Friday, October 30, 2009

The war of the blanks (Mihai Pantis vs Dan Laurentiu Sandu)

A couple of months ago, Mihai Pantis and Dan Laurentiu Sandu met in the final of the Qualifying Tournament for the World Scrabble Championship held in Johor Bahru. These two Romanian Scrabble players have met 20 times this year and the score is 10-10! I knew that either of them could qualify. It was Dan's experience versus Mihai's superior word knowledge. I named this article the war of the blanks since the two magic blanks decided the winner in the first 7 games. Dan drew the first 6 blanks to win the first 3 games. Mihai took the next 4 blanks and the score became 3-2. Dan took the next 2 blanks. It was 4-2 for him and he needed one more win in order to qualify for the WSC. This time it was Mihai' s turn to get the blanks. It was 4-3 for Dan. In the last 2 games they shared the blanks. Both games went Mihai's way and sent him to Malaysia.

Let's have a look at some statistics:
1.Mihai Pantis

5 wins, 8 blanks, 12 bonuses,8 phoneys(6 challenged off) 3693 points
Bonuses played: Aerobes, Longers, Betaken, Mausolea, Torrents,
Timider, Mudiria, Renoted*(Erodent is valid), Ooriest, Nidating,
Ecuries, Induviae

2. Dan Laurentiu Sandu

4 wins, 10 blanks, 12 bonuses, 6 phoneys(all challenged off), 3490 points
Overpast, Gardens, Toasted, Melodica, Soutanes, Bornite, Serafin,
Euglenas, Loiters, Areoles, Returned, Notates.

I have already congratulated Mihai on his win and sent my commiserations to Dan. Together we will try not to lose the 2 spots Romania has for the WSC. If the tile Gods are with us, we could even earn a third spot. Let's see what happens!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A list sometimes...(-vvy)

There are only ten words in English which end in "-vvy". Unfortunately there is nothing on the web about these words and about their formation. It's easy for example to guess how the word "Civvy" was created. "Civvy" looks to me like an abbreviation of the word civilian. Following the same pattern, "Bevvy" is an abbreviation of the word beverage and "Bivvy" is an abbreviation of the word bivouac. These new words are the result of the speakers' "rebellion" against the languange, against long words. It's the tendency of the colloquial English(and not only) to replace some of the long words with shorter ones. They say "time is money". There's no point wasting it while trying to pronounce neverending* words. In colloquial English, picture becomes "Piccy", cigarette becomes "Ciggy", television becomes "Telly" communist becomes "Commy" etc. Another wild guess of mine is that words such as communist, television, cigarette, beverage and civilian are still preferred to their shorter "siblings"in written English.
Let's have a look at the "-vvy" words allowed in Scrabble.

BEVVY = an alcoholic drink [n BEVVIES]to engage in a drinking session [v BEVVIED, BEVVYING, BEVVIES]
BIVVY = to go on a bivouac [v BIVVIED, BIVVYING, BIVVIES]
CIVVY = a civilian (a nonmilitary person) [n CIVVIES]
DIVVY= to divide (to separate into different parts) [v DIVVIED, DIVVYING, DIVVIES]
LUVVY= an entertainer, especially a camp one, also LUVVIE [n LUVVIES]
NAVVY= to work as a labourer [v NAVVIED, NAVVYING, NAVVIES]
SAVVY to understand [v SAVVIED, SAVVYING, SAVVIES]shrewd (having keen insight) [adj SAVVIER, SAVVIEST]
SKIVVY = to work as a female servant [v SKIVVIED, SKIVVYING, SKIVVIES]
SPIVVY flashy (gaudy (tastelessly showy)) [adj SPIVVIER, SPIVVIEST]

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Sorrows of a Scrabbler's Wife

I beg your forgiveness, Herr Goethe, for the shameless mutilation of the title of your masterpiece (although legally speaking, the copyright expired more than a century ago). However, I assure you that what young Werther experienced reaches maybe one tenth of my daily tribulations. Picture the following scene.
The kitchen of a Romanian family living in Japan, one late morning in October. It’s a glorious autumn morning, with mellow golden light flowing gently into our kitchen and bringing in the crisp smell of leaves and the flavour of childhood memories. I’m cooking. I hear Adrian coming down the stairs—he must have thought that it’s dangerous to linger any longer in front of the computer while I’m making lunch. He enters the kitchen carrying his laptop and typing with one hand, so only his excellent reflexes save him from the imminent collision with the table. I’m happy thinking of our small serene family and Adrian smiles too. He settles comfortably into a chair, one leg on another chair (posture that drives me absolutely crazy!) and asks innocently:
“Do you know what word you get if you add an O to CARMEN?”
“No idea.” I don’t even bother considering it. Words are HIS hobby. My words come in sentences, not in lists or letter scrambles.
“Oh, come on! Think about it! CARMEN + O"
All of a sudden, the autumn light seems somehow colder. I’m chopping onions and my grasp on the knife handle tightens.
“I don’t want to think about it!”
CARMEN + O is ROMANCE! Don't you like it?”
I’ve half forgiven him when the next question pops up.
“How about CARMEN + H?”
I’m mashing potatoes now. Does he realize that it’s not such a brilliant idea to mess with someone who’s armed? A grin of satisfaction spreads on his face.
ENCHARM!” he announces. I manage a smile and wonder if he puts this quiz into the “romantic quality time spent with my wife” category. If so, he’s sweet after all… until I hear the next question.
“How about CARMEN + E?”
“I don’t know and don’t want to know!”
Adrian grabs his computer and says making his way out:
“Out! I yell, menacingly waving the potato masher. Adrian’s face appears for a few seconds in one of the glass squares of the door:
I grin back:
CARMEN + T? Hmm… no lunch today, right?”
Although I don’t recommend this activity if you’re trying to organize a romantic encounter with your partner, here are some CARMEN + words. If words were diamonds…

1. CARMEN +E =MENACER (one that menaces)
2. CARMEN+H =ENCHARM (to charm, enchant)
3. CARMEN+H=MARCHEN (a folktale)
4.CARMEN+I =CARMINE (a vivid red colour)
5. CARMEN+O=CREMONA (an early woodwind instrument); also CRUMHORN, CROMORNE, CROMORNA, KRUMHORN
6. CARMEN+O=ROMANCE (to woo)
7. CARMEN+T=CREMANT (of wine, moderately sparkling)
8. CARMEN+W= CREWMAN (one who serves on a ship)


Some of our readers informed us that they were not able to post comments. I tried from a different computer (without logging in) and it seems that one must click "Preview" first, then introduce the code word which will appear, then click "Post Comment". So the steps are: 1. click Comment (under the article); 2. write your comment and select the name under which you want to publish it; 3. click Preview; 4. type the verification word; 5. click Post Comment. Thank you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Book... Again: "Genghis: Birth of an Empire"

From a scrabble player’s point of view, this book is a linguistic catastrophe. There aren’t many words that would make an interesting chapter on Mongolian scrabble vocabulary. Obviously the Khan, unlike the modern Indians, some of whom are actually excellent players, had not discovered this fascinating game. From a (my wife adds “normal”) reader’s point of view, it’s an interesting lecture, with a catchy plot and well defined characters. I enjoyed the lecture despite of the lack of scrabble words. Carmen says it’s definitely a must if you want to learn something about culture and history while enjoying some action.

Carrion+s = dead and rotting flesh
Cheekpiece+s = either of two straps of a bridle that connect the bit to the headpiece
Flyblown* Flyblow+n,s = deposit larva or flyblow on (meat or other food); contaminate; taint
Horsehide+s = skin of a horse; leather made from the hide of a horse
Lichen+s = to cover with flowerless plants
Longbow+s = a type of archery bow
Outcrop+s = to protrude above the soil
Saddlebag+s = bag laid behind a saddle of a horse
Saddlecloth+s = saddle blanket, thick pad placed under a saddle to prevent it from irritating the horse's skin
Scabbard+s = to sheathe, as a sword
Skirmish = to engage in a minor battle
Stirrup+s = a support for the foot of a horseman
Wicker+s = a pliant twig or branch

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cheese, cheese everywhere, as much as you can eat

If there is one food I can’t live without, that’s cheese. I thought I couldn’t live without bread and cakes, but apparently I can, since I gave them up completely in an effort to lose weight. But I couldn’t give up cheese. If I were one of King Lear’s daughters, I would tell him that I love him as much as I love cheese. And there is good cheese in Romania… In the area where I come from, fresh sheep cheese is salted and put in wooden barrels to ferment. After a few months, the result is a hard, spicy, stinky cheese. It’s so stinky that if you use your hands to take it out of the barrel, the smell will stay for at least 24 hours on your skin. Adrian and I love it, especially with MAMALIGA (a valid Scrabble word meaning a kind of cornmeal porridge and a staple food in traditional Romania). You put the hot mamaliga on top of the cheese and everything melts in the most delicious paste you’ve ever tasted. I think the photo below, of our lunch today, is eloquent.

Since our parents know about our culinary passion, this is what they have just sent us.

No, it’s not for a year, just for less than two months, until we go home for Christmas. If you love cheese too, your mouths must be watering already, but we can only offer you some food for thought: cheeses that can be used in Scrabble. Bon appetit!
Asiago+s = an Italian cheese
Boursin+s = a mild, smooth creamy cheese without rind
Caboc+s =a Scottish cheese
Cheddar+s,y =a type of cheese originated in England
Cheshire+s = a hard English cheese
Chevre+s,t Chevret+s = a cheese made from goat’s milk
Colby+s Colbies = a type of mild tasting hard cheese
Feta+l,s Fetta+s = a crumbly white cheese
Fondue+d,s = a dish of melted cheese
Fromage+s = word borrowed from French meaning cheese
Gruyere+s = a Swiss cheese
Haloumi+s Halloumi+s = a Greek dish of goat’s cheese
Havarti+s = a Danish cheese
Mascarpone+s = Italian cream cheese
Munster+s Muenster+s = a mild cheese
Paneer+s = a soft white cheese used in Indian cookery
Parmesan+s = a hard dry Italian cheese
Pecorino+s Pecorini(no –s) = a hard cheese made from sheep’s milk
Provolone+s = Italian cheese often smoked
Raclette+s = salted cheese made from cow’s milk
Rarebit+s = a sauce made from melted cheese served hot over toasted bread
Ricotta+s = an Italian cheese
Romano+s = an Italian cheese
Taleggio+s = a soft creamy cheese
Note that "camembert", "gorgonzola", "roquefort" or "gouda" are not valid Scrabble words, but Mozarella is.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Romeo, Oh Romeo!

We all know the tale of Romeo and Juliet, a story of passion, betrayal and death. What we shall reveal here is the sensational, extraordinary and shocking case of discrimination related to this story, which did not occur in the Middle Ages, but now, in the 21st century! Prepare yourselves to be amazed!
The dictionaries of the English language (both Adrian’s favourite, Collins Scrabble Dictionary, and my favourite, the Oxford English Dictionary) list “romeo” as a common noun meaning “a lover, a passionate admirer; a seducer, a habitual pursuer of women”. Yet “juliet” does not appear anywhere except in the phrase “Juliet cap” (“a small, round cap of wide, open mesh, usually decorated with pearls or other jewels, similar to that worn on the stage by Shakespeare's Juliet”), where it is still a proper noun which cannot be used in Scrabble. This leads to the obvious conclusion that, while “romeo” has come to designate a prototype, the universal and eternal lover, Juliet has been banished to the realm of frilly and by now completely outdated accessories.
What poison, daggers and generation-long hatred failed to do, the dictionaries successfully achieved: they separated Romeo and Juliet! We are expecting, of course, a wave of protests more or less violent from word lovers or simply lovers around the world, but we wanted to be the first to draw your attention to the potential linguistic dangers lurking inside the dusty tomes.
As an illustration for this article, in order not to be accused of copyright infringement, we chose a photo from our engagement ceremony. Feel free to comment. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anagrams III (for Scrabble players only)

I'm back with another quiz. The second quiz was a bit harder than the first one. As a result, some of the players only found 5 words. None of the players who sent feedback managed to find all the words. Hopefully the third quiz will be even more difficult than the second one. Give yourself 5 minutes. Good luck!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A List... Sometimes (-dar)

Apparently, "-dar" is a suffix derived from the Persian verb dash tan which means to hold, to own. A word like "ZAMINDAR" for example, was created by adding the suffix "-dar" to "ZAMIN" which means land. So a "ZAMINDAR" is a landowner. The word "GAYDAR"though was not formed with the help of the Persian suffix. It is just a blend of the words "GAY" and "RADAR", not a very politically correct word. Neither were the words "GOSPODAR" and "HOSPODAR", words which were created with the help of the suffix "-ar", "a suffix appended to words to create a masculine noun, usually denoting a profession, person who does something or an animal". "KALENDAR" and "CALENDAR" come from the Latin "CALENDAE"( the first day of the month). " CHEDDAR", the cheese most of us love and some of us hate, was named after a village in England. So not all the words ending in "-dar" are formed with the assistance of the Persian suffix "-dar".
Here are some words ending in "-dar":
6 Letter Words
BANDAR+I,S = a rhesus monkey
BORDAR+S = a cottager subject to a lord
CHADAR+S = a large shawl, also CHADOR [n CHADARS or CHADRI]
DEODAR+A,S = an East Indian cedar, also DEODARA
GAYDAR+S = the ability to recognize that a person is homosexual
PANDAR+S = to act as a procurer, also PANDER [v -ED, -ING, -S]
QINDAR+S = n Albanian currency, also QINTAR, QUINTAR [n QINDARS or QINDARKA]
SARDAR+S= a person of rank in India, also SIRDAR
SIRDAR+S = a person of rank in India, also SARDAR
7 Letter Words
AMILDAR+S = an Indian manager, also AUMIL
CHADDAR+S = a type of large veil
CHEDDAR+S,Y = a type of cheese
CHOBDAR+S = an usher
CHUDDAR+S = a large square shawl, also CHUDDAH, CHUDDER
JAMADAR+S = an Indian police officer
JEMADAR+S = an Indian army officer, also JEMIDAR
JEMIDAR+S = an Indian army officer, also JEMADAR
KHADDAR+S = a cotton cloth, also KHADI
SUBADAR+S = a governor of a subah, also SUBAHDAR, SUBEDAR
SUBEDAR+S = a governor of a subah, also SUBAHDAR, SUBADAR
TANADAR+S = an officer in charge of a tana [n -S]
8 Letter Words
CALENDAR+S =to schedule, also KALENDAR [v -ED, -ING, -S]
CHOKIDAR+S = a watchman (a man employed to stand guard)
CHURIDAR+S = pl long tight-fitting trousers (Hindi) [n -S] s
GOSPODAR+s = a Russian address, equivalent to Mr, also GOSPODA, GOSPODIN, HOSPODAR
HAVILDAR+S =an Indian sergeant
HOSPODAR+S = a Russian address, equivalent to Mr, also GOSPODA, GOSPODAR. GOSPODIN
KALENDAR+S = to schedule, also CALENDAR [v -ED, -ING, -S]
KILLADAR+S= in India, the commandant of a fort
RISALDAR+S = a commander of Indian cavalry
SILLADAR+S = an irregular cavalryman
SUBAHDAR+S,Y = a governor of a subah, also SUBADAR, SUBEDAR
TABERDAR+S= a scholar of Queens College Oxford
TALUKDAR+S=the holder of a taluk
THANADAR+S= on officer in charge of a thana
ZAMINDAR+I,S,Y = a tax collector in India, also ZEMINDAR
ZEMINDAR+I,S,Y = a tax collector in India, also ZAMINDAR

If there is something you would like to add, please feel free to do it. I would be interested to find out more about these fascinating words.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Defunnytions (XVI)

The fictionary opened at "PIGNOLIA" today. A "PIGNOLIA" is the offspring of a pig and a magnolia. In other dictionaries "PIGNOLIA" is defined as being the edible seed of nut pines.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More Anagrams (for Scrabble players only)

Here are some more anagrams I'm struggling with. Again, give yourself 5 minutes to find them.Good luck!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Anagrams (for Scrabble players only)

I've been trying to study some words for the WSC and CAUSEWAY and there are quite a few I just can't get right. I have selected ten of those words. See how many you can find in 5 minutes and let me know your result. I'm curious if anybody can find all ten words. Good luck!
10. TO+HIT+APE=?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Once upon a time, on a fair piece of land that would later be called South America, there lived a hardworking peasant. And our peasant simply loved fiery hot peppers, he could never had enough of them. Every year, he strived and toiled in order to make even hotter peppers, using all means and devices he could think of. No, his original methods will not be revealed here, because this is a “DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME” story. One day, when the hot peppers were ripe and ready to be eaten, the peasant went to the field early in the morning, eager to try the result of his labours. The peppers glowed a burning red, as if the fire from all the South American volcanoes had gathered inside their tender shiny flesh. Without hesitation, the peasant picked one, took a bite, and a flood of tears rolled on his cheek. No, they were not tears of pain, they were tears of joy. After years of trials and failures, he had finally grown the perfect hot red pepper. The Absolute Pepper, uncontested king of all hot peppers in the world.
“Thy name shall be HABANERO”, proclaimed the peasant while running towards his house.
“Wife, wife”, he called breathlessly, “try this pepper!”
The peasant’s wife was a nice obedient woman, so, although she did not share her husband’s passion for hot peppers, listened to his urges and took a bite. But no sooner had the devilish pepper flesh touched her tongue that she started waving her hands and spinning around the table, her face in flames and her eyes bulging out of her head. At the same time, some women from the neighbourhood were passing by and they saw through the window the peasant’s wife “dance”.
“Great dance”, they thought, “we could all dance it at the harvest festival next month!” So they entered the house and joined the peasant’s wife, trying to learn the moves.
“Say, sister, this is wonderful! How do you call it? It must be from your mother’s village, because we’ve never seen the likes of it around here.”
But the peasant’s wife was still under the HABANERO spell and unable to talk. From a corner, the other women could hear the elated husband’s voice:
And thus the hot pepper HABANERO and HABANERA the dance were born on the same day. I must add here that while the habanero is still fiery hot, fortunately for the audiences, the habanera dropped the chaotic running around the table, the red face and the bulging eyes, turning into a slow dance.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Defunnytions (XV)

Today's specialty is "LATEWAKE". How many times did your alarm clock not wake you up in time and had to eat your breakfast while shaving? How many times did you spill coffee on your neighbour's shoes while running to the bus station? How many times did you have to catch a taxi instead of taking a bus, so you can make it to work on time? If your answer is at least once, you are a "LATEWAKE".
In other dictionaries "LATEWAKE" is defined as a watch over the dead. I bet you like my "defunnytion" better.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Death of Vishnu(III) Miscellanea

In “The Death of Vishnu”, Manil Suri uses the word SHRIMATI* which means “wife” in Hindu. This word is not valid in Scrabble, but the word ISARITHM, which is made of the same letters, is.
Another interesting word used by the author and which is not valid in Scrabble is NAMAZ*(a ritual prayer practiced by Muslims). Even more interesting is the fact that if you read this word backwards you get the valid word ZAMAN (a large ornamental tropical American tree).
JAMUN* (an evergreen tropical tree) is not valid either, but UNJAM (to free from jamming) is.
LADDOOS* (Indian and Pakistani sweets) is another nonvalid word that has an anagram: SOLDADO (soldier).
CHAMELI* (jasmine) cannot be found in The Collins Scrabble Dictionary but it does have a very nice anagram: LECHAIM (a traditional Jewish toast), which I strongly recommend to the “lords of the board”.
Another “phony” with a valid anagram is TULSI* (known as holy basil in English). Its valid anagram is SLUIT (a narrow water channel).
Manil Suri also uses the word PATAKAS* (firecrackers). Note that the singular form PATAKA (a storehouse on stilts) is playable in Scrabble, while PATAKAS* is not.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Perfect Rainbow

As some of you probably know (even my parents in Romania do and they called me last night, as they usually do when some catastrophe is announced anywhere in Japan), last night Kansai was hit by Typhoon No. 18. A real natural disaster which produced incredible damage, like rattling our shutters for about two hours and opening our garden gate. This morning, our friends' temple across the street was gone, taken by the wind to... wait, that was Dorothy's house. Actually, the only real damage the typhoon caused was that it destroyed my plans of spending an unplanned holiday at home, waking up late (or at least later than 5:30 in the morning) and cooking a nice breakfast for my husband. Who's been so neglected lately that he even started drinking my Earl Grey leftovers, the tea which smells like soap, he says, for lack of something better. But it wasn't meant to be. I woke up, called the train company and an employee cheerfully announced that the trains were running according to schedule. The good thing is that today I saw the perfect rainbow. Here it is, although the quality of the photo (taken with my cell phone, from a fifth floor window) is not the best. Doshisha University, Kyoto presents the Perfect Rainbow!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Death of Vishnu(II)

Dais+y = a raised platform
Dharma+s = sacred duty
Garuda+s = a Hindu demigod
Jambul+s = tree with small purple fruit
Kumari+s = in India, the title of Miss
Kurta+s Khurta+s = a loose fitting tunic of India
Lathi+s = long piece of bamboo usually used as a weapon
Maharaja+h,s = a king or prince in India
Masala+s = a mixture of ground spices used in Indian cookery
Mela+s = a Hindu festival or fair
Mooli+s = an East African vegetable
Namaste+s = an Indian form of greeting
Okra+s = a tall annual herb
Pakora+s = an Indian vegetable dish
Paneer+s = homemade Indian cheese
Pomfret+s = a marine fish
Rupee+s = a monetary unit of India
Salaam+s = to greet with a low bow
Tamasha+s = a public entertainment in India
Tiffin+ g,s = stacking containers used to carry prepared food

Monday, October 5, 2009

Defunnytions (XIV) It's not you, it's the ring.

Today, as I was going through some anagrams, I found the word "SHOWRING". Right away I could tell what a "SHOWRING" was. A "SHOWRING" is somebody who kneels down in front of his princess and asks her to marry him. Let's not forget the ring. The ring plays a very important role. If the ring is cheap, she might say no. If the ring is expensive, there is no doubt she will say yes. He takes out the magic ring and shows it to the woman of his dreams. At that very moment, he becomes a "SHOWRING". Other dictionaries less imaginative than mine define "SHOWRING" as being a ring where animals are displayed.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A book...sometimes (The Death of Vishnu I)

I continue my reading odyssey with “The Death of Vishnu”, a book written by the author of “The Age of Shiva”. The book is very well written and has a lot of interesting words. I eliminated the words that have already appeared in my previous “book reports”. Again, I’m not going to spoil the lecture for you. Here are some words from the book:
(Source of definitions: Collins Scrabble Dictionary and the author’s notes)

Anna+l,s,t = a former coin of India
Ashram+a,s = an Indian retreat house
Attar+s = a fragrant oil
Avatar+s = an incarnation of a god or goddess
Bandar+i, s = a monkey
Banyan+s = an Indian tree
Basmati+s = Asian aromatic rice
Beedi (no –s) + es = a hand rolled cigarette
Bhajan+s = a Hindu religious song
Bhang+s = intoxicant, sometimes mixed with milk for consumption
Brahma + n,s = part of the primary Hindu trinity of gods, the creator, who breathes out the universe to make it come into existence
Brinjal+s = eggplant
Cardamom+s Cardamon+s Cardamum+s = a tropical herb
Dacoit+ s, y Dakoit+i,s,y = a bandit
Dacoity = criminal activities of dacoits

Friday, October 2, 2009

Defunnytions (XIII)

The fictionary* opened at "BOREHOLE" today. "BOREHOLE"is described as being an uninteresting place. I even managed to find an example: " This blog is such a borehole"."BOREHOLE" is defined in other dictionaries as a hole made in the earth's crust.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Love in Scrabbleland

As I promised you a few weeks ago, I’m back with news from my clandestine Tokyo trip. The game details are not ready yet (I’m still trying to organize the photos), but I simply had to tell you about my bus adventures. We (read: my wife) decided that we didn’t have enough money and anyway a Scrabble pleasure trip was not that important to allow me the use of shinkansen, so we got tickets to the night bus. The trip to Tokyo was relatively uneventful, if you don’t take into account the fact that it took me about two hours to find the bus station. That says a lot, I think, about my inclination to wander (in Japan or anywhere else).
In a bout of generosity, my wife had bought me for the onward trip the equivalent of a business class ticket, so I could stretch my legs, wrap myself in a blanket and theoretically fall into a comfortable sleep. Theoretically, because apparently the driver used to work on a kindergarten bus, so every hour he would stop and in a booming voice urge us to use the toilet. The first time my sweet dreams were thus interrupted I thought there had been an accident and we were being evacuated; after the second time I started praying that the highway to Tokyo would run out of toilets.
On the way to Osaka I was back to economy and contemplating yet another night of involuntary knee hugging when an elderly gentleman (the future star of the “Prison Break” sequel, “Crypt Break”) suddenly yelled: “That’s my seat!” I checked my ticket, made sure he didn’t have a glass eye, and the driver came to my rescue indicating the seat next to mine. Crypt Break continued the conversation with his imaginary friend: “That’s better! This is the seat I wanted. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.”
Ouch! Now he was talking to me. What do you reply to somebody who addresses you with the polite expression soliciting someone’s favour or good will when you are ready to fall asleep and pray the journey would end sooner? I had no time to reply as he was already enthusiastically shaking my hand. And that marked, like in the movies, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. A night of love and romance, when Crypt Break’s hand “accidentally” found its way on my knee three times. The first two times I politely removed it, but the third I shook it away in a manner that could not be mistaken for gentleness. I was no longer in “Crypt Break”, but in “Attack of the Zombies”! However, I am proud to report that both I and Casablanca revisited (the senior version) left the bus unscathed. Yet a question is now haunting me: does the abundance of hair on my chest make up for the fact that I was holding a pink Snoopy pillow?