BY21 - The End



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Friday, May 28, 2010

Prior to the year 2000, most people would not have had any idea what you were talking about if you made a reference to "Magneto". Yes, there was a Saturday morning cartoon in the early 90s, but I would guess the population at large was not familiar with the Marvel character until after the feature film was release in summer 2000. After two sequels, I expect that nowadays nearly everybody has heard of Magneto, but I suspect that most still have no idea who the Scarlet Witch is.

Principally a supporting character, even a B-list or C-list character, the Scarlet Witch is actually one of the two offspring of Magneto. For most of the 60s through the 90s, the Scarlet Witch was relatively low-powered. Her mutant power was initially the ability to create a "hex" that altered probability within a small area, but over the decades her powers were increased, and by the 21st century she had the ability to warp reality on such a scale that she first caused the dissolution of the Avengers and then the recreation of the entire universe into a mutant-controlled world known as the House of M.

Towards the end of the House of M miniseries, after the Scarlet Witch had restored reality, some of the new team of Avengers were gathered together, and they were experiencing internal conflict caused by having residual memories of the House of M reality. Peter Parker, Spider-Man, in particular was having a tough time with the memory of a reality in which his beloved Gwen Stacy had not been killed by the Green Goblin. Peter, who does not kill, was visibly upset as he smashed his hands down on a table, hard enough to break it.

I could not help but think back to that comic book as I waited by Gate 14 of Terminal E of the Philadelphia International Airport, stressed out because of a ground stop called in Atlanta due to weather. I was extremely worried that my flight would be cancelled, thus making it impossible for me to keep up with the Wandering Witch, and the stress was having an unusual effect on my mind, something that I had been experiecing more and more as my Scrabble-related stress level increased due to my preoccupation with rating, ranking, status, and my various competitions with the likes of Wancel, Cree, Gibson, as well as the virtually untouchable Tran and Johnson.

For weeks, every time I got stressed I started to have these vivid memories of horrible things I was sure I had never done. Murder, rape, arson, drug dealing, whoring and whoring myself--my mind was filled with all these images of a life which, although warped and twisted, seemed a heck of a lot more interesting than the ordinary life I was sure I'd lived for 38 years. Sometimes I'd stare out in the distance and see what appeared to be weak spots in the fabric of reality, and on the other side of that warped looking glass I'd swear I could see a familiar, yet different, more sinister, face staring back at me.

Good thing our flight finally took off, to exuberant clapping from the rows, even if it took three hours, because I felt like I was at my breaking point, and that all it would take was one more push to send me to the other side. Good thing too, that the flight was smooth and hassle free, and that when I finally traversed a good deal of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and retrieved my rental car I was feeling a lot better. Tired, too, which was in itself a good thing. I'm not a young man anymore, and sometimes I'm just too tired to feel much of anything.

Sleep however, was once again, as it had been for weeks, months maybe, a precarious place for me to be. No sooner did I lose consciousness than I was transported to another world, one that seemed just as vivid as what you readers would call "reality". In this place, the murderous, avaricious, psychopathic version of myself was the reality, and the benign Winter the shadow. I did not sleep that long that night, but, as before, when I woke up I found myself less and less convinced that these twisted memories I was having were just figments of my imagination.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Despite the flight delay and the resulting sleep deprival, I had driven up into the city the night before so that I could pick up breakfast from the Flying Biscuit Cafe. Flying Biscuit makes the best biscuits I have ever tasted, and no matter what, every trip through Atlanta (unless the middle of the night) had to include at least one stop there.

My first game, against Joey Krafchick, was a stark foreshadowing of my impending mental collapse. I lost and perceived the reason to be Joey's double-blanks, a continuation of the conspiracy of bad tiles that had been following me around for over a month, but the real reason was my losing a turn to (E)Y*, and then missing RESEDAS!!! I'd been missing more and more of these high-prob sevens, and with each miss I doubted more and more that I was truly special, that I was the one who had been brought to Scrabble to save it.

I supposed it is fitting that what would be my final Scrabble tournament (though I didn't know it yet) would yield one shining moment. Up until that day, I had never before played four bingos in a row despite having played over 3100 tournament games and despite having watched many opponents, several lower-rated, play four consecutives against me. This fact alone was enough to make me question my specialness. I took a brief respite, then, from the disaster that was that weekend, by managing not only four, but five bingos in a row against Ryan Fischer. At least I had that one good memory to carry with me through the hard times that were about get much worse.

I bingo-banged to advantage myself against Marlene Milkent, and then I drew both blanks on top of that, but then I went on to fuck up against John Luebkemann by missing (P)HoNIEST!!! I thus picked up my lunch, or what passed for lunch (from the tables in the room), with a 2-2 record and a serious dark cloud over my head. On the way out to the lobby I saw this hot young betty chatting with Gibson, and I extended my hand and introduced myself (stupid, I know). Well, the moment her hand touched mine I felt dizziness as a wave of images passed through my head. Scary images, images of a similar-looking young woman, tied up, a wooded area, myself standing over her sinisterly. I had never done such a thing--would never do such a thing, but yet the images were so vivid. I let the woman's hand go and nearly fell back against the table before I steadied myself, apologized, and continued on to the lobby, visibly shaken for the experience.

The afternoon, mercifuly, brought me a bit of a reprieve from mental stress. I posted a truckload of spread against Martin Weisskopf and David Liefer, and when I moved on to the stronger opponent, Randy Hersom, I got the tiles when I needed them. Then, to cap off the day, I had a simply awesome game against David Gibson, which I can genuinely say I won due to word knowledge, not luck.

Annotated Game

I guess the Hyatt Place is convenient for travelers flying in, but it's a lousy location from the perspective of foodies. It was a fifteen mile drive, at least, into the city proper, but after the day I'd had, psychologicalwise, I needed some enjoyment to calm my nerves. Ideally I would have sought out a massage before dinner, but after the visions I'd had when I shook that young woman's hand, on top the dreams I'd been having, I was quite frankly afraid to be in a room alone with anybody, let alone a woman.

I thus headed straight to La Fonda Latina, a restaurant with a Mexican menu, but also a Cuban one that included tostones. I ordered them along with a quarter chicken, beans, and rice, and the plate I was given was huge, and mighty tasty. I started to relax, thinking that maybe the day wouldn't end up so bad after all, and then I reached for my phone and knocked over a saltshaker, spilling the white grains on the table. When I went to scoop up the salt, I suddenly experienced another flash of (false???) memory. I saw white power on a table before me, a wad of bills, and then the blonde head of a scantily clad young woman leaning forward to snort the powder. I saw myself picking up the money and walking away--the girl was not a lover, but a customer, one of many such images that flashed before eyes at that moment, bills and pills and packets changing hands on the sly.

I felt sick. I could not continue eating, and I had to leave right away, not even bothering to wait for the change from the twenty I dropped on the table. I was so frazzled as I drove away that I almost missed the old woman laying down some cardboard on the grass in front of a Bank of America. Heh, despite my unease I could not help but me amused by the coincidence, that I was seeing this lady making her bed just as I was setting off to find a camping space of my own.

I headed back to the parking space I'd found the night before, in front of and apartment complex on Woodland, off Chesire Bridge Road. I was concerned that the sky was still too light for me to remain unnoticed in the back of that HHR, but when I neared the complex I found I had a different problem altogether. The street was partly blocked by three fire engines, and firemen were frantically working on extinguishing one of the buildings and also dousing an adjacent one so the fire wouldn't spread. I pulled my car to the side of road and observed, and in a dizzying blur the "real" images seemed to dissipate before my eyes, replaced by another fire, a house this time, with screams coming from inside, and with me observing from a distance. A feeling washed over me like I wasn't just an observer in the vision, but that I was enjoying the fire, that I had been the one responsible.

I lowered the car windows and blasted the air, trying to clear the air. I leaned my head back and massaged my temples, trying to make the visions go away. That I had been fascinated with fire as a child, of that I was sure of, but I had never actually set buildings on fire. Right? I could never have done that? So why were the images in my head so real???

I had to drive elsewhere to find a secluded place to park, and despite the heat I was soon asleep. Once again my dreams were scary, and even more vivid than the night before. Once again my dream selfed traveled through the world creating mayhem and destruction wherever he stepped, hurting whomever he could manage, showing no regard whatsoever for common decency. As much as I had needed to catch up on my sleep, waking up the next morning was a great relief.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thank heavens for Flying Biscuit, because the taste of that wonderful biscuit granted me a brief moment of joy before the beginning of the end. That dark beginning manifested itself right away against the oft-dark mooded Sam Kantimathi. He had no cause for displeasure, not in our game at least. With a score of less than 300 points, I daresay I had no chance.

I can't say the same was true of my game against Stefan Huber (playing up from the 1300s, leapfrogging several cowardly 1500s). I screwed up early, chancing (P)OGUE* when I had a much better overlapping (and non-phony) play. Still, I maintain that I should be able to drop an early turn against any player under 1500 and still win, especially if he gives me the turn back, as Stefan did with BANSHI*. But all it takes for any player of any level to beat me is a couple of easy bingos combined with crap on my rack, and that's exactly what happened.

I won my next two, not nearly by enough though, and then it was again time for "lunch". Yes, I appreciated that it was provided, given the dearth of nearby restaurants, but it sucked pretty hard, on par with the crap from the Adria. Of course I might have just been bitter over my my 2-2 record that morning. I already considered myself effectively out of the tournament, and I was feeling like this whole trip, necessary though it was to keep up with Wanderwitch, was a waste. Anything other than first place--anything other than 1000 spread points--anything less than that would be a great failure, and I was sick and tired of failure, sick and tired of feeling that I all the secret promises hidden in between the lines of Word Freakhad been a lie, sick and tired of feeling like I had wasted the last seven and a half years of my life.

I was distracted from my self-pity by a family who entered the hotel lobby, and my gaze was drawn to a young boy who looked remarkably like a younger version of myself. Suddenly I became dizzy, and I closed my eyes, and I began to see an image of a photograph, a photograph of my son. Except I didn't have a son--I was sure of that. Sandra had had the abortion--I had been right there at Planned Parenthood with her. No way did I have a son--so why was I overwhelmed with this feeling that the boy existed, and that he was being kept from me. At that moment my heart was filled with such longing that I could hardly stand it, and it took all my strength to finish my lunch and crawl back into the playing room.

The afternoon had one bright point, a second win against Gibson, but I was stopped from sweeping by that easy-bingoing, double-blanking Kantimathi. I left in hurry, not necessarily because of that game, mostly because I needd to drive nearly 50 miles north to meet my cousins for dinner in Kennesaw. After dinner at one cousin's house I was able to travel to another cousin's house to stay the night. Francisco lives in a new development, still under construction, and as I followed his car I looked around and noticed the skeleton of a half-built house, and I almost died right then and there.

The house's skeleton, illumated by the moonlight, triggered the most powerful flashbacks yet, and the most confusing. Instead of one coherent memory my mind was flooded with multiple conflicting images of horrible things I had done in some unfinished house somewhere. It was bad enough to have single memories of things I had never done, but to have multiple conflicting memories--that was just too much. The dizziness and disorientation overwhelmed me, and I ran my car off to the side and into a mail box, fortunately slowing to a stop before I hit a tree.

Up ahead my cousin and his wife saw what had happened, and then quickly backed up to see what was wrong. I couldn't really explain, I just said I had gotten dizzy, and my cousin took over the wheel of my car while his wife drove theirs, and we headed back to the house. I was both shocked and confused, and also embarrassed for having dragged my cousin into my nightmare, but he seemed to understand. Most of my family members knew that there had always been something a little off with me since childhood.

I naturally went straight to bed upon reaching Francisco's, and I hoped that the quiet room and the air conditioning would allow me to get a good night's sleep, and that the rest would ease the stress of my fracturing mind. No such luck. The dreams were more intense, more vivid, the details more pronounced. What was worse, however, was that I crossed a line that night. When I woke up the next morning, these unreal images did not fade from my memory. Instead, they were just as vivid as real memories, and then persisted throughout the day, increasing in intensity.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Once again, Flying Biscuit, but I hardly tasted my breakfast, distracted as I was with images of a reality that seemed less and less false with each passing moment. Sitting in second place, I was anxious enough about the tournament, but now I had to deal with a different worry. Really, two different worries. One, that I was cracking up, but two, that I was on the verge of being arrested. If even half of these possibly resurfaced memories were true, there is no way that I could elude the authorities forever. Eventually they would catch up to me, and my heart jumped with every police car I saw between Midtown and the hotel.

Despite my mental conflict, I was able to post a 200+ point spread against Stefan Huber to get me a lot closer to Looby, who had been hundreds of points ahead of me. I wasn't able to rack up nearly as many points against Avrin, in part because I was greedy for spread and let him have a line I could have blocked, but John lost his game. That meant that by beating him in the penultimate game I put myself in a position to win the tournament outright, regardless of spread. Unfortunately, because I had not racked up a lot of spread in those two games, if I lost that final game, Gibson would pass me up for second.

That final game was the one that finally broke me. I was already on the edge. I couldn't get the images of another life out of my head, and the dizziness returned, continued, and was accompanied by a splitting headache. John bingoed almost immediately, and the fear that would lose my chance at another multi-day win was added into the mix. After a few more turns, I had even greater worries, as I looked down at my rack to see a bright red spot on an E. Then another. Then I felt the wetness around my nose, wiped with the back of my hand, and saw the blood. All of a sudden my nose seemed to explode, and I sprayed blood all over the board. John had been engrossed in his play up to that point, but he couldn't avoid noticing that amount of blood.

I've heard David Gibson called one of the nicest players in Scrabble, and what better example is there of his kindess than the way he reacted as I was bleeding all over his board. Rather that freaking out and worrying about damage to the board, like some players we've all met, David's primary concert was my welfare, and even though I was seriously messing up his board, he still offered me a hanky.

We were able to clean up the board, and stop my nosebleed, and the game continued, but even before the disappointing (to put it mildly) end, I suspected I had blown it. Yeah, sure enough, within just a few turns I had missed GROSSED. Granted, I was already on edge, barely coping with all my Scrabble-induced stress combined with my fracturing grip on reality. The last thing I needed was to realize I had the blown the tournament, and that fact pushed me into the abyss. I lossed my compusure and let out a loud howl that brought the room to a standstill. Shaken even further by the stilless and the sight of all eyes on me, I rushed out and into the bathroom, so quickly that I hit my side against the door hard enough to draw blood. I lay there on the floor of the bathroom, stair up at the bamboo pattern wallpapered on the ceiling, clutching my side, and I said to myself, this is the end. I can't take this anymore, I'm done with this.

My mind flooded with violent images of all the crimes I might or might not have committed, and I decided I needed to check out of life for a while. I couldn't be sure that I was safe to be around people, that I wouldn't transition fully into a life of sociopathy. I needed to be locked away where I could never hurt anybody again. I grabbed my things and sealed myself in the car, air-conditioner blasting (in vain, because was effectively burning up inside), and I looked up mental health services. Fortune blessed me that day, and after making a few calls I found a place, the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute, that was able to take me right away.

I returned the rental car and had a taxi drive me out to the place, in some nowhere town called Cavanagh, Georgia. On the way I resolved that I was done with Scrabble, for a long time, maybe forever. I had come into Scrabble after reading Word Freak, and because of encoded messages that I found hidden in the book's pages, I plunged into the scene believing that I was special, that I was some sort of saviour recruited to "save" Scrabble. As I quickly rose through the ranks, my belief was validated, although I experienced moments of deep frustration every time I suffered a setback. Yeah, I thought I would save Scrabble, but it turns out I was just a fool. A mad, deluded fool.

All those years of constant stress must have taken an extreme toll on my psyche, until my mind finally broke and started creating another reality. Either that or the memories I was experiencing were real, and I was in one of most dangerous sociopaths to ever walk the earth. Either way, I couldn't trust myself to be around people, not in the state I was in. No more Scrabble.

Faithful reader, thanks for all your years of following my confessional. This will be my final blog, for as I write this I sit in my room at this one-horse town, far away from society. If you want to call me and offer words of support, you be able to reach me at 305-244-3332

Oh, and if you know my parents, please do not tell them where, if and when they start to investigate. My mother has enough problems, and my pops never cottoned to that psychological mumbo-jumbo. With luck I'll be out of here before they ever realize what happened.


#1 - L - Krafchick    
5.4 QAT  
1.5 HOG  
4.5 BU(G)LER  
0 AGIO  
34 lose turn ((E)Y*)  
0 (Z)OOEY  
0 (R)YE  
45.5 OF (I)NFERNOS!!!
4.4 AX  
0 WEN  
7 (R)ACER  
0 RENT  
0 GE(N)E  
#2 - W - Fischer    
10.7 OUTGLE(A)M (wrong spot)  
13.6 tOWNLET(S) TOWNLE(s)s
0 OH  
2.8 D(I)M  
1.1 DOGY  
1.2 FA  
7 (A)N thought could block J but wrong
#3 - W - Milkent    
2.2 -LOOOU (AN)  
0 QAT  
5.7 PENNIES miss underlap,PINENES
0 GIT  
0 BY  
21 lose turn (FUDGE)R*  
0 VID  
1.3 HE  
10.7 FRA(G)  
4 R(I)TZ  
3 B(U)HL  
#4 - L - Luebkemann    
0 AQ(U)AE  
8.4 HIN foolishly trying to set up 3x3
8.8 YEW didn't even look for SWEETlY
0 FIZ(G)IG  
14.7 (Q)I hoping to slow-play vowel-lacking Looby \
19.9 (F)LOP  
2 OUT  
0 (S)IX  
#5 - W - Weisskopf    
12.7 INFIRM MINIFY (unsure)
--- IXI(A)  
0 (E)ROBiNG  
0 MOUE  
0 COW(P)IE  
4.9 (F)ANE  
0 QA(T)  
19.3 JO(B)  
10 SPIV  
9 (Y)AR(E)  
#6 - W - Liefer    
0 F(R)UG  
0 V(I)LL  
1.7 DOWN  
0 EAUX  
15.1 Q(U)OTH miss (EMPTIES)T hook
10.1 KEY miss K(NEE) hook
17 F(E) thought could block J but wrong
0 (X)I  
#7 - W - Hersom    
0 (L)IGULE  
0 GRIND(S)  
5.1 VI(R)AL  
7.3 UNCI  
0 T(U)FTY  
0 INTeRVA(L)  
2.6 BUN(T)S  
1 ADS  
#8 - W - GIbson    
0.2 UND(Y)  
5.3 CI(V)ET  
0 WAX  
0 (G)UV  
0 LAY  
0 OW  
0.2 B(ARB)  
0 TOO(M)  
#9 - L - Kantimathi    
0 GR(I)NCH  
0 OXEN  
0 BEEC(H)  
1.1 -DNUUU (IN)  
2.8 -IINO  
0 ZE(AT)IN  
16.5 EGO (E(P)IlOGUE is too dangerous) E(P)IGEOUs
0 U(N)AI  
15 OE  
0 OI  
11 (Z)A  
4 N(OD)  
10 (R)I(F)  
#10 - L - Huber    
0.1 -AAEIOU (E)  
0 JI(V)E  
48.9 lose turn (P)OGUE* (intentional phony) TOGUE overlap
2 WO(D)GE  
0 VIEW  
0 (N)IDI  
3.5 (A)LT LITU overlap
19.9 QA(T)  
1.8 MOTT  
3 GR(U)M  
0 FE  
0 ZA  
#11 - W - Avrin    
37.5 lose turn ((MIG)A*)  
0 RIgAUDO(N)  
1.4 JUTTY  
0 OX  
2.9 -DNQRRW (S)  
5.4 HU(N)K  
1.4 WO(g)  
11.2 ZAS  
23.5 P(U)NI*  
#12 - W - Weisskopf    
0 YEA  
0 EAU  
0 JILT(e)D  
0 CL(I)MB  
36.8 CREATE (p)REENACT (was about 95% sure but the word sounds ridiculous)
0 (C)LUE  
--- (E)F can't empty bag!!!
#13 - W - Liefer    
41.5 challenge FOXY  
3.8 FOXY  
8.2 INIA  
1.7 ATONE  
3.9 MA miss M(ONO) hook
2.4 LOOS(IN)G  
0 (K)EP  
0 YID  
0 CURBE(R)  
0 (V)IE  
5.4 (C)UIF  
20 HUI(C)  
0 W(H)IM  
#14 - W - Hersom    
5.4 MOG  
1.1 HOW  
0 QA(I)D  
0 OU(Z)EL  
0 FIX(T)  
4.5 D(R)AT  
0 (O)ORIE  
0 (QAID)S  
#15 - w - Gibson    
0 JIVY  
0 KUE  
0 FArADIS(E)  
0.1 (F)RuITION  
0 BREW  
0 PLAG(E)  
0 DOT  
2.9 N(A)W  
0 GEE  
0 SUET  
#16 - L - Kantimathi    
7.8 AWE  
0.5 OGAMS  
0 (I)VY  
0 SIZE  
0.7 HENR(Y)  
0 DI(M)E  
6.6 FAI(N)  
0.6 NORIA  
4.9* (O)CULAR (best chance to win)  
0 WAB  
0 BE(AR)  
#17 - W - Huber    
1.4 WIREMeN  
0 ANO(R)AK  
0 E(L)UVIA  
0 ZOE(A)E  
5.8 AREIC  
1.1 HUED  
0 J(I)B(E)  
7.4 S(I)LL  
89 (G)UN UNPAGED (unsure)
0 A(PED)  
0 P(E)  
0 (A)G(O)  
0 (O)D  
3 (STY)E  
#18 - W - Avrin    
0 Z(E)K  
0 (Y)IP  
0 QUOT(H)  
4.3 AGES  
0 GOB  
27 P(R)OF PROFUsE (didn't look cuz missed (R)E(G) hook)
6.2 (I)NCANT  
5.6 (E)L  
38.1 (O)IL miss (R)I(G) hook for INTAGLI
13.1 MI(X)  
5.6 NA  
7 TAW  
#19 - W - Luebkemann    
0 AE(R)UGO  
0 BOW  
21.9 INCASED miss best underlap
0 HAR(D)Y  
0 YAGI  
0 QI  
3.4 EF eliminate easy X play
0 TEA(L)  
2.1 AE  
#20 - L - Luebkemann    
3 NILL  
0 K(L)AXON  
4.6 ZE(K)  
0 W(I)VE  
1.3 PROD  
1.7 (P)UG  
12.4 JI(V)E  
6.1 CEP  
10.4 QAT  
0 RIF  

1 - L - 9.5 (143.1)
2 - W - 3.3 (36.4)
3 - W - 3.4 (48.1)
4 - L - 6.4 (77)
5 - W - 7.9
6 - W - 11.0 (154.6)
7 - W - 1.3 (16)
8 - W - 2.5 (29.4)
9 - L - 4.5 (72.7)
10 - L - 5.6 (79.2)
11 - W - 10.7 (130.4)
12 - W - 8.4
13 - W - 5.1 (86.9)
14 - W - 1.0 (11)
15 - W - 4.4 (52.9)
16 - L - 3.7 (47.7)
17 - W - 7.0 (118.6)
18 - W - 9.4 (140.3)
19 - W - 6.1 (79.2)
20 - L - 5.9 (70.2)

Avg: 5.9

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