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Photo courtesy of the author, in the shadow of Nino Heroe Manuel Bonilla in Miraflores

In the work of literature to which I return most frequently, Eduardo Galeano writes, “There is nothing less empty than an empty stadium. There is nothing less mute than the stands bereft of people.”

He goes on to describe the sounds of games past, the echoes of Wembley from ’66 or the Camp Nou at any time when you’re unfortunate enough to miss Messi’s magic in real time, but he could have just as easily been describing any of the myriad pickup games that my oldest, not older, brother and I saw happening in Lima on and around Christmas, the holiday season be damned for anything but an occasion on which to kick around. People certainly invoke God enough to demand some time, after all.

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Flightedit

iJobs device/somewhere between LGA and CLT

Let’s say you’re a businessman or woman, the vague description that calls to mind people in pinstriped suits, carrying briefcases while closing deals on one of several cell phones (even though, in truth, it could literally be anyone in any profession). You’ve got a meeting in San Francisco with a hotshot tech company that you’re going to try to buy before it gets too big. Or perhaps you are a family of four, having arrived at JFK in the midst of another polar vortex dressed in vacation gear because you’re headed to San Juan for an extended weekend. Or maybe, like I was, you are a college student flying standby, sending prayers to your preferred deity and the Special Services desk that a seat, just one, leaves itself open for you to make it home in time for Christmas. Even the exit row will do.

In any of these cases, until recently, you were going to come face-to-face with a cultural touchstone that had become synonymous with quasi-gag gifts and airplane perusing. It was the bible for people who had forgotten their own reading material and the most important window into things we did not know we needed. I’m talking, of course, about the delightful in-flight catalog SkyMall, which filed for bankruptcy last week after twenty-five years of peddling weird and wonderful products.

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