I remember I went over to Uncle Wilson’s house once when I was probably 13 or 14. As usual North Beach was warm and sunny. My grandmother used to watch those Chinese soap operas a lot but when her vision started to get worse she had trouble seeing the TV, so someone had bought her this gigantic magnifying glass that would attach to the front of the TV and help her to see the screen. I thought this magnifying glass could be used for more fun (i.e., fiery) purposes, so with my uncle’s permission and supervision my cousins and I started to burn things out on the sidewalk. I remember getting quite a few stares from locals and tourists alike.
There was some debate about which side of the magnifying glass should be pointed up. It took some practice but before long we were focusing the light like pros. I think we melted a Barbie doll and some other random stuff from the house. You’d be surprised how many things are meltable when you have a big enough magnifying glass. Eventually we decided to see if we could melt a penny. It took forever to produce any results and we had to take turns holding the magnifying glass. Then, all of a sudden, there was a loud *pop*. The penny’s silvery innards had shot out onto the pavement, leaving a burnt-up ring of metal that I still have in my room somewhere.
I don’t know if this happened on the same day or not, but I also have vague memories of cracking an egg on the sidewalk in front of Uncle Wilson’s place and watching it slowly cook. I can't remember if we ate it.