[ Webmaster's Note: The following essay originally appeared on the Strat-O-Matic Mailing List on December 17, 1997. It was written in about twenty minutes during a moment of melancholy. I've ever so slightly modified a few sentences to hopefully make the essay understandable to those who haven't been bitten by the Strat-O-Matic bug. ]
With Opening Day around a month away, I wonder if anyone else from the list will be making the trek. Last year was my first visit to Glen Head. My father and fellow Whalehead League member Bob accompanied me for the four hour car ride to Strat-O-Matic's version of Mecca. We braved the frigid Januarrrrry morning, driving down the lonely highway with only Dunkin Donuts' coffee, the car heater, and our playful banter to warm us.
Upon arrival in Glen Head, we tried to determine just which high-rise building housed the sports game giant. We scanned every street, checked every building number, attempting to find the promised land. Finally, remembering that we had directions, we stopped wandering aimlessly and started looking for the train station landmark which, we were told, would indicate being close to our destination.
Eventually, there arose such a clatter that we followed a line of shivering souls to see what was the matter. What to our wandering eyes did appear but a little old sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. (Oops, wrong story.) What to our wandering eyes did appear but a little tan building with eleven tiny letters Strat-O-Matic.
The opulent splendid that is SOM Headquarters both amazed and mystified us. "So, this is where our many dollars came to be collected." we each thought to ourselves.
We took many pictures of this historic moment before my father in his Red Sox cap and I in my Rockies settled in to wait for our gifts from the gray haired man.
My father, being the devoted Lammana krishna that he was, became quite excited to learn that the great numbered predictor was in our midst. I introduced myself to John, then introduced my father as "Jim Sr. Lamannakrisna". (Just where do those mmmandnnns go?) Seeing my father's embarrassed smile, John graciously allowed himself to be photographed in public. We met his friendly wife, took more pictures and thanked him for his fine products. Resuming the wait in sub-arctic temperatures, we exchanged pleasantries with our fellow clattering teeth lunatics.
Sometime after our feet had turned to blocks of frozen flesh, we heard a rumbling sound from behind the grand entrance to new card land. A man's head then appeared from a slightly opened door. "State your business!", he roared. "We wish to see the New Cards", we chanted. "But it's not time yet!", he replied. "But we traveled so far and our wives say we need a brain.", we pleaded. A smile appeared on the man's face as he began to open the door.
The pushing and shoving toward the door elicited a shout from the front of the line, "Stop pushing and shoving toward the front of the line!" Magically, the pushing and shoving stopped.
When the first few pilgrims entered the doorway, a message was passed from man to man to everyone in line, "Close the door behind you! It's cold!" (This was a phrase that would be often repeated throughout the proceedings.) Some of the pilgrims could not decipher it's meaning and were repeatedly scolded by the keepers of the cards to heed their warning.
We waited and nudged forward. We waited and nudged forward. We waited and nudged forward. After what seemed like days, our time to enter the grand building finally arrived. We then entered the great door (remembering to shut the door behind us).
We faced the glass and a siren's song beckoned us forward. "Order number please" was her call. We stated the code for our cards and waited. Suddenly, my father shoved us all forward, "Can I get some dice too?" "Hoooow many would you like?", the siren quizzed. "How many do you have? I'm looking for lucky ones." my father exclaimed. All of us within earshot, smiled with understanding. After my father collected his TEN sets of dice, we clutched our cards, thanked the nice woman and left (remembering to shut the door behind us).
We walked outside past the remaining line, smirking at their envious eyes. Then, after quickly making the way to our vehicle, we ripped opened the cards.
A few moments were spent quietly perusing our prize.
Not wanting to delay our return, we eventually began the trip home. Somehow the 3.5-hour trip down became an 8-hour trek home, but that's a story for another time.
Unfortunately, my father will not be making the trip this year. He unexpectedly died of a heart attack shortly after our pilgrimage. That trip was one of the last times that I spent a full 24 hours alone with my Dad (not counting Bob, who slept most of the ride home. We told him, "He couldn't hold his cards."). We spent most of the return trip reminiscing about the many days we spent playing SOM when I was a child.
On this year's trek, I'll again share this story with my brother who will be joining me on the trip. We'll have a crowded van. Many of our fellow league members will also be going. I'll be placing some of the pictures we took on my site soon. Check them out to see the SOM Palace with your own eyes.
If you plan on attending Opening Day this year, e-mail the list. It would be nice to put faces with names.
Happy Holidays to all.