Arden Cup Memorial Day Scrabble Tournament.
I played like a coke addict, sniveling in between moves, hyped up on the Mucinex with pseudoephedrine that was supposed to help drain my achingly gooey sinuses.
Considering I had what was probably the early stages of pneumonia, I played well, or decently at least, blowing only two games (out of twenty) outright because of bad moves. In one I failed to block a spot that allowed my opponent to bingo out with BARBELLS. In the other I didn’t take enough time to search for a bingo—I used a blank as a G to make the phony REVUING when I could have made VENTURI. I freakin’ know VENTURI because of the stem UNITER—the mnemonic is GRABBED MORE VOTES, so there was really no excuse.
I won the prize for high word in my division—terrapins, a triple-triple scoring 140 points. I got to choose from a table of Scrabble related goods, including books, greeting cards, and tiles. I chose the tiles, a set of pale yellow beauties to add to my collection; I own a set of blood red tiles that Marty gave me for Valentine’s Day last year, and a set of bright pink ones.
The proper tiles are of the utmost importance in formal Scrabble competition. A serious player would no more dream of using the wooden squares that come with the game than Lebron James would consider playing basketball in Keds. Pro tiles—plastic Braille-proof tiles are the only allowable ones in tournament Scrabble.
I used my pink tiles during the Arden Cup because they get a lot of attention.
A crazy lady I played kept saying, “Oooh, pink tiles. You’re a pinky!” She wiggled her little finger at me like a witch.
She’s really not a bad person, just seriously nuts.
“One of these days I’m going to get you,” she kept saying the first day, but
when I sat down at the board to play her, she introduced herself like a Southern gentlewoman, politely asking, “Have we ever met or played before?”
A friend later told me I should have said, “I’ve played one of your multiple personalities.”
In addition to calling me Pinky, Crazy Lady complained about the Scrabble board next to ours, green and decorated with shamrocks.
“Isn’t it disturbing?” she asked.
“Is it talking to you?” I asked.
“When I played the Irish woman, I called the director, asking whether such a board was allowable.”
Some players go overboard with custom-made boards. I once played a man whose board background was a huge cross surrounding by flames. An American flag was superimposed over this, as if Jesus were getting ready to play George W. Bush in Scrabble. (Jesus would have clobbered the bejeezus out of Bush.) I should have complained about the board, but I was a newbie.
Some of the boards are quite expensive. For a hundred and fifty dollars, a Scrabble artisan will cement the regular board onto a large wooden or plastic circle, then decorate the peripheral area with bright little tiles, the kind that look like those found in old Greek Orthodox church mosaics. Some players prefer their boards embedded in a bare expanse of fine wood varnished to a glossy finish.
No respectable player uses the flimsy burgundy tile bag that comes with the game. At tournaments there are tiles bags made of velvet, fur, corduroy, bags intricately embroidered with flowers, musical notes, and Scrabble tiles. My favorite has the phrase “I love this game,” embroidered on one side. The other side says “I hate this game.”
Yup. Exactly how I feel.