Friday, March 21, 2008

The night prior to the event saw a slew of bad omens coming my way. First, I finished my workout and went to the cafeteria refrigerator to discover that the cleaning staff had thrown away my Organics brand maple yogurt. I was pretty miffed because I had just bought that yogurt, and the refrigerator was still half-full of other people's foodstuffs. Why was mine tossed? I had just had a hearty workout, and I wanted to get calories in me as fast as possible.

So hungry was I that I had to skip my usual stop at Double Visions. Instead I rushed all the way up to Elizabeth and the Luis Restaurant. On the way I received a return call from a massage therapist I had e-mailed. "Amy" sounded pleasant enough, but "her" voice was much too deep. That's never good omen. After one too many experiences with therapists of questionable sex, I've pretty much decided to pass on anybody with a voice that sounds too deep, unless I can see her and feel confident that she is truly female. Really, the world was a simpler place when men were men and women were women.

It was barely 9:15 when I walked into the Luis Restaurant and discovered that... they were out of meat--the chicken would take 25 minutes. They were out of beans. They were out of plaintains. They were out of yuca. Jeez Luis! What kind of an operation are they running down there? I was extremely disappointed, but I was also worried. What did the dearth of all these good foods mean? Would I face a dearth of blanks during the tournament?

The clock ticked closer to 10:00 as I debated what to do about food. Finally I asked if there were any other Latin restaurants, not Mexican, that might have plaintains or yucca. Not only was there a Colombian restaurant, but it was just on the other side of the street and down the block. I don't know how long it had been there, but I was amazed I had never noticed it. Maybe it was the strange name, La Perrada De Caliche. The menu was also strange. Yes, the typical Colombian dishes were there, but also hot dogs! I can't say I'd ever seen hot dogs on the menu at Colombian restaurants.

I decided to forgo the meat and just ordered tostones, rice, and beans. A hearty meal, and good for me. What was not so good was my trip to the bathroom. I underwent a mighty struggle to open the door. I pushed and pushed, but something kept resisting me. When I finally entered, the small room was dark and empty. I could only conclude that it had been a ghost that was preventing me from entering. That can't be a good omen.

As I did my business, I suddenly felt self-conscious. I didn't really want a ghost checking out my junk, so I turned towards the corner as best I could. I guess if the ghost were female it wouldn't be so bad, but after that experience with the perv at the train station bathroom in Italy, I was wary of males who tried to check me out, even if they were ghosts.

Immediately upon returning to my car, I spilled the bean juice all over the back. Rats. Another bad omen. But that wasn't all. I headed over to the new Starbucks in Jersey City, endured the suspicious looks of the barista in order to obtain a sample coffe, and promptly spilled the coffee all over myself. If the omens were to be believed, I wasn't going to win a single game!!!

The final bad omen of the night was my inability to find my thermal pants. Now that it was spring, it wasn't so much of a problem, but the temperature was still expected to dip quite a bit. I drove into the city and started to head for my usual campground in the financial district. I figured it might be a degree or two warmer there in the city and between the buildings where the wind could not reach. But didn't feel sleep quite yet, so I went ahead and drove all the way out the parking area on the LEI. I couldn't remember if this was the infamous rest area, or if that was farther east, but I did not worry since a couple of Suffolk County police were parked nearby. I guess they kept all the Larry Craig types away.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Woke up at 8:09, and the first thing to come to mind was Paula Abdul's song "Straight Up". I have no explanation for this.

Headed over to the new store in Commack and discovered to my great shock that it was closed!!! AARRGHH!!! I'd time my visit to coincide with the tournament, and whoever was supposed to open didn't show up. Cripes. Of all the bad omens I was seeing, that had to be the worst.

I couldn't wait, of course. I had to rush off towards Farmingdale. Photographed a couple more stores on the way, but I saved a few minutes (and calories) by breakfasting on a plain bagel instead of a sandwich. Not that it mattered that much--we didn't start until past 9:30, maybe even 9:45.

I felt much better about Farmingdale with Koenig in the field. Yeah, it cost me $50 to pay his entry, but it was worth it to add his ratiing to the mix. I had some extra money in my budget anyway because I was able to suspned my Playboy Cyber Club subscribtion after seeing the topless photos that Joe Bihlmeyer posted to his blog. I figured I could count on those photos for erotic stimulation for several months.

Speaking of that entry fee, somebody raised the issue that my paying for David and recouping the fee if he won could raise a conflict of interest. The person promised to raise the issue with the Advisory Board, so, for the record, I must clarify what actual occurred. I did not pay David's entry fee. I paid him instead for "services rendered", services which most certainly do not fall under the purview of the NSA. If David chose to use that money to pay for the tournament, or to buy Pez dispensers, that was his business. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

No sooner had I entered the playing room (Knights of Columbus) than Joe Bihlmeyer attempted to reassert athletic dominance by questioning my speed calculations. Joe Jokubaitis, surprisingly magnanimous given the number of beatings I had bestowed upon him, came to my defence, and we busted out the Venn diagrams and showed Joe how, by the transitive principle, running 10 MPH is equivalent to running a 6-minute mile. Joe then went on to question whether the treadmill was calibrated accurately. I responded by [CENSORED].

Besides Koenig, Annette Baily had shown up, making Kevin McCarthy the bottom player. As we picked up the tiles he did not seem too enthusiastic or hopeful about playing me or even being in the division. And what happens? He almost wins. My tiles collapsed just when he bingoed with GAROTeS, and I was only able to come back for 19 points. I struggled to score for the next few turns, and my only real hope was to put him in time trouble. I did, and he chickened out on (A)NTIWEEd and went over time by 20, and so I won by 2!

I wasn't sure if Annette realized that she, along with Koenig and Pfeiffer, qualified for the phony challenge prize. I had a more important concern, however, because she gave me an early scare when I found myself not 100% sure of DOMAINE. Since she could have just played AMIDONE, I let it go. Then she played (D)RAPY*, and I had to hold again. That one really seemed phony, but I didn't want to lose my spot for CATER(A)NS. Only after building a good lead did I feel comfortable enough to try a phony, and the perfect opportunity arrived three turns later when I had (A)NcHORED for 83 in one spot or tHORNED for 93 in another. A good time to play cHORNED* and save myself having to pay Annette five bucks. There was also an official phoniest phony prize, so I had additional incentive.

Before our game, Joe Jokubaitis commented that he was "ready for [his] punishment". Well, even though I won, I was not able to milk the Well of Spread because I chickened out on bEDEWIN(G) and WEDElIN(G) and played the more dangerous ENDWIsE at 14H. The effect of that was that Joe played BI/B(ENDWISE), completely surprising me. I had no idea if it was good or not, so once I determined that Joe did not have a win, I challenged and gave up a ton of equity. And spread, which would become significant later.

I played my only decent bingo of the tournament, PETRON(E)L, against Joey B. He came right back with TANaG(E)RS, and we played a close game up until the end when I managed to bingo with COASTAl. Unfortunately for me, my play game Joe the triple-triple through the L, but fortunately for me, I had been pushing him on time, and he was already over. He played INTRUDE for 64 instead. Even if he had not found the 3x3, INTRUDE would have won by one in the recount had he not gone over. After the game, Joe had commented that half his losses to me were due to time. I told him that if he knew an opponent was going to push him on time, he needed to adjust his speed. This would become highly relevant to me in my next game.

Pizza for lunch. Not great, but better than Bayside. I would just have soon gone out though--there seemed to be plenty of food offerings near the tournament venue. I suppose that ordering in is more environmental, in any case.

Did I jinx myself during lunch by listening to a sad song by my latest heartthrob, Tift Merritt? I had not heard of her at all until a peformance on Talk of the Nation. Once I saw her videos, I felt in love. I should have held off on the music though. Sad songs bring bad tiles. I should have played a happy song instead.

And so it was appropriate that Frank Tangredi started playing like Speed Racer right away. All his plays seemed to come easily and quickly. I myself saw FO(L)IC right away, but then AEOSUUWW flustered me, and difficulty with my ensuing racks caused me to hemorrhage time. By about six plays I was already down barely 10 minutes while he had almost 20. When Frank opened the triple-triple with (D)INOSAUR, I was looking at less than 10 minutes on my clock with over half the game to go. I'd like to think that I could have found the triple-triple c(R)USADES if I had the time to go letter by letter, but with my time running down I definitely gave up too soon and just played DESUgA(R)S for a 6-point lead. I could have hung on from that point, except Frank had pulled THINNER(S) out of the bag. He followed it up two turns later with AX for 52, and that was the game.

Jilly Pfeiffer had signed up for the tournament late, in response to my post, so she, like Annette and Koenig, qualified for the phony challenge. She seemed to have great difficulty with her tales, and after establishing a dominant lead on a closed board with the basic ERInGOS, I went on to save myself $5 with GATEAUS, which she challenged. Funny thing is, after the game David pointed out that the hook (ORAD)S*, was phony. I had had a thought that ORAD might not take an S, but on a board with no (real) bingo lines, it didn't hurt to take the shot.

I knew my winning streak against Koenig couldn't last, and he got the better of me with an early A(G)ENETIC, then LAITIEs a few turns later, and finally OVE(R)MANS. Bah.

Just like the previous week in Philly, I left the tournament feeling rather dejected, perhaps even a bit broken. Farmingdale marked the three tournament in a row that I should have won, and that I lost due to mine own mistakes. All the losing was zapping my zest for life. Sure, I would go visit a couple of a new Starbucks, but I did not enjoy the journey. Yes, I would dine on Colombian fare, but my appetite was gone. Though my rating was holding more or less steady, I needed some actual wins to boost my spirits.

I was reminded of the George Strait song, "Holding My Own". Most people would assume George was singing to a woman in that song, but in reality George is longing for the first place prize at the rodeo. He laments about how he seems to be doing fine, holding his own with decent performances, but all he wants is that first place prize.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday morning saw me driving around Manhattan taking photographs. New York is a fascinating place, the greatest city in the world, and ordinarily I would have felt a certain level of joy as I drove around relatively undisturbed by traffic and pedestrians. Not so that morning. The blues that had come over me following my disappointing performance had not dissolved into the night as I slept.

One high point during the day arrived when I stumbled across the Bourbon Street Gourmet Southern Pastry on Hudson (at Perry). They had just opened (at 10:00), and they served beignets! Yummy yummy yummy beignets, which I had not had since my last visit to New Orleans. And they were pretty good, too, even if not quite as good as the ones from Cafe du Monde. Of course, they cost twice as much, but this was New York City. I would return to Bourbon Street later to try the buttermilk biscuits, and they were deeeee-licious.

Around noon I went to the Angelika to see Paranoid Park, an indie film set in Portland. Though the topic of the film was grim, I took some enjoyment in memories of all the good times I had had in Portland, and of looking forward towards my next road trip and visit to that fair city. It would do me good, I thought, to get away from Scrabble for a while and escape the virtual prison of having to win, win, win, week after week after week.

My enjoyment of the beignets and biscuits, and my daydreaming of Portland, these things were not able to stave off my funk for long. I was soon back to thinking of my missed triple-triple and my mistakes in Philly and North Salem. Even though in New York City, where there are a million things to do, nothing appealed to me. Really, there were only three things that appealed to me: redemption in Princeton, "The Shape of Things to Come", and the Frozen Donkey Wheel. I'm not sure what it says about me that one of the things that excites me the most is called the Frozen Donkey Wheel.

The extent to which my loss in Farmingdale, on top of my previous two losses, was made abundantly clear that night in Easton, PA, when the opportunity to sleep at the Wal-Mart Supercenter became the highlight of my weekend. The Wal-Mart had already cleared out all their thermal underwear, but that was okay because I had no fewer than four blankets to cover myself with. Under four layers, I felt as if I were in a cocoon and fairly well cut off from the world. Only there, in my cave, was I shielded from the Daemons of Missed Opportunity.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I felt like a zombie during much of club. Oh, I suppose I started off well enough by beaten Petree and improving my chances to overtaking the lucky rascal for the ratings period. But then I had a disastrous game against Oliger in which my attempt to find ACDEIL? through an H or O was met with the failed CAmEL(O)ID* and then followed by Steve's lucking through the rest of the game. And then, a most devastating turn of events, a 2-point loss to a recently-returned temptress who had captured my attention the previous Monday and consumed my thoughts all week.

I played my next two games in a haze, just pushing tiles around. My opponents, though benefitting from lucky breaks, were really no match, and this allowed me plenty of time to contemplate my change in mood. Was I really that upset over my inability to win the affections of a young woman, or was that just a trigger for the underlying problem, the return of the great scourge of depression, absent for over a decade.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The funk depeened. At work, I could not focus. All I wanted to do was sleep until Friday's early bird in Princeton.

I experienced a brief respite from my blues during a short workout. I supposed it was the physical pain and the shortness of breath that masked my emotion, but I can't really run forever, can I? Too bad, because no sooner had I showered up and headed out for lunch than the suffocating weight of the blues enwrapped me once more.

As I drove to the pizza place, my mind was in a haze. I only perked up when I saw car coming towards me in the opposite lane, and I had a sudden impulse to jerk the wheel. It's a good thing that my desire to experience the Frozen Donkey Wheel is much too strong for me to ever consider such a drastic action.



#1 - McCarthy    
14.8 YONIS IVY (my first instinct)
3.2 GYV(ES)  
4.6 (KEX)ES  
0 DJIN  
1 (L)EZ  
43.3 DEBUT SUBEDIT (unsure)
3.2 LEI  
3.1 HAG  
10.2 OU(D)  
0 AU(B)ADE  
0* EMIR  
2 FART  
#2 - Annette Bailey    
5.9 AgATIZ(E)S  
6.5 BOLL BALLON (unsure)
0 YOU  
2.8 cHORNED* tHORNED (no way--cHORNED* is more defensive!)
6.9 WA(D)E WI(D)E
0* QI  
0 (P)IGGIE  
8.4 D(E)GUM  
2.7 JIN  
12 (M)ETE  
0 VI(T)TA  
#3 - Jokubaitis    
25.9 lose turn (THIRLER*)  
0 (M)IRTH  
0 A(L)vEOLAR  
9.4 (J)ANE  
5 M(E)TH  
0 D(H)OTI  
0 VANG  
0 (C)UED  
86 lose challenge (B(ENDWISE)  
0 (E)XPOS  
#4 - Bihlmeyer    
3 OE  
4 FEHS  
0 (FA)KED  
0 B(R)AVI  
0 XU  
12.4 L(E)I wILLIED (unsure),(G)ILLIED (unsure)
5 HI  
0 WED  
0 QI  
7.3 LUG  
0 JAY  
3 COASTAl CATAlOS/SACATOn (score less but avoid 3x3)
#5 - Tangredi    
0 -AOUUW  
7.5 GUS(T)O  
15.4 MERGE(D) GEM (huge mistake)
1.4 LWEI  
3.8 WIN(Y)  
0 FA(N)G  
13.1 Q(I)  
10.2 R(AX)  
0* ZE(TA)s  
1* RE(A)CTED  
8 JO(G) J(U)K(U)
#6 - Pfeiffer    
7.2 HAE AEO(L)IAN double-double
9.1 OIL  
1 AE  
9.6 PREP  
0 VEX  
0 FYKE/  
8.8 TO(R)R  
13.4 J(IN)  
17.4 HUT HUNT (allows possible I(N)g bingo)
0 INTO  
#7 - Koenig    
0 GOYS  
0 DOP(E)P  
13.4 NI(C)E  
0.9 YO  
19.6 JE(O)N J(U)G(U)M
9.4 T(U)T(U)  
0* G(E)RM  
14 ZoA  
1 (V)ANG  
0 s(E)T  

1 - w - 6.7 (93.5)
2 - w - 3.6 (47.2)
3 - w - 10.5 (157.8)
4 - w - 2.7 (34.7)
5 - L - 9.4 (121.6)
6 - W - 5.5 (88.6)
7 - L - 9.5 (132.6)

Avg: 6.8

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