I weighed myself again today and think the scales I used in Emporia weren't accurate, as 11 st 6 lbs/160 lbs sounds more probable. I've lost weight and gained a gear, as the top gear, which I thought was unusable, is now meshing OK. I could have done with a Ren Faire suit of armour today, to do battle with the twin tenets of evil – wind and traffic. Somehow got onto an interstate, although according to my map it shouldn't have been. Soon came off and stopped at a Starbucks, where the three young baristas were typically amazed about my adventure and repeatedly said “that's todally awesome”. I think if I'd said I was the Queen and actually WAS the Queen, they couldn't have been more impressed. This Starbucks was about to close down and the staff had been offered a choice of relocation, or three weeks' severance pay, which seemed pretty decent. I couldn't believe these three young people had chosen the former option.
America felt different today, especially approaching St Louis, where, weirdly the traffic reduced, the closer I got to the downtown area. I only saw black people and they seemed in a jubilant mood, what with the election result. One man drove a car daubed with 'my president is black' in big, white letters. These neighbourhoods looked poor and the locals must have believed that good things were coming their way. Across the Mississippi, again there was no sign welcoming the traveller to Illinois and East St Louis looked like a bomb site. People had warned me about this area and that some daren't even drive through it. Just like when New Yorkers said they didn't ride on the Subway, I scoff at such paranoia. Passed a school at chucking-out time, where I didn't see a single white child; then on to Belleville and tonight's Scrabble meet.
Andy was the director of the now defunct Scrabble club in this area, and that is how I came by him. He lived in a brightly coloured, rambling old house with his partner, Adam. Both around 30, Andy managed a mobile phone shop, while Adam looked after laboratory mice. The atmosphere was the complete opposite of last night's, this rarefied one, being quiet, with soft classical music tinkling in the background. Adam was allergic to pets, so he had lots of soft toys instead. They had another guest for dinner, a Ren Faire lady, which was also one of Adam's interests and he stitched his own Elizabethan costumes. Andy & Adam had spent two hours on tonight's Greek-themed feast – and it showed in the perfectly-shaped dolmades, spinach pie, great hunks of pork and tzatziki, followed by baklava; every component of which was sensational.
The Scrabble sizzled too, and myself and Andy won a game each. In the first game, drawing both blanks helped me to play two bingos (DERAILS & STIFLED) but my piece de la resistance came when I put down DETOX with the D on a double word tile and the X on a triple letter – two ways. Together with KIT/NO/OX, this produced my highest all time non-bingo score of 92! I could dine out in the Scrabble world on that play. Andy easily won the second bout by over a hundred points. In the decider, Andy bingoed straight away with RANTING and I did the same soon after with ONIONIER (which we discovered later to be erroneous). I then produced another in SHACKED on a triple word, with the C on a double letter (113) and he still nearly caught me, as his knowledge of obscure words was so good. Satisfied orally and mentally, I hit the sack a happy man.
The next morning it was raining and as both my hosts had a day off, we all stayed put and two of us continued with our favourite board game. Again we played the best of three and again the spoils were divided evenly after two. The first game mirrored the first one last night, with me scooping both blanks to achieve a quadrupled INTIMATE (astride two double words) and MINSTER/TOWNS. Andy put down SAFARIED, giving an example of his superior vocabulary. He won the second game like yesterday too, but this time he also won the third. He played SNOOZE early on with the Z atop a triple letter and the whole word doubled (68) and then achieved the same feat with the X of OXTAIL. Neither of these were as high-scoring as DETOX of course.
They cooked up breakfast, and lunch with cooked vegetables (that's a first) and also proffered room temperature St Louis beer. Quite the Anglophiles, though they have never visited – but plan to in the next couple of years. Going overseas is a really big undertaking to a lot of Americans. Just about everyone I've met has said they'd like to go there one day, but have kept putting it off. They would like to live in Britain one day they said, partly because of the civil partnership situation. Same sex unions are not recognised in all but a couple of eastern states. I tried to put them off – Britain – not the civil partnership, but they weren't having it.