Walking down a snowy street in Linden, Michigan on a Sunday morning helped ease the migraine that had begun to stomp its way into my head in the early hours of the morning. The migraine had taken up full residence at about eight AM and kicked out the nice tenants—the dopamines and the serotonins—as I was about to begin my first game of Scrabble.

Soda can trigger migraines for me, and the day before I had imbibed several cans of Diet Coke and a cup of Orange Crush. Stress doesn’t help. Two days of Scrabble I can take. I wish I had put my foot down and told my husband I needed to rest on the third day. But he insisted I play Scrabble. Okay, maybe he didn’t insist, but he also did not say something soothing such as “Daiva, here’s some money for a massage and some doughnuts. You just relax.”

Games one and two were horrible. I kept seeing those little flashing pyramids and zigzag lines that signify a migraine aura (or an acid trip.) I thought my opponents were placing their V’s upside down and their Z’s sideways.

When I played Cheryl Melvin in game three (or maybe game two or four), she told me she knew all about migraines.

“When I gave up coffee and chocolate, my migraines stopped,” she said in a caring voice.  “You might want to try that.”

I was ready to say something like “This is the worst piece of advice I have heard in my entire life,” but Cheryl looked so sweet and sympathetic. I nodded politely. And then she proceeded to kick my Scrabble ass.

I even threw up twice, once in the middle of a game. I hope my opponent didn’t think I was so disgusted by my poor playing that I had to excuse myself to puke.

That entire day had a Kafkaesque feel to it.

Signals from some alternate universe made themselves known to my achy, breaky  head. (Note: breaky is not a valid Scrabble word.)

For example, my walk down the snowy Linden street came to a stop when I was hypnotized by a sign in a storefront window: “Due to certain circumstances we have chose to close.” Signed: “Me and my girls.”  I looked inside to see a clean and well-appointed diner with a kind of 1950s feel. I stood there and pondered what the certain circumstances might be. Failed health department inspection? Lack of customers? Alien abduction?

The tournament was held at the Loose Senior Citizen Center. I humored myself by thinking of loose senior citizens—grannies and grandpas making out with people other than their spouses. Several people had told me the name of the center was pronounced Loh-see. Yeah, yeah, sure. I thought of the ongoing argument I had with a friend as to how to pronounce the name of the singer Bruce Cockburn. My friend insists it’s Co-burn; I say it the way I see it.

Speaking of cockburn (not a valid Scrabble word—I don’t think), my husband missed a bingo that day that cost him at least fifty dollars.

The word was PENISES.

“It’s because I don’t look for PENISES,” Marty insisted.

“I bet you wouldn’t miss VAGINAS,” I answered.

Going back a day: Saturday was fun. I played fairly well. Marty played well, coming in second. Paul Epstein came in first, as he did on Sunday. Marty didn’t feel too bad about this, as his record against Paul in tournament play is something like 952 wins out of 957 games. Okay, maybe it was more like 13 out of 15, but you get the picture—Marty is Paul’s Scrabble Daddy.

The people who ran the tournament—Jeff Clark, Miki Sutherland, and Dan Stock— were friendly and organized. The players were all very nice (though the guy who counted out the spaces on the board with his finger whenever he had a bingo was a little annoying.)

The highlight of the day, however, was eating at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Taboon, which I think means “forbidden to monkeys” in Arabic. The food was excellent. For starters, the waitress brought out these little white puffy doughy things you could dip in a thick white garlic butter. The company was entertaining. There were about twelve of us, including a few locals. People from the Detroit area are a lot like Chicagoans—down-to-earth and funny—except with less discriminating taste when it comes to sports teams.

We arrived in Linden on Friday a little after noon to play the Early Bird.

Marty was a little annoyed because he had the misfortune to get stuck at a table near the receptionist (it was a business day at the Loose Senior Citizen Center). She spoke in an “I’m talking to old people” voice—slow and loud—to seniors who called to inquire about bingo.

Marty played well despite the noise, and came in second.

Melissa Routzahn, of Crystal Lake, Illinois, won the Early Bird tournament.

However, she also won the Bad Mother of the Week Award, which put a little damper on her Scrabble win. It seems that her lovely young daughter had called that morning to ask whether mom could pick her up from a sleepover. Melissa had conveniently forgotten to tell her children she was on her way to Michigan to play in a series of Scrabble tournaments.  (Fortunately, she had informed her husband about the trip.)

Scrabble will do this to you.



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