Winter Sputters and the Deathly Outdraws

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Slept as long as I could, 'til near 8:30, in order to catch up on sleep and better be able to stay up for the duration of the tournament. With seven games starting at 3:00, and a dinner break, I figured I'd need to be up 'til at least 11:00, the immediately drive back to the office to pick up my plane tickets from the security office (where they had been delivered after the Postal Service lost track of the package) and then to the airport.

First destination was the second Starbucks in the LIRR section of Penn Station. Every time a new store opened in any of the train stations I grumbled, because taking a photograph is a dicey affair. I can just see myself ending up in Guantanamo because of this @#$%^ Starbucks project.

The first attack came early, 9:04, during the NPR news summer. Even though ATC had promised that the ending of Harry Potter is not "news" and would not be reporting it, I quickly turned my radio off.

Near the just-opened store on 7th & 27th, I found one of those magical blessed free parking spots (on 27th btwn 7th & &th, but don't tell anybody). I confirmed their legitimacy with the parking enforcement officer who was busy ticketing vehicles parking along 7th in front of the store. After visiting the store, I decided to take advantage of the free parking and walk to a Wi-Fi enabled store. Though slower, walking along New York streets offers the advantage of allowing a person to notice more shops. Like the restaurant named "Brgr". And the Whole Foods in Chelsea. Though that one ended up irritating me, for a couple of reasons--use of the restroom required accompaniment by a manager; and there was no microwave for heating my buttermilk biscuit. Without heating, I could not perform a proper taste test. As such, I had to make the determination that the Chelsea biscuit was not as good as the Philadelphia biscuit.

As I walked on, a bespectacled man of Eastern extraction walked in the other direction, nose buried in the Harry Potter book.

A few blocks down, all the seats near power outlets were in use at the 8th & 23rd location. But my grumbling was only momentary, because four blocks down at 19th there was another store. The only good seat was near a young man who was reading the Harry Potter book. I made a point of noticing that he was only a hundred or so pages in, so there was no danger that he would read the ending and then reveal it in an emotional outburst, like "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!"

But Potter attacks were coming from all angles, as some no-good, dirty, rotten !@#$%^& posted a Potter-related message on CGP, a forum I figured I could browse without fear.

I hung out at the Starbucks listening to podcasts, calling new Starbucks, posting philosophical ideas, and trying to find that rare instance of a New York massage therapist who had not yet raised her prices to match the exhorbitant rates that are common in the City. After some time, I decided to move on towards the Borders to find my own copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. I checked CL one last time, and I finally found a massage that looked appealing, and a therapist that was available immediately, but down near Bleeker Street. It was going to be close, depending on the traffic, but I took a chance on the detour, and as soon as I got out onto Bleeker I realized it was going to be very close. Traffic hardly moved, and I looked at my map and tried to find a better way. From Bleeker to Houston and then back to Bleeker and finally Bowery and then 3rd Avenue.

Finally reached 45th St and spotted The Comfort Diner, with Ann Sanfedele standing outside trying to get Rita former-Norr into just the right pose. Just as I passed, Ira called. I explained I was looking for parking, and he warned that, because of some explosion, sewer-related, I think, I would not be able to find street parking. And several streets in the area were indeed closed off, and parking spaces were eliminated along the streets that were open. Still, I found a spot, but when I calculated what the MUNI meter rate would be for the duration, it would come out to more than the $12 charged by the garage next to the diner. So as much as I loathe parking garages, I had to use it. Should have taken the subway from 31st St and left my car where it was--free parking in NYC is too precious to waste!

The atmosphere in Ira's diner was electric. I was immediately glad that I had managed to get in. The place was abuzz with excitement. Everybody seemed happy just to be there. John O'Laughlin wasn't even playing, and he had come all the way down. Diane Firstman was helping out. Seth was providing live coverage.

I was off to the races with a crazy killer game against Eric Goldstein. Despite failing to risk GRA(F)TAGE and expending nearly 5 minutes on that first rack (AAEGGRT with FOODIE on board), I managed to bingo-bango-bingo, DELAY(I)NG,POWDERE(D), and PLOsIVE. Eric, to his credit, displayed less irritation than I would have in his shooes. I kept on with the decent racks, plus two more bingos, NANCIEs and ROMAINE to go out, and I started off with a huge spread.

Joel Horn lost an early challenge, ENROLS/(PAW)L, but then drew like a fiend. ORGEATS, ANE(T)HOlE, FIZ for 52, SPIRULA, and Q(U)ARK for 36. With a 68-point lead, Joel was then able to transition into blocking mode, and first blocked TITTERS, then the higher-scoring (D)EMERITS, forcing my REEMITS into the triple column, and that gave him the points he needed for a 16-point win. Throughout the endgame, I had to contemplate a mistake I had made, playing DIB instead of DRIB for the same score. DRIB would have increased my chances of drawing an extra vowel, and with that I might have bingoed sooner, before Joel closed off the good lines.

Oddly enough, Quackle ranks my play at the top, maybe because there were still plenty of vowels and DRST is a pretty good leave. Regardless, it didn't work for me.

My game against Avrin seemed to follow a similar pattern as with Joel. Instead of losing a challenge, Paul had to exchange his first rack, and I quickly built up a lead without a bingo. But then Paul started to score like a fiend, 59, 36, 45, 39, 30, 24, 73, 28, and I found myself struggling. Then, holding EEGILRT, I played RETILE and, as I turned the board over, saw GLEET, which was safe and scored 6 more. REGLET would have scored 8 more, tying the game. Instead, RETILE gave Paul a 24-point play, and that's all he needed to win. And he took a good long time finding his play, thus ensuring that I had eons to contemplate my stupid mistake.

On a difficult board, I got FINA and DEDU(C)tOR past Stefan Fatsis, and then drawing the second blank pretty much guaranteed me the game. I was glad to see Fatsis, whom I consider almost as influental in my life as Plato, but I was a bit sad that he is too busy to keep his rating at the expert level. I hope he never decides to abandon our fair sport. Stefan is akin to a religious figure in our world. His leaving would be like when Moses became disilluioned with Adam and Eve and departed the Garden of Eden.

Towards the back of the restaurant--I should have figured--more Deathly Hollows! Hopefully the owers of the books would be too busy with Scrabble to chit-chat about the plot.

I must not forget to mention the great and unique benefit of playing one of Ira's tournaments--the food. In sharp contrast to the meal served in NYC's only other tournament, Bayside, dinner from the Comfort Diner was a culinary feast. I could go on and on, but words cannot describe how good this food it. You need to taste it for yourself. If you visit NYC, make the Comfort Diner a top destination. And if you have the chance, play one of Ira's tournaments. In a way, they are to Scrabble what Mecca is to Islam. Every Muslim should undertake the hajj, but space is limited.

But not all was wine and roses. Let us say that the bathrooms were... cozy. As much as I enjoyed the event, all the closeness made me want to nickname it "Squeez-o-rama". All the rump-bumping that was taking place every time two or three males squeezed into the small space must have raised our level on the Kinsey scale.

Next, Polsky... being pesky again. Grrr...

Then, my dance with a player who, last I remembered, was a mere babe in the woods playing at a weak club in Bowie, MD. Sometime in the intervening two years she had managed to developed skills serious enough to qualify for Division 1. Perhaps she had been able to use the family fortune to pay for a private Scrabble tutor. Yes, my opponent was an heir to the Stark-Fujikawa industrial empire. True, the company has now reverted back to the control of Anthony Stark, but the buyback package was generous and left the Fujikawa well-compensated.

Anyway, her skills were in fool bloom that night. With words like ATRESIA, (A)DZ, and (R)ESCUINg at her disposal, I was clearly outmatched. Okay, okay, I'll concede that the Q(U)IN(TA)R find was a good one. Fujikawa might have a future in Scrabble yet. Might come in handy if her family fails to reassert control of Stark, as is prophecized to happen by the end of the 21st century.

With just two wins, the tournament was already loss. The only redeeming factor was that I managed to frustrate the rampaging Stegosaurs effort to go undefeated. And I didn't luckbag her, either. Yes, I drew both blanks, but I think Q(U)ErIDAS and BONNIER were decent bingoes. A week later on ISC Debbie complained that I had cost her a significant number of ratings points. I, being the sympathetic guy that I am, immediately called to console her as best I could, and later in the week I sent flowers. Really, I did. If Debbie says she never received them, well, it must have been a delivery problem.

The upshot. Great tournament. Lousy breaks. Bah.


66.3 GR(O)AT GRA(F)TAGE (saw but no idea)
0* T(E)XT  
0.4 FOO(L)S  
0 (C)WM  
0.6* NANCIEs  
3.3 BUR(s)AR BUR(s)AL
3.2 UNCAGE  
6.3 ENROLS  
5.1 DEICI(N)G  
0.5 AE(R)ONAUT  
4.2 V(A)LUE  
0 VOX  
0 DIB  
12.2 DAY S(OF)TY (can't give up S)
3.5 DE(V) (can't give up S!!!)
2.3 T(a)T (a)TT (weakens bingo line)
0 JO  
0 ZO(A)  
6.1 FAXES EFS (sets up big X play)
0 OW(E)D  
1.5 WHAP  
0 VINO  
0 BEAVE(R)  
0 DAFT  
7.7 YUM GUY (but I need points!!!)
11 RETILE (the losing play!!!)  
15 RIG  
2 (R)UG  
11.2 WORM(S)  
0 VEEP  
2 FINA  
4.3 JET  
0.4 -BIIUUW  
0 NOW  
6.5 DENI  
0 BY  
5.2 COTT(A)  
0 FRY  
0 Z(OI)C  
0.9 WAVE  
4.5 FA  
37.8 QUOTAS QUASI (killer mistake)6.9
5.4 BLIP  
1.8 (I)NDENT  
9.5 GHI  
46.3 DILL distraught
0 NE(B)  
2.6 VIRTU  
8.8 BLU(R)TInG  
5.7 LON(G)Y  
4.4 DEE  
0 OWE  
4.4 PEG  
0 (P)HONS  
0 JE(O)N  
5 POX  
15.8 BAIT(H)  
0 FIL  
0.7 VIM  
0 Q(U)ErIDAS  
7.9 L(I)MNER  
10.1 CUP(S)  
10.5 O(R)A defense!
19.6 sOJA JOEYs
0 DEEP  
20.2 FA spread irrelevant--block bingo at all cost
33.6 Z(O)A  

1 - W - 6.6 (72.7)
2 - L - 3.3 (39.5)
3 - L - 4.1 (53.7)
4 - W - 5.4
5 - L - 11.3 (158.2)
6 - L - 5.1 (77.2)
7 - W - 9.7

Avg: 6.5

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