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Fiddler's Green Peculiar Parish MagazineWonderella Turns 21 - A poster by R. Black.



On Getting High

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Two things a Bay Area summer has in abundance are clear skies and a strong eastbound wind. That said, it was only natural for us to pick up a kite early this year. We bought our plastic orange "stunt kite" (one with two strings and handles) made by Koosh during a visit to Games of Berkeley. We kept the kite in the back seat of the car, not as a show of outdoorsiness to tailgaters, but because we thought it would be the most convenient place to grab the kite from if we happened to drive to the park. Maybe it was, but that poor kite stayed right there, still unassembled inside its plastic wrap, for months.

All this changed one morning. Our commute takes us along the Berkeley Marina, where we saw a sign announcing a kite festival to be held there that weekend. Opportunity was knocking.

True to its namesake, Sunday dawned bright and hopeful. We drove to the Marina for the festival. As we approached we caught site of multicolored tubes of nylon a full seventy feet long spinning lazily in the air. Getting closer we watched the sky fill with colorful kites of all shapes and sizes. Stunting stingrays (evolved versions of our own kite) chased each other like birds. Pyramid-shaped kites twirled and tugged at the end of their lines. Dragonflies with rainbow tails darted toward the earth and then back toward the stratosphere. This looked like no place for amateurs, but all the fliers looked happy and friendly enough, so we grabbed our little plastic wonder out of the backseat and hiked out across the green Marina hills to find a suitable spot for kite flying.

Before any of the soaring tricks mentioned above are possible, the would-be kite flier must put his or her kite together. It sounds simple enough, but try doing it in a forty mile-an-hour wind. Now try it with the mindset that you want to build the kite by the book, following each step as written in the instructions perfectly. Now try to do it with a partner who is of the opposite school of thought, to whom the word "instructions" is translated as "impediment to immediate FUN." I won't name any names, but Heather (oops) and I tackled kite assembly each in our own style. Unfortunately, there was only one kite to be assembled, and both of us were frustrated by the semi-speedy, semi-accurate combination of our efforts.

Soon though, the little kite was ready to fly. Gripping one handle in each hand, Heather looked toward the sky as I loosed the orange stunt kite into the stiff breeze. It soared high. Heather pulled the left handle and it dipped. She pulled the right one and it arched. The kite joined the legions of gaily-colored nylon fliers, and those two seconds before it slammed back into the ground seemed to last forever.

The remainder of our afternoon at the kite festival was spent in short bursts of joy like this, followed by long stretches of frustration as the kite crashed again and again, each time ripping larger holes in its frail plastic skin. The larger nylon kites seemed aloof - they rested high in the jet stream. Some chased each other, diving down to earth and leaping skyward at the last moment. The huge revolving tube-kites, less than one hundred feet away from our hopeless foray, yawned and continued their slow spins.

Although our kite was on a one-way road to the scrap yard, we managed to keep our spirits (if nothing else) high. The wind at the kite festival was exhilarating, but proved too much for our neophyte kite. We picked our ruined flier up off the ground, allowed a moment of silence to reflect on its brief career, and headed back to the car, depositing our wasted plastic kite in the trash. I turned to Heather and summed up the secret to kite flying a la The Graduate. “One word,” I said. “Nylon.”

More about Jacaré

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