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How Not to Eat Fire:

  Memoirs of a Reluctant Sideshow Performer  

By Ukulele Loki



Fire is hot. Fire is hot enough to turn raw meat into food. We call this process cooking. Meat is dead muscle. We are made of muscle. As mostly muscle, we instinctively avoid coming in contact with fire. Because we know instinctively that when live muscle comes in contact with fire, pain is associated. We call this process burning.

I was reminded of these facts in a very dramatic way tonight. I was also reminded that fire was not intended to be orally inserted. I think you can see where this is going. The basic understanding of these principles of fire is the primary reason people respond with such awe to the fire eating arts. And, as emcee for Colorado's only working sideshow, I've witnessed this response first hand. It's usually a mixture of horror and awe -- with a few parts surprise, confusion and delight thrown in for good measure.

Now, people who work in restaurants that specialize in delicacies often forget that such delicacies are special. I've been surrounded by fire-eaters for so long, I guess I sort of forgot to appreciate the product. "Sure," I thought, "I can try fire eating." After all, I've read about it. I've even been showed a thing or two on the topic by my good friend and colleague, Crispy -- undoubtedly Colorado's most skilled fire-eater. Why not give it a try? So, I tried. Going through the basic routine as outlined by wizened experts, I snuffed a lit torch in my mouth. And, I actually snuffed it. Wow! It made my body shudder in an ecstatic paroxysm, but I snuffed it.

The next night, during a lull in our street show, I tried again and, again, I succeeded. At this point, a couple of girls came over to observe what we were doing. I was so pleased with myself I completely forgot that I was in the process of LEARNING to eat fire and simply placed a hot, flaming torch in my mouth. Naturally, I burned the entire inside of my mouth in an instant. To make matters worse, my body received the signal that I had burned the entire inside of my mouth just an instant before the signal reached my brain and I gasped. In other words, I breathed in. Breathing in with a lit torch in your mouth is what you never, ever do. Fortunately, and by some stroke of tremendous luck, the little bit of training I had received kicked in and forced me to extinguish the torch before I gasped. Otherwise my throat and lungs would have been licked by a tremendous and hot flame. Instead, my throat and lungs were licked by a toxic mixture of kerosene, carbon monoxide, and sooty vapor.

I smiled at the girls as though I were pleased with the result and turned to where Crispy was preparing a torch. "Crispy," I whispered, "I think I burned myself."

-- "Yeah, “ Crispy replied, “that happens."

-- "No but Crispy, I think I burned myself."

Crispy looked up and, with the slow, and private gaze that is his trademark, he paused long enough to light a cigarette. He calmly exhaled his own mixture of carbon monoxide and sooty vapor. "Yeah. That happens."

At this point, the light bulb clicked on with a resounding: "ah-ha!" See, I was never one to practice feats of strength and physical endurance. I was always given over to verbal acrobatics. In layman's terms, I've never been a daredevil. I've always been a smartass. I decided then and there that I should stick to what I'm good at. I'll do the talking and leave the maniacal pyrotechnics and exuberant self-torture to the experts.






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