A Challenging Time

Saturday, July 23, 2006

I could blame it on the heat, that it made me sluggish and prone to taking air-conditioning breaks inside several Starbucks. Or perhaps it was just my chronic bad planning. Regardless, it became evident to my at some point during Saturday afternoon that I might not reach Susanville before sunset. And sure enough I didn't, and that meant waiting in Susanville until morning to photograph the Starbucks.

Not a problem, I thought. Even if I leave as late as 7:00 I'll have plenty of time to reach Los Gatos by noon, I thought. To my later regret, I neglected to doublecheck my calculations. I was a little preoccupied though, with figuring out where I would camp in a town as small as Susanville. Exiting the Safeway, I spotted a police car and asked if their was any ordinance against sleeping in the car. He said no, but that there was an anti-vagrancy ordinance. But when I said I was leaving at sunrise the officer said I wouldn't have a problem, and he even suggested the nearby Wal-Mart parking lot.

July 24

Agachukogh, 6:30 AM, and cars parked in front of the Starbucks already! When I entered, I saw they belonged to the fire department, so I figured they would not be there long. I said hi to the manager, since I didn't expect to be back in Susanville, and then I had to wait for some other cars to move before I could shoot the heck out of the store.

I got into my car and looked to see that I had the best route back to the Bay Area, and I realized I was in trouble. I had this idea in my mind that Los Gatos was around Oakland, and thus I'd only have about 240 miles to drive. But it was actually south of San Jose, and the direct route would be 313 miles, through the hills. I knew that would be slow, so I opted for 340 miles through Reno. I'd barely have enough time to make the tournament, and only if I was able to do 80 MPH once I hit the interstate. Rats!

I headed out of town in such a hurry that I didn't look at my map to see the likelihood of gas before Reno. Too far to to turn around, and I ended up praying that Streets & Trips was wrong about there not being any gas soon. While there have been times during which I have been more worried about running out of gas, this one was towards the top. Thankfully, though not shown on my map, there was a station in Janesville where I was able to get gas and breakfast.

While I waited for the food, I went out to move my car away from the pumps, and what did I see but a huge bug flying in the window. I squeamishly entered and moved it over to the parking space, then lowered both windows in the hopes that it would fly ayway. I went back into the station and sat down at the counter back at the deli to wait, and when I opened my laptop there was the bug--it had been sitting on my keyboard when I closed the LCD screen. Wasn't squished though, and when I blew it off I think it managed to fly away.

The pit stop cost me more time than I had hoped, and I made it up as best as I could on US-395 to Reno, but not very far into California I ran into a serious delay. Traffic was completely stopped by the Highway Patrol, for reasons that none of the nearby drivers could see. I had no choice but to sweat it out until traffic started moving again and then haul ass as fast as I could.

Around 9:30, as I approached and passed Auburn, my brief vacation from the heat wave ended. The air blowing into the car began to turn hotter and hotter. What a week to have arrived in Northern California in an unair-conditioned car.

Just as it was looking like I would arrive with a few minutes to spare, I took the wrong Mission Blvd exit off I-680 and lost those extra minutes! I got back on I-880 as quickly as possible, and as I approached the cutoff to I-880 a sign reported major delays. The radio advisory said the delay had ended at 8:00 AM, but I didn't trust it. Late as I was running, I decided to drive the five extra miles on 680 which seemed clear.

No no no no no no no no!!! Just past SR-85, a mere 3/4 mile from the Lark Ave exit, delay delay delay!!! Where did that come from??? I had put on my t-shirt, no expecting the slowdown, and without the rush of air I was sweating like a pig (do pigs really sweat?).

But I made it, on account of how (as I was to learn), the Bay Area tournaments never start on time, even the ones at a place called Tomato Thyme. Good thing the name of the restaurant isn't Tomato on Thyme. Anyway, the delay works out for many players, because the restaurant requires a purchase, but service is slow. I forgave them though, on account of how one of the cashiers was a very cute blonde who reminded me of another very cute blonde who worked at a my usual bagel shop in Maryland. Except, that other cute blonde always seemed grumpy--she never once smiled at me. This new one was friendlier.

My first victim was named Robin Levin. 53 for SWAGES plus general good scoring impelled me to a hefty lead. Robin was able to cut it with ANiSEED, but a late-game bingo, TENT(I)ESt, gave me a lead Robin could not recover from.

Two challenges apiece against a prim and proper-seeking lady named Emily Weissman. I tried DYKER*, which I was sure was phony, but scored 54, early enough for me to recover from the lost turn. Emily's lost turn came late in the game and allowed me to take an eight-point lead, a lead I'd been slowly working off after her SEIzURE. The next three turns were close, and it was only the blank that gave me the edge.

Challenges again were a factor, this time against Paul Bustysomethingoranother. First he tried MISWILL*, and I busted him. Then he tried STIFFED/(VETO)S*, but I will never forget the correct spelling, not after Joel Sherman took me to task over failing to challenge the word in Reno '03. Those two lost turns, plus both blanks (foreshadowed by my first bingo, OU(T)dRAWN), boosted me to a 75-point win.

A 3-0 record was a good way to begin my return to regular Scrabble, West Coast style, but of course it couldn't last, not when I finally came face-to-face to Jerry the Elermanator. It looked like he was going to be true to his childhood nickname right away when he started with two bingoes, TINIEST and RECTORS. Consecutive Q, Z, and J plays kept me from losing hope, but then my racks fizzled and I lost a lot of ground. Jerry lost a turn to PARSONE(R)*, but the board was too open for me to block everything. I finally bingoed, ANGA(R)IES, and then again with D(A)RKENEd to cut his lead to 24. Finally, hope! And a couple of turns later, MI(B)B for a whopping 44 gave me the lead!! All of a sudden visions of a huge ratings increase started to flash before my eyes. But with a blank unseen, it was still anybody's game. And when Jerry played for 3 points to open a bingo line, I knew I was in trouble. I tried to block, but I got it wrong, and Jerry was able to REALIsE a victory. Damn, so close.

John Karris, who would come to develop a pattern of dumb-luck-bagging me over the next few months, put the fear of ratings loss in my heart as he crept up on me with QU(E)STED and LOAMINg, and finally took the lead with the disgustingly pedestrian ERASION. On top of that, I lost yet another challenge, FUG, to slip even further. With just a few tiles left in the bag, I was down 70, and even though I held the blank, a simple bingo wasn't going to cut it. Then John did the only thing that could have led to a loss... he opened up a triple-triple line! I was stunned. But not too stunned to play sENORI(T)A for 122 points to win the game. Whew!

The win earned me a rematch with Lerman. Even though I only scored 5 with the second of my two blanks, I kept it out of his hands. Jerry was only able to bingo twice, and I was able to match that for a 37-point win and first place in the tournament. That was my first tournament win since the previous November, and it was a great relief to break that losing streak!


0 FAIL  
7.3 (V)IPER  
0 (Z)EE  
4.2 WORM(S)  
0 FIG  
2.5 AY  
28.1 TENT(I)ESt COR(D)IAL S hook
0 OLE  
0 IT  
53 lose DYKER* RYKED
0 YUK  
14.5 TRODE DOTIER (couldnt see)
5.1 AHI  
1.1 BL(U)E  
0.4 DOE  
6.8 EIRENI(C)  
0 BET  
1.3 (Z)A  
0 TA(V)  
10 NORiA  
4 OU(T)dRAWN  
0 O(O)ZE  
7.3 PIU  
0 PREE  
34.5 CLAD VANDaL(I)C, VAL(I)D or CAV(I)L disagree
0 HOB  
2.1 XI  
0 NAY  
17.2 QAI(D)  
0 LING(S)  
0.5 COUN(T)  
7.3 (E)RGO  
0 JERk  
0 QA(I)D  
1 F(E)Z  
11.5 (J)EU  
5.8 CEL(L)  
4.4 P(E)W  
0 M(I)BB  
38 lose turn  
0 YID  
0 SPY  
1.4 ZEK  
2.6 COD  
0 IF  
0 VAW  
0 PEE(V)E  
10.5 LYI(N)G HYI(N)G (duh!!!)
0 HI  
8 N(IT) forgot U hook
24 lose turn  
0 sENORI(T)A  
0 PIU  
3.5 JE(F)E  
0 OXO  
0 MIC  
0 GLOV(E)  
0 (R)AZOR  
11.7 DE(E)T GUTTE(R)eD
3.1 GU(Y) TEWInG
2.7 B(R)EW  
0 UnITE(R)  

Average Equity Loss Per Turn (now using Quackle!)

1 - 6.1 (85.2)
2 - 7.1 (92.2)
3 - 6.2
4 - 13.8 (179)
5 - 6.8
6 - 2.9 (40)

Avg: 7.2

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