There were reactions. Some people found the balloon “interesting.” As a response this seemed inadequate to the immensity of the balloon, the suddenness of its appearance over the city, on the other hand, in the absence of hysteria or other societally induced anxiety, it must be judged a calm, “mature” one. There was a certain amount of initial argumentation about the “meaning” of the balloon, this subsided, because we have learned not to insist on meanings, and they are rarely even looked for now, except in cases involving the simplest, safest phenomena. It was agreed that since the meaning of the balloon could never be known absolutely, extended discussion was pointless, or at least less purposeful than the activities of those who, for example, hung green and blue paper lanterns from the warm gray underside, in certain streets, or seized the occasion to write messages on the surface, announcing their availability for the performance of unnatural acts, or the availability of acquaintances.
Daring children jumped, especially at those points where the balloon hovered close to a building, so that the gap between balloon and building was a matter of a few inches, or points where the balloon actually made contact, exerting an ever-so-slight pressure against the side of a building, so that balloon and building seemed a unity. The upper surface was so structured that a “landscape” was presented, small valleys as well as slight knolls, or mounds, once atop the balloon, a stroll was possible, or even a trip, from one place to another. There was pleasure in being able to run down an incline, then up the opposing slope, both gently graded, or in making a leap from one side to the other. Bouncing was possible, because of the pneumaticity of the surface, and even falling, if that was your wish. That all these varied motions, as well as others, were within one’s possibilities, in experiencing the “up” side of the balloon, was extremely exciting for children, accustomed to the city’s flat, hard skin. But the purpose of the balloon was not to amuse children.
2 thoughts on “Some people found the balloon “interesting” | Donald Barthelme”
Years ago I went to Southern Miss for a spell. Steve was my advisor; interesting guy. One day I went to speak w/ Rick. The whole Balloon Boy thing was happening live as we met, pre-hoax revelation. Rick was fascinated by it. I think he printed out and/or emailed himself the article he was so tickled. He sent it to me as an email, too, wish I still had it. Funny enough, I thought of it during this whole balloon deal lately, then came to find this post.
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I love that!