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Kite Man Of Central Park, Mastering Tricky Winds, Hobbyist Dabbles In A Variety Of Media

Kite Man Of Central Park, Mastering Tricky Winds


JULY 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved.

PHOTO: Rob Schoenbaum for The New York Times

Frank Rodriguez can often be found at the southern edge of the Great Lawn, flying his kites. His pterodactyl has a 37-foot wingspan.

Fank Rodriguez grew up on a windy hill in Puerto Rico, half a mile from the heart of San Juan. "Everybody flew kites," he said. Nobody had money.

"String was hard to get," Mr. Rodriguez, now 61, recalled recently in Central Park, where he can be found most afternoons. "So we would take old socks, undo the socks, and the sock would become smaller and smaller until it disappeared and there was nothing left in your hand."

He stood in his usual spot, at the southern edge of the Great Lawn, flying his kites. Mr. Rodriguez said he was laid off from his job as a machinist after Sept. 11. He has no phone, wife or children. He does, however, have more than 300 kites in his Chelsea apartment.

Rain threatened, and the sky was still. But two of Mr. Rodriguez's colorful kites swam through the gray clouds.

Down at knee level, a gaggle of children gathered. Oliver, a 3-year-old with a blond bowl cut and a kite clutched in his fists, thrust his short arms toward Frank. "Fly," he said quietly.

Kite flying in Central Park is notoriously difficult.

"You are in sort of a bowl," said David Klein, the owner of Big City Kites, on East 82nd Street. "The buildings and trees surrounding the park block the ground wind, creating a whirlwind effect at low altitudes. If your kite is flying in one direction and the wind switches to another direction, your kite is going to fall."

As a child, Mr. Rodriguez built kites out of coconut leaves, palm fronds and tissue paper from shoe boxes. For glue, he mixed soap, flour and water. For the tails, he strung together old sheets and pants that his mother, a seamstress, brought home from her factory job. Sometimes, he and his cousins attached razors to their kites and tried to slash each other out of the sky.

Today, he makes kites out of Mylar; his kites sell at Big City Kites for $8.50 and $10.

Last Monday, Mr. Rodriguez brought a pterodactyl kite to the park. It had a 37-foot wingspan, a hairy back and a large beak.

The machine looked decidedly earthbound. But the wind came through the rushes of the turtle pond and tickled its wings. It heaved and sighed. "See?" Mr. Rodriguez said. "It wants to take off."

He placed the kite at one side of the Great Lawn and drew out the spindle of string to the other. Four children ran after him. Mr. Rodriguez pulled hard and ran. The kite shuddered and haltingly climbed into the sky, then landed squarely on its head. "It was wounded before," Mr. Rodriguez said with a shrug. "As a matter of fact, it was extinct until I came along."

Hobbyist Dabbles In A Variety Of Media

Beth Browning, Sentinel Correspondent

JULY 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

KISSIMMEE -- Beatrice Ellin's drawings have the look of someone who studied fashion design.

Ellin, though, has never had formal training. The closest thing to it was an art class she took by mail, but that became too expensive. Her favorite subjects with her pen-and-ink drawings are female faces and life studies. She also has drawn a Viking and animals.

Ellin dabbles in mosaics and has transformed the sidewalk at her home into a scene containing a variety of elements, such as a dolphin, tree, butterfly and rose, using glass pieces and tiles to create the design. Her dream, however, is to study computer drafting, concentrating on architectural designs.

"I would like to see my designs built," Ellin said.

She would also like to experiment with designing computer games.

"Drawing is more for relaxation. My drawings are in a portfolio instead of framed and hung," Ellin said. "It is my passion, but right now it is on the back burner due to my job."

Ellin was born in New York 32 years ago to Puerto Rican parents. When she was 10, the family moved to Puerto Rico. She started noticing the scenery and drawing palm trees and beaches. Four years later the family returned to New York. When she was 17, Ellin returned to Puerto Rico.

She and her husband, Dennis, have a daughter, Crystal, who was born in 1991. From 1992 to 1995, Ellin worked for Hewlett-Packard in Puerto Rico. Dennis Ellin joined the Army and was stationed in Korea for a year, then was transferred to Georgia. Beatrice Ellin joined him there and began working with Wal-Mart.

Four years ago Ellin decided she wanted to live in Florida. She called the Kissimmee Wal-Mart, received a transfer and arrived the next day. She roomed with a friend for two months while her husband finished his tour of duty.

Ellin started in soft lines at Wal-Mart, moved to the shoe department, then to the photo lab as a specialist. In April, she was promoted to assistant manager in the photo lab at the Buenaventura Lakes Wal-Mart.

When she is not drawing, Ellin finds time to model for Walt Disney World and for friends who are professional photographers. She plays the guitar -- she said she need to learn to play better -- and dances flamenco.

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