playing with fire

this bear hates me... if we were in a cartoon i would be his nemesis
I actually get a little embarrassed to “publish” some of the dumber things I’ve done, but the blog has kinda morphed into this two-purposed thing. One: to document what’s going on in the present, and two: to write down funny stories from the good ol’ days. I try not to glorify the bad stuff too much, to me now it’s mostly just head-shakingly funny. You know, like “oh man I was an idiot back then,” chuckle chuckle. Anyway, I did it, and I like writing about it, so I’m gonna keep doin’ it I suppose. Meeting Sharaun really cleaned me up, thank God – and I’m no longer the awful miscreant I once was. Don’t hate me for what I was, love me for what I am. Hopefully most of the stuff is back beyond the statute of limitations of my hometown PD.

I can trace my fascination with fire back to such a young age that it’s hard for me to believe. The very first place in this world that I can actually remember is our house in Huntington Beach. We lived there until I was somewhere between five and six years old, so you gotta realize these aren’t the best memories. However, one of the most vivid memories I do have of those times involves fire. I had gone a couple houses down from ours to play with a friend, who I think was older than I was. We somehow ended up with a book of matches. I remember I lit a match and burned the crap out of my finger. I remember wanting to cry and run to mom, but knowing I’d be in trouble. I hid the burn from my folks. That’s my very first memory of fire, you’d think it would have deterred me from further experiments. (I know it seems strange to think that I was playing with matches at five, but I swear my memory is correct on this one. I’ve tried to imagine it happening at other ages and in other houses – and it was definitely back in Huntington Beach. Can you even talk when you’re five and half?)

Growing up, I have memories of staring into campfires for hours, begging Grandpa to let me strike the long match and start the fireplace, and biking around on the 5th of July to collect the spent fireworks people left in the street (I loved that burnt smell).

My next real memory of “playing with fire” comes sometime near the 4th grade I think. I convinced my dad’s dad to let Frank and I “shoot” matches in the backyard one day. My parents weren’t home, and he let us hold the match to the strike pad on the side of the box and “flick” the matches into the air as they lit up. We shot matches in the backyard for a while, thinking it was so cool. (Actually, I can remember feeling genuinely guilty for asking my grandfather to let us do that. I knew my folks wouldn’t allow it, and I also knew that my Grandpa probably wouldn’t object. I remember feeling like I had “used” him, and to this day that feeling of guilt still sticks to that memory).

Probably sometime shortly after that, I had another experience in the same backyard with “shooting” matches. Our neighbors on the one side had a stone wall instead of a regular wooden fence. I was arcing lit matches over the wall, why – I have no idea. Luckily for me nothing caught fire (I don’t think I was really thinking of the possibility anyway). However, I also didn’t think of my neighbor finding a small pile of burnt matches in his backyard. He came over and told my folks, and next thing I know my mom is taking Frank and I down to the fire department. Once there, we got a nice tour of the building – and then got sat down for a lesson on “playing with matches.” I remember the fireman being stern but nice, and I remember thinking we were in trouble, but I don’t think anything ever really came of it.

I think the remainder of my gradeschool years were relatively fireplay free, although I do recall spraying words on Ryan Lopez’s fence with hairspray and lighting them on fire. I think I must have chilled out for a while though.

When we moved to Florida, I met a group of friends who were as pyro-crazy as I was. In 6th grade we learned how to make what we called “napalm” (really just styrofoam dissolved in gasoline). We used to keep a coffee can full of it hidden behind a friend’s house, and pull off the sticky chunks to light and throw around. I remember learning that Brut stick-style deodorant burned, and frequently lighting mine on fire in my room. We also developed some crazy game where we’d spray our forearms with Off! and light them on fire, to see who could last the longest without waving themselves out. Joey discovered that aerosol white lithium grease is perhaps the most flammable aerosol on the planet, and burns forever. I can remember sneaking out at night with friends and us all pouring lines of gas in the street so we could light them and “race” the flames down the line. Filling mason jars with gas, tying them to string above a campfire and shooting at them with BB guns. Trying to make the “hearts and diamonds” bomb from the Anarchist Cookbook (probably tweaked out on “bananadine” at the time – Anarchist Cookbook joke, sorry). And always having a stash of fireworks to play with. For a couple years, I wore this old army jacket everywhere I went. We all had one, all filled with various “useful” tools. Matches and ladyfingers were a staple item in the jackets.

Sometime around the end of middle school, our firelust got dangerous. I can recall starting at least five fires in the woods, a couple of them being fairly large. I think there were more than that, but there are only five that I can specifically remember. There would be four of us, each with a book of matches. We’d walk in a line, shoulder to shoulder through dry brush. With each step we’d “shoot” lit matches over our shoulders until the books were empty. The rule was that you couldn’t turn around or look back until all the matches were gone. No matter what you heard or felt, you could only look back when it was done. Oh man, did that ever work. We used to run away and come back later to watch the firetrucks put out our work. Gawd… we were truly horrible.

At this point in my life, I consider myself lucky. I’m not dead, and I’m not in jail. I did so many stupid and just plain mean things. For the record, I no longer burn things? and my love of fire is now limited to campfire gazing and firework watching. And for an afterschool special wrap-up: What I did was dumb. Don’t ever do it. I’m actually pretty ashamed of a lot of the stupid stuff we did, but I can’t erase it, so I might as well write about it. In fact, I went back through my journal and searched for fire-related stories – there are a couple really good ones related to specific incidents (the “Tex fire” and the “tire fire” in particular). I’d put ’em in here, but they’d triple the size of this already bloated and boring entry.

I promise I’ll write something worth reading again soon… promise. Dave out.

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