Friday, April 21, 2006

Al Grande: Private Eye

It had been a hectic week. Somehow word got out that I was posting boardgame reviews on a blog under the name Catanfan. Even Patrick the Wino who begs for change in front of my office had heard about my hobby.

“Evenin’ Al.”

“Evenin’ Pat,” I said as I handed him a buck.

“I hear that you been dissin’ Caylus, Al.”

“What?! Caylus? You know Caylus?!”

“Yeah, it’s a great game. Best game to come out of France since Civilization.”

“Well… I don’t kn-“

“Ya ought not be dissin’ Caylus, Al. It’s got some subtle strategy.”

It doesn’t happen often, but I was speechless. Patrick had been a fixture outside the strip mall since I moved my office 5 years ago. Now he was giving me grief about my internet reviews? This week just needed to end.

“How… how do you… um… know a... about my… ummm… Caylus review?” I said after I picked my jaw back off the pavement.

“The bookstore next to the mission has wireless internet. One-Leg-Frankie has a laptop. He let that crackhead Isaac use his laptop to order the Puerto Rico Expansion. Ya see, Arnie down at the Comic Shop can’t get the Puerto Rico Expansion into stock. He says his supplier doesn’t carry it. Anyhow, Isaac was looking to buy the Puerto Rico Expansion and somehow he stumbled across the Catanfan blog.”

“Oh.” I was still speechless.

What could I say?

Speechless.

Me.

I shook my head, turned and walked to my car. It was Friday. It had already been a long week and after talking to Patrick I needed a stiff shot of something made from a single-malt. “Humffff." Subtle strategy. What does he know? Two words Patrick, Royal Favors.

I headed over to O'Malley’s. When I got there the happy hour crowd was just starting to arrive. I wanted to be alone. Luckily everyone was seated near the table with the happy hour hors d'oeuvres. I found a stool at the far end of the bar.

“What can I get for you tonight, CF?”

I looked around, “CF?”

“Catanfan.”

“Oh stop it! Not you too Jimmy.”

Jimmy chuckled and said, “Yeah, I read what you had to say about Chinatown. I’m disappointed Al.”

“Disappointed? What’s to disappoint? If anything you should be disappointed in the game Jimmy. It’s a good attempt at a pure negotiation game, but it’s just not fun.”

“Not fun? You just need to play with the Westbank Gamers variation, Al. The Westbank Gamers variation is becoming the default version of the game, in the States anyway.”

“I make my judgments based upon the rules as written Jimmy, and what do you know about the Westbank Gamers anyway?”

“The rules are written in German Al, and you don't read German." He had me on that point, not that I saw it made a difference. "And," he continued, "as for the Westbank Gamers, I used to belong to that group.”

It was a good thing Jimmy hadn’t given me my drink yet or I might have choked. As it was I almost swallowed my teeth, and the teeth that I do have aren’t fake.

He must have seen the astonishment on my face. “Yeah, before I moved up here I used to live in New Orleans across the street from... from... what was his name? Oh yeah, Gregnard. Played boardgames every week at his house.”

“Gregnard? You mean Greg Schloesser?”

“Yeah, that’s him. We called him Gregnard back then. That was a few years ago. Nice guy. Heck of a gamer.” I was stunned. I had known Jimmy for at least 3 years. He was the only bartender in town who didn’t know how to play cribbage or euchre, yet he was a boardgamer? And he used to game with the Grand-Pooh-Bah of boardgaming? For the second time in less than an hour I was speechless.

Jimmy looked down his glasses at me. “So what can I get you, Al?”

“The usual, Jimmy,” then added, “just the usual, and let me be alone for a while.”

I had my glass in hand slowly swirling the ice cubes as I stared at them. I was lost in my thoughts and didn’t notice that the bar was gradually filling up.

“Is this seat taken?” Her voice startled me.

I looked up. All I saw was cleavage.

It took a few seconds to focus on her face, but only because I couldn’t take my eyes off her shirt. It said, “Boardgamers do it on the kitchen table”. It took a while to read it all, what with all the distractions.

“Sure. Sit down. Let me buy you a drink.”

“Are you Al? Al Grande?” This time I noticed a slight German accent. Bavarian probably.

“I might be. Depends on who’s asking.”

"You can call me M. O."

"In that case you can call me Al, Al Grande. At your service ma'am. And if I might enquire, what does M. O. stand for?"

"Not M. O., Mr. Grande, Mem-mo." She spoke slowly and enunciated each syllable, "my name is Busen Memmo."

To Be Continued... Maybe...

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