My friends and I have been keeping cabin fever at bay lately with the help of the Parker Brothers. The previous owner of my house left behind a Monopoly game, which is a nice touch, really, for a real estate transaction. But if we keep playing Monopoly at the rate we have been, I’ll be down at the title company before long to expand my real-life real estate empire. I’ll be the guy with the wheelbarrow.

I was reluctant to buy my real house. For good reason, it turns out. Monopoly should think about adding a ‘dry rot’ card in Community Chest pile, if they want to make things more realistic. Or ‘pipes freeze up – pay plumber $200.’

My natural tendency toward being timid in financial matters is undergoing a transformation with all this rolling of dice. After a recent hot streak of winning several games in a row, I caught myself thinking the other day – You know, if I mortgaged my place I could afford one of the light blue properties in town . . . get a renter to land on there and generate some income.

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My parents will be thrilled to hear that a board game has inspired me to get into real estate speculation. I’d still be housesitting and sleeping on friends’ couches if the folks hadn’t helped me buy my house. And those real estate books they sent so I could understand the process? Well, they use big words. I think I know what amortization means, but to be honest, that word frightens me. It could stand for: ‘little fluffy kittens’ and I’d still recoil when hearing or seeing it.

Amortization. Whoa.

The board game version, though, I can and do play for days. We take short breaks when it can’t be avoided, but otherwise play right through and start all over again when someone wins.

House rules are interesting. Out of the ten people or so in my Monopoly circle of friends, we all grew up with nearly identical variations on the actual rules. Nobody observes that nonsense of putting fines into the bank instead of the middle of the board, where you can get it by landing on Free Parking. A few people have tried to advocate the practice of going around the board once before you can buy anything, but those people have been silenced.

We’ve developed a few variations. I found an orange jumpsuit at the thrift store, which you have to put on while in jail. And before getting out of jail, you have to draw a teardrop on your face each time with a Sharpie marker. There’s a few other jail-related house rules, but they’re less charming and we won’t get into those here.

O yeah, we’ve been drinking quite a bit too while playing.

My only concern is that so far Monopoly has worked as a cure for cabin fever, but before long we might need something to divert us from Monopoly-cabin fever.

Maybe Chutes and Ladders.

I’m looking forward to spring.

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