July 24, 2020:
A kid at school had a father who was a dead Marine.
A hero, he'd thrown himself on a live grenade dropped by a trainee at Camp Pendleton, likely saving the lives of many others. This kid wanted to be like him, to a point. He also planned a Marine Corps career, but for a specific, embittered reason. "I just want to kill people," he told me, angrily, with sincerity and juice. I believed him.
He owned a handful of the Avalon Hill games, including Kriegspiel, D-Day, and Panzerblitz. I think the first he invited me to play was Kriegspiel, but it was Panzerblitz which grabbed my attention. We played it frequently, and once I had my own copy it supplemented my increasingly space-consuming military library.
I bought certain of the others, including, I remember, 1914. But it was SPI more than Avalon Hill which took me over. I had a lifetime subscription to Strategy and Tactics magazine, with a new game every month; and I bought nearly their entire catalog of standalone titles. As I write this I still have War in Europe, USN, CA and one or two other favorites. The rest met auto-da-fe when more than a decade later I left San Diego for foggier points north.
These activities, like everything which mattered, did not involve school. School was at best irrelevant. School was empty time, a null vortex where clock hands moved without purpose, leading to no accomplishment or growth or fulfillment. Negative time: a space where time which could have been useful was annihilated on contact with the San Diego City Schools.