Wednesday, March 03, 2004


Feet of Flame

I've noticed a funny thing about firewalkers in general: if you're going down a street, any street, you'll never be able to point to this person or that and say with any conviction: this individual is a firewalker. You simply can't pick a firewalker out of any crowd. This basic truth was very forcibly driven home to me as I stood there studying the surprisingly large number and wide diversity of the folks who filled the long and steadily extending lines of imminent firewalkers. But oddly enough, all of them had rolled up their low dresses and pants legs to protect them from the heat, while leaving their feet unchanged!

Of course there's the spiritual purification aspect involved in all this, but if you held my feet to the fire I could very quickly think of several dozen more agreeable ways of getting pure. This need to voluntarily subject oneself to a technique highly favored by torturers throughout history escapes me completely, much as wealth does. The firewalking folks that were lining up as if for free ice cream were young old, male female, all walks of life, tall short, heavy light, healthy unhealthy, in suits dresses jeans, all forthrightly queueing to walk through the fire, even very senior citizens, who were doubly brave in not being able to walk fast, lightly or with any certainty in one direction; who in fact were in danger of spiraling into ash. But on they went.

I could only conclude that there's simply nothing that sets your run-of-the-mill firewalker apart from other folks, except a certain unknowable quality hidden deep within that surfaces only when there's a very large bed of hot coals nearby in the open air, which for some reason (perhaps stemming from an experience in early childhood, maybe it's genetic), brings on a craving to place the extremely sensitive soles of one's feet into extended contact with a very effective and renowned pain-causing phenomenon.

You can therefore imagine my surprise when Echo came out of the closet and said: "I'm going to firewalk," and I realized that I was married to a latent firewalker; even more worrying, that perhaps to her I was a form of fire. Suddenly I was much more of a foreigner than I'd thought.

When Echo went to get her firewalking parchment, though, they told her that the parchments had all been used up; as every year, there were way more firewalkers than parchments. A fire can only scorch so many feet, after all. Shortly afterward, however, there was an announcement that a few more parchments had been found somewhere (probably on some firewalking parchment scalper), which announcement caused a small riot near the parchment stand when all the wannabe footburners swarmed to get parchments. Echo, having been strategically located as a result of her previous attempt, was one of the lucky few to get one; only about a dozen or so were available.

So Echo got in the long fire line and I waited in the perfect location with my camera so as to be sure not to miss the second key shot of the day, events regarding which, and overall closure of this warm event, will be related in Part V.