Tuesday, April 12, 2011

#168: Griffon Bookstore

Editor's note: A big welcome (and thank you) to our second guest blogger!

There are many varieties of idleness, and they differ in worth. Everyone knows this: one’s time is better spent reading—or really even just staring out a window—than tramping thoughtlessly around Facebook, for example, or watching cable news. I hold play especially dear among the forms of time-wasting, and I count the opportunity to spend at least some of my idle hours at play among the prerequisites for a healthy life, alongside things like adequate food and sleep. But of play, too, there are many varieties, and these also differ in worth. Just as one can spend one’s idle time in better and worse ways, or can eat or sleep well or badly, so too can one play well or badly. One plays badly, for example, when one seeks to do so productively, with an eye on the point of it all, just as one eats badly who does so only for sustenance. Your friend who is invariably frustrated by the end of a game of Monopoly, your little brother who enters cheat codes for all of his video games, and anyone who never takes a scenic route all play badly, just as one could be said to eat badly whose diet were limited to fast food. But if we often feel a duty to help our friends and loved ones eat better (or listen better, or watch better) by suggesting, sometimes forcefully, that they try some new cuisine (or music, or film), should we not feel a similar duty to help them improve the quality of their play?

Many in South Bend will tell you that, if you wish to eat well, you should visit the LaSalle Grill; and I say that, if you wish to play well, you should visit its next-door neighbor, the Griffon. If you can get the Monopoly-hater in here, he will have to give games a second chance, and not only board games, but war games, role-playing games, dice games, and card games. For those with more obscure tastes, there are paper dolls, temporary tattoos, guides to the construction of intricate model reproductions of historic battles, and probably a half-dozen other things I’ve forgotten. The place has been in business for thirty-five years, and has run open game rooms, for free, for thirty-three—making it, according to its website, the operator of “one of the oldest continuously running dedicated game rooms in the country.”

But it is the selection of board and card games—of which there are hundreds, including the classics, more recent favorites like the Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne series, and many more obscure titles based upon everything from the court at Versailles to the design and management of public transit systems—that will most interest the casual gamer or wary initiate. There are five- and ten-dollar games that can be played in twenty minutes, and there are hundred-dollar games that require a devoted weekend to learn and play. But even if you’re determined to avoid play, which you shouldn’t be, the used book collection is worth browsing—and it may be a good time to do so, since, according to the store’s website, a professor’s library will be coming in sometime this month.

To begin your connoisseurship of play, see the Griffon’s website, http://www.griffon-bookstore.com, where you’ll find its address, hours, contact info, and detailed descriptions of the stock.

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