Short Stack Of Chicago

The universe has been putting itself to extremes for me.  Usually it contents itself with making things awful, which lets me counteract whatever misery I suffer by telling the world at large.  One of the benefits of this column has been that it provides exactly the forum I need, letting me dole out on you,…

The universe has been putting itself to extremes for me.  Usually it contents itself with making things awful, which lets me counteract whatever misery I suffer by telling the world at large.  One of the benefits of this column has been that it provides exactly the forum I need, letting me dole out on you, the reader, whatever ails me.

So imagine my surprise when, after the two or three truly terrible days leading up to my departure for Chi-town, things got better.  Not even better as in back-up-to-just-below-bearable better, but in-general-having-fun-being-alive better.  And to think I was ready to settle for a head wound and a hospital stay.

I’d like nothing better than to bury the lot of you under the details of my journey, but I’m very busy ignoring my responsibilities for a night and simply haven’t the time.  So, instead of the requisite avalanche, I’ll pick out the cherries and send them your way.  

My trip to the Pro Tour was the last thing on my mind during the days before my departure.  I had twenty-six pages worth of term papers to write, and I had to do them in three days.  Two days later. I was well rested and a full page closer to being done.  There were plenty of jokes about practising writing for deadlines that aren’t even funny in hindsight.

I finished the last of them literally one minute before I walked out the door, relying on my cadre of loyalists to make sure the finished product found its way to my professor’s desk.  Twenty-four hours worth of typing meant that sleeping away my thirteen-hour trip was inevitable. They could have stuck me in an overhead compartment, I wouldn’t have cared.

Fiasco number two was my attempted check-in at the Hyatt Regency. The Sideboard was kind enough to put me up there, so I sauntered up to the front deck in my shredded $20 overcoat, elbowed some suits out of my way and asked for my room key so I could play a few more tunes on the slumbermaphone before morning.  They asked for my credit card.

Now, I’m not exactly your rich uncle Pennybags.  My spending is limited to food, rent and tuition right now.  In fact, I had to convince my landlord to let me off for a month, so I could use my rent money for bus tickets.  I have never walked down the street and suddenly realised that I was in dire need of a new stereo.

Because of these facts, I have never gotten myself a credit card. However, the utility of them has since dawned on me.  Renee Roub was kind enough to spot me on hers, no big deal, which was very kind.  Anyway, it’s not like I was planning on tearing apart the mini-bar.

Roub:  How do you usually check into hotels?

OMC:  I don’t go anywhere.

Now that they were obliged to put me up, the hotel leveled with me, saying that even though I had a reservation they didn’t have an actual "room" for me.  What they did give me was four walls, a lot of floor, and a trundle-bed.  It was midnight, and I was riding the yo-yo of exhaustion.  If there had been any further nonsense, I would have just camped out under a table until morning.

Then there was the Masters Gateway, and the start of the Masters, and the Pro Tour.  I did a very little bit of coverage Thursday.  Nothing much in the way of the ha-ha.  I did get put into an actual room-room, which was a plus.  I also got to meet my co-reporter for the weekend (and roommate, as it turns out) Anthony Alongi, as well as my Esteemed Ex-Editor turned Editor, Omeed Dariani.

Neither were quite what I expected.  The worst was that Alongi looked like my Uncle Morris, so there were double-takes a-plenty.  Other than that, the two made for good times, even though they demolished me in the drafts we played.  I’m no longer convinced that I even know how to play this game.  Anything that looks like me knowing what I’m doing is probably just a huge accident.

I did get my revenge on Omeed when I tore his still-beating heart from his chest in two straight games of Mental Magic.  Even those victories were tainted.  After pushing him to zero cards and me with five, I decided it was time to go about the business of killing him.  I drew B (I think it was Urborg Skeleton) and, forgetting completely about Duskwalker, cast it as Vebulid.

Omeed:  Pretty lame, Milhouse.

I didn’t even get to hit him with it.  I still won, but geez.

The rest of the staff were great too.  Craig the photographer was a King Crimson fan. That ruled.

My Benefactor, Pete Hoefling, was there too.  With no further room for me to maneuver, he managed to snap my photo.  It may or may not be alongside the link to this travesty.  (It is not insofar as I know – but even if it isn’t, we have a picture that was posted at the Sideboard, so your pictorial anonymity has been broken – The Ferrett)  

I’m kicking myself for not sending in that photo of a hatchback while I could.

I ran into Aaron Forsythe about as briefly as possible.  He spotted me loafing around the trivia challenge Mark Rosewater runs (my hair, it’s like a lighthouse) and we exchanged all of four sentences before that slavedriver Dariani sent me back to the press room.  I didn’t see him the rest of the weekend; we were both too busy.

I pretty much managed to get over whatever jitters I may have had about interacting with professionals.  I got to meet a whole bunch of them, and they seemed pretty forthcoming.  Nobody openly challenged my right to be there, which was good.  I wouldn’t have had a ready answer.

Pro:  I’m on the trail of thirty large, what are you doing?

OMC:  Uh, sitting around?

All in all, it went smoothly.  I met Alex Shvartsman, who’s way nicer than I’ve ever been and made me feel very welcome.  Southern Ontario player and fatguy Mike Croft pocketed some bucks with the only B/R control deck in the top 64.  I worked three twenty-hour days and slept in the press room at every opportunity.

By the time it hit Sunday night I was brutalised.  My bus was at 6 a.m. on Monday.  I don’t even remember getting to my room, but I definitely woke up there four hours too late.  This meant that I would have to spend six hours in a bus station in Detroit.  I was nudged awake by a burly security guard addressing me as "Sleeping Beauty."

After a full day in transit, I arrived in Waterloo only to find that one of my finals had been in-class, and not during the exam period, which started on Wednesday.

Hurray for everything!

Josh Bennett

Blake "Chewing the Jawbone" Manders is in Texas.  I desperately hope he returns in spurs, chaps and a ten-gallon hat.