I don’t see anyone flying them anymore, kites that is. The most probable reason is that we are all obsessed with sitting around on our fat arses, living vicarious lives on sundry electronic gadgets. You may doubt my conclusions, so let us assess the data.
From 1940 to about 1980 there were around ten or so reality shows. Candid Camera, You Bet Your Life, The Gong Show, and The Dating Game were a few. We didn’t really live a fantasy life through these shows, although the Gong Show came close. In about 2000, we suddenly had a plethora of shows that would allow us to fantasize about living an Edmund Hillary-like existence (Survivor, The Great Race, Survivor Man) or living in a house with a team of narcissistic imbeciles (Big Brother, Jersey Shore, The Bachelor).
I also present for your consideration, the explosion of games and gaming devices. A recent statistic that I read said that 190 million households have game consoles. With a game console, you can play baseball, football, socker, ping pong, and bowling. Bowling? What the? You mean we are so fricking lazy that we want to bowl whilst sitting upon our keesters and flipping our thumbs around? If “sports” aren’t your thing, you can battle all sorts of aliens and zombies. One game that I saw involved sawing zombies in half with a chain saw. And while I hate zombies as much as the next guy, I would at least want to anesthetize the zombie before performing any experimental surgery with a chain saw. From this small data sample, I think we can safely conclude that kite flying has gone the way of the Gooney Bird and the Passenger Pigeon – QED.
Enough of that and onto what I really wanted to talk about. Our gang discovered kites one day whilst buying ice cream cones at Washburn’s Soda Shop. At Washburn’s you could get a sugar fix in 1001 different forms, the most toxic of which was the chocolate soda. My best guess as to what was in a chocolate soda? Two cups of sugar, 3 melted Hershey’s candy bars, 8 ounces of Coca Cola, and just a spritz of seltzer water. Next to the counter at which they doled out these diabolical concoctions, was a cardboard box that contained a wondrous array of colorful stick and paper kites. The cheapest were of the quadrilateral type, which most kids bought. Those were between 10 and 25 cents. Another 10 cents for a ball of twine and you were on your way to kite nirvana. There was also the BIG MAJUMBO of kites that we all were Jonesing for, the box kite. A box kite cost 50 cents, typically beyond the means of the average kid. The reason that these were so desirable was that they would fly in almost no wind at all and stay up for hours. They also had massive lift capability, so you could attach baby animals to a shock cord and give them the ride of their life. We all wanted to be astronauts, so this was about the closest we would ever get, until we discovered Estes Rockets. Stay tuned for more on that later.
On one particular day, I had acquired a box kite. Assembling these things was no small feat. The kit was made up of about 47 sticks along with several preassembled sheets of paper and glued in string. I had spent the entire day assembling it, and set it aside for the next day’s flight. The next afternoon, I reeled my creation out on the cheap cotton twine. Each reel was 200 feet, so you needed to have about 7 of them to get up into the jet stream. I had carefully calculated that if I had 1400 feet of string, and could get the kite at more than 45 degrees to the horizontal, 1000 feet was within reach. Let me just say right here, that before the first gust took it and hurled it into a nearby birch tree, I had grandiose visions of being the first kid to get his kite to 1000 feet. In retrospect, the string probably wouldn’t have held up anyways, and even if it did, the FAA would be on my ass for invading their air space.
So today I am thinking of ways we could resurrect the ancient art of kite flying, by making it relevant. Perhaps a box kite that is big enough to lift a running chain saw. Maybe I can propose a Kite Death Match reality show to NBC. And then we would create a spin off video game in which you used the chain saw wielding kite to saw zombies in half. Looking for venture capitalists, real soon now.