Saturday, February 9, 2013

Monopoly: A Tale of Yesterday & Today

The Referendum
by 14-year old M.A. Peel

The scene: 1976. My character, Ellen Ashley, is a representative of a town in New Jersey, attending an information session about the referendum proposal  for gambling to be brought to Atlantic City. She checks in at the front desk to the completely booked Traymore Hotel.

"Here it is, room 1500. I am afraid it is in the very back of the hotel. It would be more convenient to use the back door and stairs."

"Thank you. Please have my bags sent up." And with that I left to find my room.

When the clerk said it was in the back of the hotel, he wasn't kidding. The first meeting is scheduled for 9:00 pm tonight. That gives me six hours to get changed, eat, and do some sightseeing and some thinking.

I suppose I want the gambling to be instituted. It will restore Atlantic City's aura of money. People will get dressed up in tuxedos and evening gowns and go to the casino and then to an elegant restaurant. The city will have the beautiful Hollywood tinsel it once had, and the city will prosper.

All I can do is to collect the information at the meeting and bring it back to my town.

For now, I'll walk around town and see what the city is really like.

I took the desk clerk's suggestion and went down the back stairs and out the back door. I walked around to the front of the hotel, but there was not a single person around. I looked at the street in front of me. Mediterranean Avenue. The street had taken on a dark purple color. At my feet I saw an envelope. Inside there was play money of different colors: 2 $500s, 2 $100s, 2 $50s, 6 $20s, 5 $10s, 5 $5s, 5 $1s. I put the money in my purse and started down Mediterranean. All the buildings and stores had become masses of dark purple bricks. I continued walking until I reached Baltic Avenue, which looked exactly like Mediterranean. I walked the length of Baltic, to where the street just ended. Beyond the last corner was total, blinding, whiteness.

Scared, but determined, I pressed on, determined to find some people. After walking some distance, I saw a small storefront. Inside there was nothing but an oversized hat on a chair, and $200 on the table. I moved on, and in an instant I was out of the whiteness and standing on a railroad track. Out of nowhere a train comes speeding at me. I jump out of the way at the last second and start rolling down a hill, rolling and rolling, I could not stop. I was getting dizzy, rolling faster and faster. Suddenly, I hit bottom.

I laid there a minute or two and got up. I was on Oriental Avenue. It looked just like Baltic, but everything was light blue. I came upon two green houses, and I was ecstatic with the thought of people. I ran to one, started banging on wall, there was no door. I ran around back, but there were no windows, no doors, no way to enter.

Disappointed, I blindly start walking again. On Vermont Street I saw a man in a racing car.

"Wait, wait. Where are we? How can I get back to the Traymore Hotel?"

"I've got to go to the nearest railroad," started the driver. "That's going to cost me $200. I will be over $3,000 in debt."

A tear rolled down the man's cheek. Then he and his car vanished.

Onward I went, when I came upon a jail. Inside was a puppy dog, wailing somberly for someone to let him out. There was nothing I could do. Suddenly, I was saturated with panic. I started running again, passing light purple houses and another railroad, and an orange street, when I saw a policeman.

"I'm saved," I screamed, and ran toward him.

"Go to jail," he grunted.

Before I could open my mouth, I was sitting in the cold, dark, dreary cell. The puppy was gone, and I  was staring at the bars, when a thimble half my height appeared next to me. A tired woman's face with dark circles under her eyes and a sagging chin became visible on the thimble.

"You know I lost $900 last time around," the face said.

"Who are you? Where are we really? What are you doing?

"What am I doing? I'm playing the game like everyone else. And losing, like everyone who plays this game."

"Why don't you stop?"

"Stop? I can't stop anymore than anyone else can here."

I looked out the jail window and saw a hat, a dog, a battleship, and an iron going by, all with sad human faces.

I took the $1500 play money out of my purse and gave it to the thimble. "I hope this makes your life a little happier."

"Oh thank you. Now I can buy 3 more hotels and another house . . ."

The thimble disappeared, her voice trailing behind her. I saw a magazine on the floor, with Chance on the masthead. I opened it and the all the pages said advance to Boardwalk.

Then there I was, on a street that was all royal blue. After walking for just a bit, I saw the ocean at the end of the street. I ran to the water's edge and sat on the sand.

Wherever I have been, however I got there, does not matter. I now know that there are two sides to everything. Sure, gambling will bring some tinsel and money back to Atlantic City, but it will also bring destitution, heartbreak, and ruination to many.

I stood up, and when I turned around, I was in the Parking Lot of the Traymore (which had all red cars). I walked back to my room and got ready to go to the first referendum meeting.

The end.

You Don't Mess with the Iron
I though of this little story I wrote so many years ago when I learned about this ridiculous move to replace a Monopoly piece to add a Cat. What strikes me about the story now is how cinematic it is! This would be so easy to film. Plus the obvious Twilight Zone influence, and the Bond movie influence that everyone in casinos is in tux and gowns. Too funny. Also, I've since learned that the Traymore Hotel was on Illinois Street, not Mediterranean. Before the Internet it was hard for a 14 year old to get these details right.

So beyond the usual memories of playing Monopoly with the family, the game fueled my teenage imagination. That was then. And now: the idea to add a cat is just stupid. One thing I loved about the tokens were they were not symetrical.  There was only a Scottie dog, and in my childhood: Wheelbarrow, Battleship, Racecar, Thimble, Boot, Top hat, Canon, and Iron.

To make this situation worse, who votes to lose the Iron? Of course it should have been the Battleship, which has its own game.

I have a hankering to start a game now, so I can own the lovely yellow of Marvin Gardens, once again.