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Issue 12 (Nov/Dec 1999): The Phil Zone

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#1 Phil Broder

Phil Broder


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Posted 01 December 1999 - 04:00 AM

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Mike asked for another perspective of the AKA Convention. Round out the Kitelife.com coverage, or something like that. And I probably could have written it, it would have been insightful and witty, and Mike would have been happy. But sometimes I have to displease Mike.

This is one of those times. Because there were kites at O'Hare.

Why do we fly kites? What drives us to stand out in the rain, the snow, the salt spray, getting string burns on our palms and carbon splinters under our nails? Is there some basic need for wind that we're genetically driven to satisfy? As I realize that my stunt kite days are dwindling, I've been re-examining why I fly. And I've come to the only conclusion possible in Iowa…

I'm a ham.

I fly to put on a show for people who don't. Come on, don't you feel like a stud when some neophyte is amazed by a wing tip stand, or a snap stall close to the ground? Can't you feel the heat of the smiles on passing faces when you've got some big, simple kite up in the air? I'm not alone in playing to the crowd. There are more of you out there going for the laugh, smile, and applause.

Does anyone else who was in Madison for Kites On Ice remember the retarded man in the wheelchair? It was Saturday afternoon, I had come in from the frozen lake for a few minutes, and there he was, being pushed through the crowded indoor kite exhibits, clad head to toe in Packer green. He seemed to be enjoying himself. I probably didn't need to do anything to add to his fun, but it was too easy to ask Charlie Sotich's assistants for a hand. In a minute, they put together a miniature kite from a Green Bay Packers napkin, attached thread to it and put it in a baggie. But in that minute, the man vanished. It took me a few minutes to relocate him, hidden against the windows behind a display of Trepanier fighters, and a few seconds to say hello and hand him the kite. His smile was nuclear-powered. There were 20,000 spectators there in Madison that day, but we were flying for that one man that weekend.

Does anyone else remember Michelle McAlister, from the Muncie Visitors Bureau? She was the one bidding for the Sotich miniature against Charlie Henderson. How much did she know about miniatures before the AKA arrived there? But in that week, she got hooked, and I kept finding her in the art gallery with the miniatures on display, or in workshops making her own kites. She nearly lost her job spending city money on a miniature box Cody. And it'll be her face you see first on the Muncie Convention video. We fly for people like Michelle, who went from rank novice to total devotee in a few days.

Does anyone remember my Uncle Marty from MSKC in Livonia last year? My godfather - the man who held me during my circumcision, and never let me forget that I owed more than a little to his surehandedness - came out to watch me fly, though he could only stay for a few minutes in the sun. I flew poorly, but Marty didn't care. He got to see a family member do something fun, and that was why he was there. Marty mentioned that day of flying when I talked to him two days ago, and was looking forward to seeing my pictures of Muncie. Marty died suddenly a few hours later, before I could visit him. We fly because it makes our family proud to see us doing something that we're good at and enjoy.

Has anyone been through Terminal B in O'Hare Airport lately? I was passing through Chicago, head down, shoulders hunched to hold up my bags, just another statistic on the way to a connecting flight. And then there were kites. The Chicagoland Sky Liners have put up a display of kites they made with schoolkids, some miniatures, and some kites that I can't even describe. I might have been the only one in the airport who stopped to look, but it made me smile, set down my luggage, and slow down my rush for a few minutes. I wanted to stop the strangers bustling by, grab them by the arm, and make them look at this little piece of color amidst the security doors and overpriced food. We fly because somebody whose life might depend on a nonstressful moment needs us to.

So the kites in the airport got me thinking. Why do we do the things we do? You have your own reasons, and they may be similar to mine, or they may not. It doesn't really matter, does it? I'm not a religious person, and I tend to doubt that I have a soul. Those who've seen me fly ballet can attest to my soul-lessness. I may not have a soul, but I have kites, and string, and the people I fly with, and the people I fly for.

This may not be what Mike wanted, but it's what he's getting. And we fly because you don't always know what you're going to get, but whatever comes is usually good.
Phil Broder

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