Wednesday, October 26, 2011


My grandpa's doorbell rang. It was my little brother. "Clancy and Seamus want you to come out and play Munch with us."

Hmmm. A game of Munch. Intriguing. I looked at the television set before me. Should I finish watching The Addams Family? Get Smart would be on in ten minutes. Then The Munsters, followed by the game shows: Match Game, Card Sharks, Family Feud. There were some old musty SF paperbacks to seek out in my grandparent's old musty basement, as well as some old musty games like Broadside. Plus, grandma was a card fanatic, and I enjoyed making up card games. A typical summer day for me.

The monkey wrench were the McMadden brothers, Clancy and Seamus, who lived diagonally across the street from my grandparents. Also, my little brother. He was more outdoorsy than me, and more into sports. He and the McMaddens would get together around 10 am every morning as long as the weather was nice (and even if it wasn't, most times), and a game of handball would break out. Or street football. Or running bases. Or ... Munch.

There were other neighborhood kids, too. There was a chubby boy whose name I forgot; call him Frankie. And there was a stringy, wormy kid; his name was something like Phil or Philip. A fat girl kinda hung out around the perimeter of this impromptu neighborhood sporting club. She would pull up a chair and criticize us for this and that. When the McMadden boys weren't beating the crap out of each other, they'd verbally spar with her, and ultimately come out on the losing side, though they never realized it and never gave up.

Whenever a game among them got serious, there would be the inevitable doorbell ring. I'd answer it and my little brother would be there, and the message would always be the same: Clancy and Seamus want you to come out and play [insert name of game] with us. Another body needed, and that body's You.

Now: Munch. Munch is a simple game. Brutally simple. The object and the rules could be summed up in this one simple sentence: Use any means to tackle the guy with the ball. That's it. Someone threw a ball - usually a football - vertically up in the air and for some reason we'd all scramble to get it first. The unlucky guy who did immediately raced away with it while the remaining five or more boys chased after him. The ball carrier could go anywhere, climb on anything, run on the streets or in someone's backyard. I remember once being blindsided off a picnic table. There were no in bounds and no outta bounds. We'd all swarm on the hapless chap with the ball to administer as big a pile-on tackle as possible. In the clutches of the mob the ball carrier would throw the ball straight up in the air - if he could - and the process would repeat itself. Again and again, until we grew bored of Munch or someone got hurt (Munch's way of growing bored with us). Usually, someone got hurt, and it usually was Seamus. At the hands of Clancy.

I glanced back as the teevee sang The Addams Family theme. At this point in my life, Get Smart was the most important thing on the planet to me. But ... sensing someone unwanted and unwarranted tug, both push and pull, to the indecipherable responsibilities of adulthood, I knew I had to go out. Go out into the streets, the cold, hard, unforgiving streets, once more into the breech and play ...


Munch: It's a metaphor for life, and it's as malleable in its interpretation as you want to make it.

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