When I took my lhasa to Exchange Park, while we were walking in relative isolation on the new walking paths, we saw a roadrunner, running, or rather, walking quickly as if on tiptoes. She leaped a small fence, and vanished from sight.
My wife continues to recuperate from a bout of being under the weather, so she slept today. I went to the 369 BBQ, where they serve inexpensive rice plates of barbecue duck, chicken and pork, and where I am usually the only Euro-American in the place. I then drove, with Air America playing on the radio, to Barnes & Noble, where I got two books on chess, and then to Whole Foods Market where I got one of those luxury micro-brewed root beers.
Somewhere along the way, I stopped at a pentecostal church rummage sale, where for the "last ten minutes of the sale $ 2 a sack" price, for my two dollars I got a few jars suitable for small terraria and a stuffed bear not suited to my purposes at all, but which was too cute to pass up. I began to drive to a local chain nursery place, for cactus supplies, as my Crown of Thorns euphorbia has two cute red blooms, my bonsai jade tree looks just spendid, and I wanted more succulent plants to place in the little jars I bought.
On my way to the chain, I passed a billboard for a place called Christina's, which is a local nursery. The flats outdoors had tons of people, marigolds and daisies, but I headed indoors. I bought cactus soil and two cacti. When the price proved four and a half dollars per cacti, I wanted to make a price comparison with the chain across the street. I found that the discount cacti were slightly less expensive, but not as dramatically as I had thought. Of course, I bought a third cactus, for two dollars and thirty six cents.
I realized I was near Richardson, where my 13 year old nephew was playing in the Dallas-Fort Worth grade school championships. I arrived just before the begining of the last round, and got to say "hi" to my nephew before going to sit outside with his mom. This was fortunate timing, because it turned out that adults could not watch the games, due to the blight known as "chess parents". I found all the kids in the hallways talking chess to be so cute, particularly the five and six year olds, describing lost pawns and missed opportunities.
My nephew rampaged over his opponent in short order, which catapulted my nephew into second place for his grade level in the tournament. We had a rather lengthy wait for the tournament to end and his trophy to be distributed, so we decided to play a game. Because of our disparity in playing strength, we worked out that I would have one minute plus a ten second increment to make all the moves in my game, while he would have 999 minutes to make all his moves.
A really kind chess mom who was knitting changed places with us so that we could play on a table. Then my nephew and I began to play. I got a substantial attack with the white side of a queen's gambit, but then, because I had "gone in for the kill" prior to castling my king into safety, my nephew avoided a "mate in two" combination I had prepared and soon had me on the ropes.
Meanwhile, the knitting chess mom's son came out and proclaimed that he had won his game, which sent the mom into exultations which I believe must have been used by women of Troy to salute returning soldiers. I had been fooled by her quiet knitting and her kindness--she was indeed an "involved chess mom", intent on seeing her son win. My sister-in-law leaned over later and whispered to me "he's only rated 800", which signified that the victorious boy is a quite weak player thus far.
I was so impressed by the many kids who played in the tournament. An adult tournament is also going on this weekend, but as it required two days and I must travel Sunday night, I did not play in it. I mentally gave kudos to the woman who ran the scholastic tournament. She also runs Dalls Chess in Schools, an admirable program to teach chess to inner city school kids. I made a mental note to send them another donation when I got home.
I bought a chess book at the tournament about unusual opening strategies. My nephew let me play with his hand-held new games gizmo. In one game, I caused balls to carom off each other for points, setting a new record by 10,000s of points. In another game, I used a slingshot to keep balloon bombs from destroying wildflowers.
We sat through the awards presentation, which was lengthy indeed. The organizers had excess trophies, because in the high school grades, most kids opted to play for money with the adults rather than play in the scholastic for mere trophies. They distributed the excess of trophies to the kindergartners, essentially meaning that showing up entitled one to a handsome trophy. I liked that, somehow.
The awards lacked any solemnity or pomp or circumstance, but it had its moment--as when as inner-city school, its players wearing team t-shirts that said "play with honor", won a grade-level team trophy. The four team members looked positively regal (and very cute) as they all stood for a picture, each with a hand on his trophy.
When two or more people tie for a trophy, they award the top trophy based on tiebreaks. There are four systems, but they are all predictable--who played the toughest schedule? Who had the most wins during the toughest rounds? The kind knitting mom's son tied for first in his grade, but he looked as sullen as if he were Jake Manning scowling because he had been drafted by the San Diego ballet.
Apparently, his tiebreaks gave him only the second place trophy despite his stellar day. I wanted to pull him aside and tell him I knew well how to snatch defeat from the jaws of palpable victory, and that it is a trait best avoided. But I have every confidence his knitting mom snapped out of her Conan-blood-kill jubilation and set his aright in the long run.
It's great the way that a thousand little novels happen around me all the time, just waiting to be read, or misread.
I took a number of throwaway camera pictures of my nephew in his "North Texas Blitz Hegemony" (my near-imaginary club) t-shirt and his huge second place trophy. He played quite well, finishing out of first only because of a last-minute blunder. But isn't all chess a matter of losing due to the last, and not the next to last, blunder? Someone like Tartakower said something like that, but I can't remember the quote.
I went and picked up Thai food for my wife and I to eat. Thankfully, the doctor told her she is getting over it soon. Now I am reading a book of Chess Rules of Thumb, and looking forward to playing in a real tournament again. But tomorrow, I plant cacti.