Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Terre Haute - Bloomington (November 10)
(Photo from Charleston newspaper)
(Two posts at once)
Couldn't find a suitable un-chain restaurant for breakfast, so made a start, then stopped at Stuckey's diner down the road. What a nasty place, with cafeteria style furniture, paper plates, and co-diners and staff as unappealing as the fare. Here you could get a 'footlong hot dog, fries + med. drink' for $2.99; but I opted for the congealed mass of eggy stuff, white toast, and bacon which is always fried to a crisp, even though I ask for it to be soft. Just like Misery and Illinois before it, Indiana made me think of Britain, or maybe I'm homesick (I doubt it). In between farmland, impoverished small towns, tatty trailers and tied up dogs ran round trees barking at me. One tiny aberration with poppy-out eyes, beloved of female celebs, had chewed the swing-chair to oblivion and it looked as though it had snowed foam all over the garden.
Arrived in Bloomington, a nice looking town that houses the Indiana State University, and asked where the library was. I was directed to a huge college library on several floors and although I found out how to get to tonight's host's address here, I couldn't find my way out of the building. I'd gone up an escalator, so went down one, but someone said that was the basement and there was no way out. Yes, I've cycled 3,800 miles (I don't think I'll reach the 5,000 mark) across a foreign land, often without a map or a compass, but couldn't navigate my way out of a paper bag. I ended up having to ask someone to walk with me. The destination street proved problematic also, as someone in their infinite stupidity, had started numbering the houses from the dead end of the cul de sac rather than the opening. Anyhow, I made it to the house of Mike, another retired social worker, although he still worked part-time with disabled people as a personal assistant, his wife, Mary and their strokable black cat. Mike, youthful and animated, was another cordial host and took me out to a cosy Irish pub for dinner (I had the lamb burger and a couple of pints of Irish ale) but we were both itching to get down to some serious Scrabble. His board, as with many competitive Scrabblers, was custom-made and circular. It had a photo of his daughter when young, between the premium tiles and the surrounding circle was gold-speckled black, a colour theme continued on the tile bag. Mike belonged to three different clubs in Indianapolis, which he attended on a weekly basis, and also played at tournaments within this and adjoining states. He was a good player and had been ranked just below Marty, at 33rd, but was now hovering around 80. I thought I was about to drubbed, but experienced a purple patch for the duration. I could do no wrong, and not only did I keep picking great letter combinations, but also found ideal places to slot them in. Both blanks came my way in one pick-up in the first game, LENDING a helping hand to a bingo. Later I played EXO, which is good in my lexicon, but not in the American list; although I still won the game comfortably. I couldn't have been HAPPIER right at the start of game two, as this formed my opening play. JESSIE proved to be a phony, although once again I bet it's a SOWPODS word. I then went on to take the game out of Mike's reach with DOGGIEST for 76. In the last game Mike kicked himself when he missed a nine-timer opportunity, when he could have played POULTICE off an available O for 140 points. He still produced a triple word bingo with UNPOLITE for 80. I managed OUTLIVE, but both WEM (definitely good in the UK) and SELIENT were challenged off the board (LENITES, LISENTE & SETLINE were all acceptable and would have fitted in). I could have won this game also Mike reckoned, had I not lost these turns.
The next day it was raining and I was laughing because I'd already asked if I could stay another night. By the time I surfaced at 9.30 Mike had already brought back a breakfast bagel from McDonald's and I washed this down with copious cups of coffee.