Friday, December 19, 2008


I remember the first time I ever read Jules Verne's classic adventure story, "A Journey to the Centre of the Earth." As soon as I finished the very last page I became so totally, giddily excited by the idea of actually traveling to the center of the earth that I jumped up out of my chair and ran outside right away, determined to set off for the center of the earth at that very minute! Silly? Yes, of course. But way back in those golden days of youthful innocence, well, I pretty much believed everything that I read in books. And I was generally much more idealistic and optimistic back then, because I had just graduated from college.

My excitement growing with each passing millisecond, I began to jump up and down on the front lawn several times. Nothing happened. I jumped up again and landed as hard as I could, sending jolts of pain through both feet. Still nothing happened! The ground was really hard, and I realized that I would need some kind of hole or passageway in order to get to the center of the earth. Looking around, I noticed that there weren't any volcanos or vast underground caverns in the immediate vicinity of my house. Damn!

At that moment, I spotted a passing police car. The words of an ancient storybook echoed in my mind: "The policeman is your friend. He will always stop and help you when you are in trouble." Flinging myself into the path of the speeding police car, I flew over the hood and crashed into the windshield. It shattered and fell away in jagged pieces as I clawed my way through it and grabbed the terrified policeman by the lapels even as he struggled to control the car. Yanking him forward, I screamed into his face. "HELP ME!!! HELP ME GET TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH!!!"

I've never seen such terror. Frantic, the policeman missed the brakes and rammed his foot down on the accelerator. The car bolted forward, out of control, and careened haphazardly down the street as I dragged the policeman through the windshield and out onto the hood with me, still screaming "HELP ME!!!" into his face. He was screaming too, but I couldn't make out the words. He may have been trying to tell me how to get to the center of the earth, but mostly it sounded like "URK!" and "GAA!"

This suddenly struck me as funny for some reason and I began to laugh maniacally as I flung the befuddled policeman into a passing dumpster. Standing on the hood of the car with my arms outstretched to the sky, I laughed and laughed and then bellowed mightily to the heavens, "I'M THE KING OF THE WOOOORLD!!!" just as the police car crashed through the front doors of a Super Wal-Mart. As is so often the case, the designated "greeter" failed to smile and "greet" me as I whizzed by, even though I know for a fact that he saw me because he was looking right at me.

Anyway, I was soon barreling down one of those big central aisles and smashing all sorts of elaborate displays to smithereens as I headed straight for the electronics department in the back. People shrieked in terror and hurled themselves out of the way, and it was interesting to watch the bright splashes of color and texture as the police car obliterated each abandoned shopping cart and sprayed its various contents in all directions.

Forgetting for a moment my impassioned quest to reach the center of the earth, I reflected upon how truly happy I was at that moment and thrilled to the prospect of crashing into the store's entire DVD collection, including the new shelf of Blu-Rays that nobody ever bought, and totally demolishing the whole thing within mere seconds. This was my moment of triumph! I don't know why I felt that way, but it seemed appropriate for some reason. Perhaps I simply felt a sense of entitlement since it was almost my birthday.

With a resounding Tarzan yell that echoed throughout the store, I beat my chest with both fists and waited for the crash. Later, as I proceeded downward through a dark tunnel that had been formed in the subterranean rock by molten lava forcing its way upward from the depths of the earth, I looked back upon the incident and chuckled. My Swedish guide, Fjorn, glanced back inquisitively at me from up ahead, but I waved him onward. He wouldn't have understood what it means to be an irresponsible cut-up, a happy-go-lucky clown who behaves strictly on impulse with no regard whatsoever for the consequences or the well-being of others.

I'd tried to hire a guide who did understand stuff like that so we'd have something to talk about, but Fjorn was all the guide agency had left that day. I toyed with the idea of shoving him into some lava if I got a chance--that is, after he had outlived his usefulness as a guide--but then I remembered that he had those incriminating nude photos of me cavorting around in the frozen foods section of a Piggly-Wiggly, which he'd left instructions to have published upon his mysterious death. Curses! Always one step ahead of more ways than one!

Well--long story short--we finally reached the center of the earth approximately eight years after beginning the journey. It wouldn't have taken so long except for the fact that every time we ran out of food we had to go back to Piggly-Wiggly again and buy some more. Anyway, the center of the earth sucked because there wasn't really a big raging ocean down there with giant dinosaurs fighting each other to the death and big, hairy cavemen running around and stuff. I then realized that this Jules Verne guy was just some big stupid dope who had made up a lot of cool stuff and lied about it in his dumb book, and it was at that moment I vowed never to read another book again as long as I live, especially if it was written by that big stupid dope, Jules Verne.

I was so disappointed that I no longer cared whether or not those naked pictures of me got sent to the newspaper, so I kicked Fjorn into a bunch of molten lava and trudged my way back to the surface of the earth. Without a guide, I got lost along the way and ended up emerging from a solid waste processing plant outside of Billings, Montana six months later. Hailed by distraught witnesses as a horrifying, solid-waste-covered monster from the depths of the earth, I became a legend that still haunts the bedtime stories of terrified little children in and around the Billings, Montana area, where I am known simply as "Big Ass." But that was nothing compared to the nationwide horror and widespread panic and consternation that occurred when those naked pictures hit the front page of the New York Times.

The journey was over. Four years later, policeman Fred Burton disappeared, along with partners Mertz and Finklestein, when rabid muskrats swept through their duck blind on Lake Blorch. But on that glorious day in May 1963, I--porfle--went deeper, farther, and slower than any other American--eight years and six months below the surface of the earth; I was the last American ever to go into the frozen food section of Piggly-Wiggly naked. And for a brief moment, Porfo Cooper became the stupidest person anyone had ever seen.

(originally posted at

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