Tag Archives: scrabble

This and That

Were I a Greyhound driver I could say our vacation’s a real busman’s holiday, as we are staying in 6 different locales during this ten-day car trip. But I’m a writer so I guess I’ll call it a writer’s holiday since I’ve been taking notes for future work and going over the last details of the children’s book that will finally go to print, hopefully before the next new moon.

And then there is this space here that needs filling. Figuring you, my loyal readers, are out and about, at BBQ’s or sunning yourselves, you are not inclined to sit inside reading these nuggets of wisdom.  So I shall simply share a few passing thoughts and experiences.

Popped into a vintage clothing store yesterday when visiting the quaint NJ riverside town of Red Bank.  There on a sweet little table was a wide elasticized gold belt with bright gold clasp.   I have one just like it hanging in my closet.  No longer do I see vintage items and remark, “Oh… I used to play with something just like that!” Or, “Oh, my mother had a bowl/glass/blouse just like that.” No.  Now I mumble to myself, “I have (notice present tense) one just like it. It’s still hanging in my closet.” I am vintage.  Hear me roar.

James Frey of  I’ll-embellish-my-memoir-to-the-point-of-fantasy fame has just signed with Harper Collins. The four-book series for teens will be written by Frey and  a co-author. (Wanna guess which one will be the fact checker?) The manuscript was offered to editors anonymously.  I wonder why. Don’t ya just love it? The guy who scammed agents, editors, readers and Oprah the first time around will be paid “under seven figures.” Should tell agents my novel is non-fiction? Or reveal that my name is really James Frey?

And onto another literary jaunt — Jodi Picoult’s novel My Sister’s Keeper has made it to the silver screen.  Was thinking about Jodi last week what with this dream-come-true event coming to a theater near you. Her books have been translated into more languages than were spoken pre-Babel. Her bank account likely approaches pre-Madoff proportions. She was written up in the NY Times just last week.  Not so glowingly but then there’s that silver screen thing for comfort.

However. And this is a big one. Hollywood changed the ending of her wonderful book. Eviscerated it. Ruined it as far as I (and 72 percent of AOL respondents) are concerned. How must JP feel? To have written a great book, the ups, the downs, the cuts and the rewrites.  The coming up with an ending that you know will make your readers gasp. A resolution from left field that is an outta the ballpark home run.  And to have Hollywood turn it blander than oatmeal! Can’t feel good. 

And now dear readers, I am off to play a few rounds of Scrabble with Cousin Gary, a formidable and worthy opponent. (Although Emma did happen to trounce him, twice.) Go Emma!

And Tiles to Go Before I Sleep

Scrabble is a near contact sport in our family. I’m fairly mild mannered but put a pale wooden rack before me, fill it with letter tiles and stand back. When it comes to Scrabble, I’ve been known to go for blood.

Recorded in the tattered cardboard cover of our Deluxe Scrabble Game are the scores of every game my husband and I have ever played. That’s thirty years of word-sparring, near pointless Old MacDonald hands (all EIEIO’s), even the ebb and flow of our lives as parents. The early years of our marriage reveal columns of games. Come ‘84 and ‘87, the years the kids were born, we barely played. Starred in red is the highest score (mine, at 529 and the lowest, also mine — 136).

Home on college break this past December, my daughter went on a Scrabble bender. Emma wanted to improve her game and what better way than to take on Mom? “Don’t hold back,” she said, determined to win fair and square. And while I would never throw a game, how could I go for blood against my child? I wavered more than once. Friendly competition felt mean-spirited with my daughter on the other side of the board. Emma was determined to win the old fashioned way — through perseverance and hard work. The best way to support her was to play no differently, to play to win.

Em is a solid player; she knows those consonant-free oddities — ae (one), oe (a whirlwind off the Faeroe islands) and ai (a three-toed sloth). I taught her jo (sweetheart), bo (pal) and wo (woe). Game by game she honed her skills; her words grew more complex as did her playing speed. She began placing words that scored in two directions. Her scores rose from the mid-200’s into solid 300 territory; every now and then she managed the game’s holy grail — a seven-letter word, sometimes into a hot pink triple word spot. She squeaked some wins past me and trounced me, too. Every time she lost (always gracefully, never petulantly) she would turn the tiles face down and ask, “Again?” I’m not a sore loser but two in a row is my limit. For Emma, two losses were mere appetizer. The irony was that as she improved, I had to up my game as well — a true turning of the tables if there ever was one.

Our words took interesting twists, some dancing near once-loaded topics. Bitchy, she played. Toke, I countered. Her eyes widened. I smiled. The don’t-ask-don’t-tell moment passed. Emma played orgy into a triple word space, placing the “y” so that it turned an adjacent la into lay. We laughed at the board’s own joke. OK, orgies are beyond the pale; but in a broader context, sex was no longer a third-rail topic.

There were, however, other generation gaps to bridge. Our well-thumbed Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary had ziti but not zit; for the u-less it had qaid (Muslim leader) but not qi (Chinese concept of life-force energy). Out came Emma’s laptop to buttress zit and qi. Blog, too.

Our last game Emma advanced like Bobby Fischer, playing cattier and vicious to establish the hundred-point lead that carried her to a triumphant
411-319 win. I don’t know who was happier. I don’t like losing, but I loved losing to my daughter. I loved her fighting spirit and her indomitable determination to best me.

Emma graduates from college this May. She will need every ounce of that strength and moxie as she heads into a job market tighter than a tourniquet. She is sure to have her share of near-pointless Old MacDonald interviews and go-fer jobs. Like any mom, I wish for my daughter a life of seven-letter words. All into hot pink triple word spaces.
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