Louisiana Must Go

Saturday, October 17, 2009

And the weekend had started so well. Around three in the morning I drove from the last rest area in Mississippi into New Orleans, and within a minute or two of exiting I-10 I found a wi-fi signal good enough to download my Friday night shows. By the time I awoke a little before 7:00, all my shows, including Smallville, had downloaded, and I wanted to interpret that as a good omen. In a world controlled by higher powers, everything can be an omen, from a piece of used gum on the sidewalk to the angle of the coffee cup a barista hands you. Interpreting these omens is a true challenge, and I confess that I often settle on an inaccurate interpretation. I certainly did that weekend.

But what was I doing in New Orleans, you say? Wasn't the tournament in Baton Rouge? Yes it was, and no, I didn't take a wrong turn. It's just that I cannot come within 100 miles of New Orleans without being drawn in by the irresistible pull of Cafe du Monde and their life-affirming beignets.

I make my way down to Jackson Square, found parking (hardly ever easy in the French Quarter), walked over to Cafe du Monde and stood in line. A few seconds later a man walked out and exclaimed "NO BEIGNETS!" I turned to the lady ahead of me and said, "he's kidding, right?" She said she didn't think so, and it turned out the cafe famous for beignets had actually run out. Not of the beignet mix, thankfully, but they could not keep up with orders, and part of the reason was a group that had ordered ten (times three in an order equals thirty beignets, wow). I could have been irritated with them, but I understood fully how heavenly beignets are, and I really can't fault people for wanting to fill a bathtub with them.

I got out of there soon enough, with my two orders, rephotographed a few Starbucks, and sped northwest towards Baton Rouge, arriving at the Bridge Club with plenty of time to spare. I even arrived ahead of Orry and Ben, which he found shocking.

The Bridge Club itself was nice enough, plenty large for the crowd we had, but what I really liked was the location. Just a mile away from a Wal-Mart (for camping), plenty of restaurants, a Starbucks, and even the Gold Club Cabaret. The only way the venue would be better is if the tournament were held inside the cabaret itself!

Right away it looked like I was going to have the type of luck that had plagued me for the last three, four tournaments, it seemed. I did win my first game, but only because Bill Clark misplayed his out bingo, DaRBNES(S)*, after I had both missed seeing his play, and missed my own out bingo, COX(S)WaIN. I won, but I will admit that both of us deserved to lose.

My sucky play continued into the next game, and a critical weakness in my game was hammered home. Turn 6, I had the option of playing BREW for 30 to leave CNN or WREN for 27 to leave BCN. Both slotted a letter in the 3x3 column, and I had reason to suspect Helen had a good rack (she had played OE for 14 points), but after countless simulations I had learned not to give up equity for fear of the triple-triple. Turns out I was still thinking too much about the trip-trip and not about leave values, and I mistakenly decided that BCN must obviously be better than CNN. Wrong. Had I judged the leaves correctly, I would have played BREW, and although Helen would have bingoed regardless, I would have kept my lead.

I still might have had a chance even after the triple-triple if I had not lost my turn trying to play (YOW)P*. The previous year, I had gotten the word past Dave Johnson, but Helen wasn't having it. I can't remember if I knew it was phony when I got it past Dave, but I found out immediately afterwards. Why, a year later, I could not remember that it was phony, is a mystery to me, and illustrates a danger of playing phonies.

Annotated Game

Just like the Mid-Cities tournament, and perhaps the other tournaments in the area (LA, TX, OK), there was no lunch break. I prefer the more common schedule of starting earlier and allowing a break. In this instance, there was problem, because Helen's plays all came so quickly that we finished with plenty of time to spare. I was able to drive over to College Drive to find a light meal and a heavy dose of creepiness. Something about the red-headed hostess/cashier at Great Wall made me uncomfortable, and I was glad to get out of there quickly.

My discomfort would continue into the afternoon. Though I managed to pull off the phony SEETHiL(Y)* to recover from a slow start against Rod Noland, and go onto win, I would soon see my day getting worse and worse. I had no chance against Eric Harshbarger's double blanks and four bingos, but I might have survived Jerry Dynes' double blanks if I hadn't let him punk me with ENCO(M)iAS*. The word was very fishy, but rO(M)ANCES fit just as easily, and, as I have foolishly done so many times before, I hoped that I would see a dramatic tile turnaround in the endgame that would allow me to recover. I didn't. And just before you start thinking that I paid for my mistake, Jerry made a really dumb mistake early, misplaying (A)MRFUL*. But did he pay for it? No, of course not.

At least it couldn't get any worse, right, with the bottom player, #12 Conrad Braud, up next. When will I ever learn, just having that thought invites disaster. Sure, I didn't play perfect, but does anybody really think that... Scratch that. It doesn't matter. In a twelve-game tournament in a weak field, it is expected that a strong player is going to get luckbagged by a lightweight. As long as it happened just once, and as long as my streak of being double-blanked ended at three games, I could contain the rage.

Annotated Game

But seriously, after that loss I had more reason than ever to think that it couldn't get any worse. And it really looked like my luck was turning around. Even though another goddamn blank went to my opponent, Keith Savage, I managed to score well enough to keep a bingo lead. I mean, that last seven blanks had gone to my opponents. Keith couldn't possibly draw the other blank, could he? Okay, so maybe he could. But with two blanks out of the way, a 22 point lead, and a CDEER leave after exchanging QR, I was still in good shape, right? Wrong. Because we all know that if you are cursed to never bingo despite great leaves (ERNS, EORS, EIRST, EESRST), you also can't score!!! So Keith had plenty of opportunity to take the lead and then draw into another bingo!!! JUST AS I DREW THE Q AGAIN!!! AARRGHH!!!

Annotated Game

Double-blanked FOUR TIMES IN A ROW!!! I couldn't remember the last time that happened. That had to be my worst start in a long, long time.

A 2-5 start in that field would usually send me off to sulk, but I decided to ask Ben and Orry if I could tag along for dinner instead. Perhaps my subconcious was trying to protect me by keeping me from being alone where I would face the temptation to end it all. Of course, I was assuming that if I became suicidal during dinner (restaurants have too many knives), Orry and Ben would try to talk me out of it. They seem like good guys, but I have no doubt that some Scrabblers would be only too happy to encourage me to shuffle off to that great Scrabble board in the sky.

The beans and rice were merely mediocre, but the trip to Copeland's was redeemed when I asked the waitress about beignets and she revealed that they were served at a cafe called Coffee Call, which just happened to be in the same shopping center as the Wal-Mart on College Drive. All of a sudden my night was looking up.

Though Copelands portion of red beans and rice was hardly better than miniscule, I was still too full for beignets right away. It was early, and I could have killed some time at the Gold Club Cabaret around the corner, but there was no point in going. After nearly seven years of Scrabble, I had plenty of evidence that poor Scrabble performance has a negative effect on the libido. Kind of like Prozac, but without all the benefits.

As it turned out, I did not have to stuff myself sick, because when I reached Coffee Call I found out they are open ALL NIGHT on Fridays and Saturdays!!! Yahoo!!! That meant I could camp out in the parking lot, between the cafe and the Wal-Mart, and I could rest soundly knowing that beignets were close at hand in case I had needed them to get over a Scrabble-panic attack.

I can hardly describe how comforting it was to lay my head on a pillow that was just a few hundred feet away from yummy beignets. I guess anybody who has ever shared a bed with another can understand. It is very comforting to be able to reach over and hug a warm body in the middle of the night. This is hardly any different than being able to reach out and touch warm beignets. Of course, that would require getting dressed and going inside. A better approach might be to bundle up a load of beignets in a blanket and keep them with me. In fact, if you think about it, warm beignets are not that different from the warm bosom of a young woman. Of course, it's probably important to forgo the powdered sugar before curling up with beignets. Wouldn't want the sheets to get sticky... or at least the wrong kind of sticky.

Of course, the comfort of nearby beignets could not entirely ease the trauma of my 2-5 start. As I lay there, mind spitting, it seemed to me that I had done poorly at every tournament I had played in Louisiana. If North Carolina merely hated me, Louisiana wanted to wipe out my entire existence from reality. And because the "state" is infested with the spirit of countless voodoo demons, Louisiana had the power to curse my tiles time and time again.

I put "state" in quotes because in the middle of the night I had a shocking realization--Louisiana is not a state! Louisiana is not even part of this country!!! I had remembered reading about this sometime in the past, and when I looked the Internet, the world's most trusted information source, I confirmed what I had already known, that the sale of the land in what is known as the Louisiana Purchase, by the French to the United States, was in fact illegal. Later on I would further realize that because Louisiana is actually part of France, all tournaments held there should be invalidated. They should not count towards a player's NSA/NASPA rating. And given how poorly I have done in Louisiana, I bet that if ratings were adjusted to discount all Louisiana tournaments, my peak rating would be above 1900 rather than 1873!

Eventually I stopped agonizing over Scrabble injustice and managed a brief escape from that misbegotten and forgotten region of France, in one of my favorite places in all the world, the land of dreams. I doubt any human on the planet enjoys sleeping and dreaming as much as I do, for the waking world pales in comparison to the magical realsm and experiences that I visit while unconscious.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Around 6:15 AM, I'd slept for more than 10 hours. I did not want to sleep too much--I've read it can actually have a negative effect--but the waking world was just so painful. Still, I would have gone back to sleep if I could have, but it was no use. I think there was a Lifetime movie of the week about just exactly that type of situation. I think it was called something like When You Can't Love Anymore: A Mother's Story. Just replace "love" with "sleep" and "mother" with "Scrabble", and you'll have a story with a similar emotional resonance.

Threw on my clothes, and then it was time for beignets! Yummy yummy beignets. Not as good as Cafe du Monde--that might not be possible--but still good enough to somewhat soothe my troubled soul.

I quickly polished off my order and headed off to do something worthwhile, taking more photos of the area Starbucks. No pun intended, but photograph is an activity that almost always fills me with light and joy, unlike Scrabble in Louisiana, which has caused me more pain than that time I caught my dick in the car door. You really don't want to know how that happened.

Ouch! Those couldn't have been good signs. I was heading towards Denham Springs when the power inverter that was plugged into my AC outlet suddenly started smoking. Earlier that morning I'd discovered that my iPod cable had become caught in the seat and was damaged, unusable. Clearly these were bad omens and did not bode well for my hopes of a half-way redemptive 5-0 day.

One could look on the bright side and be thankful that these two things didn't happen until I was almost back in Houston. I on the other hand, preferred the more realistic viewpoint that these incidents were just additional manifestations of the hate that Louisiana has for me. I should have kept on taking photos, but instead I foolishly rushed back to face my first opponent of the morning, Ben Withers. I really thought I had to win. I really figured I couldn't possibly go worse 2-5, that I couldn't lose another conscutive game. Oh, foolish, foolish me, I was so totally underestimating the hate that Louisiana has for me, and the power of the supernatural voodoo forces that haunt that the land. They quickly cast their voodoo spells to confound me, and I blew my opening turn, missing RONDELS. I never got any traction in that game, and even though I finally drew my first blank in five games, I wasn't even able to bingo with it.

Annotated Game

Well, the tournament was officially a disaster--even winning the rest of my games could not change that. But I try to always mantain something to hope for, no matter how small. For example, if it becomes obvious early in the date that sex is not going to happen, I can still hope for making out and heavy petting. If not that, at least some kissing. If that's still out of reach, rubbing noses is the next best thing. And if she's a complete prude, I can at least hope for an opportunity to accidentally grab her bottom as we hug goodbye. Scrabble is no different. If I can't win the tournament, I want to place. If I can't place, I want to boost my rating. If that becomes impossible, I still hope for a winning record. And if the tiles screw me out of that possibility, then I hope for something like a high game, high play, or beating a top player. So after my loss to Ben, the best I could hope for was to beat Orry Swift.

I went into that game needing to beat Orry something awful, and within two turns my determination to win redoubled after Orry disrespected me by trying to play (FAUVE)R*. Geez, so that's what he thinks of my skillz? Despite the extra turn, I could not keep Orry from that really bad habit of his, bingoing like a muhfucka. No disrespect to his word knowledge, but I'd like to see how well he would do without all the bingos. Anyway, I played decently enough, but I don't think I could have. Best I could have done was a tie, and I legitimately blew that.

Annotated Game

Despite her early IOLITES, I managed a decent draw against Lila Crotty. Perhaps the voodoo gods were distracted for that game, but they soon turned there attention back to me. As small as the odds of being luckbagged by two of the bottom-rated players are, it happened!!! I was double-blanked again, and while I could have survived both of Dave Zimmerman's blank bingos, he managed to score an incredible bit of luck at the end. After he played (V)EX to ostensibly block the last bingo line, I managed to play D(E)RINGER anyway, hooking (E)R and (X)I. But the word fit just above a TWS, and of course, of course Dave had the final ess. I mean, he had already drawn the other three, so why not the fourth, right? Sure, why not--with Lousiana's evil spirits controlling the tile back, it's not like I could be expected to actually have a chance.

Annotated Game

That game was so disgusting that I rushed off to seek solace in the arms of beignets. I was already in a sour mood, and thus was I doubly irritated when the Coffee Call worker pronounced the "S" in "beignets". He's not the only one, and it drives me crazy. I mean, these people aren't even American--they are French. So it is unreasonable to expect that they should know how to pronounce French words???

More voodoo. In the morning I had paid $4.37 for an order of beignets and a cafe au lait, but a few hours later I paid $4.36. The cashier said that was impossible, but nothing is impossible in a land haunted by voodoo spirits.

The spirits almost handed me another loss to another bottom-rated player, Rod Noland, but I managed to escape their clutches. I couldn't leave fast enough, couldn't wait to cross the Texas border and get back into the real United States. Had to stop for beignets again, though. Five orders in two days, the most I had ever consumed. But what the hell. I'm already fat--who cares if I get fatter? I'm invisible to women anyway. If they can't see me at all, they can't see the extra pounds.

I regret that I have no bathroom anecdotes to report this time. I know that this will cause greate disappointment for some. However, I did experience something interesting and noteworthy. From 2:15 'til close to 9:00 PM, nearly seven hours, I did not urinate. As far as I can remember, I had not gone even six hours without urinating since I started drinking coffee. Not sure if I should consider this a good sign or a negative sign. Is it possible that my bladder has grown?

On an unrelated not, does anybody else out there think Olympia Snowe is hot? Hey, just because I like 'em young doesn't mean I can't like 'em old too. And wouldn't Winter and Snowe make a great combo? Too bad she's a Republican. On the other hand, she comes from real America, not fake America (Louisiana).

Opponents' Bingos

My Bingos

Missed Bingo Turns


#1 - W - Clark    
2.6 QI 8H (upside down board--stupid)  
1.5 KOA  
2.1 FELT  
0* HUI(C) EPH(A)
0 V(A)PID  
0* EMEUS  
0 WIN(E)  
#2 - L - Joffe    
1.7 XU  
0 WORT  
3.2 (T)IVY  
6 WREN  
21.3 lose turn ((YOW)P*)  
5 -CNNPPRZ keep Z
9.5 VIER  
4.8 PI(s)TE  
14.9 -AFII  
0 (G)ERaNIOL  
0 IF  
9 AI  
#3 - W - Noland    
0.1 GRAND 8D  
0.2 (R)OUE  
4 (F)UNDI  
2.4 IOTA  
0.4 KOLO  
0 SEETHiL(Y)*  
0 UNBE  
0 ZO(N)E  
0 NERT(Z)  
0 QAT  
0 SCREWIn(G)  
0 AVI(A)N  
19 AI(R)ISH* gives up M(E)RC(H)
0 A(M)I  
#4 - L - Harshbarger    
1.2 (H)OOTIER  
0 FE  
9.4 AI  
10 (LI)N unnecessar QUAD block
3 (L)UDI(C)  
6 (Q)I  
#5 - L - Dynes    
3.7 EXURB XU (to leave BEERT)
2 P(E)EL  
0 B(I)FID  
9.5 GNA(W)S unsure of GNA(W)N--huge mistake
1.3 MOK(E)  
8.4 HEP  
3.1 (HO)UR  
6.4 Z(A)  
6 RAJ  
8 (V)INE  
#6 - L - Braud    
6 (A)WNY  
0 GROD(Y)  
13.4 D(O)LOR  
0 FOND  
8.3 KAON don't realize FOND takes S
15.2 MI I suck
0 O(G)EE  
0 (E)LUVIA  
2.8 -OUU (EILS)  
11.9 G(E)E  
7 (g)IE  
0 (Z)EP  
6 SE(P)IA  
#7 - L - Savage    
2.9 AWEE miss (VILL)A hook but wouldn't have played anyway
0 GAUR  
0 -QR (CDEER)  
8.4 C(a)DE (TI)C (to leave DEENRS)
7.4 (L)ORN (N)OR (to leave ENORS)
0.6 O(N)E  
0 XI  
0 Q(I)  
43 lose turn (BESTER(S)*)  
#8 - L - Withers    
37.2 LO  
0 NURD  
12.8 HEM  
2.9 -DLQ (CERS) Q(I) is so dangerous
0 JE(E)R  
7.2 SCAN  
15.4 QUI(T)E EQUI(T)Y (is that ironic or what)
10.8 PYA  
0 AGO  
0 (K)ATANA*  
0 WA(D)DY  
0 (G)OGO  
4 sOVIET  
#9 - L - Swift    
0.2 COY  
0 VIDS  
0 (V)UM  
0.3 T(W)EAK  
7.2 JOSH  
6.1 Z(E)IN  
0 AX  
0 A(R)F  
6.5 DE  
1 OBIT BOA ties!!!
#10 - W - Crotty    
0 (C)AJON  
13.1 ONE (K)RONE
0 QAT  
1 POLE  
11 WOT  
0 OM  
13.9 DARTS kills final line
0 BEG  
25 G(A)nEV  
1 (D)EV  
#11 - L - Zimmerman    
4.8 Q(I)  
0 BEE  
0.4 MOO  
2.2 J(A)IL J(A)PE (to leave IILV--I don't like it)
0 W(E)AVE  
0 UNWI(T)  
0 p(U)RIN  
0.9 ZI(T)  
0 O(W)E  
0 HOD  
#12 - W - Noland    
2.9 BINGO  
6.9 (B)ILLY  
0 WAIR  
0 HERO  
14.5 X(I)  
0 VOLE  
3.9 VI(L)ER  
0 QUEE(R)  
0 OI(L)  
1 (PA)T  

1 - W - 10.8 (141)
2 - L - 5.6 (89.6)
3 - W - 1.7 (26.1)
4 - L - 4.1 (48.9)
5 - L - 5.5 (60.5)
6 - L - 5.4 (70.6)
7 - L - 4.4 (61.3)
8 - L - 7.4 (111.2)
9 - L - 6.3 (81.3)
10 - W - 11.8 (165.3)
11 - L - 1.4 (18.3)
12 - W - 6.3 (87.8)

Avg: 5.9

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