The kite master

A couple weeks ago, a friend emailed, joking: “Hope I run into you sipping wine and flying a kite in a park around the city somewhere.” Well, the wine never happened, but I took him seriously on the kite part and made myself a big orange beauty of wood, paper, and string. Enlisting other free friends to join in, I took to the park twice to attempt the miracle of flight, as we tried our hardest to get these two heavy Ben Franklin things up in the sky. Little luck (or air) took hold of our creations, but the second time out my struggling four-deep crew noticed, hundreds of feet above our heads, a single kite floating, soaring, barely moving, resting in the sky. Then another joined it. After a Corona each and a shared mojito courtesy of an ambling vendor, we took off to find the kites’ sources–and found them to be the same. At the north end of the lawn, our new friend Frank had tied one kite to a tree while he let the other kite up up up to join the first. We began the conversation, but he supplied the zingers. “What, did you make those things in kindergarten?” he asked as he threw a glance at our clunky orange diamonds. When I asked how he got his kites in the air so effortlessly, on a day with no wind, how he got his kites up so high, he shot back, “Well, you start when you’re four…” We defended our huge monsters by saying we saw the design on the internet, but Frank was having none of it. “See that?” Frank said to his friend, a younger man who was watching for the day, planning to buy one of Frank’s homemade kites for his nephew, “the internet is wrong.”

As he talked to us, one of his kites took a dive and disappeared behind some trees. One of my buddies piped up to tell him the kite was gone, for Frank had taken his eyes off the sky to show us how to build a good kite, a kite that would actually fly. “The kite is gone? That’s what I get for teaching you.” But there was no malice in his voice. Frank had done this, surely, thousands of times. And what’s the point of flying kites in the park if you’re not going to show some kids–even when the kids are young men? Frank showed us, taught us, inspired us to try again, with better kites next time. If I get the guys to make another set with me, we’ll use materials like the ones Frank uses. And in fifty years–or maybe just next time, if we’re lucky and good–we’ll get them to actually fly.

Frank

New memories, shared here.

Kite

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