The Depths

Updated January 4, 2010, 14:00 EST

Thursday, March 30, 1995

After classes and dinner I headed out to Foley's to do some shopping. $254.33--a nice chunk of change (that I couldn't really afford), spent on pants, shirts, a tie, and socks. The occasion--my planned dinner date with Julie Linville, a freshman with whom I had become infatuated not long after breaking up with Audrey. I'll be honest--I was extremely immature back then (though better than when in high school), and I am sure poor Julie felt pestered by my repeated attempts to get her to go out with me. When she finally relented, my expansive imagination filled with images of a wonderfully romantic date, and thus I went on my shopping spree. Later that night I called Julie's roommate up to my room, and I was beaming with prideas I asked her what she thought of my selections.

Friday, March 31, 1995

Returned from class some time in the afternoon and tried to get ahold of Julie to firm up our plans. She was nowhere to be found. I tried back periodically over the course of a few hours, and I finally ran into her roomate (Cynthia Poole, I think) who informed me that Julie had backed out of our date. Realistically, there were many reasons for this, but I'm sure my evident overeagerness had something to do with it. I'd like to say I learned a lesson back then, but that would be a joke. At that time in my life, I wasn't very good at learning lessons. Unfortunately, while I've gotten much better at not repeating mistakes in the subsequent fifteen years, certain things I just never manage to learn.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

12:30 in the AM, landed at PHL after my 7-day adventure in Mexico, much glad to be back in the U.S. (because Mexico sucks ass).

12:45, boarded the economy parking shuttle

12:51, arrived at my car in section H21, and felt yet more relief when the engine started after a week in the cold

12:52, took a long-awaited sip of Tradewinds tea

12:54, located my primary set of keys, which I had stashed somewhere in the car

12:56, changed to my second pair of sneakers

12:57, noticed that the cold engine light turned off, and I started driving.

1:02, left the payment plaza and made a right onto Island Ave.

1:05, entered I-95 northbound

4:04, stopped at the Starbucks in Paramus on Route 17 to download the tournament flyer (to make sure the venue was the same).

6:59, kiwi

8:29, kiwi

9:20, kiwi, just 40 minutes to my alarm, but I needed to sleep as much as possible.

9:47, no point in waiting for the alarm, so I changed and went into the fake-ass Starbucks to get some coffee, juice, and oatmeal from some disinterested baristas.

9:59, returned to the Thruway, 112 miles to go.

11:30ish, somehow managed to miss the exit from the Thruway to I-787, which meant I had to stay on the Thruway to I-90 and take that back in, adding at least 10 minutes to my trip. At that point I called the hotel (because Annette wasn't answering the number on the flyer--perhaps because it is not her mobile) to ask the attendant to get her a message. But as I fully expected, because the playing room is two floors down, the attendant did not want to go down there. So I just hit the accelerator and crossed my fingers that, as every other Annette event that I remember, the tournament would not start on time.

11:47, parked at a meter in front of the Crowne Plaza so I could rush in to the hotel, down the stairs, and let John know that I had arrived.

11:54, found a parking space in the garage (after finding the entrance, which had been moved).

11:55, realized it was FUCKING COLD IN ALBANY!!! As much as Mexico sucked ass, the weather still beat the heck of of this sub-freezing shit. 24 hours earlier I had been in a t-shirt.

First round, Paul Avrin traded, and my AABEFGI looked like Greek to me. I had no idea what to do. My brain was off. Second turn, playing KAB to leave EIRS should have been instantly obvious, but I still took a long time to make the play. But after playing off OI on the next turn to draw into EMERIES, my tiles became much easier to play. Paul managed to bingo with both blanks though, caught up, and the end game was close.

Annotated Game

Crazy good tiles against Jason Ubieka for a 228-point win put me at an 8-game winning streak the started in Safety Harbor. One more win would break my record, but that darn John Morse never had a bad turn. The same couldn't be said for my tiles, and I could not keep up. Worse than the loss, however, was the lost opportunity to break my longest winning streak, which still stood at eight. With six wins in Tampa, this early bird was my best chance in a long time, and just like that, it was over.

Annotated Game

Double-blanked again, by Heather McCall this time, but intentional phony TANKERE(D)* allowed me to stay in the game, and then I managed to draw into TAWSING before she could get her bingo down. The phony was critical, as was sensing that I was about to be outdrawn. Heather had played off an S, then QATS, and I just got this vibe. Sure enough, after my phony she played DoCTOR(A)L and FOX for 45. No way I win that game without the phony.

Fifth round, Michael Wolfberg, another double-blanking, and another escape thanks to another phony, CURVATE(D)*. I actually had another bingo done, my opening LODI*, and that's the more interesting storey. I knew it wasn't extremely high-probability I'd get one of the tiles I needed for ADEILOT, but I just felt like trying it. But to my surprise, Wolfberg let it slide, and then he immediate played above my phone and dashed my hopes that he would try to hook an S later. Darn!

Given the cold, I just walked across the street to Capitol House for dinner. The air hurt as I took it into my body, and when I got back to the playing room I quickly pulled up Oh shit--12 degrees!!! That is cold. Sleeping that night in my car was going to be unpleasant. A bit later, I went into the bathroom and said goodbye to my nutz, because I feared I was finally going to lose them to frostbite.

I took an early lead against Darin True, but I could have let the game slip away when Darin played (R)EINFEST*. FERNIEST and INFESTER I saw right away, but I struggled to remember if that third anagram was good. Thing is, I was leading 163 to 26 and holding a blank, so I could easily have let his word go with a good deal of confidence that I would still win. But Darin's play would open up the 3x3, and I did not see a good counterplay there. If by some chance Darrin drew the other blank and then triple-tripled, I would feel like a real putz for letting it go. So I steeled myself, challenged off the play, and went on to win by 233 points.

The game was still tinged with disappointed, because for the first time I saw a 9 through disconnected letters more than one space apart, and it was not an inflection. A(I)RF(I)ELDS would have been a sweet, sweet play, but stupid Darrin blocked it!!!

Double-blanked yet again, by Dan Milton, and while he had a chance to make his game a paradise, he lost his chance. I played HA(N)GAR for 36, slotting the R at 15B. Daniel played C(R)U, I played RELIQ(U)ES, and then Daniel moaned and grumbled to himself. He had drawn another CU, and in doing so had seen he had E(R)UCTION (with a blank)!!! The game wouldn't have been over, because of my bingo, but I would have been down quite a bit, and I probably wouldn't have survived if he drew the other blank.

John Morse again in the final round, and when he exchanged 3 on his second turn, I got that vibe again, like against Heather. I decided to go nuclear right away and played CH(A)LLONE*. John let it go and immediately played TESTIER--good thing for my phony, eh? A few turns later John made a strong comeback, 99 points for RELAYeD to take the lead, but I just happened to have bAROQUE for 111. I shudder to think what might have happened otherwise.

Still, I hung on for the win and pocketed a cool $150. Since I was taking two weeks off work and had spent quite a bit on my trips to Tampa and Mexico, that money was going to come in handy. Hard to tell which I was most please by, the money or the boost in rating, to about 1786. Ever since dropping to 1700 in Philadelphia, I had hoped that between Tampa and the Albany early birds I could hit 1800 before the start of the main event.

One unusual thing about these eight games was that I'm sure I would have lost three games had I not phonied. Out of eight games, that seems like a lot, and, when you take my equity loss into account, is indicative that my tiles weren't that good. Had I played them straight, I would not have won.

I hung around blogging and waiting for my prize money, and then I started to steel myself, to prepare to go out into the nut-freezing chill of the night. Before I could sacrifice my manhood to the elements, however, a pair of angels came down in the form of Heather McCall and her semi-famous friend, none other than Beastie Boy Ad-Rock's little sister. With an offer of some space on the floor of their room, the two Canadians swooped in to save the day (and my nutz). I had long since stopped thinking about bugging people for floor space or showers, because I am very comfortable in the car, but 12 degrees Fahrenheit is a whole nuther story. I may be cheap, but I'm not a masochist.

Given the offer of lodging, it was appropriate me to accede to the Canadians' invitation to join them in the hot tub. Or rather, next to the hot tub, because Winter does not get in the water. Afterwards we retired to Kelsey's, where I asked the group to pick a number, and I took the first one thrown out, 7, and picked the seventh wine on the list, something called Redwood Creek Chardonnay. It should come as no surprise to frequent readers that even the one glass of wine went to my head and got me buzzing, but I managed to keep control of myself and avoid groping all the hot chicks around me (Ad-Rockette, Heather, Shelly, but not Jason--he was hot during his late 90s acting days, but his time has passed).

I have to said that after a week in Mexico, it was rather refreshing to hang out with our friends north of the border rather than the ones to the south, where I spent 7 days watching my back. Also, I kinda wanted to cozy up to Little Sister anyway in the hopes that she would eventually introduce me to her famous brother Adam. I mean the Beastie Boy, of course, but it would also be cool to meet the screenwriter of the same name, one of the writers of the best Lost episode ever, "Expose".

1:28 AM, finally got up to the room, tired beyond tired.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

8:45, not enough sleep, but I got up anyway. Actually a good thing, because there are no good groceries anywhere near downtown Albany, and I had to go out to East Greenbush for the good stuff. After a couple of false starts (breakfast over at Panera, Sheila's diner closed), I barely made it back by noon.

Mason Shambach up first, and also I specifically made the blank the D for that reason, I did not expect dECENTE(R) to actually draw the challenge. Winning that turn made me a little bit too confident, and I decided to try DAFFIES* without having that much of a lead. For a moment I feared the blunder might cost me big, but then Mason lost another turn when I played DAFF, and I hung on for the win.

Challenges again played a role in my second win, against David Lewis. Picked up the extra turn with CO(R)BIES, and after David challenge I was very, very glad I had chosen not to tack the T on there for the triple-triple. That extra turn was important, because David was chasing me pretty hard. In fact, he passed me up wth 94 points for PHoNIER (yes, I was double-blanked again), and it was not at all clear I would win until I played OBOLI and drew the critical Z. The was over at that point, but it was still amusing when David tried WOWIE*. Wow--certainly never expected to see somebody try that in Division 1.

Again, John Morse, and again, a phony. Not the one John suspected, BARWARE, but rather SLATTIE(R)*, which he did not even hold. Very high probability non-anagram of TERTIALS. John should have known it. But then, so should I, and I wasn't sure. Still, the way had been drawing, I wouldn't have been surviving without phonies.

Again, I was at an eight-game winning streak, and I had a chance at nine, with Paul Avrin to play. Again, challenges and phonies. First, the challenge, of my play ACEDIAS, which allowed me to take the momentum. A few turns later, the phony, uNDIRTY*--except this one was played by Paul. I had no idea if it was good, but I was in an amazing, extremely rare, situation, one that had never before occurred in seven years, and might never again occur. With Q(u)IZ for 93 points off Paul's bingos, I had no need to agonize over whether the word was good or not. Despite my lead, Paul continued to try to catch up (the nerve of him!), but when I drew the other blank for FIdGETE(R), the game was over.

Next goal, 10 wins in a row, and standing in my way was Michael Wolfberg, with a crazy run of tiles that made it impossible for me to keep up. I must be fair and say that I made one of my biggest mistakes, challenging (VOMIT)O, but the lost turn actually allowed me to score more with my AGIILOW. No, it wasn't my mistake, but Michael's crazy luck, which had allowed him to win the first four games with a ridiculous spread. I expected to play him again, and I had to hope for his run to luck out.

Dinner at Kelsey's with Risa, Heather, and Jason, and then back upstairs to draw some extremely favorable tiles against Judy Horn. But Darin True hogged most of the good tiles for himself to bingo three times, leaving me very little chance at all and knocking me out of contention for first. A ratings gain was still possible, but I was double-blanked for a fourth time by Jason Keller.

Four double-blankings. Same thing on Tuesday. Just 5 blanks, 6 on Wednesday. Fucking sucks. The only reason I'd survived to boost my rating were the phonies, won challenges, and opponent blunders. That wasn't going to cut it against the big dogs that would show up on Thursday. If my drawing didn't improve, I was dead.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

6:30 AM, phone call from Rebecca to remind me to pick her up at Greyhound at 10:00. Potential future ex-girlfriends take notice of this--I'm the kind of guy who won't turn into an asshole after we breakup. You need a right from a bus station--no problem. Somebody to talk to no--problem. The occasional itch scratched--definitely no problem.

8:58, set alarm for 9:30 and tried to go back to sleep

9:17, gave up.

9:59, Rebeccca called, and I immediately told her I had the engine running. Had to wait a few minutes before pulling out of the garage, and when I finally did, what did I see? SNOW!!! Snow? In Albany? In December??? WTF???

10:15, dropped Rebecca off and headed back to East Greenbush to shop for some clothes (this would turn out to be a huge mistake) and get a haircut.

11:15, started back to Albany, lots of snow on the ground now, slow going.

11:29, concerned that going to the Dominican place for lunch would make us late for registration--called Rebecca and asked her to make sure somebody knew we were there. However, the weather also worked in my favor, players who were still on their way to the venue were likely to be delayed.

12:00, reached Casa Dominica and found it closed that day. Fortunately, we had passed another place (forget the name) closer in, and we headed back there. The menu included Spanish dishes in addition to Dominican. I didn't care so much for the Spanish rice and sausage I ordered, but the tostones were excellent.

12:55, returned to the hotel, not worried in the slightest. No way were we starting on time.

1:01, made a disturbing discovery in the bathroom. Somehow the handle of my toothbrush had bent, and it was difficult to get a grip on it while brushing. Awkward. All you guys out there can relate to this, trying to get a grip on something that is supposed to be hard but keeps bending.

1:04, walked into the playing room and spotted Little Sister. While I chatted with her Rebecca appeared out of nowhere. I considered making an introduction but thought better of it.

1:17, Mr. Echo tried to blow open the blast doors in the Swan.

1:18, Allen Pegnelly calls out, rather loudly, for quiet.

1:25ish, first round, Bruce Adams. An early break, SIZE/(FAQIR)S for 61 (passed on SAtI(R)IZE) followed by GAUDIEr gave me the momentum I needed to hold on when my tiles got clunky.

Joel Wapnick next, and the game was fairly well balanced, with the ending coming down pretty much to his lack of vowels and my ability to go out first.


Oh what accursed luck is this??? Joel Sherman in the fourth round, the Demon, arguably the best player, and what does he throw at me? LAURE(A)TE,RETINU(L)A,I(T)ErANCE,D(E)SALETER, and GE(R)ANIOL. Bullshit. Meanwhile, I have the clunkiest tiles yet. More bullshit.

Next, Lou Cornelis, and what comes down early but ASTONIE(D) and SCANTED. Yet more bullshit. And as you might guess, what did my tiles look like? Endless bullshit.

Still, I managed to end the day on a positive note, with a 541-scoring, 282-point win over Cecilia Le. Ironically, she was the only player who made a good bingo against me, unless you count Bruce's IGNOBLE or Wapnick's ANAEMI(A)s. I personally think those are pretty easy, while Cecilia's OSTI(N)ATO I'd call much tougher. And I'm not just saying that to get on her good side in case things with O'Laughlin don't work out. Anyway, the score wasn't what I really got a kick of in that game. It was that I played RANKLEs at 9B in the hopes that Cecilia would miss the hook, and that I would draw the C. The hook was fresh in my mind because Quackle had shown me that I had missed it as an out play against Connie in Philadelphia. Well, not only did I get the hook, for 40 points, but Cecilia challenged!!!

Well, it was New Year's Eve, but at some point in my life I stopped being interested in holidays. I've been asleep at midnight during most of the recent New Year's Eves, and ordinarily I would not even have considered paying $40 for the party. But part of being a whole person is that sometimes you have to do things you don't want, and so I found myself changing into the clothes I had just bought, putting on the shoes I had just bought, and shelling out forty smackers--the equivalent of thirteen mini-dances at Nite Moves, my favorite dive strip bar in the area (seriously, that place is a dive).

I started to reevaluate my decision immediately upon entering Kelsey's and observing the length and apparent disorganization of the buffet line. Sometimes you have to marvel at how the management of an establishment can make such poor decisions. And I have plenty of time to marvel, maybe 30 minutes, as I snaked along the line and packed my plate with food. Halfway through I started to munch on small things, because getting back in line for seconds was a fate too horrible to contemplate. When I finally reached the pasta bar, I went ahead and polished off my desert (pie) to make room (on the plate).

At least it was nearly 10:00 when I finished eating, which meant just two hours of waiting for the ball to drop, and all that spare time probably contributed to my eventual state. Even though I was given two drink tickets for my fee, I only planned to have one drink and gave the second ticket to Sari (and not necessarily because I was counting on her being drunk). But I don't dance, and I was determined not to hover, so I decided to get another drink to kill time. A Smirnoff Ice this time (referred to as a "girly" drink by Lipe). Two was good. Enough for a lightweight like me to get a mild buzz and have something to do while I waited.

Yeah, I would have stopped at two, except that back in the food line I had been chatting with the guy ahead of me, a non-Scrabbler, about various topics, including my reason for even being at the party. This particular goateed gentleman, 40s maybe, wearing a light tan, or white, sweater, was in a similar situation. He had been set up on a blind date by a friend, and he was uncertain about how things would go. The man took an interest in my situation, and later on he asked for an update and bought me a drink, making three for the evening.

The fourth was the champagne brought out as the clock neared midnight. It was a small small of champaign, but after the ball dropped I happened to notice another glass just sitting there, and, already buzzing hard, I was not inhibited against taking it for myself.

I don't know how long the party continued at Kelsey's, but a group of us were invited up to Shelley and Jason's for more drinks. Shortly after we arrived, another group arrived, the foursome of Terry, Jason Keller, Kate, and Samantha. Next thing I knew, Terry did a double-take and uttered the quote of the day--"Why is there a Winter here?" Well, there was definitely some brutal honesty behind that remark. If I had any doubts about whether Terry still has the hots for me, I think the issue was settled.

On a tangential note, when Terry and I used to speak, she would tell me these stories about the wild shenanigans that went on after hours at these big Scrabble tournaments. I almost never participated, because I was off sulking or finding train tracks to sleep next to, and I wondered how much of what she told me was embellished. Well, if Thursday night was any indication, Terry did not have to embellish at all. Things got a bit crazy, although that might depend on my frame of reference.

The first cup of Bailey's Irish Cream was for fun, to give it a try (it had been years). The second was out of necessity, because after a while the mood in the room got crazy to the point that I needed that drink. Only got halfway through it before I started to feel sick and dizzy, and I had to abandon it. By that time it was time to go back to the room. Two of us were really drunk, and the third was probably buzzing hard if not outright drunk. As you might imagine, some memorable wackiness ensued.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2:28, way too late to be going to bed.

3:36, very wobbly walk to bathroom

5:34, slightly less wobbly walk to bathroom

7:39, steadier

8:48, Smokey Bear goes out on a run, and I have trouble getting to sleep from that point on despite my fervent pleas to the God of Sleep to put me out for another hour.

No hot water. Crap.

Got Bowman in an unremarkable game, other than that I got to play crANKLE(S) again.

Will Where-Did-He-Come-From Anderson was on a tear, so it was no susprise he got down three bingos to my none.

It was my game against Joey Mallick, howevr, that hurt more than any game in recent memory. After he took an early lead with double-double DICE(N)TRA, I managed to come up with HOKIEST followed by (H)OTPLAtE*. If you are surprised that Joey would let HOTPLATE* go, that is nothing compared to what he did next. With ROOSTED in two different places, he played TOREDOS*!!! I've anagrammed that rack scads of times, and I was really 100% sure the word was not good. But the strength of the certainty came into conflict with my inability to conceive that Joey could make a mistake on such a basic rack. This did not compute.

Faced with this apparent contradiction, my brain melted and I let Joey have the word. He then went in to bango-bongo, and when the game ended and I ran over to the challenge computer, the inenvitable answer made me want to throw a chair across the room.

Later, while I simmeed the game, I saw one slight possibility that he knew it was phony but wanted the most defensive play. When I spotted Joey in the hall, I couldn't take the suspense anymore and just asked him, but he was keeping his motivations close to the vest. So much for Obama's new era of transparency.

Against Sam Rosin I made a high-prob bingo misspelling, something I had not been doing much of late. rEGESOL* instead of REGOSOL, and Sam busted me immediately.

Against John O'Laughlin I started with a bingo, TIMEOUS, and I dared to hope that I was going to get lucky. But John came right back with D(I)CLINY and V(O)LUTINS, and that prompted me to get aggressive. Holding a no-go, I took what would have been a good find CO(N)TR(I)TE through two disconnected tiles, and I decided to add the S and see if John took it. He didn't.

While letting Joey have TOREDOS* was my most frustrating mistake, my loss to Caitlin Fairchild was my most heartbreaking. After six turns I was down 168 points. Despite this, I managed to take the lead on turn eleven, and the board was not that bingo friendly. Had I won this game at one of Sherrie's tournament, I would surely have won the best comeback prize. But I didn't win. EEEIKNSTU. That was the tile pool, with only an R to play from after I blocked the line she opened, and she manages to draw into (R)ETINUES. Unbelievable.

Final game of that day's losing streak, Randy Greenspan, garden-variety outdrawing.

Needless to say, I wasn't in the best of moods after six straight losses. Thus, when Rebecca decided to chase me in the lobby (as she is wont to do), and one of staff (maybe security, maybe not) yelled at us that if we didn't stop he'd have to ask us to leave, I was pretty pissed. Decided to wait until after the tournament to make an issue of it, although I'd probably have forgotten about his rudeness by that time.

It was a half-Canadian/half-American group that night, for an expensive dinner at Jack's Oyster House. Another expense that I would not have undertaken during ordinary events, but this was no ordinary tournament. No need to state them--my reasons for joining in should be clear.

Unfortunately--the all-important vibe had changed at some point, or changed during the dinner. Fans of the brilliant comedy How I Met Your Mother will remember the recent episode titled "The Window". While my situation was not exactly analogous, but the metaphor of the window is still close enough that it comes to mind. Well, it seemed to me that the window was closing, and combined with my Scrabble performance that day, my mood changed drastically.

Back at the ranch, the after-hours room was lively. I had no interest in Scrabble outside of the tournament, but I disregarded my own interests and hung out nonetheless. For a while, at least.

After a while my mood worsened. It did not appear that events were going to transpire as I was hoping, and that clarity of that realization came into conflict with my hope. A dark cloud came over me. Enveloped me. The pressure began to feel suffocating. My simming, blogging, other tasks--they all became difficult.

Eventually the suffocating feeling overwhelmed me, and I decided I had to get away. It's not that I needed to be by myself, but just the opposite--I needed comfort. Hard to find, for many, for most, perhaps. But it's so much worse, oh so very much worse, when comfort is within reach, but denied. The thought of having to bear that was too much for me. For the sake of my sanity, I had to go upstairs and clear out of the room, retreat to the isolation of my car.

"A man without hope is a man without fear." Like my previous analogy, the original context of this quote does not exactly apply to my situation--it is quite far, actually. Nevertheless, the question of whether hope was worth the consequences kept my mind busy as I lugged my bags to the car and exited the parking garage.

Fear is intrinsically intertied with hope, because the person who hopes for something is likely to fear that what he hopes for will not come to pass. I had fallen victim to this principle by foolishly allowing myself to hope, and the subsequent fear (uncertainty, really) had driven me mad. I should have known better.

I didn't have to go far to find a parking space, just across the street from the parking garage. It took longer, actually for the car to warm up to a point at which I thought I could fall asleep. On an ordinary night, I might have managed sleep before the temperature dropped too much inside the car, but that night I had too much on my mind. After a lot of tossing and turning, I had to turn the engine back on. Nearly 1:30, by that point. Don't get the wrong, though--the cold, though inconvenient, was somewhat of a relief. Trying to stay warm was at least a distraction from the depths of despair where I was trapped.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

After about 5:00 AM, I woke up every thirty minutes or so. Sleep became harder to achieve as I failed to stop my mind from focusing on my stupidity. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Forty years old in a few years--by now I should know better than to hope for things that are not likely to come to pass.

Switched from news to music on my iPod, and turned the volume up louder than usual, hoping that the noise would help sweep away the suffocating weight of negativity that had come over me. I should have chosen different music, because the melancholy tunes had the opposite effect, and a short burst of unmasculine emotion was unleashed.

I quickly composed myself, went to Starbucks for my coffee and oatmeal, and headed into the playing room to await my first game, which I fervently hoped would not be monstrously bad. Unfortunately, my oppoent's draw was tyrannical. Seriously, given how bad the previous 24 hours had been, the last thing I needed was for Debbie Stegosaurus to have 8 conesecutive strong plays, but which time I was 125 points down with the bag getting close to empty.

As bad as that game was, blowing my double blanks against Karl Higby was even worse. Deciding to try mID(S)TATE* at that point in the game was just stupid.

Not sure what happend against Jeff Fiszbein, who himself had only won three games, but I have to assume I fucked up that game too, just like I somehow fucked up my chances with a person who had seemed so eminently compatible. That's perhaps the most frustrating thing. Everybody reading this knows what it feel's like after losing a Scrabble game that was well in hand, an almost inevitable victory. In the immediate aftermath, one is in disbelief, sometimes mad with bewilderment over what happened. Well, at least with Scrabble, there is Quackle to show you what went wrong. But Scrabble is just a game. With life, and the important things in life, there is no program to show you what you did to screw things up, no expert to kibbitz with you. There's just you and and your own mind, and either you get past it or you let the uncertainty drive you mad.

It seemed that nothing was destined to go right that day, so of course when I arrived at Casa Dominicana I found it closed, not to open until Monday. AARGH!

The expression "it's so bad it's good" usually applies to culture, like movies, but that phrase was the first thing that came to my mind as I took my pounding from Joel Sherman. It was going to be my 10th loss in a row, and somehow the shock of such a long losing streak pushed me beyond the dark cloud and into a place where it just didn't matter anymore. Perhaps just as important was that a certain measure of uncertainty about what was going to happen that evening was lifted. Isn't it generally true that uncertainty is worse than outright rejection?

It was almost amazing to behold, that I finally won a game, against Darin True. No outdrawing either, but a legitimate win with two won challenges, BI(R)RY* and OU(T)WEDGE* (come on now).

The outcome of my next game it was too be expected. As usual, Luckbaggy Smurf (if smurf were orange) (Jason Keller) drew bingos left and right.

Final game of the day, against Richard Popper, was more balanced, but he managed to get the late bingo when it was too late for me to recover.

With my dark cloud having lifted, I resumed being hopeful, and I joined the group going to some Thai place a few miles away (via the hotel shuttle). Technically I knew that it was foolish to keep hanging on, but I seem to go from one extreme to the other. If I'm not gloomy and despairing, then I go back to being foolishly hopeful.

My test of endurance and patience continued. I sat through the trivia contest, about three hours, waiting for the group to out to the Fuze Box, for 80s dancing. Again, something else I had zero interest in, but forced myself to sit through anyway. At least the music was good, the mood was vibrant, and the Woodchuck Draft Cider I was drinking was decent enough. Still, I spent most of my time at the club wondering why I was there. I didn't belong.

There's two ways to look at a situation like that, and I alternate between both. On the one hand, part of being a social animal is engaging in activities that do not interest you for the sake of other people. But it's a widely held idea that nobody does anything purely out of altruism. We generally expect to get something in return. All fine and good, unless you already know that nothing is coming to you. At that point you've transitioned from hope to outright self-delusion, and that's not a good place to be. Some people, Rogert, in fact, would say there's always a chance of drawing a wild card, but I already had a clear signal that Aris had lost all interest in me. After she had invited me to the club, and after I sat through three hours of trivia, I looked up from my computer to find Aris, Heather, Roger, and Jessica gone from their table. I took my bags up to the room to see if they were there, but there was no answer on the door. I went back down to the playing room, and then finally to the lobby. At the last possible moment I saw Aris boarding the shuttle. Thirty seconds, I would say, and they would have driven off without me.

At this point you have got to be asking yourself, "why would Winter go ahead and go to the club???" The answer--simple. Because Winter is fucking moron who doesn't know when to quit. Now it should be clear why most of my time at club was spent cursing myself for being stupid and weak and sitting there giving up sleep and self-respect for not good reason.

After Jim Fonti had made a crack about diners open at 4:00 AM, I feared that the night would go very, very late. Fortunately, Aris was in sixth place, and despite a few drinks in her she came to her senses and decided she needed to get some sleep and win the tournament. I'd say that was my one good break of the day, that we (Aris, Heather, and Jeremy) got to leave before the hour turned obscene. For all my complaining about having to walk back in the frigid cold, I was really relieved that I was finally going to get some sleep (sleep being the only escape from all the emotional drama I was undergoing).

Some people reading this will assume that my intense disappointment was due to not getting laid, but the the degree to which those people would be mistaken is immense. I'm not a kid any more, getting close to forty now, and anybody with some knowledge of human biology knows that humans evolved with a very short lifespan, well under forty. Back in the primitive days, there was hardly a point in having a strong sex drive after the age of 35, and I would guess that this is true for most humans over that age. Sure, there is always the exception, like Silvio Berlusconi, but I think it's perfectly normal for sex to lose its sense importance when you get to be my age (some of my ex-girlfriends can attest to this (maybe that's why they are exes)).

Anyway, the issue of sex hardly crossed my mind that weekend (despite some people's insistence on repeatedly bringing up the topic), and I was not for even a second concerned about it. Really, in this modern world, any man with a coupla bills in his pocket and an Internet connection can get sex. The real value of relationships is for something completely different, the desire to be cared about.

And to feel special. That's the candy everybody wants, to be cared about and to feel special, and I very much wanted to feel special that week. Nothing maniacal about that. In a way I was a little like Locke. He wanted very much to believe that he was special, that the Island was special. He wanted to interpret the things that happened on the Island as signs, but as you know we humans have an unfortunate tendency to look for meanings and signs. Desmond gets up to go to the bathroom, turns on the light, and Locke sees it as a sign. His resolve is renewed, and he continuees to look for signs. No matter than Boone died a tragic death--Locke was convinced that this was a sacrifice that the Island demanded. In a similar fashion, I convinced myself that all the sacrifices (of my own interests) that I made over the week were ones that were demanded of me, and that in the end I would be rewarded. And just like Locke, I lost faith, tried to regain my faith, and lost it again. The button is important. The button is not important. The button is important. And so on.

I don't even know what time it was when we got back to the room, but it was late, and naturally I slept most of the night. I still had to wake up a few times, the call of the kiwi you know, and each time I did I felt the weight of my desire pressing down on me, the desire to be cared about, appreciated, to be invited off the floor and held by a warm and comforting body throughout the night. I had gone out to my car on Friday night because I expected that I would not be able to handle this rejection, and I was totally right to have escaped like I did, given my mental state that night. I was in a better place on Saturday night, but that doesn't mean it wasn't painful to want something so bad it hurts, something close enough to literally reach out and touch, and yet be denied. If nothing else I have to be grateful that I was able to hold it together that night and keep from doing something stupid and embarrasing.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

While performing a stunt scene during the filming of X-Men, Hugh Jackman got stuck in a harness and was hanging by his testicles!!! I'm serious--just google "hugh jackman testicles x-men stunt harness". Anyway, Hugh relates that the pain was so great he was in tears, and I suspect nobody would think that Jackman is any less a man for his crying. Similarly, if a man is shot and later cries--that, too, is perfectly acceptable. Crying over a death--that's fine too. But crying over a woman? A fucking woman? Really, is there anything more pathetic that a man crying over a woman.

Yeah, you guessed it. Just like the day before, I tried to get into some music to escape from the negative thoughts, and I got waterworks instead, serious business this time, not really easy to hide. I think my father might have mellowed out in his older years, but I'm pretty sure when I was growing up if I had come home and cried over a girl, he would have smacked me good. Men don't cry, he clearly told me on repeated occasions.

Going into that final day's games, and faced with DELNORV against Evans Clinchy. I figured I would have some fun, and I played VONDLE*. I don't think it would have worked, because after letting the word go Evans played (V)INYL. He then played BURDENS, so I don't see why I would have gotten that E, unless he decided to go with LINEY. Regardless, I succeeded in generating some amusement for myself in a week that had seen little of that, and it was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing while Evans held my play.

After his bingo I totally had my chance, (S)WEEPIER, but I totally chickened out and played WEEPIE(S) instead, hoping Evans would not have the T for a 50+ point counter play. He did, and after I passed on TO(N)SILAR in order to challenge (D)EFEReNT (though it needed another R), my game completely fell apart.

Despite a couple of nice plays against Jason Idalski, J(E)LLING and MIKADO, my brain seemed to shut off in the face of his stream of scoring. Misplayed GE(Z)EER* and lost a turn, and later tried GRiSTED out of desperation. Finally, to go out, I wanted to play FOoT(L)E(R)S, but I designated the blank as a T. If you think I was a bit distracted during that game, you're darn tootin' there.

Challenged off Larry Sherman's OGAMA*, just as quickly as I had challenged off Darin's BI(R)RY*. For the disaster the tournament was, at least I still have a good grasp of my fives even though I've hardly looked at them in years. The rest of the game was ugly, with Larry's win coming down to finding a bingo that started with an S, SORTIED, along the lone line that was open. I ended up being outbingoed 13 to 2 in those final four games, with the worst beating coming from Richard Popper.

Tha final game, and my tournament, ended amazingly quickly. For two reasons--first, because Richard wanted to catch a train and got permission from Allan for us to start. I didn't mind doing him the favor, and in return he pound me into the mid-1600s with five easy bingos, thus ending the game in just 11 turns. Could have been six, as he had the final blank, S, and Z, but he couldn't make that final bingo work. I felt so sad for him.

The fun wasn't over. I had to stick around to give Rebecca a ride down to a train station near Philly. Another exercise in patience and endurance, I suppose, the challenge being to keep the gloom away while I waited. I write that, but I don't really mean it. I had it under control. Perhaps it's a defense mechanism that some people have, to just shut down and become numb when the emotional burden is too much to bear? Doesn't a similar thing happen to the body after serious trauma--it goes into shock? That's probably it--I was in shock, and that was keeping me from feeling anything more.

It didn't really matter then, that I had to wait. While under different circumstances, say a mediocre tournament just out fo the money, I would have rushed off so I could get down to Kingston and get a massage from Elizabeth (if she's still there). But there was little point in paying for a massage or a movie, hunting down good food, or anything else enjoyable. I was so numb I wasn't going to derive any pleasure from anything that day, so it's just as well I would be driving straight to New Jersey to drop Rebecca off.

Oh... my... god. I've been accused of insensitivity, there is no doubt about that, but I don't think I've ever been this bad, not in recent years. Joe Bihlmeyer won division 2, great for him, I didn't care, he wasn't even on my radar. Apparently some people thought I still gave a fuck, and they pointed out to Joe that his rating was now higher than mine. Well, apparently Joe thought that, after having my worst tournament ever and one of my worst week's ever, I wanted to hear his news right away. I mean, give me a fucking break here. I know Joe is lovable and people think he's cute and amusing, but give... me... a... fucking... break.

Yeah, my rating. Don't know what it would end up being, but I'm guessing 1660-something. Unbelievable. Thing is, it didn't bother me that much. I was confident I'd go 8-0 in Rhinebeck. No, my rating situation would be short-lived. My heartbreak, on the other hand--that was a different story altogether.

Monday, January 4, 2010

In the season finale of the fifth season of Lost, or maybe the episode before that one, Juliet has a change of heart. When first told about Jack's plan to denotate a hydrogen bomb at the Swan in the hopes of changing history and preventing the crash (30 years later) of Oceanic Flight 815, Juliet agree with Sawyer and Kate that this was crazy, and they turned the submarine around and went back to stop him. But wen Sawyer finally caught up with Jack and pounded the crap out of him in order to get him to stop, Juliet called him off. She had changed her mind and wanted Jack to go through with it.

When Sawyer later asked why she had changed her mind, she painfully explained that if history was changed so they had never met, then she would never have to lose him. Not a perfect analogy, but the scene came to mind nonetheless in the aftermath of Albany. Had I traveled up there and not met anybody, just hung out by myself, my weekend would have been a lot less painful.

Back in Princeton, I hit the gym pretty hard, trying to find a balance between not overdoing it and feeling like I was making substantial progress after two weeks off. Afterwards I was so very hungry, and I really wanted that plate of angel hair pasta from Valentino's. I went for a light meal of soup and rice instead. I didn't need Quackle to tell me why I couldn't keep the attention of any attractive woman. All I had to do was stand at the mirror and look at the old, ugly, fat, acne-ridden, balding person staring back at me. I could do much with the cards I'd been dealt, but I could at least try and stop being a fat blob. The hunger, though--it's a real bitch when trying to focus on work.


Opponents' Bingos

My Bingos

Missed Bingo Turns


#1 - W - Avrin    
0.7 FAG  
0 KAB  
0 OI  
0 R(A)ZOR  
0 QUA(R)T  
5.2 YO(G)IN  
4.5 B(A)IT  
9.8 (A)PT (Y)AULD (didn't want to empty bag)
0 (Y)AULD  
0 ELS  
#2 - W - Ubieka    
23.8 W(I)sECrE AW,WAtC(HM)En
0 FLEX  
2.9 QI  
0 JE(T)ON  
6.3 D(E)Y  
0 F(R)UG  
0 (R)AID  
12 ATE (FE)ATER (unsure)
#3 - W - Morse    
2.1 OBE  
3.4 TOLLAGE 9B  
2.4 -IIIJMY (E)  
0 PRoF(I)TED  
0 (M)U(T)INE  
0 JIAO  
2.6 (V)ENDUE  
0 (J)OW  
22.1 G(EL)T  
3 ANI  
#4 - W - McCall    
0 DAVY  
1 GURU  
0 TANKERE(D)* (the nuclear option employed very early)  
0 OLEI(C)  
9.9 (T)AJ  
0 PIE(T)A  
0 YE(N)  
7 OOH  
0 RAIL  
#5 - W - Wolfberg    
5.8 LODI*  
1 CLAD  
0 (T)ETH  
0 W(A)X  
0 Q(U)IRE  
0 JO(E)  
0 WIF(E)  
0 FUR  
0 (E)RR  
#6 - W - True    
0 XU  
4.3 RA(J)A  
7 QUA(L)E  
0.3 VAT  
0 RECODiN(G)  
6.5 PH(O)N  
5.7 Z(O)O  
13.9 WIN(D) I(N)DR(A)WN
14.8 WI(N) greedy for another bingo
5.6 (G)AIT  
6.2 AcIDOSE(S) OxIDASE(S) (same score, why such big dif???)
0 EH  
0 MOTS  
#7 - W - Milton    
2.9 F(L)UKY  
0 FORD  
2.5 TARING Quackle wants to fish?
2.1 UNDI(D)  
0 HA(N)GAR  
56.4 lose turn (REVOIRE(D)*) OVERRI(D)E!!!
0 VOE  
0 REM  
0 (N)AZI  
9.1 (V)OTERS  
0 TW(AT)S  
#8 - W - Morse    
0.6 TUFT  
3.3 BURY  
1.5 FEAT  
10 EGG  
7.1 ZEKS  
0.8 HOW  
6.7 PIA  
4.6 VISE  
8 EX  
0 (L)O(P)E  

1 - W - 4.1 (53.7)
2 - W - 3.9 (50.4)
3 - L - 3.2 (38.1)
4 - W - 2.1 (26.7)
5 - W - 1.0 (13.6)
6 - W - 4.3 (64.3)
7 - W - 6.4 (82.9)
8 - W - 3.4 (44.6)

Avg: 3.6


Opponents' Bingos

My Bingos

Missed Bingo Turns


#1 - W - Shambach    
3.8 ALEE  
9.7 AERO  
0 dECENTE(R)  
0 YAH  
6.4 QUER(N)  
4.8 DELL  
37 lose turn (DAFFIES*)  
0 DAFF  
0.5 BY  
17.1 RENAIL  
18 (KITE)S  
15 TUG  
0 BOWS  
#2 - W - Lewis    
0 FEE  
0 QIS  
0 OFT  
0 MAX  
0 G(o)UTY  
16.5 PARD miss A(GOUTY) hook
52 KAIN AN(T)ILEAK,miss A(GOUTY) hook
5.1 OBOLI  
0 ZE(R)OS  
0 INIA  
0 AS  
#3 - W - Morse    
2.4 GENII  
0 Q(I)  
0 OXY  
9.5 HUE  
58 DIDO DITTOED (unsure)
0 JA(I)L  
0 EAU  
11.4 TRICE block
13 MAD  
0 R(OE)  
#4 - W - Avrin    
0.2 WIR(R)A  
0 Q(u)IZ  
8.6 PEI(N)S  
2.3 BA(C)K  
0 H(O)V(E)  
2.9 NAEVI  
0.1 FOUN(d)  
6 SO(F)A  
#5 - L - Wolfberg    
5.2 DYE  
37.1 challenge (VOMIT)O  
0 AE(R)IE  
7.3 AIT  
1.7 FA  
4.6 AD  
9.9 XI  
#6 - W - Horn    
12.3 OURARIS don't know (SAUCH)S hook
2 T(A)XI  
5.3 OFF FETE L1 (say what???)
11.3 BUTTE Quackle keeps wanting me to open board!!!
0 HOWE  
0 (G)ALLOpER  
0 QAT  
#7 - L - True    
0 -E (ADEIRT)  
0 PERV  
4.3 B(A)U(D)  
0.9 CL(O)WN  
2.4 BA(I)TH  
1 (A)DZ  
0.4 CEE  
16.4 NEG still trying to bingo
21 NINE  
0 AGIO  
0 NA(E)VI  
#8 - L - Keller    
9 HOOD(O)O  
3.4 MUM MU (keep ADEMN)
5.4 YA(M)EN  
34.3 lose turn (NANDI(N)ES*)  
3.3 ENDS  
7.6 ALA  
46.2 BIS RISIB(L)ES (no idea if takes S)
0 UH  
0 KE(A)  
8.3 ZIG  
65 lose turn (R(O)OVES*)  

1 - W - 8.1 (113.3)
2 - W - 5.7 (80.2)
3 - W - 7.3 (94.3)
4 - W - 2.5 (32.7)
5 - L - 5.5 (65.8)
6 - W - 4.0 (47.1)
7 - L - 3.7 (47.9)
8 - L - 14.7 (191.2)

Avg: 8.6


Opponents' Bingos

My Bingos

Missed Bingo Turns


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