Crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky, a state built on the four vices of tobacco, alcohol (bourbon) gambling (horses) and fried chicken. Straight into Louisville, which like all US cities over a quarter of a million, had a cluster of skyscrapers announcing its presence from many miles away. A cosmopolitan and artsy district followed the downtown area, where I hardly saw a chain restaurant or store. The people, boutiques, cafes and new age establishments looked pretty interesting; but unfortunately there was no chance of tarrying a while with my busy schedule. If I'd had the luxury of time, I would have spent extra days in the likes of Boise, Columbia and Bloomington, to name but a few. In the 60s once more and the sun did its magic turn on the undulating, grassy hills and scattered trees. Met Rex for lunch (on his way to a four day stint in an Ohio hospital) at the Claudia Saunders' (wife of the Colonel) Restaurant, where Rex had the chicken liver in batter and I went for the less daring 'country style' ham sandwich. I had thought Mr Saunders to be as fictitious as Ronald McDonald, but he did once exist and had resembled like the iconic image – there was a photo of him wearing a white suit and boot-lace tie. Rex was an excellent lunch companion, with his knowledge of Kentucky, politics and overseas matters – he'd travelled extensively and spoke several languages.
I had imagined Kentucky to be poor, but the bits I saw were quite affluent, set against multi-hued, varied scenery. Later, when it grew dark the swirly pattern of clouds swathing the moon recreated the Obama logo. Maybe God was pleased with his victory. And so to Lexington, self proclaimed 'Horse Capital of the World' and if there are less than 300,000 residents, how come I saw a million cars on the road (all doing about 70 mph) as I approached it? Don't these people have anything better to do? Do they get paid to thunder back and forth endlessly in their big, fat cars, belching smoke and depleting the earth's resources? I sometimes wonder. It's pretty scary in the hard shoulder when night falls and I can't see a damn thing. One of these days I'll be sent sprawling by a branch or a brick and I will come to an ignominious end beneath the wheels of a monster truck.
I had arranged to meet Ken, tonight's adversary and the director of the Lexington Scrabble Club, at a Panera Bread restaurant. It had been his idea to meet there; he'd provided his cell phone number, given me directions and generally sounded organized. I phoned him and he'd forgotten all about it. There are worse places to wait an hour for someone than a restaurant, and I made light work of a Caesar Salad, pastries and hazelnut flavoured coffee. When Ken, who looked similar to Jeff Bridges, arrived, I asked him if he'd put our meeting in his diary. He said he didn't possess such a thing. Somehow he had been organized enough to land a math teacher post and as I played mostly upside down, he read the scores I kept upside down and worked out the additions instantaneously. From Nebraska, he and his wife had lived in Cambridge for a year, but were now settled in Kentucky. He knew a lot of weird words, such as PANDITS, KLONG, ATONIES, JNANA & BUNDT. I just had luck on my side; in the first game I opened with LOONIER and he never quite recovered. In game two both blanks helped me to form UNDERATE (which Ken lost his go after disputing the single R, as it can be spelt with one or two) and REFLOAT; yet he won by nearly a hundred points, with his weird words and closed play. We were the last diners, as the place had closed long ago at 9 pm and the staff, who kindly let us stay, must have thought we were a right pair of weirdos. Now virtually alone, the young staff were relaxed and 'free' with their language. One of them repeatedly said of individuals he didn't like “Well he can kiss my a**!” And “Well, she can suck my d***!” We played the final game on the patio and it should have been mine. I opened with ANTACID and by the three-quarters stage it was my turn to be up by a hundred. I stupidly played TAC (which may be a SOWPODS word?) to close up the one remaining bingo spot and with it removed, he did indeed play a bingo (REIVERS). I was still ahead after my next play, but then he added -IEST to my earlier ZEST on a triple, to triple it again for 55, and wrest the game from my grasp. If only I'd played a safe, closed game like him I would have won. I don't mind losing a game that's beyond my control, but when it's my own stupid fault, I get mad with myself.
It was foggy by now, and after I took my leave of Ken, I followed his directions to a motel, but felt like I'd gone much too far and there was no sign of life. I retrod my pedalings a couple of miles until I came to a petrol station, where I was told, yes, there was a motel the way I'd been going and it was just a little bit further than Ken had told me. Curse him! By the time I arrived at midnight, I was dripping with sweat and in ill frame of mind. Who did he think he was with his ZESTIEST and his JNANA? And then he had the audacity to beat me with a Scottish word like REIVERS! I ask you! I couldn't get to sleep for fretting over it. It may very well only be a game, but I want to win GODDAMNIT!
There was a complimentary Continental breakfast, although it beats me why it's called that here, as the US isn't attached to the continent in question. At least gorging myself on cereal, muffins and toast took the sting out of the $56 tab, and went a little way to sweetening the bitter pill I'd been choking on last night. REIVERS for crying out loud!