Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Things That Make Me Smile (3)

That's a photo that was taken here in Columbus during last Saturday's OSU football game.

Although I have absolutely no interest in close-up photos of such games, distance shots do have a certain beauty that even an anti-sports fanatic like me can appreciate.

And shots that manage to include the Goodyear blimp are darn near irresistible.

How can tens of thousands of people sit in a stadium and pay any attention at all to a few guys throwing a ball around when they could be looking up and watching this modern marvel making its lovely loops in a sky that was as off-limits as the stars for untold generations of human beings?

Some of my fondest memories of growing up in Toledo involve looking up on a fine spring day and unexpectedly seeing one of these blimps calmly floating by like an emissary from a pleasant dream.

The magic of that first moment of recognition never grew stale - partly because they were pretty rare (no more than once or twice a year, at best) and partly because normal life in Toledo tended to be so crushingly mundane in comparison.

Perhaps the most notable Apparition of the Dirigible came one day while my 6th grade class was attempting to play kickball outside. A few of us were too fascinated by the enormous rubbery visitor from Akron to pay much attention to the much smaller rubbery balls that were being kicked our way. Our teacher about had a fit. How dare we allow such a silly thing distract us from our assigned task of keeping the other team from circling the bases!

It was then that I conclusively realized that not every fool in the world was a blood relative.

As it happens, I moved away from Toledo in 1979. It wasn't until I moved to Columbus about 22 years after that that I once again knew the joy of these chance encounters with my favorite inflatable acquaintance.

But I should say "acquaintances" since Goodyear has several. I used to know all their names: America. Columbia. Mayflower. They tend to stay put in various areas of the country, but one incredible day [Sept 7, 2002, to be precise], shortly after I moved here, ALL of them could be seen convening in the distance, a stunning flotilla of floaters. I forget what the occasion was, but apparently it was a very rare event, never repeated since.

I was on my way to get my haircut at the time.

I suppose I felt as hyped up as any ancient mermaid-seeing seafarer as I excitedly told my stylist the wondrous sight I'd just seen overhead.

Judging from her dull, cow-like expression, I might as well have been telling her that I'd just caught a glimpse of someone fueling up at the gas station across the street....

I had one teacher in high school who might have understood. When a blimp suddenly appeared out our classroom windows one afternoon, he noticed the electric charge it produced and good-naturedly allowed us to go to the windows and watch - one at a time.

He said it reminded him of his days teaching in Alaska when the whales would come along and start jumping out of the water. He had allowed his students go to the windows to watch that, too.

It was a nice moment.

But it didn't last.

All too soon, the blimp was gone and that teacher had resumed attempting to teach English the way a paraplegic might attempt to teach ballet. I mean, really - he had to be one of the worst instructors I've ever had. Didn't know the difference between plot and theme. Didn't know that "Animal Farm" was an allegory about Stalin and the Russian Revolution until I pointed it out to him. I guess he thought Orwell just loved writing about livestock....

But back to the blimps.

At some point early in my Toledo childhood my ears became acutely attuned to the peculiar droning sound of their engines. It might be mistaken for a large lawnmower if it wasn't so obviously coming from the sky. It might be mistaken for a plane or helicopter if its pitch didn't change so slowly as it went by. As it is, it's unmistakable.

I almost always hear them before I see them, and Saturday was no exception - even with my tinnitus.

It was about 6:45pm - perhaps 30 minutes after the above picture was taken - that I first heard the approach of my beloved behemoth while I was sitting in my living room watching the news with all the windows closed.

Rushing outside, I saw it pass through the rapidly darkening skies almost right above my head.

I suppose its scrolling lights were advertising something or other. All they said to me, however, was "I'm back! I'm back! Did you miss me?!"

It was gone before I could reply - a rare maiden of the night rushing to get back to her home in the northeast before a line of cold rain coming in from the west might wet her pretty tail.

It was all over too quickly for me to grab my camera.

No pixel-creating contraption at my disposal could ever adequately capture her shy lighting, in any case.

Instead I offer a shot that I took last fall when she surprised me in broad daylight as I stood in my own back yard.

Ahhhh, I wonder who might be enjoying her now.

Not being the jealous type, I wish everybody could.


  1. I'm really enjoying reading your thoughts on things other than religion. It makes me glad that OD screwed up royally!

  2. I just heard that song yesterday, "When I was Seventeen, It was a very Good Year."

  3. I've never seen a dirigible close up, but I have seen a bunch of hot air balloons! Reading of what and who surrounded you in your youth, it seems almost as if you were an exotic seed, blown in from the skies (appropriately), set among the dullards to bloom and brighten them, if they'd only let you!

  4. This is a coincidence. Just recently, I noted a fellow ODer with the following:

    "When I worked at Firestone in San Antonio (the one that sold tires for commercial fleets), a PR man from Goodyear invited me to fly in the blimp. I stupidly did not accept."

    Some years after the above, after I had children, my family and I watched the "Houston" Goodyear blimp's comings and goings while parked on the side of I 45.

    Another interesting blog.