When I was in acting class at Syracuse University, just a few years ago (ahem), one of the activities we were assigned was to invent a game. I don’t remember the exact requirements, but I’m sure it had to have rules, a way to win and a way to lose. I ended up doing something with an egg, I think. You had to roll it from one point to another, or something like that. It was vaguely amusing and got an unenthusiastic shrug from instructor Larry Tackett, as if to say, “You phoned it in, Dan.”
What got me thinking on the topic of games was a compliment I received at work recently for my “radio voice,” after doing the narration for a recorded webinar. What’s the connection, you might be wondering? Stay with me. You see, I attribute my ability to read well to a game I co-invented with my brother back in 1979, at our home in Purchase, New York.
It was the middle of summer and hot. Because we had just moved into the neighborhood, we had no one to hang out with besides each other, and we were forced to make our own fun. Somewhat spontaneously, we came up with a game. (Yes, here is where it connects with the previous bit about my drama class, as I’ve so often kicked myself about doing the lame-ass egg-rolling thing. Why hadn’t I shared the game Mike and I invented? It would have brought the house down, sure as you’re born.)
So here’s how it worked: Two players face off, one seated in front of the other, knees nearly touching. Each player has a prop – player one the daily paper, player two a water spritzer, set on “STREAM.” Object of the Game: Stay dry by reading aloud clearly and without hesitation or laughter. How to win: Be the last player not to surrender and/or drown.
I may just teach this one to my sons, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it was a hell of a lot of fun; I still recall laughing until I couldn’t breathe. Also, it was an excellent lesson in staying focused under extreme conditions. The gun was literally pointing right in my face, and I knew I’d be shot if I slurred, stammered, hesitated or laughed.
It was also great practice. We were two teenage American boys who willingly sat down to READ – already an unusual sight back in 1979.
More than anything, though, it was a great bonding experience for my brother and me. Few things bring people together as powerfully as laughter. When I think about all my best friends, I can immediately bring out-of-control , snorting moments of laughter to mind. (See photo above, with Ken Weinstein and Susan Dreyer-Leon in Big Indian, NY, during the summer of 1994 as evidence.)
I’ve been asked to record more webinars, so I can’t help but think that the silly, soaking wet summer days spent laughing with my little brother somehow contributed to my current success. I suppose the moral is this: Before scolding your kids for doing something that seems irrational and/or absurd, consider my simple, somewhat ridiculous story.