A Squirm in the Big Apple

Friday, October 12, 2007

12:33:52, emailed Ira for his phone #. I'm learning.

12:41, began to feel butterflies.

2:19 clocked out and drove away from work in West Chester. First stop was in Princeton, for a much-anticipated appointment with one of my favorite masseuses. As usual, the massage was... excellent. However, there was a price to be paid. This was my first time seeing her since she moved to Princeton from Cranbury, and though the distance was the same, the impact on my schedule was drastic. I started the drive out of Princeton at 5:08, and it was 6:04 by the time I entered the NJ Turnpike, a mere 14 miles away.

6:16, grabbed my bottle of orange and realized that a cup half full of a different kind of juice was still sitting there. I needed to get rid of it as soon as possible in case I needed the cup again, but I couldn't do it at highway speeds without creating a yucky mess.

I was definitely making up time on the Turnpike, 75-85 MPH, but all that was irrelevant--what mattered would be crossing the tunnel and getting to Midtown. My plan was to take the Lincoln Tunnel and just park as soon as I entered Manhattan and sprint to the Roosevelt, but a sign warned of "MAJOR DELAYS NORTH OF EXIT 14". Crap. I quickly took the Holland Tunnel exit, but I had not even cleared the ramp before I saw that traffic was slow. Would it have been better to take the Lincoln Tunnel? No way to know, but it was already 7:07 when I cleared the tunnel and reached Hudson St which would take me uptown. That might have been a mistake--I might have taken the first turn out of the curve and reached the West Side Highway more quickly, but I chose the former route out of intertia. Both were slow, regardless, and it was another 8 minutes before I reached the highway. I moved quickly to 42nd street, but I shouldn't have gotten off there--it was at a standstill. I also should not have tried to park on 8th. There was nothing to be found there, and I ended up going back to 10th and finding a space just north of 50th, at 7:34.

I had not eaten, and as soon as I started sprinting I felt it. The five short blocks to 45th were easy, but the eastbound trek was at a slight incline all the way to 9th. Despite my hurry, I was glad for the red lights, because I could not have maintained a full sprint to Madison Ave on an empty stomach, carrying a backpack? What's that you say? I'm a wuss? Let's try it after I've eaten and we'll see who's faster.

I reached the Roosevelt and caught my breath as I waited for the elevator, sweat dripping down my face. I tried to stifle my deep breathing so the others in the elevator wouldn't think I was weird, though they surely noticed my wiping my face with my shirt. I found the pairings, Dan Watchell up first, found the table, and Joel handed me my folder.

So I sat down to face Watchi and couldn't help but wonder, after what I'd heard, what he was really thinking about me. Not that I really cared, and I went about my biz and played ANTIWaR. Dan soon took the lead with AERIALS, the we were neck and neck until the end when I got BELOVeD. Then things got interesting. Dan played CR(e)NULES*. I had no idea, so I had to think. Could I win it by taking Q(U)ID for 48? The problem was the possibility that Dan would come back with OOZED or OOZES for 47. Looking at the bag, EOODDGZST, and my leave AHMO, I decided that even if he had the play, I could eke out a win.

I opened with the blank on my rack once again, and I dared to hope that my tiles would be on fire this tournament. Unfortunately, the apparently highly irritable Jill Pfeiffer, who had just beaten Joe Edley, was also on fire. I can't saw that I was outdrawn, not when I had the J, X, Z, two eses, and a blank. I was at a loss to describe why I had lost that game, by 10 points, but part of the problem was that, after her opening 14-point play, Jill always managed 20-30 points per play and got down RUINATE and the 89-point ENA(C)tIN(G). But the critical play might have been this one...

Quackle likes (E)LBOWED, which I missed completely, but the play I initially wanted, SOWED, might have done it because Jill would have have a more difficult time with her SORRY. I let the lure of the DELS leave mask the danger of letting Jill have the S hook.

Worst part about that loss, besides losing to a player I assume would be easy, was that my next opponent would be Edley, in our first full-length tournament game. I was fully expecting him to take out his frustrations over his first two losses on me, and when he opened with LOCATOR, the game looked like it was headed in that direction. But, to my amazement, his next few turns fizzled, I got down LAITIES, and with some good scoring, when Joe bingoed again, (R)ARENESS, I was still in it. Then I got down UNLAShE(S) and drew the next blank, and that pretty much assured my win. Incredible--my first outing with Edley, and I got 'im.

Obviously I had the better draw, but I do have to take some pride in my sim results--all of my first 10 plays had either the highest valuation or the highest win percentage (not always the same). Had I not given up two points playing bROADEN instead of gROANED, I would have played my first perfect game!

Jill's irriation, the noise in the room, would be shared by many throughout the weekend. The room was simply too small for the number of players. I don't want to belabor the point, because simply finding a venue to host a tournament in Manhattan is a herculean feat, totally deserving of the Director of the Year award. Anyway, the noise level was not helped by the loud utterances of quiet that peppered the room. Particularly annoying were certain players who on the one hand shouted for quite but then proceeded to engage in loud post-game kibbitzing themselves. I mean, I was kinda cute when Sherman the Elder or, at the other end of the spectrum, John Chew's son, went off into a frenzied spree of verbal ejaculation. But for everybody else--not cute.

It was later than I thought when we finished, and I decided I probably didn't want to drive all the way to the Financial District. Had to eat, though, and I had plenty of options as I walked the long distance back to my car. Nothing looked appealing for many blocks, though, and out of the blue I was struck by a random urge for a crepe, and I decided to go downtown after all. A few blocks later, though, the shiny blue neon sign for "Carve unique sandwiches" caught my eye (neon does work!!!), and I could not help walking across the street to find out just what was so unique about those sandwiches.

None of the sandwiches looked appealing, and I was about to settle for a decidely unappetizing looking slice of pizza when I spotted a familar shape on a shelf towards the back. I asked the cashier, and I was pleased to learn that, yes, they were pepperoni rolls! I hadn't had pepperoni rolls since my last roll through Texas (at DoubleDave's). These weren't nearly as good, but it was comforting to have pepperoni rolls at all.

Since the Queensboro Bridge was so close, I decided to head out there to find a campground. I would be much easier to find a quiet spot than in busier Midtown Manhattan.

October 13, 2007

7:15, set alarm for 9:00, but I wasn't really able to fall back asleep. Just random anxieties and images, plus a strong desire for a hug. At 7:55 I got a move on in the hope of making it to the Comfort Diner in time for a hearty artery-clogging breakfast.

During the walk to the Roosevelt, I had my first honest-to-goodness conversation with Joey Mallick.

Was outblanked by Merril Katz, and an outblanking was bound to happen. What was more disappointing was a stupid blunder, changing my STERNAL/(UT)S to SALTERN/(UT)A/(DE)S* and losing my turn and chance to bingo. Turns out that had I bingoed, I would have drawn dreck, and Mereil had the second blank, so the game was lost anyway, but it still sucks to do something as brain-dead as playing DES*.

I've no doubt that Frank was probably irritated by my moaning and sighing over being forced to play WATChED for 89 points to take a 52-point lead late in the game, but with a blank unseen, I was genuinely fearful that he would bingo back off the TWS and virtually guaranteed himself a win. The next day he confirmed that my comment had been smack-worthy, and I could not really disagree.

Meanwhile, noise level continued to be a concern, even out in the hall where the pairings were posted. Both John Chew and Ira repeatedly stepped outside to ask players to be quiet or move down the hall. After lunch, we found that the Division A pairings had been moved as far down the hall as possible. A hint, perhaps?

Next, my first time with Ben Dweck, he who was an object of my envy for his ability to rock that fro. I'd been working on mine for about three months, and after an initial burst of growth further progress seemed to be stagnant. Perhaps his fro gives him magical powers of hypnosis, because I almost gave Dweck a dwink of wa-wa in the form of ASsALIE(R)*. Several seconds passed, and I was already annotating my play when I noticed, and my heart immediately began to pound as I reached for the bag and drew as quickly as possible. Pulled out the 2nd blank, for CRUDElY. Still no wa-wa for Dweck. A few turns later, he did get some wa-wa, but not enough to defend against my superior tiles.

Ben, incidentally, earned a spot on my good list by buying a copy of Starbucking. Initially I offered to trade for some of his afro hair that I could glue to mine, but he understandably passed. Starbucking is still available from me at any tournament, and for a new low price of $15!

Next, another rematch with Dr. Rau, and my most difficult game up to that point. I came down to the endgame, and I almost screwed it up by first making an erroneous determination that, after exchanging five, and given what was in the bad, Stefan was not going to bingo off the T. I could have blocked with (T)EE for 3, but I decided if he scored 42 off my Q I would need extra points, so I took 10 elsewhere. So Stefan bingoed, and my next mistake was to mistrack an E. I played URGE thinking that NOPAL was the only play that would reach the TWS, but with the E Stefan had 33 points for DAVEN. Fortunately, the endgame worked out. I really didn't want to suffer yet another loss to this half of the Battlin' Marsupials.

For lunch I wandered around until stumbled cross Burger Heaven on 49th west of Madison. Pretty good cheeseburger, pretty good fries, but, this being New York, of course overpriced. While the cashier was cute, and Colombian, and wore outstandingly bright dark red nails, she was not nearly cute enough to compensate for a burger and fries that costs $11.19 (plus tax maybe, I was too busy flirting to notice).

My next opponent, Marjorie Schoneboom, was on fire, and doing exceptionally well. I had beaten her 2 or 3 times in a row, however, and I hoped this would give me a psychological edge going into the game. Turned out to be irrelevant, because her tiles continued to set the board ablaze. HEROINE, REX for 39, then gRASS(I)NG to take a 135-point lead. Meanwhile, I kep trying to leave myself something that might turn into a bingo, and I kept drawing crap that scored modestly but wasn't going to allow me to catch up. Marjorie bingoed yet again, SITUATE, and opened up a prime TWS spot, but my EEEGJV? was most inffective. I played JEE(Z), hoping to draw into a bingo, and I did, AAEEGV?, but, to my frustration, JEE(Z) had blocked my only spot. Marjorie went on to draw the final of four esses, and by the time I finally bingoed the game was hopeless.

Next up was Mark McCraw, and once again my mental image of a player was completely off. I was imaginine a farmer type with overalls, maybe a NASCAR type with a dim-witted look about him. Quite on the contrary, Mark appeared to be the scruffy grungy hipster Seattle type, the type of guy that would date the artsy tattooed girl who works at the indie coffee shop and gives my Starbucks shirt a hint of a sneer as she ignores my flirtations.

Anyway, though I might be destined to lose to the likes of McCraw at the coffee shop, I got the better of him over the board. Won a challenge, WHEE(p), and got down a couple of phoneys, GERMAN(E)R* and ABODER(S)*. The latter was a truly stupid play. Not only did I miss ROADBED (a fact which would dawn on me, to my dismay, later that night), but ABODERS* has to be so high probability that it was sheer folly to try it against and 1800+ player.

Next up, Augustine Adda, and I really needed to win that game because I expected round 11 to pit me against a heavyweight like Graham or O'Laughlin. But, like against Marjorie, I drew dreck for most of the game. When I finally managed to catch up with (E)ARSTONE, I drew the last five tiles and saw that Augustine was holding both blanks. I was toast. And what was worse, I had to sit there for a long time wondering if he was going to find RAInBoW. He didn't, which was good for my spread, but it was an additional irritation that I was beaten by somebody who couldn't find RAInBoW.

Sure enough, I got Matt Graham for my last game of the day, and I fully expected him to be gunning for my after losing both times we had played, and most recently in a critical game in Baltimore. To make matters worse, we were at table one, and annotated, which meant if I played like a fool the whole world would be able to see that the emperor has no clothes. Worse, actually, since the annotation contained an error implying that I had missed OUTF(A)BLE, thus besmirching any respect that I might otherwise have earned and reducing my chances of making my own fables come true by winning the heart of a Scrabble Princess.

I rushed off in the direction of Times Square hoping to catch one of the several movies that had been stacking up. Michael Clayton was sold out... again, but I was able to get into The Darjeeling Limited. Though not sold out, the auditorium was still packed pretty tight. I found a seat next on the aisle, next to a couple. I leaned my board against the seat in front of me. Of course, as soon as the person sitting there shifted forward, the board fell down to the next row with a loud clatter. There would be no retrieve it until after the movie.

I can't say for certain that she was reacting to me, but the woman sitting to my left seemed to be annoyed by me. She seemed to react, glancing quickly my way, every time I shifted or made a noise (the occasional sneeze). She also spent a good deal of time making a motion around her nose with her finger, like she was holding it. That didn't make sense. I couldn't have smelled that bad after just a couple of days. I think she was just snobby. After the movie, I was anxious to get away from her, but that person sitting ahead of me decided that the credits were fascinating enough to sit throuhg, and I had to wait until the end to retrieve my board. Grrr...

The day had exhausted me, and I decided to try camping out where my car was already parked, in front of the diner, and hope nobody noticed. The random sounds of voices and cars, and the headlights reflected into my vehicle created an eerie effect. Around 2:30 I awoke to the sound of a woman. I peered out of my car and saw her standing next to my car, with her purse on the hood. I shifted slowly to the front of my car, and I was unsure if she had noticed or not. In my half-asleep state I could not really understand what she was saying, but I had the feeling she might be reacting to me.

I thought I saw her walking back towards my car with somebody else as I drove off. I stopped the red light at 3rd Avenue and turned when I saw the light change, and the next thing I new I saw NYPD behind me with lights flashing. I pulled over onto 46th, rather puzzled. The officer asked me why I had run the red light, and I told him I thought the light was green. I was sure I had seen the light turn green, but since I had just woken up, I couldn't really be that sure. I fished out my driver licensed and then hunted around for my most current insurance card (really need to throw those old ones out). Before I had even found my registration, the officers got back in their car, handed me my license and insurance through the window and said I was okay. Then they explained that there were two lights, one for traffic going straight ahead on 45th, and a second, which I had not noticed, for traffic turning right. Go figure.

October 14, 2007

7:27, and I wasn't sure how much I had slept. Considered going for an extra hour, but quickly decided I had enough monkeys in my tank to tranquilize the rocking seahorse.

Complimentary breakfast again at the comfort diner, and I tried the pancakes. Some unusual ingredient I could not identify, but excellent nonetheless. Their texture was just about perfect. Curious about the excellent juice, I asked Ira where he got it. The Fresh Juice Company. Well, they might not be the most creative of people, naming-wise, but they do make great orange juice.

Sam Rosin up first, and I had to remember not to think of him as the inexperienced kid that used to play at the Bridgewater club. I imagined that he had to be studying quite a bit to achieve his rating, which is why I faced a tough decision when he hooked BOUY to my OFFING (not the hook you'd expect). Y(OFFING) screamed phony, but there are these ING sevens that do not come from shorter words, like EANLING or ERKLING. The real problem was that I held AAASSV?, with only hook. I just couldn't take the chance, so I let it go. I could have payed dearly for that, because Sam immediately scored 44, then a bingo TIPpLES a few turns later, and I was starting to worry. Then he tripped up again, MERT*, and I pounced all over that and played my VERDICT(S) to retake the lead and win it. It was close though--I really feared that I would be beaten by a fourteen-year-old. That might just be worse that being beaten by a woman!

Against MacNeil I chickened out on SKEETER but bingoed first anyway with TRESSES. Rod came right back with UNHOR(S)Ed and held the momentum until my 40-point WIZ. But two turns later, he scored 64 with ANNEXE, and I was never able to recover.

As impossible as that game turned out, next up was O'Laughlin, who no doubt, after Baltimore, took satisfaction in completely destroying me. I thought I had a chance when I was able to hook my opening EHILPRT to John's TRAWL. I managed to keep my lead until John got down ExUVIA(T)E. He only scored 62, though, and opened the 3x3. Had I not been stuck with all 1-point tiles, I would have evened the score. As it was, IOLITE(E) for 21 left me 14 points short. Next rack EEEKNOR, I missed the safer KERNE(D) (saw KEENE(D) but didn't know it), and played KEE(V)E, giving John the S hook for 35. I got X(I) for 36 and was still just 18 points away, and I managed to stay close for a few turns, but then John got the second blank for LAGeRED, and a win became all but impossible.

As a final bit of cuteness, at the end, while I was trying to just maximize my J to cut my spread, my play gave John a hook for the admittedly brilliant NIOBIUM. Oddly enough, my play sims the highest, but it cost me over 100 spread points.

While I waited for pairings, Stefan Fatsis was being interviewed and asked me to tell the reporter whether or not Word Freak had influenced me to start competing. Ya think? I was kind of glad Stefan was getting some attention--hopefully that lifted his spirits. Though he maintained a brave face and shrugged off his losses, I was sure that kind of pounding had to have an effect on a person. Unless, maybe, that person has a life outside Scrabble.

The effect of John's out bingo was to push me pretty far down the list of 7-7 players, maybe even to the bottom, and the effect of that was to set up an excruciating final game. If I won, I'd boost my rating slightly. If I lost, my testicles would shrink to the size of peas. The game was completely winnable, too, but a series of events combined to produce a disastrous outcome. First, she opened with ZLOTE, and then, just before I was set to play tHESAU(R)I, she bingoed with P(E)ATIEST. I didn't just want to catch up, I wanted to take the lead, so I looked long and hard at that S in the triple column and came up with (S)AUgHIES. Later, I would confirm that I had indeed seen the word SAUGHY, but it just doesn't pluralize or compare. It was still early in the game, and I went on to score 89 with (C)aRBIDES, but because my opponent never let up on her scoring, I was not able to catch up and lost by 16!!! AARRGH!!!

Despite the loss, there was a magic moment at the beginning of the game when we both reached to start her clock and our hands brushed. Other people who choose to live within a constrained reality would dismiss such an occurrence as insignificant, but I felt something. There was a definite chemistry there. Definitely a connection. It was just a matter of time. Just a matter of time.

Later, I would seen that O(V)ERKEEN is in fact good. I had seen it, against O'Laughlin, but I had also just gone over the list of 8-letter OVER words in the days before the event, and OVERKEEN just didn't stick. That sucks.

Those weren't my worst mistakes of the day, though. Nooo, my biggest screwup was attempting to visit the new Starbucks in the NHL store at 6th Ave and 47th St. There was some parade, and Midtown traffic was completely fucked. I coudln't even drive past the store to stop my car and rush in. I had to take Madison all the way up to 60, then 5th down to 47th. I couldn't find parking anywhere from that point out to 11th Avenue, so I started driving east on 48th hoping to stop at the corner of 6th and sprint down to the store before I could get a ticket. But between 5th and 6th, traffic came to a standstill because of the parade. I had plenty of time to stop the car and sprint down to the store, but I wasn't going anywhere after that.

By the time traffic got clear and I was able to head uptown, I was famished, and ready for some good Latin food.


0.7 ANTIWaR  
13.3 R(I)VET confuse my own blank for an E
8.9 EYE feared keeping 3 Es
1.9 FEY  
0.5 N(A)OI  
1.4 FOE  
2.2 JET  
3.3 GAP  
4.3 TUN(A)  
3.2 (U)NIT  
0* Q(U)ID  
0 AH  
0 V(O)LVA  
0 EMPTIEs(T)  
8.8 (J)ABOT  
18.3 O(D)IC GEO(D)IC (unsure),COE(D)IT,GO(D)ET
0* GENES  
0* DUD  
0* L(U)X  
0* OHI(A)  
0* (C)OVEY  
0 LO  
0 (T)AX  
0 DUM(K)A  
0 ZA  
0* (R)AP  
0* (D)EV  
--- ??? (last play--probably found the best)  
0 LUTZ  
5.2 VINYLS  
0 OX(O)  
1.3 QUOI(N) VOWS/(PANADA)S for 18 pts less?
6.3 TORR (D)URR (99% sure but chicken)
4.4 (E)DH U(P)BO(W)
6.2 DUMBO  
8.8 EN  
48.3 lose turn ((DE)S*)  
6.9 (D)E  
14 RENTS  
0 (D)AL  
2.1 Z(ON)KS Z(ON)K (need extra chance to draw vowel)
0 YAWN(S)  
3.4 A(G)REE  
0 FL(E)D  
0 FUG  
4.3 LUST  
4.3 PRONE  
2.6* AMI  
2 A(AH)  
7.9 QI  
4.9 HWAN  
0.2 ASsALIE(R)*  
3.5 CRUDElY  
0* H(Y)OID  
0 J(O)  
0 CUTE  
0 KEA  
0* VIS  
3.9 FU(s)ED  
9 (DE)L V stick was mistake
0 A(BYS)  
10.3 MAP  
8.3 GL(I)MED  
9 X(I)  
6.3 TUI -IIU
7 ZI(G)  
5.8 NORI  
5.5 FIE  
0 QuASI  
7.7 M(E)  
6.2 URGE block P at 14F
0 GYRI  
20.1 YAWN(ER) NoNLAWY(ER) (oh for Pete's sake!!!),WYNN(S),AWNY
3.3 QU(I)NT (trying to create openings)  
7.6 DOC (still trying to create volatility but JO(g)GeD was the play)
7 JEE(Z)  
0* AGAVE  
0* OF  
0* OVErATE  
12 (A)C(E)  
0 ET  
0 LEZ  
1 QAI(D)  
1.2 WHEE(p)  
0 (F)ON  
0* BAYOU  
0.7 YOWI(N)G  
11.7 GOX  
4 PA  
6.3 (G)UL OIL (saw the play but stupidly chose otherwise)
1.3 ZORI ZORI(L) (stupidly, I actually wanted to open the board)
0 (Z)ILL  
0 PER(K)Y  
0 ED(G)E  
1 (W)IVE  
0 -AIO (AET?)  
0 VIV(A)  
55.6 W(R)IGHTs W(R)ATHInG,TH(R)AWInG (saw both but no idea),W(R)IGHT
39.6 lose turn (JUDAICA(S)*)  
5.6 CADI  
0 (G)ANJA  
0* (J)UBE  
2.7 A(R)F  
0 YUGA  
5.4 HOO(K)Y  
0 OFF(I)NG  
6 H(A)DED  
5.8 (D)IGIT  
8.7 OWIN(G)  
2.9 RA(V)ER  
0* ROBIN  
0 SUL(U)  
3 TUNE  
0.3 -LLRR (ERT) -LRR
0 CU(R)F  
0 WIZ  
1.4 WORD  
11.3 FAV(A) FAVEL(A)
0 EN  
0 U(N)DO  
0 GO  
0 END  
26 lose turn  
13 SO  
39.1 (W)IDDY  
8.1 (Y)AWED miss (PHILTRE)D hook
1.7 MIG  
0 IOLIT(E)  
64 KEE(V)E O(V)ERKEEN (saw but unsure),REE(V)OKE,RE(V)OKE
1.4 X(I)  
7 FRO  
0 S(U)Q  
0 I(S)  
0 WAX  
22.4 HE  
5.5 U(N)AI A(C)UItIES,SI(L)IqUAE (fuckin 5-vowel 8s--hate those)
7.4 (D)INITRO  
7.6 VAN VAU (now that's just stupid)
5.9 LA(K)ER  
5.4 PUJA  
0 GEL  
0 ORDO  

1 - W - 3.1 (39.7)
2 - L - 3.9 (39.1)
3 - W - 0.2 (2)
4 - L - 7.8 (101.4)
5 - W - 2.6 (34)
6 - W - 4.8 (72)
7 - W - 4.9 (82.6)
8 - L - 5.5 (66.5)
9 - W - 6.0
10 - L - 2.4 (28.6)
11 - L - 8.8 (114.1)
12 - W - 6.0 (71.4)
13 - L - 7.9 (109.9)
14 - L - 11.0 (121.3)
15 - L - 10.1 (131.2)

Avg: 5.6

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