Blowing Out the Candle

So it’s the end of my 34th birthday, and I’m reflecting on some pivotal moments. Today is my birthday. One week ago, my four-year anniversary at work, a rolling record for me. Three weeks ago I had a hot date. A month ago I marked the close of my second nonsmoking year. A week before that, an incredible visit from an old friend.

Biff. Bam. Boom.

I’m looking forward, and I think I’m nearing the end of my current spate of epochal events; little to look forward to except for my required trip home for easter. I might go to Burning Flipside during Memorial Day weekend in May; that’s pending the money status thing and how well I could be motivated to go by those in the know. “Epoch”, a new coffeeshop founded by some of the old guard at Mojo’s, is currently being remodeled and will open within a few months; it’ll be nice to have a 24-hour coffeeshop again in this snoozy town. The new Moroccan teahouse going in where Mojo’s used to exist will open at the end of this month – I’m just not sure if I’ll visit given what I know about the formation of the place.

Today, a friend of mine invited me over to his duplex for grilled burgers in honor of my birthday. A basket on his patio, which holds crushed and spent soda cans, was attracting bees like crazy, so he spiked a tiki torch into the ground near it and lit it, hoping to dispel the bees. Well, the effort mostly failed, and he decided to haul the basket off to the edge of the yard.

The burgers are ready, and we’re eating. His mother was over; she was tending the grill for him as he went inside for the tray. As he walked onto the patio to go in, he discovered that the torch had fallen into the back wall of the house and was still burning. I was inside eating when I saw him start freaking out on the back wall. My initial thought was that he found a beehive, but I soon grasped the gravity of the situation and ran out to help. He got a water hose and I started dousing the wall as he pulled more boards. Someone in our group called 911, and the firefighters were there in mere minutes, by which time most of the smoldering that had happened was quenched, but the wall was still warm on their infrared camera.

There was a channel in the wall that went from the foundation up to the attic; it’s my assumption that it’s part of the architectural design of the place, where three walls meet. The wick of the torch landed about a foot above the bottom of this channel and burned in the crack between two siding boards, so the hot gasses and extra fuel the torch created went straight up the channel. The firefighters noticed that there was charring halfway up and got the chainsaw to remove the boards all the way up. There was still charring, but the firefighter in the attic couldn’t see damage or heat, so after clearing most of the insulation and dousing what was left, there was no further sign of fire. Disaster averted.

The firefighters hung plastic sheeting over the wet mess to help weatherize the wall until the contractor could come in to repair it. They got details from my friend and his neighbor next door. Surprisingly, the neighbor had nothing but pleasant exchanges with my friend the whole time, not panicky, not accusatory. Technically, it was their first time talking in the month they’ve been living there. Even the leasing management agent, who my friend called to notify what happened, seemed relaxed about the whole thing. We’ll see how the fallout happens.

I think, perhaps, the most surreal thing about the whole event was that after it was over, we went back inside to finish our food and laugh about the whole thing. That’s just…weird. What else was there to do? Replace the wall ourselves? Overanalyze what happened? That’s what journals and insurance agents are for.

As the party wound down, his mother came to me on her way out and hugged me, said, “Well, happy birthday. At least you got to blow out a candle.” Battlefield humor at its finest.

Published by Shawn

He's just this guy, you know?