The Three That Got Away


November 10, 2005

On the way out to New York on Friday night, I got the urge to try something new for dinner. I looked on CitySearch and found Little Havana in Baltimore. Now, I was warned that it would not be an authentic place: "If its tried-and-true Cuban cuisine you seek, keep looking. This extensive menu has been crafted around traditional ingredients then prepared with modern flair." I decided to give it a try anyway. The black beans and yellow rice were merely passable, and the tostones were too soft and ripe. Oh, well, scratch that place.

November 11

At 7:07 I jumped to the front of my car to start the remainder of my drive, and the first thing that came to mind was "bring the intertial dampers online!" I had to weave around a lady in one oof those small SUV-type thing (an a 4Runner?) who seemed unsure of how to get back on the NJ Turnpike, but I made it out of the service plaza as fast as a Galaxy class vessel.

The night had been chilly, as evidenced by the frost on the roof of my car. And by the chill that managed to penetrate even my mighty thermal pants. As cold as the night was, there was one moment of warmth. During one of my many trips to the bathroom (caused by the cold dry air requiring frequent hydration), I had to stand in the stall for quite a while before I could get things going. The delay had a benefit, though, in the form of a song I had not heard in a while, Richard Marx's "Endless Summer Nights". Truly that Marx was/is a musical genius. Worst thing pop radio ever did was to stop playing his work--that's probably a large part of the reason most people think radio today is crap.

And I remember how you loved me
Time was all we had until the day we said goodbye
I remember every moment of those endless summer nights

Such brilliant lyricism. I was nearly brought tears, remembering the few tender moments that peppered my misspent youth. Oh, and Michael, I know the sentence doesn't need a comma, but I like it there. I bet Richard Marx likes commas too.

In sharp contrast to the soothing nature of a finely crafted love song, the drive along the turnpike was frenetic. I entered just in time to follow a van doing 90+. That slow-ass bitch, I thought--she almost caused me to miss it! Wouldn't have mattered though, because within 10 minutes we were overtaken by a black sports car traveling even faster. I only had 80 miles to drive and more than two hours to do it in, so it's not like I was pressed for time. But though Bayside tournaments were routine, and traditionally good for my rating, I regarded this one as slightly more important, because, based on the field predicted by Ginger, I had a chance to cross back over 1800. So I didn't want to be late, and moreover I wanted to have a good breakfast, my coffee, and some time to relax before the first game.

As I drove on, I wondered why I had ever considered stopping at the midnight movie before the tournament. As out of it as I felt at 6:30 AM, after some eight hours of sleep, I didn't even want to imagine what I would have felt like on only 5 or 6 hours after the movie. Despite my 20-ish looks, it was getting increasingly hard to deny that I was getting older.

Changing clothes was slow-going because of the concentration required to keep up with a car doing 90+ (let's see you try it). I finally got to my socks and realized that I had forgotten to pack the usual complement. Bad, very bad, because I am required to change socks every 108 minutes or something very bad might happen. I mulled over my dilemma for a bit and came up with an idea--I had packed plenty of briefs, so why not try wrapping those around my feet.

Umm... no.

I would have bought a pack, but I did not pass any place that might sell them on the way to Bayside, nor did I have time. So I ended up putting on this mismatched pair I found at the bottom of my duffel bag. Dobby the house elf would have been proud of me.

From the LIE, I decided to try something new. I exited at I-678 so I could drive along Northern Boulevard and find a bagel shop. Mistake. First of all, the ramp put me on some stange frontage road that dropped me onto westbound part of the road. When I finally managed to turn around, I quickly realized that the route was taking me through Flushing. From the script on the signs, Flushing seems to be a predominantly Asian community, and, go figure, bagels don't seem to be popular there. I had to drive past Utopia Parkway before I saw a preponderance of signs in English, and by that point I was almost at I-295. I might as well have stayed on the freeway.

I finally had to settle for a breakfast sandwich on a roll from some place called the Family Delicatessen (wow, what a great name). In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that the bright morning sun was in my eyes as I headed east on Northern, so I cannot be completely sure that I didn't miss a bagel shop. Should you ever find yourself on a quiz show, don't bet all your winnings on the fact that there are no bagel shops on Northern Boulevard between Flushing and Bayside.

I could have surprised everybody and made a ridiculously early entrance (10 minutes), but I needed to hang out at the Starbucks until the last possible minute to try and finish downloading Monday's episode of Prison Break that my roomate had not been able to tape after I didn't make it back from Minnesota in time. Took me a bit to find parking, but I still sat down to play Frank Romano before my clock was started. I'm not going to say Frank was in a hurry, but he did "encourage" me, Verna, and David Stone to stop talking about this newcomer Rita Provost so we could get started. As revenge for Frank's sassiness, I drew the bag and thoroughly spanked him. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that my tiles were so good that the only way I could have lost would have been to pass every turn.

Once the initial disorientation of having arrived late, combined with the burden of locating the correct room after Ginger sneakily moved it, dissipated, I started to look around (because my tiles were so easy to play). I noticed several new, or relatively new, Scrabble honeys. I thought to myself that I needed to hurry and step to one of them before time ran out. It wouldn't be long before my chances to ever get a date (with a sane, emotionally healthy, non-suicidal woman) again would drop from slim to less than zero as the hazy shade that is Winter became illuminated by the attention the film would bring, and my true intentions came to light.

I was rather pleased to have won my first game, and to have beaten the #1 player (and frequent Bayside opponent). Despite the presence of David Stone, Mark DiBattista, and a former national chamption in the field, I still went into my second game feeling confident that I would win the tournament. I could taste 1800! But it was not to be, because I played an even worse game against Michael Ecsedy. Despite not bingoing, I drew into some relatively easy high-scoring plays with the Q, X, and Z, and I actually gave up zero equity in the first five moves! But then Michael took a small lead with GARNETs, and I began a slow slide towards death. CERIA was a slight mistake, missing PRIORIES I can understand, but giving up my S with MIDS when VIED was a much stronger play--that was just plain dumb! Yet I continued to feel confident, and when Michael opened up bottommost triple line, I was flush with glee and at the same time blinded by tunnel vision. I rushed to play FLEER--ooh, what word knowledge I have; I'm so cool with my fives. It didn't even occur to me to look for a bingo!

Well, the tile gods had had enough of my blundering, and they handed down punishment in the form of OOOHSTV. Even though I led by 21, as soon as I saw those letters I could that sense my moop was spoonged! Perhaps optimal play could have saved me, but it was not to be.

I was sure that I had newcomer Rita Provost. I mean, it was her first tournament--how good could she be??? I had enough of a lead to win the endgame on a tight board, but there was an R at 1h, and a tile pool ofEEIOCDLPSTTWZ. I saw the possibility of PROLITES, but I was only up by 27 points and couldn't see a way to block while scoring. So I took a chance and played another hot spot for 24 points (at a minimum depriving her of it). She only played for 16 and left one tile in the bag, and now I was looking at EEIODSTZ. EROTIZED and EROTIZES jumped out at me, and I forgot to think about what would happen if the Z was in the bag. I blocked using my A, and stuck myself with the Z!!!

After my game with Mark DiBattista, I was in a near state of disbelief. After finding one of only two triple-triples in EDFRT?? + H, I led by over 100 points for most of the game until Mark slotted a W out on the triple line and then found WAXINESS for 117 to overtake me. In the immediate aftermath of the game, I was upset at myself for having let my time dwindle--I felt that time trouble cost me the endgame. Later simulation revealed that I (probably, unless I missed something in Maven) couldn't have won after Mark lucked into the Q and U for the 41-point QUEY. And the thing of it is, as balance as my rack was, AEIOCNR, I was not able to score 18+ off that X he had played. Had I been able to do so, I would have blocked his 41 points, and, with no other vowels besides the U, he would have been in trouble. But there's no point in crying about what could have been. Best to try and figure out where I lost the game, and I have to conclude it was at this position, playing BEL instead of OBOE (which I didn't see) and giving up those 4 extra points and an extra tile.

I wanted to keep scoring to stay more than a bingo ahead, but I didn't want to open up more lines. I figured Mark was good enough to bingo through the D, which is why I wanted to play there. Plus, the hot spot at 11k was prime for Mark to score with. I settled on BEL so that, if he bingoed, I could get a counterplay on the triple line. That was a tough play, and it burned a lot of my time, which is why it's important for me to develop a sense of what to do in similar situations, and similar situations come up a lot.

The food at the Adria sucks in general, but I usually finish it off. I guess my 3 losses had killed my appetite, because I finished little more than half, in part because I isolated myself at a table near an outlet so I could make more headway simming those three close losses.

I can't really say I wasn't due to be outdrawn. I did it to Frank, and I had my chances in games 2-4. So I was due, and David Stone was the beneficiary of my dueness, blowing me out to the tune of 129 points.

Next up was Verna--was the outcome ever in doubt?

Final game, against tournament winner Stu Goldman, and I got bad tiles and I played like a scrub--a disastrous combination that lead to yet another last place finish. Well, at least their was somebody else in contention for last place, and so Ginger did not have to winterize me.

Later simulation would reveal a level of play that was, frankly, shameful. My mistakes were so awful that mere castration wasn't enough. No, the proper course of action would be obliterate all traces of my defective genes from my entire extended family, to prevent further contamination of the Scrabble scene.

But I didn't realize this at first, and so my spirits were not that low. I rushed off not out of disgust, but out of a strong desire to reach the Starbucks in Riverhead before the sun set. Oh, but that was a pipe dream if there were was one, and I had to drive the smaller state highway into Riverhead in pitch blackness, every wary of running into Bambi and her ilk.

Poor planning took me into central Riverhead, where I realized that the Starbucks had been misplotted and was actually just off the highway. I didn't mind so much, because I had long since started to feel the effects of having eaten only half a lunch. I drove up and down Main Street and finally settled on the Riverhead Grill. The waitress could have been cute, if she hadn't been given me this look like I was a wet dishrag. I ignored her and focused on the music play in the background, one of my favorite Billy Joel songs, "Say Goodbye to Hollywood". Back before the Internet, I would listen to the song over and over trying to figure out the lyrics, and then what they meant. I still don't know what the song is about.

I almost started heading back to New York, but thankfully I remembered that I had to head east just a bit more, to Southampton, to replace the photograph I had lost when some fucking fuck had stolen my camera out of my car. On the way to the store I passed a Spanish restaurant, Meson Ole, and on the way back I stopped in, even though my stomach was still half full from the smallish plate Virginia baked ham, mashed potatoes, and string beans I had ordered earlier. I was in the mood for something ethnic, tostones, specifically, and I figured some extra grub in my tummy would help generate more heat during the cold night. Unfortunately, the only tostones on the menu were part of a plate that included chicken and sausage and vegetables and was intended for two. I wasn't that hungry, and I wasn't paying no $10 bucks for some frou-frou shi-shi let's-not-even-pretend-to-be-authentic dish.

Next on my agenda was a screening of Rosemary's Baby at the Sunshine. The movie wasn't until midnight, and it was only around 8:00, which mean't if I left at 10:30 I could sleep for a couple of hours. Less than 10 minutes west on the POW/MIA Memorial Highway, I think, was one of several parking areas along the highways on Long Island. When I pulled in I saw several vehicles, and I wondered if this "parking area" had the same dubious nature as the rest area on the LIE, made famous by a film. No, not the Ben Stiller one that everyone has seen, but the much less well known independent film. Naturally, I parked as far away from the other cars as I could manage. I was still in the process of changing when a van pulled up behind me, and I was, like, WTF, because he had plenty more room and didn't need to park right behind me. Before I had a chance to move the van drove off, and I managed to change and lie down in back.

Because it was pitch black, stepping outside the car to answer nature's call was not a problem. But the second time I woke up I noticed that a car had pulled ahead of mine. I noticed movement inside, and then a man exited, walked to the passenger side, and leaned against the car. He was looking around suspiciously, and leaning at an odd angle, and I began to wonder if the way in which he was leaning was some type of signal to other rest stop homosexuals, a silent mating call. I, carefully, so as not to be seen moving, reached back under a seat and pulled out my handy dandy protractor (always be prepared). 18 1/2 degrees from the vertical. Hmm--I made a mental note of the value so I could research it later.

My car was locked, and I wasn't worried that anyone would try to break in for a forced gay trysts, but nevertheless I backed the car to the other end of the parking area to get away from Larry the Leaner, and so I could take a whiz without being approached ("can I give you a hand with that"). But at the other end there was another man, standing next to a pickup, or suburban I think. And leaning next to the car ahead of it, smoking a cigarette, another man. The one closest to me started walking, and based on the time it took him to return, seemed to walk all the way to the other end, where Larry the Leaner was. Did they know each other? Were they taking a break at the start of a road trip? Didn't seem likely, since we were on far eastern Long Island, and it would seem to make sense to at least drive past NYC before taking a break.

I finally bored of analyzing the possibilitys, just grabbed a cup from the back of the car, did my business, and went back to sleep until 10:30.

November 12

Mm... crepes!

Whoa! Learned something new. I was trying to find a place on my mapping program, put the cursor in the wrong place, and ended up scrolling the map very quickly. Combined with the broken white lane divider lines on the freeway whizzing by at a high rate of speed, the effect was quite disorienting. Bad. Very bad.

I finished simulating my games, and it was clear that I could have gone 5-2 had I played like an 1800 player and picked up the points I needed to get back to 1800. But I didn't, and I didn't. Godddamn it. That's the kind of thing that makes a person want to go AARRGHH, DAAAAAH, DAAAAAH, BLAAAARGH, DAAAAAAHHHH!!!

November 13

I had one of my worst Scrabble dreams ever. By coincidence, the tournament, a 20-gamer (10 a day), happened to be just minutes from my residence. I did okay on Saturday and then went home that night. But on Sunday, I did not manage to get out of bed until 3:30 and showed up very late and having missed most of my games!!!

Average Equity Loss Per Turn

Includes total equity loss only if all turns were simulated.

1 - 11.2
2 - 14.4
3 - 9.3
4 - 1.8
5 - 6.8
6 - 7.8
7 - 5.1

Avg: 8.1


PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
MADLY 8d28
CERIA22ES2.4 (the death-slide begins)UVEA14
MIDS30ERV15.5 (worst play ever)WE28
FLEET36IS46.6 (and I thought I was soooo clever)CUT23
THO21OOSV19.2BOG (sneaky sneaky)13
NO4IOOOSV28.9 (there were better blocks available)CLINE23

This New Rita Person
PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
MINTY30RSV3 (VINY - hmm...)AA17
PILE19?????? (trying to block R)BARF27
CAY16UNNTW2.5 (forgot to consider Z in the bag)WOVENS18
lose challenge0UNNTWZmistakenly thought I couldn't win without challengeGOT12
PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
BEL21EOOL5.1 (OBOE BOLE - where I lost the game)STEW21

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