The Party’s Over: Sad Balloons

deflated balloon on leaf-strewn sidewalk
“L” is for Lying face down in the gutter under a bridge on the South Side. A sad balloon in its natural habitat.

Is it lying or laying? I’ve read and re-read the grammar definition a dozen times—my dear, sainted mother was an English professor, for goodness sake—and I still can’t figure out whether there’s a direct object there or not.

Fooey. A large gold letter L, turned upside-down so it looks more like a lazy J, lies (lays?) in the thick sidewalk mud that has collected late autumn’s last fallen leaves upon its gooey surface. On this chilly Sunday morning one can’t help but feel the sadness as the air has quite literally gone out of what we hope was a joyous moment, now gone by.

pink number balloons left by grave marker
Pretty (sad) in pink. Allegheny Cemetery

Someone (Lori? Linda? Lenny?) was celebrated in the near past—a birthday, maybe? perhaps an engagement, job promotion, or baby shower—and her or his friends ordered up a golden capital L balloon to commemorate the occasion. The party may have been terrific—drinks all around, goofy stories from the past, novelty gifts from friends that embarrassed family members—but that’s all over now. The big helium-filled letter balloon floated out of a car window or the venue’s service entrance, had some dying adventures in the low atmosphere, and landed here, in the muck under a bridge on the South Side.

deflated red balloons caught in tree limbs
Lofty ambitions, caught in the treetop. Grandview Park, Mt. Washington

This day—of all days—New Year’s happens to fall on a Sunday and like Kris Kristofferson, we’re all comin’ down, one way or another. Maybe you reveled last night; maybe you stayed in with a book or a movie; maybe you were working or taking a care of a sick kid. Either way—any way—New Year’s Day resets the table, tells us that last year, whether it was a party or not, is definitively over and we’re on to new things.

Your author is not one for resolutions, but he did make a plan to learn Vladimir Cosma’s “Sentimental Walk” on the piano. It’s simple enough that these amateur-level hands should be able to grasp it and heartbreakingly beautiful in a way that will reward the time commitment.

Whatever your plans for the new year—inspired by a resolution or not—hopefully they’ll include new adventures, plans realized, and the wonderful happenstance that leads you up into the treetops and down in the muck. Life exists on both planes and we’re fools to fantasize that it can occur in only the more lofty of them.

Happy New Year, y’all!

"1" and "4"-shaped balloons outside of a small dumpster in a garage
14 or 41, what’s the difference at this point? Hill District
deflated balloon hanging from tree limb
Hang in there! Hill District
deflated balloons in dead leaves
Game over. Allegheny Cemetery
deflated balloon hanging from tree limb
World’s worst Warhol tribute. Allegheny Cemetery
celebratory balloons left in tall grass
Not so sad … yet. Hazelwood
deflated balloons hanging from an electrical line
Sad bundle. Lawrenceville
deflated balloons hanging from utility wires
Wire mess, Lawrenceville