A 73-year-old man dangles a long piece of plastic off the side one of the busiest pedestrian bridges in the world. It‚Äôs just after the high peak of lunch time in Chicago with the tourists and office workers out in full force on the Michigan Avenue bridge in Chicago.
There stands a man unfurling foot after foot of plastic off the edge of the bridge. Everyone busily walks by, but I‚Äôm too curious to pass this up. Is he fishing in the Chicago River? Is he hanging a piece of artwork off the Michigan Avenue bridge in Chicago?
Once the plastic reaches about 40 feet long, he reveals a small plastic kite. He‚Äôs flying a kite off the Michigan Avenue bridge! Wow! Just a week ago I was pondering the thought of flying a kite in downtown Chicago, and here this fellow has the stones to actually do it‚Äîoff the side of a bridge!
He motions me over and he tells me that he once got his kite to fly from the bridge all the way over to the Marina Towers! I am shocked and amazed. And he says, “Yeah, I got over 3,000 feet of string here.”
While he‚Äôs continuing to prep his kite, I ask him, “what happens if your kite hits a building? It probably does very little damage at all, it just bounces off the building?”
He responds with a shake of the hand, “awww, I don‚Äôt know why, but it‚Äôs never hit a building.” We discuss wind patterns in downtown Chicago how they can be crazy. He points to the flag atop the tribune tower, “see how that‚Äôs going north and these flags on the bridge are blowing towards west. It can be tricky.” He throws his kite over the bridge and tries to get it airborne, instead it just sinks downward to the river.
I ask him, “How fast do you think this wind is?” He shrugs, “I dunno. This is a decent wind though.” He flies by the feel of the wind, an expert with a finely tuned experience as he points out that Chicago Magazine wrote about him in the July issue last year.
He asks me help him by standing over a little bit away to get the kite started. I gladly walk over as now I‚Äôm officially helping to fly a kite off the Michigan Avenue bridge in downtown Chicago. He holds his hand up in the air to feel the wind. Pauses. “Now!” he points to me. I throw the kite dramatically over the edge. And it sinks downward.
He pulls the kite into fix the knot in the line, but then the line breaks. And I figure this is my time to break off as well. I wish him luck, and tell him that I greatly appreciate that he is doing something so creative and fun in downtown Chicago.
More about Kite Man, Mike Illich:
1) Shore Patrol: Chicago Magazine, July 2006.