The Michigan Death Spiral, Part One






Friday, September 12, 2008

Woke up a bit after 7:00 at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Bartlesville, OK. The fake benadryl I had taken had allowed me to sleep well most of the night, but it also left me drowsy and wanting to sleep some more in the morning. Couldn't do it, though, because about 1030 miles miles to drive, assuming a detour to the store in Quincy, IL. Eight hours of sleep was still theoretically possible, but I could not afford to lose any more time.

Unfortunately, the rain that had started on Thursday persisted and plagued from about 7:30 AM through 1:00 PM, forcing me to drive more slowly and squeezing my schedule even morely so.

Since Quincy is so out of the way, I was compelled to make the 30-mile detour there, but that was all I could manage. No Fort Wayne, and not even the brand new store in Bourbonnais, IL. Once I reached Michigan and started feeling dizzy and disoriented as the rain continued, I was glad I had not pushed my schedule to the limit. I finally gave in around 12:40 and pulled into a rest area about 107 miles from Fenton. With luck I'd be able to manage nearly 7 hours, I thought. Of course that didn't happen. Despite my fatigue, and despite the fact I'd barely had any coffee that day, I still tossed and turned for at least an hour before finally falling asleep.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

At 7:27 I awoke to see that the rain continued, and I cursed--"Fuckmustard fudgetaters!" Besides the rain, I misread my map and took I-94 all the way to US-23 in Ann Arbor, which added 9 miles to my trip. Had I gotten up with my alarm at 7:45, I would not have been able to make it in time without doing 80 all the way, and the rain made that impossible.

Those extra 20 minutes put me at the Fenton exit at 9:07, and I was able to go over to the grocery store. I figured I'd arrive by 9:30, but I went ahead and called Miki anyway so she wouldn't wonder. She said there were snacks in the room, but I did not want to take a chance on adding hunger to my fatigue on account of there being not enough food suitable for my delicate palate.

The field was really strong for a one-day event, including Mills, Chuck Armstrong, Epstein, and Ron Hoekstra (in no particular order). I had Steve Grob up first, and after my bingo I had to suffer through vowel-heavy racks for the rest of the game. I managed to stay even despite Steve's ELASTIN, and at turn 11 we were tied 356-all. But Steve's four-tile play, from a bag of six tiles, had yielded both blanks, and he bingoed out off the one open spot. Unfortunately, there was no way to block and score with my CIOOSWY.

Annotated Game

Chuck Armstrong was a step ahead of me from the start. My placement of EAUX gave him QU(E)Y for 36. TUFA leaving AEL yielded ADEEILN, but Chuck blocked my one bingo spot. Chuck's weakest play was P(U)B for 17, while I had to burn a turn playing N(O)NE from an EEINNNS rack. I finally thought I had a break when I pulled a blank out of the bag right after INTERI(M)S, but the bingo I found, cOAEVAL(S) for 62, gave Chuck a 57-point counterplay. And finally, towards the end, when I determined that I needed a bingo to win and played DE(B) for 6 to yield either ENTOILE(D) or (D)ELETION, Chuck managed scores of 45 for JUGS, 42 for (J)ERID, and 42 for WI(N)ZE to win by 32. I just couldn't match his tiles.

Annotated Game

After those two losses, I was feeling pretty impotent. I went to the bathroom, and when I pressed on the soap dispenser, it shot its cream all the way across the sink and onto the floor. Jeez, Louise, I thought--even the soap is more virile than me!!!

Finally won a game, but I had to get jiggy and take advantage of Jeff Fiszbein. As soon as his RETIMED hit the board, I started laying down SUPENA(R)Y*, no hesitation. I then missed (S)QUIRE for 75, playing (S)EQUIN instead, but I made up for my error with UNROPES*. That one I actually thought might be good. I followed it up with ALLOvER, hoping to draw the challenge. Again, Jeff let it go, but the word pretty described how the game was going.

The French Laundry's interesting name drew me inside to see what lunch offerings were on the menu. I decided on something light, just turkey chili and a cream biscuit. Both were tasty.

Ron Hoekstra burned nearly 10 minutes on his first turn, finally playing iMAGERS atop my opening OE. Needless to say, I pushed his clock as much as I could, but I did not manage to push him over. Fortunately, I managed to draw one more power tile than he, an extra S, and that surely made the difference in my one-point victory. I was a relieved to have gotten my record to even, but I was still disappointed that I hadn't pushed Ron over. There's really not much I love more than pushing Ron Hoekstra over time.

Okay, after simming yet some more, I conclude that I played a CRAPPY game. Even with Ron down to less than a minute and me with more than 16, I was making really poor decisions. Frankly, I don't deserve that win, and Rebecca would be better of breaking up with me because I'm neither smart enough for her (nor virile enough, for that matter).

Annotated Game

AARRGHH!!! Against Lloyd Mills I challenged D(E)RM!!! How could I have blanked completely on a four like that??? After the challenge I wanted to stab my accursed brain with an icepick, though I doubt that will actually improve my memory. Granted, he drew much better, but when I lose a challenge to a four, I lose the right to complain.

I could still make a ratings game probably if I could just beat Paul Epstein. When I played ZINGERs on my third turn to go up 115, I was thinking I had a good shot, but just like Armstrong, Paul had all the answers. I scored 94 for my bingo, but I gave him ScAVEN(G)E for the same score. I was still leading though, and I managed to extend my lead to 60 with SNAK(E) for 42. I really didn't want to open up the board like that, but from a rack of AIKNNNS, I didn't see any other good plays. For some reason I am plagued with Ns of late. I can think of at least three or four other recent occasions on which I have had three or more Ns on my rack. Anyway, my S gave Paul FIELDER(S) for 89. Otherwise, he would have scored just 70 and opened up a TWS for a counterplay, and it would have been a completely different game!

Finaly game, Jeff Clark, and I couldn't help but feel bad that he was 0-6. To make matters worse (for him), I went on to draw like gangbusters. I racked up a ridiculous, and completely unnecessary, spread. Jeff seemed nonplussed about his 0-7 record--I can only imagine it was his pokerface. No one can really go 0-7 and feel nothing at all. I, with three wins, was certainly irritated. I was even irked about having drawn the bag on Jeff when I could have used some of that luck against my other opponents. The only redeeming thing about the tournament was that I had at least stayed above 1700. If I could just win 7 games on Sunday, I could still salvage the weekend.


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