An Improbable Travel Schedule

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: Consumer Fireworks, Travel, Weblogs

Here’s a before and after of a typical travel day.  I gotta get 500 miles from Changsha to Hong Kong.  Let’s see how it goes.

Currently sitting in the Lucky Shamrock Irish Pub in the Changsha airport waiting for my connection.  The Shamrock’s décor is somewhere between a purple and a pink–that’s what Irish green morphs into after it’s been in China awhile.  On the menu are 14 kinds of tea.

"Make mine oolong," I I say to Su Ling, the pretty waitress.

Big steaming beer mug o’ oolong lands on the table with about a pint of loose tea leaves inside.  Mmmm.

Today started with emails at 5:45 am.  Then, breakfast with Matt where, as usual, we plot the complete overthrow of the fireworks industry. 

If we ever do 1% of what we dream up at these breakfasts, we’ll die rich men, and be interred in burial mounds outside Liuyang.  They’ll surround our central tomb areas with thousands of cakes, fountains, and sparklers all laid out in the outline of the United States.  Our actual bodies will be draped in great lengths of Tau strings, and protected forever inside locked forty foot cargo containers, with two ATF-approved 1/4 inch thick steel covers over the locks, to protect from tomb robbers and 27th century archeologists.

After breakfast, we say our goodbyes and Matt hands me off to the same lunatick driver we had the other night, who just dropped me here at the airport.

Shortly, I am to meet David, the chemical guy, here at the airport to examine an assortment of rare and unusual fireworks chemicals, many of which we haven’t seen in the US in 30 years.  Stuff like realgar, which we cannot find anywhere, anymore, at a price mortals can afford.  He wants to sell me vast quantities of them.  Let’s see, two guys in the parking lot in front of a big airport hunched over a plastic baggie of white powder…. hmmm.  I can see how this could go… 

"It’s not what you think it is, officer.  Officer?  Officer?  Officer, do you speak any English?"

Blank stare.  Uh, oh.  More officers.  No smiles.  Oh shit.

After I meet David and hopefully elude the chemical police, my plane is supposed to leave at noon for Shenzhen down on the coast right next to Hong Kong an hour and 15 later.  If… all goes according to plan and schedule.  Then catch a shuttle bus from the airport to the Hong Kong Ferry, which leaves at 2:30–tight connection.  If not, wait around for the next one to leave at 4:30.

As soon as I know which ferry I’m on, I’ll call Mark on my cell phone using my China phone chip and tell him my arrival time in Hong Kong.

He will then leave from somewhere inside China, and drive to Hong Kong with a box of Sky Lanterns for me to see.  As soon as I get off the Ferry, I will quick scramble out and up the street to the cell phone store and hope to God it’s still open Sunday afternoon, and get more minutes put onto my Hong Kong phone chip, because the China phone chip does not work in Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong chip is outa minutes, which I cannot just replenish with a simple phone call to an 800 number with a credit card.  Noooo.  Then switch chips on the phone and wait for him to call me.

Then I will scurry further down the street and check into my hotel.

Once Mark arrives, me and him will go out on the parking lot on top of the big cruise ship pier sticking out into the harbor in front of the hotel, with ocean liners on each side, and light one or two of those suckers and send ‘em up into the air over the middle of Hong Kong and find out if you can get put in jail for violating some arcane law against launching UFO’s in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities on the planet called Earth.

Then we will slink back into the hotel and get drunk, laugh at our good fortune, speculate on what laws we may have violated, and do a deal on some Sky Lanterns.

Somewhere in all that, I will need to find Ricky Law, and confirm that I will meet him at the Ferry dock in Zhu Hai tomorrow morning, so he can give me a tour of his mammoth tusk carving factory.

I’ll let you know what percentage of all this stuff actually happens.

UFO Seen Over Hong Kong Harbor!!!!

Everything worked according to plan.  It’s now around 8 PM.  Mark has arrived with the Sky Lanterns.

Sky lantern being litNow, gaze down from your imaginary hotel room upon the concrete toppa the pier stretching out before you perhaps a football field long.  Many Chinee-Sunday-shopper BMW’s parked thereupon.  Three cruise ships flanking the swanky cars.  Two guys, hunkered over a glowing flame-bag.  Coupla Indonesian women standing by, watching, waiting.

What the hell is that?!  Combo parking lot attendant, uniformed security guy with rank-stripes on his shoulders semi-authoritatively moseys over (this IS Red China, donchu forget) to the flaming bag guys.

"Howda hanga pitty banga row!" assertively wagging one finger first AT the glowing bag, then side by side as if to censure the thing.

"Uh huh, just watch," instructs the Virginian to the Chinaman, bluffing, not knowing at the time if he is dissing a cop or ignoring a parking lot attendant, the Canadian still trying to wrassle the glowing bag in the 10-knot wind, the two Indonesians expertly saying nothing.

The glowing bag sways, starts to lift.  The wind smooshes the hot air out of its soft sides momentarily.  Then the Canadian, adept at bag launchings, feels the sensual swell of the hot air as it fills the paper to bursting, as it nears its climactic rising… rising, ever hotter, swelling, swelling against the strong Chinaman’s censorial finger, the finger wagging, wagging, instructing the keepers of the bag-flame to cease, to somehow stop this thing, right now, for it must be illegal, and then…. and then, right at the edge of all sanity…

Lit sky lantern Right on the edge of all control, the Canadian yields to the softness of the hot bag, to the throbbing heat on the sides of the softness he gently holds in his hand, and he knows, as only a man can know, that the release is near.  So very near, and he simply takes his hands away.

And she soars; she soars out over the rail of this giant concrete pier, up, up into the night, as only the lightness of a woman can.  But then she drops, as if abandoned at her moment of ecstasy by her lover, she drops.  Getting colder now, she drops over the side, and down toward the cold of winter’s South China Sea.  And all, even the wagging fingered Chinaman, all watch to see her as she is about to drown in the cold of the harbor, and she dips ever lower, grazing just past the incredulous lower deck man and his wondering gaze.

And she goes right for the water, as if to drown her sorrows, her sadness at losing the Canadian’s soft caress… and then… and then… she lifts just an inch or two above the water.  And holds herself there, quivering there, for a moment.

And then, she swells, she swells as a woman’s breast swells at the touch of her lover, and she heaves another precious foot above the grasping wave tops, as all on the pier wait breathlessly.

And she lifts yet another foot or so, swelling even more.  And the wind catches her and starts to move her flaming, glowing swollenness out across the light green of the harbor, and finally… UP!  She lives!  She LIVES!

She was still going up when we lost her among the clouds, out about a mile from the pier, her spirit soaring perhaps two thousand feet above and out and away from all her earthly bonds.

And this night, we were not consigned to the jail of the Red Chinee.  Once again, the pyros triumphed.

Click here to view a video of a Skylantern being lit.

Question for all of you:  What are the best uses for Sky Lanterns?  Do you need to know anything more about them?

Harry Gilliam
Chief of UFO Launch Facility, Hong Kong

15 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. davemix says:

    Harry, next time you get to Hunan, be sure to go to Liling City, climb the mountain and visit the New Temple of the Firecracker Ancestor. It’s a beautiful temple with a 20′ bronze statue of a seated man holding a lit firecracker. email me if you want a pic. dave

  2. mr jonathan dingli says:

    dear sir/madam
    in the middel of june we are going to make a pyrothecnic show of our feast in our village in malta. my friend told me about these ‘chinese sky lanters’. they are very nice and they are something to make the people happy watching the, show seeing a unique like this in malta.
    that i want from you is it is possible if i pay for 1 and give you my adress and send me to see how it works? if i see that is going to be good in our show i am going to make an order of 20 and if they are not expensive.
    so hope to here from you soon and well doon for your good job you are doing
    jonathan dingli

  3. juan baddoggi says:

    pyro porn, plain and simple. A perfect example of getting off safely.

  4. john says:

    Lookking back at Harrys warnings of making flash and some of the comments that were made of elliminating the sale of dark aluminum the way I see it is that the quanities that you can by should be reduced.If you are not making big boommers then where in the world are u goimg to use 2 pounds of aluminum a year.The only use I can see for it other than big boommers is for breaking a crossett comet and it only takes 1/2 a gram to break a 1 1/4 comet do to the fact that the comet has such a small load chamber it needs a more powerful shot to make it break.I beleive for the hobbiest a 1/4 to 1/2 pound would be plenty per year.

  5. Tim says:

    ” candles drycleaning bags ” Let me Clerify Myself.
    I didn’t mean to imply that Harry’s new product was in anyway dangerous.
    The way we used to make them as kids was only dangerous if you didn’t watch them carfully, which you should allways do with all things flammable.
    I allso kinda implied that it might have burnd down a house, which in fact it did not, it just left melted plastic and candle wax on the roof.
    Thank’s for letting me clarify this: Tim

  6. doc says:

    fantastic metaphors!!!!!!

  7. Neil says:

    I think there would be a good market here for them.
    I am very interested, they look like a hoot.

  8. Bob Forward says:

    If, during your chemical shopping, you run across any athracene (many black smoke comps specify it) I’d personally be very willing to buy some. It’s unfindable in the US these days, except from lab supply houses who charge like it was gold dust…

  9. Harry says:

    These particular Skylanterns have a thick piece of wax-impregnated paper to light it with. Burns 35 minutes then comes down. The paper is fireproof.

  10. Alan says:

    Like Tim we used to make them with plastic bags but we used solid fuel tablets for the heat source. The problem is you don’t know if they will still be burning when they come down.(we lit up a good size field as kids)

  11. tim says:

    we used to make those with birthday candles drycleaning bags and drinking straw frames to hold them open and we used pins to hold the candles on the straws
    then we had one land on the roof ! Well you know what happens next!

  12. Bill Kover says:

    Either the lanterns are used for the Chinese New Year or an annual tribute to the spirits of ancestors

  13. Neil says:

    What type of heat source do they use???? Simple candle…bigger than a tea light?

  14. Neil says:

    Possibly night time weddings, birthday parties??
    You really need to stop reading the romance novels though.

  15. Geo says:

    so now its UFO’s hmmm looks like a marketing tool for sure, get a few 1000 NASCAR fans to send them all out on opening day in Daytona might look pretty cool.

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