Monday, April 30, 2012

Sweep the Leg

Sometimes teaching your son a lesson can lead you down very strange roads:

I was a solo 46-year-old man at the Pokemon Regional Championships.


This was not how it was supposed to go.

That Saturday was a big day for my son, and he woke up and pressed all my buttons and pulled my chain until it just wasn't enough to cancel taking him to this thing.
Don't let a 7-year-old lip you off in the morning--no good can come of ignoring that.

No, that always leads to a whole grumpy weekend together where we both stay short with each other, and we both piss off the wife. Why punish ourselves? I needed to get out, and he had to know that something cool was really going on without him.
He needed to feel ripped off by his own attitude.

I needed him to feel that. Sometimes, yes, I am that Dick of a Dad. 

Daddy was just the man to go out on that limb to an out-of-the-way mall, and spend an half an hour milling about with crowds of little kids and their parents. We'd have a coffee and nod knowingly at each other about the ridiculous fuss around us over these colored bits of cardboard; those with older kids would assure us that they all would grow out of it well before puberty. Collectible card games? A phase. Forget about it.

I would stay only long enough to pick up a souvenir and say I had been there. My point would be proven, and if I ever again set aside a day to devote to something like this he would damned well know how lucky he was, and look forward to it for an hour or two and behave well enough to get there. Win-win.

*   *   *

There were a thousand, thousand people there. The line just to get in snaked around about four times as long as the one for the new iPad a month ago at the Apple store at the really big mall. That lineup I walked by and laughed at, because, who can't wait a day, or a week, for some product? 
No one can. Meet Mickey Mouse, as played by Dr. Ken Jeong.
He owns your child--you just lease him back.
This lineup crammed me between one hundred dead-eyed teens standing six feet tall and smelling like dirty hoodies and Axe cologne. It spat me out at the registration desk, where someone checked my deck and I was processed efficiently into a holding area for combatants.

I could not see a parent, just very big kids and very strange costumes--mascot-heads of creatures invented by a 6-year-old H.P. Lovecraft. Bright colours, and odd numbers of googly eyes. Fleece fangs and tentacles everywhere.
Stop that!
Finally I saw some younger kids, on the other side of the vast room. Why did it look like there were about three hundred of them, when there were clearly a thousand older ones? Must be a parents' area somewhere, probably in view. Where could it be? I'm not prone to anxiety attacks, I'm just wound too tight to live.
But this is an exceptional situation in every possible way.

I do not look like a pedophile. Not even slightly. 
Why would that even come into my head?
Wish my son was here. I would actually wear one of those hats right now if I had one.
Hats of invisibility.

Speaking of which, there's one guy who who actually makes me feel less like Margaret Mead here:
A 20-year-old goth in full makeup, leather spiked bondage collar and matching cuffs, fondling a crystal ball the size of a grapefruit as he wanders around aimlessly, avoiding eye-contact. Huge black back-pack.
Now I'm background, for sure. There's always one standout who raises the bar in a crowd like this.
Totally inappropriate here, if I know anything.

They posted our first round ten minutes later. Some of them moaned about their assignments. Whatever.
Oh, I am seated next to that goth. And he's really, really popular. Not an Asperger at all. Gay, and very nice, but oh so photogenic.

There is a wandering official photographer who takes 700 pictures and video of him. And inadvertently of me. Suddenly he's not going to look freakish, oh no, not at all. The old guy next to him will, though.

Round 1: FIGHT!

My first opponent was a venerated regional judge of the game. He was about 20, taking his first championship off-duty today to compete. I know this because they announced it before we started, and he took a bow. At least I could get some advice from him and not worry too much about even trying to win the game. It would be square and straightforward and all legal.
That's how all ref's play their games off the clock, right?

Nuh-uh, stupid!

First thing I notice: his cards. All printed in French. WTF?

My deck is new, put together from the best of the random packs we're opened.
A little of this, and a little of that. For fun.

His deck was composed of the best cards from the last five years, and only the best, and plenty of them. It followed a strict formula, as all the decks I saw did. You picked one and ran it and hoped it worked against the other formulas you encountered. Tried and true. I had my suspicions at the time, and found out later that yes, it would cost about $1200 to hand-select the components of that first deck. In English.

No pressure.

First card out prevents me from playing half my cards. It's in French, so I have to trust him on that.
The next one beats me up and prevents me from attacking next turn.
Rinse and repeat until I have lost one of my six points.





Final Defeat.  

I'm thinking about this, and it seems I ought to be able to understand these cards I've never seen. I know this is irrelevant, but I feel I've just played fizzbin with Kirk, bruises and all. Perhaps I should check this out. 
The Pokemon Officials from Washington State are quick to explain:
"It's your [pause for repressed epithet] bilingual country. You deal with that--we're done arguing about it ... Buddy."
Well, I guess that's fair. The nearest French-speaking town is only 2822 miles due East. I find out later that it isn't a cost-saving measure for my opponent, it actually doubles the price of his deck to buy it that way.
He really is just the biggest jackass there. Or so I thought.

Krablachu: The Sexually Transmitted Pokemon.
I will be beaten down seven times that day, over six hours. Of course I could have gone home, but there were random prizes every new round. It would have been nice to take something back after all this. And I am stubborn. I don't quit, and I am a good sport. Somewhere at the bottom of the pile of these people is another chump who came unprepared. And I can beat that chump.

Only I never saw him.

And it's just kids, playing a game after all. No skin off my nose.  I don't have to take it personally, even though by game four they introduce themselves as: "Hi--it's going to be fun crushing you!"

Sure kid. Next time have fun crushing a few of those zits before you leave the house, OK? 

Whoo. Where did that come from? Pretty sure that wasn't out loud. Maintain.

Cards appear that haven't been sold in five years. The newest, most expensive $30 cards also show up and I swear there's too many of them to be legal, but I can't count over four any more anyway.

I'm Pokemon punch-drunk, and I just want it all to be over.
Every time I hit the playmat I want to stay down.

By the very end the cards all look like bad jokes that a one-eyed shut-in codeine-addict churns out incessantly and immediately forgets. Surely they can't be serious.

I can't even.
Farts glitter for 80 damage.
OMG of course that's the whole business model! I knew that when I walked in--how could I have forgotten?

WAITWAIT--Have I legitimized this paper cock-fighting scam to myself? 
Have I re-classified it as a sport to deny some of this mental conflict? 

Whoa--I know about that syndrome! That's a dangerous, newly discovered phenomenon--it means I am identifying with this company as if they were my employer. They don't even have a name for that yet, but they'll put it in the DSM V right next to Stockholm Syndrome.

I resolve to stick to $20 poker games or just learn to eat wads of my own cash to duplicate this thrill.
It's free to be here, but that's what passing this time has felt like. 

*   *   *

When I arrive home, fragile and confused, my son is glad to see me. He has somehow had a decent day.

I feel like Wile E. Coyote after a long cartoon; it took a lot of anvils and a lot of cliffs, but I want to forget why I did all this because in hindsight it seems a bit loony. I don't want to admit that at some point I'll probably convince myself to do something very like it again; on principle, because I can't talk myself down from it in time.

My boy apologizes for his behaviour and asks me how it went. I show him the souvenir card. It's much like one he already has.

I tell him he didn't miss anything and we walk to the park to play on the playground together until it gets dark.

*   *   *

When have you backed yourself into doing something you regretted? What did you learn? 


  1. A gay, photogenic, goth, non-Asperger gamer? Omg why don't you just punch me in my esophagus while I sleep? That was funny!

    So let me get this straight. You waited in line and played in a Pokemon convention with axe-smelling stinky-hoodie kids (great description) to punish your son? And then told him he didn't miss anything, out of shame and fragility?

    Boy you can "punish" me any day if you do ridiculous things like this to YOURSELF :)

    "fragile and confused" is my favorite bit - oh how wonderful this story was :)

  2. I felt like Wile E. Coyote, Supergenius, after a particularly bad day; there had been enough punishment for everyone. I was just so glad to be welcomed home.

    I'm so glad you liked it. Thanks.

  3. The Rev.'s comment is stuck in the Intertubes. 
    Perhaps she didn't use Disqus or deleted it or something.

    But the record remains. She asks:

    "You are CANADIAN?!?"

    At least I think that's a question. 
    Anyhoo, now that that's out of the closet I bet sparks are gonna fly.

  4. The yellow lining to this story? Someday you can make your son return the favor by having him take you to Porno-con. Your wife will have to let you because it will be educational:  to show him what the rest of the non goth-asperger-photogenic-gay world does with their free time.

    You ARE welcome.

    Do they call it "porno-con"? (insert "oh like you don't know" comment here. I earned it).

  5. Oh, there's a thing they do around here once a year. 
    And I'm not taking my son to THAT either, thanks!

    He can find all that out on the street. 
    Better than having your Mom tell you all about it for years on end. 

    But that's a whole other post. Or series of posts.

  6.  Well weirdly enough Juice and Dogs and myself are like raving hockey fans, okay mostly just Juice, but I like hockey too, so we accept your internationality and vowels, and fine comic history. You are forgiven.

  7.  and forms the college fund for a therapist's two children, I imagine

  8. 'Smelling like dirty hoodies and axe cologne'

    Perfect. For a while I taught high schoolers in a Saturday program. They all smelled exactly like that. It was gross.

  9.  Oh dear god man fuckthebloodycanucks!!

  10. You're not the boss of me. I do what I want. Canucks take things to a whole new level in this conversation.

    you should've said the Oilers

  11. Too soon?

    There are bruises yet to heal all over the continent, so I guess you're right.

    And hey, OILERS?!
    Those rodeo clowns? No thanks.

  12.  Ah well thank you.

    I guess I'll put up with the Canucks thing then ;)

  13.  Sexy :( ugh