The recent Slate article about the “superiority” of Boggle to Scrabble http://www.slate.com/articles/life/gaming/2013/08/boggle_vs_scrabble_or_why_there_should_be_a_boggle_national_championship.html made me think of the early weeks of my courtship with Marty. We played a lot of Super Boggle, but I got tired of friends asking what Marty and I did for fun and answering, “Oh, we play a lot of Super Boggle.” Plus, we got bored. We needed something more exciting, more dangerous. This is when we discovered Scrabble. My scholarly conclusion is that Boggle is the marijuana of games, the gateway drug leading to Scrabble.
Anyway, here are my recollections.
The first time I saw Marty’s apartment I felt I’d stepped back into the late Fifties, not the retro fashionable decade of Eames chairs and oval-shaped coffee tables, but the middle class suburban world of plaid couches and crocheted rugs and the obligatory aspidistra plant. A troll doll with a shock of matted green hair guarded a shelf of dusty paperbacks, among them Body Language (price tag—1.25), Ben Hogan’s Guide to Modern Golf (circa 1957), and a dictionary dating back to the days of Dwight Eisenhower. I picked up the doll as if it were a miraculous relic. When I was growing up, my immigrant parents forbid anything that smacked of the vulgar, cheap, or non-educational; troll dolls were at the top of their vulgar/cheap/non-educational list. That a man in his forties would own such a thing was fascinating and also slightly disturbing.
“Let’s play some Super Boggle,” Marty said.
It was a brilliant strategic move, distracting me from further investigation of his troll doll collection.
The point of Super Boggle is to make as many words as possible from a grid of letters printed on the sides of twenty-five dice. The cubes are shaken in a covered box and then fall into a tray so that only one letter of each die can be seen.
“You know I’m going to win,” I told Marty. “I know more words than you.”
“Would you like something to drink?” he answered, ignoring my statement. “I can make you my special concoction.”
“Diet Pepsi mixed with cranberry juice and water.”
We sat down at the kitchen table with our Number Two pencils and scraps of paper and our special concoctions. Marty turned over the sand timer. We started jotting down words. I thought I was doing pretty well with my cat, act, acted, dot, dots, and oxen but then heard Marty furiously scribbling away. I started writing down highly questionable words just to get the scribble scribble scribble out of my head.
Marty’s final list included detected, oxymoron, and toddies.
I showed him my little inventory.
“Daiva, I don’t think deact, enox and stod are words.”
“Let’s play again,” I said.
We played again.
I lost again.
“Listen, can you put on some music?” I said, needing a breather.
“I think I have a transistor radio somewhere.”
I thought he was joking, but when I went to search the living room for a stereo and CDs, all I saw was the plaid couch and the sad looking plant and a television that may very well have been black and white. On the walls hung several paintings of nature scenes; in one of them, the pumpkins were almost as big as the haystacks they were propped against.
“A relative painted these,” Marty bragged.
The bright spot of the room was a small terrarium filled with various succulents, painted rocks, pieces of driftwood and little plastic dinosaurs: a triceratops leaning against the glass as if trying to escape his glassy jail, a tyrannosaurus rex mounting a velociraptor.
“A girl friend gave that to me,” Marty said. “But the dinosaurs were my own special touch.”
And then I saw that there were little plastic dinosaurs outside the terrarium forming a crooked line on the coffee table. The line continued on the rug, as if the dinosaurs were ants heading towards their hill after putting in a hard day of work on the pavement.
“You haven’t seen the bedroom yet,” Marty said.
“Is it full of dinosaurs?”