#485: Fire Jams and Circles

June 3rd, 2015

She swung the hula hoop around her neck as she talked, around her arms, curled it between her legs and whipped it back and forth so the LED displays would change and whirl and display technicolor patterns in the dark.

“It’s a Hyperion,” she said.

She bought the hoop online. $320. She was a young hippie type, maybe early 20s or late teens. Hard to tell in the jam-packed park lit only by the whoosh of spinning hula hoops, the distant twirling of fire and the light of a full moon.

Every full moon in the summer months since 2004, hippies, families, picnickers, dogs and the curious have occupied a slip of greenery just south of Foster Beach in Uptown for the Full Moon Fire Jam.

A massive circle comprised of seemingly equal parts families on blankets and stoned teens oohed and ahhed as the fire spinners in the center twirled and juggled balls of flame. Occasionally a fireburst roared above the twirling and the audience gasped and cheered.

Out among the crowds, others spun light as well. Their light came from LEDs, not flame. Little “pod poi” glowballs on ropes they spun like Goliath-killing slings they would never release. Hula hoops decked in glowbulbs.

Even $320 pattern-changing Hyperions.

“It’s great,” the young hippie said, rolling her hoop between her shoulders before spinning it around a forearm. “It changes colors, it has a motion sensor, hooks up to Bluetooth.”

“Bluetooth?”

“Yeah, you can link it up to other Hyperions,” she said, launching into an explanation of how multiple hoops could be choreographed to songs using the audio player Audacity.

A bit of capitalism had infiltrated the free spirits, in the form of an ice cream truck and a couple blankets spread out to showcase wares — some either knockoff or “off the truck” designer sunglasses on one blanket and a series of beaded and feathered faux Native American wear on another.

The salesman behind the beaded chokers and dreamcatcher earrings said he was from Mexico. He understood little of my English and I speak no Spanish. He called me “buddy” the whole time and handed me a flashlight to prod at his wares.

I had similar communication issues with a Sikh couple who pointed matching tripods to photograph the moon.

“We have longer exposure,” the man in the turban said, answering a question I hadn’t asked.

As the fat moon rose higher in the sky, the field south of Foster Beach was dappled with smaller circles of lights. Circles that spun and swirled beneath the big one.

Some gathered in groups to spin, laughing and joking with pals.

Others spun their hoops and poi alone, their little circles in the dark their own reward.

“It’s good exercise, meditation, whatever,” the young hippie said, never stopping twirling her Hyperion as we talked. “People like when it’s appreciated, but if you ask most people, they would say they do it for themselves.”

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