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Tuesday, October 25, 2005


A Frog?


I saw this application referenced in a Geeklist over at BGG. Thought I would give it a try. Basically, you punch in some games and everyone who rated all those games will appear in spreadsheet fashion along with their rating.

I plugged in 6 common games that I have strong feelings about, and got a list of 32 people who have rated all those games.

Tigris and Euphrates, Puerto Rico, GIPF- Games I like a lot
Advanced Civ ------------- A game I would like a lot more if it wasn't so long.
Fluxx-----------------------A game I hate
Acquire ----------------- Highly over rated

Anyhooooooo... A Frenchman had the strongest correlation to me based upon that criteria. William Attia, (username wlam) is his name.

A Frenchman. I'll be darned.

I hereby vow to stop making fun of socialists, and people from socialist, pro Saddam, pro Jerry Lewis, over taxed countries. After all they did give us Francis Tresham, Bruno Faidutti, ummm... Napole- oh wait, he was Corsican... ahhhhh... Pauline... Reage... ummmm... and French maid outfits.

That result is doubly odd given the fact that there have been a couple recent threads wondering why there were so few French users on BGG. Residents of the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Brazil, and many other non-English speaking counties form significant "minority communities" on BGG. There doesn't seem to be much of a French contingent, other than designer Bruno Faidutti who posts often.

I will have to fool around with this application more. It looks like it might be a good resource if used appropriately, and quite a bit of fun if used improperly.

In case you don't read the comments: Ain't no one gonna believe me, but I had no idea William Attia was a game designer... and the designer of a currently hot game at that.

Sunday, October 23, 2005



Sid Sackson's Sleuth was originally released in 1967 by 3M. It was released last year to a new audience by Face 2 Face games. In Sleuth, players are dealt a hand of cards which depict various combination of gems. One card is placed face down to the side. By asking other players questions about the cards in their hands, players try to deduce what the face down card is.

Each card depicts a unique gem with 3 characteristics. Each gem is either a diamond, opal, or pearl, and is arranged as either a single stone, pair of stones, or a cluster (three) of stones. There are 4 suits, each contain all 9 arrangements of stones. Suits are red, blue, yellow and green.

There are, in fact, two decks of cards with the game. The main deck is the 36 gem cards. The second deck is a deck of questions players can ask each other. Players must have the appropriate card to ask a question.

The second deck is divided up into 2 types of questions, one element questions, and two element questions. One element cards have one item on them, for example: Diamonds. This card would let you ask one opponent how many diamond cards he has in his hand. The chosen opponent would have to tell you how many he has in his hand. The two element cards contain two items, for example: red diamonds. If you ask an opponent a two element question he has to respond how many he has, and hand the like cards to the inquiring player for the inquiring player to see. After he looks at the cards he passes them back. Other opponents simply note how many cards were passed.

Players puzzle out who has which cards based upon the questions. When a player thinks he knows which card is face down he writes down his guess, looks at the card and, if he guessed correctly, reveals the card.

It is a very unforgiving game. One mistake will throw you off in a bad way and leave you confused and frustrated.

The key to the game is developing a system that you can use to keep track of player's answers. Every player will prefer a slightly different system. Some players like to figure out which cards each other player has in his hand, and by process of elimination deduce the hidden card. Others will prefer a larger, grid elimination method. Find a process you prefer, and stick to it.

Sleuth is a very well designed, simple, logic game with little luck. As the game winds down you may find yourself in a position of not being able to ask the one or two questions you need to ask to deduce the hidden card. If you find yourself in this position you can, on your turn, ask one specific question of your choice to a player of your choice without having the question card in your hand that you need. Otherwise you can guess the hidden card at any time, even out of turn.

All that being said, I really don't like the game. I recognize that it is well designed game. It has a rating of 7.20 over at BGG, which makes it the 223 best game ever and that is an appropriate ranking. I understand that it will have strong appeal to logic puzzle lovers. It went over well with my game group. It just isn't my kind of game.

Sleuth crosses the line of being mentally challenging and crosses over into the realm of work. Sleuth is much more like work to me than it is fun.

I've owned the game since it came out. In fact, I bought it because I knew it would appeal to my wife, and it did... Much more than I could have imagined.

I have no qualms with playing the game occasionally, but it went over entirely too well on Saturday night gamenight at my house. I won the first game, but only on the strength of a foul committed by Dame Coldfoot. She guessed incorrectly, then stated she only missed one of the characteristics. That one clue was enough to give me the correct answer.

There was a resounding call for a second game, which I also played simply because a couple of guys who had never played before were very enthused with the game. After the second game a resounding cry was heard for a third game. I had to excuse myself from the third game. One game a month is about my limit for Sleuth.

Try it. You will probably like it.


I stumbled across this blog the other day http://www.boardgameblog.co.uk/ Someone seemed to put a lot of work into it for two days, then stopped. Looks like they are trying for a daily "Best of the boardgame blogosphere blog". I'll keep my eye on it for a while to see if they can pull it off.

Got to play another game of Age of Steam. My main game buddy pronounced that he would never play again. No one else seemed too impressed either. We only played a couple rounds and switched to Shadows Over Camelot.

Shadows Over Camelot is a pretty good game, but after a dozen or fifteen plays it is fading fast in my estimation. It really isn't a game that is different enough from time to time that it holds my interest. I suspect I will play it fairly often as it has a theme that appeals to newbies, supports 7 players and has a cooperative format that makes it rather unique.

Speaking of "cooperative format", I bought my first game designed by Bruno Faidutti the other day. I found it at a thrift store, still in shrink wrap. The game is called Terra. It is a cooperative game where players vie to save the world's environment (from Americans and Republicans, no doubt). Although a cooperative game, I believe there is an individual winner if the players win the game. It is ranked 1523 over at Boardgamegeek, with an average rating of 6.20. Maybe I'll break it out at my wife's next company party. She works with a bunch of Birkenstock-wearing, French-wine-drinking, Joan-Baez-listening Greenies.

Good gaming

Saturday, October 22, 2005


First the Bird Flu, Now This (click here)

Liebrary? I'll wait for Tom Vasel's review.

I haven't posted anything since Monday? It's been a slow week around here. The big game news is that Thornquist had to quit at the GameWire. Apparently, living his dream as a game reporter, conflicted with his desire to earn a decent living.

I spent 3 years in Journalism School before I figured out that I didn't want to be a journalist. I decided that I would rather eat. Turns out that I made the right decision, although I could stand to cut back on my eating. The staff and management at &Games salutes Rick for his efforts at the GameWire in the past couple years. We wish him good luck in his endeavors, and hope he continues to write his blog, and stay active writing about games.

I guess I read the "Game News" section of the GameWire about as much as I read my local newspaper, which is to say, not very often. If someone pointed out an item in the Boardgamegeek forum I would follow the link, otherwise I only occasionally went to the "Game News" portion of the GameWire. I followed the reports from the big game conventions more often, but still not with great regularity. I would usually just skim those stories.

I liken the GameWire to The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. I like the fact that it's there. It is a quality show. I like the fact that there is a place for serious discussion about the news others just mention in passing. People "in the know" like to refer to Jim Lehrer, likewise with Rick Thornquist. Jim has a microscopic audience, likewise with Rick Thornquist (albeit if every serious boardgamer in the English speaking world read The GameWire it would still be a tiny audience). What Jim has is a good reputation, likewise Thornquist has a good reputation. The main difference is that Jim isn't man enough to report live from GenCon, he would send a flunky to do the dirty work.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Venting. Racism is alive and well.

Damn, I am frustrated. Trying to advocate for a native gentleman who needs medical care, what do you suppose I run up against? The health care organization I referred him to sends him to jail for being disruptive.

THAT'S WHY I SENT HIM. I warned you that he was confused, and advised you that it is very unusual behavior for him. He is not oriented to person, place or time, confused and disruptive. They tell me that's how he always is. BULLSHIT. He has a law degree from an Ivy League University, he can hold an intelligent conversation even when he is drunk, he is exhibiting very unusual behavior.

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with him? I doubt it. You look at him and see a drunk Indian. Your organization always has trouble with native people because you treat them so poorly. I would be combative if I were treated the same way.

But no, you don't want to deal with him because he is frequently drunk and this time he's being disruptive. In the same circumstance, with a white guy, whether or not he was disruptive, you would be calling me advocating for me to admit him despite the fact he was confused.

Jail. They want to send the poor confused guy to jail. Send him back to me and I'll keep an eye on him, this is a medical facility. I'll even send a ride for him.

Would you believe that they were opposed to that suggestion? Send him to jail. Teach him a lesson.


Saturday, October 15, 2005


Struggle of Empires, brief review.

Now that the summer months are over and Alaskans are spending more time indoors, the good gaming months are upon us. Looks like Friday evening game-night at Lance's house is going to be a weekly event. Although I usually get a game together somewhere on Friday evening it will be nice just to have a regular game group.

Yesterday we had 6 regulars, one guy who is only able to game occasionally, and one new guy. There are at least 2 other guys I would call "regulars", and a multitude of "occasional" gamers who we can expect in upcoming weeks.

I hope that by having a regular, weekly game-night our circle of gamer friends might slowly grow.

Played Struggle of Empires for the first time since I first wrote about it back in July. We even had a full compliment of 7 players. Four of us had played before, but hadn't played enough that we didn't need to consult the rule book frequently. The first war lasted 3 hours, the second war lasted 1.5 hours, and I feel confident that the third war would have lasted about 45 minutes to one hour, but it was getting late and we called the game after the second war.

I'm quite impressed with the game. I think Martin Wallace did a good job of capturing the historical feel of the era without designing a game with minutiae. Players take the role of major European Powers during the colonial age. Players vie for control of other European states, North and South American colonies, Africa, India and the East Indies.

It is an area control game. The goal of the game is to have control tokens in colonies and minor European states. The player with the most control tokens in a territory gains the most victory points, the player with the second most control tokens gains a couple less points, and (in the European nations only) the third place player scores a couple points for having the third most control tokens in a territory. Each player places 5 random control tokens to start the game. Ten neutral counters are added to the game board at the start of each war. If a player can beat the neutral counters in battle, or by enslaving them, he replaces the token with a control token of his own. The only other way to gain control tokens is to take them from other players in war.

Money is very tight in the game. However, players have unlimited access to money. Let me explain. Players can take 2 gold by taking population unrest markers. At the end of the game players with more than 20 unrest lose. Players with the most unrest, yet less than 20, lose 7 victory points. The player with the next most loses 4 points. One unrest is also earned by each unit that is lost in battle.

The game is divided up into 3 wars, each of which are played out over 5 or 6 rounds depending on the number of players. Each round a player can take 2 actions. Actions are: Move 2 units, attack, draw a tile (once per round), colonize or enslave (once per round), build a unit (units are navies, armies and forts), and pass.

Players can buy tiles to gain a specific advantage in the course of the game. Some tiles represent allies, such as North American Indians, Cossacks, etc. who can be used to reinforce a player's own units. Other tiles represent commercial companies that earn the player income. Some tiles give players a specific advantage in war, such as the ability to re-roll dice once each war, the ability to create 2 units with one action, and not pay for one attack each war (it normally costs 2 gold to declare an attack). That particular tile allows the "free war" to not cost an action, also.

There are many more tiles. Some tiles have a couple duplicates, some have many duplicates.

Wars are fought by rolling the dice, adding military units to the roll, and adding allies support to the total. However, the dice aren't added together. They are subtracted from each other. For example, a roll of a 6 and 4 is 2. A roll of 5 and 1 is 4. A roll of 3 and 3 is 0.

The mechanism that makes the game unique is the alliance system. Player divide into two teams each war. Basically, players get to bid on who will be their ally from war to war. Players may not attack their allies. It can therefore become important to try and get your enemies into your alliance, as war is costly in the game. Remember, players gain 1 unrest for every unit lost in battle. If you gain 20 unrest you automatically lose the game.

The rule book is only 5 or 6 pages long. There are no exceptions to rules to keep the game historically accurate, but the rule book is not organized well.

Good game with a learning curve. It takes about a half a game for newbies to gain a grasp of strategy and goals. It takes about half a game to remember what bonus all the tiles impart. Definitely a game I recommend just jumping into with a brief explanation of the goals. Options are immense. Strategy is fairly deep. You can't explain every aspect of the game prior to playing.

I look forward to playing again with an experienced group. Shouldn't last much more than 3 hours with an experienced group.

Here's my brief session report of SoE from February. I didn't clarify the problem then, but the game broke down with people asking hypothetical questions and demanding answers to those questions. With that group at that time, everyone insisted on understanding every rule and strategy before playing. Do not play SoE with such a group.

I anticipate buying the remake of Conquest of the Empire. CoE is an older Milton Bradley game that was part of the Game Master Series (Axis and Allies, Fortress America, etc.). Rules have been tweaked from the original, and a second set of rules based upon Struggle of Empires rules has been added to the game. Do some research before you buy, but from everything I have read it seems as though Conquest of the Empire tweaked Struggle of Empire rules for the better. I might have to wait for Santa to deliver CoE, but it is a game that will hit the table soon after I acquire it (SoE rules, thank you very much).

Good gaming,

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Hadn't noted this site before


I browsed a few of his comments. Seemed like good stuff. I will read more of his archives when I have a little time.

Anyone know the guy? Tell him to enable comments.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


The end of an era.

For those of you who haven't had an internet connection for the last two days, here's the big news, bigger even than Essen for a while there. The Games Journal will no longer be published.

For those of you who might be reading this because of the Alaska connection, The Games Journal was a monthly, internet, game magazine published by Greg Aleknevicus. Allow me to correct that last statement. The Games Journal was THE monthly, internet, game magazine. It had been published regularly for 5 years.

Truly it is the end of an era.

It reminds me of Wide World of Sports. Back in the day, WWS was the sports show. It was a well produced show that showcased sports from around the world. Sumo wrestling; it was there. Boxing; it was there. Evil Kneivel; there. Ski jumping; had it. Tug-of-war, diving, fencing; they were there, all covered very well and produced by true professionals.

When cable came along Wide World of Sports went by the wayside. Now sports enthusiasts could watch their favorite sport on demand. Baseball; there was always a live game on some channel. Football; you could watch your favorite team, no more being stuck with "The Game of the Week". Hockey; you could watch it in markets outside of Canada, Detroit and Boston. Racing; no longer were the Indy 500 and Triple crown races the only races you could count on seeing. But on the down side, Jim McKay and Frank Gifford weren't there either. Production values waned. Announcers became a dime a dozen. Camera men and producers were fresh out of J-school.

Despite the availability and proliferation of sports on television, television is worse off with the loss of WWS. So is the gaming community worse off with the demise of TGJ.

Here's where the analogy fails. Jump on me if I am wrong, but all of us were there, no?

It wasn't a lack of readers that lead to the demise of TGJ, it was a lack of contributors that lead to the demise. But, as they say in France, "demises are demises".

I don't know that I credit blogs with pushing TGJ out of the market, as do many commentators. It is true that those of us who imagine we have something to say are now able to publish our own work. It is also true that a mere year ago it was easier to send your writing off to a website such as TGJ to get the work published. Most of the core of contributors to The Games Journal have not switched to blogging. I think that the core of writers that contributed to TGJ have moved on to other pursuits.

I never considered submitting an article. Don't know exactly why. For one thing I didn't think the stuff I was writing was compatible with The Games Journal. It probably wasn't, but I could have come up with something once every couple months. For another, TGJ had an "elite" feel to it, and I don't mean that in a negative, hoity-toity way. I mean to us new gamers, those of us who had recently discovered German games and The Games Journal, the writers on TGJ were on a pedestal. They knew games and we went there to learn. I would have felt like the kid who writes the entertainment section of his high-school paper submitting an article to Rolling Stone.

Greg put out the call for contributors and we failed to respond. My fellow blogger Yehuda Berlinger was among a handful of contributors that had made an attempt to fill the gaps when the regulars started drifting away. If I had never started blogging I doubt I would have contributed to The Games Journal. I doubt most bloggers would have. In a sense, and from my point of view, The Games Journal was the victim of its own success.

It's one of those things that you don't truly appreciate until it is gone. Now that it is gone I think, "I could have submitted something." I will miss it. If someone steps up to fill the gap, I will submit articles occasionally, not monthly, but occasionally.

The Games Journal leaves a gap that needs filled.

The staff and management of &games salutes Greg and The Games Journal. Thanks for the memories.


But on the bright side, now that it is no longer around, isn't it eligible for the Hall-of-Fame. I'll have to check into that. If I ever get a vote on the Hall-of-Fame Committee I'm casting my ballot for TGJ.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Why I need a better editor.

Self Indulgent, Whiney Post With Little Content

Articles like this are the reason most blogs suck. Not yours of course, but... you know the ones... My teacher/boss/boyfriend was such a jerk today... That band/movie/reality show was the kewlest... Woe is me... etc.

A couple weeks ago I noticed that there were no pinochle reviews on Boardgamegeek. Now, pinochle is a topic I am familiar with. I decided to post a couple pinochle reviews. Since the games are significantly different I posted reviews of 2, 3 and 4 player, single deck pinochle.

I have played pinochle more than any game, probably more than every other game combined, literally. I have been playing pinochle seriously since I was 12 or 13. Before I was able to play with adults I watched and learned. I've been fascinated with the game since I was 7 or 8 years old. I could watch adults play for an entire evening without losing interest. Pinochle was basically the only game my parents played when I was a youngster, and they played all the time.

I played pinochle every day when I was a senior in high school. I played for thousands of hours when I was in the Army, frequently for 8 or 10 hours a day when we were in the field, and all weekend long when in garrison.

Most of my family plays pinochle. My wife plays pinochle. My wife's family plays pinochle. Both families routinely play pinochle at family events, as well as for fun. (Yes, family events and fun tend to be mutually exclusive, but not as mutually exclusive as fun and company parties.)

When I was in the DOD language school I gave a presentation on pinochle in German. I could explain rules and discuss strategy fairly well in two languages (although not anymore). I once taught the game to some Greeks who had a poor grasp of English. You would think I could explain the rules to English speakers.

I've played pinochle in a half-dozen different states. I've played the game with many different regional rules. I've played with 6 players, 4 players, 3 players, 2 players, and even two different forms of 5 player pinochle and no one is familiar with 5 player pinochle. I've played double deck pinochle and single deck pinochle.

I even invented a better way to play 2 player pinochle just to find other people around the country had been playing that version for years.

You would think I could write a good pinochle review, if not good, then better than one of my game reviews.


I am very disappointed in the reviews.

I think the problem is that I have too much to say about the game.

I tried to write a basic overview of the rules and I started going off on rabbit trails concerning strategy which I later deleted. It took a lot of energy to stick to the basic rules, and even then I ended up doing a very poor job explaining them.

Looking back on what I wrote I must say it turned out rather poorly. Embarrassing stuff. Maybe I will try to redeem myself with some strategy articles.

Good Gaming

Friday, October 07, 2005



With Geek Gold at Stake.

I've fielded quite a few questions about Alaska in the past. A lot of those questions are the ones you would expect.

Does it get really cold? Yes.

Are you a fisherman? I have never been so bored that I willingly went fishing.

Are the mosquitoes really bad? They're pretty bad.

Have you ever seen a bear? I've seen two in British Columbia, none in Alaska, but I did step in a fresh, steaming, bear turd once when I was picking berries.

Where's WalMart?

But without a doubt, the most commonly asked question, from visiting family members and from tourists is...

Why do the 18-wheelers have big orange (or white) spots painted on the tires?

Any guesses?

I'll give a geek gold to the first correct answer. Alaskans and Finns can answer, just wait a couple days. Give everyone else who wants to take a stab at it a chance to answer.

Just like the old riddle; Why do firemen wear thick, red suspenders? To keep their pants up, of course, there is an obvious answer. The obvious answer won't be accepted without some further explanation.

By the way, the answer isn't really that exciting.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Audioblogging test.

It seemed to work. It lasts about four and a half minutes.


Louis XIV

Got in a couple of new games this weekend, even though I didn't have any gaming planned.

On Wednesday I tried to set up a game group for Friday night, but we hadn't confirmed anything. I was feeling lousy on Friday anyway, so I just stayed home. I don't think I even awoke from my feeling-lousy-nap until 7 p.m. Friday evening.

On Saturday morning my kids were invited to a 7-year-old birthday party set for that afternoon.

After the birthday party the adults played a game of Louis XIV. Believe it or not, Louis XIV was a game that I just couldn’t get my brain around when I read the rules. I bought the game a couple months ago, and have been perusing the rules from time to time with no understanding of what was going on. I finally decided that I just needed to sit down and stumble through a game to better grasp the rules set.

It worked. I really enjoyed the game, as did the other players. I look forward to playing again.

We made a few mistakes, but quickly caught on. The rules aren’t as clean as many German games, which basically means that there are quite a few rules, but those rules aren’t difficult. I don’t know what my problem was, but without playing the game I just couldn’t envision all the rules together to get a big picture of the game, even after reading several reviews of the game. It may have helped if the publisher had given an overview of the game, other than just saying "Players vie for the favor of the King and his Court during the reign of Louis XIV yadi, yadi, yada," or something to that effect.

Louis XIV is an area control game, but control tokens are taken from the board every round and players need to re-exert control for each of the four rounds of the game. The main goal is to collect tokens that can be used to play cards that give you a small advantage for the rest of the game. Tokens are collected by various means but all means revolve around exerting control on various people in Louis XIV's court.

Each of the cards that give you an advantage are worth 5 victory points if you have played them by the end of the game. Single victory points are earned by collecting "shields". Shields are also earned by exerting influence on members of the royal court.

I enjoyed the game, initial impression is about an 8/10, possibly 9/10. I’m not prepared to review the game with only one learning game under my belt, and I have a sneaking feeling that we made a couple mistakes. I will have to go through the rules again with a fine-tooth comb now that I have a better understanding of the game.

BTW, Louis XIV won the Deutscher Spiel Preis this year. The DSP generally has a reputation for, and is accepted as, the award for the best "gamer's game". My initial impression is that the DSP was awarded to a worthy game, even if Twilight Imperium 3 should have won.

Good gaming

Watch for my Age of Steam session report on Gone Gaming Friday. It was the second new game played this weekend.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Rheinlander overview

I've had a chance to play Rheinlander a half dozen times or more. It has become my favorite game that clocks in at around an hour even though I haven't yet managed to win.

Rheinlander is an area control game by Knizia. Each player has a hand of 5 cards. Cards are numbered 1-54 and 1 Joker. Each number corresponds to a region on the board. Each turn a player must play a card. By playing a card a player can either place a "knight" in the corresponding region, or adjacent to a knight of his own color which is called "reinforcing". When two knights are placed adjacent to each other, a duchy is formed. Controlling duchies by having the most knights is how players score points. When the Joker card is drawn, all the discarded cards are added to the draw pile and the two shuffled to form a new draw pile. This mechanism gets certain region cards into the game several times.

Each region of the board comprises 3 sections, right and left bank of the river, and the river between the banks. Knights can be placed in the river to join duchies on opposite banks. To place a knight on the river both banks must contain a knight and the player must play a card with that number on it. You may not place a knight in the river by reinforcement rules.

Cities, castles and cathedrals are placed on the board next to various predesignated regions prior to playing. Each castle and cathedral is worth one point when part of a duchy. Cities are worth either; 2, 3, or 4 depending on the number printed on the chit. The duke is also worth one point. The person who controls the most cathedrals controls the archbishop, control of the archbishop gives the player the ability to exchange an opponent's knight with his own by playing a card from the corresponding region. The player who controls a duchy with a castle gets to place an extra knight in the castle which counts for control of the duchy. If the duchy changes hands the new owner gets to replace castle knights with his own.

The player who has the most knights in a duchy controls the duchy. If a player loses control of a duchy, he scores the points for it. If two duchies are united, the player who controls the smaller duchy takes his duke off the board and scores points for his smaller duchy.

Although it sounds like you want to lose your duchy so that you can score points, you don't, usually. If you think you can lose control of a duchy and then regain control of it you might want to take the gamble, otherwise duchies are worth more points if you control them at the end of the game. Dukes in a duchy are worth 5 points at the end of the game, whereas they are worth 1 point during the game.

Good, quick, area-control game. There doesn't seem to be any trademark "Knizia Twist", but is a solid game nevertheless.

Too bad it was originally published by Hasbro. Maybe gamers will discover and appreciate this new Face 2 Face Games reprint and the game will climb to its rightful spot in the BGG ratings, which is somewhere near Knizia's Samurai in my estimation.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Beyond Left Field. Alcatraz, pt.2.

Part two of a story by Walter Tommy. The first part is here. The introduction to this series is here.

I woke up and didn’t know where I was. There was this big Indian woman cooking breakfast and she turned and asked me if I was hungry. "Yeah". There was hot coffee there too, so I got up, sat down at the kitchen table and drank coffee. She asked me if I knew whose room I was in.


She said, “He’s from your hometown.” I frowned at her questioningly, and she said, “Greg BigJoe.” I knew his mom, dad, brothers and sisters, but not him. Years later, in 1988, he became my brother-in-law.

After breakfast I thanked her and said, I have to catch a boat, I have a ride waiting to go back home. She smiled and wished me well and a good, safe journey home.

When I got down to the landing I saw about 300-400 guys standing around. I went up to this guy and asked if the boat was there. He pointed with pursed lips. I found those Indians down there don’t point with their hands. I walked over and didn’t see any boat. I walked around looking and looking. I checked the little dock and thought, “this is the place we landed. I looked back at all those guys and was thinking, “Are they just playing games with me, playing around with my head?” Then I saw this guy jump into the water. I got curious and walked off to where he jumped in.

I looked in the water and saw our boat and walked all around checking it out. Yep, that’s our boat. And I said, “Hey! Is that our boat?”

They all nodded, yeah. I said to myself, “Oh, no! Shit! Now we’re stuck out here.” I was stuck, and I missed my ride back home. I went back up to Greg’s room and told the lady what had happened. She said, “Oh no.”

We had no way to even call a ride. No phone, no electricity, and all the water was cut off to try to force us off the Island.

By the second week we were running low on food and drinking water. So the women and children drank and ate first. We had to ration out every bit of what we had. Every day we would get in the sweat house and prayed and sing. Almost no water and food left by then.

At the end of the third week this old man came out, saw our boat under water and said, “ No wonder I didn’t see any Alcatraz Indians around.” There was an old crane right there, so he said he’d go back into town and get some tools. “We’ll get it working and get your boat back up.” Until then if anyone wants to get off I’ll give you a ride now.

My young Nebraska Indian roommate and I looked at each other. I said, “Yeah!” I don’t like being stranded in small places.

You see how big Alaska is, I’m used to going around as far as I could and feel the freedom of traveling anywhere I wanted to go. That’s why I always tell my nephews and nieces to go to school, get your education and apply to a school, especially down in the lower 48 somewhere. That way you learn about other people and their ways of living. Experience life, everything you learn you bring back home to teach our people that there is so much more in the good earth our Creator wants for us. Sure, you might experience prejudice and hatred, but you know your own culture and traditional ways. Take pride in that but don’t take it to the point of being better than others.

That old man took us past Treasure Island the naval base and into Oakland. He had a friend there where we could stay for a while. He took us to this old Indian woman’s house and introduced us. I called her "Grandma", her daughter "Auntie" and the two little boys "Nephews". They accepted us right away and showed us our bedroom.

Later on that afternoon I asked Nephews to show me around a little. So they took me to this huge park down around the streets where I saw this old, blind man and probably his daughter. At that time they used to have peace sign and did that to me. “Peace brother.” “Peace to you too.” We smiled and kept walking around sight seeing.

Later on that evening I walked around by myself into this park where I saw a huge crowd of Mexican/Chicanos. One says, “Hey! Indio, want a drink?”

“Sure.” So I approached them and they handed me a gallon of spinyada wine and I drank with them. They asked me where was I from. “Alaska”. That got them interested and accepted me. I stayed with them for about 45 minutes or so. Then said, “Gracious, adios.”

I walked around where I was earlier that day, and saw another old man and his daughter. They were smoking pot and asked if I’d like some? “Sure!” So I spent a little time with them, thanked them and continued walking around. I smelled some more pot smoke and looked down this dark alley. There was a couple of guys back there and I could see the glow of their joints, puffing away. They asked me if I wanted to smoke? “Sure.” So I walked back there and smoked with them.

Then I figured I’d better get back to where I was staying. Grandma and Auntie asked, “Where did you go.” I told them and they said, “We want to talk with you in the morning.”

Most of that night I was thinking, uh, oh. I knew I would get a good talking to from Grandma. That morning I got to the breakfast table, had a hot cup of coffee and breakfast. Sure enough Grandma spoke to me very gently and said that in park I went through, people get killed there every night. Those other places I had been through are very dangerous too.

She said, “You got an Indian name. You know why? When you go to the Spirit World your people know you by your Indian name. You also have a pet name, the only ones who know that is you and your grandmother. You can go anywhere on Turtle Island and never have to worry about where you’re going to stay or eat. Whiteman and Blackman cannot do that.” I find that is very true.

Well, about a week later I got enough money to go back to Fresno. My friend was so surprised and happy. We stayed in this huge fig orchard. I worked that fall operating a forklift and stacking big boxes of figs. I made enough money to come back home. This was in September, so when I got off the airplane I was freezing.

Tall and slim. Plus very dark skinned. My mom is a very petite, little, Indian woman. I walked right up to her and she motioned me to pass on. She didn’t recognize me at all. I asked her “Are you looking for somebody?” “I’m looking for my son.” She looked up at me and just grabbed me and hugged me and kissed me, crying, “Oh! Skook. You’re home finally."

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