Burning the Midnight Oil and Then Some

A mere 24 hours after returning home, I had the car packed and ready to back out the driveway again. As you may have noticed, my life generally proceeds at a breakneck pace, and I love it that way.

Mark and I were soon on our way to the Texas gulf coast city of Corpus Christi to join our friends the Brothers of the Flame for some fire performances they were giving at a local festival called Bayfest that weekend. Strangely, I had been identified as a responsible adult by virtue of my pyrotechnics licensing, and came along to lend the air of authority that can only come from a woman sporting pink hair. That and I love all the Brothers and folks associated with them and knew I would really enjoy hanging out with them for an entire weekend, playing with fire.

After checking into our strange but perfectly adequate hotel rooms, we milled about the atrium balcony on our end of the corridor (we had a block of 4 rooms) formulating a plan to meet on top of the parking garage for late night urban light spinning. When we gathered atop our impromptu but just seedy enough urban stage, it was balmy and warm, seeing as how we were about a block from the ocean. Tony the DJ was doing his best to lay some good tunes on us from his laptop, but it was hard to compete with the nearby Country and Western bar that felt duty bound to broadcast their karaoke contestants' woeful entries to the immediate world. None of us stayed up too terribly late that night since it was essentially a school night.

Friday night, after dallying about the first half of the day, we headed on over to the festival site late in the afternoon to get everything ready for the evening's performances. While we were setting up, we were treated to the more than adequately amplified narrative provided by the dog and pony show next door. Literally. A dog and a couple of perfect little ponies led around by a teenager and her mom, both in a sparkly costumes. It might have been a bit daunting to compete with the likes of that, seeing as how we didn't have rhinestone cowgirl jackets and cute little animals, but we did have FIRE damn it. For most people, it's not really even a contest, so I wasn't really worried.
The first night of the festival was after work on a Friday evening, so we didn't know what kind of crowd to expect. The poor dogs and ponies only garnered a handful of folks, so I was relieved when our show began and people began to dart over in numbers, of course, moths to the eternal fiery flame. The boys took turns spinning individually for a few rounds each and then paired up in twos, threes and fours to wow the crowd with wall to wall spinning fire. I loved watching the audience and enjoyed the kids' reactions the most - they get so excited!
The boys performed two shows Friday night, both well attended with everything going smoothly. A number of us went out on an early morning foray to see if we could find something decent to eat afterwards, settling for Taco Cabana sometime around 1:30 a.m. I forget Corpus really is just a small town in many ways.

Saturday evening we arrived at the festival not long before dusk and after making sure everything was in a sufficient state of readiness, I grabbed my camera and set out for the midway to have some fun with light photography. I managed to get a few shots I like - check it out:

There were two more fires performances Saturday evening (the Brothers had also been wandering around the fair doing object manipulation shows with all sorts of fascinating nonfiery toys) and both shows went exceedingly well. There were much larger, more enthusiastic crowds which made it more fun for everyone. After each show, the Brothers sat on the front of the stage to meet folks from the audience and I loved watching the fans come up to ask questions and pose for pictures. There aren't many things more fun than being a rock star.

The Brothers: (clockwise from upper left): Vertigo/Manny; Janus/Chris; Mystik/Matt; Raven/Derek; Wulff/Greg; two adorable unidentified children and finally Sy-Clone/Carlos at the bottom left.

After stowing all the equipment for the night, we returned to the hotel and ordered some pizza to avoid the previous evening's food finding fiasco. I wolfed down a couple of slices and returned to my room to take a shower and put on my nightie. Not long after I had put on my robe and was about ready to peel back the sheets and get in bed, a polite knock sounded on the door. It was around 12:30 in the morning, but we had all been up running back and forth to each other's rooms all evening. It was Manny, the Brothers' organizational, nominal and most importantly spiritual leader. "Hey, we're getting ready to drive out to the beach and spin some steel wool and LEDs and fire. Wanna come with?"

If I had been in a Shakespeare play, this is where I would have presented a long clever soliloquy on the great sorrows of fading youth pitted against the folly of yielding to exhaustion. At least that's what happened in my head in really really fast motion. I had to decide on the spot if I was going to heed the siren song of the soft sheets or if I was going to put my dirty boots back on and go out to the beach and light some shit on fire. I'm pretty sure everyone can guess what I picked.

The first order of business once we reached a nice quiet stretch of Padre Island was for Manny, Derek and me to spin some steel wool. Now what I mean by that is taking a little metal cage, filling it with steel wool (just like you'd use to scrub a pot) and then using a small torch to light the wad of steel on fire (easier than you'd think) so when you spin it around at the end of a chain it makes a gigantenormous sparkler. Manny and Derek used pairs of cages on short chains to spin the steel wool much like poi in two tight parallel circles close to the body. I used a single cage with a much longer chain, allowing me to helicopter a huge dome of sparks over my head. That's Derek on the left and me on the right. (Thanks for taking pictures, Karen!).

After we were done with the steel wool (it's rather cumbersome to set up and dangerous to be near, so it doesn't tend to go on too long) the LED light toys came out and I ran to get my camera and tripod. I've been experimenting with light painting recently and to have all these really good spinners, spin in complete darkness in a group, was like spotting a rare wild animal. It was so beautiful to watch as Matt, Chris and Derek filled the void with moving color that I kept forgetting to click the shutter.

The LEDs were really beautiful and all, but there's only so long I'm able to go without fire, and eventually several of us coaxed Chris and Derek into spinning fire on the beach at the water's edge. I had been sitting down, beginning to lose the wind under my sails when it dawned on me what was about to happen - the way that fire was going to make the sand and the water look made me excited enough to leap up and run to set up my camera. I really, really love some of the images that came out of the shoot. The texture of the water, the shape of the sand, the blood colored palette - I literally moaned allowed as the boys spun and I clicked off picture after picture. Here are a few of my favorites:

We finally gave up the ghost around 5:00 a.m. and headed back to the hotel. Mark had wisely/foolishly stayed behind to sit in bed and drink cocktails and watch zombie movies, and hadn't been sleeping long when I tried to slip quietly under the covers. "What time is it?" he croaked. "It's better if I don't tell you" I whispered. I know from experience that being aware of what time it is only makes it worse.

We had to check out of the hotel by 11:00 Sunday morning, so Mark and I rallied ourselves and had the car packed and ready to go before the deadline. We said our fond goodbyes to the few others that were slowly stirring at that hour and headed on back up the interstate to Austin.

We arrived home by early afternoon and unpacked the stuff that might come back to haunt us if we waited too long. By then, I thought a rare nap might be a good idea since I was feeling a little rough around the edges. I lay down under the fan, enjoying the cool refreshing breeze. That was about 4:00PM. The next thing I remember was Mark waking me up around 8:30PM to see if I was ready to get up for a bit, and all I did was roll over and go back to sleep. I didn't wake up again until 6:30AM Monday morning. If you don't know, me sleeping for that long a stretch is an extreme rarity. I guess I just can't burn the midnight steel wool like I used to!

All in all it was a splendid weekend with lots of great time spent getting to know each other and doing what we all pretty much like best: playing with fire. I feel lucky for Mark and I to have been so graciously included and will say, just one more time, my what an amazing life I have.

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