Cards For Days

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This is another installment in the Manchester Inkubator writing program in partnership with Kimball Jenkins. KJ has been in residency at the Waypoint Youth Resource Center for about a year, and when I was approached to conceive of an art enrichment program, I requested 5,000 unmarked Yu Gi Oh cards in a briefcase. The following are my thoughts on why I thought this was a good idea.


This article was written by Nathaniel Pepe, a young artist and entrepreneur. 

Everybody wants something. They want to give, they want to take, they want a fish, they want a snake. One want, two want, red want, blue want. Something I’ve noticed though, and who knows if this is true or not, is that people – almost everyone I’ve interacted with – seem to look for that thing(s) they want in almost everything they do, whether or not that thing they seek, can truly satisfy the desire. Also Yu-Gi-Oh, I pinky promise Imma get to the Yu-Gi-Oh.

Different things hit for different folks, and whether collecting stamps will make a person feel valuable and needed or not, that won’t stop a hundred people from trying to wring that from a dozen forever stamps. Me personally? I like Yu-Gi-Oh. I like its diffident charm and callous end-boards. Yu-Gi-Oh, a tactical, and equally collectible, card game of strategy which is unique, even from ostensibly similar card games.

There’s a degree of chance, and I think that’s what makes it more applicable than your pure displays of skill like chess. It takes more skill to win a game of chess, sure, but life is not like chess, not in the least. People do not start with all the same pieces in the same spots; we don’t all get the same hand dealt to us. Yu-Gi-Oh is about using the cards you are dealt, at any given moment, from the deck you built, with the cards you had available.

This is, I believe, about as microcosmic an example I could give of how life works and it’s represented with aplomb in our boy Yu-Gi-Oh here. Yu-Gi-Oh is a Japanese manga and anime series which was very popular with millennials two decades ago and still popular today. There are no fair fights, and nobody knows that better than my peeps at the Waypoint programs who I hope benefit from now drinking age game Yu-Gi-Oh more than anyone.

a cunning play

So what am I even talking about? Okay, there’s a giant box of 5,000 Yu-Gi-Oh cards we got for the disbursement to first, under-resourced youth of the city – but then really anybody who wanted to give this Yu-Gi-Oh thing a try and who filled out a quick form. All free of course to the willing and eager. This is Manchester, OK? Lotta crack, coke, and plenty of other things you can jam up your nose, down your throat, in your veins, or all up in your lungs. Now to reference that little observation from a paragraph or so ago, that means a lot of people looking for something in another thing that may or more likely may not be able to give it to them. So here’s my idea, we make like Marie Antoinette: if they can’t eat cake, let them eat Yu-Gi-Oh cards. Or something like that. Yeah.

Anyway, the point is that I’d like to see people get addicted to something they can at least benefit from, so I’m doing something to spread this cardboard contagion across the closest thing New Hampshire has to an urban landscape. Some of the participants took to it faster than others. Some took convincing, some did the convincing. I’ll tell you another thing I’m a big fan of: libraries. One of the last bastions of community we have in this atomized world. It’s something another participant in the program, Jon, said he was also big on. Well, the community/friendship thing, idk about libraries, I didn’t ask him about that. I did ask him a barrage of other questions though, about Yu-Gi-Oh, life, and some other sauce.

“It’s really fun,” Jon answered me between puffs of a dark fire-roasted cigar. We had gone to the cigar lounge that day after deck building to get in as many games of Yu-Gi-Oh as we could on stiff repurposed shoe shiners thrones through clouds of smoke and monster summons. I asked him how his life been profitin’ off this Yu-Gi-Oh thing after swishing around a swig of cigar smoke.

“Well, it’s nondestructive fun,” he said after fusion summoning Grapha, Dragon Overlord Of Darkworld to his field in attack mode “…and I’ve definitely made a lot more friends through Yu-Gi-Oh”

After that game and after the cherry on each of our cigars had gnawed all the way through their host we put rubber bands around our cards and threw them into our backpacks as we stepped out the lounge.

“Hey, thanks for the cigar,” I told Jon with one foot on brick the other on beige carpet. I’m quite glad he’s a Yu-Gi-Oh player now because confirming my theory from before, Jon replies graciously, “anything to spend time with a friend.”

The Inkubator program is aimed at nurturing and growing New Hampshire’s local journalism ecosystem – support for educators, opportunities for students and pathways for future journalists, artists and creators. And beyond that, we want to engage our community in this process because together, we rise.

About this Author

Yasamin Safarzadeh

Program DirectorKimball Jenkins

Yasamin Safarzadeh is a native Angelino and transplant to Mancehster, NH. She is an artist, advocate and bulldozer. She is relentless in her pursuit of programming meant to secure a prosperous and diverse future for our state.