D'Oh!!!


NOTE: THE FOLLOWING (IN RED) IS NOT A PART OF THIS BLOG AND IS HERE FOR A DIFFERENT PURPOSE ALTOGETHER.

KEYWORD: penguin

next: where i killed the fish



March 10, 2006

The Prince

One could almost say there were two competitions in Dallas that weekend, and both turned out disappointing for yours truly. On top of my stagnant Scrabble performance, I fell equally flat in the game of love, and my hopes of igniting a spark between myself and the young lady who we will call "Phoebe" (neither Kudrow nor Gremlins) went unrealized.

My machinations began weeks earlier, when I look at the list of tournament entrants and saw her name on the list. Interest had been stoked (renewed, actually) earlier still, during a conversation with another scrabbler who let it slip that Phoebe might "be interested" (her exact words were more explicit). I ignored the tingling in the back of my head that told me that it was folly to pursue a relationship now that I had left the East Coast when I hadn't been able to make anything happen in the year that I lived nearby, and I shifted into high school mode and asked the other scrabble to see if she could engineer an opportunity.

A day or two later, I received an e-mail from Phoebe inviting me to share in a room with her and two others, Whistler and Humpty Dumpty. I immediately started speculating about the sleeping arrangements. Who would bed with Phoebe, and who would be left to boldly proclaim his heterosexuality while trying sleep as close to the edge of the bed as possible. Then I learned that Humpty Dumpty is flamboyantly homosexual, a fact that had completely eluded me when I met the guy, which is why I will never be a detective. Anyway, I concluded that the logical arrangement would be for Humpty Dumpty and Phoebe to bed, leaving me and Whistler to either share the bed or take the floor. Well, a few days after that there was an interesting twist--Humpty Dumpty had met with an unfortunate accident and would not be attending after all, leaving just the three of us in the room. And that would surely mean that one of us would get Phoebe, and the other one would suffer rejection.

I started to think about how I could avoid being the kid who got picked last. I chatted about possible scenarios with a coworker, whom I will call "The Duke". When the topic of blogging came up, The Duke specifically asked me not to mention him by name if he ever ended up in my blog. He was sensitive about that because of an experience at a previous job where a homosexual coworker would profess his feelings for "The Duke" online. Kind of like back at UT when three dormmates were brought up for disciplinary action for breaking/sneaking into another's room and performing some kind of vandalism, part of which included harrasment regarding his sexual orientation, and part of which involved taking his diary. Later parts of that diary would be discussed in public--parts which allegedly included sexual feelings professed towards another male in the dorm. Said male appreciated this none too much. But I digress.

The simplest plan would have been to simply explain the situation to Whistler. I had been told that he had a new girlfriend he was rather fond of, so I didn't regard him as competition. On the other hand, I had no idea how good a friend he was with Phoebe, and for all I know he'd immediately warn her of my nefarious plot. Besides that, I have a tendency to overthink things, and a penchant for byzantine schemes, so of course my line of thinking ran towards some kind of food poisoning, ala Mallrats. The Duke suggested giving Whistler the wrong hotel information, but Humpty Dumpty had already mailed it to all of us. If I had been a better hacker, I could have inserted Whistler's name onto the TSA's "no-fly" list, but as a child I spent most of my computer time developing productive applications.

The Duke also suggested, as a last resort, that I just go ahead and make a move even with Whistler in the room. "No no no no no," I quickly said as I nipped that thought in the bud. The Duke seemed surprised at my hesitancy, and I don't know what kind of freaky shit he's into, but I wasn't going there. Hey, I'm open to new experiences, and I like to think that, like Ice Cube, I'm down for whatever, but it's gotta be a wholesome whatever.

Well, before I could come up with a satisfactory plan to get Whistler out of the picture, other preoccupations distracted me, like avoiding overdrawing my checking out due to my abysmal money management abilities, and actually thinking about the Scrabble tournament itself and all the new words I had to learn. Yes, besides the hopes of turning Addison, TX, into Rome or Paris for a weekend, I was also dreaming big of making a splash with the tiles. But as the date of the even neared, I was becoming more and more concerned that I just wasn't reviewing the old words fast enough, nor learning enough of the new ones. I was actually worried less about the new words, because I pretty much had the threes down and was fairly confident about the fours. I expected to give up some equity because of the fives, but I didn't really expect that many new bingos to come into play over the course of fourteen games.

Well, Thursday night rolled around, and while engaged in one of the countless ISC games I'd been playing, my opponent, who elected to skip the DO for reasons completely understandable once explained to me (again that lack of perception thing), commented that I seemed to be really hot and heavy for the DO. True, true, I responded--that was almost all I'd been thinking about. So much so that my subconscious jumped the gun that night and transported me to a nondescript hotel room. I was the first to arrive, and I tried in vain to get some sleep. Later, someone else arrived, a male with the face of Whistler as I'd seen him on the DO web site, and with a body my mind had just created (the real Whistler would turn out to be taller and not wear a thong). Anyway, my anxiety about the bedding situation manifested itself in the form of an black inflatable air mattress that Whistler was setting up on the floor while me and Phoebe told him it was fine for him to sleep on one of the beds. Phoebe, incidentally, didn't look like Phoebe, even though I knew perfectly well what Phoebe looked like. The dream image was fuzzy, but the closest person I could think of the next morning was an escort (nah, more like a common Internet prostitute really) name Jamie with whom I used to get into these fierce battles in an online adult-themed discussion group. This was back when, whether on IRC (and older technology), or newsgroup,s or a public folder (Microsoft Outlook-based discussion groups available at larger companies), or an regular online discusion groups, I had the tendency to post messages that could, by some, be interpreted as inflammatory and result in lots of flaming and sometimes eventual banning or even firing. Boy, am I glad I got over that whole trolling thing (even though I always insisted I genuinely wanted to know the answers to the questions I posted, or was just gunning for a laugh). But I digress. Again.


Getting There Is All The Fun

Dreamtime ended on Friday morning, replaced by my usual last-minute trip preparations and calculations of just how late I could leave and still make it on time. And as usual, I tried to pack as much into my trip as possible. This time I worked out the distances and decided I could visit the Starbucks in Stephenville, and that if I was going to detour out there I might was well stop in Austin to see my favorite massage therapist. I made pretty good time out of Houston, though I almost blew it by nearly missing the exit to 71 for quizzing myself on eights. 71 moved equally quickly, and I didn't even lose any time picking up a hitchhiker who had some interesting stories to tell. She called herself Regina and said she needed to get to Bastrop to get away from things in LaGrange. She said she was bipolar and sometimes her level of frustration reached a level that required her to get away for a while. I made a mental note to avoid adding to her frustration.

Regina told me all sorts of stories in the 30 miles to Bastrop, the most interesting (and questionable) of which was how she had grabbed the wheel after a truck driver refused to take his hands off her and ended up flipping over the eighteen-wheeler. She rather nonchalantly professed "the worst thing that could happen is I die." She showed a similar disregard for whether she lived or died when she somehow got onto the topic of her ex-husband, and what she would do to him if he ever molested one of her grandchildren, and how she would make it so painful and horrific that the jury would have no choice but to give her the death penalty. Without thinking I mentioned that if she killed him quickly and painlessly, she could probably avoid the needle. She all-too-emphatically proclaimed that she didn't care whether they killed her, that it was just as good as spending the rest of her life in prison. I, meanwhile, silently reprimanded myself because I should have known that you can't have a rational discussion with a person like this, and that I just needed to humor her for 10-15 more miles.

I dropped Regina off across the highway from the Wal-Mart, and about 10 miles up the highway I lost some time due to a collision. As I passed the flipped over truck, I wondered what the cause was, if maybe the driver had gotten grabby with somebody. Either way, I cursed him and wanted to kick his ass and then shoot him in the back of the head, as I feel should be done to all who wreck their cars and cause lane closures that effective steal others' time, time that can never be recovered. I fantasize about it. First punching the driver in the face several times, then interrogating him. What the fuck is the problem, motherfucker? Why can't you keep the car on the road, motherfucker? Are you blind, motherfucker? English, motherfucker! Do you speak it??? And then, when the determination is made the he didn't suffer a heart attack, that he wasn't bitten by a flying snake, that he wasn't trying to avoid a alien death ray--then a shot to the back of the head, and the streets all the safer for it.

I lost more time farther up the road, but that was my own fault. From experience driving to and from Austin, I knew that cheaper gas was to be find at a station named Airport Express on the east side of US-71 a few miles south of the airport. IBut I should also have known that a cheap gas station is always busy during the rush hour, and almost never worth the pennies save. What I didn't know was that the cashiers would be the slowest on the planet, and some 10 minutes later I would find out why. I had to return for change because I had miscalculated how much gas the car had used up from Houston. That mistake is understandable, since I'm never exactly sure how much the 9-year-old car with 200,000+ miles is getting per gallon. The numbers seem to vary. But what is unforgivable is why the cashier needed to pull out a calculator to subtract $7.50 from $9.25 to give me my change!!! So of course the line had been moving so slowly, because the guy was a fucking retard. Of course, to be fair, I should allocate part of the blame to the U.S. educational system, which we all know sucks serious ass.

Still I made it on time for my massage appointment, and that allowed me some extra time to backtrack to 7th Street, to a restaurant I had passed named Mi Colombia. I am, of course, culturally obligated to patronize an Colombian or Panamanian restaurant I encounter. Of course that's only half the task that it would seem, because never in all my travels have I encountered a Panamanian restaurant (outside the country itself). Anyway, when a reached the restuarant and saw the decorative exterior, I had to wonder if it was one of those unauthentic trendy fusion places. That would have surprised me, because as I understood Austin, 7th Street east of I-35 is considered east Austin and has a large Hispanic population. Inside, the staff appeared to be of Latin American descent, and the menu appeared pretty ordinary for a Colombian restaurant, with the addition of ropa vieja a dish I typically see on Cuban menus. So I concluded the place was authentic, which made the prices really odd. At $13.50 for the bandeja paisa, this was the most expensive Colombian restaurant I had ever encountered.



And for what I paid, I was truly pissed when, after stopping at the Shell for a soda, I returned to my car, and discovered... son of a bitch!!! They got my order wrong and gave me platanos maduros instead of patacones. AARRGHH!!! For that price, I had no choice but to return and have them give me what I paid for. At least they got the order out quickly, but I still can't recommend the place. The steak was tough and fatty anyhow. Won't be going back.

I was finally on my way to Stephenville, with plenty of time before the Starbucks closed at midnight. As I drove north on I-35 towards US-183, good ol' KGSR reported that Eliza Gilkyson would be playing over at Threadgill's at 9:30. Aw, nertz!!! Had the show been at 8:00, I might have been able to spare an hour, but I just couldn't wait 'til 9:30 without seriously straining my schedule for reaching Addison in time, let alone visiting the two Starbucks in between. So I pushed on and hoped for a good eight hours. And of course I ended up losing some of that precious sleep time to yet another wreck, in Cedar Park this time. For the love of god, what is wrong with these morons that they can't keep from wrecking their freakin' cars.


Bad Medicine

After I cleared the wreck I drove a few dozen miles and started to feel a little drowsy. I then made a critical error. I took part of a yellow pill, figuring it would wear off by the time I reached Stephenville. Wrong! The Starbucks happened to be almost next to a Wal-Mart Supercenter, and by 10:57 I was parked and in the back of my car and ready for seven hours of deep sleep. But sleep didn't come. Fuck. The goddamn caffeine. 3/7 of a pill was still too much. Shoulda done 4/15. I was going to be sooooo screwed during Saturday's games.

At 12:05 midnight I decided to try something I'd never done before, taking a sleep aid. That's one of the great things about sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot--easy access to whatever I need. After I found the right aisle---scratch that. After I wandered for several minutes until an associate led me to the right shelf, I looked at the various brands, scratched my head a bit, and finally settled on my usual generic brand, Equate. But I neglected to look at the active ingredient, and this mistake would prove costly.

One the way back to the car I felt a little sad that I had finally reached that age at which I needed a sleep aid, something I had always associated with old people, like my parents. Then I saw a fat guy in an old brown station wagon with a black Valvoline motor oil bottle wedged between the bumper and the grill, presumably to keep it tight, and I thought "...well, at least I'm not that guy."

Back in my car, sleep still eluded me. On top of that, I started to experience a sensation that was both unpleasant and vaguely familiar. The last time I had felt like that had been before the Saratoga Springs tournament. At 2:24 I needed to use the restroom, and when I hopped up to the front of the car I took a look at the back of the box. Son of a bitch!!! Diphenhydramine hydrochloride. The exact same active ingredient in the generic Benadryl that I had taken earlier. And just like the in New York, the double dose did not in fact help me sleep but instead had the opposite effect.

Adding to my irritation, I finally forgot what I'd been struggling to keep in mind for hours, that the can of Iced Coffee I'd bought was under my car (to keep it cooler). I didn't want to go back into the Wal-Mart without making a purchase because the previous time the greeter had given me a glance, so I drove over to a dark dead end, and I crushed the can as I left. Crap. $2.44 down the drain, plus a few minutes in the morning buying a new one.

Sometime between 3:00 and 5:00, I think, I finally drifted off. Shortly before 6:00 I woke up and saw that the sky was nowhere close to light. Rats! The whole reason I'd stayed in Stephenville was to photograph the store in daylight. Who knew when I'd next pass through Stephenville, and I didn't want to waste the sleepless night, so I tossed the dice and reset my alarm for 6:15, which would give me a little over 2 1/2 hours to stop at the new Starbucks in Fort Worth, get breakfast, and make it to Addison, assuming ideal conditions.


March 11

After being dropped dozens of times, my phone seems to work, but I don't think it's circuits are 100%, because the alarm failed to go off. By some miracle I resisted the urge to go back to sleep, saw that it was 6:25, and quickly jumped onto the front seat and took off. I faced no obstacles and was able to drive well in excess of the 60 MPH I'd projected, and I made it to the Addison Conference and Theatre Center with plenty of time to spare. And from the line at the check-in desk it didn't look like games would start promptly at 9:00, so I grumbled a little that I could have slept some more. I hung out outside and waited for the line to shorten, and I finally spotted Phoebe when she came out for a smoke (yuck!). Ignoring the cigarette, I decided she was looking even better than the last time I had seen here. Incidentally, Whistler, who was joining her for a smoke, looked completely different than I had imagined based on the photo on the web site.

In the weeks before the event I'd glanced several times at the list of entrants, but when the day arrived I was still surprised to see all these faces from the East Coast. Pleasantly surprised, I should say, because they were a reminder of the two great Scrabbling years I spent in New Jersey and Maryland.


Blown Opportunities

Pairings finally went up, and by some kind of wacky cosmic coincidence, my first-round pairing was nothing short of cruel, and the game a precursor to the disappointment that would ensue. During a few ISC games I had expressed my worries about the tournament, and I was told that I'd do fine. But I was right to worry, and about exactly what happened in my first game. After finding ALeATORY to take a good lead, I scored 36 with ATOP (EUR) and then 22 with CORM (EUB) and drew into drek, AEIUUBV, just as my opponent bingoed with REALNESS and slotted the A at K8 to set up a potential big play, especially with the Z. I saw it, but I couldn't block it except with a weak play. So I played EAU (extremely weak, missed a play through the S) to block several bingo lines and hoped for the best. Nope. She got HAZIER for 84, and I was in trouble because after BUSIER I drew IOUUULV. So when she played FORGAT I was looking at VOLTI for 27 with a leave of UUU or exchanging and letting her score big off the TWS. So I prayed she had just had a mental lapse and challenged. I got the turn back when she played DIVY*, and I drew the second blank, but she was able to block the bingo lines and I lost by 6!!! What a crappy way to start my most-anticipated tournament in a long time.

Simulation would later reveal that I was completely to blame for the outcome, and my critical mistake was trirooted. First, I had let the combination of an opponent's bingo plus a seemingly bad rack rattle me even though I still had a healthy lead. Second, I let the fact that a hot spot had been opened that I couldn't play distract me from making the best play for me. Third, I failed to place my tiles in alphabetical order, as I had resolved to do. Had I done so, seeing ABEIUUV plus the last few tiles of REALNESS to play through might have allowed me to find a common word that would have cleared out my rack of dreck, scored over 30 points, and possibly allowed me to regain the lead despite my opponent's 84 points.

Got lucky early against long-time-not-seen Patricia Lehtola and built a good lead with WIREMAn and DaRNERS. But I gave up a lot of spread when I challenged WHILED and allowed her WHOSE for 45, a 71-point swing. JAR for 39 got me ahead by 70, and so I took a chance with OVERMOST* so I could run up the spread. Got away with it, and I won by 192. Still, I'm embarassed about WHILED, because it's a rare common-word mistake. I've heard the word used many times, and I'm sure I must have seen it in print, but for some reason I thought it was spelled WILED. But sure enough, Google yields 36,100 hits for "whiling away the time" but only 264 for "wiling away the time".

I drew both blanks for the third game in a row, but that damn Orry Swift plays so quickly (no joke) that I ran low on time and must have made mistakes that cost me what I should have been a win. Had I taken a chance on EMENDErS, I might have won. But even after passing that up, I had a slight lead and held the last blank and S, while Orry was stuck with less-than-ideal tiles, budt he outplayed me through and through.

I drew both blanks yet again and managed not to blow it against Iffy Onyeonwu, though not for lack of trying. I was wise enough to pass up QuAIlED and take 68 for QADIs and keep the other blank, but after futzing around for a couple of turns (missing ARmOIRE) I tried ARROwIER*. No good, and I had to futz around for a couple of more turns, which allowed Iffy to take the lead with 40 for NERTZ. I finally found the bingo, but RETAIlOR must have been the worst play ever. I held the extremely promising AEIORT?, had an L to play through, and knew the anamonic for ALE-RIOT. But after considering several plays through the L, I shied away from giving Iffy a TWS or leaving him R to bingo to. And so he scored 39 for HALF off my play to come within six, and I sensed I was about to squander yet another pair of blanks. Thankfully though, my end tiles were slightly better, and I was able to eke out the win. Got really lucky there. Later simulation was no help, because Maven liked REACTIOn at B1, which would open up two TWSs. As suck as my RETAIlOR turned out, I just can't seem myself playing through the C in column B for extra points when the L in column C seems safer.

Outside in the hall, Phoebe, Whistler, Seth Lipkin, Yukiko Loritz, and a real cute blonde chick were discussing lunch plans. I assumed right away that anybody who looked that good and played Scrabble had to be married, and later I would noticed that, yep, she wore a ring. Anyway, the group seemed indecisive, so I suggested Casa Vieja, my favorite Colombian restaurant in town. It was just 5-10 minutes west on Belt Line... or so I thought. I had expected that, after two years, construction on Belt Line would be finished, but I was oh-so wrong. The street was a nightmare. It must have taken us a good 20 minutes to reach the restaurant, and I cursed all the while at the traffic and grumbled at Seth for not driving more aggressively. He was following, like, four hundred car lengths behind me, and I had to keep taking drastic measures to keep cars from cutting in between us.

When we reached the restaurant, I immediately apologized for the construction and then disavowed myself of any responsibility if a forfeited game caused one of the group to lose the $3,000 top prize (yeah, right). The others seemed not to mind too much--the general consensus seemed to be the food was good.

Against Ronnie Thomas I got RaVINGS down early, and then the board tightened up and allowed me to cruise to a big win. But I hardly had any time to enjoy being 3-2 before I saw that I was paired against the prodigious Jason, whom I had never beaten, and whom I keep wanting to call Kilo-Brown, or Killah-Brown, for no good reason. Fact of the matter is that I would have needed to get extremely lucky to beat him, because I certainly couldn't outplay him. And I didn't. His word knowledge ruled. Despite a promising start, my finding TENTERED to come back after his PrANCED, and despite drawing into an extremely promising rack, I squandered my AEILPRS. Twice. First, when Jason played TERGA I didn't even look at the R, just the G and A. Not seeing a bingo, I disregarded what should have been obvious, that a player of Jason's calibre would not slot TERGA out there with four eses unseen if it took the es. Of course it doesn't, and I lost a turn. Then I held his CAVAL*, but I figured it was one of the fives I hadn't committed to memory and let it go. Then I finally noticed the R, but instead of the real bingo I tried RESPIRAL*. I could almost feel every ounce of respect that Jason ever had for my abilities draining away. With plenty of opportunity to massage his rack, Jason hit with OMIkRON. I finally dumed the P and drew into MAILERS, but I wasn't done fucking up. Jason slotted NOWAY next to the TWS and hooked it with JINS, and when I lost the challenge it was all over. How the heck does NOWAY take an S, but not NOHOW??? That's wack!!!

As a final indignity, sweet little Jason took advantage of the fact that I had already lost three challenges to play HOLTERS*. The word screamed bullshit, but I really wanted to keep the spread under 200. Sure I respect the hell out of the kid, but he still deserves a smack for that phony.

Another pair of blanks, and another blown opportunity due to poor play. I blew too much time early on, and I could tell that sleep deprivationw as a factor. I could feel myself thinking slower. My opening rack was easy enough, exchange IIUG and leave ES?, but I had no idea what to do with EECDSZ? with Paul's LUV on the board. I eventually played CEDES for 19, and I knew the play sucked as I made it. Paul bingoed to the D, RETINTED, and then I just fell apart. Holding ADIMRZ?, I wasted well over 5 minutes, maybe closer to 10, trying to decide how to play the Z without giving Paul a counterplay, made more likely by the fact that ZA was good. And after all that agonizing, I played a phony!!! ADIM*!!! WTF??? Paul didn't even hold--he just challenged right away. Incidentally, Jason was doing the same thing. That is so annoying, that they know the words so well they don't even have to hold. Anway, my play continued to be suboptimal despite some great opportunities. Even at the very end I could have won (without deserving it) had Paul not blocked the Y that would have gone well with my AEORSTV. I'm still wondering whether he actually saw the possiblity of the bingo, or if he just couldn't see a way to block the likelier line, a free N to play through.

My final game of the day was against David Poder. Once again (that made eight games in a row), I had opportunities, but I blew it. I jumped to an early lead with SARKIER, but I just wasn't sure. Despite this, I managed to build up a 52-point lead while David played off tiles, and when he bingoed with VERSION and followed with DAmAGES, and I could just feel his frustration. But I was still screwing up. I slotted DAmAGES in the wrong place, and this cost me not just the immediate points but what David would score later by hooking VERSION. Meanwhile, David got a break of his own and tied the game with 47 for WAX. I gave up equity again when I played off the D. Had I played correctly, I might have been in the game even despite David's RoQUETTE. But the tile gods had lost their patience, and they took my pretty toys away, leaving me nothing but dreck for the endgame.

Outside, Darryl Day, who was having a great tournament, suggested that I try to play faster and more on instinct. I wasn't sure about the instinct part, but I definitely did need to play faster. Somebody who can play speed games like me shouldn't be running low on time as often as I've started doing recently.


Night of the Loving Dread

But I wasn't taking my disappointment bad at all really, and trying to keep a positive attitude for Sunday. Not like Whistler, who tossed his bag into a tree out of frustration and then went off into a field somewhere to be one with the shrubs. Of course, I was consciously trying not to think about how many blanks I had drawn (12/16), because that would have been totally depressing.

I walked over with Phoebe and waited as she tried to cheer Whistler up. She finally convinced him to get up and go do something, and during their interaction it started to dawn on me that there might be something going there. Actually, I had started to suspect something earlier in the day, when I would see the two together after every game. I figured at first it was because they were both smokers, but on the way back from lunch I decided to do a little probing. I asked Whistler about his new girlfriend. He seemed completely surprised, and wondered who had said such a thing. There was no new girlfriend. Crap, I thought. This wasn't just a friendship between the two, and I had lost the game before I ever reached the field.

I should have excused myself at that point, but I decided to do the mature thing and stick to my commitment to take a third of the room. And since I had already offered to drive us three somewhere, I stuck to my word there too. First stop was Starbucks, so the others could get coffee while I got online and checked on what the midnight movie at the Landmark would be. Pulp Fiction!!! Pulp Fiction!!! I had been waiting over 10 years to see that movie again. It was horrible timing, though. Down in Houston, I had spent three weekends there without a midnight movie I wanted to see. And now one I had to decide between sleep and a great movie. Well, I figured, the tournament was already a loss, and I'd have another chance to recover my rating much sooner than Pulp Fiction would come around again. Still, I wasn't sure if I'd even be able to stay awake.

Phoebe had mentioned live music, and so I switched looking at music options for the evening, though I didn't really have the energy for it. None of the acts I called out that were playing that night seemed to excite either Whistler or Phoebe, and that let me off the hook. I decided I'd try to sleep until 11:00, and the others were cool with that. I took us all back to the hotel, and they went off on their own. As I lay there in bed, I knew that whatever chance I might have had with Phoebe I was blowing by leaving her alone with Whistler, but I figured it was a lost cause anyway and so I might as well get some sleep.

But goddamn it, exhausted as I was, sleep still did not come!!! I couldn't believe it. Why, why, why!!! Finally I gave up. I decided that there was no way I was going to get up early the next morning to visit a new Starbucks in Garland, so I might as well do it at night. One the way out, I allowed myself to wallow in self-pity just a tad bit and engage in some self-destructive behaviour. I ordered the plain slim from Jimmy John's, but also some chips and a soda to wash it down.

As I finished up at the Starbucks, Phoebe called to see what was up. I asked what they were up to, and she replied that they were just "hanging out on the grass." Right, I thought. In the whole history of mankind, there has never been an instance in which a man and a woman just "hang out" on the grass. I knew what "hanging out" meant, though I tried not to think about it. As I drove back I started to feel more frustrated, and a little pissed, with an undercurrent of weepitude. Thankfully, I did not weep. No matter how much of my masculinity the Phoebe experience was costing me, I could at least feel some satisfaction in the fact that I had not cried in nearly ten years.

As I drove on, I tried to decide if I was truly jealous that Whistler was getting most of Phoebe's attention. If there was jealousy, it was tinged with indifference, colored with the realization that, fundamentally, I'm not the type of man any woman would want, and that for that reason every relationship is doomed before it begins. At the same time, I thought back to what the massage therapist kept telling me, that I deserved to find the type of woman that I wanted. That's one of those statements that you want to believe, but you can't really. If it came from a friend, you'd have to assume she was just being nice. But since it was coming during the course of a business transaction, I had to assume that the desire for a bigger tip was also a factor. No doubt about it, the words were meaningless, and my situation was hopeless. And to make matters worse, I noticed that at the very end of my game against Phoebe, I missed MUrIATES. Goddamn it, couldn't I at least have won the game!!! I really pissed and slammed my fist onto the dashboard.

Not able to leave well enough alone, I pour salt onto my wound by pulling up iTunes and Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Between Here and Gone". It's not necessarily a sad song--bittersweet perhaps. But it invariable reminds me of my last girlfriend, and that's the last thing I needed at the moment. And yet there I sat, in the parking lot next to the hotel room, listening away, until Whistler stepped out for a smoke and spotted me. Curse him, hadn't he done enough already? Couldn't he at least let me enjoy my moment of self-pity?

The drive to the Inwood was smooth enough. For some odd reason, with Phoebe and Whistler in the car, I was able to put my feelings about that situation aside and think about something else, both something that was equally depressing. The fact was that my maintaing 1800+ for a few tournaments was a fluke, and that I just wasn't good enough to play at that level, at least not yet. It was good that I realized that, because it helped me set my expectations more in accordance with reality. But it still sucked.

No drink for me, thank you, I said to Phoebe and Whistler as we sat for an hour in the Inwood Lounge waiting for the film to start. It was going to be a struggle to stay awake for two more hours as it was. Two hours? Hah. But I didn't realize until sometime during the first 30 minutes that Pulp Fiction is one of those longer movies. By the time we got out of there it was nearly 3:00 AM, and even though I fell asleep fairly quickly from sheer exhaustion I knew the next day was going to be a real bear. But what the hell, it's not like I was going to win anyway.

The drive back to the hotel was quicker, and that just mean the moment of truth would arrive all the sooner. I took the opportunity of Phoebe and Whistler's staying outside to smoke to rush inside and try to get to sleep as quickly as possible. No luck. I was wide away when the pair came in, and I lay there in nervous anticipation as Phoebe entered the bathroom. After some time, she finally exited and proclaimed that it was time to make the "bed decision". I knew what was coming. I knew there was no decision to be made. I knew the outcome was more predetermined than the last presidential election. I guess I should give her credit for trying to ease the blow by muttering that "Winter needs the sleep" as a pretense for choosing Whistler' bed. But the act was no less emasculating. My bitterness was eased not a whit. And I still had to lay there and listen to the chattering and giggling and who knows what else. Needless to say, the room, as large as it was, was very small indeed, and the blankets, though plentiful and thick, could not insulate me. Never has sleep been so welcome, nor so merciful, as that night.


March 12

The Almost Redemption

The downside of sharing a room was made glaringly evident Sunday morning when the others' alarm went off. My alarm was set for 8:45 as a last resort (to skip breakfast and coffee), but it quickly became evident I could not continue to sleep while Whistler packed, so I went ahead and got up myself. After Starbucks and a return to the room to pick up Phoebe's scoresheet, we had just enough time to order some takeaway breakfast from the place on the corner, Benedicts.

Clocks were being started as I entered the room, but I benefitted from the fact that Paul Hagelstein did not have equipment, and none was set up at our table. But because Stu Goldman had a separate table outside the normal sequence, we were able to use the one that would have been his. Paul was #103, and so there was the immediate fear of the curse of the scrub. And early on it appeared the curse would striken when Paul jumped into the lead with ZONES slotted at J2 for 47. I was quite relieved that I held an O, but that relief quickly turned to amazement when Paul held HAO/OZONES. WTF??? Because of this, when he slotted KINS next to column A I had to wonder if he was missing the hook, or if he held the third S. Sure enough, it was the latter, and so I tried to draw a challenge with ADENINE but he played BENDS for 33 anyway to extend his lead even further. Thankfully, I caught a bread, CODEInE, and I cruised from that point on.

Nearly three years after my most (at that time) disastrous pounding in Reno, I once again faced the oddly-named Ingrid Willamina Boomrang. In an odd twist, though I won, I felt the win to be one of my least-deserved. I nearly blew it a couple of times. First I nearly challenged EDHS. But the killer mistake was slotting LEX next to column A while feeling proud of myself for remembering that PLEX is now good, in addition to FLEX, and completely forgetting about ILEX!!! A few turns later my opponent would hit big with JIAO for 68 to take the lead, and at the same time I suffered a bit of embarrasment as my phone alarm went off. I really hoped it wasn't mine, or that it would stop, but that fucking alarm not only goes on forever but gets louder and louder. I finally rushed over to my bag, and as Mary Rhoades gave me a very stern look I explained that I had not set it for 10:47. I sheepishly turned it off, and when I returned to the board I was doubly on edge. I missed a chance to recover, NUTRIAS through a T, played off the U, and prayed. Drew an O. One one place to play. Would she block? No. STRONTIA! Whew!!! But wait. EIUBLPS? unseen, and an R at H1. If the B was in the bag, I was sunk. She almost played off two tiles, and my hopes went up that she would deprive herself of the chance to bingo. But she put the tiles back on her rack and checked the bag. Discovered one tile. Played off the B. I quickly slapped down VROW to kill the line, and that was it.

My nerves were so shot I couldn't even feel relief over having escaped a loss, and so when I saw that I was paired with Chris Cree, I let out a loud "Oh, goddam it!!!" So paunchy baldy dour-faced dude standing nearby said something like "chill out." He didn't seem to realize that, within the Scrabble community, my sudden ejaculation was tame. Almost mellow even. Because the fact was, Chris was due to beat me big time. But it didn't turn out that bad. I actually drew both blanks, and I had several opportunities I missed. Still, I saw bingos immediately with IIULS??, a rack I might have grumbled about in my earlier years. I was disappointed though that Chris slotted a V in the wrong place for me to play a really sweet and low-probability bingo. With the outcome still in doubt, I had to take the higher-scoring UtILISeR to the triple to come within 30. Then Chris hit with AZON/ZED for 54, and I quickly slapped down OXYGEN for the same 54, a play that earned Chris' praise (though sims beneath DOXY and DEOXY/PERKY for 40+, which I passed up). Anyway, that was a rare game in which, though I lost, I felt no dissatisfaction at all. I played decent, but not great, and so I deservedly lost.

Not sure if I screwed up much against April McCarley, but in the end I recovered by finding what must be one of the few winning plays, and QI ended up contributing to my 10-point win.

My first dance with Sam Kantimathi, and I once again got some good tiles and almost blew them. First by being unsure of PROF (EGS) and playing FROG instead, thus reducing my chances to draw into a bingo. A couple of turns later, I did draw into one, BITSIER, and I laid it down, but I chickened out and pulled it back up. Played off the BI and drew into STORIES, and then I got lucky and played QIS for 47, and then I got lucky againt and found myself with BDEGINR just as Sam played DOTTIER. And finally, just as Sam inched within 26 with BLAZE for 51, I hit again with SOlANINE, and that was the game.

Last game of the tournament, and my first ever competitive Scrabble opponent, Judy Newhouse. I had plenty of chances all the way up to the end, but I blew it.

I would have rushed off, but despite the fiasco that was the previous night, I was still hoping that, once Whistler rushed to the airport to catch his flight, Phoebe would decide she wanted to hang out with me. Not a chance. Whistler had to wait for his ride to finish, and so of course the two were cozied up outside. I knew what was up. I said to her "...so you're going to hang out here for a while?" Then I explained I needed to leave. But not before suffering through a photograph. I wonder if she was surprised that I didn't smile.

Of course, like the seven games I lost, it was my own fault. Just like I had disregarded various principles of good Scrabble, like always looking for the bingo and not focusing on one part of the board, I had also ignored a basic principles of romance. Never give a person a second chance. There's 7 billion people on the planet. There's no reason for second chances. If you get snubbed the first time, give it up and move on. If can just rememember to stick to that rule, I'll save myself a lot of frustration in the future.

Thank god for a simpleer task, a final Starbucks to visit, and something to keep my mind of the disaster that was my Dallas Open. Oh, well, there's always Portland.


March 14

I finally got around to searching the web, and I found a site, etymonline.com, that reports that the origin of the word "machination" lies in the Latin machina, and not in the name Niccolo Machiavelli, the author of The Prince.


1

1

4.5

BOINK

KNIFER

   

1

1

.3

WONK

     

1

1

11.1

ALeATORY

     

1

1

6.4

ATOP

     

1

1

3.7

CORM

     

1

1

26.4

EAU

     

1

1

8.4

BUSIER

     

1

1

12

lose turn

     

1

1

4.4

GO

     

1

1

3.2

JEEP

     

1

1

0

VIS

     

1

1

17.2

UMIAq

MUrIATES

   

1

1

0

LEST

     

1

1

0

NA

     

1

2

.6

WIREMAn

find

 

WARtIME,sEMIRAW,WIGMAkER,FARMWIfE

1

2

.8

D(I)LL

see

   

1

2

0

FA(D)

     

1

2

6.6

DaRNERS

know,find

iNSTARRED,ERRaNDS

 

1

2

21.6

KIN(D)

see,know

DAIKONS

 

1

2

41.7

lose turn

WHILED

   

1

2

5.3

JAR

choice

JO

 

1

2

0

OVE(R)MOST*

     

1

2

10.9

(N)IX

look

   

1

2

5.6

YAP

focus

   

1

2

5.7

-AEEOOO

know,look

EME/BEGAZING

 

1

2

27.6

V(AS)

     

1

2

-1

       

1

3

0

QI

     

1

3

.3

GOY

     

1

3

0

BOTHY

     

1

3

7.2

YAGI

     

1

3

3

KAB

     

1

3

8.2

WIG

     

1

3

0

HEH

     

1

3

5.8

TrEEING

     

1

3

VAN

VANaDOUS,RAVeNOUS,UNSAVORy

     

1

3

21.9

SOnOROUS

     

1

3

0

-OOOUU

     

1

3

23.1

EMENDERS,DESMENE

     

1

4

8

OXO

VOX

   

1

4

2.9

DRIVE

     

1

4

0

ENOKI

     

1

4

5.4

WI(S)ED

look,disagree

WI(D)DIE

 

1

4

0

QA(D)Is

     

1

4

13.2

DIE

know

REDIvIDE,DIElDRIN

 

1

4

4.9

YID

look,know

YI(R)D,YI(R)RED

 

1

4

62.3

lose turn

find

ARmOIRE

 

1

4

8.7

(T)OR

find

ARmOIRE

 

1

4

13

FEM

know,find

InFLAMER,FIRMwARE,aIRFRAME,RIFLEMAn,FIREArM,AFfIRMER,CAMpFIRE,FIMbRIAE,RAMIFIEd

 

1

4

9.9

RETAIlO(R)

choice

   

1

4

8.3

BOG

disagree

   

1

4

0

BER(L)INE

     

1

5

4.3

VUG

     

1

5

1.5

D(U)B

     

1

5

0

RaVINGS

     

1

5

0

(V)EIL

     

1

5

.9

MITTEN

know

TITMEN

 

1

5

0

QAD(I)

     

1

5

0

(L)OAD

     

1

5

0

U(N)ARY

     

1

5

8.7

FLEES

choice

EF

 

1

5

0

TIP

choice

PITA

 

1

5

4.9

ORRA

     

1

5

0

PROW

     

1

5

8.8

T(O)XIN

     

1

6

2

LAX

     

1

6

0

TO(P)OI

     

1

6

0

TE(N)TERED

     

1

6

72

(R)EPRISAL

     

1

6

72

(R)EPRISAL

     

1

6

28.1

P(A)

     

1

6

0

MAILERS

     

1

6

0

DUI

     

1

6

26

lose turns

     

1

6

10.8

YU(C)A

     

1

6

0

(F)INE

     

1

6

16.9

B(A)D

know,look

NIBBED

 

1

7

3.6

-IIUG

choice

GUISE

 

1

7

18.4

CEDES

     

1

7

90

lose turn

dumb

ZEMINDAR (get the fuck out of here!)

 

1

7

8.8

ZAR(F)

     

1

7

13.1

GAUM

tunnel

DEGAMI

 

1

7

0

OI

     

1

7

20.8

(P)AIRED

know,miss,look

AEEIDR?+PTR

 

1

7

0

(V)OW

miss

dEWOOLs

 

1

7

.8

LONGErs

choice

   

1

7

10

DEB

see

REBID

 

1

7

0

(R)OILY

     

1

7

1.8

QI

     

1

7

67.9

(ZOO)N

know

SOVRANTY

 

1

8

20

HOE

know

RHEOBASE

 

1

8

46.8

SKIER

unsure,know

SARKIER,KERRIAS

 

1

8

0

AIGL(E)T

     

1

8

0

(G)RAMA

     

1

8

0

YU(M)

     

1

8

11

YOD

     

1

8

.5

GUI(D)

     

1

8

14

DAmAGES

     

1

8

14.3

LEERE(D)

     

1

8

0

OOZ(E)D

     

1

8

26.1

COL

     

1

9

0

PILAU

     

1

9

7.3

REBATE

     

1

9

0

HAO

     

1

9

0

AE

     

1

11

.1

REEF

     

1

11

.1

-AAAOUUJ

     

1

11

16.4

B(O)TH

     

1

11

20.1

GO(W)N

find

(H)EADLONG

 

1

11

3.4

(R)EALM

know

RATAL,RAMET

 

1

11

0

TACIT

     

1

11

.7

QAT

disagree

ADUL(T)

 

1

11

0

DUG

     

1

11

5.8

UtILISe(R)

know

qUISLIN(G)

 

1

11

4.4

OXYGE(N)

choice

DOXY,DEOXY

 

1

11

12.1

ID

choice

(M)AID

 

1

14

0

WIPE

     

1

14

14.5

COINFER

     

1

14

?

JINNY*

     

1

14

2.5

VENA

     

1

14

1.2

BORE

     

1

14

17.1

BELOW

BOWLEG

   

1

14

17.6

QUOD

DONG/DJINNY

   

1

14

23.9

FADING

DATING/DJINNY

   

1

14

10.7

MU

     

1

14

12.2

ACHOO

know

CAHOOT

 

1

14

8.5

TOD

look

   






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