Monday, November 5, 2007


My mom is in Japan for her annual trip home, so I invited my dad over for dinner. After meat loaf and mashed potatoes, we played Scrabble. I like the deluxe board that rotates and has grooves for the letters, but it's at Kalmbach. (A couple of years ago, four of us had a Friday lunchtime league. I keep the game there hoping for a revival.) Dad and I played with the old-school version in the burgundy box.

Scrabble is an awesome game. As in, it truly evokes awe. It's not really a game about creativity or spelling, but about seeing possibilities and taking risks. Not hoarding letters, but playing smart to maximize your shot at a bingo (using all seven tiles). Making words that your opponent wouldn't think of. Building multiple words by adding an "s" or a "d" or making "liver" into "livery." I tried to play a few questionable words, but Dad challenged me. (Incidentally, according to my traditional dictionary, "flim" and "yi" are not words, but "flam" and "li" are.) It was thrilling and exhausting to play a competitive, I'm-in-it-to-win-it game with Dad. Two games, actually. When Yukie comes home for Thanksgiving, she and my parents and I will probably play something like Apples to Apples — one of those fun, family-friendly games where we laugh a lot and everyone wins. It's just not the same.

If you are crazy about Scrabble or like to read about people who are crazy about Scrabble, pick up Stefan Fatsis' Word Freak, about the subculture of competitive players. It's almost as interesting as actually playing the game. And, if you get a chance, check out Wordplay, an Independent Lens documentary about people who create and solve crossword puzzles. The highlight is hearing Bill Clinton talk about how his approach to solving crossword puzzles mirrors his approach to solving other problems.

1 comment:

Jean said...

Thank you so much for this incredibly well written fascinating post. There is so much in it, I am going to come back again!

Also, re: dogs: I have an urge yearly to add to our menagerie. Ghalli, our white standard poodle, is seven now, and Cecil, our cat, is 8. I still think of them as babies (they are MY babies, after all!!!) but I want more! We love a big household!