The Frisbee Artist

One of my fondest memories of college is sitting in Phil Kennedy’s small room under the eaves of our fraternity house and watching him draw. He had small, black, bound books of blank paper, and working with a pen he would fill the pages with images from his imagination. It was magical. A chess piece, a racing car, a briar pipe, a face filled with emotion, they flowed out of his pen, one black line at a time. My sketching, then as now, was pretty much confined to stick figures with noses that went on sideways and dots for eyes. I marveled at Phil’s skill, his perspective, the breadth and depth of his work, the way a drawing seemed to appear on the page as if it had always been there, and he had just eased aside the page’s blankness to reveal it.

Phil’s deft touch, however, was not confined to pens and brushes. He could do amazing things with a flying disc, the round, plastic, flying saucer I prefer to call a Frisbee, in spite of possible trademark violations, because I like the sound and shape of the word, the way it feels when I write it and the way it feels when I say it aloud. Phil could make a Frisbee run, fetch, sit and stay. While I and my other fraternity brothers were seeing how hard or how far we could throw a Frisbee, Phil was sending it out like a retriever, making it answer his unspoken commands, teasing us with throws that would hover just beyond our fingertips as we ran. He was an artist with the disc. In a casual game of catch, his throws had a UFO quality to them, as if the disc was guided by some off-planet intelligence. You didn’t have to catch Phil’s throws; they nestled into your hands. At times, he floated them so precisely that you could imagine them hovering patiently in place while you tied a shoelace.

After college, the U.S. Navy’s submarine program discovered Phil was a sleepwalker, wished him well in civilian pursuits and closed the hatch behind him. He went into graphic design, doing what he did best, but he never lost his touch for the flying disc. For the past many years, he’s been involved in flying disc competitions, including disc golf, and, in a move from which I draw inspiration, he has co-authored a hefty tome, Flat Flip Flies Straight! True Origins of the Frisbee. Written with the actual inventor of the first plastic flying disc, Fred Morrison, this is the authoritative book on the subject, 436 pages with graphics and editing by Phil, and his own guide to collecting platters. If this is your passion, this is your book.

Published by the venerable Wormhole Publishers of Wethersfield, Connecticut, the book is available via Me, I’m diving into the closet to find my beloved, scuffed, lime green Frisbee-brand plastic flying disc and looking for spring.

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Note: The name Frisbee is a registered trademark of Wham-O, Inc.


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