Sunday, August 13, 2006

Gotta Catch 'Em All!

If your Oddish is up against your Vileplume and your Raiku has attacked your Corphish and if you have any idea what I’m talking about, then Tuesday, August 8th was a day for you. It was Pokémon Day in Bryant Park. This New York park located on 6th Avenue between 41st and 42nd Street was partially closed off to allow the fine folks at Pokémon to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Holy crap, has it been 10 years? Feels like 50 years. Actually, that’s how long it felt to be there with my son, Aaron, and his friend, Dominick. But I really shouldn’t complain. I volunteered for this gig.

Treeko, Aaron, Torchic, Dominick

Enter the park at the northwest corner; push though some of the crowd and you see Pikachu (an electric-type Pokémon for those of you keeping score). And not just a statue of Pikachu or a creepy man in a suit. It’s the giant balloon from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade soaring overhead, locked down to the Bryant Park lawn but watching over the strategically placed statues of other, lesser-known Pokémon. One song says there are “at least 150 or more to see” but that song was written a long time ago. There are actually closer to 400. But it's kind of like the periodic table of elements ( There are the ones everyone knows. And then there are the newer, man-made ones which are just a bunch of bull.

And what festival in a park would be complete without lots of lines? The odd thing is that a lot of these lines were just so you could watch people play with Pokémon. We can watch kids play video games and trade Pokémon cards. I’m starting to think I can do this at home and it’ll be air-conditioned. Anyway, we’re in a line to get select Pokémon downloaded into Game Boys. Not a bad deal, actually. Hand over your Game Boy and choose 2 Pokémon to be downloaded. But after almost an hour, they cheerily announce that kids can only choose 1 because the line is too long. And Aaron and Dominick are okay with this! Maybe there’s some kind of magic in the world of Pokémon after all.

And then I freak out. We get to the front of the line and I’m herded out of the way so the kids can approach the table for downloading. Something is taking Aaron a long time. He’s really upset. Apparently, he’s in the wrong place. Oh he’s at the right place at the table. But in the game, he has to be at Pokémon City or something like that. And he has to free up space. This means less to me than it does to him. And the jackasses at the downloading table don’t know either. Or they don’t care. Aaron is stressed and he starts crying. And the yutzes are just staring at him.

People who know me know that I embarrass easily. I have a painfully low threshold for making a scene. But my kid is hysterical. And suddenly I’m reliving every uncomfortable moment of my childhood (paging Dr. Duquette...). It’s times like this when you discover who you really are. And me? I’m willing to make a scene for my kid! And I do. And I’m directed to a large, black, security guard-type who ends up helping Aaron. I never thought I had it in me, although I remember a time many years ago when I started a fight with a homeless guy on the A train when she was giving my mom a hard time.

So here’s where we stand. One hour on line, Aaron gets an Alakazam (a psychic Pokémon). Dominick gets a Latias (a dragon/psychic Pokémon). After a circuit around the park, we end up back on line to get more. This time, 90 minutes went by before Aaron got a Moltres (a fire/flying Pokémon). Dominick said he was going to get a Latios (another dragon/psychic Pokémon) but I don’t know if he did.

I can’t believe I’ve come this far in my story and not told you that I saw none other than Hulk Hogan! The Hulkster! I wasn’t aware that he was relevant to this crowd but whatever. He’s up there on the main stage, reading the proclamation from Mayor Mike Bloomberg that today is Pokémon Day in NYC (thanks, Mayor Mike) and helping introduce the group of finalists for the National Pokémon Video Game Championships. And he keeps on pronouncing it “Poké Man.” He also looks kind of thin. Aaron and Dominick don’t notice this at all. They’re too busy talking to other kids on the line and sharing video game tips.

The whole day would have been charming if it weren’t for the adults. I don’t mean the adults like myself who were there chaperoning kids. No, there were actual “grown ups” who were there to get free Pokémon swag and to trade war stories. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog would have done really well here. I overheard one guy telling another guy that he got a rare Pokemon from his girlfriend in Pittsburgh. Like this guy has a girlfriend anywhere, let alone Pittsburgh.


Dominick sharing tips with a kid. Cool!

Aaron sharing tips with a grown up. Creepy!

The guy on the left has the "girlfriend" in Pittsburgh.

These happy folks are off to the Video Game Finals.

They're being led by this woman. She's on stilts.

No shortage of creepy adults!

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