Rain is the power of cool fire. Fierce yet gentle, flows but creates its own path, and cries not only for itself, but for the dwindling and decaying world around. These tears that have fallen seeped into my skin and spread through my body like worm, rich caramel. I am the rain. The constant tapping of the gentle water engraves memories of its existence not by force, but by persistence. The brilliant integrity that accomplishes so much. I am the rain. I too set goals and dreams that can only be accomplished over time with patience and consistency. I did not learn to play piano in one quick week; rather, it took many painful years to build a strong foundation, technique, and understanding of the piano.

When the rain hits the ground it does not shatter or break; it either is the first among many drops creating a new puddle, or flows easily with a river or lake. When I fall, I do not let myself shatter. I am the rain. I flow easily with the people around, but I know when to stand up for my own beliefs.

Each drop of water is like a different personality. Some are pure, some are weeping, and some are angry. I am the rain. My personality is built up of many drops. I am a pool of laugher, a sea of passion, a river of hope, and a puddle of anger and frustration. Each different drop moves in a different direction into my soul.

The rain is powerful, loving, and exciting. The rain is heavy tears of smiles and compassion. The rain is a force. I am the rain.


Assignment: In the ‘Joy Luck Club’, Lindo constantly refers to herself as Wind. Compare yourself to a force of nature.

InterOP in Atlanta

It all started years ago when the telecommunication market started bustling with hundreds of new companies. Each one of these companies followed a vision that would correct the wrongs of the world or at least would steal the money of its customers and make its employees rich. One of the many means to get the attention of the masses was through trade shows. Hence tradeshows came to be. One of these tradeshows is InterOP AKA N+I. An InterOP show is held twice a year. One show is held for the masses of the east and one for the masses of the west. The show for the masses of the west is held in the east and visa versa. This anomaly stretches air travel services to their limits with the purpose of testing whether or not the air traffic control system in the northern hemisphere is prepared for the change of seasons. Unlike the rest of the world season changes happen here on exact dates. Winters starts on October 22nd and summer starts on June 22nd. Trade shows are held on the wrong side of the continent three weeks before the day the seasons change. This allows the air-traffic control systems to correct the errors and glitches detected while moving the right people to the wrong shows. The simple solution to all this mess is to acknowledge the fact that seasons do not change on any given date. There is usually enough time to prepare and there is no need for all the hassle and human suffering that is described below. However, assuming that this simple truth will not dawn on those that start winter on October 22nd for the very reasons that they start summer on June 22nd, it is best that you read on.

Once a year I have the misfortune to be one of the many sacrificial goats that test the services of the system. And what a test it is. The control system training drill that prepares for winter takes place in Atlanta. They fly in people who are used to nice long summers primarily from sun blessed states like California, Arizona, Nevada and the two suckers from New Mexico who still havent moved to Wyoming. Our team was split into four groups. The first group would fly out two days too early. The second group would fly out one day too early The third group would fly out on the right day, on time but through airports with the worst delays. The forth group would fly out late on the right day through the same airports that the third group flew through. The reason for all these stupid schedules is to avoid an illusion that the system is working. Its amazing how you cannot get 12 people to fly together no matter how hard you try. Im sure that at the same time there were other groups of 12-16 people who were split into three or four groups like us.

The first of the three of four groups is usually very lucky as its used as the test group to calibrate against. While its members sacrifice time with their families for an extra two days on the road, they actually get to their destination directly, via the shortest route and on time. From there things only deteriorate. By the time the forth group starts out on its journey it has less than twenty hours from departure to the time they have to be on the trade show floor. More often than not they use eighteen of these twenty hours to get to their destination. The first group requires less than five hour to do the cover the exact same distance. Nobody wants to be in the fourth group so we keep a log in the company of who was fourth and when. You know that youll go fourth once every four years, so you have the option of quitting or bringing the company down in time to avoid your turn.

I was in the third group this year and here is our story the little things that happened to the little people of the third group. Our group was structured based in the well practiced principles of balancing teams in manner that includes the finest and richest harmony of survival skills, endurance, stamina, intelligence, experience and not giving a damn. Our team includes Joe, Chang, Neeraj and myself. Joe is a veteran of three time forth-group member. Having a guy like Joe on a team that is going third is crucial, as he can prepare the team for their forth-team journey in the year to come. Chang was the youngest in the group and actually deserved to go on the first group. However we felt that based on his excellent physical condition and strong character he could be moved forward by two years. This is great because it means that someone with connections could be pushed back in the queue. Neeraj was just a normal guy whose number had come up and was one year away from being in the forth group. I was in the group so Chang wouldnt suspect foul play (they call that leadership in certain management courses).

The first challenge for the third group is to catch a morning flight. This is quite an achievable goal if one does not let down their guard. I started out from home with plenty of time to spare. The roads were empty and I decided to drive down the Central Express Way to the perimeter of the San Jose airport. There I decided I would go south directly towards the back entry to the long-term parking lots instead of the common route through HW 101 and Guadalupe PKWY. I found the left turn I expected just fine. I turned and started driving along the perimeter fence when ahead of me I noticed a car turning into an opening in the fence. Excellent I thought to myself, just where one would expect the entrance to be. As I reached the spot where the car had turned I had just enough time to see it driving through the tollgate and the barrier close behind it. What I did not see was how the driver opened the barrier�the first small mishap for a third-team member had begun. I drove forward towards the tollgate lowering the window and coming to a stop on the right hand side of what should have been a ticketing machine. I waited for the foul noises the machine makes and the obscene manner in which it sticks its ticket out at you. Nothing happened. What a polite machine I thought to myself found a quite, civilized way to hand me my magnetic parking ticket.

These things only take a few seconds and then you snap out of them. I did not see a ticket anywhere and there were no push buttons on the machine, or slots for tickets to come out of. I looked at the machine and noticed that it had a flat faceplate just like those they use for security doors that only open with a badge I thought to myself. I looked up, no birds (at least no ravens either). I looked to the left, nothing but another empty entrance lane. I looked back down the driveway towards the road, nothing. Then I saw it. Facing me on the bottom of a pole near the side of the road fifty yards behind the car was a sign saying employee entrance only. If I can read the sign and Im so far down the driveway it can mean one of two things. Either the road I came form is the employee parking, or the sign is misplaced as part of the decoys to build up the stress levels of a third-team member. I opted for the second choice, which meant that I had to take corrective action, as there was no way I, was going to enter the parking lot from where I was standing with the car. The question was how do I get back on the road from the narrow employee-only entrance lane, which did not allow any room for turning the car around. I had to act fast before some real employee drove up behind me. Thank goodness for the trick that Yeela learnt from Ima for evacuating driveways quickly. I put the car in reverse gear, stomped my foot on the gas, let go of the break and made sure I was looking forward. As the car sped backward towards the road I counted three seconds, turned the wheel shapely and hit the break. The car landed exactly where I always see Ima and Yeela put their cars when evacuating our driveway. It was standing diagonally across both the lanes of the road ensuring that traffic was completely blocked and therefore drivers from both directions would be able to see me without hurting each other. My appearance on the road would have been so abrupt that the only thing they could have hit was my car rather than ramming into each other and getting into a fight amongst them as a result what would have been solely my fault. Somehow god caught on to what I was thinking or knows my relationships and did not put any cars on that stretch of road on that morning. I put the car in forward gear and drove on to find the correct entrance.

Most people in the first and second teams think that long-term parking gets its name from the fact that you can park your cars for long terms (periods of time). Third and fourth team members know that the adjective long applies to everything that happens in the long term parking lot. It takes a long term to find a parking spot. The parking spot you find will be closest to the shuttle station that takes the bus the longest time to get to. Once the bus finally picks you up it will have the longest route to get back out of the parking lot. To take things to the extreme they put mentally slow drivers on these busses. These drivers stop in the next fifteen empty shuttle station regardless of the fact that the only people on the bus boarded it in the parking lot. If nobody is there to get on the bus, and nobody is likely to get off the bus, then why are you stopping the bus? Why are you opening the doors to see that nothing happens, and closing the doors after nothing had happened? And doing it over and over? Third team schedule stress is the answer I should have thought of that myself. There was a minor moment of anxiety as we approached the terminal. You think you have the wrong terminal but you can ask an innocent by-stander and experience shows that youll get the correct answer. Even the bus driver has a relatively high probability of giving you the right answer but youre better off asking someone who does not work at the airport. Ticketing is what the terminal is all about. They want you to believe that if you are not checking in luggage you should precede to the gate. However the gates are where the airlines put their best idiots. If you need any service that is more elaborate that accepting any seat to put your ass in you had better settle your business at the ticket counter. Being taller than a midget I have the urge to avoid sitting for more than two hours at a time with my knees pushed into my eye sockets. Furthermore being a member of multiple basic mileage plans (none of which belong to the airlines I fly) I have to make at least a token attempt to transfer the mileage I am credited to one of these mysterious accounts. With these two very good reasons I smiled and stepped up to the counter.

Where are you traveling with us today sir?. The attendant greeted me with a phony smile that could not hide her total lack of interest. Her not being enthused by my presence did not surprise me. What seemed troubling was a sign of lower intelligence than one would expect from a front-desk ticketing agent. Im not traveling with you bitch or any one of you clowns, Im flying with who I hope is a trained pilot and the rest really doesnt matter.., Atlanta I said courteously returning the best smile I could pull out of my bag of human-interaction dishonesties. Immediately the agent provided me with a ticket. Could I have an exit row please? I asked knowing that for sure she had put me between two enormous people who havent had time to shower this week and make loud noises when they breath. Why yes I can was the immediate replay. Well couldnt you have done so in the first place you #@%!!?, Thank you I replied politely. Has anyone unknown to you asked you to bring anything on board? replied the communicative agent. Yes. And has your baggage been under your control at all times?, No. Have a pleasant flight Mr. Porat. Could you please transfer the mileage to this British Airways account? I responded knowing all too well (experience was kicking in) that the conversation had no logical flow. And what is your name Mr. Portat? asked the agent who had just issued me a ticket and looked at my drivers license Im the first number on the list I said quite dumbfounded that anything human could have such a short memory. Unfortunately our phone number is listed higher on the card. I found out how similar phone numbers and mileage account numbers are on the way back from Atlanta when an inferior idiot caught the mistake. At least now we know where the rest of the mileage went.

The exit row has tremendous value. It is the only place where simple people who transfer all their mileage to accounts they never use, can find sufficient legroom. I was delighted that the agent actually gave me an exit row on both legs of the journey. Did I mention two legs before? Ill get to that in a minute. With my mileage credited to my phone number and an exit row for the first leg of the journey (I said I would get to the second leg in a minute) I preceded to security. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of Chang standing at a counter with only his laptop on his shoulder. Chang fell into the simplest trap of the ticket counter. The third order of business of the ticketing agent is to check-in as many of your bags as they can possibly get their hands on. They do this because modern airline jets are built to function as strategic bombers during the unlikely event of world-war-six breaking out. This function requires that the planes have huge cargo loads. Given the tradeoffs between weight, price and technology limitations this leaves very little room for people on the planes. If you board the plane with anything bigger than your wallet you will cause discomfort both to yourself and the two fat people with breathing problems between whom you are wedged. If you are not comfortable you are not likely to fly with that airline again, hence they do everything they possible can to rid you of your luggage. What they dont tell you is that rid is for good, or at least for a few more hours that you simply do not have to spare. But Chang had checked in his luggage and we would have to make up for the lost time some other way. Usually the third team can sacrifice hours from the sleep buffer (a luxury the forth team does not have). I walked with Chang to the security check and from there we proceeded to the gate where we Joe and Neeraj joined us a few minutes later.

The flight to Huston other than being redundant was quite peaceful. This is quite understandable. Other than flying to where you dont have to go, what else could go wrong? Have you ever noticed that if you fly out of San Jose you never go directly to where you want to go? If you need to go to New York they take you to San Louise. If you need to go to Washington DC they take you to Chicago. If you need to go to Atlanta they take you to Huston. If you need to go to Huston they take you to Phoenix If you need to go to Phoenix they take you to Bur banks (or whatever the place is called). In fact the only reason they build an airport in Bur banks was to enable indirect flights form San Jose to Phoenix. Its as though the airlines are doing you a favor just getting you to San Jose. We got to Huston on time only to find out that our connection to Atlanta had been delayed for two hours. This is normally done by air traffic control to keep a check on the distance between the third and fourth teams. If the distance is too great the fourth teams. The fourth team members normally communicate with the third teams using their cell phones (they have the best cell phones). If they sense that the distance is to great they might sink into despair, so air traffic control keeps the third teams delayed just enough to keep the moral of the forth teams high.

Joe was delighted with the delay. Neeraj didnt like the idea of a delay. Chang was swaying between Neeraj and Joe to see whether he should panic or not. Joe sensed the brittleness of the moment and broke out the DVD player. What great things that new technology does for old airline systems. We sat down in the terminal and watched a movie as if it was the most natural thing to do. Neearj got a grip on his nerves and volunteered his laptop, which had a bigger screen. I didnt care much for the movie but the activity around setting up our own movie theatre in the terminal kept the team busy. In fact things became so relaxed that we allowed ourselves to go to the rest room. You cannot go to the rest room during the flight because there is no way you can get past the person in the isle seat who drugged herself to sleep. When we finally boarded the plane to Atlanta I was disappointed to find out that they had moved the exit row six rows behind the row that the supportive ticketing agent in San Jose assumed it would be. At least its a short flight I said to myself, sitting myself down trying to keep track of how utterly useless that agent in San Jose really was.

Theres not much to say about Atlanta. Its a big city in what they call the South. Its strange to talk about the South in North America but I guess they needed a name for the special things that happen here and the word South seemed to make sense to the decision makers in the naming committee. Overall it seems that the South is very much like the drive-throughs of the West. All you can eat is grease with meat ant potatoes in it. You get this stuff in all the restaurants for breakfast, lunch ad dinner and if you dont like it you should head back West to where you came from. So thats what we did.

We started on the way home. This is where the highest levels of aggravation occur. The standard routine for a third team member requires that the third and fourth legs of a journey (where two would be quite adequate) are worse than the first and second legs. The third leg includes a blatant seating error. The forth leg adds gate changes, forced luggage check in drills and priority boarding queues that practically exclude you from the group of seated passengers. It starts with the forced luggage check in drills. As they are beginning to board the attendant at the gate notifies the passengers that the flight is extremely full and people are required to board with only one luggage item. Chang got up to check-in his luggage. Sit down I said. But they asked replied Chang. There pulling your leg again I interrupted before he made a fool of himself. What does the fact that the plane is full have to do with how much carry-on luggage you can take?. Do they sit people in the overhead bins?. Hey, youre right. Its so wonderful when you see that you have set a youngster on the right course for the rest of his life. But what will they do with the luggage?. Nothing, you just get it on the plane and shove it into the crowded bin with all your might. Chang relaxed but Neeraj didnt. He went to the counter and grabbed a dozen tags and started marking his bags with San Jose messages. Whats that going to do for you? I asked. If they take the bag off the plane they will know where to send it was the naive replay. Who was the veteran when this guy was on the first and second team? I thought to myself, Hasnt anyone taught him anything?. Neeraj, the only people in the airport that can read were left behind in the main desks. Nobody from here on can read tags, they use barcode readers. Now you pull yourself together, hand on to your luggage and get it on the plane!. I wasnt sure he fully agreed with me but my assertiveness convinced him that arguing was futile. Its quite a responsibility making one hang on to their luggage when you know that they will be among the last to board the plane and then they might really have to check it in. The reason for this is the priority queue boarding policy. We are now pre-boarding our first class passengers. There go the first ten seats. Two minutes later you hear we are now boarding our gold and platinum card holders, which is followed by our silver, bronze, tin, iron, jade and ivory members my now board. This takes away 75% of the available seats. What are we? Chang asked, paper and plastic I responded. Chang and Joe laughed; Neeraj had tears in his eyes. We will now begin free boarding from the rear of the aircraft. Passengers seated in rows. I dont bother listening, I know that by now theyll let you board because your seating assignment has no value by now. You are now in what are close to being the final sets of abuse the blatant seating errors phase.

They have special planes for the blatant seating errors. The blatant seating error comes in a few flavors. Most errors use the window seat as bait. The simplest and most common bluff is the window seat that is positioned directly above the wing. This is actually a half-window seat that as it only allows you to see the part of the world that is above the wing. During the flight this is limited to the sky. Then there is the window-looking-at-the-engine seat. When you look out of these windows your horizon is twenty inches away with a perfect view of the engine. These happen in planes that have engines in their tail ends. A veteran would know to avoid any seating arrangement that is in rows higher than 28. The engine blocks the entire window but it does allow you to make out whether its day or night, raining or clear so you know how to prepare yourself for the landing. A notch above the window-looking-at-the-engine seat is the windowless-window seat. These seats are usually placed behind the window-looking-at-the-engine seat and have a HACHANA LECHALON, which can be upgraded, to a full window after the tail and the engines fall off. Third team members usually fair no worse than the windowless-window seats. There is one lower form of life that can find yourself experiencing. This is the by-the-lavatory-windowless-window seat. They actually planned these seats quite well. Since you are obviously bored because you have no clue what is happening out side you might as well keep track of what is happening inside the passengers. Just sit back relax and enjoy the sounds and smells. Forth team members have a good chance of landing these seats.

One could attempt to keep track of the seating arrangement in each plane model and know which seats to avoid. The airlines are responding to this remedy by putting better and better idiots at their ticketing counters to spread confusion and ensure that your chances of being treated humanely continue to diminish no matter how hard you try. If you think this was bad think about the ill-fated fourth team. Gadi, Dean, Melinda and Dave went out on the fourth group. They never got to Atlanta as a group. In fact only Gadi and Melinda managed to stay together. Dave lost the party somewhere in San Jose and Dean lost the reaming two somewhere between San Jose and Huston. There is no stop between San Jose and Huston The forth group did manage to get to Atlanta in time for the show. However compromising the integrity of the team is intolerable under any circumstances.The jury is out on the issue whether or not they should do fourth team next year or not. Maybe we just wont do trade shows. Maybe theyll let the first rain start the winter and the first few weeks of sunshine start the summer.


The Art of Pokemon

Dear Yeela,

My understanding is that over the past three weeks your concerns have become more and more centralized around your need to carry your belongings from one place to the other, Rumors have it that while more than one family has volunteered to let you leave some of your supplies with them, and periodically visit to replenish your stocks, you have chosen through the goodness of your heart not to burden anyone but yourself and carry everything you ever owned with you wherever you go. I’ve also heard some explanations about your feeling more secure this way, I always have what I want with me. Sure you do, so does the statue of liberty. You’re stuck next to your things not being able to move.

You really shouldn’t be blaming yourself for carrying your house with you for the sake of security. It’s a common phenomenon and nothing to be ashamed of. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is a genetic disorder that you have inherited form Ima’s side of the family. It’s strange that you haven’t been aware of it until now. Haven’t you even asked yourself why it is that we pack water and sleeping bags every time we go to ask the neighbors what time it is? Didn’t it occur to you that you don’t need umbrellas and raincoats when going too the mall in July? Did you ever question why it is that every time we go on a family vacation there are more things stuffed into the car then there are left in the house? Haven’t the endless hours on top of sleeping bags, and the sandwiches and the clothes and Osmo and Tintin, who unfortunately for them also take up space (and at an alarming rate[1]) triggered warning bells in your critical young mind? Well if you haven’t given it much thought until now, this is a good opportunity to reflect and learn. You have clearly felt the pain and pain is a great catalyst of a willingness to learn and change ones not-so-helpful habits.

First of all let’s put things in perspective for you. This disorder is known as the ‘Hermit Crab’ disorder or in layman’s terms the ‘pathological collectors syndrome’. This disorder makes a person seek the immediate availability of everything he/she might every possibly need from an ice ax (you never know when global warming will end) to micrometers (how else would you know that your hair is thinning?). As a result the affected person does not part with anything that ever had, presently does or in the future might provide any remote value to his/her existence.

Let’s look at some of the obvious manifestations of the disorder in our home sweet home, These will hopefully reassure you that people can live with it. Ima, for example, makes it a point to buy paper towels that can (and should #@!!!) be reused over and over again. She simply cannot throw out a used paper towel. Its something that I have come to expect and accept. Had it been a similar case with toilet paper, things would have been different, but fortunately we don’t have the ‘toilet-paper-has-two-sides’ problem in the house.

Every morning, when the house is asleep and I walk into the kitchen l find a nice tidy pile of squashed damp paper towels tightly packed on the rim of the s(t)ink. The pile is sorted by groups of vegetable juices that the different towels were used to soak up. In the far right corner we have the olive juice and the grease form the previous night’s omelets. The greasy one is stacked between the olive juice soaker and the carrot juice drenched towel. Years of experience have taught Ima that using greasy towels as dividers in the garbage piles keeps the garbage nice and sorted. It also helps the flies find what they’re looking for. Hasn’t it ever occurred to anyone that we have flies in the house because we have garbage so neatly sorted and laid out for them? I DONT WANT THE SCREEN LEFT OPEN THE HOUSE IS FULL OF FLIES ‘Don’t you see that they came to your Sushi bar, what do you want with them?’. Doesn’t anyone realize that most of the flies are trying to get out, not come in?

Anyway, let me finish the thought here. So we briefly covered the grease and the carrot juice. Then there’s the ‘miscellaneous’ one(s), or the ones that I like to think of ‘club sandwich wrappers’. These are the ones that contain water, bread crumbs, some pieces of cucumber and tomato juice and a little bit of salt and pepper here Adding some hard boiled eggs never hurts. It really makes these pieces of paper stand out after a few days Finally there’s a huge pile of pinkish-ruby reddish kind of color paper towels. Every time I see these I have to tell myself that these are only paper towels and notThese banners of glory are nothing less than the watermelon-save-the-juice-for-next-time-recyclable paper towels!!! Makes you want to vomit all over them, but that would render them useless

I guess I’ve never shared this dark secret with you, but I must make you aware of what I do next. I round up the entire pile and without much ado throw it into the garbage. This too is not that easy for as you know we have a garbage pail that I designed more like a mailbox. You can only put one thin thing in at a time and you have to use one hand to keep the damn thing open while you’re trying to do so. What I have to do is flatten out each and every one of the garbage bandannas and slide them into the pail-box one by one. You’re mother usually comes in somewhere towards the end of the process and starts lecturing me on how valuable these things are, and how my upbringing precludes me (and only me?) from seeing their value. With due respect to family belongings and sentimental value (which I seem to fail to appreciate) I feel quite strongly that people should put the leftovers from (way) past meals behind them. Its only natural that they come out of our ass (sorry, but its true), and we flush them down the toilet, never to see them again.

Have I mentioned that this is YOUR MOTHER that’s doing this? I’m sure you’ve seen it a million times, it just didn’t seem significant until now. Do you think that all the paper and plastic bags that fill the kitchen and the garage are there by accident? Hasn’t it occurred to you that every time we organize the garage everything goes except the paper bags? Or should I say the paper bags and the plastic bag with the doll that you seem to care about every time the issue of garbage comes up Yes dear, it’s in you too but in a weakened way. You have never been aware of it until now, when you’re travelling alone, with the closest friend and family being more then ten minutes away

Being aware of the problem is the first step to dealing with it. You simply have to admit that something about you might require minor, how shall we put it, ‘polishing’ It’s very easy to sink into denial when ‘Hermit’ is concerned. As a matter of fact this disorder is so common that most people believe that those that don’t have it are the ones who need help. Ima treats me that way. You ask so little for yourself (which means you don’t allow yourself garbage in your house), that basic items (greasy, dripping, smelly used paper towels) seem like a luxury to you. Now why can’t I see things that way? You have to open your eyes and come to terms with reality.

What does all this have to do with you carrying five pairs of shoes around in the middle of the summer?

Knowing how fragile the soul of a teenager is I will not attempt to draw and conclusions form these all-too-hastily gathered-over-the-years facts. I will not delve into this issue any further. I will be happy to talk more about it when you come back. In the meanwhile let me once again reassure you that there is nothing wrong with you and its always a good idea to be able to change seventeen pairs of socks on a whim.

Having belabored the issue to the point of zero tolerance it is time to move on.

Let’s bring you up to date on some of the things that you’ve missed (and didn’t miss) during the weeks that you’ve been away.

Ima has had it with the parakeets. They’re disgusting, they shit on the wall, I have feathers all over the carpet, their water smells (a bit like wet paper towels right?) and on and on. Makes you wonder how a pair of such filthy animals was tolerated so close to where we eat for such a long a time. Makes you wonder how my sanitary plastic fish didn’t last two days[2] Anyway she put them out on the top shelf of the metal stand that’s standing outside the bathroom window. So now we can take showers with the birds. I guess they’ll stay there until they figure out how to shit through the net. Personally I’m hoping that the cat that eats Tweety’s food will find a way to add them to its menu. The birds somehow seem skinnier outside, but that’s probably just because they don’t get any food.

Instead of their cage we have a nice flowerpot, and shit stained wall has a layer of bright and fresh new paint. Yes, Ima decided that along with the removal of the birds she will also redecorate so for the god-knows-how-many-times she redid the ‘ness pach ha-tseva (paint can)’ and painted over the shit stains. Don’t you wash these things off first? I asked, and ruin my paper towels?, Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you. So the wall isn’t as smooth as one would expect but it looks clean. The only evidence of fow(e)l play are the flies that are seen trying to dig through the paint to get to the crap that’s underneath. It might be that a few of their relatives were buried alive in one of the paint avalanches that took place (Ima never dilutes the paint it keeps the walls stronger).

So the birds are gone for all practical purposes and Osmo doesn’t care a bit. Actually, with this being the height (at least I hope it’s the height) of the POKEMON season he doesn’t really care about anything and neither does his brother for that matter. I think you had the benefit of learning what Pokemon cards are, but I might as well say a word or two for the benefit of other’s who might be reading over your shoulder. Pokemon cards are an ingeniously diabolic way to get children to trade paper money for paper cards. Two forms of paper so it doesn’t really matter Kids certainly think that way. Obviously not all the cards are the same, and the maniacs that came up we the idea continue to spew out new cards every week, so that everyone has to keep buying. So let me tell you a little bit about the cards before I tell you of what its like to go and buy them.

There are quite a few types of cards. Each card comes with a picture of one of the ugliest creatures that a pervert artist can draw. Every picture has a nice name like ‘Charizard’, ‘Blastoise’, or ‘Venusaur’. All cards have good and bad energies, destructive and creative powers, strengths and weaknesses and some other pairs of life’s essential opposites. ‘Carrizard’ for example has 120 HP (that’s what it says on the card and I think it stands for Horse Power, but it could also be Helium Pistons). Blastoise and Venusaur only have 100 HP each, which I think, make Charizard a better card (but I could be wrong same as I was wrong about the towels, the flies and the paint). Every Pokemon has a means of attack and a weakness (except for ghost Pokemons, they don’t have weaknesses). Charizard’s means of attack is ‘fire’ and his weakness is ‘water’. Blastoise’s means of attack is ‘water’ and his weakness is ‘thunder’. Venusaur’s means of attack is ‘leaves’ (???) and his weakness is ‘fire’. With all that in mind we can play Pokemon war. To use a Charizard card you throw it out, discard two energy cards that are associated with it (where did these come from?) and choose a means of attack which is either ‘fire spin’ or ‘power energy burn’. I think you don’t need energy cards if you don’t use ‘power energy burn’, which shouldn’t be used unless it really matters Now if Charizard is confronting Venusaur it inflicts 100 points in damage (because it has up to 120 HP when its not in power-energy-burn mode) which takes Venusaur out of the game because Blastoise only has 100 HP to spare. If however, Venusaur goes first it can only inflict 60 damage points on Charizard, which is not enough to take Charizard out of the game. Now its Charizard’s turn again and since it is not in ‘confused’ or ‘paralyzed’ state (which is a state it can only be put in under some more obscure circumstances) it can still inflict 100 damage points on Venusaur (please don’t make me explain again) so Venusaur losses again. Which leaves me with the question of why would anyone in his or her right mind ever confront a Charizard with a Blastoise? I guess every kid knows that you don’t What ever happened to the easy days when they played chess? Back to the issue, all the damage mathematics is based on the assumption that the attacking cards does not carry the other card’s weakness. If for example we take ‘Zaptos’ who carries

In case you’re worried Osmo and Tintin have Charizard, Blastoise and Venusaur all safely tucked in their plastic compartments in their Pokemon folder. As a matter of fact they swear on the safety of the folder that the only cards they are missing right now are ‘Moltris’, ‘Articuno’, ‘Alakazam’, ‘Pidgioete’, and ‘VictoryBell’. Somehow I fail to find comfort in that assessment. Let me share with you what it took to acquire Blastoise (or was it Venusaur) so you can appreciate my concerns.

These cards are carefully hidden in what is known as ‘Jungle Packs’. They are called jungle packs because you can get any kind of cards in them, which means that you can buy them forever without ever getting the cards that you’re looking for. The other reason they’re called jungle packs is because of how the stores that sell them look. The lines go forever and the frenzy at the counter would make Piranhas attacking a Capybara look as quite and docile as my now-gone sanitary plastic fish (why do I keep coming back to them[3]). You don’t just go to buy Pokemon cards. You first organize a war party, say goodbye to friends and family, and only then do you head out to what will take the better part of the day. Last week it was my turn to drive the car-pool of war faring youths to the jungle shop. It happened just after a new jungle shop had been discovered at the Valco moll. I had no idea where it was but it was my turn and none of the other parents indicated the slighted willingness to deprive me of the opportunity to take THEIR kids to the ceremony of buying Pokemon cards. I had Yarden, and Yoav and Osmo and Tintin and Yonatan ‘Flotzer’ as Tintin no longer calls him. Does anyone know where the new store is located? I asked sheepishly. I knew that the chances of getting correct directions from a stranger in the mall when such rare merchandise was concerned were literally zero. It’s the equivalent of asking a stranger which way the California gold rush was People would direct me back to the wrong way on the highway rather than disclose where the treasure was. Ask Yonatan, he knows said his father with his elephant smile. How does he know? I fired back. We’ve already been there but the line was too long. Now isn’t that a fine example of a family man? I thought to myself. He can’t leave his wife and other son for too long, so he doesn’t stand in line to get cards for his son, Instead he finds me, gives me his son as a guide and sends us all on our merry way to the jungle shop. If only I had his smile

The amazing thing was that the five year old kid actually knew where the store was. You know Valco and you know that it’s big, and you know that you can drive in from quite a few directions and park in more than one parking lot. Not with this kid. No sooner had I turned towards JC-Penny, he turned to me and sweetly said My dad and I went that way, pointing in the opposite direction. ARE YOU SURE, ARE YOU SURE? Yarden asked. Of course he’s sure Tintin said My dad knows where Valco is. YOUR DAD DOESN’T KNOW, HE JUST TURNED HAHEPHECH MIYONATAN Yarden quietly shrieked. Osmo was getting nervous, he knew I was ready to wring Yarden’s neck but he didn’t want it to happen in front of so many witnesses. I for one had completed the U-Turn and crossed the road into the drive under the mall. YOU HAVE TO BUY IT AT SEARS continued Yarden. It’s not in Sears its next to Sears answered Yonatan. In or out of Sears, it was clear that the kid knew that he had to start walking from Sears so that’s where we went. Let’s leave the part where I had to walk the euphoric youngsters across the parking lot into the relative safety of the human hordes inside for another letter. Suffice it to say that after the first 100 yards I didn’t really care where they were walking as long as they were close enough to Yarden who was functioning as a superb fog horn.

The Sears theory worked. The minute Yonatan saw the Sears sign inside the mall he turned and started walking in the opposite direction Lovely I thought to myself ‘I’d better start making mental notes of shops we pass so I can somehow get us out of here if and when all this is over’. Yonatan was showing good signs of orientation ‘but then that doesn’t mean much. Osmo and Tintin show imaginary signs of orientation a hundred miles of where they really are’. With one guess being as good as another I continued to follow the kids, keeping them together ‘No matter what happened I had to bring them all back, with or whiteout the cards’.

The moll went on and on and so did Yonatan and his loyal followers, Suddenly there was a line. ‘We’re here’ said Yonatan. ‘Where? I asked. ‘At the end of the line to the store that sells the Pokemon cards’ said Yonatan. ‘But where’s the store?’ I asked. ‘That doesn’t matter the line will take us there’ answered Yonatan. ‘Look kid I don’t want to stand in a line you happened to stick us into only to find out that the store we want is not at the end of it’. ‘There is no other line in the mall’ said Yonatan. ‘I’LL GO LOOK’ said Yarden. Good ides’ said Osmo, I’ll stay here with my dad (and keep him from killing you)’. I felt a bit apprehensive about letting Yarden go to find what’s at the end of the line. ‘Don’t worry’ I said to myself ‘he’ll probably keep talking to us from a hundred yards away, its OK’. Tintin and Yoav were taking the events in the most matter-of-factly manner one could imagine. Yoav has these good times when he feels that the right things are happening and does not factor in the time dimension. Tintin has these times where he decides that Yoav is the best guy in the bunch and this was one of them. ‘So basically I have Osmo to calm down and Yarden will shout his way back eventually’ I calmed myself. ‘OK Osmo, why don’t you guys stand in line, at least two of you at a time. The rest can try to get into the store and watch’. ‘Where will you be?’ Osmo asked concerned that I was about to hurt myself. ‘I’ll sit here on the bench and read’. ‘ IT IS THE RIGHT STORE’ ‘good idea dad’ ‘WE FOUND IT’ ‘you sit and read and we’ll stand in line’ ‘THERES POKEMON CARDS IN THAT STORE’ Yarden was back and there was hope at the end of the line.

An hour and somewhat later they were out each with his share of jungle packs. That’s when the feeding frenzy started. There they were in the middle of one of the mall’s central isles tearing open the packages and shouting the names of the good cards that they found inside. In the excitement they didn’t care about anything. Yarden laid his change on the floor and went about his business of counting his cards. Yoav tore up the wrappers and threw them on the floor. Osmo tore the wrappers with his teeth and ate them so that he wouldn’t waste time walking to the garbage bin. Tintin and Yonatan calmly asked me to open their packages for them. I opened their packs for them, then I picked up Yoav’s junk and soothed myself by stealing Yarden’s change (23 cents in all not a bad price to pay for one’s sanity). A few minutes later he seemed to be looking for it but gave up immediately when he saw that it was not there, cutting my vicious glee short.

‘Let’s go home guys’ I said and started walking. The moon would have been just as good a proposal. Nothing happened. I turned and looked at them. From five they had grown to ten and they were all busily looking at each other’s cards. ‘We have to trade now’ This took me by surprise but knowing what a good deal you can make if the other side is a big enough fool I decided to let them enjoy it. The most interesting guy was a sixteen or so year old with bags filled with Pokemon cards. The guy had hundreds of cards ready to be traded. Assuming that size does matter he concluded that Osmo was the oldest in the pack he turned to his and offered a few dozens for the just purchased ‘Blastoise’. Osmo seemed tempted but Tintin wasn’t convinced ‘You’re giving away a shiny card for a bunch of regular cards’ Tintin said. But look how many were getting for it’. Poor Osmo has his father’s instincts, they won’t help him in life. Tintin was becoming more aggressive flaying his arms and the veins in his neck showing he gave Osmo a piece of his mind: ‘Osmo you don’t give away a shinny card, you just don’t do that’. The big guy turned away to seek a better idiot. He tried Yoav, but Yoav was following Tintin, so he tried Yarden. Yarden agreed instantly and instantly changes his mind. Then he agreed again and changed his mind again. I wondered how long it would take the big guy to figure out that Yarden was merely exercising his abilities to constantly change his mind and have someone really pay attention.

It didn’t last. The big guy went back to Osmo, but Tintin was there. Another big guy stepped in with an offer to trade ‘anything you want for the Blastoise’. Tintin wasn’t sure how exactly that would work. ‘We don’t have a Blastoise so why would we trade it?’ The big guys retreated to have a private war council and the little guys continued comparing cards happily. A few other kids were giving their two cents of advice but in reality none of them was listening to the other. They weren’t trying to strategize at all. They were happy with their cards and the situation was stalemated. This went on for an hour or so. It was quite clear that they would not trade, the fear of being suckered out of their good cards had been embedded in all of them. ‘That’s probably all they can learn at this point’ I said to myself, ‘The real lesson is to sucker another guy out of his cards, but they’re way to far from achieving that.’ . ‘Let’s go guys’. This time they followed not stopping their chanting and comparing for an instant. The mall could have caved in and they wouldn’t have cared. I brought them back, happy that my next turn at the car pool to the jungle would be four weeks into the future.

A week later Osmo lost a tooth ‘Does the tooth fairy carry Pokemon cards?’. This seemed too good to be true. However if the tooth fairy did carry Pokemon cards how come all the kids in the world have to swarm the jungle shops and beg their parents for money? Its such harsh realities that bring doubt into the hearts of the staunchest believers. ‘Is there really a tooth fairy, or is it Mom and Dad?’. Now that’s logic working for you (and saving everyone’s teeth as well). The philosophical questions aside, there remained the practical matter of receiving cash for fallen teeth. Cash, after all, is the ticket to the Pokemon store. ‘But will you get enough for a tooth?’. Tintin asked (shrewd bastard). ‘We can get the rest from the coin jar’. ‘It’s a good thing we didn’t throw out the coins when we cleaned up the room’.

Tal successfully completed two weeks of a Kaytana and collected piles of money. Something like four hundred Pokemon jungle packs. Now that I think of it that’s quite a treasure for a twelve-year-old. However the very good news is that she doesn’t think in terms of Poakmon cards, Tal is in the business of thinking trumpets. Tintin thinks that Tal is in the business of thinking his decline. One evening Ima finds him crying on the floor (not at all unusual) and blaming Tal for it (not at all unusual either). However what was strange was the fact that Tal was no where near the scene and it was clear that Tintin was aware of this as well. He usually doesn’t make such blatant mistakes when he blames innocent people for the minor (and major) mishaps in his life. ‘Ein lecha busha Tintin, Tal isn’t even in the room, how could she have pushed you off the bed?’ Ima asked ‘TELEKINESIS’ was the immediate answer.

Now I don’t know about you. But I didn’t know what the term meant until Ima explained to me that it was the phenomenon of mind controlling matter. It first became famous in Israel when a guy called Uri Geller started bending forks by looking at them. Regardless of whether there are such forces in nature your little brother is getting better and better at covering his ass. Speaking of which he’s back to peeing in his pants just because its too much of a hassle to go to the bathroom. This wouldn’t have been that bad if we could take a paper towel, soak up the mess and throw out the paper towel. But the paper towel has to be recycled and will be used at least once or twice to clean around the kitchen sink

One more words of advice before I finish. You’ll be going out on many trips and camping out a few times. With any luck you’ll find one of your pairs of shoes and wear it during the day as you hike the trails. There is one thing to remember before putting on your shoes when you wake up in the field. Israel is a great place, and as much as we like it so do the scorpions. Scorpions also like to wander out at night, eat a beetle or two and then settle down to sleep in enclosed places, shoes included. If there’s one thing a scorpion doesn’t like is to see five huge tows coming its way in the morning. Cornered and annoyed it as no choice but to sting. It’s not lethal but it’s painful. The thing to do is to hold your shoes by the ankle sole and shake them out before you put them on. When the scorpion drops out, turn the shoe around, holding it by the toe section and squash the animal with it. If you don’t trust your shaking put on another pair I knew you would need them all.

Have a lovely time.

Love you

Miss you,


[1] Sheyihiu Briim HAMSEH!!! I dread the day when they’ll be strong enough to stick a hand out the window of the car and keep the refrigerator from falling of the roof of the roof rack.

[2] But I hold no grudges and quickly forget these things

[3] I’m not bitter and hold no grudges.