Triumph of the Thermal Pants

Updated November 8 2005 ; Revisions in RED


November 5, 2005

After more than 30 hours of Starbucking from Maryland, I camped out for the night at a rest area 50 miles from the Minneapolis border.

Around 5:30 I went to the restroom and then returned to the back of my car with the hopes of sleeping two more hours. It only took about a minute to realize sleep was going to be difficult. I couldn't afford to waste time tossing and turning, so I started up the car and drove off, hoping that by the time I reached the rest area at the Minnesota border I'd be able to sleep some more. The rest area was only a few exits from the Starbucks, so I could have gone on ahead and visited the store, but I figured I might as well try for more sleep. But you know how they say that if you are feeling sleepy while driving, to stop and run around a bit to get your blood flowing. Well apparently all the straining I was doing on the toilet had the same effect, because by the time I left the bathroom I was no longer sleepy.

Again, time was too precious to waste, so I went ahead and visited the new Woodbury store, and then I had to decide whether to try and sleep in the parking lot, head over to the Days Inn and try to sleep there, or just abandon all hope of sleep and visit as many Starbucks as I could. Little could I have imagined as a child growing up on the mean streets of suburban Houston, TX, that I would come to face such dilemmas in my life.

As I photographed the next store, down in Cottage Grove, I realized that it was much warmer than I would have expected. A barista taking a smoke break confirmed that it was milder than usual for that time of year.

I was surprised to see Keith Smith. Like in Cape Cod, the Texas contingent was significant for being so far away from home.

Binsky was sporting a new do, and it made some of us wonder if he was playing in the blue-hair division.

Well, I suppose it was to my advantage to have played Rob Robinsky first, before I started to crash. Still, I could tell from the get-go that I wasn't playing my best, like when I played GEM instead of GERM (to give myself an extra shot at a vowel) and had to exchange. Later, after building up a lead with mURIATE and LOOSeST, clunky tiles started to confound me, and I lost a turn with INTRADO*. I lucked out and Rob didn't have a bingo through that T, but that could have been the losing play. In the endgame though, I think Rob saved me, because I was stuck with the Q, and had he played for points, I think he would have won. Instead he slotted ID next to the triple column for 5 points, giving me 49 for HERRY, and that allowed me to eke out the win.

I played another lousy game, against Tim Adamson. He bingoed early, and I could have come back with the blank, but I'm sure I missed bingo after bingo (simulation will tell).


I played even worse against Vincent van Dover, but my tiles were so good I couldn't possibly lose. To start, I tacked BEGUN onto Vincent's EDIT, leaving an awful, awful OU. I lucked out though, and drew URINOSE. Exchanging AAEIOQ (E) was obvious, but I had no good ideas with AEEIODL. I was sure IDOL zucked much ass, but once again I lucked out and drew into ALIENEEs! Then it was back to the suck zone, and I lost a turn with DoEY*. After the playing YARN with no confidence whatsoever that it was a good play, my next few turns were easier--blocking and scoring to lock down the win. But as a final act of suckitude, I held EIOLNRS and managed to convince myself that RESOLING was no good.

My initial impression was that I played a better game against Joe Gaspard, and I got amazingly lucky too, with four bingos and what would have been 500 points if I had not tried a phony in the endgame, BLEN*. After the game I commented that I didn't expect to actually be in the running to win the tournament, but that if somehow it ended up that way and determined by spread, I was going to be pissed at myself for giving up so many points in the endgame, probably 100 between games #3 and #4.

Finally, my first game against another Word Freak great, Chris Cree, and like against Matt Graham, I got the better draw. Further, I managed to avoid Chris's wrath, and I even got a "good job" at the end. With that win, my list of Word Freak wins grew to include Cree, Matt, and Marlon. I suppose I can include Stefan too. That left the baneful Joel, the sneaky CANRATA*-playing Edley, and Cappelletto as the major players left to beat. But of course my eventual goal was to beat every player mentioned in the book. This could turn out to be a problem, in case of the dead ones, but I think I might be able to use a medium. If that doesn't work, there's also a time machine, or a trip to the afterlife.

I suppose, given the tiles I drew in games #3 and #4, and against Cree, that I can't complain about my game against Keith Smith. Heck, I did beat him to a bingo, drawing a natural ENCLOSED and a few turns later GLOTTiS, and picking up an free turn with TROP. Unfortunately, Keith scored 62 with QUAKY, and then in the middle caught up to me by hooking FAIRIES along the only easy bingo line remaining, TROP. It hadn't occurred to me when I played it, to get rid of double Ts, that it took an S. I might have played PROP instead, but then I wouldn't have gotten the free turn, so I figure it was a wash. No, what really did me in, despite a 20-point lead after Keith's bingo, was miserable end tiles that not even the second blank could redeem. I'm sure I could have played a better end game, but 42 points--that's a stretch.

After our game, #8 Richard Lauder admitted he had gotten lucky. And he did, but I had to point out that, given that it was a 16-point game, the turn I lost for trying GAUL* could have made all the difference. If I had gotten rid of that UGL for almost as many points with LUG, leaving AILS, I might have drawn into a bingo sooner.

After beating Cree, I had really been hoping for 5-2, but at least 4-3 got me into the top group for rounds 8-10, playing Cree, Adamson, and Gaspard. If I could avoid losing all three I'd be in good shape.

I rushed off right after my last game to confirm a tenative appointment with a massage girl who lived nearby and was one of the few who bothered to return calls on Saturday. The (long) shower and massage felt great, but in the time I was inside it had started to drizzle, and the drizzle quickly turned into rain. I don't know if it was the rain, or if it was because of Saturday night, but the route I had chosen to the next new Starbucks, Lake Avenue, was hardly moving. When I saw a sign for spaghetti I made a snap decision and pulled into some place called Dulono's. I hoped that the rain would stop while I waited for my food, but no luck. I only made it a few blocks west on Lake before giving up and taking a more roundabout route on the freeway. Visibility sucked to the extent that I decided that next Starbucks would be it for me, until the rain stopped, or until morning. Extreme fatigue made it even harder than usual to focus on the road, to the extent that I didn't even consider trying to eat my spaghetti while driving.

When I reached the Starbucks I quickly popped a couple of fake Excedrin so that they would kick in quickly. I was at the stage of sleep deprivation at which an intense headache came on fast and strong.

The spaghetti was decent, but they gave me this little retarded plastic fork that was completely useless. Why do these places do that? Sometimes I don't find out until I've driven away and on the highway, and then I have to go medieval on the meal or waste time pulling off. Of course that wouldn't work with spaghetti--never quite figured out how to eat it with my hands.

The rain did stop, but I decided it was time to crash. I drove around a nearby neighborhood and finally settled on a short residential street, 21st Avenue N, that dead ended into some trees and a sign that read "City of Hopkins Lift Station No. 1." Below it was another sign, "If Red Light or Bell Is On Call 938-8885". Sounded ominous, but I had to sleep, and I just hoped I wouldn't hear any bells or see any red lights during the night.

November 6

The night was filled with wacky dreams, caffeine-induced no doubt. In one, I stopped my car in the parking garage of a large multi-level mall, not unlike the Mall of America, but different, and more crowded with pedestrians in the walkway. For some reason, I started to walk into the mall, forgetting that my car was improperly placed. By the time I remembered and returned an officer of some sort was in the process of writing a ticket. I became distracted, and the next thing I knew the officer had jumped in the car and was driving out of the garage, presumably to take it to the impound lot himself. There were several people, business types, not biker types, with motorcycles about, and I excitedly exclaimed that I needed to follow that car. A heavyset and bearded man motioned for me to hop on, and then he wove between cars down the circular ramp until we reached the ticket booth. My car appeared to be the one in front, but the license plate was wrong. No, it was one car ahead, and before I could do anything it pulled away and turned a corner. The heavy guy had been helpful, but that was as far as he was going to go. So I was left out in the middle of the city (San Francisco, perhaps) with no ID, no money, no phone, no nothing.

Thankfully I woke up, at 5:47. I debated whether to sleep another hour or try to finish off several new Starbucks. I decided to try for sleep, but first I took some more pain pills and then popped that coochie. That means I downed one of the three canned DoubleShots I had in the car. The term goes back to the 2 Live Crew, a rap group from the late 80s, early 90s that was controversial for overtly sexual lyrics. The thing is though that nobdy except true music insiders realized that Luke Skyywalker's lyrics were never really about sex--they were about coffee. Yes, Luke (nee Luther Campbell) was a freak allright, but for caffeine. In fact, when Starbucks first arrived in Miami, Luke was the very first customer in the door! So when he and his cohorts sang "pop that coochie" over and over, they were really talking about sitting up all night at the local coffee shop doing shots of espresso. And that, my friends, is the rest of the story.

Anyway, I tried to sleep some more, while my windows defrosted, but as I expected, dreamland was denying me entry for the moment, and I ended up just using the time to change and type in my log. Took at least 5 minutes, maybe 10, but I soon headed out to the new Minnetonka store, where the manager was very welcoming. I killed as much time as possible waiting for more sunlight for my photo (not that it mattered given the overcast sky), and then I headed back to Hopkins to shoot that store.

On the way from Hopkins to a new store in Brooklyn Center I passed Papa's Cafe. The place was appropriately named, given that all seven customers were middle-aged or older men. Though quick, breakfast was barely mediocre--I'm sure the biscuits weren't freshly made.

As soon as I had left the Days Inn the previous night, I had realized that I remembered seeing that the start time for Sunday was 9:30, not 9:00, but I wasn't sure. Well, the Starbucks that I visited that night did not have T-Mobile, nor did any of the stores I visited in the morning, so I couldn't check the web site. I knew there was the possibility that Sunday's games would really start at 9:00, but I was hoping for 9:30 and probably dawdled a bit longer than I should have. When I finished up at Mahtomedi I calculated the distance back to the tournament venue, looked at the time, and realized I wouldn't make it by 9:00, let alone have time to stop in West St. Paul. So I called Sue and learned that, yep, I had been wrong, the start time was 9:00. I hauled ass all the way around I-694 and I-494, and thankfully, though not unexpectedly, games had not yet begun when I arrived.

Amazingly enough, I beat Chris Cree yet again, and without an overpowering draw (though he was mighty unhappy I dropped that second blank towards the end). After he phonied me with VARIATOR* in our first game, I made a conscious effort to try and keep the board as tight as possible, but sometimes the best play seemed to open it up. My MIREX gave him DROSKIES--I had no idea but it was better to take my 35 points for OATH and block several lines. Later, he got down CILIATES off a C I couldn't figure out how to block without giving up too many points, but in the end his final tiles, especially the V, allowed me to eke out the win.

Before we started, I commented to Tim Adamson, who was 8-0, that he was due for a bad draw. He didn't get it, going on to pull nine power tiles, seven of them within the first 7 plays to completely demoralize me. I had to tell myself that even if I had not given up two turns trying NERVETIC* and NERVITIC* when I could have played EVICT for 42, that I still would have lost (but not by a whopping 158).

Joe Gaspard and I traded bingos, BOONIEs for URAEMIAS, and then I was able to nurture a lead up to bingo range. Then he played ERN, and my incoming bingo radar started to ping wildly.

6-4 was better than I would have expected with two games to play, and just when I started to dream of getting back to 1800 if I went 8-4, disaster struck as I had nine power tiles drawn against me for the second time in the tournament. I never even got to play the one S I drew and held for 10 turns while I was first consonant heavy and then vowel heavy. After I finally ran out of vowels to play through and exchanged, leaves of ENST, EENST, EONS, EIONS, and EIS yielded not a bingo with an S hook glaring until Keith finally hit it with REMIXes to seal my doom.

Meanwhile, Tim Adamson was 11-0. Freakin' incredible!!!

After I finished getting Keith's bullshit win off my chest, I turned my attention to the tally board and realized that Keith had screwed me doubly, because he hadn't beaten me by enough! 18 more points, and he would have moved into 2nd place and had the honor of playing Tim Adamson, who was clearly on fire. Sure, beating him would be better for my rating, but clearly nobody was able to beat him, so I would rather have played someone else.

Tim went first in our game, and I thought--great, like he needs more luck. Then I found myself with AIOOQZ?, and I grumbled some more over the worthless combination of power tiles I had drawn. Sure, I played the Z for 33, but then I had to dump AOOBQ rather than hang QUA or AQUA next to a DWS for just 12 or 13 points. Then I drew more power tiles, again in an awkward combination, AAJLST?. Then another S, and I managed JOTS/ZIGS for 33 to stay 15 points ahead, so it wasn't a total waste. But still no bingo materializing, and Tim beat me to it with VAmOOSE. Thankfully, I found AGiTATO in the triple column to go head by 30. From that point it was tense as I tried to mantain my lead while waiting for the hammer to come down. Never have I been so glad that most of the power tiles were gone. When I drew the final S, I felt better, but the Q was still a danger, and I felt frustrated that I couldn't find a way to set up a good S play along a triple line. I did draw the Q, and I held an A and D with several Is and a T in the bag. But I had a bad feeling about holding it, so I exchanged at the last possible moment. I played two tiles on my next turn, and, with 2 in the bag, one on the turn after that, and I was greatly relieved to not find the Q in my hand. That pretty much did it, so POLARISE to go out was just icing on the cake. Actually, more than that--it meant a better chance at winning the prize for most bingos. Twin Cities was the first tournament I'd been to at which such a prize was given out (to my knowledge).

Despite the long drive I had ahead of me, I stuck around for the awards, and something else about the prizes surprised me--nine places paid cash in Division 3!!! Wow!!!

Oh, so that's what Rev. Dr. Patrick V. Suglia looks like!

Average Equity Loss Per Turn

Includes total equity loss only if all turns were simulated.

1 - 6.7
2 - 14.0 (182.4)
3 - 8.4
4 - 9.4 (112.2)
5 - 5.6 (72.2)



PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
FANSCORELEAVEdefinitely time to blockOPPSCORE

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
HOLE14EEG8.6 (worst play, GHEE, my first thought, is first)-30
FADO22EEG11.8 (Chris exchanged, so don't create new lines)FOG9
AGEE16EGN1.4 (GAGE)-10
EX25EBGNT?7.1 (NEXT - riskier)COVE18
BETTInG635.5 (though A hook risk was better than 3x3 risk)IZAR46
JOES51IIL3.3 (JILT - risky leaving S hook open)-30
DIDIE9ILT13.2 (IRID - damn, shoulda seen that)sUBPART77
QUANTED54LS2.3 (QUEAN - wanted more turnover to draw eses)FIQUES54
INLY30HSS12.9 (didn't know if SUBPART was good to take an S))MUTINY33
SHAKER26PS.3 (KASHER - why give Chris the triple?)ORCEIN14

Cree #2
PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
AVO32LNQV8.3 (VOLVA - no way will I open lines for Chris)OPPSCORE
FID22IHJL29.3 (had to block G hook)TO14
GYP16UJTW12.6 (JUsT - saw it, but too risky to give up U and ? with Q unseen)SORN4
JUsT41AOW.7 (STOW - considered it, but finally decided to pray Q wasn't the last tile)SUQ21

More Confessional