Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pyromaniacs! A Magpie Tales Extension

The box of matches that served as yesterday's Magpie Tales prompt made me think of a smoky hotel bar.   But it also brought back some memories...

When we were kids we all had chores... dreaded, fun-sapping chores.  But the one chore that we never complained about was trash duty.  Why?  Because it was a pyromaniacs dream!

Imagine, not only being given permission to take all the unwanted items from the home, pile them into an old, rusty, wire mesh barrel and then take a box of matches to them, but being encouraged to do so.  Heaven for the prepubescent child.  It was the one time when playing with matches was actually sanctioned!   My brother Waldo and I could stretch this chore out for an hour.  We were masters at getting the most out of our pile of trash... carefully balancing each piece of paper so that a chain reaction of flames would wend its way through the barrel.

Of particular notice were the new-fangled plastic Wonder Bread bags.  Ahhhhhh, plaaaasssssstic! No more of those flimsy, crackling cellophane bread wrappers.  To watch the heat approach the red, yellow and blue circles and see them collapse into each other.....   It was almost a religious experience.  "Forgive me father for I have sinned...  I lust after melting plastic."  Lucky for us, we weren't Catholic.

Then there was the fun of making UFO's.  In the early 60's, UFO's were all the rage.  Aliens were the creatures that haunted our dreams.  But you could make a respectable facsimile of a UFO by taking a sheet of newspaper, pulling the four corners together, stapling them and then touching a match to the stapled area.  The draft from the flame makes the newspaper rise in the air as the edges glow red.  Totally cool!  Especially after dark!

So, being the budding pyromaniac that I was, imagine my delight when in seventh grade our art teacher announced our new project... a picture made from burnt matchsticks!  Oh, my god, it was orgasmic!  We were actually given boxes of Ohio Blue Tip matches and sent out to the loading dock to ignite them!  By ourselves!  Unattended!  Woo Hoo!   It's truly amazing we didn't burn the school down.  Once sacrificed to Vulcan, the smoldering wooden sticks were then scraped free of any remaining ash, then lined up next to each other and glued to a piece of cardboard in an array of fascinating shapes.  Being the 60's, I went for the guitar and bongo drum motif.  Quite stylish, if I do say so myself.  But the final product never lived up to the thrill of torching those suckers out back of the school!

For many years now, it's been illegal to burn trash within city limits and schools frown upon setting students loose with boxes of matches.  As for sending flaming UFOs up into the atmosphere... well, we won't even go there.  Homeland security frowns upon that kind of thing.  Kids today just don't know what they're missing.  I tell you, there's no modern toy made that can compare a box of matches for an hour of fun!
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