't kicking in quickly enough, so I was hoping the action would get started as quickly as possible. I was sure that by midnight I was going to be hurting something awful.

John Robertson, David Goodman, Vernon Jones were directing. There were a few unusual occurrences, not all the details of which made it into my memory through the haze of pain. Something about pairings, no, wait, the self-post tally boards being upstairs for most divisions because the hotel wouldn't allow them to post them to the walls. And the pairings for the first round were called out out loud, which took a while for a fairly large number of players.


And besides that, the punk had to rub in it that I was in Division 2, something I swore I'd never do again. Even if I won, it would be a meaningless victory. Grrr...

I started off well, pulling most of the power tiles and scoring well with each, so that I was never in any danger against Florence Spanfelner. It was tougher against Judy Horn, but seven turns into it a 54-point FLEX just as she exchanged put me a bingo ahead, and even though my tiles fizzled from that point on, hers weren't setting the board on fire either. I finally sealed the win with EUgENICS, a word that seems like it should be uncommon, yet it came up three times in my games over the course of a few months.

Last game of the night was Carl Durdan. After the drawing the first blank for CORdATE, I almost screwed it up by challenging WOOSH. But I made up for it by finding a nine (rare for me) to the ED with IUCNRT?. Okay, so it was kind of a a gimme, but I don't play nines much so allow me to feel a little bit of pride. After the game, Carl said that our recent games had occurred when I was in a ratings lull--I guess that's a compliment?

Three wins and 231 spread put me in second place, second to Jeremy Frank, and I was pleased, but had neither the time nor energy to savor my position. I had to get as much sleep as possible, so I rushed down to Queensbury and headed west, where my mapping program indicated there were residental neighborhoods. Unfortunately, they were all those crappy neighborhoods where there aren't any sidewalks. I don't like to park in those, because either my car is sticking out like a sore thumb, or I'm parked on the gravel, which is probably private property and would give the owner reason to shoot me.

So I kept driving, and I found a street, Western Reserve, that was not on my map. Paydirt!!! A neighborhood under construcion, with only one house appearing to be occupied and another under construction down at the cul-de-sac. I went undisturbed through the night, except for mean ol' Mr. Cold who started to penetrate as the hour got later. I was surprised, because I hadn't expect the temperature to drop so low. Later that morning I'd hear that the low was 27 somewhere near by--ouch! Anyway, I had to break out the second pair of socks and the third blanket, something I hadn't expected to do, and I really started missing the undershirt that I had misplaced. I had to put on my work shirt as a third layer of insulation.

Something else that bugged (and worried) me was a sharp pain in my lower back that I hadn't felt since I slept in a cramped rental car while returning from a business trip down to Georgia. I wasn't cramped in my car, so I wondered if the cold was making my body hunch up while I slept. Or, even worse, if I was just getting too old to be sleeping in my car. NOOOOOOOO!!!

October 22

Around 6:45 I heard a vehicle coming down the street. I looked up, and it was parked in front of the construction. Why? It was before 7:00 AM on a Saturday, cold as fuck, and not even light out yet. I probably couldn't have stayed unnoticed since I was not right in front of the house, but since it would be light soon I figured it was okay to head back towards the Starbucks. At the last minute I decided to park across the street in the parking lot of the mall where there was a Target, because I needed to buy that undershirt, and I figured there were enough cars in the lot that mine wouldn't be noticed by security.

I was in a state of half-sleep when I heard a vehicle park near mine. Sure enough, a moment later there was a sharp knock on my window. Yep, security (Pyramind, if the name of the company matters), two of them, one white, the other the stereotypical Latino sidekick.

Ponch (or is it John) said that I couldn't camp there. I said that I wasn't camping, that I had arrived just an hour earlier to buy a shirt a Target. He replied that I didn't need to get an attitute, that my car with Texas plates looked kind of odd, and that he was just doing his job. Well, it was 7:45, and his "job" had cost me 15-30 minutes of much-needed sleep. I looked forward to the day when the billions I'd make from the movie would allow me to buy technology that would identify those who crossed me via facial recognition and pull up their home addresses so I could send an agent over to give the family dog an operation that would make it incontinent and diarrhetic. Sweet revenge.

Anyway, he said I was okay to stay and left, but I really wasn't okay, because since he had woken me up, I needed to find a restroom before I could go back to sleep, and unless I'm dead tired, I typically can't fall back asleep easily after being awake and active for more than 5 minutes. So I figured I'd just have to rely on extra coffee to get me through the day's games and up to Montreal, and I changed clothes (except for my victory briefs--I had to leave those on).

I still had 15 minutes to wait before Target opened, so I went over to that Silo place. I walked in and immediately realized it was a Cracker Barrel lookalike, but family-owned according to a cashier. I prefer family-owned establishments, and I make sure that every Starbucks I visit is owned by an individual family with wholesome values, one son, one daughter, says grace before dinner, etc. In the case of restaurants, I like to imagine that the matronly-yet-buxom wife nestles each individual chicken egg between her bosom prior to cooking, to add, you know, that extra loving touch.

As I ate my breakfast and wrote, some insect kept buzzing around my head, and I wondered if I should take Terry's offer of using the killer shower in their room. I might end up scalded, but that boiling water was sure to kills lots of germs!

The bacon was okay, but the biscuits were nothing to write home about. I quickly finished up and headed over to the Target. As I walked towards the men's clothing department in the back, I puzzled over what appeared to be a large room with nothing in it. My first thought was that it was one of those home stereo areas like in Best Buy, but I didn't see any such equipment. Finally, when I saw a sign, it dawned on me what I was looking at, the entrance to the mall. Duh. Clearly I had not yet woken up.

Before finding my undershirt, I spotted a shelf full of AC/DC shirts, and I wondered if one of those was the same one a barista at the Starbucks had been wearing (under her collared shirt). I quickly forgot about that as I spotted something very interesting--thermal pants! I'd had panty hose suggested to me (supposedly NFL players wear them), but I hadn't worked up the nerve to go there. But these thermal pants, they are totally masculine. Well, maybe not.

But I figured it was worth giving them a try, for $4.99, so I grabbed a package. On the way back to the front I passed the fitting rooms, and a cute attendant, and the first thing that popped into my mind was to wonder how she would react if I said, in my sultriest voice, "Hey there cutie, you think you could help me try on these thermal pants?" I'll have to try that line one day.

Ooh, ooh, ooh! At Starbucks, a brochure for Dali, Picasso, and the Surrealist Vision, an cool-sounding exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT. I hope I have occasion to go before I leave the East Coast.

First up for the morning was Paul Avrin, who was probably itching for payback, and he sure got it. After playing off NAOI ( EIOR) to his WOOING, I found myself hopeful holding AEIONRT, and then disappointed as Paul positioned his bingo so that I couldn't play through. Then my phony-o-meter started ringing, and I held OVErTIES and then challenged in off. But I face a dilemma, what the hell to do? Exchange O? Try to block a real bingo through the I that he might suddenly find?

Tim Anglin, Don Drumm

Plenty of time for lunch, and I drove all the way down Canada Street and back, finally parking and walking toward SJ Garcia's, a Mexican place, for the simple reason that there was a cute girl standing outside next to the hot dog stand. She turned out to be the hostess/waitress/busperson--I ordered to go and took advantage of the empty restaurant to chat with the unusually-named Kala. She, unlike most women, did not actively ignore me, but I was unable to entice her to drive up to Montreal that night. I did mention Scrabble, and when her face took on a look of interest, suggested she head over to the Howard Johnson to see what it was like. I would have dropped dead of shock had she actually showed.

I took lunch back to the playing room, where the few people remaining started in on an etymological discussion. I had time to reflect on anything of interest that had occurred. Hmmm... nope, nothing that I'm aware of. All quiet on the western front. Except for an incident with a player who fell and had to go to the hospital and drop out of the event. Donations being collected for flowers.

An inspired 82-point find on Linda Espallardo's part, UPSTROKE, which she would not have had if I had known QUInTAIN, put her in the driver's seat despite my having played through my awkward Q and drawn a blank. But then she set me up to score more with my bingo, 84, to take the lead... for two seconds. Her 52-point EX hurt, but BAHT for 30 put me within 15. When she played GREE for 14, I worried she had the blank and was creating a line, but I had not choice but to play my awkward OUBGRVY, turning it into BURLY. A couple of turns later I got the big power tile play, ZORI for 46 and was back in it, though not out of the woods, because that Z was slotted at 1d. Then Linda set me up for a 45-point DEVOUT to take a 48-point lead. But DEVOUT opened up several bingo lines, her VAINER opened up some more, the second blank remained unseen, and the tile pool had AEIIIONNV?. I was worried. I made a play to blocked the likeliest lines, but I screwed up and played three tiles instead of two, emptying the bag. I knew I had to leave a tile in the bag, and I knew there were only three, but somehow my brain short-circuited. Thankfully, she did not have the second blank, and I avoided what would have been a disastrous loss.

Terry Kang, David Englehardt, Mic Barron

I left right away for Montreal, where I planned to visit four new Starbucks and then see what I could get some cute stripper or masseuse to do for me. But about a minute after getting on I-87 I spotted a sign that reported Montreal to be 160 miles away. WTF??? For some reason I had gotten it into my head that it was only 80 miles away, and that made quick trip up and back in the morning plausible. But a 320-mile round trip? No, it wasn't worth it, especially with a fifth new Starbucks set to open in a few weeks. It made more sense to wait until I finished my contract and then head up to a couple of new stores in New England and then across to Montreal, and from there down to Toronto.

I took my sandwich and soup over to the Starbucks, where the first thing I did was obtain the answer to the question that had been bugging me all day--yes, Holly the barista had gotten her AC/DC t-shirt at Target.

Meanwhile, the Houston Astros were only 5 minutes away from their very first World Series appearance. I was in first place. The Astros were in the World Series--life sure was good.

I drove down route 9 into Glen Falls where my map showed a concentration of bars, and I thought about watching the game for a while. But it was cold and raining, and I just decided to call it a night and get a lot of rest for the next day's games. Because of the rain, it was easier for me to find a spot in a neighborhood, because my windows would soon fog up and offer privacy. Later it would start snowing, making me completely invisible.

October 23

Shortly before 6:00 I awoke with a moderate headache, but I recognized that particular type of pain as caused by dehydration from the cold dry air, so I wasn't worried. I took a couple of fake Excedrin anyway, plus an allergy pill, so I could try and get some more sleep. But for some reason the cold seemed to be penetrating more. I wondered why. Earlier, around 2:00 AM I remembered that I sweated a bit under my three blankets--I guess the temperature had dropped in those four hours. Heck, it had even started snowing a bit!

I went ahead and got up, but I still had to hold position for a good bit while my windshield defrosted.

I had a killer game against #1 Fran Silver starting off with the double-double TENDERED immediately followed by TINCTURE. I was one tile off from a triple-triple, FELLATIO, which was a disappointment, but FLOC got me an extra turn when Fran challenged. I flinched myself, thinking, like she had, that I had confused it with FLIC, but FLOC is good as gold. Through five turns I had build up a 136-point lead with no power tiles, and then I pulled a blank for INTeRLAY. A couple of turns later, I hit QUEAN for 78. I ended up winning by 155, and as we were finishing Frank commented that she had never lost so badly when having pulled nearly all the power tiles. Yes, she had pulled all four eses, a blank, and the JXZ! As I had just beaten Mic Barron the night before despite his pulling both blanks and three other power tiles, it was a good repudiation of some players' complains about how the player with both blanks always wins.

Jeremy Frank

I won't say I played a great game against Isaias Sarmiento, but I did manage to play through a Q for three turns until I drew the U and took the lead, but then just as things were looking up, with the blank on my rack, the game went south. His SONLIKE was a good play, granted, but it set up a power play.

I could have blocked it if I had seen VODKA and known for certain it was good, but all I saw was VIA, to block the K, and VANDA. I opted to block and keep the AODT?, and that allowed Isaias to zing me with ZOEAL. Okay, fine--I still had the block, and I almost caught up with MASTODoN. But that allowed him to hit the J for 61!!! Two lucky power plays in the same game--that was just too much. My only chance was to bingo again, but after MASTODoN I had to exchange IOOUU (keep ES), and then Isaias hit again, with the other blank, DARIOLEs, and that was the game. The spread was 74, which means that either of those two power plays would have won me the game. Completely unfair.

It was Isaias again in the first KOTH round and he comes out early with VAMPING while I'm vowel-heavy. I'm not sure of VAMPING (though I would have seen it immediately and tried it myself), but I could see that he was going to get lucky again if I let him get away with it, so I challenged. He then scored 39 for ZAX to pull beyond bingo range, and I fizzled with racks containing no intermediate-point tiles to score with, but no bingos either. Finally I phonied with GURnIES and got away with it, and then I drew the second blank, but no place for IOFKRR?. 98 points down, I did something unusual for me. I gambled it all by slotting IRK above a triple to at least score with my blank. But of course, out of the 28 tiles left in the bag, lucky bastard has the S, and for DITSIER to boot! Later I would realize that if I had not gambled for the win, he would not have won by 170, and I would not have needed to beat him by 139 points in the final round to win third.

As soon as I returned to the car I realized that 10-5 was worse than I thought, because instead of having played Jeremy three times, I had to play Isaias, the thirteenth player--disastrous for my rating.

October 24

While waiting for the KOTH rounds to be paired on Sunday, Mic Barron had asked me if I was playing the Cape. I replied that I didn't feel the need to play every week anymore. Mic said that after a few days I'd be getting the itch. I said he was wrong.

Come Monday, I just happened to glance at the field, and there was no way I could pass that up. Guess Mic had been right.

Average Equity Loss Per Turn

Includes total equity loss only if all turns were simulated.

Early Bird

1 - 11.2
2 - 9.6 (143.9)
3 - 12.8 (166.1)
4 - 12.3 (172.3)
5 - 7.0

Avg: 10.6


Early Bird

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
FUMIER17IU.5 (-IUU)-40
BARE29AI?79.8 (3x3 ABRASIvE!!!)AGO24
oRZO23ELLN2.8 (ENROLLS - but why? turnover? blocking?)YID17

Main Event

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

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