Saturday, August 4, 2012

Musings at the New Firepit

photos: The Old Firepit, with raging inferno, and The New Firepit, with distinct and subtle flame.

This is one of those blog moments where everything is sorta connected to everything else, maybe yet another minor epiphany, but here it goes:

So, moments after I (hopefully) solved my summer-long pool leak issue, my firepit finally fell apart the other day, which will happen to even a terracotta/ceramic firepit if you use it practically every day, all year, for about seven years.  Luckily the wood wouldn't catch on fire, no matter how hard I tried, with paper, or cardboard, or kindling, or anything, because it was so humid and wet out.  I used a stick to move some wood around in it, and one piece just falls off.  I put it back (it's not hot, because nothing would catch) and another piece suddenly goes, plus the original again.  And then another.  So I throw my water (yes, I just had water) on the wood, to make sure it wouldn't catch, because with my luck, it finally would have, overnight in a shattered firepit while I'm not watching it.  And the next day I decided to buy another one.

Now, in case you haven't noticed, firepits are a very, very important part of my summer (and fall, and winter, and....)  Sitting at one just chills me out, and if you know me, you know I'm not often chilled out.  It's one of the only things that relaxes me.  So buying a new firepit is, seriously, more important to me than buying next year's professional wardrobe, because I care more about my firepit than I do about what I'm wearing.  (You can see from my pic at NYC's Cleopatra's Needle that cool-looking buttoned shirts are not relevant to me.  I'll pause here so you can look at that pic, to the right of this page, and then come back.)  I give myself a few hours to buy another one, and I'm hoping beyond hope that I can go to the place I bought the one that broke, and just get another one exactly like that.  (If you know me, this is not a shocker.  I have the same philosophy about clothing stores and restaurants.)

Well, that didn't happen, because it's (sadly) practically the end of the summer, and that make and model was about seven years old.  So first I went to the Salk's/Ace Hardware, where I buy practically everything backyard or tool related, and they don't have any firepits at all.  Next I went to Benny's, nearby, but they had some really shoddy-looking ones (which even the salesman was honest enough to say I shouldn't buy) and a really nice one for $150, and the things in between weren't the snazziest.  I keep the $150 one in mind, because it was huge, bowl-shaped and deep like my last one, and went to Ann & Hope Outlet.  They had just one firepit, one that I couldn't decide if it was cool or schticky, as it was huge, monstrous, and you could cook on it, but it was $180, and it had fall leaf cutouts all around it, so the flames would flicker and dance, which would either be really cool, always, or which would get old very, very fast.  I didn't feel like spending $180 to find out.  So I went to Lowe's, and they had an okay selection, except everything was metal, which will rust quickly.  Metal stands and lids will start to rust after just one season.  So a whole lotta metal equals a whole lotta rust.

But I realize that this is probably it, unless I also feel like hitting the Home Depot, which I didn't, and an older couple came by, and in our convos they said they'd been there, and it didn't have anything.  "Did they have anything terracotta or ceramic?" I asked with excitement.  No.  So this was it.  I didn't like the $59 one, because it looked flimsy, and things that are too cheap worry me a little.  I also didn't like their very expensive ones, as they were all metal, all the time.  So the couple and I decide together (this was an odd group decision) that this $80 sort of flat one was the best choice.  It's very shallow and very small compared to what I'm used to, but I felt a life-transition come on, so I bravely went with it.

I get home and put the thing together.  The directions say it should take fifteen minutes, but it takes me about 45 minutes, because I'm like that.  Mostly this was due to the directions saying at one point to attach the bolts, but not to fasten them yet, and so I did that but the pieces kept unattaching, so I finally rebelled and fastened the damn things when I wanted to, and it was smooth-sailing after that.  I actually felt very proud of myself for putting the thing together, though I realize that it was super-simple to do, as self-assembly goes, and anyone who works with his hands for a living at all would've shaken his head at me.  (I pictured Robert Shaw saying to me, "You've got city hands, Hooper!  You've been countin' money all yer life!")  Maybe so, but it's been all coins, mostly dimes and pennies, I assure you.

So I take the thing for a ride that night, of course, though it was hot and humid and about 82.  It has this small space beneath the grate--this area is too small to be able to use the grate to cook something on--that you put your paper or kindling.  I did that.  Then the rest of the square- and bowl-shaped area you put the wood.  But as it's much smaller than what I'm used to, there's actually just room for large pieces of what I had been using as kindling, stuff that in my other firepit would've burned out in a couple of minutes.  In this one, though, this stuff lasted forever, so the amount of stuff which would've been five minutes of kindling in the other one was about an hour of the real stuff in this one.

Now here's the big reveal: I realized that less is maybe more here, and though I did not stick with my norm, this firepit will let me burn less in more time.  Plus, I can see all the wood that's burning (the other one was so deep that wood got buried, never to be seen again) and I can hear it better.  Instead of a roaring inferno, it was a quieter crackling.  More soothing.  More relaxing--which, if you remember, is the entire goal here, to relax me.  It also lit the area better, since more light got out because it was much more shallow.  (Though I'm not saying here that shallow is better.  Learned that wasn't the case in high school; proved it with my shallow attitudes and shallow girlfriends in my 20s.)  I furthermore took this a step further and realized that I (again) need to slow it all down.  I don't need a huge bonfire every night in my backyard, which used up more wood, which burned more quickly, which caused me to use more wood and round and round we go.

Slow it down.  Don't burn through everything (and everyone) so quickly.  Take it easy; take it slow.  Relax.

So while I was musing all this, and relaxing more, I had another epiphany:

Someone should invent another cable movie channel, but this one will show only movies with the director's/star's commentary on it.  (I hereby send notice that I am copyrighting this idea.  Where's the c in the circle thing???  Well, consider the idea Copyright 2012 Steven E. Belanger.)  Anyway, am I the only one who loves the commentary on the DVD?  I won't even buy a DVD if the commentary isn't there.  In the last two days I watched/listened to the commentaries on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, the director) and on Easy A (Emma Stone, the star, and Will Gluck, the director).  Love those things!

So if anyone starts a movie channel with just movies with DVD commentary, I want my credit, and my cut.


  1. You have inspired me to eventually buy my own backyard fire pit. We used to have bon fires out at a campground at the edge of town, but they were rowdy and big, I think a small fire pit for a nice relaxing evening sounds idyllic.

    Also, commentaries ROCK. Special features rock period. I love watching the theatrical trailers before I start the movie, which drives my boyfriend crazy most times. DVDs are amazing for this reason alone. Don't watch much TV, but your channel idea is superb. Before long, I'm sure there will be some sort of option you can select when you turn to a channel if you want the commentary or not. Like on On Demand or something. I can see that happening soon. already has tons of extra snip-its from TV shows - cast interviews and whatnot. I'm very happy that TV (okay, internet TV) is going in this direction :-)

    1. Glad to be an inspiration! I don't know what it says about me, but I find fires relaxing. Good thing it brings on a laid back reaction instead of something more powerful! And I love watching movie trailers before the main movie at the theater. (A little less so when I'm renting something.) Often the trailers are the best part of the movie anyway. And I'm glad someone else likes commentaries out there--I don't want to be the only movie nerd around here! Wasn't that idea a good one? My new firepit has been productive and useful already!

  2. Steve, this is your best blog yet. I loved every word!!

    You know I'm a movie lover so it should come as no surprise to you that I LOVE dvd commentaries! In fact there are a few movies where I've listened to the commentary several times. I've always been fascinated by the process of movie making from inception, to pre-production, filming, editing/post production, sound design, etc. For me watching a film goes way beyond just sitting in front of the tv and watching a plot unfold. I am proud to say I've spent many Saturday mornings just drinking coffee and listening to movie commentaries..and I have a blast. So I think your cable channel idea is neat and I'd subscribe in a heartbeat.

    I'm a city girl so I don't come across many fire pits around these parts, but I've come to appreciate the beauty and relaxation from watching flames dance around and crackle before my eyes. It's quite soothing and therapeutic I might add. Your new one seems a little more compact and subtle as you say, but I think it will do the job of keeping you chilled...and save on wood in the process. I understand you wanting to buy the same exact one, but sometimes a little change is good and it goes a long way!

    ps--loved the "Jaws" quote! The dialogue in that movie (as well as The Dark Knight) can be used so often for day-to-day life musings.

    pps--buying clothes is seriously overrated and this is coming from a woman. If I had to choose between getting new shoes or a new blu-ray player well that's just a no brainer! I'll walk around barefoot listening to my commentaries.

    1. Thanks for the compliments, Dianne. Happy to see from you and Emma that I'm not the only movie nerd around this blog! I too think they're fascinating. From my experience, the best commentaries are done by directors, specifically Edward Zwick and Oliver Stone. They're both very well-spoken, very intelligent and very good at explaining things. I'd buy anything they've ever directed (even Stone's Alexander!) just for their director commentaries.

      Firepits are very, very relaxing. I can't stand when I see one in someone's backyard that's clearly there just for decoration. And, believe it or not, I've never watched a Blu-ray before. All DVDs, all the time.

    2. I don't consider myself a movie nerd; more like a film fanatic or movie buff (same difference I guess). Definitely the best commentaries are done by directors: my two favorites are James Cameron and Joel Schumacher. One of the worst commentators is Robert Zemeckis. He is a brilliant director, but he is quite dull at talking about his own films! Oliver Stone is usually amazing, but he kind of dropped the ball on "Savages" as far as directing...and I own both a blu-ray and DVD player. Nine times out of ten I use the DVD player too. I find blu-ray images to be too perfect. It takes away the grittiness from film.

      Well, of course it's not expected you would know the code for copyright, but that's why we have Google!

  3. Oh and one more thing...the copyright symbol can be made by hold the Alt key and typing 0169 at the same time.

    1. Thanks for the info., Diane. But who in their right mind would know or remember to type that? Why not make it a keyboard option somewhere? I noticed recently that even my old phone has the option on the symbol menu for texting.

  4. While you're musing, perhaps perception is at question here, too. Could it be that the fire pit is not shallow but frugal? Capacity enough to only use what you need and the result is a detailed, simplistic product that you truly enjoy.

    I did enjoy this new found philosophy of yours!

    1. Namzola, interesting point. You might be right; my firepit is a firm believer in utilitarianism: it only uses what it needs, and does so with temperance and brilliance. Slow and easy, with style and elegance.

      If only I could be as awesome as my firepit!

      Thanks for the accolades of my philosophy. The key here is, of course, consistency, which is not what I do best. But here's to hoping I can start right now.