Sunday, June 27, 2010


In 12 hours from now, HOBB and I will be piling into our black Honda with Little Babe and lots of luggage -- a suitcase, knapsack, electric bass and traveling amp for our youngest son, who is leaving on a five-week teen tour to Israel and two densely-packed carry-ons for our own three-day trip to Madrid.

Which is why I don't understand my wakefulness at this particular hour, when I should be catching up on important pre-travel sleep so I'm not a total psycho at lift-off.

It could, of course, have something to do with the two strong cups of Zabar's French Italian coffee downed at 9 pm which were ingested to overcome the effects of the margarita I had two hour earlier. The margarita, customized with cranberry juice, tasted tangy and delicious sipped beneath the trees outside of my bungalow which immeasurably enhanced my experience of slogging through Alberto Moravia's Two, an aggravating novel in the form of a man's ongoing struggle -- and conversation -- with his penis.

And my post-midnight industriousness is rendered even less mysterious given the fact that the past two hours were spent knocking out a computer virus that appeared like a malevolent magician's rabbit on the laptop that had lain dormant for over 36 hours in deference to Shabbat.

Of course, during my computer's lengthy scanning process, I reread Little Babe's Bnai Brith Youth Organization's Trek Israel information packet on the table oh, about three times. Which inspired me to obsess over some minor items we still need to buy between now and 4 pm, not to mention the fact that my youngest child has never been away from home for more than a week's time.

But now as a welcome fatigue overtakes me, worry gives way to a ruminative, creative flow of thoughts and, unbidden, a word pops into my head.


It characterizes a decision I recently made -- but didn't realize it until this very moment -- to play Scrabble exclusively with HOBB.

With the possible exception of our children or Pomeranians. On rare occasions.

In deference to the hour, I will simply state that despite attempts to adapt an inclusive policy over the past 27 years, I end up wanting to murder most everyone who joins my Scrabble game with HOBB.

The reason is clear -- the dead serious, do-or-die, kill or be killed competitive vibe that fuels our competitions is completely defused the minute an outsider joins the game.

Particularly an outsider accustomed to breaking classic Scrabble rules or one who endlessly wisecracks or gossips or eats crumbly food over the board or sings Broadway tunes or offers unsolicited word assistance or -- sin of sins -- makes up words.

I am hardly joking when I say that I have to surreptitiously undertake Lamaze breathing to avoid a violent confrontation with the interloper.

Of course, HOBB and I aren't unique in having a personal history with Scrabble. Millions around the world do, which is why the game has global bestseller status. Our own Scrabble story began during our dating days when we hauled the set to Central Park on Shabbat afternoons and played on a blanket for hours. When we became engaged on a Friday night in June of 1983, our secret engagement -- embargoed to the outside world until Shabbat ended -- deliciously played itself out through a lengthy game of Scrabble, which felt as illicit as sex in a public place.

There is a special relationship between Sabbath-observers and Scrabble that has to do with the Shabbos-friendly nature of the game and the creative solution to keeping score without writing -- typically resolved by employing books of at least 300 pages and bookmarks.

My own childhood and pre-marital life was gloriously Scrabble-filled, with the vast majority of games having been played on Shabbat afternoon...and occasionally on Friday night. My nephew Daniel was a national Scrabble champion when he was a little boy. Well before his seventh birthday, he was making seven letter words, beating the pants off of me. Next to him, my late Grandma Dorothy remains the most daunting Scrabble opponent I ever met, followed by my Aunt Irene whose matches against my cousin Rena -- her daughter -- mirror the mojo I share with HOBB.

When I played with Irene and Rena, I was painfully aware of being the interloper, the unwelcome outsider. Of course, they never said a word and graciously tolerated my developing Scrabble skills. It is from this mother-daughter duo that I model my cosmic, cut-throat dynamic with HOBB.

Indeed, there have been Scrabble tournaments between the two of us where I am sure that G-d is keeping score, pitting us against each other, weighing our respective moral worth, asking us to compete for the coveted role of His favorite, an honor granted to the player with the coolest, cleverest words, the best strategic moves, the most points.

And when a third or fourth party joins this arena, it throws our private universe into a sense of cosmic disharmony.

So, friends, family members and loved ones, from now on, Scrabble games between me and HOBB are off-limits to you. After practicing an open policy, we are adapting Scrabbleogomy. We might engage in Scrabble flings with others, but the hottest Scrabble action is reserved for us alone. Just so ya know, we will be joining the mile-high club later today by having a quickie aboard our Iberia flight to Madrid.

We hope you will understand. After all, it's for your own good.


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