The sun glares down at Muscle Beach, Santa Monica. Rollerskates rattle, valley girls prattle and there’s a fat kid plonked gingerly on a wall. He’s sweating profusely behind emo bangs longer than his penis and is, for some reason, wearing a brown North Face jacket. He’s limply holding a Tweety ice cream, licking at it gauchely like a watched cat does its arsehole.
Tweety was chosen “ironically”, but we all know it was out of desperation. He, too, knows he’s being watched by the cast of Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain, and beads of Sunset Yellow E110-dyed perspiration begin to form on his silly little forehead. They drip down and plop onto the ground, giving up. The heat is too much for Tweety: the sun burns, but people’s stares drill deep into his consciousness and he can’t take it. His body heaves from its flimsy skeleton; the bird falls from his perch; Tweety blows this mortal popsicle stand in a cascading money shot of off-white ex-parrot lemony gunk, landing with a slap in the boy’s face and another on the hot ground. This bird has ceased to be. People stare as copious sticky liquid drips off the boy’s chin. It’s a Tweety bird bukkake: that’s all, folks.
Curdled cream sticks to skin, time groans to a tunnel-visioned standstill and panic closes in: terror strikes; the boy feels everything. Heat and pain stab; coarse irony beckons; the boy now feels nothing. He’s seen all he needed to see. He gazes forth a thousand-yard stare forged of Agent Orange and pent-up mediocrity; of broken ideals and shuffled-up pissy towels: it’s all over. From this day, things were different.
I know because that was me, aged 17, having found one of the most important lessons I’d ever learn. What was it, and how did I find it? Well, you’ll have to read about my 2010 at the Pokémon World Championships.
Blue Bunny? Looks more like the one from the Brown Bunny
Still an aimless pupper of a boy, my goal from the start of 2010 was simple: to not be Pokémon Weevil Underwood. It was a hefty task, but it had to be done. The first thing I did, lame as it sounds, was start choosing my own clothes: Up until this point I had, quite literally, felt too shy to actually profess an opinion on style whatsoever. Having always considered myself a “fat kid” and been well aware of the fact that whatever I was wearing I’d look like shit, it was something I’d consciously avoided. Not just sitting on the metaphorical fence but riding it dispassionately like it was an overweight, married dentist who’d paid me to was, in essence, my whole thing at the time. If you don’t have an opinion on anything you can’t be wrong, right? Yeah, it was dumb and I knew it. So I swapped out my grey polos, went down to Debenham’s (UK Macy’s for poor people) and got my babby’s first moderately-flamboyant dress shirts. The beast was awoken.
Debenham’s makes an ideal Harrod’s for people from Wigan
I started putting more thought and effort into everything I did and opened up to people, and it felt good. I made more friends, went out and did stuff and generally behaved more like a normal person. For the first time in my Pokémon career I actually built some teams with other people. Unfortunately, however, I mostly built with people who weren’t very good at Pokémon and was still preoccupied with my teams looking cool, so none of my strategies actually worked. No joke, my planned counterplay to scarf Kyogre/Hitmontop lead was Zapdos and passho Moltres, both using turn 1 Tailwind. Translator’s note: this was a shit plan more likely to kill the president and win the heart of Jodie Foster than it was to actually do its job.
On top of that, in a format dominated by the completely overpowered Kyogre I still felt the call of the contrarian and seriously tried to instead use self-Me First Mewtwo with Blizzarding Abomasnow, which literally isn’t even possible (it was a simulator bug). I brought a stupid Mewtwo and Ho-Oh team to UK Nationals, where, predictably, I scrubbed out on an autoloss to scarf Kyogre despite knowing full well everybody would be using it. Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking: I’d consciously brought something bad and somehow not noticed the problem. In getting too excited about listening to other people, I’d forgotten that not everybody is worth listening to. I spent the rest of Nationals moping around, avoiding uniquely health-hazardous big smelly butt cracks and getting upset at going out in round 2 meanwhile Wobbuffet’s in round 3 and a Hypno named BED TIME is tearing it up in Top Cut of Juniors. There are photographs of this on the big screen, however sadly I am me and appropriately the online copy has been taken down by the FBI and my computer with it on got thrown in a skip by my dad while I was out with Lin feeding apples to pigs.
So I got home (after nearly being killed by a wayward sheep on the Ripponden dual carriageway), sat down and thought to myself: I’m going to take the best Pokémon in the format, make a team that fits together and beat people with it. I’m going to make a good team and judge it by how much it wins instead of how much I like it. And with that, my Togekiss/LO Kyogre haban Palkia/quick claw Tyranitar team was born. Immediately I steamrolled it straight into the final of the SkarmBliss open (if you remember this site you are 100% too old) and suddenly found confidence in myself and my new way of thinking. For once in my life, I felt I had what it took and had the evidence to back it up. With that, I somehow managed to talk daddy into taking me and my brother to the Hilton Waikoloa for the Worlds Last Chance Qualifier; my first time competing on the world stage.
Hawaii was an absolute dream. I accidentally punched a turtle, dined on Froot Loop and pineapple bagels and “Tu me quieres yo, yo me quieren tuuu, tendremos SEXO como la primera vez”-ed with the Spanish and Ray Rizzo into the early hours. These nights of FIESTA! and BAILAR! with the young ENERGYMAN and KEEEEEEEFKAAAAAAAA!!!! would, years later, provide the inspiration for me putting it about at the Carnaval de Tenerife. Indeed, Lion King-holding a chica in a Barcelona jersey and brutally humping her in the streets of Puerto de la Cruz whilst yelling “TORTUGAAAA!!!!!” is a consequent action I will shamefully take to the grave, but at the time hanging with the Spaniards was good clean poo-free fun.
One of these top lads is now a successful, positively shredded stripper. Chicas thirteen, chicas fourteen, chicas fiveteen, is easy. Even abuelas, very very MONSTER! The other is a failed scientist who at that point had only fucked a girl with his toe. (True story)
Bet you can’t guess which is which.
By this point, I didn’t even care about the tournament: I was in a real life vapourwave paradise surrounded by great people playing a great game in an atmosphere of pure bliss. Hawaii, like no other place on Earth, is in some kind of permanent Aloha dimension; it’s almost a living theme park. Not like Dubai, which feels like a very theocratic, slave labour-influenced interpretation of the Cars universe, or Dublin’s Temple Bar, which might as well have a big statue of a shrugging leprechaun with his pot of gold: those places are all about the money; Hawaii is the real deal: it’s like nowhere else. Hawaii is the prime habitat of happy, bumbling dads. Everywhere you look, there’s dads. Dads in hats. Grinning dads. Dads sat like dogs in cars. I love Hawaii.
we now dem washed-up boiz
Sadly, eventually I had to play Pokémon. I got ready for the LCQ down by the pool, helped a fresh-faced young Alex Ogloza (then going by his porn star name, Evan Falco) by lending him my mum’s DS for some trades and eyed up the competition. Lots of big names, plenty of people to look out for. I had nothing but respect for every single person in the running and whilst feeling confident, assumed everyone else there was equally as strong as myself. I breezed into the final round before playing what is, to this day, the most controversial game in my Pokémon career.
you know what, i’m just gonna say it
I won’t go into detail but let’s just say I played someone who’d been nothing but hyped on Smogon and elsewhere, who I genuinely believed to be a really good player. Accordingly, I played as though against a master, covering for the perfect moves that didn’t come. In hindsight, I should’ve seen it at the time, but it turned out I was in fact playing someone who was stood there stalling several minutes between turns (this was pre-timer) and who didn’t have the slightest idea how to play Pokémon and was, quite literally, clicking random buttons. In fact, the same buttons: this person’s team was (barring sash Abomasnow) made entirely of single-move choice Pokémon, meaning I was predicting my allegedly-strong opponent to make the good moves they didn’t even bring and had, in all seriousness, made myself lose entirely because I respected my opponent. As for why I didn’t notice at the time: firstly, I thought no way would that happen, this is an accomplished player. Secondly, because they were deliberately taking easily five minutes per turn, long enough for my match to be the first to start in the round and one of the last to finish, and long enough for me to forget what their last move was every turn. Whatever way you look at it, that’s unacceptable, and to this day I’m yet to play a more unpleasant opponent.
It was seven years ago now, so I’m over it, and in hindsight know it was a good thing since it shocked me out of being so naïve, but at the time I was 17, young, dumb and full of… salty tears so I didn’t take it very well. In fact, I took it horribly. I stomped down the seashore to the nearest Dairy Queen and drowned my sorrows in an extra-large Orange Julius, chugging it straight from the cup. Dad told me to stop being so dramatic, so I scowled at a beautiful horizon. Screw you, dad! You don’t understand the pain!, I thought smugly, glugging more liquidised-orange-Solero obesity. Since that’s what it basically is, right? Multipack of Soleros thrown in a blender? Speaking of pain… Jesus Christ. What is that? I clutched my pudgy stomach. Is this meant to be orange flavour, or Agent Orange flavour? Fucking hell, I’d never known anything like it. My stomach, more like My Lai. Fuck, fuck, fuck, I doubled over, experiencing an internal Apocalypse Now. Losing my sense of vision, my sight went black and I keeled over in pain, hitting the grass with a thud and curling into the foetal position with a thousand-yard stare. “Daniel, stop being a drama queen and get up”. No, thought the fallen soldier Lieutenant Dan, a casualty of an unjust war with a frozen fruit beverage on a faraway Pacific island, sobbing bitch tears by the side of a strip mall. “Get up, stop being a baby”. This is a tragedy. I’m a tragic hero: a brave Gwyneth Paltrow in a world short of vaginal steamers. “Stop being pathetic”. And suddenly I thought… yeah, actually. Yeah, I am being pathetic. What am I even doing? Fuck, I’m literally on a dream holiday, at the other side of the world, haven’t had to pay a penny and here I am crying in a heap on the ground because I lost at a kids’ game and had a bad Orange Julius. I need to get a damn grip. Suddenly everything became clear again and far from feeling upset, I got up from that sweaty grass patch feeling anew. This wasn’t a sad story: it was an origin story, and I wouldn’t let anything get me down. Nothing sad had happened that day, and I wouldn’t hear otherwise. Nothing at all. Well, apart from one thing: there was an actual tragedy that day; later on you should’ve seen my toilet.
“Vaginal steaming works, damn it! Buy my stuff off Goop” *Coldplay in the background*
alternatively: literally teenage me except slightly better looking
Something had clicked inside my head: why am I so shy when I’m a genuinely decent and interesting person? Why do I place so much respect on people I haven’t even met? People who aren’t who others say they are? Why do I believe the hype? I just played someone who wasn’t the Pokémon Master I’d been told they were, who actually couldn’t even play the game. I’d just been shouted and bawled at by an allegedly-“nice guy” for something I hadn’t even done. People are hating on me for, admittedly awkwardly, pointing out an inconvenient truth, that really things weren’t as rosy as they seemed. But honestly, why should I even care what those people think? I sat up in my sunbed at the night-time showing of the Arceus film (splendidly-projected onto a canvas hung between two palm trees) and looked around. I couldn’t believe the sight.
rare colorised photograph of the hilton waikoloa (2010)
A mop-haired pre-teen boy was stood at the side of the pool, flagrantly pissing down the side of his leg. The toilet was two yards away yet there he is, eyes fixed on Ash and Arceus, cock out in hand, taking a massive slash for all to see. I blink and shake my head, but he’s still there. I look to the right and see a very fat, very bald and very sweaty man in swimming goggles lying on his back. He sits up, inhales a bag of cheese Doritos, burps out Ulysses and then lies back down, patting his belly. Behind him there’s a giant chess set. Some kid tries to shove a bishop up his ass. I look to the left and what do I see but a small boy fucking the life out of a small marble statue of a pony. What the shit? He’s stood there, eyes glazed over, dead to the world but full on going at it. Whose child is this and what has he been watching? I think it can’t get any worse when I look back to piss kid to see him picking every single towel off the unattended sunbeds, draping them over himself and shuffling about in his pee puddle like some kind of piss Klansman before hiding underneath them all in a pile, still watching the movie. For once in my life, I’m lost for words, get up and go to bed defeated. Hail, the rise of the idiots.
After witnessing the beauty of Ray’s World Championship win, being part of the night-before-final Mission Control and generally having a wonderful time with wonderful people (Including the single greatest VGC moment of all time: Jesus Ninahaza throwing his arms in the air in disbelief at Ray dodging a rock slide, tumbling backwards off his chair onto the floor), though, it was all I could think about: why are so many people such fucking idiots? Perhaps, then, the worst place in the world for me to go next was exactly where I’d chosen: the great city of Los Angeles.
I went to Scientology headquarters. I drank a dark green Cowboys and Aliens-flavoured Big Gulp Slurpee. I discovered Minions for the first time. I thought: why is everything so stupid? You mean, all these cars have one person in them? All of them? What the fuck? Why does anyone even drive a car here? Why is everyone so angry all the time? Oh my god we’re at the subway stop for Compton dad can we get off I want to see the hood my boiz NWA came from. “No”? Why not? “It’s too dangerous for you”. Yeah whatever dad. Actually… fucking hell why is that man over there dressed as Neo from the Matrix, not holding the handrail and pretending to bullet-time as the train sets off? I laughed, thinking he was some funny dude, but he glared at me like I’d stuck my dick in his McFlurry. What. Ok dad let’s go and do something normal, let’s go and see a baseball game. So we did that, “The National Pastiiiime!”. Which, apparently, is shouting “Fuck you!” at little kids for supporting the Colorado Rockies, eating mystery meat hotdogs and throwing balloons around for 5 hours while nobody actually watches the (boring) game. I decided to take a break from the jingoistic ball game, and went to the toilet. I didn’t expect to find literal shit smeared all over the walls of Dodger Stadium’s bathroom, but that is what I found. I sighed, and had a wee.
(For what it’s worth, Gavin said it’s nowhere near as bad now and I believe him but honest to God that was my experience of Dodger Stadium in 2010)
On the bus back from the game, I couldn’t even smile. I just felt completely lost. That the bus doors at one point opened up to, for real, a full-on Jesus impersonator stood, silently, on top of a spotlight at a bus stop, arms in the air, then closed and drove off without a word from anyone on board, I think, says everything. Well, until an old black guy shouted “Y’all, wuz zat Jay-zuz? Ah thought ah wuz trippin’!”. I grinned then, actually. That was really funny. Maybe everything wasn’t so bad. So I decided to go to the beach the day after, and see the famous Santa Monica pier.
That, of course, brings us back to the fateful Tweety. See: that Tweety, in its bubblegum bug-eyed glory, had made me realise something. It made me realise: look at me. I’m an idiot too. I’m a big fat idiot and I can laugh at stupid people all I want, but I’m not better than them. In fact, I’m worse than them. I need to actually think about what I’m doing, actually build some logic and actually carry myself with some form of grace and principles. I need to stop just believing what other people tell me and instead believe in myself. I need to stop being a kid and take responsibility for my actions, then go and do something useful.
The latter part… that took a while to sink in properly. As for realising my potential as a Pokémon player, though… (you know, the important part)
That had just begun.
Catch you next time my lil Tweety lickers,
It’s 2011, real live nuns slowly fed me melons then I took Beheeyem into the World Finals,