This particular DC gathering represents a large segment of the group with whom I have played a ceremonial Christmas-time game of Monopoly since 1972. For 37 years, I've grown older with these guys over Monopoly played on the very same board. In 1972 we were shaggy headed, bearded, and some of us stridently liberal. These were Monopoly games of a peculiar intensity. At times, the negotiating of real estate between rolls of the dice has been measured in hours.
Today, there is considerably less hair on some of us, but the beards persist on several, and these days we argue health care reform rather than US involvement in Vietnam. A bit more honest conservatism has crept in, although Obama has now snared even the single Republican among us.
Over the course of these three recent days in DC, I was struck by the fact that each one of us had changed, and yet we're still largely the same fellows we were as boys of 16. We have surely mellowed and refined a bit. It's as though time, like a wind, has carved us into unique shapes that still bear the imprint of the original. John is still by far the classiest among us, Jim is still the somewhat eccentric dreamer and musical whiz, Todd retains the common-sense bombast for which he was once famous. JD is family-guy personified, as well as sports expert without peer. If my pals were asked, I'd imagine they still see in me some of the same edgy introversion I always had. It did please me, though, to realize that we had all been improved favorably by time——in character, if not in waistline. We have all enjoyed success in career and especially in family. It is an unusual group of well educated and highly opinionated men, but as a group I saw that in middle age we have grown more tolerant and less arrogant than we were in the old days. At least that's what I felt about my friends; I'd like to think I've moved a little bit that way, too. I will admit, though, that a couple of times this weekend, sheer sentiment led me the thought that I'm not quite worthy of friends this fine.
What I have always loved about this group of guys is the quality of the conversation. In the old days, we would gather together each summer in the week before going back to college, holing up at a northern Minnesota fishing resort to drink copious amounts of beer and argue politics and religion until dawn each and every day. Today, we drink manhattans and Irish whiskey and Grey Goose vodka, but the quality of the conversation is, if anything, better than ever. On the metro subway back out of downtown at 2:00 am Saturday, the debate among five middle-aged gentlemen wearing ties and coats, over whether Huckleberry Finn and the musical Finnean's Rainbow had racist themes, was rather unique sight I imagine.
This is now, and always has been, a very competitive group of gentlemen. Over the weekend, we played several rounds of games on playing boards that are yellowed and faded, with pieces made of old-time wood, not modern plastic. While coming out on the short end of two game of Risk, the outcome was different in the game that truly matters.
I kicked ass in Monopoly.