555 Luftballons

by wjw on October 9, 2013

balloonssmall02Morgan Stanley was apparently sufficiently impressed by my anti-Wall Street tirades in this forum that I was invited to their Corporate Tent this morning for Albuquerque’s annual Balloon Fiesta.

(Thank you, Morgan Stanley!  Our motto: “Hardly ever indicted!”)

balloonssmall03This involved getting up at 5am, a time at which I am rarely comfortable, and driving through the bleak pre-dawn blackness to the balloon field on the far side of Albuquerque.  it was a beautiful still morning, and when the first balloons rose it was still completely dark, the sky illuminated only by the brilliant propane flares glowing on the inside of the colorful canopies.

This year there were something like 550 balloons, all launching within an hour or so.  The “special shapes” balloons— the Fireman, Smokey the Bear, Darth Vader, the Princess, the Bees— launched last of all, because oddly-shaped balloons are prone to going wrong on launch, and if there were problems it could delay a whole flight.

The winds formed what is called a “box”— when the balloons launched, they drifted south; but as they rose a little higher, a different wind carried them back north again.  So we saw the same balloons over and over again, and quite a number landed on the same field from which they launched.

550 balloons all in the air at once.  More than any photograph can contain.

balloonsmallA note on the photos: It was still fairly dark when most of the balloons went up.  The sun rose on schedule, but was largely concealed by cloud.  The result was a lesson in how differently the human eye views something as opposed to a camera.

What I saw was a lot of brilliantly-colored balloons floating in the air.  What the camera saw were a lot of round, dark, murky objects silhouetted against the bright sky.

On that account the photos needed a fair amount of work with brightness, contrast, lightness (as distinct from brightness), and color saturation (because I can rarely resist playing with the color saturation).  The results are a little Kodachrome-y, but I hope they transmit the colorful, harmless joy of the balloon season.

And thanks again to my friends at Morgan Stanley for the hospitality and the lovely viewing platform.

Arno Ahonius October 9, 2013 at 10:11 am

Dear Mr. Williams: This is not a comment. It is my first fan-letter to anybody, ever. I don’t like to think of myself as a member of a group of moronic fanatics.

But I loved your *Praxis Trilogy*, the finest Space Opera since Jack Vance’s best days, and I wish that you would write a sequel about Lady Sula’s doings on Earth.

Vance’s heroes visited Old Earth a couple of times but — as much as I love
him — I must say that his Earth, thousands of years in future, feel too
much like the Earth of 20th Century.

So wouldn’t it be an interesting challenge to write about an Earth really
in far future?

Sincerely, Arno

Foxessa October 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Among my magical memories, high up the list is riding my bike to UNM at the ridiculous AM hour that allowed me to meet and >!!< my 7:30 Freshman English class, under a brilliant turquoise sky spangled with these bright jewels of color.

Love, C.

wjw October 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Ah Foxess, I remember those early balloon fiestas with less than a hundred balloons and a takeoff field so dusty that the balloons seemed to rise magically from an earth-tinged mist, or perhaps the earth itself.

Arno, I will in fact write that story, I know a lot of what’s in it, but I’m working on other stuff right now. And thanks for the compliments!

Arno October 10, 2013 at 5:23 am

Delighted to hear that. But please try to hurry! I am 78 years old.

Yours Arno

Jerry October 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Dear Arno –
I’m delighted that WJW is going to write another Praxis novel! But I’m surprised that he hasn’t mentioned there is already a fourth novel (short novel) in the series: “Investments.” I downloaded a copy from Smashwords about 2 weeks ago and I couldn’t put it down! And, BTW, you’ve inspired me to write WJW a second fan letter; I think I finally put my finger what makes his writing so captivating. . . .

wjw October 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Hey Jerry, I didn’t say “novel.” Though it may be a long short story.

Shash October 12, 2013 at 1:14 am

I envy you that trip to watch the balloons. They are fantastic. Thanks for sharing the experience.

I’m with Arno on the Sula book, and for anything else you are about to publish. Want to read more WJW.

Arno October 13, 2013 at 5:49 am

Dear Jerry:
Thanks for the tip. I must admit that I don’t much read short stories or
even novellas these days. I am an escapist, pure and simple: I want the
book to be *thick* so that it is sufficient for some days.

I am glad that you and Shash support my demand of more Praxis.

Cordially, Arno

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