Sunday, January 3, 2010

Your New Year's Firesmith

My friend in Nebraska will laugh at my shivering in the 25 degree cold of Sough Georgia but it just doesn’t get cold enough often enough for me to get used to it, and frankly, I have no intentions of trying. I went out in it this morning to work on building the shed, but it was just too damn cold. Instead, I built a fire, and even that was a struggle. Most of the stuff I could use in a fire is wet. The first ten matches went out because my hands were shaking. I finally got a small pile of leaves going, thanks to the Loki Mutt, who had chewed a plastic container of lighter fluid up on the spot.
There’s a couple of rotted logs that can be burned, lots of Spanish moss blown down by the rain, and leaves, too. There are smaller limbs to be burned, and if my arm can take it, an old tree down on the old fenceline. The small fire turns into a less than small fire and it struggles for life in the cold. This isn’t a good morning to build a fire, but I have to get into the cold to get away from being so cold inside the house, if that makes sense. Back in 2004, or maybe it was 2005, the old shed I had was invaded by flood waters, and the… okay, I’m at a loss as to what to call this thing. I guess I should explain what it was intended for, and who made it.
During the seventies everyone, and by everyone I mean everyone I knew, had a turntable. We all had the same music, more or less, and that was what defined us as a group. The turntable was usually connected to two or four speakers, maybe an equalizer, and the whole set of electronic stuff was put on some sort of bookshelf arrangement along with some shelves for the album collection everyone had during that time. A friend of mine had what was likely the greatest collection of what is now know as Classic Rock, and to his, and everyone else’s surprise, his father built a wooden box with shelves in it for his son’s stereo. That’s what we called it back then, “a stereo” or a “ hi-fi”. It was a well built box with shelves, but it was poorly designed. The box was far too deep, and most of the shelf space was wasted because no one was going to push anything that far back on a shelf. It was always one of my favorite pieces of furniture, though, and when my friend offered it to give it to me back in 1997, I took it.
It was a dreadfully heavy thing, and I soon discovered the deep shelving was a problem. Abbi Gale the Cat from Hell loved it, but a hundred pound cat container isn’t very practical. I put it in the shed when I moved to Hickory Head, and the flood waters got to it. When the tree fell on the shed the massive piece of furniture got wet, and I didn’t realize it until it was too late. The back of it rotted, and the bottom began to crumble. This morning I threw it on the slow fire, and as the flames finally began to feed, I realized the nature of the beast.
I always thought this ting was solid wood, Oak, or maybe even Cherry, but it wasn’t. As the flames eat the lacquered surface and dug deep into the bones, I saw some of the spacers and shelving were particle board. The top was made of this same cheap material, and I had never realized it. I would have questioned the workmanship of just about anyone else on earth, but this was made by someone’s father, back during the time no one ever questioned anyone’s parents. The Fallacy of Adult Infallibility still lives within me, and it was surprising to have it brought out by fire. As the flames began erasing part of my past in ill smelling smoke and false heat, I wondered how long I had gone not seeing this for what it truly was.

But this was all part of that time period. In South Georgia, every person over the age of twenty-one was according the titular position of adult regardless of their flaws. By the mere virtue of living two decades plus a year, all children were to assume to you knew what the hell you were doing and saying. Even as teenagers we just assumed the things out parents did were right, or at least well intentioned. Poor designed and substandard materials were not so much as suspected.

We did our share of doubting the wisdom of our parents. We thought them obtuse Luddites who knew nothingt of fun, or sex, or music, and we invented it all from the ground up. We rolled our eyes at their preaching of the future, and assumed they were always old, always set in their ways, and they had never lived as we would one day, when the future was delivered to us, by sheer will alone. Over thirty years ago I marveled at a piece of furniture that now lies in ash, as if it had never existed at all. Most of my past is like that, and there is very little to show of it but moments of warmth, brief and fleeting, and then the remains to be sifted through, to keep some hidden peril from being trodden upon. The music has long since stopped playing, at least as it once did, and all we ever thought would come to past has not. The old ones are now dead, or dying, and we are left with the world to deal with in our own time, and those who come up behind us, won’t even have the fallacies we had, to guide them on their way.

Take Care,
Mike

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