I’m horrible with directions. I get lost going from my house to work at StarCityGames.com, and I live right around the corner. The stories of me losing my way on the road are legendary, and so it’s imperative that I have a good navigator to get me to where I need to go. For instance, Pete Hoefling (the owner of StarCityGames.com) had to go out of town a few months back, so he sent me to run a PTQ for him in Richmond. For those who have never made the trip from Roanoke to Richmond, here are the directions:
1) Turn onto I-81 North.
2) Turn onto I-64 East.
3) Get off at the exit of the Hotel on I-64. The hotel is usually right at the exit.
Simple, no? Unfortunately, Pete wrote to take I-64 West instead of East, and I was too directionally impaired to make the common sense decision when I hit I-64. I know how bad my sense of direction is, so when I reached the critical juncture, rote Pete following ensued. I drove for about an hour, until I hit a sign that said West Virginia: 5 miles.”That’s odd”, I thought to myself,”I thought I’d have hit Richmond by now.” I exited at that juncture, and pulled into a gas station.”Excuse me miss,” I asked,”this might be a stupid question, but which way is Richmond from here?” She gave me a look usually reserved for kids who ride the short yellow bus.”East,” she offered. I meekly left the gas station, turned the car around, and drove that extra hour to get to Richmond.
Sadly enough, this doesn’t even make my top five stories of getting lost while on the road. Today’s story is about my qualification for the third Pro Tour – Pro Tour: Columbus. It started innocently enough in New Orleans, where I was attending summer school at the time. Anthony and Chris DiNatale were both in the Big Easy for the summer, and I had competed a couple of months earlier at Pro Tour: Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I had returned to New Orleans from New York towards the end of the season, and there was only one PTQ left in the south: PTQ Lubbock, Texas. I took a look at my Atlas – Lubbock only seemed to be about 6-7 hours from New Orleans according to the key. Piece of cake! The three of us jumped into my dad’s convertible, which I had been lent for the summer. This was before the Deathmobile, and Chris ended up being jammed in the back of the car. Believe me, he was not a happy camper – the car should have been a two seater, but two ant-like seats were situation in the back of the car. Chris spent the entire trip with his knees blocking his nasal passages.
Anyhow, we started out for Lubbock around 5pm on Friday evening. We took I-81 West towards Texas, passing by Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Lake Charles. We broke past the Texas border, and made our way towards Dallas. About an hour outside of Dallas, 11pm, I was pulled over by the police for speeding.
I know what you’re all thinking:”That Bleiweiss! What a horrible driver!” Truth be told, I’ve only received three speeding tickets in my life. The first one was on my way from New York to New Orleans when I was first attending Tulane. I had just been awarded my driver’s license a couple of weeks earlier, and I was making the trip with my entire family in our family minivan. I got caught up in the flow of traffic, and was pulled over doing 97 in a 60. Thank God, the police officer saw that I was completely fearful from my actions, and he downgraded it to 89, so that I would not have to be arrested for reckless driving. My dad drove the rest of that trip. The third time I got a speeding ticket was about a month and a half ago, during my first trip to Kate’s house. This was the first time I’d driven to Radford, and I was looking at directions while making a turn down a hill. Next thing I know, I was pulled over for doing 42 in a 25 by a cop at a speed trap. Ah well, live and learn.
On this Texas night, I was pulled over for doing 71 in a 65. Yes, I was six miles an hour over the speed limit. I’m all for police officers doing their job, but for the love of God – it was not like going 71 in a 65 is being a hazard on the road. It’s not even remotely dangerous for highway travel! No matter, I had New York plates, and I was driving a sports car. So the officer pulls me over and writes me a ticket. Before he left, I just had to ask.”Excuse me officer – we need to get to Lubbock tonight. About how far are we?” He looked at me like I was a complete moron.”Sir, it’s about 8 hours away still.” Holy crap! Was he kidding?”Sir, are you serious?””Yup. I’d say you’re about five hundred or so miles away.” My heart sank in my chest as the police car drove off.
“Dude, should we just turn back?”, asked Chris.”No!” I exclaimed.”We’re making this PTQ even if it kills us!” And that was the truth – I was determined to make it to Lubbock by 8am. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t read a map to save my life and had grossly underestimated the driving distance from Tulane to Lubbock by a third. “Hold on boys, we’re going for broke!”
I wish I could tell you more about the drive to Lubbock, but I do not remember most of it. After a certain point I went on driving autopilot. Both Anthony and Chris had grown up in Philadelphia and hadn’t driven much since coming to New Orleans, so I sure wasn’t going to let them drive my dad’s car – it was go time, and I was on my own. The bleak Texas roads were devoid of any other cars, through darkened night and break of day. The last two hours of the trip were through oil fields leading north to Lubbock, and my eyes were only open sporadically through that last leg. It took all night, but we made it all 866 miles from home to tournament site, at 7:50am. I slapped on my Happy Hat (the Rastafarian hat I wore to tournaments to distract my opponents) and ran wildly inside to register my deck. Anthony and Chris followed me in moments later, the two of them having slept most of the ride. I hadn’t really gotten any sleep since the morning before.
The Mad Hatter (his real name – Mr. Hatter had it legally changed) was the Tournament Organizer in Lubbock, and this was his PTQ. The top two finishers would win slots to Pro Tour: Columbus. The tournament ended up being six rounds of swiss, followed by a top eight elimination round. I was running a standard Necropotence deck, complete with Hymn to Tourach, Hypnotic Specter, Nevinyrral’s Disk, Strip Mine, Mishra’s Factory, Dark Ritual, Drain Life, Sengir Vampire, and Necropotence itself. The highlights of the tournament included taking a ten-minute nap after round one, a five-minute nap after round two, a ten-minute nap after round three, playing straight through round four against a deck that running four Mana Flares, allowing me to Drain Life the player in consecutive turns for obscene damage despite his massive Fireballs and Disintegrates, sleeping for five minutes after round five, winning round six against the mirror match, and then suddenly finding myself in the finals against a Green/Red deck where I gleefully played horribly, giddy at having won the slot and having not gotten any sleep in nearly 48 hours. My recollection of the tournament is almost completely nil – I don’t think I was conscious through half of my matches – luckily I could play Necropotence on autopilot at that point, and it was the best deck in the field.
Wisely, the twins and I got a hotel room that night.
Anthony:”Oh my God! I can’t believe you just won!”
Chris:”Way to go bro!”
Anthony:”You just won?”
Me:”I did? Can we order a pizza, I’m hungry!”
Anthony:”I can’t believe it! You just drove sixteen hours (it had actually been more towards thirteen, but still), jumped out of the car, and won the slot at the PTQ. Oh my God!”
Me:”Hey Dominos, can we get two large pepperoni pizzas to room (whatever room we were in) at (whatever hotel we were staying at)? Thanks!”
Anthony:”That was amaaaaazing!”
I fell asleep before the pizzas arrived, and slept straight through from nine that night until noon the next day. When I woke up, Anthony and Chris reassured me that I had indeed won the slot at the PTQ. I finally could savor the victory, with coherent thought returning to my brain. Anthony told me the story of how one of his opponents was disabled, and only had one good hand. He placed the rest of his cards on a scrabble rack so he could play the game. During his second game against Anthony, the guy’s friend came over, and said”Hey! You want to play this card now!” and pointed to a card on the rack.”Are you serious?” yelled Anthony, calling The Mad Hatter (who was also head judge of his own event) over to make a ruling. The Mad Hatter let it slide. Anthony couldn’t believe that his opponent had just gotten coached by a friend and got away with it.
On the trip back, we stopped once for food at Arby’s in the middle of Podunk, Texas. The teenage girl working behind the counter was amazed – she had never seen twins before, much less red-headed Italian northern twins! She called the entire kitchen staff to see Chris and Anthony, and in an attempt to get some attention back to myself, I made conversation.
Me:”Hey, do you know why they call this place Arby’s?”
Girl:”I think it’s because of Mr. Arby?”
Me:”No no! It’s because you serve roast beef?”
Me:”Roast beef. Arr Bee. Arby’s! Get it?”
Chris:”Dude, are you smoking crack?”
Me:”No, I’m serious.”
Anthony:”I think that she’s right Ben.”
Me:”No, it’s arr bee! Roast beef! Arby’s!”
Girl:”Whatever. God, I can’t believe you two are twins!”
Shot down! For record’s sake, the story of Arby’s can be found here. From that page:
“The only kink in the chain’s orderly development came with choosing a name for it. The partners wanted to use the name”Big Tex,” but were unsuccessful in negotiating with the Akron businessman who was already using the name. So, in the words of Forrest,”We came up with Arby’s, which stands for R.B., the initials of Raffel Brothers, although I guess customers might think the initials stand for roast beef.”
Sigh. Damn Mr. Arby and his confounded atlas! It took another fourteen hours of driving to get back to New Orleans. Twenty eight hours were spent driving. Fifteen hours were spent sleeping. Thirteen hours were spent playing. No time was wasted that weekend, and the end result was the second PTQ win of my career! Later that summer I would drive another 1,800 miles back and forth from New Orleans and Columbus, Ohio – but at least that time I planned my trip over two days. The win in Lubbock was by far the best victory I’ve had in Magic that I can’t remember in the least.
Ben can be reached at [email protected].