Thursday, March 1, 2012
What is it about men and fire? Is there an instinctive need for heat rooted deep inside their troglodyte souls? When I was a little girl, I feared that my house would burn down because my brother's favorite hobby at the time was lighting matches and flicking them behind the headboard of his bed.
During my teen years, my best gal pal and I were often badgered by a nutty gas station attendant with a deranged grin who gleefully referred to himself as a firebug. "Really, dude? Why don't you pitch a tent on Mercury and enjoy your summer there?"
I guess it should be no surprise that years later I find myself with not one but two firebugs in my house. My son discovered at an early age the thrill of melting a plastic, toy soldier over a hot stove and was notorious for sticking sharp objects into electrical outlets just to see the sparks fly!
My husband never displayed any firebug tendencies----he preferred getting his illumination outdoors with an LED flashlight. But all that changed three years ago during an unusually long "cold spell" in Florida (we hit a whopping 60 degrees...brrr....). My neighbor convinced us that an outdoor fire pit would be the perfect entertainment feature for our backyard garden. We agreed, and within the course of a weekend, the masterpiece fire pit was built. Just the sight of it brought warm, fuzzy visions of friends and neighbors gathering around the fire to roast marshmallows and sip hot coffee laced with brandy.
Once the fire pit was completed, my husband looked for any excuse to build a fire ( "Honey, it's Bastille Day in France, time to celebrate with a fire"..."Honey, the dog didn't throw up his dinner, let's celebrate with a fire!" ). He became obsessed with daily weather reports and checked the outdoor thermometer every ten minutes to see if the mercury level dipped lower than 70 degrees. Perhaps that explains all the puddles beneath the thermometer and the sudden disappearance of ice cubes from our refrigerator.
Those first few months by our fire pit were everything I had hoped for, but winter soon gave way to spring, and by June I reminded my husband that it was time to dismantle the fire pit and replace the area with bright flowers. He solemnly agreed, and off he went to the nearby garden shop for a fresh batch of spring flowers. An hour later he returned home with only one item---an industrial size, ugly brown misting fan that rotated and spit water while you roasted in hell.
Unwilling to give up his new found obsession with fire, my husband insisted we gather around the flames every weekend to share stories and roast marshmallows until they resembled lumps of coal on a stick. He dubbed these evenings "Funday Sundays, and plied his guests with plenty of beer and wine so that they'd sweat and learn to enjoy the heat as much as he did.
The smell of smoke brought the neighbors to our backyard just as my husband had hoped, but they were only there to make sure that our house had not burned down in the July heat. What he doesn't know is that I had secretly waved our bedroom blanket over the flames to send up a smoke signal for help.
You think hot flashes are bad? Try having one while you're sitting by a towering wall of fire in August. They are known as double hot flashes, and they are not nearly as much fun as a double hot fudge sundae. These are truly the hot flashes from hell that leave you feeling like that marshmallow on a stick that's about to be squished between two graham crackers. Even with the misting fan blowing at the highest speed, our friends sat perspiring in a circle like people meditating in a sweat lodge. I had hoped that one of the benefits from all the sweating would be the loss of some excess weight, but licking all the melted marshmallows off the sticks counteracted any chance of weight loss.
The problem with fires in Florida during the summer months means that there is no firewood available, so you have to get creative. My husband would burn anything to keep the fire going---twigs, pine cones, a roll of toilet paper, his credit card statements...and once out of desperation he raided a box of feminine products from under my daughter's sink. Pretty soon my neighbors were scratching their heads in bewilderment because they couldn't figure out what happened to all their lovely shade trees.
Whenever firewood is sparse, my husband calls our nephew, R.J. (a.k.a. Mountain Man), who could easily beat the competition on Survivor. R.J. has the uncanny ability to find wood anywhere---he sniffs it out like a bloodhound. I swear this guy carries an ax in one pocket ( and a beer in the other ) because he learned at an early age to always BE PREPARED. Both he and my husband become a little giddy after the holidays are over because of the abundance of discarded Christmas trees just waiting to be burned.
There's something soothing and intimate about sitting in the darkness with the crackle and pop of a fire. It brings out the best (and sometimes worst) in people. They huddle close and confess their worst secrets ("Hey Bro, remember that expensive mountain bike you thought was stolen in 1995? I accidentally crushed it with my station wagon one night after too many beers and buried it in a dumpster...but we're still friends, right?"). Some people get a little too amorous by the fire and need to either go back to their own bedroom or go to a hotel. They also burp and fart and toss their beer bottles into the pit. Give my husband a few glasses of wine by the fire and the next thing you know he'll revert to his roots and start doing ceremonial dances around the flames to the tune of Beyonce's "All The Single Ladies." I don't think he learned those moves in the Cub Scouts.
We do have some new rules about fire pit etiquette:
#1. There will be no consumption of beans one hour before sitting around the fire. If you've seen the movie, "Blazing Saddles", then you know why this rule must be strictly enforced.
#2. You may not burn foreign objects in the fire, such as last night's leftover "Fiesta Surprise" casserole, all those receipts from Donut World, Chocolate World and Wine Around The World, the baby's dirty diapers after a bout of dysentery, or the kitchen garbage that you were too lazy to drag out to the curb. Large pieces of cardboard should be outlawed as well because they lift up in a draft and hover like fiery bats from hell before flapping their way toward your hair. Just put the guest you like least near the area of the fire where the draft is the strongest. They'll soon get the hint and leave.
#3. My favorite and most important rule of all is the one R.J. came up with, and for obvious reasons...WHAT HAPPENS AT THE FIRE PIT, STAYS AT THE FIRE PIT!