Come on Baby, Light My (Socks On) Fire

Spring is finally here!

Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping and the air around Annapolis, Md., is scented with the sweet smell of sweaty old gym socks.

Every year, this sailing-obsessed community welcomes spring with style … that style being the ceremonial Burning of the Socks, which signifies not only the questionable olfactory sensibilities of the local sock-burners, but also that it will soon be warm enough to wear boat shoes sans socks.

The tradition was born in the mid-1980s, when an Annapolis Yacht Yard worker got tired of his winter maintenance duties.

He removed his stinky socks, put them in a paint can with some lighter fluid and had himself a brewski while he watched his winter worries burn away, the Associated Press reports.

Nowadays, sock burning isn’t just for the boatyard workers — more than 130 people attended this year’s event.

But don’t confuse the ceremony’s wine-swilling, oyster-eating participants as fickle anti-sock bandwagoners.

Sock hating in Annapolis is a serious vocation.

The most fervent seekers of freedom for the feet refuse to wear socks from the spring equinox until the first day of winter with rebellious disregard for the oft-frigid temperatures.

"The uniform is deck shoes and khaki pants in winter. The uniform is deck shoes and khaki shorts in summer," Jeff Holland, director of the Annapolis Maritime Museum, said with a laugh.

Holland says the sock bonfire is a way to remember the old days of working-class watermen who harvested crabs in the summer and kept the boats in ship shape during the winter.

Still, even the most enthusiastic festival attendees can’t escape the ritual’s pungent consequences.

"It's a good idea to stand upwind," warned John Morgan, 77.

One Down, Eight to Go

A flailing fall from the top of a tall tree would be enough to do most of us in, but most of us aren't kitties from South Carolina.

Piper the cat climbed up a giant tree in her owner's yard and refused to come down for more than a week. When rescuers tried to get to her she fell, tumbling 80 feet to the ground — and lived to "tail" about it.

Video: Click here to watch Piper's perilous plunge

Don't Forget to Spell Check

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — For $100 and an emotional essay, you could be the new owner of a flower shop.

"We thought that having a real estate agent would be a boring way to sell the shop, and we wanted to have more fun with this, so my mother, who is a former high school English and history teacher, and I thought of this essay contest," said Wendy DeSousa, who has owned the Dial-A-Flower shop with her mother, Linda Varnell, for 10 years.

"The only problem is that yesterday, I caught her 'grading' the essays," DeSousa said.

"It needed some commas," Varnell added.

The owners estimate the business is worth about $100,000. They hope to get 1,000 "Why I want to own a flower shop" essays from folks willing to pay $100 each to enter the contest, the Jupiter Courier reported Monday.

The business will be given away with all the stock, except for the delivery van.

"We're not really looking at how the essay is written," DeSousa said. "We're looking for someone's essay that appeals to us, who wants to be in the florist shop business and wants to learn."

The owners said they already have received about 50 essays.

Up Next: World's Largest Commercially Available Heartburn

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A pizzeria is vying for a spot in Guinness World Records for the world's largest commercially available pizza. The $99, 150-slice pizza isn't a one-time deal. In fact, The Big One is already available, though Mama Lena's Pizza House has had few takers so far.

The would-be recordsetter measures about 3 feet by 4 1/2 feet and takes up nearly all the space in the shop's brick oven.

The current record holder is a 4-foot diameter pizza offered by Paul Revere's Pizza in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Dubbed the Ultimate Party Pizza, it uses more than 10 pounds of dough, 48 ounces of sauce and about 5 pounds of cheese.

A tip for Mama Lena customers: Call ahead. The Big One takes about 15 minutes to prepare and another 20 to 25 minutes to bake, said Rob Carrabbia, whose wife, Wendy, owns the pizzeria in the suburban Pittsburgh town of McKees Rocks.

"The only way you're looking to order it is if you want a big pizza," Carrabbia said.

Mama Lena's was already offering a 30-inch by 30-inch, 64-slice pizza when Carrabbia read about the current record holder in a trade magazine and figured he could beat it.

"If I'm already making one this big, I can make ... another half as big again," he said.

The pizza has been on the menu for more than a year. So far, about 10 have been sold, including for birthday parties and to a school for its basketball team.

"It's 20 pounds of dough, it's 1 gallon of sauce, 15 pounds of cheese and a lot of tender love and care," Carrabbia said Monday. "We cook the old-fashioned way, stone and cornmeal."

Carrabbia said Guinness requires that the pizza-making be videotaped and witnessed by a public official. He planned to attempt the record Monday.

Besides the novelty, Carrabbia said anyone who orders The Big One is getting a bargain.

"It's less than a dollar a slice" for a plain cheese pizza, he said. Toppings are extra and a white pizza — no red sauce, but garlic, cheese and marinated tomatoes — costs $120.99.

The category is different from the world's largest pizza. That record was set in 1990 in South Africa, where Norwood Hypermarket made a pizza 122 feet, 8 inches in diameter, using 9,920 pounds of flour, 3,968 pounds of cheese and 1,984 pounds of sauce.

For its 50th anniversary in 1994, Guinness named that pizza one of its top 10 most astounding feats.

Click on the box at the top of the story to see The Big One.

Mmm ... Civil Defense All-Purpose Survival Crackers

NEW YORK (AP) — Workers inspecting the structural foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge have uncovered a Cold War-era trove of basic provisions that were stockpiled amid fears of a nuclear attack.

Water drums, medical supplies, paper blankets, drugs and canisters holding calorie-packed crackers were visible as city officials led a tour of the vault days after the stash was discovered under the main entrance ramp to the bridge.

The estimated 352,000 Civil Defense All-Purpose Survival Crackers are apparently still intact. The metal water drums, each labeled "reuse as a commode," did not fare as well — they're now empty.

"We find stuff all the time, but what's sort of eerie about this is that this is a bridge that thousands of people go over each day," Transportation commissioner Iris Weinshall said Monday. "They walk over it, cars go over it, and this stuff was just sitting there."

Such fallout shelters were common around the country during the 1950's, but finds like last week's are rare, said John Lewis Gaddis, a historian at Yale and a scholar of the Cold War.

"Most of those have been dismantled; the crackers got moldy a very long time ago," he said. "It's kind of unusual to find one fully intact — one that is rediscovered, almost in an archaeological sense. I don't know of a recent example of that."

The provisions were probably comforting but would likely have been useless in the case of a nuclear attack, said Graham Allison, a former assistant secretary of defense who teaches at Harvard.

Compiled by's Taylor Timmins.

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