Saturday, October 11th, 2014: A day that will go down in superhero infamy.
Some time back in September of 2014, I received an e-mail from someone representing the DeBord Family Halloween Festival in Akron. They wanted to know if I would be interested in attending and possibly selling some of my books. To be honest, I’d never heard of this particular festival before, but when I gave it a look online, it seemed rather interesting. It was a family-friendly Halloween festival that featured live music, vendors, costumed characters, and all sorts of activities for the kids. Well, I wrote back to them, saying I would be more than happy to come, and asking for more information regarding what a vendor would need, etc. Never heard back. Hey, it happens. I was ready to bag the whole thing when I decided to hit up their website one last time to see if any new information about it had been added. And that’s when I saw it: the Batmobile!
Seems as though an Ohio man had created a replica of the classic Batmobile and would be bringing it to this year’s Halloween festival. On top of that, Batman himself was going to be there, along with the Riddler (yes, I know these would just be people in costumes. I’m not that weird, you know). This was news!
In case you didn’t know it, my daughter, Courtney, is obsessed with Batman. Not just any Batman, mind you: Classic Batman. She watches an average of 2-3 episodes of the 1060s TV show every day, including one as part of her “getting ready for bed” ritual. Courtney has Batman toys, coloring books, and more Bat-clothes than you can chuck a Batarang at. She even sleeps in the shadow of a classic DC comics Batman poster every night.
So I started thinking to myself: what better way to spend a crisp, October Saturday than taking my daughter to meet “her buddy”, Batman? And let’s not forget the Batmobile! Courtney’s all about the different things Batman drives around in. In fact, she still thinks her parents are totally bad ass because we got to ride in the actual Batcopter…twice:
With that in mind, I start flipping through the DeBord web site and I find a variety of shots of the Batmobile, Batman, and various other villains from years gone by. Seemed like all these Bat things showing up was something of an annual event. So what could go wrong? It was right then and there that I did something I will probably regret the rest of my life: I showed Courtney the pictures on the web site and asked if she wanted to go see Batman and the Batmobile.
If you could have seen the excitement on Courtney’s face when she looked at those pictures on the web for the first time, you would have thought Christmas morning had come early this year. She just kept making me bounce back and forth between the pictures, asking “how many days before I can see Batman?” In fact, beginning that very night and continuing for almost a week, before Courtney would go to sleep, she’d ask me “how many more days” before she got to see Batman and the Batmobile. And every morning, she’d ask the same question.
When Saturday finally arrived, she couldn’t wait to jump into her Batgirl costume and hit the road. She even had a list of questions she wanted to ask Batman, including what he liked to eat for breakfast and what color his bed was (no idea where that one came from). Courtney wanted to bring her super ball with her to show Batman how high she could bounce it, but I talked her out of it by saying we didn’t want to lose it. I was also successful in talking her out of bringing a bunch of presents for Batman (including a bunch of leaves from our yard–Courtney’s really into leaves this year) by telling her Batman didn’t have room in his utility belt for all those presents.
Once on the road, Courtney sat in the back seat and watched her Batman DVDs (actually, bad copies of episodes originally taped off TV Land onto VHS), all the while bombarding Steph and I with questions like “will Batman like my costume” and “can I save some of my snack to share with Batman?”
The event was supposed to officially open at 2 and run until 10:00 pm. We had to get there early, of course, just to make sure we didn’t have any problem finding a parking spot, which might cause us to miss Batman’s big arrival. So 2 hours later, we found a spot in the grass that was doubling for a parking lot that day, helped Courtney into her Batgirl costume, and set off in search of Batman and his Batmobile.
I’m sure you all know where this is leading up to. Yup, no Batman or Batmobile in sight.
No need to panic, I thought. It’s early. Batman’s probably off somewhere in seclusion, waiting for the Batmobile to arrive so he can make a grand Bat-entrance. But just to be sure, I double-checked the DeBord web site:
Yup, the Batmobile’s still on there. First one, too! Doesn’t even have a “pending” on it like most of the other do, either. But what about Batman? Is he still listed on the web site? He sure is!
About an hour later, and still no Batman and/or Batmobile. So at this point, I’m thinking something has happened. Maybe there was a lot of traffic or perhaps the Bat-Computer was acting up in the Batmobile and it needed to be repaired before heading out. Perhaps, as the song goes, the Batmobile had lost a wheel and the Joker had gotten away. Although, to be fair, the Joker was not supposed to be there, anyway.
I should probably point out here that as quaint and fun the DeBord Family Halloween Festival is, you can probably see it all in an hour. 90 minutes, tops. There are vendors, some games for kids to play, and even a playground. But Courtney just breezed past it all. She was on a mission and was all business, repeatedly quoting “to the Batmobile! Let’s go!”
Courtney searches for the Batmobile, while her dad keeps nervously asking “he’s still back there, isn’t he?”
After taking several laps around the festival and coming up empty, we decided to throw down a couple of bucks so that Steph and Courtney could ride a train that takes people around the entire park. Courtney likes trains and we thought Steph could scope out the park to see if the Batmobile was holed up somewhere away from the main event. In the meantime, I would take to the festival and ask around. Sadly, no one I asked had any idea where the Batmobile or Batman were. Some appeared to not even know what I was talking about. But I did my best. Hell, I even wandered aimlessly about in an attempt to locate Chief O’Hara so we could light up the Bat Signal and lure our beloved caped crusader in. Alas, the best I could do was to find an impressive-looking Jack Sparrow, who knew nothing of Batman’s whereabouts…or if he had any rum.
Oh Adam West, where are you now, when I need you the most?
When their train pulled back into the station (OK, it stopped in front of a couple of orange cones) and my girls got off, Steph shook her head: not a single Bat sighting. Sooooo, what next? Well, let’s not panic just yet. How about we use a giant bag of cotton candy to temporarily deflect all of Courtney’s Bat-questions? For a while, that actually worked and Courtney was more than happy to work off all that sugar on the playground, which came complete with what she claimed was a “Bat Pole.”
Sadly, time was not on our side and before long, it was 5:15 pm and we had been wandering the festival for close to 4 hours while running out of creative ways to stall (i.e., lie): “Batman got a call on the Bat Phone and had to drive down to City Hall real quick. He’ll back here soon.” Or my personal favorite: “Batman got tied up because Egghead and Olga were trying to sneak into the Batcave with a bunch of Bessarovian Cossacks.” Mock if you will, but Courtney understood every word of that sentence and realized how dire that situation was.
But even after all this, we weren’t ready to give up, especially since several people had told Steph there were rumors of the Batmobile showing up “at six”. But by 5:45, we were spent, so we headed back to the car to hang out for a while. We hung there until almost 6:30, at which point I drove over to the small parking lot where the other custom cars were parked, hoping the Batmobile would be there. Nope.
As a final act of desperation, I left Steph and Courtney in the car and walked over to the picnic area where a small group of people were congregating. Maybe, just maybe, Batman was there. Alas, it was only a group from Unda Ground Wrestling, giving a wrestling exhibition. And no, Batman wasn’t on the evening’s wrestling card. It was time to admit defeat.
Back at the car, I had to look my daughter in the eye and say that I was sorry, but Batman wasn’t coming. She just stared at me for a couple of seconds. Then the tears started. And continued, seemingly without end. Sometimes, the tears were accompanied by sobs. But for the most part, the tears were those soul-stomping silent ones. And then came the question.
Years ago, when people found out Steph and I were having a baby girl, I was given all sorts of warnings regarding the questions my daughter was going to ask me; questions that were going to make me uncomfortable to the point where I would start stuttering the moment I attempted to answer them. Granted, most of the questions involve things I think I have a couple more years before they enter the picture–like if I can drive to the drug store to pick up “something” for her. Regardless, I’m not worried about those questions anymore, because I’ve already had to handle one of the toughest ones ever.
For me, the most gut-wrenching, heart-crushing question I’ve had to try and answer so far was the one where my sobbing daughter in her tear-stained Batgirl costume looked me in the eye and asked “why didn’t Batman want to come and see me?”.
Put it this way, if Batman had chosen to grace us with his appearance at that moment and try to explain things, I would have gone all Griswald on him.
Relying on my vast knowledge of the Batman TV show (the same one Courtney was currently obsessed with), I told Courtney “Batman’s very sorry, Courtney. He was just fighting too much crime today to come.” I then proceeded to remind her of the different episodes where Bruce Wayne had been trying to enjoy a nice, relaxing day reading Shakespeare, studying the globe, or playing three-dimensional chess when the Bat Phone rang and he had to run off and fight crime. Amazingly, Courtney bought it and stopped crying. She was still sad, though.
Thinking quickly, Steph and I were able to find a Target store nearby and we told Courtney she could pick out any Batman toy she wanted. Guess what? She didn’t want a toy–she wanted the “real” Batman. So more tears were shed by Courtney and my wife (and more silent cursing of Batman was done by me) before Courtney once again accepted our explanation that Batman just “had too much crime to fight today” and while he “was very upset and sad” that he couldn’t see Courtney in her costume, there was no way he could make it to the festival.
Once the tears stopped, she said she wanted to go pick out a toy. And while Batman had forsaken us this day, the Retail Gods smiled down upon us as Target had an older Riddler figure Courtney had been looking for. Steph and I even threw in a couple of pairs of Batgirl socks. The fact that we let Courtney wear her costume into Target made her happy, too, even if most people called her “Bat Woman.”
Hours later, when we arrived home, Courtney got ready for bed (but not in her usual Bat-Pajamas). When she came to give me my traditional good night hug and kiss, she said to me “thank you, daddy, for trying to find Batman at the festival for me.” Great kid. Shitty day.
One last smile before she began to realize Batman wasn’t coming
I would like to say that as something of a public figure myself, I understand that sometimes having to make scheduled appearances becomes a bit of a burden. There are legendary tales of my being rolled out of the back of a car, sick as a dog, and literally propped up on stage (I did get to sleep in the car on the way home, though) or my having to literally stop at every roadside gas station and rest area on the way to a book signing (TMI, let’s move on). My point is, I get it: it was a cold day out. You were probably doing it for free. Maybe you were a little under the weather. So what? Pull up your tights and suck it up, bat boy. There are people looking forward to seeing you. As far as I’m concerned, it shouldn’t matter if there’s 1 or 1000 people coming to see you: if there’s at least one, you go. And if something comes up and you can’t make it, you make damn sure people are made aware of you not being able to attend.
So for future reference, Batman, you might have to let Alfred take full control of your schedule (or Aunt Harriet, for that matter since she’s always looking for something to keep herself busy) lest you run into another debacle that was the 2014 Debord Family Halloween Party. I’ll accept the fact that I am forced to raise my daughter in a cold, uncaring world that seems to become more and more dangerous every day. But four’s too young for a child to start losing faith in superheroes.
Oh yeah, and if you happen to own a Batman costume and can pull off a halfway decent “Batman”, I might be interested in hiring you for an hour or two. Yes, I’m serious. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.