Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Monopoly on Fun

The year was 1988 and Christmas had ended, lasting a little over twenty three minutes.

At least, the important part. Namely me, slowed only by insistence on wearing my new Freezy Freakies, fighting the urge to tear open every present until I could do snow angels in the piles of discarded glitter paper.

My brother would not be born for a few more holidays and so after we had picked up all errant bows, it was just me, the adults and their coffee. My dad stoking the fire while simultaneously cataloging thank you notes and insisting, with his back at me, that I write them that instant (though I didn’t have to write them for what Santa brought). My mom in a patterned robe dishing out hot chocolate so thick you had to finish it with a spoon. And me, hiding, waiting to scare the dog by shouting her name through an empty cardboard wrapping tube every time she went to drink the tree water.

In my house, the big celebration has always been dinner the day of, so in the no-man’s land between 7 AM and 10 AM (10 AM being when “fun time was over” apparently, according to my dad, and I had to take off the Freezy Freakies) my parents would do the greatest thing. They’d put on the good Christmas CD (James Brown's Funky Christmas--if you do not own this then your happiness does not matter to you at all) and we’d play Monopoly.

I loved it so much when we first started, so filled with glee at the prospect of playing a game for hours, but as we continued, my feeble brain began to understand. I started not to trust the Parker Brothers. Because as the morning wore on, it was very clear what was happening. Monopoly had aided and abetted the adults in duping me. For that game is no game, my friends.

Crossfire is a game*.

Monopoly is no Crossfire.

It’s made for grown-ups and that’s why we played.

Of course, I didn’t see it at first. How could I? I was too busy clapping my Freezy Freakies together in my joy dance that I, kid, had triumphed over formidable enemies of all things cool (Mom + Dad). We were going to play a game. Ha! Take that Zydeco! (Our dog, running from me as I shouted her name through the tube one last time).

That feeling, like all others, did not last long.

First, I was the last to choose my piece; cosmic retribution for having tricked the adults into playing. My dad was the car. My mom was the Scottie. And I can’t recall whether we were missing pieces or if Monopoly was just this bad at the time, but I remember then and every time we played after, always ending up with something awful. Like the top hat. Or even worse, the old-timey shoe. Wow, that shoe was the apex of anti-fun. Just thinking about it makes me a little uncomfortable.

Then, and I remember this well, I asked to be the banker, for reasons even now I cannot explain. I think I truly believed if I were to be in charge of the money, I could never go bankrupt. It just seemed to be a natural law of the universe. Of course, it always happened. I was the type of player to put a house on Park Place—which we all know no one, not in seventeen years minimum, has landed on even once—and simultaneously grossly underestimate all red and yellow properties along with my father’s stealth seeing as he would buy all red and yellow properties and build one neat, unbroken row of deadly hotels, looking up at me with his perfunctory, Midwestern “aw shucks, better luck next time” face as he held his open palm to collect.

As the banker, my joyless task of handling the money was only exacerbated by an acute sense of everyone else’s good fortune (why, oh why did my mother ALWAYS land on Go, while my best play was to “win a beauty contest, collect fifteen dollars” from the Community Chest?). So there I was, trying to keep my own bills in straight piles tucked underneath the board’s edge, strategizing, kicking myself for thinking it didn’t matter if I landed on Baltic Avenue, I could afford it, and dishing out all the orange bills—you know, the good ones—to the adults, the adults who already had all the real money in the world! I mean, we had two cars, one for each of them! I could just tell they were billionaires in real life. I mean, the TV in the den had wood paneling for crying out loud. That was evidence enough.

I do remember that a game like that, and this one in particular, could have gone on all day. I could jot out I.O.U.’s, plead for underhanded deals, offer to double the presents I gave to my parents (which for a few years consisted of painstakingly-made elaborate art projects that promised “this coupon good for one whole day where K will spend inside her room reading instead of pretending Mom’s new garden is a jungle and K is a snow leopard that somehow got transported into Mom’s new jungle”).

The great thing about my parents though, is that they were kind enough to stop it when it was clear I would never win. It would be suddenly time to get dressed or feed the dog or start roasting chicken. I would pack up the game, put my Freezy Freakies back on, and go outside to stomp.

They were good like that. Monopoly wasn’t.

I’m remembering this because last night, I saw an advertisement for the newest version of the game. And I couldn't believe it. The pieces are different. The cards are better. And the greatest thing of all, there’s an electronic banker. No more counting out the one dollar bills by hand. No more pleads on scraps of paper. No more utter humiliation of doing math in your spare time. No more what I went through. I should have been happy.

Monopoly had changed. But I had not.

Because all I could think, and this is the part of me that will always reside in 1988, much like Freezy Freakies, though this revamped version will save legions of children come this Christmas, was this:

“Hey, no fair!”

Because you know, if I had to go through it, they should too…

*Who am I kidding? Crossfire is the game. To end all games. That song is so amazing. I’m currently researching if I can get it as my ringtone and will report back.


debo said...

You used to be able to buy Freazy Freakies at Mod World on Avenue A, but I don´t think that place exists anymore.

Anonymous said...

Nice post.

Us older kids had to suffer with the shitty one-on-one version of Crossfire, viz:

You 80s kidz and yer newfaqngled tomfoolery and gee-gaws. We had a two player game with no cool theme song and WE LIKED IT.


Ha Ha Sound said...

Nice post. I always hated the shoe, too. Nothing says "this is a boring game" quite like having to move a shoe around.

And you had chickens?!?!

k said...

ha ha sound--I will go fix this right now. It was the chicken that my mom was making for dinner.

But that would have been pretty cool to have chickens.

debo said...

I think the song was done by Mark Wahlberg in "Rock Star".

Broady said...

Oh, the nostalgia of the '80's Christmas-- minus the James Brown CD. That def wasn't happening at my house, but I am going to be checking that out soon!

So I wasn't the only kid who used the wrapping paper tube as a tool of harrassment...

m said...

My sister and I use to pretend the wrapping paper tubes were swords and we would fight with them.

I didn't like monopoly that much as a kid. It was too long for my short attention span. hahah.

debo said...

My brother and I used to play "swords"....

teahouse said...

Hey, I used to love being the top hat!! To me, it was always the ultimate symbol of capitalism.