Gimme Sympathy

Friday, April 24, 2009

After crossing back across the border from Tijuana around 7:00 PM on Wednesday evening, I immediately called director Mark Oppenheimer to tell him I would be able to make it. Mark asked if I really wanted to play, because he had received more entries than expected and room was tight. I explained that I had altered my itinerary (Starbucking) in order to play, and Mark quickly said okay, I was in. Next task--drive 2000 miles and visit a bunch of Starbucks and still arrive on time.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

At 7:20 decided it wasn't worth trying for more sleep, so I cranked up the U2 and got to work at fighting off deadly sleep inertia.

As I neared Sioux Falls I felt great anticipation and hope. True, I had not focused on Scrabble at all in the previous two weeks, and I'd hardly studied, and in fact it was almost a year since I had stopped playing club games, but I had an ace in the hole. While Starbucking in Tijuana I decided to take advantage of the "wild" nature of the city (read: horse shows) to try and satisfy my latest fetish--unicorn porn. I mean, if you think seeing a woman and a horse getting down is crazy, you haven't seen anything until you replace the horse with a unicorn!

With rumours abounding about the introduction of a bill in the Congress banning this art form in the United States, I was keen to find a Mexican supplier. After some wandering around, I found nothing that looked like a bookstore, but I did spot a drugstore. I was reminded of a story I'd heard on NPR recently, that an increasing number of college students were taking off-label medications like Ritalin to improve mental performance. I was naturally curious of these types of drugs could help with Scrabble, and I knew that many medications are available without a prescription in Mexico.

No Ritalin, no Adderall that I could see, but since I speak Spanish I was able to describe what I was looking for. The "pharmacist" lead me down an aisle and pulled a non-descript bottle of a shelf, "GLORVINTERDOL". It was new, the pharmacist said, and sure enough when I got back across the bottle and google the name, I found zero hits. Still, the bottle of 30 pills had been justs $10--I figured I might as well try. I mean, the pharmacist looked honest and like he know what he was talking about. And I'm young and healthy and pretty much immortal, so what could possibly go wrong?

Moving on to more important topics, Hy-Vee was offering A whopping ninen cents off per gallon for making a purchase. COOL!!!

Waitaminute--$1.99 - 9 cents is just $1.90, but the Chevron further up Minnesota Ave had gas at $1.85. I had been hoodwinked!!!

After stopping for oatmeal (and calling the hotel to pass on my message that I was nearby), I arrived a little past 8:50 to discover that I had been given the bye. I was appreciative--getting some extra sleep could make a huge difference for the rest of my day. If only I had known about this before I downed the DoubleShot, and that morning's glorvinterdol (I think it interferred with my sleep). While I did doze off, when I walked back into the hotel some 45 minutes later I could tell I wasn't firing on all cylinders.

But against Steve Pellinen, what I need more than brainthought were the Es I had been denied in two of our recent games, and I finally got them. LAITIES, REINVA(D)E, ROTATES, FEdEX for 83--so much easier with Es!

Despite my fatigue, I rather quickly found the spectacular double-double HERO(I)ZES for 130 points, but I marvel at how I did that given that I couldn't even add up the score in my head. After two aborted tries, I finally had to use pen and paper to write out 20 * 4 = 80 + 50 = 130. I could practically feel my mind drift into a deep fog. Under those conditions, it is no surprise that it took me over a minute to find Q(I)NDAR, and that I then spent over 10 minutes of time on my 4th turn trying to find triple-triple or the best play with my EFNOT??. I finally saw TENFOl(D)s, but I chickened out. It's good. AARRGHH!!! For 176 points, added to my 192, Joseph Gaspard would have had to challenge, and I could have been at nearly 400, 300 points ahead of Joe, after just 5 turns and looking at a 600 or 700 point game!

Annotated Game

I suffered more mental slowness against Lisa Odom.Took me forever to work up the courage to try (A)NNaTTOS, but once I did I pretty much drew the bag. Was in in no real danger of losing, but on my eighth turn I added 264 and 28 to get 232!!! Four turns later when Lisa played ADSOR(B)ER, I thought she had taken the lead. I agonized over my next turn trying to maximize my chances of winning, and when Lisa made her 28-point counterplay my chances looked bleak indeed. Imagine my surprise when I double-checked the scores and discovered the error. Wow, I thought--I'm going to have to rethink this glorvinterol thing.

My fatigue even manifested itself as I sat on the toilet waiting for my Chinese food. Every sentence I typed took longer because of all the incorrect keystrokes. It was as if the wiring between my brain and my fingers had been jumbled up.

But hey, even though my brain was falling apart, Schezwan Chinese Restaurant served me up the best chicken-fried rice I'd tasted in the past year.

I returned to the Country Inn to finish my leftovers and cranked up my latest love, one of the two songs I had bought from the band Metric. I had just discovered the band on the All Songs Considered podcast, and I had been playing the songs over and over for days. Rob Robinsky was standing in front of the doors smoking (hope that's not supposed to be a secret), and as I raised my car window )I had the volume up real loud) he started to walk over. Turned out that Rob is a fan of Metric, and the song I was blasting happened to be the one he had been playing on his iPod earlier that morning. Heck of a coincidence.

Even more interesting was the fact that Rob and I had our first real conversation in the, what, five years since I first met, played, and hated him. True, the hate I had felt for him after his initial string of victories against me had long since faded along with the anger I used to feel over losses, but in subsequent years there had been nothing more than passing helloes between the two of us. Metric was the first point of commonality and congeniality we had ever shared.

Despite the connection we had just made, Rob did not see fit to tell me he was going to score like a fiend: OUTLIES, CLAMPER, FOAM for 37, ZE(K) for 32, Q(A)ID for 28, VI(D)E for 36, and GROANEr(S) for 80. Had I known his tiles would be on fire, I would not have risked my first turn trying JETBiKE*. I figured even if he challenged I was still in a strong position. And I would have been were it not for his scoring. With every play he made, I was, like, pull your little arrows out and let me win my game. Jim Kramer had lost a couple of games, so if I won I'd be in first place, playing the lead, my favorite part.

Oh, the stingiest (most-stingy?) arrow of that game... getting punked by (BE)LY*. Stupid word not only screamed phony, but I remembered having encountered it in the past sixth months, and yet I blinked and let it go. Dumbass.

Nothing to say about the Kramer game, other than that his play of VAMpIRE was appropriate, as he sucked the lifeblood out of the tile bag.

Not sure why director Mark Oppenheimer chose to play in Division 1, making it uneven, but I had to wonder if he was rethinking his decision given the difficulties he was having. No doubt he wished he had the powers of Dr. Manhattan so he could have transmuted his tiles into blanks. His eventual record (sans byes) of 0-12 was fairly stunning, more so than an atomic explosion perhaps. Mark took it well, I have to say, much better than me. Had I gone 0-12, I'm pretty sure I would have stormed off in search of weapons of mass destruction.

But in all fairness, despitet my (D)ENDRITE start followed by UNSOLD(E)R and a won challenge a few turns later, Mark actually came within bingo range on a couple of occasions. Given my history of losses to bottom seeds, I'm surprised I didn't get nutsacked.

Besides having the first bye of the day, I had the last, which worked out great for me. I was able to go back to Schwezuan for some more soup to go with my leftover fried rice, and then I promptly fell asleep. I woke up a few hours later with a head. Ach! Caffeine withdrawal. After the single DoubleShot I'd drunk on the drive into the city, I'd had no more coffee that day. A serious omission after two weeks of starbucking. No sense in taking in more coffee so late into the night, so I had to settle for two fake excedrin. And an hour or two later, two more.

It was still relatively early, around 8:30, so I drove a few miles away to Scarlett O'Hara's, the lone strip club in town. It was lame. Not even truly topless, but a pastie club. That is seriously one of the stupidest laws that repressed puritanical legistlators have ever come up with, to force a topless dancer to wear a layer of latex over her nipples. Anyway, I had greater concerns--Sioux Falls (and perhaps all of South Dakota) allows smoking in the bars. I had to get out of there relatively quickly to avoid smoke seeping into my lone long-sleeved shirt.

On the bright side, I was there long enough for Rescue Me to finish downloading via the wi-fi coming from the Comfort Suites across the street. Ah, gotta love free wi-fi.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bah rain. Not the country, but rather the weather, that ruined my planned reshoots of several stores in Sioux Falls. Who knew when I'd have the chance to return to city?

Moved over to the Hy-Vee parking lot, but after failing to fall into a deep sleep again, I thought I'd get up early and use the time to find pancakes. Turns out I must have dozed off after all, because the time was actually 7:42! MUTARNO!!! No time for pancakes!!!

Wait... hold that thought. Turns out the Hy-Vee has a kitchen serving breakfast, with pancakes on the menu. Yay! I placed my order and went off in search of yogurt and juice (I think that's the song Snoopy Dogg should have recorded), and when I returned what did I see... biscuits!!! Biscuits in the breakfast buffet trays. Oh, no, what could I do? I had already ordered my pancakes, and I could not possibly eat both. What a decision. I would never presume to compare the choice of biscuits versus pancakes to, say, a Sophie's Choice type scenario--no, that might be considered offensive. But it was a tough decision nonetheless.

After besting Steve Pellinen a second time, with more Es (would that be rebesting?), I proceeded to drawn even better tiles against Joe Gaspard. So good, in fact, that I bingo-bango-bongoed with Qua(R)TILE, LIGATED, and FIDGE(T)ED. I then drew BEGOPRU, and after having blown the triple-triple TENFOL(D)S, I could not resist the chance to play four bingos in a row, something I've never done. But Joe, being quite the asshole (his word, not mine), challenged off my play, and left me wondering if my greed was going to cost me the game. But my tiles continued to glow hot with flame, and I never felt I could really lose.

I was hoping to make it 4-0 against the Odom/Pellinen contingent, and I started off in fine form with R(E)VOTING, but I screwed up and challenged SPERMIN(E). Went on to lose by just 18, thus making the lost turn sting even more. Really thought SPERMIN(E) was close enough to SPEARMAN that I should have remembered it.

Annotated Game

Next, one of the craziest games I've ever played, perhaps since the last craziest game I played, also against Rob Robinsky. Rob opened with IdIOTIC, and I thought "HELP!" As I looked at my tiles, my rack looked to be crap, but I quickly saw that EINNOUZ was anything but given that Rob had given me not one but three Is. "I'M ALIVE!", I thought, and I followed my bingo with WAX and FIBULAE, prompting Rob to comment, "you're drawing like my name is Joe Gaspard".

I continued to score well, and even after his second bingo, gALANGA, I was up over 100. But, like I had responded to his comment, my games against him had a way of fizzling no matter what my lead. Sure enough, with a mere 54-point margin, my vowelless ass was forced to play P(O)RT for 8 and then exchange only to see Rob play INITITLE(D) to go up 35. I held what seemed like great tiles, ACDEJRS, especially given what was in the bag, EGHIRTUV, but I did not know what to do. I trembled. If I stumble, he's going to eat me alive, I thought. could not find a sure win, if Rob had the E, and I once again thought, "HELP!". Finally I played CA(I)D, drew the last tile, and looked at my hand in amazement as it held the E, and I thought "I'M ALIVE!!!"

Here comes the sun, baby! No way, no way, no possibly way could Rob win on that board from a rack of GHIRTUV. Inconceivable!!! Still, my heart was beating like a hammer as I watched his clock tick down. I could taste the win, and then with 18 seconds left Rob started playing tiles. Uh-oh, too many tiles, I thought. Waaay too many tiles, and when he finished playing TUGHRI(K) I saw that he had not only scored 23 but left himself just the V. NO!!!

If my heard had been beating like a hammer before, the pounding must have turned audible as I scanned the board for a second V spot. All I saw was (i)D. I made sure he actually had the V. Then I scanned stood up and scanned the board again. There was clearly tension in the air, as the situation caught the attention of not only Lisa but also Steve and Mark who were still playing their game. It felt as if Rob and I were in gladiators in a stadium and the others had front row seats.

I finally decided there was just that one spot, played (R)ID, and sat back. Rob immediately played (A)V(O) down towards the bottom of the board, and I couldn't help but throw my pen down on the table and exclaim, "fuck!!!!" In the span of a few minutes I had gone from higher than high to lower than deep, and I was in disbelief.

How did he find that play, I wondered. It's almost as if there were some satellite mind up in the sky beaming words down into Rob's brain. And my tiles had been so amazingly good, too. Is it ever going to be enough, I wondered? No matter how good my tiles, how large my lead, it seemed I always need more and more, more and more, more and more and more and more. Just like that, my dreams of winning the tournament disappeared--nothing but fantasies.

Annotated Game

Ah, well, I've nobody to blame but myself for squandering my chance to beat Jim and lock in a decent rating. Had the blank and the S in the endgame, but I missed Jim's out play and blew it. Besides the blown end game, I also missed cYSTEIN(E). I actually saw cYSTEIN, which means I should have known it takes the E hooked. Once I saw this in Quackle I was instantly remind of the advice of other experts who have warned me to shape up if I want to succeed.

Annotated Game

Thank heavens I won that finally game against Mark to get back just over 1800, but Rob managed to frustrate me a third time by losing to Jim in the final game, thus costing me 2nd place. Grrr...

Still being back 1800 was a relief because it appeared that the world was on the verge of falling apart. Though the World Health Organization was not yet calling the outbreak of swine flu a "pandemic", 20 cases had been reported in the U.S. so far, and it was clear the world was going to end. When we all resort to cannibalism, I want to at least be able to say I had a rating above 1800.

The drive home was easy as least. Oh, except for the part when the wind's pushing my car was causing me to get so dizzy I actually had to close my eyes for brief instants. That kinda sucked.

Opponents' Bingos

My Bingos

Missed Bingo Turns


#1 - BYE    
#2 - W - Pellinen    
8.4 WAN  
0 VOIC(E)  
2.1 M(A)ZY 13J 3J
0 HEH  
0 FEdEX  
0 NEB  
0 GLUT  
#3 - w - Gaspard    
0 Q(I)NDAR  
108.2 (R)EFrONTs TENFOl(D)s (unsure)
5 KEL(L)Y  
9.1 JO  
10.8 Y(E)W EYEWAS(H)
4.4 GE(T)A  
0 APE  
1.3 (JO)B fishing for (K)AISERIN
0 (B)ACULI*  
0 (J)O(B)  
#4 - W - Odom    
11.9 KAF KAFTAN (unsure)
0 DEVA  
0 (A)NNaTTOS  
0 OXO  
5.1 (LO)UR  
0.5 JI(V)E  
0 BREW  
4.3 (YE)GG GOG(O)
9.5 (M)OT  
8.2 CAI(R)N had my score off by 60--thought I might lose!!!
7 YES  
7 (H)OSTs  
#5 - L - Robinsky    
31.6 lose turn (JETBiKE*)  
0 JE(E)  
0 OX  
1.8 (Z)OA  
0 DUI  
3.5 SWIG  
0 UT  
0 (POX)Y  
9 (Y)ID  
3 (T)AIL  
0 TA(J)  
#6 - L - Kramer    
8.5 FOOT  
2.1 AH  
0 FLU(T)E  
0 NAOI  
1.6 AE  
5.2 DIG  
0 ZA(G)  
9.7 -IRRY  
11.4 (G)OO  
1.8 DOSE  
3.7 INTI  
0 (P)I  
9 RE(V)  
0 (ME)G  
#7 - W - Oppenheimer    
9 S(E)X  
0.2 V(I)M  
3.6 WOP  
10.9 -HJQ  
0.1 pHILTER  
11.4 E(L)ITE  
4.5 (T)UP  
0 OF  
0 ACNE  
3 (J)AG  
#8 - BYE    
#9 - W - Pellinen    
0.5 -EI (DEINS)  
0.5 DESIgNS  
0.3 MOOR  
2.2 XI  
4.5 PLA(G)E  
6.4 -UU (AENS?)  
0 LATEeNE(R)  
5 W(I)Z  
19 HAIKS miss S(POOF) hook
4.7 ROU(P)Y  
0 YEAH  
#10 - W - Gaspard    
0 JIV(E)  
46.4 lose turn (BEGROUP*--had to try for 4th bingo in row!)  
0 AX  
2.8 VODO(U)  
0.1 S(O)P  
0 T(O)O(N)  
0 UNI(T)  
0 OI  
#11 - L - Odom    
0 XI  
4.9 NUDELY  
0 (G)UY APERCU (unsure)
45.6 challenge SPERMIN(E)  
0 (R)AVER  
0 LA  
0 JO(IN)  
0 FO(R)  
#12 - L - Robinsky    
0 WAX  
0.9 LOUSE  
0 QI  
4.4 YO(W)ED giving up both vowels ended up killing me
6.6 P(O)RT blocks line, still lots of vowels in bag
1.1 -GRTV  
42 R(Id)  
#13 - L - Kramer    
2.9 (H)YAENIC  
0 VI(D)E  
3.3 KEX  
0 BAP  
2.7 HU(M)OR (T)HUS(L)Y
48.7 OE  
22 W(A)I(T)  
#14 - W - Oppenheimer    
0 IXIA  
9 ISOL(A)TED SOD(A)LITE (better for drawing challenge)
6.7 VIR(I)D  
4.9 FOG(Y)  
8.7 PRI(V)ET UP(GROW) (to leave EIRST)
15.5 (P)UCK KU(R)U
0 LUNE  
0 WO(R)T  
6.4 OH block line and keep U for Q
0 SUQ  
20 LAZAR  
0 F(E)N  

1 - BYE
2 - 1641 - W - 1.1 (10.5)
3 - 1816 - W - 10.7 (138.8)
4 - 1689 - W - 5.0 (69.1)
5 - 1817 - L - 4.3 (68.9)
6 - 1878 - L - 5.8 (93.3)
7 - 1606 - W - 3.9 (54.9)
8 - BYE
9 - 1641 - W - 5.9 (82.4)
10 - 1816 - W - 4.6 (59.5)
11 - 1689 - W - 4.4 (53.2)
12 - 1817 - L - 4.5 (58)
13 - 1878 - L - 9.4 (102.9)
14 - 1606 - W - 12 (168.2)

Avg: 6.0

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