Ring of fire

April 23, 2006 at 1:40 am (Uncategorized)

I walked across the scorched earth among the burning trees and felt like the last man standing after the apocalypse. Around me there were crackles and pops and hissing as the last of the living things exploded and burned. Fire had come with an appetite and it laid waste to all in its path.
Of course, this was a mere woods fire and the devastation was limited to grass, leaves and dead tree limbs. Occasionally, the flames come with just enough savagery to remind us all that it rules us rather than the other way around.
It’s a wonder, really. We can split atoms, fire machines through the air and land them on comets, build super fast microchips the size of a tick’s eye. Yet one of the oldest elements in the universe still confounds us. When fire gets its blazing fingers on something and finds it good, there is little we can do about it.
When I was a boy, there was a neighborhood kid who sneaked out his bedroom window one night so he could resume partying at a house a block away. He drank and smoked alone into the wee hours, perhaps grumbling at how unfair it was that his parents wanted to exert such control over him.
The kid fell asleep with a cigarette, caught the bed on fire and perished in a wall of flames that burned through the upper floors of his sanctuary. For days, other kids would walk to the scene of that grisly death and look upon the charred remains of the house. For us, it was a glimpse into the pit of punishment. Our childish imaginations insisted on conjuring the sights and sounds and physical sensations as we imagined what it would be like to die by fire.
My Godmother died in flames after she returned to her burning home to retrieve a doll collection. I imagine the horror of that death too, imagining her ablaze as she ran screaming, lost and in pain, with an armful of melting dolls.
There is little reason to wonder why fire has become the avatar of man’s vision of hell. With fire comes immense destruction and unspeakable pain. It has always been both friend and foe to our species. We cook by it and it lights our way, but there have also been those who set out to cleanse perceived demons by burning people on stakes of wood.
A half million years after prehistoric man learned to use fire for his own gains, we are still mesmerized by it. When a house burns downtown, hundreds of people will gather to watch. Some will drive from a distance and bring their children. The destruction it wreaks is swift and indiscriminate. The most powerful man on earth can construct the grandest home with his awesome wealth, and it will still be reduced to rubble if fire wants it.
As the songwriter says, fire is the devil’s only friend.
So, the week of the burnings, when fire moved across the region almost logically, like a traveling magician, people stopped and took notice. They smelled smoke and something primitive in them recoiled. Because as enthralling as it is to watch the flames — of a blazing house or a campfire — we know that fire can take away everything.
In Turner, walking the burned path left behind by the hungry flames was like strolling the landscape of a burned and ruined world. My imagination gets to me. For a few moments, I was time traveling. I was the only homosapien on the planet after the comet struck and wiped out the dinosaurs. Or I was the only witness left after man finally went to far with his technology and scorched the entire race. In the beginning there was fire, and so fire marked the end.
Or some such thing. It was a surreal moment. And I imagine it was surreal in Auburn, Bethel and all the other towns where fire was once again proving its dominance over man. And it all reminds me once again what they say about those who make careers out of battling ancient force: Where all others run from the flames, firefighters run toward it.
Firefighters are an incredible breed. They wade into oceans of fire to save people and property. They voluntarily take on a force from which the rest of us instinctively flee. They are able to battle flames because they understand them. But understanding fire leads to the knowledge that you can never defeat it, just maybe knock it down for another day. Fire will exist long after the rest of us have vanished into memory.
So, I’m waxing poetic about fire while my clothes still smell like smoke from the latest inferno. I have no point, really. Just the healthy respect for fire and for the people who go to war against it when called upon.




  1. Mainetarr said,

    Fires are incredible. They are beautiful, and horrifying, depending where they are. Friends of mine out in Poland have this huge firepit, and in the summertime, we all sit around it with drink in hand and tell stories of our younger days. It’s a beautiful thing. After Chris and I got married, they had a party for us after the reception (it was late September and chilly at night) and most of the crew from my wedding hung around that fire until the wee hours of the next morning. Must have been 100 people there. For some reason, we have always been drawn to that firepit, folding chairs in hand, over and over through the years. Last summer, we bought one of those huge chinea thingys and we spent many nights parked in front of it in lawn chairs watching the fire and talking about our plans for the future. We were in the midst of remodeling the house, and we spent a lot of time, relaxing and enjoying the warmth of that fire as we talked about paint, landscaping, decking, etc….It’s kind of ironic that not far down the street from me a fire just wiped out an entire apartment building, and that fire caused everyone to wonder about their futures, too, only in a horrific way. All of natures elements are like that. We love a cool breeze on a hot summer day, but a tornado wipes everything out in it’s path. Everyone loves water, whether you are swimming in it or sitting beside it gazing into it. But too much water, ie New Orleans, well, it ain’t pretty. And like Mark said, there’s nothing you can do about it once the elements decide to take over. Gives you a real sense of just how small you are in the grand scheme…

  2. K2 said,

    A burning question: When you felt like the last homosapien [sic], what subspecies were you referring to, Homo sapiens sapiens or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis? Of course, you may not believe in the one-species hypothesis, instead preferring the two-species hypothesis, in which case, never mind.

  3. Beavis said,

    FIRE!!! FIRE!!! FIRE!!! heh heh heh

  4. K2 said,

    So an Englishman, a Frenchman and a Polish man are about to be executed by a Spanish firing squad. The Englishman is to be shot first, and the the firing squad commander asks him if he has any last words before the deed. The Englishman screams, “Earthquake!” and everyone scatters in panic, allowing him to escape.

    They regroup to execute the other two prisoners — the Frenchman first — and the commander asks him if he has any last words. “Flood!” the Frenchman yells, and again, they scatter, and he escapes.

    The reconvene to execute the remaining Pole. The commander asks him if he has any last words, to which the Pole hollers, “Fire!”

  5. brenda said,

    that’s funny K2!

    as far as your anthropological question, it looks like mark was vague, just mentioning “A half million years after prehistoric man learned to use fire for his own gains, we are still mesmerized by it.:… is that what you are asking about?
    Which anthropological theory he prefers? I have studied anthropology off & on for decades. It used to be fascinating but it got to a point where I realised – we’ll never really “KNOW” -will we?

  6. K2 said,

    I was really just being a pain in the ass for no good reason at all.

  7. Linda said,

    “Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.”

    Those words always get to me. Intimations of apocalypse.

  8. A.O. said,

    I’m going to be singing Johnny Cash all day long.

  9. Beavis said,

    FIRE!!! FIRE!!! FIRE!!! heh heh heh

  10. Mainetarr said,

    Speaking of fire, I am firing off bids like a madwoman on the Great TV auction. Man, they got the goods this year. It’s campers paradise on there, too, they are auctioning off weekends of camping everywhere. K2, they had a pair of American Ski Co. passes go for a mere $65 buckaroonies last night. Good deals. I bid on some new book called the Pink Room last night around 7pm, but I got outbid. Way outbid…I bet it was Dan. Right now, I have bids on weekend getaways in OOB and 4 tickets and a ceremonial first pitch at a Seadogs game.. Yesterday I won 3 jazz cd’s for $23.

    On another note, where the hell is all the rain they were touting yesterday? We put grass seed out thinking it would rain today and there had been nearly no rain. Do I have to light a candle and do a rain dance to get some rain around here?

  11. Linda said,

    Hi MT — I guess it’s either the rain dance or water the lawn! I vote for the rain dance, can we come and watch? We could all chant and that might help.

  12. K2 said,

    $65 bucks, MT? Shit. The bronze pass I get is $365, and I have to commit by May 2nd to get that price. Again, shit. No, make that fucking shit.

    AO . . . the child was wild. I fell into a burning ring of fire. . .

    No snow in winter, no rain in spring. Something wicked this way comes.

  13. K2 said,

    Some revisionist Woodstock history:

    If you think really hard, maybe we can [bring some] rain. [Please] rain! [Please] rain! [Please] rain! . . .

    Oh, and the brown acid is bad.

  14. LaFlamme said,

    Johnny Cash? Not me. Ever since AO delivered that “fire and ice” line, I’ve been humming Pat Benetar. A fate worse than death.

  15. Bobbie said,

    Thankfully, if you want to look at it that way, I have both Pat Benetar and some Johnny Cash on my system. I’m partial to Ghost Riders In the Sky. Hurt comes in a close second for him.

    I don’t know what it is today, but I seem to be shedding worse than my dog does right now. Move and I end up with handfuls of my hair all over the place. I know, I’m weird.

  16. K2 said,

    Hell is for LaFlamme? Hit me with your best shot of Allen’s?

  17. Linda said,

    Hey K2, what do you mean, something was wrong with the brown acid???

  18. LaFlamme said,

    Hell is for Children… Man, that’s a song that gets lodged in the noggin.

  19. Linda said,

    So Mark, tell us, does it hurt your feelings at all that your own paper misspelled your name on the Editorials web page? I really hope not. I hope you take it as well as I’m taking your misattribution of “fire and ice”. Unless A.O. posted it too and I’m just missing it .. anyhow I’m flattered that anyone would get me & A.O. mixed up, and it’s not as if it were my original line …

  20. K2 said,

    Yeah, it’s a lovely bed-time number for the kids. “Daddy, am I going to hell? . . . .”

    “Yes, my little darling, yes you are.”

    Linda, hey, it’s your trip. But please get off those towers. We don’t need any more weight on them.

    See you all in the Freak-Out Tent.

  21. Linda said,

    No K2, with me it was always flowers, not towers

  22. K2 said,

    Tune in, turn on, and drop out.

    Nugs, not hugs.

    Kind veggie slogans, $1.

  23. Mainetarr said,

    K2, I am not kidding you, when the board closed, the bid was $65, so some lucky bastard got a helluva deal. I was thinking of you and if it hadn’t of been so late, I would have called you. I thought the value was $425, but it was late and I was half asleep. I am still watching that stupid auction. It’s been on since noon. I know, pathetic, really, but I just won another item. It was from Mainely Tours in Portland. It’s a bus tour of Portland and then a 2 hour curise around Casco Bay. I got it for $35 and it’s for two. I want to try to line up some fun stuff for us this summer and this auction gets us out doing things I would never think of. Of course, since gas will probably be $5 a gallon by summer, unfluckingreal, I am opting for close by. I got two nights in OOB earlier today for $75, Tabor’s gift certificates and 18 holes of golf with a cart at the Turner Highlands for Chris. Not a bad day…

  24. K2 said,

    MT, oh well. I’ll just join the YMCA this winter instead. *whimper, sob*

    I played Turner Highlands yesterday for the first time. Great views of Mt. Washington from there. The course is a little short overall, but pretty darn nice. And #’s 13 and 14 were two of the hardest holes I’ve played in Maine. Long and tight. The holes, that is. Oh, never mind.

  25. Gil said,

    You know, men and women are a lot alike in certain situations. Like when they’re both on fire – they’re exactly alike.
    Dave Attell
    It’s a living thing, Brian. It breathes, it eats, and it hates. The only way to beat it is to think like it. To know that this flame will spread this way across the door and up across the ceiling, not because of the physics of flammable liquids, but because it wants to. Some guys on this job, the fire owns them, makes ’em fight it on it’s level, but the only way to truly kill it is to love it a little. Just like Ronald.
    Donald “Shadow” Rimgale
    Light my fire – The Doors
    Fire Lake – Bob Seger
    Fire – Jimi Hendrix
    That’s all I have for now.

  26. Gil said,

    Sorry, kind of spacy, I’ve been listening to Parliament all day, currently Rumpofsteelskin. Makes your thought process a little off. In a good, funky way.

  27. K2 said,

    Sounds like you burned one, Gil. Smoke on. . . .

  28. Gil said,

    Shame, shame K2, I’m high on life these days. The only thing I smoke is one, maybe two good Puros Indios a day.
    Course now in my youth, I smoked so much the ZigZag Man had a tattoo of ME on HIS arm!

  29. Linda said,

    Last night was Girls Night on the blog, we had ourselves a weepy good time. Let’s see if you guys can do as well on your own as we did? So far I see music and drugs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but aren’t you going to talk about your deepest feelings, or what?

  30. Mainetarr said,

    They open up every once in a while, but not very often Linda. I am sorry I missed out on girls night last night, I was hooked on that damned auction. They actually said LaFlamme, and not LaFlame or LaFlem or anything like that. It helped that the auctioneers were French.

    It’s finally raining, yay! We spent a small fortune on grass seed and fertilizer yesterday in hopes that it was going to rain today. I can’t believe how fast things dried out around here. It was literally Lake Tarr in my yard for a while, but dried up quickly.

    What have you been up to Gil? I have been posting in your blog, did you see?

  31. A.O. said,

    It’s raining? Huh. It’s about damn time! I’ve been watching The Soprano’s so, no time to check on the weather. Good luck with that grass MT. Hope the rain helps. If not then, it’s gotta be the hose for those seeds.

    Zig Zags. Ha. Everytime a customer comes in and asks for a pack, I always ask them what they want them for. You should see some of the stunned expressions I get. And, I sometimes get “stoned” expressions.

  32. Linda said,

    Hi MT, glad you cleaned up on the auction. Go figure, MPBN can get Mark’s name right but his own paper screwed it up on the editorials page. That kind of thing really bugs me. But never mind, he probably doesn’t care.

    Hi A.O. glad to hear Zig Zags are not a lost art, know what I mean?

    I was just passing the computer on my way from point A to point B (bed) so good night!

  33. Gil said,

    Hey MT, I did see your comments on the blog, thanks for posting. Which reminds me, I just updated it.
    AO, I don’t know why they don’t just honestly answer what they need papers for. I guess they think nobdy else knows what they’re doing.
    “Let’s see, 8 bags of Dorito’s, 14 Twinkies, 4 Mountain Dews,anything else?”
    “A pack of EZ Widers dude”

  34. Bobbie said,

    Good luck with the grass, MT. We’re attempting to do the same thing. The biggest problem that we’re having right now is not the birds getting the seed, but our son forgetting and walking across the “mud pit” to go to the car.

  35. LaFlamme said,

    What? Linda, I’m not sure what mispelling you’re referring to. Of course, I haven’t been around the editorial page today. I’ll take a stroll see there and see what’s what.

  36. LaFlamme said,

    Ha! Mark LaFalamme. Yeah, I like it. Adds an extra syllable. Lord knows I’ve been feeling syllabically deprives as of late.

  37. Martha said,

    Glad you’re enjoying the auction. I’m sure my sister is glued to it every night too. That’s one thing I really miss being here in PA..I LOVE auctions.

  38. Mainetarr said,

    Wow, all of this good luck for my grass seeds have paid off. It finally really raining last night. Geezzz, I didn;t realize we had such power in here. The rain Gods must have been listening.

  39. K2 said,

    Gil, I prefer the glueless Club papers — ‘Light as a butterfly’s wing.’ Zig Zags and EZ-Widers are like smoking 3 x 5 index cards. But as long as the ‘filling’ is good, the paper matters not.

  40. brenda said,

    I’ve noticed there are quite a few little ol’ ladies on a tight budget who roll their own cigarettes to get by. Around here, not everybody who buys zigzags is smokin’ weed, some actually use it for regular tobacco self- rolled cigarrettes, to save money & get through the month….

  41. K2 said,

    True, Brenda, true. But I would argue that most smokers buy pouches of tabackee, like Drum, that come with a pack o’ papers.

    And I’m sure we’re all familiar with rolling machines. Blasphemy to purists, but efficient nonetheless.

    Maybe pipe smoking will come back with a vengence. Works for Hugh Hefner.

    And has anyone ever observed that a ‘gravity’ bong actually utilizes a vacuum? Gravity has nothing to do with it. Although it would be messy in zero G.

  42. Mainetarr said,

    My neighbor, big pot head, has rolled and tried to smoke tea, coffee, pine needles (on a dare-I should have dared him to roll dried dog shit-that would have been funnier), hemp rope, a barrage of dried spices and finally, whole black pepper corns. What a moron, everything made him sick except for the tea. That actually smelled like pot, too. Do you guys remember cigarette loads???-they would make a small explosion when the fire got to it. I did that to my mother once, only I had put a bunch of them in the middle then repacked her cigarette. I am still giggling as I type this. I was never busted for that, she blamed the “friggen cigarette company” for making a defective one and I never laughed so hard….(wiping my eyes…hee hee)

  43. A.O. said,

    Mainetarr, You were one rotten little kid! Hee-hee, is right.

  44. LaFlamme said,

    Dude, what reeks of pot in here?

  45. K2 said,

    Ever hear of the Anarchist’s Cookbook? Let me tell you first hand that scraping banana peels, baking them at 350 F for a few hours, and then smoking the remains was a complete waste of time — and banana peels.

    Also, the eat-two-tablespoons-of-nutmeg-to-trip-your-balls-off theory is bunk. Just try getting past the FIRST tablespoon of nutmeg. Ummm . . . no.

    And the morning glory seeds made my stomach sour. Something about the poison in them. A fun time.

    Your poor mother, MT. Exploding cigarettes cause an emotional scar for life, you know. Kinda like clandestinely dropping a stink bomb in a NYC subway car back in ’91. Rotten eggs x 100. Nowadays, that’d be seen as terrorism or somepin, when back then, it was just good old mischief.

  46. brenda said,

    MT— that’s terrible! I wouldn’t want to be YOUR mother! I don’t smoke, but you’d find some kind fo weakness to exploit, wouldn’t you?!

    morning glories ? —> heart attacks or something?
    Nutmeg, to clean your bowels? Or miscarry? oh, yeah, it helps with the cold-turkey from heroin addiction….?

    be careful….

  47. Mainetarr said,

    What do you mean I WAS rotten? I still am….just ask Mark about the Ex-Lax in the chicken parm. Now THAT’S a colon blow. Just kidding….

  48. K2 said,

    Colon Blow?!? Phil Hartman, RIP.

  49. Linda said,

    I don’t remember cigarette loads — probably because my cigarettes were packed with something else, topped up with a quarter inch of tobacco. What a mess that made, but who cared?

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