Even If I Lose, I Win!

Friday, December 21, 2007

1:35, left work with delays already on my docket. First a stop at the house where I had forgotten my phone, my precious Tradewinds tea, and some extra copies of Starbucking. Carol, bless her heart, wanted one to give away as a prize. It's great ideas like that why she won Director of the Year!

Sam called me just after 2:00 PM, and I reached the Starbucks in Paoli (conveniently located next to a train station where Amtrack has a stop) at about 2:10. I was surprised that Sam wasn't there--I should have asked if he had arrived yet--but he called just a few minutes later.

A couple more more stop, for grub, then gas, and it was 2:45 by the time we hit the freeway. 568 miles to go, directly, but my hoped-for detour to Altoona would add 30.

4:03, 520 miles to drive after leaving the Park Center store that Herb (is that his name?) kept telling me about. We had to fight off mortar shells to accomplish our mission, but we made it out alive. Of course, I would rather have dealt with mortars than with any shopping center in the days before Christmas in this overconsumerist culture of ours. I tried to find a quicker way back onto the freeway, but I ended up wasting extra time by following the road signs instead of what my mapping program said.

Made good time on the Turnpike, so I went ahead and detoured to Altoona. After circling a city block several times for no good reason (except maybe to amuse Sam, who considered that the best part of the trip), we were on our way again at 7:05, with 390 miles to go.

Shortly after starting eastward on US-22, high drama erupted courtesy of a crazy-ass suburban driver. I was in the right-hand lane and he pulled up to close to me, so I turned on my hazard lights and tapped on the brakes to encourage him to pass, which he did. A third car also passed me, then, then quickly cut back in front of me, too closely. I moved over to the left hand lane, behind the suburban who looked... wait, wait, something is wrong. I'm having trouble remembering the exact sequence of events. But the way it ended up, the third car was in the right line, and the suburban was in the left lane, and speeding up to pass when he suddenly slowed and right next to the third car, thus blocking both lanes. I do not think he was intentionally being obnoxious at that point, just inconsiderate. I flashed my lights, and that must have pissed him off, because he then reacted hostily. Not sure what happened next, but I managed to pass him quickly on the right and continued on my way only to see him speeding up to follow us.

I moved over to let him pass again, and at that point it became apparent that he was messing with us, slowling down abruptly and then serving over into the left lane as I tried to pass. I was already in the process of looking for my phone when he threw a cup out the window at my car. Unable to find my phone, I asked Sam to get his out. We had to wait for him to power on and find service, all the while trying to avoid this crazy guy. Finally, just when I got the cops on the phone and reported what exit we had reached, the suburban took that exit. I'll never know if that was his destination, or if he had seen us on the phone.

As we approached Blairesville, I remembered I was hungry. None of the chain restaurants in town looked appealing, but Sam spotted a sign for Dean's Diner a mile or so up the road. Not the best meatloaf, but neither the worst. I was amused at the lengths Sam would go to to avoid any meat in his marinara sauce, and to avoid breathing in any smoke. Yes, there were neaderthals actually smoking inside the restaurant!!! I hate it too, but I've learned that just living on this goddamn planet is a hazard--it's just too hard to avoid everything. And ultimately, if I truly am immortal, it makes more sense to try and change people's primitive behaviours.

Next stop was a perfect example of why the US highways kick ass over the interstates, if you have the time to drive them. I had already had to pass up two strip clubs because of the minor I was carrying, but when I saw a sign for Climax Gentleman's Club followed by the words "DRIVE THRU", I had quickly cut across a lane and swerve into the parking lot. Sam's reaction was, like, "Really, Winter???"

Yes, really, of course! A drive thru??? Drive thru??? What the hell was a drive-thru strip club? That doesn't even make sense. Of course I had to investigate. I mean, if you were driving and saw a goat standing on top of a cow, wouldn't you turn around to try and get a good look? Anybody with even a basic explorer's instinct would. Do you think Lewis & Clark would have sailed their canoe past a "drive"-thru strip club if they had found one out in the wilderness?

Anyway, the place was BYOB, so I thought that maybe you could drive through and buy liquor to take into the club, but when I pulled around to the window, the girl that walked up revealed that, yes, they were indeed offering a nude dance... without the customer having to leave his car.

Wow. That has to be the stupidest idea ever conceived. Sam was a bit in disbelief, but I had to check it out. New experiences, good or bad, are what life is all about. And boy was this one in the bad column. My first reaction upon seeing the dancer come through the curtain was one of horror. And then, as she started dancing, the scene just became ridiculous. I couldn't help it. I had to crack up. I felt bad for her, because I imagined that the only customers who patronized the drive-thru window were drunk and laughing it up. That can't be good for a person's self-esteem. But I couldn't help laughing, nonetheless. To my credit, I resisted the urge to drive off--that would have been really insulting. And finally, when it seemed the song would never end, I started clapping just so she would take that as a cue to wrap it up, which she did.

Just in case, the experience was most definitely CEINORTU. The idea behind strip clubs is that, as Eddie Murphy so eloquently put it in Beverly Hills Cop, your dick is supposed to get hard. It's not supposed to cower and shrink by 50%, which wasthe reaction evoked in that drive-thru window. Sam said he was going to have nightmares. Me, I was going to have to figure out how to cleanse my mind of those images before I could again exercise my libido.

As we drove off, Sam described the show as "the worst porn you ever saw" and commented that I had "wasted" $20 ($10 per person in the car). I quickly responded that, no, no, no, that money wasn't wasted. It was well worth $20 to experience the depths of ridiculaeleum that exist in the world.

We continued along US-22, the highway was cut down to one lane each way, and I started to become frustrated at the slow cars ahead of me. A 1:00 AM arrival was still a possibility, but only if speeds kicked up quickly along the remaining stretch of US-22 before reaching the Turnpike again. Once on the turnpike, I tried to make up as much time as possible, but I still didn't want to go much faster than 70-75 without a car to pace. Once in Ohio, I was pestered by a Jeep who kept following me to close. Every time he got close, I put on a burst of speed and got waaaay ahead of him. Then I slowed down to the 70-75 I was trying to maintain, and he would catch up. He wasn't being aggressive, mind you, just a bad driver. At some point Sam decided to try and call Andy and Joe for the room number of the motel. He had forgotten his charger, so I offered him the use of my phone. While distracted by this, I missed the state trooper in the median and was clocked at 80 MPH. Damn, I hadn't gotten a speeding ticket since April '06.

When the trooper asked where we were going, we replied a Scrabble tournament, and he said "I like Scrabble." I offered to play him for the ticket, and he blandly replied, "No." But I can only imagine that Sam's baby-face and my story of needing to get him to the motel worked--he let me off with a warning!!!

I was struggling along the Ohio Turnpike, and Sam kept glancing at me to make sure I wasn't falling asleep. Because of his presence, I could not do some of the things I normally do to stay awake--howling, slapping myself, loving myself (the greatest love of all, like Whitney sang). I did not want to scare the kid, or to give him the wrong idea. Instead I had to depend on changing the music repeatedly, so I wouldn't zone out on any one artist.

I was greatly relieved when I hit I-280 around Toledo and then I-75, and once on I-275 I caught a second wind. According to my notes, I delivered Sam to the waiting arms of Andy Saunders and Joseph Bowman at 1:58, but I thought it was closer to 1:30. I have to assume my initial notes were correct.

December 22, 2007

At 6:36 I realized I had slept nearly five hours without waking up! Thanks to the fake benadryl, I imagine, but still I must have been hellah tired. I rarely sleep more than 2-3 hours without waking.

Sleep was hard to come by from that point, and at 8:45 I decided I was better off heading to the new Starbucks in the Twelve Oaks Mall (yes, yes, there was already one there before, but a mall isn't really "cool" unless it has more than one Starbucks). I needed the coffee, and I feared what the mall would look like after the tournament, with Christmas just days away. The last place I want to be is a shopping mall near Christmas.

9:15, left the mall, stopped for gas, so I could reconcile accounts with Sam, and reached the venue at 9:28. I was well ahead of time, as we did not start until close to 10:00! Since the library closes at 6:00 sharp, late starts are more critical in Farmington than in other events. Of course, this is now a moot point, since this was the last Farmington tournament!!! At least at the library. It was a bit sad, but there was joy in the air, courtesy of the return of someone I was told is a Scrabble legend.

Up first, Chuck Armstrong, and I finally thought I had a chance. He opened with TROLL and then ANOA for a total of 22, while I played TR(O)OZ and FINK for a total of 76. Then Chuck went and did that bingo think that he loves to do against me, (L)INECUTs, but I had (Q)AT for 32 to tie. Once more I outscored him on my next two turn, but my bid to build up a hefty lead was cut short abruptly when the Y I slotted in the triple column gave him BETRA(Y)ED for 185!!! AARRGHH!!! JUST WHEN I THOUGHT I HAD A CHANCE!!! Still, it was early, and with plenty of ammo in the bag I hoped I might catch up, but two turns later he bingoed again, (T)ROPINES. Three bingos before I managed to get one down--I just couldn't fend off that kind of heat.

But, on the bright side, with the completion of that game, I officially broke my 19-week record. Twenty weeks, and, with early-birds and double-header weekends, around 24 consecutive events!!! Hey, if I can't be the best, I can at least be the dedicatedest!

But, but, but... all hope was not yet lost. I got great tiles once again, against Paul Epstein, and I managed to fend him off in a crazy, crazy game. I opened with YAMUN, leaving IP, drew both blanks, and, though disappointed that Paul blocked my double-double PrER(A)dIO, I managed to at least hit the triple, OvERsPI(N). I then made a good find, SAUNAED, but Paul was not to be deterred--J(E)TWAY for 38 followed by HOMEL(A)ND for 90 followed by VIOLATE for 81!!! At that point, Paul led by 10, and I had to decide whether to take that VIOLATE hook with my R or S to score, or whether to play (D)OOR for 15 and leave ERNS. I suspect that most high experts will scoff at the fact that I even debated my play, but in the end I went for the ERNS leave and drew into CORNERS. I followed that up with C(O)OLANTS, but Paul wasn't giving up!!! He cleverly hooked ISATINE to WIVERs. I think I was reasonably sure that SWIVER is no good, but I got confused and though the blank (my own blank) was an N, for S(WIVERn)*. I had no idea about that one, and a lost challenge would have been death, so I let it go. I then had to decide which hotspot to take, and unable to see all of Paul's possibilities, I took my highest-scoring play of FEEB and watched in surprise as Paul played ZEK for 79. D'oh!!! Thankfully, thankfully, thankfully, he was stuck with EEIIUGP, while I had better tiles for the win. Whew!!!

Next, Daniel Schey who had helped ruined my day last time around. But this time my tiles were favorable, and despite missing INGRAI(N)S, I managed to bingo first with MAN(D)RILS and then drew the blank for CASH(I)ErS. And just as a final kick in the pants to Daniel, OPUn(T)IAS to bingo out.

My next opponent, Pete Morris, I learned, is rather well-reknowned. I managed to bingo first, SLANTED, and then built up a sizeable lead. When he exchanged 7, I figured he would draw a blank and bingo, so I went ahead and took my 59 for EX and opened up the triple line. He scored 89, so it worked out for me anyway, as long as he did not draw into another bingo right out of the bag. With a blank and S unseen, that was a danger, but I could not see a decent way to block with my LLOPTUY, so I just took the 27 points for YO and watched in dismay and resignation as Pete played SMALTIN(E) to pass me. But then, after a few seconds, I remembered to turn my two tiles over, and one of them happened to be the blank. Then I noticed Pete had just one vowel, and those two facts gave me the ability to win.

Despite the win, I was a little disappointed in myself for letting Pete's last-minute G(L)ID go. I was pretty much 100% sure the word was no good, but with a minute on my clock, I did not have time to build up my confidence. If I just locked down the win I'd be at 3, and 4 would get me a ratings boost, so I did not want to risk even the tiniest of chances that I might be wrong. I knew I wasn't wrong, but I didn't want to risk it. What a wuss.

Against Steve Grob it wasn't the fact that I was outdrawn that bugged me, because that's bound to happen, or the fact that I lost a turn to ALBUmIN because I've always seen the word with an E. No, what bugged me was that in my tough games against Epstein and Morris, I had come out to heavy leads and then they had had opportunities to come back and almost beat me while my racks seemed to fizzle. But against Steve, he continued to score even after his bingo-bango, and even scored a third, unnecessary, bingo, while I struggled with my racks and only bingoed once. Bah.

Came down to endgame versus Daniel Stock. Not sure what I did wrong. Quackle points out myriad errors, of course. Even just one more better play would have won me the game. Very disappointing.

Against Alex Fizsbein I did something unsual. Holding EIMNOTZ, I figured I'd try for the E. Passing is stupid, so I played ZONIM* instead. I wanted a good Z score that was strange enough that Alex wouldn't suspect that I was doing. What I did not expect was that he would let it go. I was surprised, but I got 52 points out of it. Unfortunately, Alex bingoed first, double-double (E)LONGAtED, and from that point on he had the momentum the entire game. His tiles just seemed to flow perfectly onto the board. In fact, I played my best game of the tournament, equity-wise, but I didn't have a chance.

On the bright side, the entry of Pete Morris with his 1945 meant that the 3.7 expectation from cross-tables would be lower and thus I'd lose fewer points.

On a final amusing note, Carol had two word categories, "winter" the season, and "Winter" the person, and she let me judge the latter. JAVA was too obvious. ANIMATED, a bingo, was nice. Had Steve Grob put down ZANY before I chose, I might have gone with that one. EXPERTLY was an obvious suck-up--I wasn't going with that one. SOBERING--I don't see the connection. In the end, I gave it to John Robertson for having the moxie to put down SLEAZY.

Since I was taking the week off, I did not have to rush off, and I took the unusual step of joining the crew for dinner across the street at John Cowley & Sons. The invitation extended to anagrams, but I was much too tired and had to beg off. In fact, I was so tired that I did not even point out that I don't play anagrams. During the meal another player, Peter Fielding or something like that talked about Prime Minister chess. I said I'd google it, but I wasn't going to play it--I don't need any more activities. Between Starbucking, Scrabbling, sexing up as much of the female population as possible, and trying to figure out how to save the world from itself, I'm busy enough.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Dreamt that my win expectation with Morris in the mix was just 3.2, which meant losing, what 4-5 points?


8.6 TR(O)OZ ZO(O) (leaving EINRT, my 1st instinct, but I decided on points)
0 FINK  
0 QA(T)  
0 F(U)MED  
3 J(E)U  
1.4 MEW  
5.3 rOSIEST  
0 (s)EIS  
5.7 OvERsPI(N) ERuPtIO(N)
2.1 SAUNAED unsure of (YAMUN)S hook
2.1 (J)IB set up QA(ID)
0 QA(ID)  
0.6 (D)OOR  
6.8 FEEB FETE (blocks ZEK)
0 (V)UGG Quackle's results seem to be wrong here
0 D(E)L(E)  
0 TO  
0 VIVA  
1.8 FROE  
8.3 ADIEU(S)  
0 OPUn(T)IAS  
6.3 OKA KOLO,SNOOK (don't like it, prefer to keep S)
0 QIS  
0 ID  
0 WO(O)  
5.9 AURE(I) knew Quackle would choose AURAE but prefer to keep board tighter against Pete
0 ZOA  
15.4 MAC ALUM overlap
0 EX  
16 YO weak
57 PU(L)L (P)ULPiTAL,unwilling to risk missing a Pete out
0 LAsT  
0.2 DECLOA(K)*  
0 EVEN  
53.7 lose challenge (ALBUmIN)  
0 GEY  
13.5 -CGIIOV  
2.2 PELF (I)F (EELPT?)
0* SIEnITE  
0 QI  
1.2 ECU  
0 TWAE  
0 ZA  
0 BERG  
0 FI(B)  
12.4 POINTE miss I(SLANDER) hook
0 BA  
10.4 NEA(T)  
1.8 IN  
0 (G)IP  
0 OI  
1 (AGON)E  
4 (R)I(N)  
0 ZONIM*  
0 HERT(Z)  
0 Q(I)  
8.5 E(T) O(N)E
8 CLAN  
4.5 BLEAReD  
2.7 TOXIC  
0 (C)OWY  
0 IMPUT(E)  

1 - L - 6.4 (76.2)
2 - W - 3.7 (43.9)
3 - W - 8.7 (96)
4 - W - 8.1 (112.8)
5 - L - 8.5 (102.5)
6 - L - 4.0 (69.2)
7 - L - 2.5 (33.1)

Avg: 4.7

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