Costa Rica is a country so tranquil it has no army, so rich in natural abundance Beanstalk Jack would have had giants falling from the skies everywhere, a country so peaceful and laid back I once saw a full grown sloth clicking its way across the street without drawing so much as a glance from its fellow pedestrians.
In the late ‘70s, I was working as the PR guy for the American Airlines catering subsidiary, Sky Chefs. I know, I know, how the hell does anyone PR airline food? Nonetheless, we had a test kitchen, where world-class chefs labored day in and day out, eventually destroying any chance to return to the elite gourmet universe with their reputations intact.
Imagine my surprise that New Year’s Eve when my father stepped up to the mike to sing. He opened with his favorite, “You’re Nobody ‘til Somebody Loves You,” accompanying himself with two swizzle sticks beating against the mike stem, and even doing that imitation of a trombone break I have always found so weak, so silly.
I hoisted my 40-pound backpack and stepped off the Ferrocarril Chihuahua Al Pacifico train, locally known as El Chepe (che for Chihuahua, Pe for Pacifico), into a warm, pleasant, early October afternoon in the heart of northern Mexico’s Mother Mountains, the Sierra Madre.
I have been drawing since I was a kindergartner, here in Malaysia, and doodled a lot in the kids storybooks that my parents gave me, much to their dismay. I sort of went back and forth and drew once in a while, occasionally showing off my little comics to my friends.
It was the smell of the crushed grapes that reminded me of the boss – dead more than twenty years – and the family heritage that had died with him. I thought, once again, of the wooden box that contained his papers, given to me by my grandmother after the boss died.
My one and only misgiving was what would I do with Batmo.
It was Batmo’s final weekend. Not in his life, but in mine. Since sometime in mid-2008, after Batmo had long imprinted on me, I had never seriously imagined the day of parting from him. But in October 2019, almost 12 years after his “adoption” (purchase) and arrival in New York City, Batmo was going “home.”
I had always believed that the British tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas began with Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, but apparently that was merely a revival of a much older practice that had been suppressed by Cromwell and the Puritans a couple of centuries earlier.