The Bonfire

Another block party has come and gone in my neighborhood, although it's actually held in a field behind the backyards of our block. The focal point is a moderate sized bonfire about 30 feet from the alley which cuts through the block and has no outlet. I'm always drawn to the mesmerizing flames of the fire. Entire conversations can be held without ever looking away. The site is somewhat private except that over half of the partiers are from other parts of town. All are welcome, just bring some food.

This is our tenth year in the neighborhood and the gathering has no official name. Its been called the chili cookoff, the "bonfire", the chili party and one year flyers were sent out with something like The Fall East End Enclave Assemblage or something fancy like that. We all know what it is. Its a lot of fun.

A couple of garages half way down the alley serve as food stations. One has a table full of crock pots plugged into power cords and all lined up with chili, soups, sauerkraut and kelbasi, and other good stuff in them. The other side is lined with desserts and casserole dishes and there is never enough room for everything so it gets piled up wherever it will fit. There is cold beer for the drinking adults or BYOB, and soda for the kiddies. The other garage is where the older folks gather. Most of the visitants gather around the bonfire which is surrounded by benches and lawn chairs. Moose brought a cord of wood and stated one rule, "If you get cold, throw another log on the fire."

The younger kids like to play spotlight; tag with a flashlight. The older ones are fueling growth spurts. The adults are just glad to be there. Time to get caught up on everybody's business. I made three trips to the food garage and then wandered into the other garage since there was close to 75 people around the fire. There were three thermoses of coffee on a table cloth covered table with white styrofoam cups, nice and neat. I asked which one was the high-test since Decaf coffee to me is like non-alcoholic beer, what's the point? They were all regular coffee. The deer bologne and kraut, among other tasty delights had left me parched. That coffee really hit the spot. I was given a chair with a cushion and sat down with my favorite older neighbor, who is friends with my dad, and one of his closest friends and we chewed the fat until ten o'clock.

I usually end up sitting around the fire until the wee hours but I was beat. I was up before six (on a Saturday!) to get my son off to a cross country invitational which I drove to a couple hours later. We didn't get home until mid afternoon. I ran a few miles myself. I did some work around the house until the party got underway at dusk. My wife made our chili. I was all set to make a killer hot batch with some habanaro peppers that I got from a guy at work. He was trying to sucker someone into eating one as had happened to him the year before. I cut one up and put it on a sandwich. He was grinning like a demon as I chewed a couple of bites. I said, "ya, those are pretty hot."

My mouth was burning very bad but I stayed cool as could be. I've had a lot of hot stuff before but never anything like this. It was "Oh-my-God-HOT". I finished the sandwich since the damage was already done. I licked below my lower lip without thinking and even that burned for over an hour. I think if you ate a habanero a day you would never be sick. The neighbors will have to wait until next year though for that. I was home and in bed by midnight. I could still hear the occasional peals of laughter from the fireside before I fell asleep.