Reader Rant: Fire Spinners Out of Control at Veterans’ Memorial

by on August 11, 2009 · 12 comments

in Civil Rights, Environment, Ocean Beach

Double exposure gives OB's Veteran's Memorial a flowery look.

Editor: The following rant was sent to us anonymously. The writer witnessed a disturbing event at the foot of Newport on Monday, August 10th involving fire spinners.  The reader expressly stated: “I have no desire to offend or put off any of the fire spinners I know by speaking my peace.  I just wanted to get this off my chest and, hopefully, sleep better tonight with a clear conscious.”

by Concerned OBcean

While my son and I were in town last night having dinner, I saw someone spinning fire Poi at the west end of Newport. Surprised by the boldness of the spinner to be spinning right there in plain sight on a public corner, I pointed him/her out to my son. Thinking, perhaps hoping, it was simply a drunken fool performing a one time event, I didn’t think much of it.

Yet it continued. After several minutes the spinner appeared again in the same location. From the distance of the restaurant, I could only see the fire Poi, not the individual(s) who was/were spinning.

We finished our dinner and went down toward the seawall to see what was going on. Sure enough, there were a group of people, maybe a dozen, quietly sitting along the seawall (Urban Campers, I’ve heard them called) watching one person after another light up their fire Poi and spin – right there on the Veteran’s Memorial.

As I watched from across the street, I overheard someone who had gone across the street to speak with the spinners say that the spinners were burning diesel fuel. That’s when I decided to cross the street and take a closer look. Once on the Veteran’s Memorial side of the street, I was nearly overcome by the fumes and saw trails of excess fuel all over the Memorial. I also saw one young male spinner poorly execute a full rotation, nearly catching his own hair on fire.

How do I say this nicely….?….I was appalled at what they were doing on/to the Memorial, knowing full well that community volunteers recently donated their efforts to clean up from the Marshmallow Fight on July 4th. I was not willing to idly stand by and allow yet another group desecrate this Memorial. I have no idea why it meant so much to me….I am not a veteran, I have never been in the military, and I am not fond of war on any level. Quite to the contrary, I am and always will be a flower child. Yet, I cared and cared deeply about what I was witnessing. (oh, where was my camera when I needed it most???)

Not knowing what else to do, I decided to walk up to the VFW to inquire if anything could be or should be done to stop this. I spoke my peace there then headed back down to the Memorial hoping it would all be over when I returned.

When I got back to the end of Newport, there were at least five cop cars there, a fire engine, and the cops had detained several people who were now sitting on the ground all around the Memorial. I went over to inquire as to any potential damage this fuel may have caused the Memorial.

In speaking with two cops and one member of the fire department, I was told that the diesel fuel would eventually dissipate. When I asked the cops if anyone would clean this up, the cops told me the fire department could not wash down the Memorial sidewalk, as that would have caused the fuel to go on the street, into the drains, and eventually, into our magnificent ocean. Not a desirable outcome to be certain. Fortunately, the cops said, there would be no lasting damage to the Memorial. With that, I left.

The experience left me shaken and ill at ease for some time. It would take me hours to regain my internal harmony, which is, in part, why I am writing to you. I love this town. I love our freedoms to express ourselves in this town like no other place I have ever lived (and, yes, we have our Veteran’s to thank for this freedom to peacefully express ourselves).

I respect all who come here and call OB home. I am all for free and creative artistic expression in all its forms. I enjoy watching fire Poi and I personally know several community members who spin regularly (and safely) who are very skilled at their craft and are an immense source of pleasure and entertainment to watch. In no way do I want this creative art to end here in OB, or worse, be “banished” by law enforcement. Yet, come on, folks….on the Veteran’s Memorial? Using diesel fuel? With no apparent immediate safety measures available such as even a fire blanket on hand? For godsake, use some freaken common sense. Burnings like this give the other fire spinners in town a tainted name with the cops.

Become aware of how your actions have ripple effects on the community as a whole. Is that too much to ask?


Concerned OBcean

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

lane tobias August 11, 2009 at 9:27 am

Couldn’t agree more. This type of thing only makes it more difficult as the group of spinners tries to fight the city after being ticketed.

Definite lack of personal responsibility here.


Molly August 11, 2009 at 9:30 am

This is NOT good news, as I understand that our local fire performers are trying to work out something with the police and other local officials so they can practice and perform both without harassment and with safety. Most fire performers take great care in being safe. If true what the reader says, these spinners were not taking safety measures and have given all fire performers a bad name. WTF?!

Oh, and thanks for f*cking it up for the others.


jon August 11, 2009 at 9:44 am

Reminiscent of all the east county knuckleheads in PB who ruined drinking on the beach for the rest of us. I hope this doesn’t negatively affect the responsible spinners and hoopers in Ban Diego.


Dave Gilbert August 11, 2009 at 10:18 am

It must be a lot like the people making music down there. If they suck at it the cops get called all the more quickly. I’m surprised that they got away with it as long as hey did, usually the cops are right there.

That is a great little spot to hang out at, I love taking my dog(s) there, sitting on the seawall and watching the sunset.

Kooks Outta O.B!!! ;)


John August 11, 2009 at 10:43 am

It might have been in poor taste to spin on a memorial and to use diesel fuel. I think we can all agree on that. Though, as the cop said there “will be no lasting damage.” The particular individuals should own up to their poor decision and make better choices next time.

Yet, by no means should this effect any of the other spinners, artists or others that want to exercise freedom of speech in OB and/or peacefully assemble. I would hate to see this minor event cause alarm or a call to action for anything other than setting up a designated “OB Expression Zone” where artists, spinners, debaters, etc. can rest assured that they are not offending anyone.

I wonder why the writer didn’t simply mention, “Hey, you are on a Memorial site? It would really mean a lot to me and others if you could move over to that other grassy area.” Isn’t this reasonable request? Try reaching out and making a connection, educating or sharing your values and thoughts on the importance of a Memorial instead of dropping the dime. That may also be a valuable lesson for your child.

There is a generation of Americans that doesn’t understand, and maybe never will, what being a veteran of a foreign war means. The last 30 years have seen the US go to many wars that some of us don’t understand.

Sad but true.


Dave Gilbert August 11, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I was just down there and except for the faint smell of diesel fuel it’s hard to tell that anything went on. There’s a couple of spills that could be just about anything but it still looks a hundred times better than it did July the 5th and the weeks that followed from the aftermath of the “Mellow Wars”


john August 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm

I would offer if the author really wanted to make a statement with impact upon this irresponsible minority, they should have dashed off and spent a couple bucks on some kitty litter and returned with a broom, to shame every person present- including and especially both police and fire personnel for hiding behind the lameness of contradicting environmental laws, and maybe even a little bit on themselves for forgetting the way OB used to be- you have a problem with your neighbors, you go talk to those neighbors and work it out. Don’t know them? All the more reason to go talk to them.
In OB, you call the police, when you have a body.
While you didn’t call them, running around to see who you could tattle to did not solve the problem, this has always been a place where we don’t helplessly stand by waiting for the government or a law to take care of an issue.
Your heart was in the right place, and I’m not dumping on this author as it might appear, because posting this account is in its own way an outreach to “the neighbors”. It is ultimately all of our actions, not merely our hearts, which will fail or save OB.


Concerned OBcean August 12, 2009 at 9:59 am

Thank you all for commenting on my ‘rant.’ Since my writing, I have experienced and processed many insightful truths about all I witnessed. And now, in reading your comments, you’ve given me even more insight plus wonderful and constructive choices of actions for the future! Thank you from the depths of my soul.

Finding my ‘voice’ and realizing that simply speaking my truth directly to those wayward spinners is, for me, the deep-rooted and most powerful truth gained from all of this. Thank you all for helping me come into my own on this level through this entire experience. Ah, the joys of learning, changing, and growing with the help of my friends!

I wholeheartly agree with John (so many good suggestions!) and would love to see this pave the way for an “OB Expression Zone” where all spinners are free to safely practice their craft without external interference. I think the beach is an ideal place on which to develope this Zone as it possesses no material that would catch on or spread fire to the surrounding community.

My question now is….What can we do to make this “Zone” reality?


BillRayDrums August 13, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Personal responsibility is the key. Today my son and I were out on Santa Cruz beach (the south cove) and this family of 4 were leaving and packing out….leaving a complete mess of garbage on the beach. You bet I called them out on it, and picked up the trash myself.

As I was headed up they said “oh we were gonna come back and clean it up” and so I apologized and let them know very nicely that more often than not people leave trash on the beach, and it looked as if they were just going to leave it….so I carried it to the can at the top of the stairs, and thought that was the end of it….

….The guy called me a racist for bringing it to his attention. WTF?!? I told him pulling the race card like that was setting a great example for his children and walked off with my kid, with he and his wife hurling obscenities at us. Whatever. Clean up after yourself, that’s all! Jeez.


Dave Gilbert August 14, 2009 at 10:06 am

You have to be careful Bill Ray, because people don’t like to be called out for their transgressions. The other day I witnessed a guy give his dog a slap on the rump because the dog wouldn’t sit for him. It was just a little Boston Terrier, so from across Sunset Cliffs Blvd. I said, “hey, you don’t have to hit your dog”…well the dude went off telling me to call the cops on him and asking total strangers if his looked like an abused animal.

I got drawn into his whole drama and we were basically yelling at each other as we walked south yet on opposite sides down Sunset Cliffs Blvd. Finally I thought to myself, “this is stupid and nothing is getting accomplished” so I said to him, “look, this is stupid. I never called you an animal abuser, I was simply trying to point out that you don’t have to hit you dog to get it to do what you want it to”.

What could have turned into a fist fight mere moments before had turned into a rational talk between two people. Cooler heads prevailed and I’m sure that my point was well taken. Just as I learned more on how to approach people about certain situations.


john August 14, 2009 at 3:40 pm

hitting your dog is the worst way to get him to do anything, as is yelling. they only want to please us. I had a pair of dogs that would run away full speed if you let the gate open. I’d scold them when I finally caught them.
My last dog, who had to be put down last year, (a little tear, okay it’s over) ran away once when he was about 2 years old. When I found him I was so happy I jumped around, skipped home with him telling him how glad I was I’d found him, and took him to the happiest place on earth for him, home- and gave him a bunch of treats, and he laid down at my feet.
I’ll be damned if that dog never once again wandered, ran, or even strolled away from home again.


Dave Gilbert August 14, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Exactly John, you don’ want your dog to associate you catching him with punishment. Dogs live in the here and now so punishing them for something that even happened a few minutes ago makes absolutely no sense.

Some people just end up taking out their frustrations on their dogs and that’s something that I really wish would stop. Dogs are the purest form of animal and should never be on the receiving end of a human’s anger.


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