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Friday, August 19, 2011


One of my earliest childhood experiences wass flying simple balsa model airplanes with my friend Jaime. Portuguese in ancestry, Jaime's English as a very young child was virtually non-existent. I only remember him using one word in English, and that was when we flew our planes in our yards together. As we chased them to recover them at the end of their flights, Jaime would run for his saying, "Mine." What better word to learn for a boy playing with his toys?

As a child, I was fascinated with all things that could fly - kites, birds, butterflies, damsel flies, rockets, planes, parachutes, balloons. However, lack of money and proper understanding of aeronautics foiled many of these endeavors. I recall jumping from the top of my father's automobile with an umbrella in a desperate attempt to fly or parachute. I built small parachutes from napkins or pieces of cloth, suspending objects from it. Fabricating kites from found objects - sheets and tree branches - resulted in craft much too heavy to fly. I saw paper hot air balloons in catalogs such as Edmund Scientific but never was able to purchase one.

Only as a teenager or adult was I able to take these childhood interests to fruition. In high school, I became very actively involved in the model rocketry club. In my 20s, I took ten hours of flight training towards a pilot's license. In the parks and beaches of New York City, I flew kites of many styles and sizes.

I still dream of owning a small plane. This and occasional nightly dreams of flying have become metaphors for freedom and release from a life of increasing stresses, responsibilities, and the slings and arrows of urban life.

On Tuesday night, I witnessed something I have never seen before anywhere in New York City - the launch and flight of a paper hot air balloon. The owner appeared suddenly from nowhere, quickly lighting and releasing the balloon, barely allowing time to make our way towards the launch area. Powered and illuminated by a small flame, we watched the glowing orb rise into the clear night sky, becoming smaller and smaller until it finally disappeared.

Jaime, and I know that you are reading this, please know that as I ran towards that balloon, my mind drifted to those days of childhood when we chased our dreams through the grasses of our yards. I hope you caught some of your dreams, because I have caught a few of mine :)

Photo Note: All the photos on the website are typically taken by me. However, it was impossible for this sequence of balloon photos, since I would have been unable to capture reasonable quality photos at night with a point and shoot camera. My photographer friend, Bill Shatto, had his Nikon D3, a pro camera with extraordinary low light capability, faster focus, tracking, and low noise. Today's photos are courtesy of Bill Shatto. Photoshop work is mine.

Related Posts: A Small World, Under the Sun, Floyd Bennett Field


Danielle said...

What a cute story about your friend Jaime. I would have loved to see that paper hot air balloon in person. :)

s.c said...

Beautiful pictures.
And I like also the pictures of your other posts.

time traveler said...

Hello Brian--Yes, the story painted a great smile on my face..I remember much of our childhood days together--snakes-frogs-salamanders--Humpty Dumpty magazine--and the balsa wood airplanes--And I'll never forget that you were the first one that I ever called "friend"--Yes-I have caught many of my dreams-(released some that deceived me)and still chasing others..Thanks for a great post..Jaime

Sue K said...

Beautifully written, great post. Would have loved to have seen that up close.

Mary P. said...

Nice! Great fun! Great to hear from your friend Jaime, too!

Anonymous said...

A very beautiful piece.

You know, in Taiwan, there's a feast in early spring called "the release of heaven lights (literal translated)" where thousands of air balloons are released to the sky all together at night. It's a ceremony to send people's wishes to heaven. So you can see some people write their prayer on the paper balloons.

Check out

Anonymous said...

And I just realized 'thousands' maybe exaggerated.

Rosilee said...

Such a lovely post, thanks for sharing a part of your childhood. It made me think of mine again, playing in the streets, tying a rope around the lamp post to make a swing.
Makes me smile!