I wasn't very good at Monopoly. (I say "wasn't" because I don't play anymore: I won't play games I routinely lose--I quit playing golf about the time my little brother started beating me routinely. Childish, immature, I know. Deal with it.) Whether it was bad luck or poor strategy or fundamental inattention or a preference to be outside throwing baseballs, I don't know. But I pretty much sucked at the game and virtually never won.
One other sign of my boyhood maturity: When it was evident I was going to lose (in Monopoly or in any other board game), I would flip the board up, cry out something foul (if neither parent was around), and stalk off to my room where I would think dark thoughts, plot dark deeds, and eventually fall asleep and dream dark dreams. Card games were easier: just fling the deck around the room before stalking out, stalking to my room, where I ...
I'd like to say that something fundamental about Monopoly troubled me. How its entire goal, say, is for one player to destroy the financial foundation of everyone else who's playing. How it encourages a belief in luck, how it fosters heartlessness (don't you cheer when your brother lands on one of your properties you've loaded up with hotels!), how the "winner" is the person who bankrupts everyone else. (All of this is starting to sound awfully, eerily contemporary!)
But none of that bothered me when I was a boy. What bothered me was losing. Games were for winning, Brothers were for beating--if not destroying. And if you can't win, well, just quit and stalk off to your room ... it worked for me. But it probably forced my brothers into some delicate maneuvers. They needed me to play (the more, the merrier), and they needed me to play a while; they also wanted, in the worst way, to whip my ass. So ... how to let Danny, you know, think he has a chance, at least for, oh, an hour, so we can have a more interesting game. Then crush him. And accept with resignation and even a sick satisfaction the reality--as a consequence of your crushing--that you're going to be picking up scattered Community Chest and Chance cards or Risk! pieces or all the Charles Dickens cards in the Authors set. Small price to pay for destroying Danny's day--and self-concept.
|Virgil is the last player on the right|
So losing was regular at Hiram. I got used to it. Accepted it as a Fact of Life--a Fact of Life not nearly so appealing as some other Facts of Life I was learning and yearning about ... but that's another story. Sometimes, it was ugly, though, like the time I lost a little tennis tournament (summer after seventh grade) to my good friend Paul Misch. I was so overcome by the loss that I broke down and cried, sobbing, head down on the net, inconsolable. Paul--bless his heart--came over and put his hand on my shoulder and told me it was all right. Comfort. I think he was more baffled than anything. What is this Dyer kid doing? I finally settled down and accepted my second-place ribbon (don't be impressed--only four of us were in the tournament).
About the only think I liked about Monopoly (when I wasn't winning--which, as you've seen, was virtually never) was GO. If I could just get to GO, you see, I would get another $200 and I could keep playing. GO meant hope. Hope meant yet another chance to destroy my brothers.
Nowadays, I miss GO. Wouldn't it be nice if there were milestones in your life--at regular intervals--when some John Beresford Tipton (old TV show The Millionaire--see link: Tipton & THE MILLIONAIRE) would send his emissary to your door; He knocks three times. You answer. You see. You smile. It's that guy again! You open the door. He says, It's time. Here's a little something to get you going again. Two hundred dollars won't cut it anymore. In our economy, we need GO PLUS. So--what?--$2000? $20,000? That would be nice. A fresh start, get some bills paid off, put a little aside, go to Yosemite ... go wherever. Just go, go, GO!