These days, when my son and I want to hang around, we go to a newsstand in downtown Grinnell, Iowa. It's much more than a newsstand: There's a lunch counter at the back of the store and a pop machine, several shelves of toy trains and model airplanes, a glass case filled with cigars and pipes, and a wall of paperbacks and magazines. Recently the owner added video disks. In one corner is the doorway to another room, separated from the store by a curtain of glass beads. In there are other magazines; it costs $1 to browse.
Jessup plays the video games: He can manipulate little creatures inclined to fall off ladders, and he can negotiate hairpin turns, avoid oil slicks and dodge the wreckage of other race cars on a machine called Grand Prix. He can also take his rips on a machine called, too simply, Baseball. Nine stick figures take the field and chase an electronic ball. It's certainly nothing like the ball bearing clicking its way to the bottom of Gerald Beene's box for a strike, followed by Gerald's gutteral cheers. The pitching stick on the video game can throw fastballs and curveballs, and the player bats by punching a red button. My son has trouble hitting the curveball, which I think is what happened to the Arkansas Greyhound, too. Finally, the newsstand also has a pinball machine featuring an old-fashioned, deep-chested blonde. It's like the old days, except you get only four balls for a quarter—we used to get five for a nickel—and if you play poorly, she gives you the raspberry: "That was a lousy game," the blonde says. "Try again."
At home, though, like all kids, my son makes up games. He has a baseball board game in which he uses the cards of real players, provides commentary and makes banjo hitters drive blue darters up the alleys. Sometimes he invents new leagues and fictitious players. The other day he came up to the attic study where I write and told me that the Oregon Timber had just defeated the Hawaiian Hot Stuff. I admired the names and told him so. He said that the next game would pit the New York New Yorkers against the California Gold.
In his room one night recently, I noticed that the cardboard box from the complete set of 1984 Topps cards contained crayons. The cards were scattered all over the room, in drawers, on the floor, stacked on, and toppling off, shelves. Some had rubber bands around them. Suddenly I felt better about buying them in the middle of Beverly Hills.