Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ten Reasons I Don't Heart The Balloon Fiesta: Redux

The cottonwood leaves are starting to turn along the bosque, the mornings are getting cooler (well, most of them) and the winds are increasingly windy....all signs that it must be that special time of year we 'Burqeans know as "Balloon Fiesta".

Last year I jotted down a few reasons why I (unlike seemingly everyone else in the city/state/world/universe) don't like the "Balloon Fiesta", preferring to call it "Balloon Fiasco", a name which I admit is not catching on with anybody except me. Given that the "Fiasco" is starting tomorrow (I think, I don't pay much attention to these things), and given that I am incurably lazy, I figure it's time to reprint my list of "Ten Reasons I Don't Heart the Balloon Fiesta". Of course, as this is the Internet and all, anybody who wanted to read the following could just Google the thing from last year, but let's pretend this is some old school hard copy newspaper thing, and play along with the "reprint" concept.

Enjoy... and don't be shy about adding your own reasons for not liking the "Fiasco" in the comments section below. Now, on to the "reprint".


....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. And here are ten reasons why in David Letterman countdown style....

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 Russkies 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!
Me: Oh.
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?
Me: No.
Chipper Person: Why not?!? It'll be great!
Me: I wouldn't get up at 4:00 to see Jesus re-appear...

(Long, increasingly painful silence)

Chipper Person: Well, I'll tell you all about it tomorrow!
Me: Oh.

#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.

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 Looks Fat as Cowboy on TV Campaign Ad" 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.


Anonymous said...


hence: there ARE balloons!

i know, but it seems to be a common occurence that is teetering on an epidemic! and you teach LIT?
come on!

frannyzoo said...

Anon: What we're going for here is that Twain thing (admittedly with none of the quality) using how people don't talk too good lots of times. I didn't say it was done well, or good, or anything. By the way, are you the same person who complained about this last year?

Anonymous said...

all's i'm sayin' is that there's an unusal amount of bad usage lately and it just, well, is bugging the crap out of me. a lot of "there is's" (notice even on TV nightly!) where it should be "there are"----

and about that Twain thang-----it is really a bit too pretentious...

and, no, i am not that same person, just a meanie from Philadelphia.

just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I'm a different anonymous altogether, and a huge grammar stickler, but I got where you were going with that. Same place Emmylou was when she wrote 'me and my best friend Lillian...'
Anyway, I'm new here but this Mass Ascension thing is bothering me. I think I've heard it before, and not in quite so innocuous a context. It seems like something a bunch of vampires would be looking forward to on an episode of Buffy. Vampires or balloons - neither is enough to get me out of bed at 4am.

Robert said...

Top 3 Reasons I like the Balloon Fiesta:

3) Brings tourist dollars to Albuquerque. Maybe some of those taxes tourists pay into our economy keeps some of my taxes down that I have to pay as a full time resident.

2) Gives me an excuse not to visit museums, movie theaters or restaurants for a week. I don't have to fight the tourists at those places and I will return to my favorite places once it's not as busy again

1) A great excuse to have friends or family visit - it seems like a lot of visits are timed to coincide with the balloon fiesta, although the visitor this year almost came a week early, thinking the Fiesta was starting on September 30 rather than the first weekend in October

John said...

Ah, you're no fun frannyzoo. :P Come on...

#10: You're lucky I kept reading, because that was the worst. You're joking, right?

I think you're probably joking, since a discussion on the use of irony sounds too complicated for kids who leap up and look at the window at the balloons...

#9: Well, I do hate the Texans...

#8: Hey, I'm not a morning person either. :-D

#7: The local news in general just sucks. That's no fault of the Fiesta, that's just them being cutsy.

#6: Ain't you heard of the holiday spirit? :P

"Gov. Bill Richardson Looks Fat as Cowboy on TV Campaign Ad"? If that's what you want instead, thank GOD for the Fiesta...

#5: Never heard of Propane Day. And frankly, just because we're bombarded with names doesn't mean we have to remember them. I never say the "Special Shapes Rodeo" or the "Glowdeo", I just say the Special Shapes and the Night Glow. It's the same with ballparks. That one in San Diego might be called "PETCO Park", but I will always know it as "The Downtown Park".

#4: Oh, yeah, the boomers... Texan boomers. Yikes.

Oh well. NM has always been the playground of Texas. That's not really anything new.

#3: Dunno what to do about the 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."

That's awesome! Seriously, that is funny. I make fun of the whole "Oooh! Aaaah!" thing myself actually. You've got a great point there.

But it's not really any reason to dislike the Fiesta.

#2: What else is new?

#1: Hey, you're right. Out-of-state drivers are dangerous. Albuquerque is confusing.

In Conclusion: Suck it up, dude. Most of what you're talking about isn't even Fiesta-specific, it happens year-round. The Fiesta just draws a larger number of what you're complaining about.

GLS said...

Frankly Franny, I think you're Funny. One comment re: the sweaters emblazoned with holiday theme-y things....I call them Junior League Sweaters. They're inordinately popular among that set. The more Christmas Tree sequins, the better.

Mark said...

Loved this post but also have to admit that you persuasion may take a few more years to get through to this 'burqean that awoke at 4:50 this morning only to be disappointed by the rain.

Anon. needs to re-read your post - "there's balloons" is clearly being exclaimed by the fiesta fans. So, it's accurate if not correct.

This sweater is not exactly aplique but I think it is dead-on with regard to the sentiment. You can buy it for your mom, it's on eBAy right now! Take a look:

BTW, if I ever figure out your crazy poker games, I'll be dangerous. You can spend my 10 bucks on that sweater!

Anonymous said...

Well, let me be the other person in Albuquerque that is sick and tired of the balloon fiesta. Tired of having to leave for work thirty minutes or more sooner because I need to fight balloon traffic, tired of traffic moving like snails as everyone stops to gawk, tired of my phones or electricity going out because some wayward balloon has taken the lines down, tired of waiting in restaurants, tired of balloonist flouting our traffic laws with impunity, tired of every dog in the neighborhood going off because some balloon is passing over, tired of our normally polite state being invaded by people from other states who are not nearly as polite, who feel that we are a bunch of bumpkins who are required to put up with their obnoxious behaviour in restaurants and retail outlets. The balloon fiesta does not bring enough money into this city to make it worthwhile. I don't care if I never see another balloon here...and we used to crew at one time..before this fiesta got to be a huge commercial enterprise. It only benefits a few in this city.......avp