View Full Version : What Flamer! (How Can I Burn Old Letters?)
I'd like to consign a whole bunch of old letters to the flames. Sadly, though, I live in an apartment and don't have access to a fireplace.What would be a good way to burn a lot of paper without causing a huge brush fire or breaking pollution laws? I assume I will have to do this outside, on the driveway. What kind of recepticle should I use? Any accelerant, or just matches? What should I have nearby to douse overly enthusiastic flames?
05-21-2002, 10:48 AM
Good Lord, don't use an accelerant; paper burns hot and quickly on its own. If you have access to any sandy place where it's legal to light fires (beaches, etc.), dig a firepit there; otherwise, borrow a barbecue. Stack a few letters, and light with a match or cigarette lighter. Add letters as the old ones get consumed. Douse with sand, or, if you're using a barbecue, just put the lid on.
05-21-2002, 11:01 AM
Or use a metal trash can instead of a barbecue (deeper is better for containing the sparks, etc. Get a bucket of water for extinguishing.
I suppose the ritual use of flame is important here, eh? Just thinking that a paper shredder might suffice...
05-21-2002, 11:04 AM
I think you're missing the potential opportunities here, Eve.
Burning old letters is the perfect chance to drink a little too much as you read a few, cry over the might-have-beens, laugh at the memories of good times long gone, and, in general, have a celebratory moment. Tossing them in a trash can and lighting a match doesn't seem to be quite the right form.
I like the beach idea. A jug of wine, the letters, and a small bonfire in the sand sounds like a perfect plan.
Hmmm . . . I have no access to a paper shredder or a beach, and the only barbeque belongs to the white-trash hillbilly neighbors, whom I try to avoid like the plague (mostly because I suspect they actually HAVE the plague). All our trash cans are plastic. Damn.
I don't care about the ritual—I just want to dispose of a lot of old letters and diaries, and just tearing them up is not, well, safe enough. Maybe I can rent a hotel room with a working fireplace? Fill my suitcase with what I need to dispose of?
Any of you New Yorkers have a fireplace I c'n borrow?
Why A Duck
05-21-2002, 11:17 AM
You could always tie them up in a bundle and take a drive on the Cross Bronx Expressway. Just toss them into the first burning car you see.
05-21-2002, 12:23 PM
- - - Working at Enron is hell, ain't it? They should have probably included something about this in the orientation... - DougC
05-21-2002, 12:42 PM
Shredders are extremely inexpensive. They can be had at Fry's for less than $20. I assume that office depot/max probably have then at similar prices. Metal trash cans are probably cheap as well.
05-21-2002, 12:44 PM
I realize this may be too forward of me and if so I apologize.
But burning those diaries, while reminiscent of Queen Victoria (look up what she burned right after a 'certain someone' died), is almost a crime to me.
I have, for many years, collected old diaries and letters. While I'm not suggesting that you turn them over to me I just thought I'd point out that in 100 or more years (the oldest I have dates from the 1700s) those diaries and letters will be a window to a lost time for those future historians.
So, do it if you must, be you'll be breaking my antiquarian heart if you do.
I'm with J.C. on this one, Eve.
Given your penchant for historical research, this sentiment comes as a bit of a surprise.
I respect your right to privacy but can't help but wonder what your motivation might be.
Nope, Sorry, guys, but I want to make damn sure my diaries predecease me. There's nothing that historically interesting in them, nor in old letters from my friends and relatives (the letters from my famous friends will get saved!).
I'm thinking metal trashcan in the driveway, at this point. A few letters at a time shouldn't make TOO big a fire.
05-21-2002, 01:11 PM
A small tear rolls down the left side of my face...
You'd be surprised what is interesting to people in the future. Even what you consider mundane can be valuable. I once did a grad school research project relating # and price of eggs sold on a Vermont town.
Stuff about famous people is easy to come by. I've always been more interested in how the hoi polloi actually lived.
Well, comme ci ou comme ca...do what you will.
But if I could tempt you by offering to donate them to a college library (on my dime) with instructions that they'd not be opened or read for 100 years I would.
Then at least take plnnr's advice and consecrate the ashes and your palate with a little vino. It's good for keeping those pesky flames in check.
05-21-2002, 04:42 PM
I personally think a bio of Eve would sell quite well. Save them for your literary executor, with strict orders on what to have your biographer omit.
05-21-2002, 05:04 PM
Don't worry about saving you diaries for the future. What did those smug bastards every do for you? Besides who wants people going through your private stuff? Not me and apparently not Eve.
OK, I had an idea last night (and yes, it made my head hurt). How about if I buy a deep-sided metal broiler pan, and put an oven rack over it to keep any burning papers from flying out and alighting on the grass? You think that would be the best way, safety and pollution-wise, to burn papers? I'll have a full watering-can standing nearby.
What better way to spend Memorial Day than burning old memories?
05-22-2002, 08:22 AM
what about chemical destruction (acid)?
05-22-2002, 08:30 AM
You could probably get a (smallish) metal trashcan from the harware store or a cheap grill (even a little one shot jobbie) from the grocery store or Big Lots (or Family Dollar or something like that) for around the same price as the broiler pan. And they'd be bigger so you could burn more at once.
(And since it is coming up on Memorial Day, the grocery stores should have the grills on sale.)
Did you check the Yellow Pages under "paper shredding"? You might not have to buy anything, just drop the documents off and pay for the service. Heck, you could even bring a bottle of wine and drink it while they shred your stuff. Not as symbolic as flame, but there's still wine.
-Rue. (who burned his old school papers in a metal trash can when he graduated Catholic school)
05-22-2002, 08:34 AM
Hey, Eve, I've got good news and bad news:
The good news is that I live in Manhattan AND I've got a real fireplace AND a papershredder!
The bad news is that the fireplace never fails to smoke up my entire apartment, so I never use it. (I spent a few days this winter researching why it misbehaves and I figured out that it was designed poorly; I know how to fix it, but it will take some work. I don't plan to do the modification anytime soon, though.)
You're welcome to the papershredder, but gazpacho is right -- buy one for yourself. A shredder is very cheap and it'll come in handy many times, long after your Memorial Day shredfest is over. I got my bare-bones little Shredmaster Confidential at Staples for less than 10 bucks. Some of the best money I ever spent.
The thing about a paper shredder is, I have hundreds of letters and about ten diaries (365 pages each!) to dispose of. Setting a match to them will get rid of them a lot quicker (and, OK, more theatrically) than a shredder.
A grill or a big garbage can would be too big—I think a broiler pan would be more manageable, flame-wise. I can put the oven rack easily over the top of it, anmd easily toss the pan itself when I'm done. I'm more worried about the neighbors complaining about the smoke.
05-22-2002, 09:33 AM
If you're going to pragmmatic about it, just put the paper in a metal trashcan, add a little lighter fluid to help things along, and toss in a match. If things get out of hand, just put the trash can lid on and the fire'll go out. When you're done, just set the whole mess at the curb to be picked up as trash. If the neibhbors complain, tell them to go to hell.
05-22-2002, 09:49 AM
It's going to take longer then you think to burn all that - esp the books. If you rush it some of the book will still be unburned. How about a camping trip or a picnick and just burn them there.
05-22-2002, 09:58 AM
Or, melt them in an acid bath like that serial killer did. Crippen? I forget. Anyway, it would be more original than burning them.
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