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Fire starters needed in California

Sometimes I really wonder about myself. My actions, sometimes, aren’t quite logical.
For instance, who would travel some 2,000 miles to sunny Southern California to visit a daughter (who caters to the culinary wishes of others) and her family at Christmas, check out the new kitchen (a dream come true for any wannabe chef) that took about nine months to complete, and then take over? How much sense does that make? Not much, folks.
So we must return soon, to taste the treats she whips up, not my own worn-out version of chocolate chips, for heaven’s sake. I asked her, whining: ‘Vickie, why did you let me bake all that stuff? There wasn’t room for any of your Christmas specials.’
‘You’re my mother,’ she replied, eyes demurely downcast. ‘I’m not about to tell you what to do.’
Yeah, right! That girl’s always racking up the points.
Anyway, we also need to go back out there because son-in-law Stu went out and bought a new chiminae to replace the one he and Virgil ‘broke in’ on Christmas Eve. It’s on the McDougals’ patio where all party-goers wind up when the house gets full. Huh? you ask. Christmas in Southern California shouldn’t need an outdoor fireplace. What’s going on here?
We arrived in Burbank a week before Christmas last year, and almost immediately the nights turned chilly.
Not only did we need a fireplace, those guys saw to it that we had two!
But picture this: We’ve got the one guy who builds a fireplace fire almost every night in winter, using mostly deadfall and/or ricks of split wood stacked neatly in the woodshed. He’s an old pro, right? Maybe so, but in California country, Virgil’s just the sous-chef of wood fires, especially chiminea wood fires.
When we arrived in California, Stuart already had a small, bowl-shaped fire pit, open at the top, that he used on the patio. But because neither he nor Virgil are hardly ever satisfied with the status quo, one of their first conversations centered on the great campfires we sometimes have at our house in Southern Indiana. And those great roaring fires in the living room fireplace in winter, where survival sometimes depends on such. With every new tale, Stu’s little old fire pit just didn’t fill the bill.
‘Hey, Stu,’ I overheard Virgil say, ‘There’s an outdoor fireplace called a chim-eh-nay-a, or something, I saw at Lowes the other day. It has a large bowl at the bottom where the wood goes. You can see the flames, and a chimney funnels the fumes and smoke out the top.’
‘That’s sounds like something we really need,’ Stu said.
So you know what happened next, don’t you? But, aside from the new acquisition, I must tell you that Virgil and Stu aren’t unlike any other men I know, or have known. They ignore written directions. The same way men refuse to stop for directions, these two refuse to read how to do something until they are stumped. I can understand that with Virgil, who doesn’t like to read, but with Stu ‘ a fellow who plans to earn his doctorate in computer geekery in the next couple of years ‘ you’d think he would be slave to the written word, or written instructions, anyway.

But as soon as they got that chiminea home, they hauled it to the patio, ripped open the box, threw in some wood at the bottom, sprayed some lighter fluid on top, and started a rip-roaring fire. While standing around it, admiring their handiwork and thinking ahead to the compliments they’d surely get from the gang at the Christmas Eve party, Stuart picked up the instructions and started to read, just to show he could, I think.
Virgil was thinking: Uh-hum. Me. Cave Man. Me. Good. Me. No have to read.

Yeah, you’re right. Stuart soon found out that the correct way to light a fire in a chiminea is to put a layer of gravel in the bottom, then some kindling, and then some wood. Start the fire slowly. Under no circumstances ever add kerosene or lighter fluid to the fire. Besides the possibility of a singed eyebrow … third-degree burns, etc.
So we heard yesterday from Vickie that Stu has a new chiminea. This one is terra cotta with a geometric Aztec design in white.
So Virgil the Caveman says, ‘Me needed. Help start fire.’
And Stu says, ‘Yeah. Bring some lighter fluid, will ya!’
Yep. We’ve gotta go back.