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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.