It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, hasn’t it?, and after Kerri Anne’s recent duel with the pilot light, I thought it only appropriate to tell you guys that, sharks and talking on the phone aside, my next biggest fear in life is…FIRE. That’s right, I’m a certified, Grade-A pyrophobic. So it would only be fitting, of course, that nothing delights my significant other more than watching things burns; he even views any major holiday as a chance for one massive bonfire (appropriately, he was born on the Fourth of July). Suffice it to say, to this day, I have never lit a match or lighter (or bong or bowl, I think it’s safe to add). (I think I might have waved my finger through a flickering flame once when I was 12 at Larissa Chaney’s birthday party and all the kids were doing it, but while it wasn’t the slightest bit painful, that one time was more than enough for me.)
I kept a safe distance between the fire and me on New Year’s.
Like most fears, I’m not really sure when it all started, though I’d postulate that it was sometime between the ages of 3 and 5, when I was old enough to hold my own candle at the Christmas Eve service but before my Southern Baptist church (yep, the crazy kind) was fancy enough to have the candle holders that contained the melting wax (to the contrary, they would drip down and burn my poor little fingers). Thanks a lot, God, I’m holding you responsible for this one.
Necessary components for Danish bar-going fun: dice + Tuborg.
Then, when SVV and I moved to Denmark at the end of 2005, I had a fire encounter that would make my minor fear (at the time) all the more debilitating. Denmark is cold about nine months out of the year (maybe even longer). During our stint there, it snowed from December all the way into May. The two of us shared a tiny nine-square-meter room (with slanted ceilings) and lived with seven messy guys, so we spent much of our free time (and free time abounded in Denmark where we had no jobs and approximately five hours of class a week) at the bar. At the bar in Denmark, they like to play dice game (similar to Yahtzee or Bunco, but a lot more fun). On the tables where they play dice games, there are often candles (considering in the winter, Denmark boasts all of two hours of sunlight). One rousing round of dice while we were spending the weekend in Copenhagen, out of nowhere the pink Gap sweater my mom had sent me as a Valentine’s Day present burst into flames. SVV and our friend Kristian sprang up in surprise and instead of beating the fire off of me as sensible folk might, they started jumping up and down like little schoolgirls and demanded I take off my sweater (typical dudes; though they claimed it was because they were afraid my hair was going to be the next to go, but I know the truth). Obedient as always, I did as they said. The fire was quickly distinguished, and somehow my sweater made it out unscathed (in retrospect, I think it caught the pills and really just did me a favor by ridding the sweater of the rest).
The sweater that caught fire, captured the following day on the train ride back—see? no marks!
Fast forward to that August. I had just returned to the States and was back in Tennessee for three weddings in two weeks (story of my last five years). One friend, Sandy, decided to use sparklers in lieu of the traditional rice send-off. I politely declined, as sparklers have always terrified me, too (could be the whole fire relation), and took my position on the opposite side of the yard, as far away from the tightly-packed group of sparkler wavers as possible. As I was sitting there minding my own business, sending Sandy and Duck well wishes from afar, a (likely drunken) sparkler bearer started waving his wand back and forth and flicked a spark clear across the yard, and, I kid you not, IT LANDED ON MY BIG TOE. In the middle of my big toenail, to be precise, and burnt a hole through the middle of the keratin! If my last week’s all-consuming chemical burn to my face and neck hurt like a mofo, this came startling close in comparison. Only me.
Far from the madding (flame-flinging crowd), and I still got burned!
Then, there was the whole story about how the wildfires followed me last summer and the recurring nightmares of our house going up in flames that followed. So um yeah, not a fan. Am I alone—any other pyrophobes out there, or are you all arsonists like SVV? (By the way, the ever-reliable Yahoo! answers gives me some insightful tips on how to kick the paranoia: “just stay away from fire!” Now why didn’t I think of that in the first place?! That or seek professional help.)
Taken just 10 minutes after San Bruno Mountain caught fire in June 2008, from our front porch, NO ZOOM.
In other news, it turns out that sometimes good things do happen to good people (or OK people, as my case may be): This week is full of a very deadline-laden few days—before I take off on an assignment Friday, I have to write six blog posts for 7×7 on California travel, polish off a few pitches, pen a dive story for Frommer’s, oh and finish up the final two chapters (or 20 percent) of the guidebook that has been the bane of my existence since last May (to put things in perspective, it took me seven months to complete the remaining eight chapters…now I have to do two in less than a week?!)—and guess who was summoned for jury duty yesterday? That’d be me. (Technically, I was summoned for jury duty in November, but was in Barbados and had to push it back to January, not having any clue that I’d have so much work to finish after the holidays.) Guess who almost got up at the crack of dawn (that would be 6:30 for this self-employed gal) to head down to San Mateo to serve said duty? Guess who also, for once, was smart enough to read her instructions in entirety—key words, THE NIGHT BEFORE—and therefore who also checked online for the status of her group? Guess who was then told she did not have to “appear” but rather was “on call” and must phone (a friend) at 11am the following day to see if she was needed? Guess who was not, in fact, needed at all? Probably the same person who was supposed to spend all day, if granted immunity, meeting aforementioned deadlines but instead decided to watch last night’s episode of Gossip Girl then scour the world wide web for any possible spoilers on what might have happened between Blair and Uncle Jack. So I’m back to stress mode (which could explain why I’m “wasting” even more valuable work time blogging, yes?).
Me at my last court appearance, because I’m all about the visuals. (Finally got the result of that just days ago, by the way: GUILTY. Merry Christmas to me indeed.)
And one final final thing before I sign off—have you heard of Tweetyear, in which a single British lass takes on a different challenge every day for a full year (I guess she could be a he, but it sounds like a female thing to do, right?)? It’s very Danny Wallace in his amazing memoir, Yes Man (I don’t care if you’ve seen the movie, READ THE BOOK). So far, in the first six days of 2009, this has included eating a Big Mac in just four bites, learning the meaning to three new words, painting a self portrait, making an origami animal and learning “street speak.” Pure brilliance. And you can even add your suggestions to the mix via her Twitter or site (if you’re uncool like me and still have yet to Tweet-cave). (Thanks to my fair Canadian maiden, Sparkly to Single, for the linkage on that one!)