Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Mini-Tale of Semi Urban Survival

On January 11, I performed my annual birthday ritual of running one lap for each year, and recalling the details of each year as I ran. After I was done, and after I took a remarkably hot “memory bath” outdoors, and after rubbing my body with Peuvian mint leaves, I met with Urban Nature Girl Helen at Whole Foods in Pasadena to share a light birthday lunch.

Helen’s schedule only permitted her a brief time in the early afternoon, so we met and ordered our soba noodle soup. We also purchased some juice, and a small raspberry cake that we’d split.

My legs and hip were still buzzing from the 57 years of memories, and I was in relaxation mode as we sat for our noodles. We talked about my run, and my memories.

Then it was time for our cake. I was about to cut it when Helen informed me that it was “essential” to blow out a candle, even a small one. She found a little twig to use as the “candle,” and she told me to go ahead and light it so I could blow it out. I had my magnesium fire starter with me on my keychain, but it didn’t seem appropriate to use that inside Whole Foods. I asked her if she had a Bic or matches in her purse. She didn’t. I had very little with me since I had been running. I went out to my car to find matches or a lighter, but didn’t have either. My excuse was that this was not the car where I kept much gear. I then searched my pack to find matches or a Bic. Nothing. I know this seems hard to believe, but I couldn’t even find a knife!

I went back in and told Helen not to bother, that we’ll just have the cake without a candle. She just gave me that look, which meant that we would have a candle. She got up and said she’d find a candle and matches. When she came back, she had neither a candle, nor matches, nor a lighter, since this “green” store sold none of these essentials for life. But she did come back with a pack of incense sticks. She told me to go ahead and light an incense stick, and keep the flame going long enough to blow it out.

Ok, yes, but I still only had my magnesium fire starter and no knife.

“You don’t have a knife?” she chided. “You’re supposed to be some sort of survival guy,” she said, as we both laughed. “Don’t tell me that you can’t make a fire.”

So, I pulled out my little P39 can-opener from my key chain and used it to laboriously scrape my magnesium to get a tiny pile of shavings. It took maybe five minutes to get even a small pile of shavings, which we then bunched up into a small piece of a napkin. Then I practiced sparking the sparker on the magnesium tool with my little can opener, which wasn’t easy, but if I held everything just right, I was able to produce some sparks.

“OK, ready?” I asked Helen. She held the napkin and the incense stick as I carefully scraped the striker with my P39, and the napkin lit, and she quickly lit the incense stick and stuck it into the top of the cake. She even managed to click a photo before I blew out the “candle,” which meant I will get my wish that the world will not end in 2012 and all my goals will be achieved.

We ate the little raspberry cake, laughing about how long it took to get that fire. And no one at Whole Foods even seemed to notice our little drama since we were over in one corner of the store.

And yes, it did feel better to make that little fire in such an unexpected place and unexpected time, rather than to slink home hanging my head in shame.


John Wheeler said...

Argh, don't they say that if you tell what your birthday wish is, it won't come true?

Survivalism is more about adapting to what is available than always being prepared, which you demonstrated quite well.

izzit said...

It is better to know how to cope without them, of course, but I have seen some 'pretty cool' keychain accessories lately - like mini-lighters (the size of a chapstick tube) and LED lights smaller thn a library pencil. I would like to see the knowledgeable people have these as well... it's amazing what would fit in an Altoids kit nowadays.