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.