Saturday, October 07, 2006

Shock & Awe

No bombs were dropped on Alcatraz.

But I got to hold a rocket launcher. A ROCKET LAUNCHER!!! A really cute Marine set me up with it, and Flip snapped a cheesy picture of me looking tough. Not that I don't always look tough. I'm tough, see.

Today was the 25th annual San Francisco Air Show, featuring the Blue Angels, the U.S. Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron which performs formation and solo maneuvers using F/A-18 Hornets. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Blue Angels, which have been in operation since 1946.

Last year they flew six planes in close formation under the Golden Gate Bridge. This time, cargo ships, pleasure boats and parasails won the right of way, but there were still enough stupendous tricks to make a thousand people hold their breath simultaneously. For about two hours, we hyperventilated with a thousand of our closest friends.

Beach blankets and camp chairs, beer and hot dogs, (mustard purveying buns to this vegetarian) and eardrum-shattering commentaries over the PA system competed with the sounds of warplanes streaking overhead. It was Woodstock with air power.

Even the sea gulls and pelicans seemed unnaturally excited by the event, circling back and forth in their own configurations in imitation of the planes. Don't they realize that the planes are really emulating THEM, that they are the original fliers? They should be proud.

The tight formations reminded this ex-pat New Yorker of the Radio City Rockettes. If those women were airplanes, they would be the Blue Angels.

The promoters set up a virtual wonderland for kids. Everything plastic that could be ridden on, jumped in, or climbed was there. I stalked one charmer with my camera, hoping for a shot of planes zooming by at the precise moment she swung to the top of a jungle gym-like apparatus. It would have been a strong statement: War planes juxtaposed with a beautiful, oblivious child intent on her play. It couldn't be done.

I added it to my mental graveyard of great shots that got away.

When I was in college, I signed up for flying lessons at the Ajax Flying School, the first one in the yellow pages because I was in a hurry. My parents were no slouches either. They canceled all my flights by canceling my allowance, having shrewdly set up my first checking account so canceled checks went to them, not me.

Amelia Earhart got to keep her record.

Watching six planes a mere 18 inches apart fly nearly 1,000 mph through loops and turns and upside down curlicues is such an amazing display that it's easy to forget these pilots are Naval officers. Their planes are designed to drop bombs on our enemies while moving so fast that they're hard to shoot down. A fantastic show, people, but These Are WAR PLANES! Its enough to make anyone patriotic.

I feel so much safer now.


Nihilistic said...

We didn't go this year I'm afraid. At the end of our week long vacation we just did NOTHING today and it was awesome! Although we did hear the planes all day long! Plus with the Blue Grass festival in the Park, moving the car would mean losing our parking spot! Can't have that! ;)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Glad you enjoyed your day and Kept Your Parking Space. In SF, we have our priorities.

urban-urchin said...

I would always forget that the blue angels were in town until you'd hear the low rumble in the distance.

We'd run out of my studio in the Mission (25th & Alabama) to watch them fly over.

Our house was Parkside, so we'd head over to Crissy Field and watch some times.

It's funny how reading about the Blue Angels can make me homesick for San Francisco. Thanks for the reminder of home.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Sorry you weren't here. We would have had a blast. The day was perfect, 70 degrees and sunny with a breeze. And noisy. Very, very noisy.

Crissy Field is one of my natural habitats. I live in the Marina a few blocks from the Bay.

LOVE this city!

Odat said...

Oh wow, you got to play with a rocket launcher???? I wanna do that!!!!! LOL.....sounds awesome.
I always want to become part of the ceremony too when something like that comes to town! When the rodeo came here (yes, it comes to NYC) I got to sit on a Brahma bull...had my pic taken too! lol
(I'm still such a child, just wilder now...)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I wasn't part of the ceremony; I was my OWN ceremony, as always. The Marines were hanging out in front of a Paul Bunyonesque plastic figure of a Marine. I'm not a gun person at all, but I developed a sudden case of weapon envy. (I hope it stops there before I develop anything else.)

I attended a Rodeo at Madison Square Garden long ago. I didn't get to sit on any bulls, though. That's way cool. I wanna go with you next time.

~Macarena~ said...

When I was in h.s., I was obsessed with my beloved Blue Angels. I used to draw their logo all the time, and I still find flightsuits sexy. [Sigh]

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Well, I wish you had been here then. I didn't hear a single female name when they announced the pilots for each maneuver, which saddened me. We're sexy, too, ya know?