Card games in coffee houses.

Over the past few years, I have been involved in many small gatherings at many venues.

Few are as enjoyable to me as card games in coffee houses. Last weekend I played Dutch Blitz with three friends, and despite all the other great moments of the weekend, I think that is the moment that I will want to savour most.

Card games (and even simple board games like Chinese Checkers or Chess) draw out interesting dynamics. They allow for fascinating new ways for the bonds and relationships present to express themselves.

I have a distinct and precious memory of playing Spades with three friends in mid-December at the original Joshua Cup downtown. Cord of Three was there that night, playing Christmas songs on the tiny corner stage. The hot chocolate and coffee and hot Chai tea mingled and mixed to create a pleasing, winter aroma that reminded us that we weren't home, but that friends could still be found around us.

PFK and I played against Cole and Crane. It was a blessed escape from our constant focus on tests and proving that we'd spent our semester absorbing new knowledge and learning new skills.

Another good memory in that same room took place over a year and a half later, in mid-fall. Five of us playing a game of Chinese Checkers. Myself, EKG, Cole, Mal, and 80. It was an odd mix of friends old and new, laughter and camaraderie floating over tension and jealousy and even a little bit of resentment.

And there I was, in the middle of the maelstrom, cavorting like a puppy with a new toy. Dare I be honest and admit that it was fun? To see four of my friends act thus, and know (or suspect) each of their secret thoughts, and yet still taunt and tease them all as if all of life were merely a reflection of the game we played, or pretended to pay attention to playing?

I remember also, using our school cafeteria as a coffee house, that same semester. Playing Dutch Blitz after dinner as the cafeteria slowly cleared and the last of the people from tables around us gave up on giving us dirty looks and went out. Blue was in on that game, and we had a lovely time with it. Shouting, laughing, growing closer even as we called each other horrible names and swore on our mother's graves to send one another to the gates of hell if somebody didn't "play a motherf***ing red three!"

It was a good evening, even if it was a little wild.

And now, this most recent memory. Dutch Blitz again. Blue's Girlfriend had met up with him and joined Cole and I this time, and the four of us played and laughed and told stories.

And a few nights ago, my mother and I played Canasta and spoke of old times, and my memories of playing card games as a child with my family. Back then I was still so small that I could not hold my own hand of cards, and had to use a special card stand my father built for me so that I could play. My memories of family time spent playing games are some of my best memories of my childhood, and I carry that positive feeling with me whenever I play games. Far moreso than watching a movie or just sitting and talking, game playing reminds me of who my people are, and what they mean to me.

These miniature communities, constantly growing and dying, each reflect a little world. And each such world has its own rules and physical laws and politics and romances. I love each one. I hope you too get to experience games in such a way at some point.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


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