A sacrificial couch burns bright in the middle of an Isle Vista road.

A gangly college kid with red hair dances around it, naked. The tune of LSD drums in his head as he tip toes the flames, lashing out at the air with his arms as the crowd around him makes him famous, cell phone cameras flashing in the night.  He has already Hulk-Hogan’d his shirt and fed the torn thing to the fire.  He has tried to punch men and a few women. His nakedness holds the hostility at bay, his pale genitalia slapping left and right as if to ward off anyone attempting to disrupt his crimson fire dance.

A drunk in the crowd, catching the mood, stands up on a car and pisses on the windshield and side mirrors before slipping on his own urine and chipping his tooth on the hood.

Someone else points to the dancer and shouts “Needle dick,” a clear reference to The Water Boy and I certainly laugh at this.

Cops eventually come and everyone under twenty-one vacates the scene in a clank as beer bottles and cans hit the floor, the cops! the cops! coming from underage drinkers making more noise than our naked fire dancer, the flames, and the siren of the cop car now parked ten feet from the burning couch as they climb over fences and hide behind apartment doors.

And then the hush comes. The waiting comes. The naked dance raging, refusing to go limp. Those remaining, including myself, settle in for the adult show.

The cops assess the situation. Not much to assess, really. A naked kid dancing around a fire. Typical Wednesday night in I.V.  They circle the naked man, one cop on either end of him.

“Sir stop your dancing,” from the gruff female cop. Her partner is looking at the crowd, half expecting a leprechaun or some other amusement to burst forth and claim his masculinity for a prize.

The glow of the fire adds to the eerie vigil of the fire dancer, cloaked in the colors of the flame, flesh no doubt sizzling that close to the heat.  Here it is, that moment in the movie when the important speech comes, when a man on a horse gives his war cry and all the arrows fly up in the sky; and the flame dancer cooking in LSD thinks this is his cinematic moment and he shouts in fury and rage using words unintelligible to the human mind,  failing to deliver an inspiring message or even a good punch line and the silence of the  crowd and absence of their laughter seems to anger him.

The female cop inches closer and in a megatron voice denounces him and his actions, like the judge of Billy Madison’s academic decathlon.

The fire dancer’s response to this is to run. The cops are ready for him but the sweat of the fire and his dance have made his skin slippery and there is no “slippery when wet” sign to warn the cops. He gets free and jump kicks the side door of the cop car in a way to make Jean-Claude Van Damme proud, denting the door and stumbling a few feet before the electrical spasms take him, the taser in the hand of the female cop and the electric part embedded in the mans ass as she reels in her catch,  now limp by all accounts.

The commotion dies and the crowd disperses. A few witnesses are talking with the cops as I began my walk back home.

“What exactly happened?” the cop asked.

“Isle Vista,” said the witness.


4 thoughts on “College and the Burning Couches

  1. OMG! if i had known all that was going on in front of my sweet grandson i may have brought you home!!! Boy, did you get an education besides the books. glad you survived.

  2. You captured it exactly! I remember when you told me this story after it happend and, as a mom, I was mortified that my son actually lived in this place they call Isla Vista! You survived, I survived and the stories are engrained in our minds and make us smile…

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