BY5 - SF O

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Upon reaching the section of the SFO parking garage where Enterprise keeps its rental cars and seeing that they had a Nissan Sentra, I was rather pleased, because I've always liked the Japanese cars over the American models. Well, it appears Toyota is not the only Japanese car maker to hire idiots.

My beef wasn't with breaks or gas pedals, but something almost as dangerous--a door-lock mechanism that unlocked all the doors when I removed the key from the ignition. I discovered this when I returned to the car from Rolling Pin Donuts, and because of this, while I was in the store, anybody could have opened up that car door and taken my laptop.

During the night, while half-asleep, I removed my key from the ignition a couple of times, and had I not remembered to lock the doors, I would have been a sitting duck there. My safety would have been at risk, thanks to whatever ASSHOLE designed the locks that way.

But I do not wish to give a mistaken impression that I was having a sour morning. On the contrary, I was feeling fine and dandy. Though the sky was cloudy, thus ruining my plans to spend the morning taking photos, the signal where I had parked had been strong enough to finishing downloading the episode of Smallville I'd been waiting months for. For hardcore comic book fanboys like me, to say this episode was our wet dream would be an understatement. With three months yet until Iron Man 2, "Absolute Justice" was exactly what I needed, and nothing could ruin my morning, so awesome was the episode.

Of course, just thinking that is to invite a jinx, and so you can imagine was happened next. No, not my failure to win the NAST final--I didn't fly into SFO with that expectation in mind. To boost my rating, yes, or win a minor prize, perhaps, but I didn't really think I'd get 1st or 2nd. I did, however, look forward to reconnecting with some of the things I like about the Bay Area, one of those being Cafe Mason in San Francisco. After a detour to Linda Mar for a long-outstanding photograph (10 years since my original visit) I headed towards the city.

Ah, memories. Downtown San Francisco (at least I assume Geary/Mason is considered downtown) general reminds me of Cafe Mason, and Cafe Mason brings back a lot of memories. Like the waitress with the Cockney accent. I loved the way she said "coffee", and my Macromedia coworkers were amused by my convoluted attempt to get her to repeat the word (because just asking would have been too simple).

Though Macromedia was based in San Francisco, I actually worked at an office in Richardson, TX. A group of us were in San Francisco for the Macromedia User's Conference, and I'm going to guess that Cafe Mason was near our hotel (the ANA, if I remember correctly). During one of the panels I met a young lady from the SF office, Jean Fitzgerald, and we hit it off right away.

I flew back to Texas feeling rather taken with this young lady, and I then proceeded to make what could have been a disastrous mistake, calling her over and over, during work hours. In an ordinary world, these actions could have gotten me sanctioned for harrassment and subsquently fired. But instead, I managed to skirt sideways between the perils of interoffice romance, and I soon found myself flying to San Francisco with greater frequency.

Less than a year later I found myself married, most unexpectedly and much sooner than I would have imagine. As much as a surprise as that was, six months later I found myself truly shocked and stunned... and divorced. I was devastated at the time, unable to understand how a relationship that had gone so well when we were separated by thousands of miles could have turned bad so quickly once Jean moved in with me in Texas.

Much easier to understand is the aversion to marriage that I developed after my divorce. I maintained in the aftermatch the same thing I maintain today--that promising to love another forever is sheer folly.

Still, despite how it all turned out, Cafe Mason brought back memories of the good times, all the late night breakfast Jean and I shared after a night on the town. I think those memories, as much as the French toast, are a good part of the reason I find myself drawn to the cafe. Unfortunately, after that Saturday morning, I doubted I would be returning.

My last few visits had not been the same. Rather than Cockney-accented waitresses with a good sense of humour, or plain vanilla American waitresses with interesting stories to tell, Cafe Mason had started hiring waitresses with Eastern European accents. I'm not willing to make any type of pronouncements about Eastern Eurpeans, but in my experience they do not seem as friendly, at least not the ones I've encountered at restaurants and cafes here in America. In the Czech Republic, on the other hand (really Central Europe, according to a few locals I spoke to), I found them perfectly friendly.

Anyway, what really bummed me out was the quality of the French toast, and the fact that I was given Smuckers syrup to take away. For what I paid for that meal, $13.03, I expected more. Hellah expensive, don't you agree, especially in light of what I'd spent on previous visits:

10/29/1995 $9.00 credit dinner Cafe Mason work
11/1/1995 $45.00 credit breakfast Cafe Mason work
12/7/1999 $12.00 credit lunch Café Mason food
12/8/1999 $10.00 credit brunch Café Mason food
12/9/1999 $9.09 credit brunch Café Mason food
12/11/1999 $10.00 credit breakfast Café Mason food
12/12/1999 $10.00 credit breakfast Café Mason food
12/15/1999 $10.00 credit breakfast Café Mason food
12/16/1999 $10.00 credit breakfast Café Mason food
12/30/2001 $12.00 cash breakfast Café Mason food

I reached Berkeley around 10:00 AM and quickly located the Viceroy. I then went off in search of free parking, which I finally found several miles and 45 minutes later. Too much trouble to find free parking, you think? Perhaps, but it beats the shame of allowing yourself to be raped by the Great Parking Establishment.

Fortunately, despite all my driving, the space I found, on Parker just east of Ellsworth, was less than fifteen blocks from the restaurant. That left me time to stop at Starbucks and catch up on the drama that had been occupying CGP.

I suppose sometimes things change for the better. After spending all that time finding parking and then walking 10 blocks, I needed a restroom something awful. I almost headed straight to the restaurant, but I worryied that the playing room would not have an outlet for my laptop, so I stopped at the Starbucks first. To my surprise, the bathrooms were once more accessible to the public. For some, or maybe all, of the six months I spent in the Bay Area, those restrooms had been closed to the public, much to me and my small bladder's chagrin.

Yes, I opened with a phony against #16 Chris Guilbert, but the reason I lost is simply that I was bagged. The phony was high-probability, in context, given that Chris opened with 48 for QUIRE, and I tried UN(D)ERFIT* for just 63. He could just as easily have chosen to let it go and retake the lead, but he challenged. Later he lost a turn of his own, DRAViNG*, but with that second blank he was able to bingo back after my game-tying (S)ANITARY, and it was too late for me to catch out without an immediate bingo.

Annotated Game

Had both blanks against Robinsky, but towards the end. I couldn't get down the bingo, and somehow his end tiles managed to beat my blanks. Well, that was it. Two games, and I was out of contention for any of the top three prizes.

Annotated Game

Finally picked up a win, and against Nathan Benedict. That was something at least.

Annotated Game

PUTA WHY'D YOU FLINCH!!! I could have been shafted by lowly #22 David Ruby, and the loss would have been entirely my fault for letting him get away with (ARIL)E* when he played CANNIER!!! The board was tight, and he probably wouldn't have managed a bingo otherwises, so despite the win I gave up a ton of spread there.

Fifth round, Swiss pairings, 24 players--what were the odds? Really. John Karris, again? Say what what what??? No worries that day, though--John couldn't get much going, and his two blanks did little to counter my scoring.

Final round, Rod McNeil, and a chance to pick up a healthy helping of rating. Unfortunately that game turned out to be the worst of my tournament, completely outdrawn. Of course, the fact that I played like a putz didn't help. Can't really fault Rod for my being a doofus.

Like I said before, I wasn't really expecting to win the NAST final, and I actully could have picked up extra games on Wancel by going to Salado instead. Still, if I was going to fly, the thought of $3000 or a 2nd or 3rd prize was tempting, as well as the possibility of gaining rating in the strong field. Additionally, I always looked forward to a chance to visit California, the most magical country in the world, and to reconnect with all that I enjoyed there. In the Bay Area, specifically, plenty of good restaurants like El Majahual in SF and Dorsey's Locker in Berkeley. Lots of massage options as well as one of my favorite strip clubs, the O'Farrell Theatre (something else I learned from that Macromedia trip)--not that the two have anything in common. Several independent theaters throughout the Bay Area screening The Last Station, one of the few Oscar-nominated films I had not seen.

All these possibilities went by the wayside, however, when a wave of blues hit me not long after I sat down at the Starbucks to finish simming. Unlike the sadness that plagued me during much of January, the reason for which was obvious, these blues seemed to come out of nowhere. It wasn't the loss to Rod, and it wasn't heartbreak--it was... something else. Given my family history with depression, and my personal experience, every time I felt unexplained sadness I had to worry about the depression returning.

As much as I wanted to amortize the cost of the trip by having some fun, I couldn't muster up the energy. Heck, I couldn't even manage to come up with a response to the limited thinking expressed in this thread--specifically, the contention that WGL is financially competing with NASPA. I immediately saw the flaws in the logic, and if I were my normal self I would have been composing a response right away. That fact that I didn't is an indication of how bluesy I was feeling. I didn't even have the mental energy to talk, and I had to beg off a conversation with somebody who seemed to be very anxious to talk to me about something.

The only thing that held my interest was the winter finale of Fringe, "Jacksonville", but after about 30 minutes I couldn't take consciousness anymore and headed back to my car. Picked up a half-way decent burrito from a place called High Tech Burrito, some crappy Honest brand blackberry tea from a trendy cafe called Herbivore, and I was done for the night. Didn't even move my car.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Woke up feeling better, and the sight of the sun peeking through the few visible clouds helped. No new Starbucks to visit--the last new store in California opened mid-November (shocking, I know)--but plenty of opportunities for reshoots around Oakland. Driving around taking pictures was exactly what I needed to brighten my mood. The highlight of the morning came at the Fruitvale & I-880 store. I'd visit the store twice that morning, once heading south on I-880, and again when I returned. The second time I arrived to find cars leaving, and after a few minutes I had the shot I wanted!

I doubt most people would understand the satisfaction I feel when I get a photo I want, but my photos have been very good for my psycho, much better than the people I've known. People, women in particular, will always disappoint you, but a good photograph is forever faithful.

A good photograph will not disappoint me.
A good photograph will not betray me.
A good photograph will not insult me.
A good photograph will not misunderstand me.
A good photograph will not lie to me.
A good photograph will not patronize me.

On a lighter note, I was driving north on Broadway when I passed Oaksterdam University. I'd heard about this place in several news reports, but it was funny to actually see it.

The reason I was even on Broadway was that I was looking for a restaurant I'd discovered when I worked in the Bay Area. I couldn't remember the name, nor the exactly location, but I finally found it, Mama's Royal Cafe. The very first time I visited the place, they were serving pretty good biscuits, but every time I have returned since, they have not had them on the menu. This morning was no exception, and I found the staff to be as rude and annoying as before. Just a simple question, "may I order to go" shouldn't get such a curt and abrasive respone.

My irritation quickly turned back to satisfaction when, at exactly 11:00 AM, I reached down from my stool and realized that I was not feeling any upper back/shoulder pain, and that I had not fel any pain all morning, and not even when sleeping the car the night before.

No surprise here, despite all the spare time I had that morning, I managed to find myself rushing to avoid getting cut from the field. The reason this time, needing to replace my iPod earphones. As much as Apple is lauded for the quality of its products, their earphones suck ass. As expensive as they are, $30, the only reason I keep buying them (every few months, it seems) is that all the other brands I've tried suck worse.

Good thing I arrived on time, because poor Chris Guilbert arrived shortly after the first round was started, and because the field was even, with director Ed de Guzman having jumped in, Chris was unable to play. I felt bad for him even though the @#$%^& had beaten me on Saturday.

Despite an excellent play on Lisa Odom's part, SYnCAR(P)Y, I managed to come back with a gimme, STAINER, and hang on for the win. I felt kinda bad, I have to say, that she lost after such a brilliant play, while I never made any really special plays.

Took early momentum against Cesar del Solar by getting him to challenge (WEDGIE)R (the Jedi mind trick again), but then I got a really dangerous rack and decided to try VISTAIN(G)*. It's no good, and Cesar had a much easier rack--the same thing but with an N instead of the V. I managed to come back with SYLvANS, but then Cesar had a crazy lucky street to run away with the game.


Bagged Rob Robinsky. End of story. Well, not quite. Later I'd discover I'd missed CO(R)DOBAS to bingo out. I'm sure he saw it and thought me a putz for having missed it.

I let Rich Baker opened with phony GRATA(B)LE*, and I subsequently struggled for most of the game. Even after my second bingo, I was down 54 points. Then I drew PAISLEY right out of the bag, followed by BRIEF for 43, and I'm sure Rich was stunned by the dramatic turnaround.

Mark Kenas next, and that was another game that looked like a lost cause (in large part because I chickened out on AMIDINS). Amazingly, Mark picked the wrong line to block at the end, and I managed TRIANGL(E) to bingo out!

Annotated Game

My spread beat Cesar's (poor guy), so I was able to face Rich Baker again, and this time I was no contest. Three relatively easy bingos to open, another later, and Rich never had a chance. A healthy ratings boost, and even though I'd lost the NAST final I'd still managed to cash four weekends in a row. Not a bad trip to California after all.

Opponents' Bingos

My Bingos

Missed Bingo Turns


#1 - L - Guilbert    
40.7 lose turn (UN(D)ERFIT*)  
0 FRUIT (know Chris didn't have S b4 his play)  
6 MAX  
2.9 OD DUO/(ESQUIRE)D (unsure)
2.2 (R)ACY (R)AYA (STUPID!!!)
3.5 PE(A)  
5.9 JO  
0.6 (D)EF  
23 LO(In)  
#2 - L - Robinsky    
1.4 -FIIIU (RS)  
5.7 GOR  
0 FEM  
1.4 N(I)B  
0 (Z)OA  
13.4 (E)MYD  
0 PEC  
3.1 QU(I)NT  
9.5 JO(Y)  
6.7 (A)XON (A)X
0 s(Q)uAB  
#3 - W - Benedict    
0 BUM  
0.8 HO(S)  
0 AnALO(G)UE  
0 WIG  
4.8 QA(D)I  
9.7 TIRES  
0 DEV  
4.1 SCREW(S)  
4.7 VIZO(R)  
2.8 MY  
0 AYI(N)  
0 FIRN  
#4 - W - Ruby    
0 WH(I)MSY H(A)WKEY,WH(I)SKY (unsure)
31.2 (J)EU LEUKIsI(S)
0 KOI  
1.5 -ILOQ (IT?)  
5.1 TE(EM)  
0 E(W)E  
8.3 (N)OTA  
0 OLEA  
0 BUB  
5 ZORI  
3 (B)uHL (B)LaH
#5 - W - Karris    
0.9 BAIZA  
0 (T)HRIP  
0 VEST  
0 LOTI  
10.1 NI(C)K (block just in case)  
0 UM  
4 ARSENID(E) DENARI(U)S (forgot to actually count the score)
#6 - L - McNeil    
5.3 AWL (O)W (give up 12 pts to leave ADEILR)
0 (P)RIVY  
6.9 (G)EED  
15.3 (V)E(TO)  
3 ERG  
7.1 E(R)E  
5.8 (P)HIS (T)HEY (really sucking hard this game)
4.8 BE(N)NY  
16.8 -BKOQ  
5.5 MO  
4.7 DUCI  

1 - L - 7.1 (84.8)
2 - L - 4.0 (51.9)
3 - W - 1.8 (22.9)
4 - W - 3.7 (54.1)
5 - W - 3.6 (46.8)
6 - L - 6.1 (85.1)

Avg: 4.4

#1 - W - Odom    
1.6 PFUI 8H  
9.2 HE  
0 (L)OWED  
12.7 JOU(K)  
1.5 ZA(S)  
0.1 TOM  
8.9 TING  
2.3 CL(A)W  
0.2 VENA  
11.3 THI(R)L HEROI(N) makes no sense!!!
#2 - L - Del Solar    
0 HURT  
4.7 VISTAIN(G)*  
31.9 lose turn (VISTAIN(G)*)  
5.2 VI(S)IT  
2.5 NAW  
1.3 VE(IN)ER  
2.2 TO  
14.8 RU(M)  
15.6 BANE BEANO (b/c I missed the (E)YE hook)
0 (T)OLU  
0 (BENT)O  
#3 - W - Robinsky    
0 WREN  
0 N(E)EM  
4.2 -LPQZ (EN?) keep Z
1.5 UNLIVEs  
0 FOHN  
0 ZAP  
2 COs(T)ARDS CODA,COD (I was very close to forgoing the bingo)
4.6 (N)IXE  
22.1 FLI(C)  
6.8 BUST  
10.4* DOE  
#4 - W - Baker    
5.8 BLOOD  
5.9 AGIO  
0 QU(A)I  
10.7 rESIDUA (D)EcIDUAS (unsure),(D)ISsUADE
14.9 H(I)ND H(O)T(BLOOD)
0 W(H)O  
11.7 TONG  
14.4 T(r)Y EN(V)Y (too focused on bingoing)
2.1 PAISLEY only 99% sure of (ENTERIC)S
3.4 BRIEF  
8 eM(Y)D UMP(I)ReD
#5 - W - Kenas    
0 RIN  
0 FIREt(R)AP  
37.4 IMID 2G (phony I(R)*) AMIDINS (chicken out)
0 WIN  
2 A(Z)URE  
4.4 SE(X)TOS  
1.2 YOU  
8.6 JO JAGG(Y),JIGG(Y) (still would have played JO so PIGG(Y) next turn)
0 PIGG(Y)  
#6 - W - Baker    
0 -JRW (DIR?)  
1.1 FOY  
0.2 EYE  
5.4 PHON  
0 QI  
0 (L)UDE  
0 KI  

1 - W - 4.3 (55.5)
2 - L - 8.0 (112.5)
3 - W - 10.3 (133.6)
4 - W - 6.4 (76.9)
5 - W - 4.9 (53.6)
6 - W - 2.1 (25.7)

Avg: 6

More Confessional