Gee, Thanks a Lot, Sherrie.

Updated November 4 2005, 16:56 CST; Revisions in RED


October 27, 2005 87 miles into my 450-mile drive to Cape Cod, I realized I had forgotten to plot the address of the tournament venue. Damn! Why do I keep doing that???

I left on Thursday because of an opportunity to appear on Fox & Friends on Friday morning. I could have done it from the Washington studio, but by the time I finished and got to work, I'd only be there for a few hours before leaving for the Cape around 1:00 or 2:00. So I figured I might as well take Friday off and try to make an appearance at Club #56 in Manhattan. But as I feared, traffic caused me to missed the first game. It was looking hopeful as I approached the Holland Tunnel with 30 minutes to go, but the trip uptown took almost an hour.

I went 3-0 with a healthy spread. Unfortunately, even had that been enough for some second-place cash, Joel requires that all four games be played to qualify for a prize. Still, the trip was not a waste. Winning those three games was a good confidence booster going into the Cape, especially after the disappointment of losing a big chunk of cash to a triple-triple at the Chevy Chase club. And I did win back part of the (steep) $12 fee from Mark Berg, who is ever willing to give odds and take bets on his games. A mere $5 went to me, but I cost him another $20 in bets from other players.

October 28

Though I managed to anagram quite a few 7s and 8s while in Manhattan traffic and during the drive to the Cape, the day belonged to Starbucks. After my interview on Fox & Friends, I hung out in Manhattan for a few hours before leaving on a circular route to the Cape that took me up through Connecticut into Massachusetts around Springfield, and then into the Boston area. I made camp in Norwood, near the last of six Starbucks I managed to visit that evening. Around 3:00 I headed up to central Boston, where there was a new store, and I was glad I did, because I-93 was closed at I-90, probably to repair more leaks in that Big Dig tunnel, and that might have slowed me down had I waited until morning and cut it close like I usually do.

The Norwood camp was uneventful, although it did take me a while to find a discrete spot in front of another car and next to a fence. And as I was about to change into my magical thermal pants, I thought I saw the shadow of someone mulling about the driveway of the adjacent house. I wondered whether I should pretend to be asleep or just duck to avoid being seen, and then I realized it was just a flag waving in the light breeze. Later during the night I awoke to notice a flashing light in a window of a far-off house. I assumed it was a television, but the intermittent on-and-off seemed too regular for that. Funny isn't it, the things you tend to notice when out in a suburban neighboorhood in the wee hours--pretty much any movement seems out of place.

October 29

I awoke from my half-sleep a few minutes before 7:00. By the time I found my clothes in the scene of tornado-destruction that is my car, it was already 7:00, But the new Starbucks on State Street had not yet opened. I had been told 7:00, but the sign said 7:30. Grrr... If I waited 'til 7:30, I probably wouldn't reach Hyannis by 8:45, and Sherrie would be mad at me, something I fear above all things. Fortunately, there were a couple of baristas outside the door, and I talked them into taking some money for a canned DoubleShot so I could skeboogie.

Other than a closed gas station, I saw no further delays and made it to the Cape Codder Resort and Spa before 8:30, quite possibly the earliest I'd arrived at a tournament in a good while. I found the playing route and got confirmation from another player that 8:45 was the time for registration, and that I really had until 9:15. I was about to go search for breakfast, but then I noticed the resort's restaurant, the Hearth 'n Kettle, offered free Wi-Fi, and I figured that was reason enough to pay a little extra and stick around.

I hung out with my precious Wi-Fi 'til about 9:15, but I did pop out of the restaurant into the playing room next door for half a minute to let Sherrie know I had arrived. The look of pride on her face couldn't have been greater had she been admiring a pair of healthy newborn twins.

Then it occurred to me that, since the restaurant was right next door to the playing room, I should be able to get a signal from in there. Yep. I could update the coming misery in a more timely manner. Yay!

The misery began with Joel Horn's complaining about how he had done crappy in Lake George because he had been outblanked. Then he proceeded to draw everything but the J and win by 224 points.

I actually had a chance against Ron Tiekert. Oh, that would have been a sweet win, but after my SABERInG, I screwed up and lost a turn with FEATED, trying for a more defensive play than DEFEAT. I drew the second blank, and I might have recovered from that lost turn, but for the next 8 turns I was vowel-heavy. In fact, I had 2, 3, or 4 Es on my rack for 7 of those turns, and when I finally played EELIER, leaving EO, to draw the second blank, I also drew two more Os and had to burn yet another turn. I did bingo, EMErSION, but so did Ron, ADULATES. I still had a chance, but remaining tiles were TVV, and that killed me.

Just like Joel, Gina Fassio started off with a blank bingo, POWErED. I got ELYSIAN, and then I felt a slight surge of excitement as she lay down ANIDINES*. I don't think I reacted visibly, but she pulled it back and played ID. I expected trouble, and there were plenty of lines to play through. I almost played GOT over POWErED to block those lines, because, since she already had an AIS, I figured the OER were likelier for her to play through. But GOT also opened lines, and I took fewer points with ROT underneath. Should have taken the points--Gina drew the other blank and bingoed with UNEASIER, slotting the U in the triple line. With my EEIIGRR I didn't see a way to touch the U, so I just played off SIRE and watched in dismay as Gina triple-tripled, RAINoUTS! Game over.

John Van Pelt was next, and for the 3rd time in 4 games, my opponent bingoed on his first turn. This time around, I didn't manage to come back with a bingo, ever, and given that John bingoed two more times, I'm amazed that I "only" lost by 61.

0-4, and I was having flashbacks to Reno and Parsippany. Especially Reno, where my opponents usually bingoed right away to take the momentum. I also couldn't help but think about that poor bastard who had gone 0-15 in Lake George. But I couldn't possibly go 0-12, could I, not in a field with so many 1600s? I didn't suck that bad, I was sure.

Certainly not as bad as lunch. I drove down Route 28 until I spotted an interesting place, Timmy's Roast Beef, a perfect reminder that just because the restaurant is locally-owned doesn't mean it won't suck. Coincidentally, as I drove back towards the resort eating the nasty-looking and tasting roast beef sandwich, with strands of meat hanging from my mouth, what song came on the radio but Michael Jackson's "Thriller".

Thankfully, there was more to my life than Scrabble. To wit:

I am a shift supervisor at the Willows, California Starbucks. I would LOVE to know when you will be there. My partners know I have so much pride with the company. I cannot express how much I love my job. I transfered from Gilroy, CA almost a year ago, now I can work full time at Starbucks and I love it. Please, I would love for you to respond to me. I would be so excited, it would be worth it for you too. I look forward to see your movie, even get an authograph. I think it is awesome what you are doing and would love to meet you in person. I am real as much as you are. please respond to my email. One more thing GO TEAM GREEN!

At least somebody loved me, even if the tile gods didn't.

The rain slowed down my return, and somehow I passed up the resort and ended up arriving late. Sherrie was still in the middle of announcements. I would rather have had my clock started, because I feared she was going to call me out. I hid outside the room until games started.

I had better, though not dominant, tiles against Dave Engelhardt. Neither one of us tore the board apart, though, and he was a threat to win until I turned my QUIT (in retrospect, a bad play) into QUITTERS to hit the triple.

It was back into the shit the very next game, against Judy Horn, who was able to finish her 203-point romp in less than 10 minutes because, with the exception of ANGiNAL, all her plays were what I would call gimmes. But what do I know.

Rod MacNeil was #2, so it was surprising that I was playing him, but he was coming back, and I helped him along by screwing up a perfectly good rack, not noticing that CONEY takes an S, and instead of the higher-scoring RERISeN, or the approximately one million good eights through the E, I tried instead SERRINEs*. This actually worked in my favor, because after challenging my word off, Rod did something that I found astounding. He played his bingo, OVERSLIP, slotting the O in the triple column. Blam! Triple-triple INtRORSE.

So close to Halloween, it was appropriate that Paul Avrin gave me a fright by saying he had seen a Starbucks at the Cape Cod Mall. Another one they kept secret from me??? No, actually it was just a Barnes & Noble Cafe, often confused for a Starbucks. Then Avrin went on to frighten me further by eviscerating my 88-point lead with a series of gimme plays that blew me out of the water. sPiNAGES - 80, QUITS - 48, CINQUE - 51, and AERATION - 68, and I was out of it just as quickly as I had built my lead.

I had already decided to pass on a massage at the resort's spa because of the steeper price, $100.30 (yes, 30 cents), but after the pounding I received I craved comfort and a break from Scrabble before getting back into simming and logging. As I expected, the therapist, a former COBOL programmer and woman's health club manager, was more conservative than I am used to. I might have tried to see how open-minded she was, except that I'd already mentioned that I was there for the Scrabble tournament, and I didn't want her to complain to the manager who might complain to the resort who might then complain to Sherrie. And you know how these things go, when a story is passed on from one person to another. By the time it got to Sherrie the accusation might involve groping and kinky toys that I mysteriously pulled out of nowhere, and next thing you know the Rules Committee would have to be crafting an addendum to the rules involving non-Scrabble related player behaviour at tournaments.

I made it to Panera just before closing, but I missed out on the "good" stuff anyway. They were out of chicken noodle soup, and the bread on which I usually take my turkey sandwich. It was snowing, making it impractical to go hunting for other foodstuffs, so I stuck around for another disappointing meal. Isn't it always the case the crappy tiles and crappy meals go together?

At least finding a place to camp was relatively quick, though there was a minor disappointment when I discovered a Winter Street in Hyannis but found it unsuitable for parking my car. I assumed it was just as frosty as the night before, but there seemed to be less cold seepage into my car, perhaps because of the pillow I had shoved up next to the trunk seal to see if I could keep some of that cold air out. Cold seepage is one of the top concerns for urban vehicular campers, though I'll take it over hotels any day, because with a room and a bed comes the little-known threat of hotel gremlins. The national media tries to keep a lid on this, but 1016 travelers were grunched in 2004 by hotel gremlins. Those poor people will never be the same.

October 30

The sun finally came out in the morning, and thus it was appropriate that I found the Sunnyside Restaurant, where the pancakes and biscuits were decent, if not great. I took my finding of good food as an omen, that my tiles would improve.

I had my first easy game of the tournament against Oliger. Though he drew both blanks, they came late, while I built a hefty lead early with ANNEXES and DEVIANTS. There were only a couple of worrisome moments. Right after Steve scores 72 with TZARS to open bingo lines with the A, R, and S, and with both blanks unseen, I tried to block with WIRR*. I distinctly remembered having been surprised a long time ago to find out WIRR* was good, but clearly I remembered wrong. Steve didn't bingo there, but towards the end he got down ObTAINED, slotting the O at 4b and leaving only one tile in the bag. I held a 96-point lead, but with EOCDRRW? unseen, and my limited word knowledge, I saw the possibility that if he bingoed through an A (in the 7th or 8th position), slotting the W on a TWS, and caught me with OUGMPQ plus another tile, that he might just win. Had I not been worried about that, I would have slotted my J in front of that O for 17 to block his 48-point CROW. But I was already out of the tournament, and spread hardly mattered, so I had to give up a lot of spread to seal the win.

I was outblanked again, this time by Dave Engelhardt, but this time he drew on early, for the double-double sPEEDING, and the other in time to play COnDORS, while I was plagued by an overabundance of 1-point tiles that yielded no bingos.

One of the most disappointing things about the tournament was that I didn't get to play either Joey Mallick or Chris Cree. Their presence was one of the primary reasons I scrabbled to join at the last minute. However, I did get to experience Chris's infamous temper, in the form of an outwardly slamming door that startled me while Sherrie tried to be conciliatory about my performance. Later, though, when I explained that I had wanted to do well at the beginning so I could play Mallick or Cree, she abandoned all diplomacy and just said I shouldn't suck so bad at the beginning. Oh, gotta love that Sherrie! Anyway, I shouldn't assume that Chris (who did in fact apologize) stormed out because he had lost a game--for all I know, he might have been jonesing for a nicotine fix. I've certainly had some similar close encounters while rushing into a Starbucks ducking and weaving in between the lollygaggers.

I picked up a third win, against John Van Pelt, but in a most dissatisfying manner. After losing most of the lead I had gotten for the double-double RESETTLE to John's MELTAGES, which I challenged, John finally passed me up with RIViERA. He only led by 14, so it was anybody's game, and I had to struggle to figure out what to do with the remaining power tiles, JQZXS?, but scant vowels. I only scored 25 with the Z, had to dump the Q, burn the S for 18, the X for 25, and finally the blank and J for 26 to win by 25 (actually 35 because John went over time). As clunky as my racks were, I'm glad John didn't get those tiles (well, he did get the Q I dumped, and scored 26) because with his vowels, he probably could have scored better with them and won.

Right after Dave Engelhardt finished beating me for the second time, he tried to be conciliatory by mentioning that I had a problem with consonants towards the end there. I honestly replied that I had no idea what happened with that game. Well, I had a bad feeling as soon as the 32 he scored on his second turn, plus the 24 from his first, brought him awfully close to the 60 I scored with ErADIATE. 32 for EYEN, and he cut my lead to almost nothing. And then DElOUSE, and I let myself be rattled and started playing crappy, giving up a whopping 11.7 equity points per turn over the next six turns, and that's probably why I lost. I didn't even bother to sim the rest of the game because I was mentally out of it and just throwing tiles down on the board.

The worst thing about that game was that I failed to find the right play in this position. Even though the game was lost, I need to be able to see these type of plays if I'm to reach the next level.

It almost goes without saying that I was out of there before the ink had finished drying on the tally slip. The only thing that slowed my exit from Cape Cod was a stop at Honey Dew donuts. They carried a local brand of orange juice, from a company called Garelick Farms. It was a good counterexample to the oft-touted adage that any food with "Country" or "Farm" in its name has to be good. As for the donuts... bah.

I had one more Starbucks stop to make, in Wakefield, RI. As I approached the town on US-1, I heard something unusual on radio frequency 102.7. At first it sounded like Spanish, but it didn't take me long to realize it was really Portuguese. That was a first for me, and I wondered if there was a Brazilian community in the area, and if so, why there would be one in Rhode Island of all places. Anyway, I imagine the station had to be the only one playing Portuguese music in the area, which explained why the music seemed to cross genres. Most amusing was the rendition of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's "It's Your Love".

Average Equity Loss Per Turn

Includes total equity loss only if all turns were simulated.

1 - 5.2
2 - 9.9(138.5)
3 - 13.9
4 - 5.5 (71.9)
5 - 5.7 (74.7)
6 - 9.6
7 - 11.7
8 - 2.4 (but I lost!!!)
9 - 8.3
10 - 7.2 (100.5)
11 - 4.3(65)
12 - 11.7



PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
THE12TV3 (missed VOW)RICE15

Van Pelt
PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
YE28EDGMV3.3 (why keep Y?)AUDAD29

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

Engelhardt #3
PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
FIRNS28CR17.1 (FRIG/RERADIATED - must learn 9s!!!) QUERN45
MID25CGRX12.8 (WTF??? How did I miss MIX???)AGUE15

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