My wife keeps bothering me to do an entry on how much Harriet Miers looks like Swoosie Kurtz (here pictured with a dog...just imagine the little dog is W, and you've got an almost spitting image of the nomination press conference), and doubtlessly there is such a striking resemblance as to wonder if Ms. Kurtz isn't more qualified to be a SC Justice (she was in some lawyer-judge kind of TV show once, right?) and just have her sit-in for Miers from the get-go.
Then there's the simple joy of writing a name like Swoosie Kurtz. As a schoolteacher, I like to imagine Kurtz as a student in my class and asking, "Can anyone tell us what they think Harper Lee is saying about racial issues in the South here...how about you Swoosie, what do you think?" I'd fall out of my chair laughing every single time.
Instead, I've decided to officially come out of the closet and publically state my feelings about what might be the #1 Sacred Cow in all of Albuquerque:
I hate the Balloon Fiesta.
Now I know I might as well tell fellow 'Burqueans that I'm a combination sex predator/Tex-Mex food lover. In fact, I hear a siren in the distance meaning that local law enforcement has heard about my feelings and is ready to deport me to Dalhart.
But I really hate the Balloon Fiesta.
Over the course of today, Friday, I'll do a David Letterman-esque Top Ten List on quaaludes countdown of reasons why.
Reason #10: Invariably a day comes where I'm teaching Literature at a local middle school in October, just getting into a fascinating discussion on the use of irony in Kurt Vonnegut, when all the sudden we hear this Church Organ-esque WHAAMMMMMMMMMPPPPP of air release right over our head sounding like the Ruskies just set off a huge Redi-Whip dessert topping canister on top of us. Kids rush to the window and, sure enough, there's somebody trying to land a large wobbly brightly-colored craft onto our dinky little playfield. The kids press noses to the window in a frenzy of excitement they never show toward Kurt Vonnegut. I find myself almost rooting for the local trees and electrical lines to ensnare the gondola or something.
Hey...I said almost. It's not like I actively WANT the balloonists to die or anything. Really.
Here's #9: The Big-I, cars with out-of-state plates...'nuff said.
#8: I'm not a morning person. Every year in early October I have several conversations with people chipper about getting up at 4:00 A.M. to go see balloons. I wouldn't get up at 4:00 to see Jesus re-appear, even if he brought Buddha and Muhammed with him as a backing band. The conversation with these Chipper People invariably goes like this:
Chipper Person: I'm going to the balloon fiesta tomorrow!
Chipper Person: Yeah, we're getting up at 4:00!
Me: (pained expression) Oh.
Chipper Person: It's great, you really ought to go, you want to meet up somewhere at say 4:30?
Chipper Person: Why not?!? It'll be great!
Me: I wouldn't get up at 4:00 to see Jesus re-appear...
Chipper Person: BUT THERE'S BALLOONS!
(Long, increasingly painful silence)
Chipper Person: Well, I'll tell you all about it tomorrow!
#7: Those 9:30 P.M. teasers for the local 10:00 TV news that attempt to tie everything back to Albuquerque and those stinkin' balloons....
THIS IS TOM JOLES, Tonight at 10, FIRST ON FOUR, Six U.S. Soldiers Are Killed In Iraq, find out local reaction tonight from Balloon Fiesta Park, and speaking of the fiesta, ONLY ON FOUR, LIVE BREAKING COVERAGE OF Richard Abruzzo's views on the ongoing debate in Kansas between the teaching of Evolution and Intelligent Design. Abruzzo recently crashed his balloon in Kansas and he tells Eyewitness News' Colleen MAH o nay (who is evidently not Irish in heritage but some form of Athabascan Native American) his views on the educational debate in that State. Plus, weatherman Larry Rice inexplicably stands out LIVE at a darkened Balloon Fiesta Park to tell us how Typhoon Brittany off the coast of Japan might impact winds at tomorrow morning's launch. THAT'S TONIGHT... ONLY ON FOUR.
#6: The town's cyn-o-meter (level of expressed cynicism) drops to near zero. Even the snarkiest among us in the ABQ blogosphere switch from our typical "Gov. Bill Richardson Brings Gavel Down on Special Session Devoted to Gov. Bill Richardson" entries to "Look at my Flickr folder of delightful Special Shapes Glowdeo shots I Just Took".
#5: 'Burqueans are required to listen and dutifully remember new vocabulary phrases like "Special Shapes Glowdeo", "Mass Ascension", "Chase Crews" and "Propane Day" (Hank Hill must be proud), and we are also supposed to alter our definition of "Afterglow" from its proud sexual connotation to that of a stupid trademarked reference to a fireworks show after the balloons "Glowdeo" (another trademarked expression). I will refrain until New Year's Eve to post my "Ten Reasons I Hate Fireworks Shows" blog entry.
#4: The Balloon Fiesta seems to draw an inordinate number of people who like to have bright, colorful and balloon-oriented applique sweaters. You know, those sweaters with typically cute-to-the-point-of-gagging little designs stuck on them. Here's an example being sold on Amazon right now.
Anyway, my Mother loves applique sweaters, as do most older female Elementary School Teachers. 'Burque therefore fills for two weeks with thousands of people looking just like my Mom and/or Ms. Christian, the most evil schoolteacher in the history of the State of Texas (my childhood home). There is something quite psychologically traumatic having your new city, far from the hometown you never wish to revisit, filled to the brim with dopplegangers of your Mom and all-time least favorite teacher. Really, I love my Mom fine...but every October I am filled with both a strange guilt and the desire to toilet paper someone's house.
#3: Unlike most applique sweater types, animals do not love the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Getting a little more serious for a minute, how many of us have house pets who ABSOLUTELY freak out with that WHAAAAAAAMMMMMPPPPP overhead sound? Now have a 1700 pound pet. As some of you know, we have a few horses around our pitiful excuse for a Ag-burb horse "ranch". Horses generally feel about balloons the way Earthlings feel about the Vogon Spaceship announcing the planet's demolition in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". We're talking true mortal dread, panic in the streets, "dogs and cats living together" terror.
Just for this reason alone, it is my position that the Balloon Fiesta should be done away with, along with all fireworks. Hmmm...there seems to be a strange bond between fireworks, firework shows and Balloon Fiesta. Both are highly visual, both bother the hell out of animals, both attract large numbers of people who repeatedly say in unison "Ooooooohhhhhhh" and "Aaaaaahhhhhhhh" while looking up at the sky like a bunch of trained seals peering upward to a dangling herring.
It almost makes we wish the Vogons WERE here to put in an Hyperspace Bypass.
#2: The terribly uninviting Hotel 6 on I-25 down around Cesar Chavez has a electronic sign with the price for a night's room on it. Befitting the depressing prospect of staying in such a lousy place right next to a noisy Interstate the price for a room usually shows $33.99, sometimes $37.99, but only during Balloon Fiesta does it jump up to $43.99. 'Burque has about 50,000 hotel rooms that only fill during the Fiesta, but of course that doesn't stop hoteliers from building more largely unused ugly concrete structures, relying pretty much solely on the price gouging opportunities the Fiesta provides.
Then there are the corporate sponsorships for the Fiesta, a list of which takes up a long web page. In our little, largely corporate-free, town the Fiesta is about the only event that has an Official Outerwear Supplier (Columbia), but then again it's the only ABQ event I can think of that has even trademarked the name of the event itself.
And the #1 reason I hate the Balloon Fiesta (trademark) is:
'Burque can't claim to have the best drivers in the world. Our biggest claim to automobile driving fame (besides the Unsers, who aren't that famous anymore, anyway) is the wide array of driving speeds on our highways. From personal experience and asking of others, I've heard of no other town where 20% of the drivers consistently drive 15-25 m.p.h below the posted speed limit, while another 40% simultaneously drive 15-25 m.p.h above the posted speed limit. It's like a strange communal bi-polarity.
Now throw hundreds of visual distractions into the mix and you have a Balloon Fiesta morning on I-25. The only road surface more dangerous these days is the drive to the Baghdad airport.
I had to make a run north last weekend (if for no other reason than to avoid Balloon Fiesta) and ended up northbound on I-25 about 8:45 on Saturday morning. Life expectancies instantly drop about 20 years; one is surrounded by other drivers pointing out the balloons to their passengers, as cars skitter between lanes, off the shoulder, toward your car. All laws and rules about driving go away faster than a civil liberty in a war on Terror.
But it's okay...."there's balloons!"
The traffic folks put up signs saying something about "No Balloon Viewing Allowed on Roadside", so instead we have the viewing IN the road AT speeds ranging from 5 to 105 m.p.h. Oh, there are wrecks, bad wrecks. Fortunately, I now live in the South Valley and don't face the daily Fiesta carnage I used to living in the North Valley.
But it's okay, "there's balloons!"
Yes, balloons make it all worthwhile: deadly driving conditions, applique sweaters, waking up at 4 a.m., even trademarked "fun". As for me, the highlight of any Balloon Fiesta is the teary-eyed farewell from Carla Aragon and the rest of the ABQ "news" folks as they bid their mind-numblingly soft Fiesta "news" adieu for another year.
Things return to normal: the Motel 6 drops the prices back, the WHAAAAAAMMMMPPPPPP sounds are gone, the local blogs get back to cynically deriding politicians and the Journal, and we can get back to our perfectly good, albeit smoggy, blue skies and beautiful sunrises devoid of the brightly colored globules that so many love, but a few of us really, really can't stand.