A Hobo, a Hunchback, and a Weird Old Lady Walk Into a Haunted House…


Guest blogger Michael Noble returns with a Halloween tale…

Of course, despite the debacle that was playing “war,” [see Mr. Noble’s previous guest bloggery] Doug Schlaufman and I remained good friends. As is evident in the photo provided above during one of our Halloween outings.

This particular Halloween of our youth was a bit of a milestone: It was THE Halloween night we were going to visit the famed haunted house down the street from where I lived, a house we hadn’t dared go into previously. The hauntings and blasphemies and tales we’d heard about the place had kept us at bay for a long time. This year? It was the year we popped our haunted house cherry and ventured forward.

Back in the day, Halloween was a much anticipated free-for-all.

There were pillowcases that needed filling with candy and treats in the course of several trips in and out of the surrounding neighborhoods. There was the goopy make-up that got in your eyes and stuck there throughout the next day when you went to school, no matter how hard you tried to scrub it off. There was the toilet paper. There were the pumpkin guts tossed in the middle of the street we slipped on when we crossed from house to house. There were the dark, foreboding pathways leading up to houses, lit by little more than a single, ominous red or blue light bulb. The dogs scaring the bejeebers out of us when we approached a house. The thoroughly creepy music emanating from the background somewhere. Dank, moldy figures sitting on porches, waiting to make us leap screaming as they suddenly “came alive” and lurched menacingly at us.

Those were the days.

The old Polariod photo is of (left to right) Doug Anderson (hobo), myself (hunchback … and yeah, hunchbacks wore jeans) and Doug Schlaufman (weird old lady), complete with my father’s bright orange ‘68 VW in the background. It was 1973 (I think) and I was twelve years old. What a motley looking crew we were.

I remember that particular night vividly. We ran wild in the streets for hours, collecting as much as we could. I recall we came back with bags full of stuff, our loot practically giving beneath its weight. We’d dump it all on the kitchen table for Mom to go thorough, snag a piece or two for the road and then we were out the door for more.

We were unstoppable.

There was a house about a block away. It was transformed into a Halloween haunt during the season. We never had the guts to go into it before, but this was the year. I remember we saved that place for last. We wanted to go in, but we didn’t want to go in, if you know what I mean.

Toward the end of the night – feet tired, arms weary from lugging pounds and pounds of tooth-decaying treats – we ventured to the haunted house of doom.

We were greeted by an ominous voice inviting us to enter at our own risk. We were genuinely frightened out of our wits, but none of us backed down. We were going to go through with it. Mom knew where we were, even if she didn’t know who these people were. It was all good.

We carefully tip-toed inside. Just past the front door, ripped shreds of material hung. We had to make our way through them. Some were sticky. With what we hadn’t a clue.

A left turn took us into our first room of terror. We stopped dead in our tracks: a surgeon came into sight just around a wall. He had a mask on his face, scalpel in hand. We couldn’t see who he was “working” on but he beckoned us toward him. We tentatively took steps forward and, as we did, an operating table came into view. A balding man was atop it, mouth in a grimace, reaching out toward us and moaning. We could see his naked belly, a belly spilling out spaghetti entrails and red ooze.

Our hair was standing on end. The patient moaned louder and reached for us, but we backed away, right into a couple of hideous ghouls who had snuck up from behind us. We started and yelped and saw yet another figure closing the door we’d come through. This one had a scythe in one hand and what looked like intestines in the other. I felt a hand on my shoulder and screamed.

One of us bolted for the door, grabbed and opened it. The gruesome troop came at us and we dashed out of the room, back down the hall, through the front door and out into the street at a pace I would never again run.

We ran all the way back to my house, terrified as we bolted from the place, laughing at our scared selves the remainder of the way. One of my friends suggested we return and go through the rest of the place; the other blurted, “No way!”

We made it back to my house with nary a scratch. Halloween, again, was the blast we’d remembered it to be.

Inside the kitchen, my mother asked about the haunted house. We all agreed it was thoroughly creepy, but fun. Something caught her eye as she looked at me … and a look of utter disgust came across her face.

“What in the world is on your shoulder?!?” she half yelled. She grabbed a dish towel from the kitchen and came at me. I stood frozen still. My friends were looking at me wide-eyed, no laughter left on their faces.

My mother reached over and took whatever it was from my left shoulder. She showed it to me.

It was a huge piece of raw calf’s liver, a real one, obviously used as one of the props in the haunted house. That hand on my shoulder had left it there for me as “a parting gift.” It left a dank, blotchy, wet stain.

That’s the kind of Halloween I remember as a kid. They were good times … good times indeed.

Michael Noble blogs regularly at Hotchka.com and can often be heard on the Assault of the Two-Headed Space Mules podcast.


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When It Comes To GI Joe – Size Matters!


Photo source: Wikipedia

It was 52 years ago when two highly important items came into this world: Me and GI Joe.

All right, sure, maybe I’m not as important or interesting as GI Joe, but I wanted to let you know that Joe and I have been around for pretty much the same amount of time. (He predates me by about nine months. Hang on. Perhaps my parents were celebrating the release of this awesome new toy. Ew. I don’t want to think about it.)

It was in February 1964 when Hasbro released GI Joe. It was intended as a doll that boys would play with, but they didn’t call it a doll. Oh, no. Boys don’t play with dolls. Hasbro called it “America’s moveable fighting man.” And they released four versions: Action Soldier, Action Sailor, Action Marine, and Action Pilot. Using “action” in their titles led to the coining of the term “action figure.”

The original Joes had hard hands and painted hair. Later would come the lifelike hair and beards, talking Joes, and that ever-popular Kung-Fu Grip. I prefer the hard hands and painted hair ones, myself. There also soon came an African-American version and then versions of the enemies of WWII – German and Japanese versions. And much later came female versions.

Because the human body cannot be copyrighted or trademarked, Hasbro came up with the scar on the cheek as a way to protect their product from cheap knock-off toy makers. Another trademark in the early years was the unintentional, incorrect placement of the right thumbnail on the underside of the thumb. It was a goof that Hasbro turned into something useful.

As the Vietnam War dragged on and became more and more unpopular, Hasbro rebranded GI Joe as an adventurer rather than a soldier. He was part of an Adventure Team. There were land, sea and air adventurers. And astronauts!

From the beginning there were whole lines of accessories and vehicles that could be purchased separately. There were also playsets big enough for Joe and his team. I recall a friend having one of those. I was quite envious.

Well, I got older. And, wouldn’t you know it, a whole bunch of new kids cropped up. And, in 1982, Hasbro launched a new kind of GI Joe toy line. These Joes were miniature. The original Joes towered over these usurpers! A proper GI Joe is 12″ tall, not those less than four inch tall pathetic little hunks of multi-colored plastic.


And there were so many of them. Dozens and dozens! I remember a little comic book shop that I frequented was about half comic books and half those little monstrosities. They had the accessories and the playsets, but they also had comic books and TV cartoons and posters and all manner of ancillary items for purchase. They were taking over the world!


I guess I was just too old to appreciate the new style of one of my favorite toys.

Oh, well, to each their own.

There is a tradition in my household. Each year when it comes time for putting up the Christmas tree, the first ornament placed on the tree is my 1999 35th Anniversary Hallmark GI Joe ornament. And that ornament is about the same size as those miniature GI Joes.



Packing Peanuts!

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On the Bandwagon? Already?!


Settle down! Settle! Down!

Yes, there’s been a lot of excitement in Minnesota since last Sunday (as the above image found on Facebook will attest). There’s been a buzz about town because the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota’s professional football team, is the only undefeated team in the entire league and will remain so for, at least, one more week as the Vikes have their bye week this weekend.

Yes, their record is 5 – 0 and their defense is very impressive. After all, as the old saying goes, “Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships.” But we’re just five games into the season. Let’s try to get a grip, shall we?

And it’s the Vikings we’re talking about. I’ve been a fan of this team for more than 40 years and, if there’s anything I’ve learned over those four decades, I’ve learned the Minnesota Vikings always find a way to disappoint.

I’m too young to feel the sting of the first three lost Superbowls of the four total lost by the franchise, but I do remember that fourth loss in 1977 to John Madden’s Oakland Raiders. That was my introduction as a new fan to the futility of following this team. The Vikings have not returned to the big game since.

In the nearly forty years since that last Superbowl appearance/loss, my team has managed to get to the NFC Championship game, the winner of which would face the AFC Champion in the Superbowl, five times. They lost every time. Each time I’d console myself by saying, “At least they won’t lose the Superbowl.” Not much comfort.

Of the five losses, I’m gonna focus just a little on three of them.

The loss to the Atlanta Falcons on January 17, 1999

This bitter disappointment may have been the worst of them all. My team had gone 15 – 1 and had set a single season scoring record of 556 points. They had an outstanding receiver core (Randy Moss, Chris Carter, and Jake Reed), a good veteran quarterback (Randall Cunningham), a productive running back (Robert Smith), and a field goal kicker who could not miss (Gary Anderson). This team was powering through everyone (expect that one loss to Tampa Bay, who always seemed to beat the Vikes once a year when the two teams were in the same division).

It was a hard fought game, especially in the second half, but our confidence was high as the score was 27 – 20 in our favor when, with about four minutes left in the game, our never miss kicker came in to make a 38 yard field goal attempt. Making that kick would pretty much seal the victory for us and then it would be on to meet the Denver Broncos in Superbowl XXXIII. Gary Anderson was automatic. He never missed in 35 attempts that season. His foot was going to kick us into the big game for the first time in 22 years.

He missed.

Atlanta went on to tie the game and our vaunted coaching staff led by the late Dennis Green opted to take a knee with 30 seconds in regulation and take their chances in overtime.

I can still picture Atlanta head coach, Dan Reeves, and his team dancing the “Dirty Bird” in the triumphant Falcons’ locker room.

The loss to the New York Giants on January 14, 2001

Final score: 41 – 0

‘Nuff said.

The loss to the New Orleans Saints on January 24, 2010

This was the season that brought Hall of Famer Brett Favre to the Vikings, the hated rivals of his former team the Green Bay Packers. Favre had himself a career year. Vikings fans were sure the teaming of Favre with future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson would get us back to the Superbowl and, just maybe, finally win one.

Favre and company had dominated the red hot Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Division game with a score of 34 – 3, so it was onto the NFC Championship game to play the New Orleans Saints.

The game was close. Minnesota’s offense was potent, but turnovers kept the Vikes from dominating as they had against Dallas. Plus some of the Saints players were getting what amounted to bounties for working extra hard to hurt Favre. But Favre was always one tough cookie.

With the game tied in the final 30 seconds and the Vikings near field goal range, fans were certain our Vikes could do it. Just a few more yards and kick that field goal and onto Superbowl XLIV to face the Indianapolis Colts. But there was a penalty for 12 men in the Vikings’ huddle which pushed us back five yards and then the great Brett Favre, instead of running for whatever yards he could get and going out of bounds, tried to force a pass across the field. It was intercepted.

Overtime. Then the 31 – 28 loss.

So, sure, be impressed by a 5 – 0 start. Be happy the Vikings are the only undefeated team in the league. I don’t know how many seasons have started this well for this team, but I do know how many ended up with them lifting the Vince Lombardi trophy.

I’ve been saying this on Facebook lately and I mean it: I will be happy for the team. I will get excited. I will be encouraged by continued success. However, I will not be getting on the bandwagon until one week after they win the Superbowl.

Packing Peanuts!

Correction 10-20-16: I had originally stated the Vikings hosted the New Orleans Saints in that NFC Championship loss. That is incorrect. The Vikings went to New Orleans to play in the Superdome. The text has been corrected.

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Check Out This Month’s Great Cover…


Well, it’s time to take a look at a cover by one of the undisputed great illustrators in the history of comic books. Neal Adams brought a sense of realism to comic book art that hadn’t existed before in the art form. Adams’ influence on the Silver Age (1956 – 1969) and Bronze Age (1970 – 1985) is undeniable. If only it had reached the 1990s and saved us from certain artists.

*cough cough cough Rob Liefeld cough cough*

Sorry. A little hack in my throat.

So, let’s look at the eye-catching cover of Batman #251 (Sept. 1973). It focuses on the looming terror of Batman’s archest foe the Joker. Look at that. One of the greatest  superheroes ever plus one of the greatest supervillains ever drawn by one of the greatest artists ever all combining to make one of the greatest comic book covers ever.

Hyperbole! I love it!

Adams also draws the story art, which includes the Joker throwing Batman to a hungry shark. It’s some really good stuff.


Packing Peanuts!

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An Easy Company to Watch

band_of_brothersIt was 15 years ago this month when HBO premiered its World War II miniseries Band of Brothers, a ten part series focusing on the men of “Easy” Company, part of the 101st Airborne Division. The Airborne was a new concept in warfare in which men were trained as paratroopers with the intention of being dropped behind enemy lines. To be part of the Airborne you had to be the best as the training was among the most rigorous in all of American military. This series follows the company from basic training to D-Day to Bastogne and to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at the end of the war.

I never caught the show on HBO or anywhere else until I received the DVD set as a Christmas gift from my brother-in-law. He took a chance, thinking I might like it. I did. I do! I watch the entire series at least once a year. In fact, one time I had just finished watching it and I still had time before heading to bed when I thought, “What the hell?” I started watching the series again right there.

Based on historian Stephen Ambrose’s 1992 book of the same name and on interviews with surviving members of Easy, as well as diaries and other sources, the series attempts to be as faithful to the actual events as the production would allow. Some characters, all based on actual people, are shown having experiences that had actually happened to other paratroopers. That was done in order to keep an already large cast manageable. The story is still as accurate as can be possible in such a project.

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg were both involved with the production of the series. Hanks even co-wrote the first installment Currahee and he directed episode five Crossroads. And we see plenty of familiar faces that weren’t as familiar in 2001. David Schwimmer would be the most recognizable at the time as he was in the middle of his wildly successful series Friends. He plays the company’s first commanding officer, Lt. Herbert Sobel. Sobel was a demanding, harsh, overbearing, mean, unfair, and cruel instructor who trains his men into one of the 101st’s best companies. Schwimmer’s mainly in just this one episode, but he does turn up at couple times as the series rolls on. And he gets just a little payback in his appearance in the final episode. It’s really satisfying.

Some of the other actors who were less known at the time include Ron Livingston, Damian Lewis, Simon Pegg, James McAvoy, Tom Hardy, and Michael Fassbender. Notice something about those actors? Most of them aren’t American. It seems just about half of the cast are English, Scottish, even South African! But there’s a New Kid on the Block in the cast – Donnie Wahlberg! And he is pretty good. Backstreet’s back! All right!

The production is very well done. They had a budget of about $125 million for the series and they used it well. The settings were great. The battle scenes felt authentic. Those tracer bullets whizzing by, sometimes just inches away from soldiers on the move, were a particularly potent effect. Whenever my wife watches with me those tracers always make her flinch.

But what keeps me watching and re-watching this series are the men of Easy Company. I like these guys. The chemistry, the bond if you will, they have is heartwarming, even when they are surrounded by the terror of battle and then confronted by the horrors of genocide. These men have a camaraderie that few people could ever hope to have. This is the best aspect of the series. You can’t help but admire these guys.

Watching it as often as I have, I’ve noticed a few things. Little continuity glitches, such as in episode two Day of Days, during a battle to take out some heavy guns wreaking havoc on the beaches, Lt. Richard “Dick” Winters (Damian Lewis) uses a German hand grenade to disable one of the guns. But, although he tries, he doesn’t manage to actually pull the cord to activate the grenade. It goes by fast, but watch closely you’ll see it.

And there’s the character Pvt. David Webster (Eion Bailey). It is well established in the episode titled The Last Patrol that Webster is fluent in German. However, in the very next installment Why We Fight, when Webster is confronting an angry German baker in a town not far from a concentration camp, he seems to have forgotten the language. Another soldier tells him what the baker is saying. Webster is one of the company translators, why would he need someone else to translate?

Back in January of this year, I blogged about Hollywood’s overuse of characters’ names in film and on TV or HBO in this case. One of my examples comes from episode three Carentan, which focuses on Pvt. Albert Blithe (Marc Warren). That one show had multiple uses of the name Blithe. But, there’s another Hollywood dramatic trope that can bug me: The dramatic stare with an unanswered question hanging in the air. It especially bugs me when one character asks another a direct question and that person just stares. Sometimes the person asking the question will persist, which works better for me. But sometimes they just let the question hang out there, never to get an answer. The episode Bastogne has medic Eugene “Doc” Roe (Shane Taylor) having several dramatic stare moments in which he doesn’t answer questions.

These are small things. Little quibbles are a hazard when you watch a series as often as I watch this one. And if you’re as pedantic as I am.

Before I leave this week’s topic, I want to do a quick comparison of this series to HBO’s miniseries The Pacific (2010). The Pacific is sort of a sister series to Band of Brothers, but it’s like the much less attractive sister. Not because the production was bad or the writing or acting. I think it’s because of the nature of the warfare depicted in that series was so much more brutal and dehumanizing.


The Pacific focuses on several Marines, who were actual people, much like in Band of Brothers. However, the harsh conditions: Tropical heat and humidity, insects, mud and malaria, and an enemy who was far more likely to keep fighting even when the fight was clearly lost, made that campaign seem so much more demoralizing. The Japanese soldier was trained, in some cases since childhood, that to surrender was shameful and dishonorable. Death was preferred by most. If I have my numbers correct, one of the islands the American Navy and Marines fought so hard to get was defended by about 3,000 Japanese troops. When the battle was finally won by the Americans, there were 18 Japanese soldiers left alive.

In the Band of Brothers series, the men of Easy Company seemed to hold onto their humanity better. After all, the German soldier, fierce and well-trained as they were, would be much more likely to surrender when they realized the battle was lost than their Japanese counterparts. Easy’s humanity made it much easier to watch, while The Pacific was too psychologically difficult. It was still a good series, but I’ve only watched it once.

There was a scene in The Pacific that really spells out the difference between the two theaters of war. I might get the wrong character if I try to name him, so I won’t, but I do remember the scene. Late in the series, possibly the last episode Home, one of the Marines is getting a cab ride. The cabbie also served in the war and had been home for a while. The Marine goes to pay for his ride and the cabbie refuses. He tells the Marine to keep his money. He says that he may have fought, too, but he fought in Europe and got take leave in Paris. The cabbie knew the hell his passenger had lived through, so there was no fare.

I’m amazed each time I watch Band of Brothers. What those men did is beyond my comprehension. I don’t know that I could do what they’ve done and what the men and women in our military do now. I’m glad there are those who can.

Packing Peanuts!

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Colin Kaepernick, Jesse Ventura, and a stopped clock.


We here at Warehouse Find, the official blog of Nostalgia Zone, are strong advocates of free speech. It’s what makes it possible for me to post this drivel…er…I mean, pearls of wisdom each week. Well, recently, former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura made a video in which he voices his support for San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had protested the treatment of African Americans in this country, especially by police, by sitting down during the playing of the Nation Anthem. Ventura was concerned by how some Americans were treating the star quarterback for exercising his free speech to peacefully redress grievances with his country.

Ventura stated that, whether or not he agrees with Kaepernick, he supports the athlete’s right to protest. Ventura reminds us that he served in the military and part of what he was fighting for was the right to protest. The former pro-wrestler may be way on there with his believing in any crackpot conspiracy theory that comes along, but I have to say I agree with him fully on this one.

After watching Ventura’s video, I thought to myself, “Well, what do you know? A stopped clock is still right twice a day.”

Unless it’s the kind of clock that doesn’t display the time when it stops working. Then it’s not really functioning as a clock. It’s more like a paperweight or an interesting wall decoration.


But the clocks with hands and numbers, if they stop functioning, they will still display a time of day. Or those digital clocks with the numbers on little tabs that flip over as the time changes. Remember those? Remember how fun it was to set the time on those clocks? You could flip through the numbers super fast. That was fun. Yeah. Fun… I haven’t thought about those types of clocks in a long time. Funny how things just pop into your mind. Anyway, that kind of clock would display a time of day even if it stopped working, but those digital clocks display am or pm with the time. So, technically, they would only be right once a day, because there is only one am and one pm in a day.

But the clocks we have today have computer screens or LED digital displays. If they stop working they likely won’t show any time all. So, they wouldn’t be right even once a day, let alone twice.

And these days, more and more people are just relying on their smart phones and other such devices for the time. Which is really hurting the sales of good ol’ wristwatches. Personally, I prefer a wristwatch. Who wants to have to dig in their pocket or backpack or purse to find their phone to see what time it is? Just look at that device on your wrist. I can see a time when people just won’t understand what is meant when someone says that a stopped clock is still right twice a day. They just won’t know about that sort of clock.

I guess the old saying really mainly pertains to the clocks and wristwatches with hands and numbers and no indication of am or pm. Of course, there doesn’t have to be numbers. People who know how to tell time don’t necessarily need numbers on the clock face. But I prefer, at least, a dot or mark of some kind in the places where the numbers would have been. There are some clocks and wristwatches that don’t even have that. I don’t like them as timepieces. They make it harder to tell time at a glance, but they would still be right twice a day if they stopped.


But then there are some clocks and wristwatches with hands that are set to military time, you know, displaying all 24 hours of a day. If you have one of those clocks then you’d have one that’s only right once a day. Unless, the clock face has the traditional round, 12 hour set-up, having 12 o’clock as both 12:00 and 24:00 and so on around the face. Then that stopped military clock with hands and numbers would still be right twice a day.


So, let’s just say that a clock or wristwatch with hands that has stopped is what people are referring to when using that phrase…

Uh. Hmm.

What was I talking about?

Packing Peanuts!

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Suppose they gave a war…


Once again guest blogger Michael Noble has a thing or two to say…

When I was a kid, there were all sorts of shenanigans to involve myself with. Along with the neighborhood kids and friends from school, we were forever busy. Table top games such as Trouble and Battleship and Life and Pong. Outdoors we had Jarts (real, steel-tipped ones to add that element of danger) and Capture The Flag and other sports or attaching bottle rockets to toy models and going up against whose was best by whizzing them down the street after traffic would pass by. If it wasn’t games on our agenda, we were forever racing Sizzlers. (Remember those? They were rechargeable Hot Wheels cars which used the same kind of bright orange track. We used to love to put butter on the track and make them squeal and burn out.)

Around this time, role playing games really began making the rounds, things to spur the imagination. Dungeons and Dragons was taking off something fierce but I never had any real interest in them. (Even to the present day I still haven’t sat down and played D&D.) Besides, it took money to invest in a lot of the role playing games. Money, as a kid, that wasn’t readily available.

Luckily, I had a vivid imagination. On the occasions when there weren’t any friends to hang around with, you could often find me holed up in my room drawing and writing and creating secret codes or reading comic books. I was a pretty happy-go-lucky kid given paper and pencil or a stack of comics. And while I had heard about the role playing games, I never really had any interest in them. But I was soon to be introduced to a primitive form of it for the first time.

I was in grade school. Friends and school mates were all around me – nearby, up and down the block, some too far away to get to without the folks driving me to their houses. One of my friends who lived a couple blocks away, Doug Schlaufman, invited me over to play “War.” I didn’t know what “War” was and I told him so, but that didn’t daunt him. “I’ll show you. It’s fun!” he promised.

So, after school one day I asked my mother if I could head over to Doug’s house for a while. I called him up and headed over. He was bursting with anticipation when I arrived and I’ll admit his enthusiasm was infectious. I hadn’t a clue what I was getting myself into but if he was that pumped about it, it had to be worth it.

We went to his room. Opening a chest of drawers he pulled out two huge bags of army men. There had to be at least 200 men in each bag. I don’t remember what color they were but I do remember each set held a different color of figures. He tossed one to me, opened his and dumped all his pieces on the bedroom floor. I did the same.

“This is what we’re going to do: You take out all your men and see what kind of weapons they have. Some have rifles, some have bazookas, some are running and yelling, some are on their stomachs with binoculars. Those are scouts. What you do is put them around the room and then they fight each other to see who wins … okay?”

I hadn’t the faintest idea what he was talking about. How in the world were these little army men going to “fight” if we were putting them all over the room? They were stationary, immovable army men. But I went along and followed his lead. I watched Doug for clues of what to do.

He was positioning men kneeling with guns atop his shelves, putting different ones behind pillows on his bed, leaning some half hidden against the bedposts. Army men peaked out from the back of a pencil sharpner, they were in groups of two or three or more staked out in a tennis shoe, atop the doorstop in one corner, evenly spread out along one wall across the room. They were all pointed in the same general direction … at me.

I mimicked what he was doing.

A couple dozen men in, I was lost as to where to put the others. Right then and there I got the feeling I was in over my head. So I started putting a lot of men in a straight line on the floor, then more in another line right behind them. Lines of men ready to “fight” with back up reinforcements behind them. Made sense to me. And it was easier than slogging around the room hunting for places to put them. Besides, Doug was apparently getting all the good spots to put his.

What seemed like an hour later (it was probably only 15 minutes) revealed a room littered with clusters of military hiding in every nook, cranny and crevice of the room. On the floor, in corners, behind every conceivable hiding place … everywhere. And while Doug’s men weren’t readily visible in the grand scheme of things, mine were littered all about the room pretty much in plain sight.

“Wow … you’ll hafta work fast if you’re gonna beat me” Doug informed me matter of factly. I think I might have offered a shrug. “Okay, so this is what you do: You pick and man and, if he has a gun or some kind of weapon, you have him shoot at one of my guys. I’ll do the same. The first one whose men are all destroyed is the loser. Got it?”

That made sense … but I was at a complete loss on exactly what to do. But I did what I could to not look like a complete doofus. “How do I do that?” I asked with as much conviction as possible.

“Here … watch …” Doug went over to one of his men, a soldier laying on his stomach, brandishing a rifle. The guy was half peeking out from behind a sock tossed near a clothes hamper. He got down at eye level with the figure and scoped out one of my figures across the room. Then he took his finger, made the sound of a gun firing and traced the trajectory of the shot across the room, crawling all the way, until he came within striking distance of one of my guys. When he arrived at it, he flicked it with his finger and made a huge verbal explosion immediately followed by the sound of the soldier crying out in agony.

“See? You just keep doing that. You aim for my guys and kill’em and I’ll aim for your guys and kill’em …”

I was dumbfounded. This was what “playing war” was all about? It seemed stupid. But I was a guest in his house and I was bound and determined to go through the motions and give it a whirl. Maybe I’d warm to it.

Doug clambered back to his men and began the process all over again. His “firing of guns” was dramatic and continuous, his trajectories were always accurate and my men began toppling and dying in droves.

I tried to do the same. His examples of play seemed cornball and hokey; mine felt foolish and stupid. My attempts at taking down his men were feeble and half-hearted compared to his “expert” game play. It didn’t take long for me to realize “playing war” was one of the dumbest games I’d ever been involved with.

In a matter of 10 minutes his army had utterly obliterated mine. My men were strewn across the floor in heaps. I hadn’t realized some of the “kills” involved piling the deceased all in collective mounds. Additionally, I noticed such concussive devastation warranted men flying through the air and onto the bed or a desk top or next to a lamp on a nightstand. Had anyone walked into the room there would have been no doubt who the victor was.

“Yikes! That was a WIPE OUT! Wanna play again?” Doug asked.

“Nah.  My mom said I could only stay a little while. We’re supposed to go somewhere” I fibbed.

I helped him clean up the havoc we caused, said goodbye and thanks for inviting me over and left …

… never to “play war” ever again.

“War, huh, Good God, y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again …”

~War, Edwin Starr

Michael Noble blogs regularly at Hotchka.com and can often be heard on the Assault of the Two-Headed Space Mules podcast.

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