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Look Away From the Big Shiny Balloon

And Never Let a Pothead Pack Your Parachute

It’s a pleasure watching a skilled pediatrician give a baby her shots. Our doctor was a master. Just a deft bit of misdirection with a squeaky toy duck and a quick prick of each chubby thigh. It was over before she even considered crying. If I got the lollipop to her in time the tears never came at all.

It’s fitting that the latest threat to democracy came in the form of a balloon, since it seems like nothing so much as a toy they’re manipulating to distract us while they “give us our shots.” Or maybe literally give us our shots.

I went to an aviation-themed costume party last weekend, and thought it was a shame that none of the women were visibly pregnant — what an adorable Chinese Spy Balloon that would have made. Well, we all probably wanted to move on. My costume depicted a slightly more plausible airborne danger: a bird sucked into a jet engine. It was absurdly time-consuming to make, and cumbersome to wear. I’m sure the many guys dressed as Maverick were much less self-conscious. But when it comes to costumes you can either go for comfort or commitment. For better or for worse I usually choose the latter.

By the bar I ran into a friend of mine, who passed on some advice from a Navy Seal he knew. Two things you should never do if you don’t absolutely have to: ride in a helicopter and skydive. The former because of the high likelihood of pilot and mechanical error, the latter because the guys who pack the parachutes are often “dropzone bums” and high out of their minds. News you can use, unlike any of the “intel” from the homeland security beat this past week.


Another menace I don’t have time to worry about is red meat. Whenever I hear endurance athletes bragging that they accomplished their latest feat of masochism with an entirely “plant-based diet,” all I can think is how much more suffering they could have squeezed in if only they’d had a proper meal.

Also, someone has to eat all these animals. Eight Axis deer were brought to Maui in 1959; now there are 50,000. They’re an invasive species that also happens to be good eating. Maui Nui Venison is doing their part to cull them, and will send prime cuts directly to you. Helping the environment never tasted so good.

Maui Nui is one of the businesses featured in Align’s Non-Woke Valentine’s Day Gifts for Him, but honestly we could’ve put it on the For Her list as well. I made a stir fry with some of the sirloin the other night and almost lost a finger sneaking a morsel from my daughter’s plate.


What’s funny about “sexual freedom” is that the more you separate sex from marriage and procreation, the more rules you have to have. The only “consent” we should be talking about is getting her to say “I do.”

Helen Roy has begun to tackle the modern romantic crisis in a series on her always insightful podcast, Girlboss, Interrupted. The first installment finds her in conversation with Christian theologian and counselor Dean Abbott, who offers essential wisdom for building healthy marriages in a culture in “moral freefall.”


“Flight is the only truly new sensation that men have achieved in modern history,” wrote poet and novelist James Dickey, who himself flew 38 bombing missions as a radar operator in the Pacific theater of World War II. Dickey drew on that experience for his final novel, To The White Sea, in which a stoic and resourceful tail gunner named Muldrow fights to survive after being shot down during the firebombing of Tokyo. Dickey limits his spare, propulsive account to his protagonist’s perspective, which quite effectively conveys the chaos of war and the ways in which it can strip away the human shell to reveal the determined predator underneath.


There was something…deflating about watching the progress of that unmanned Chinese balloon. Drones may be safer and more efficient, by they reduce the romance and adventure of flight to a kind of a video game. Larry Walters always wanted to be a pilot, but his poor eyesight kept him grounded; he served in Vietnam as a cook. But he never abandoned his dream. In 1982 Walters attached some 40 weather balloons to a Sears lawn chair, packed some sandwiches, beer, a CB radio, and a pellet gun, and took off from his backyard in San Pedro. His aircraft was harder to control than he anticipated, and he soon found himself in federal air space over Long Beach Airport.

Walters eventually managed to descend by carefully shooting balloons with his pellet gun, but ended up getting tangled in some power lines and causing a brief blackout. The fame Walters gained from his illegal flight was short-lived, and when it died down he remained a troubled man. A decade later he took his own life at the age of 44.

Walters’s stunt may have been ill-advised, and could easily have resulted in disaster, but it’s hard not to admire the courage and imagination it required. His 45-minute adventure inspired many “cluster balloonists” after him, and the chair from which he saw a view afforded only the most daring men occupies a spot of honor in the National Air and Space Museum.