One Bic lighter? Check. One dry tissue? Check. One soul to squeeze? Check.

My time living in central Pennsylvania was short, but well spent. 16 years of living in New Jersey had left me an arrogant and materialistic person. It was in the middle of Pennsylvania that I really grew up and it was there that I grew to develop the same set of principles that have matured and developed into the code I live my life by. I came to terms with who I am and what really matters to me in the pitch black nights of rural America.

The move from Jersey didn't phase me initially. In fact, I was looking forward to it. Sure, I would be leaving the only true friends I knew at the time, but I fancied myself quite a sociable person. It was never really hard for me to talk to strangers on subways or walking around on the streets. I figured PA couldn't be that different from Jersey, after all it was only twenty minutes away. Needless to say, the Pennsylvania I was moving to was far different from the dreary suburbs I had called "Philly" my entire life. It was a different world.

In this world, cops didn't exist. Neither did people of color. Cities were hundreds of miles apart, and the tiny villages that lay somewhere between them were quaint and rural. The distant skyline that was visible outside of my window was replaced by a looming mountain in the backdrop of an apple orchard. A few weeks after the move, a doctor in the hospital my mom worked at told me a little joke that summed up my culture shock quite nicely. It was something like "Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh in the west, Philadelphia in the east and Alabama in the middle". There is more truth to this than you would believe.

Environmental changes aside, other things changed in our lifestyle. The trusty Subaru and Sentra were gone. My sister drove a Benz of her own, though it wasn't as nice as my mom's. HD TV's started to arrive in sizes I'd never even heard of before. Yet all of a sudden, none of that interested me. I simply wanted my independence. I found it in a secluded corner of our 3 acre backyard.

I started fires. In the beginning it was difficult. I tried to burn live wood, and when that didn't work I would simply drown our makeshift "fire pit" in lighter fluid. Over time though, I grew to become an expert. 10 or 15 minutes of preparation would yield massive flames all perpetuated naturally. I would brag to my friends and family that all I needed to start a fire was a lighter, a dry tissue and 10 minutes. Spotting firewood became an instinct. I knew which wood would burn the fastest, the hottest, and the longest. I would craft the flames by setting up the firewood in a certain way. I could make large vertical flames that would tower above your head by using lots of kindling and medium sized logs piled as high as I could, or create smaller rings of fire that would last all night by using large logs and setting them up in circles so the combined heat would keep them all going. Yet more than just a means of impressing family and visiting friends, starting fires became a cathartic process for me.

When I rolled my first car at the age of 16 and almost killed myself and my brother in-law, I spiraled into depression. Things became real too quickly. It was outside by a fire that I came to terms with what I had done. When drugs threatened to take over my life, the flames brought me back to the real world. It was outside by a fire that I dealt with death, life, loss and change. Something about bright orange flames licking and devouring massive pieces of wood comforted me. It made me realize that I too would someday die, and thus put everything in perspective for me. It's easier to come to terms with almost any kind of change when you think about the bigger picture.

I haven't started a fire in months; county laws forbid such unsafe practices in urbanized South Florida. Yet it doesn't bother me, I have moved on. I'm finally on my own, and I'm living my life to the fullest. It's difficult for me to describe how happy I am. There are still days when I miss being the only person around for miles, sitting at the edge of a towering flame, enjoying the night with no one but your thoughts for company. Don't get me wrong, I have no desire to return to central PA. Yet I know I will return, one day, perhaps when the house next to the apple orchard belongs to me, and I'll think back to those first couple of times when I sat beside a warm fire with good friends and close family, and I'll wish I was 17 again.


I had a friend who hoax emailed an Australian shock jock recently, and ended up being investigated by the police and then fired from his job as a result. I'll use the names Brent - for the hoaxer, and Smitty - for the shock jock. As this issue might still be sensitive to both parties.

The hoax started after shock jock Smitty jumped on (and even lead) the media bashing band-wagon of controversial artist Bill Henson. Over Henson's questionable photographs of children. Afterwards, Brent sent an email to Smitty saying he had found more disgusting photographs of nude children, and attached a link to Smitty's own website, where he had posted photographs of his kids in the bath. The issue is that the point, whatever it was, was satirical, and thereby mocked and provoked Smitty into just about making physical and non-physical threats to my friend. Though they weren't taken seriously. One threat was to knock Brent's block off and also that he'd never find work in the media again.

In the mess that followed, Brent was accused of threatening Smitty and his family, and the police became involved though no charges were laid. Whether or not this is true was for the police to decide and again, no charges were laid so it seems clear that no actual threats were made by Brent. In any case, Smitty found or chose to find these emails insulting and threatening, yet at the same time shock jocks are themselves very insulting and threatening characters. Though to any rational person, would not be taken to heart, as it is just a show.

From my point of view, it was clear from the beginning Smitty was going to over-react, as that is his nature and the reason he is a successful shock jock. However, there does seem to be some double standards when it comes to personal hoax emails - that are so ridiculous, to take them seriously would be by my account ridiculous in itself - and radio shock jock personalities. This may be just a celebrity vs common man issue, or one where different mediums are just taken differently.

The consequences of the hoax were that Brent was fired and found it difficult to find a job (partly due to the economic crisis) but possibly also as a result of Smitty's will.

In any case, while I am biased, as a friend was involved, I found Smitty's reaction contrived and malicious.

Originally posted as Oppositional Defiant
And moved to Node Heaven

And they have been playing phone tag for a week
Planning lunch
He's quick on the phone
And fuck it anyhow, she doesn't care at this point
He says
"Wear something casual."
She doesn't snarl out loud
Picks the second level black leather jacket
Not the really scarey one
and tries the purple glitter cotton micro mini
But she has to do the math teaching
After lunch
Doesn't feel quite right
Black velvet tank
Black brushed cotton mini
Short, not clingy
Doesn't wear much fucking makeup
Just eyeliner
And lipstick
Tired of people
Telling her
What they fucking think
She should fucking do
Or be
And the website
Can't they take a fucking joke?
It's the wrong month to get in her face
Gosh, be yourself
What a fucking lie
They are on her tail
Like a fucking cop
She chooses the white cream lace thigh highs
Flat sandals
Meets him
He gives her a flower
That has some class
Lunch is ok
He is fussy and sends food back
Though her plate is better
But if he can cook
As claimed
She damn well thinks he should know
That mussels are fucking tricky
She was nearly late
Because she talked to the shrink
Perspicacious, he pisses her off
Asking what she's doing with all the energy
That used to be burned off
She wants to snarl at him too
And that other guy
With the tandem
Took her riding
(On the tandem)
Offered to loan her bicycle clothes
Fucking penile assumptions
She has fucking bicycle clothes
And has for 25 years
Jaysus fucking christ
And the lunch guy
Was using that technique
Make the girlie happy
By asking her a lot of questions
She learned that from the last dude
He fucking learned it at Rutgers
And told her 4 months into the
Fucking Relationship
She slammed her guard down
Just like the airlocks on the Enterprise
She was silent for about
Ten fucking minutes
He'd tried to jump through
As the doors fucking closed
Too late, honey
Airlocks closed
Open vents
So the lunch guy
She turns the questions
Back on him
He compliments her blue eyes
But realizes his fucking mistake
And talks about the genetics
And asks
About the work politics
She answers with
Fucking psychiatric theory
And he doesn't scoff
Pretty quick on his feet
But when he walks her to her car
He tells her to put the flower in water
Like she fucking has a vase stored ready
In the fucking car
She points out that she cracked the windows
To give it air
While she thinks

Teach your grandmother
To suck eggs

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