Holy Fried Dough! It’s Batman!

When I was a little boy, I jumped from a second story window while pretending to be Batman and wound up pretty bruised.
Clearly this was not the smartest thing I did as a child. Believe it or not, however, it also wasn’t the dumbest. I did much stupider things. To wit: I also dove over the railing that ran along the second floor corridor of our house and rode my pedal-powered fire truck down a flight of stairs and through the plate glass living room window.
These other maneuvers, I should note, had nothing to do with Batman. But I think I am indeed Vermont’s second biggest fan of the Caped Crusader.
The first, of course, is Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who had an absolutely terrific cameo in this summer’s “The Dark Knight,” and remarks in his big scene “We’re not intimidated by thugs.” (Just for the record, he is talking to the Joker and not to either the vice president or a former attorney general. He tends to have far choicer words for both of them.)
In any case, the Champlain Valley Fair opens in a mere six days and Batman will be there. As a matter of fact, he will be there every single day, signing autographs and getting his picture taken in Expo South at noon, 2, 3, 4 and 6 p.m. (This much time off the job doesn’t bode well for Gotham City, but Essex Junction sure will be secure.) I tried to schedule a phone interview with Batman before he arrives in Vermont because opportunities like this don’t come often and I have some pretty serious questions:
Why don’t criminals outside of Gotham City ever wear clown makeup?
Is it hard to get respect wearing tights?
What’s really the deal with you and Catwoman? Or, for that matter, with you and Robin?
Alas, DC Comics — the ultimate enforcer in the world of superheroes — said Batman doesn’t do interviews. Apparently, he’s too busy fighting crime and checking the weekend grosses on the latest film to talk to the press. Consequently, one of my first stops at the fair this year will be a visit to Expo South so I can meet Batman in person. Yup, even before my annual fix of fried dough and fried onion rings — with a quick detour to Fletcher Allen Health Care for my annual pre-Fair angioplasty — I am going to meet the Dark Knight.
I must confess, I will be a little nervous. Sure, I have met my share of comic book superheroes in the past. I met the real Spiderman at a shopping mall in Florida. I asked him why they had chosen Tobey Maguire to play him in the movies, since the real Spiderman seemed to have a bit of a beer belly and Maguire does not. I also met the real Wonder Woman in the days immediately before Halloween last year. In fact, I met her four times in four different venues, noticing for the first time that Wonder Woman apparently is capable of changing her height and weight at will, and standing perfectly still for hours at a time in the window of Old Gold on Main Street.
But this is Batman! I worshipped Batman as a child. My fifth birthday party was a celebration of all things Batman, the centerpiece of which was a cake shaped like the Bat Signal — the distress symbol sent high in the sky via Klieg light. I would have worn a cape to kindergarten if my parents didn’t think it was a fashion statement likely to get me beaten up.
My sense is that Batman is used to this sort of veneration. I’m sure people tell him all the time that they’ve jumped from second story windows trying to replicate his feats of daring. Nevertheless, I will try to remember that I’m a seasoned journalist when I meet him and will focus on the important issues: Fighting crime. The Joker’s future. And whether I can try on his cape.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on August 17, 2008.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.