Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Board games

What does Thanksgiving mean to you?

I had an e-mail from Elias who wrote to say that Thanksgiving means board games to him. His family is big on board games. They would eat the Thanksgiving dinner at noon and then spend the next five hours in marathon board game playing. Elias graduated college last year and will be spending Thanksgiving far from home.

He's in the fifth month of probation of a six month probation in his new job. He can't afford to fly out on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since his probationary period at work will end the second week of December, he'll be able to take vacation days for Christmas. So it makes more sense for him to visit on Christmas and make it a long visit.

So he'll be missing Thanksgiving tomorrow and wondered if I could share my favorite board game.

Elias is a kind soul. He's also a trusting soul. For instance, he apologizes for the request and says forget about board games if I have something planned. Oh Elias, I never have anything planned.

I'm happy to have topic suggestions.

We never pulled out board games for Thanksgiving. But we did play them a great deal.

There were the games, the grown up games, like Scrabble that we all played as a family.

I don't know about anyone else but Scrabble always bored the hell out of me.

I saw Rosemary's Baby as a kid and it made Scrabble seem so cool. Remember when Mia Farrow drops the Scrabble tiles and ends up figuing out that if she rearranges the name of her elderly neighbor, it turns out he's actually the son of a famous witch?

Maybe it was the high ceilings, hard wood floors, haunting music and Mia Farrow's brilliant performance, but Scrabble seemed so cool.

Nothing that cool ever happened when we played and my parents were big challengers. They wouldn't do it to us. But they'd challenge each other. And it could get brutal.

When it did, Mom would start chain smoking and stop talking except to say her word, her score and something like "Triple letter word score!" or whatever it is.

Dad either had the worst luck with the tiles or his vocabulary wasn't as strong as Mom's. But he'd get nervous and you could see sweat forming on his forehead. Now don't think Mom was always the winner because both of them would try to let one of us kids win. But there was a huge competition between them.

And then there was the final problem with the game. We'd be trying to sleep and hearing noises all night. Once we were older, we'd realize that a Scrabble game always meant wild sex between them that night. Today I can say, "Good for them." Back then, I could only think, "My parents are so gross!"

The other game that was apparently an "adult" game also disappointed me, Sorry. I knew Sorry from The Carol Burnett Show. Long before the TV show Mama's Family, Mama was a character on The Carol Burnett Show. Carol played Eunice to Vicky Lawrence's Mama and it was always funny to watch Eunice get worked up about something. One of the things that happened on those skits was that they sat down to play Sorry.

On the show, it was so cool. Eunice had this big, brass bell and she'd ring it and say "Sorry."
The game didn't come with that bell. And without the bell, and probably without the hilarious Carol Burnett, Sorry just wasn't very much fun to me.

On Carol, I'll also toss out that I hate my oldest sister for an entire year. Why? She wrote Carol at CBS and Carol sent her back this really nice 8x10 black and white photo that was autographed to my sister.

My sister wasn't even the big Carol fan. She loved Shirley MacLaine! I was the big Carol fan. I was always playing Eunice or Miss Wigghiggins (which I've probably spelled wrong) or doing a Tarzan yell or saying, "Let's turn up the lights . . ." Carol was my TV hero growing up.

And there was my sister with the photo and she had to show it to everyone and they'd all say how nice it was and how my sister must be the biggest Carol fan in the world.

Now I could've written Carol too. Whenever you see her on TV, she seems like the type of person who does take the time to do autographs.

But my sister had already done it. And wouldn't quit hauling that photo out. So if I wrote, everyone would say, "Oh you copied your sister!"

So for a whole year, I really, really hated my sister. I forget what finally ended that feud but it was intense. And she knew why.

The games I liked were games that we'd play, just the kids.

Life was a favorite of mine because it was fun to move the cars around and I always bought insurance which, strangely enough, I don't do now. But as a child, I'd buy the stocks, the insurance, blah blah blah. I always won at Life.

Another game I loved was Monopoly. I didn't always win at that, but I always loved playing it.

I wasn't the oldest child and some will get this. Monopoly is a game you think you know. I played it for years with my sisters and brothers but the first time I played it with friends, I was lost. "Where's the pot?" I asked.

This being the seventies, confused looks and "cool it" quickly followed that.

But I meant the money pot. Where everytime you have to pay to get out of jail, the money goes into the pot at the center of the board and not to the bank.

If you're a lifelong Monopoly player, and I am, you learn that although the game comes with basic rules, people add to them. If you're playing it for the first time with a group of people, it's always a good idea to ask, "Okay, how do you play it?"

One game I didn't like was Operation. That's nice. If you've got batteries. These days everyone seems to use batteries but growing up, I can remember batteries being treated like they were gold. My youngest brother got a robot for Christmas. It used a battery. He had one in it on Christmas morning. Then it ran out. It was forever before he got another one. He'd be told to "just play with it" but it's kind of hard to play with a battery operated toy when the battery's dead.

But a game I liked, without batteries, was called, I think, Break The Ice. You'd knock out individual ice blocks and try to keep the whole thing from collapsing. Each turn, you had to knock out an ice block and I'd always be praying, "Please don't let the whole thing collapse, please don't let the whole thing collapse." Reminds me of The Brady Bunch when they're building the house of cards and Marcia's too vain and too stupid to take off her little charm braclet.

So there's some game talk for Elias. For those needing something serious, swiping from C.I., here's some news from Democracy Now!:

CIA Told Bush of No Iraq-Al Qaeda Links Ten Days
After 9/11 A new article by investigative journalist Murray Waas in the National Journal says President Bush was notified ten days after the 9/11 attacks U.S. intelligence had no evidence linking Iraq to al Qaeda or the attacks. According to several current and former government officials, little evidence has emerged to contradict the assessment. One former high-level official said : "What the President was told on September 21 [2001], was consistent with everything he has been told since -- the evidence was just not there." The Bush administration has so far refused to release the briefing, not even as a redacted document. Administration officials subsequently ignored the intelligence assessments in favor of those that alleged Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons and ties to Al Qaeda. One of the key proponents of this theory was then-undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. In the margin of one of Feith's reports, Vice President Dick Cheney wrote: "This is very good indeed ... Encouraging ... Not like the crap we are all so used to getting out of CIA."

Bully Boy crumbles.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving whether they are with friends and family or by themselves. If you're fortunate to be around others, even if they give you a headache as can often happen, be thankful.