Have you ever seen a movie six thousand times, but only gotten half a whiff of the real depth of that movie after the most recent viewing? Case in point; I’ve seen Joe Versus the Volcano at least 30 times since 1990, but only recently came to understand the immense truths contained within it. The film was always on in the background, and I’d often half ass watched it without really seeing it for what it was. The realization and understanding came slowly; a little bit here, a little bit there, until one day I said “fuck it” and sat down and really watched the film again for the first time. I took it all in with a renewed sense of awareness, and a considerably open mind. I dissected it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d enjoyed the movie time and again previously, but I’d only just seen the surface of it. And in truth, I was sincerely blown away. For all of its cheese, the movie was an acutely effective, multi-layered glimpse into a man’s thirst for knowledge, meaning, purpose, and self discovery. Looking beyond some of the dated, clunky 90’s camp, it’s quite a deeply rendered portrait of the journey that we all endure in order to accomplish whatever it is we want to accomplish with our lives. It is a great little tale about overcoming obstacles, standing up for your beliefs, and never giving up. Who can’t relate to that, right? And if you’ve ever hated your job, the “I quit” scene below is a revelation.
The highlight of our childish creativity was The Bunker, a hollowed out cluster of unused shelving, walled with a carefully crafted facade of boxes that concealed an inner homemade bar. To the untrained eye, it wouldn’t even garner a second look; it was identical to any other normal, mundane, ordinary wall of boxes. However, this particular Great Wall of Cardboard masterfully concealed a super-secret hideout within that rivaled something that a James Bond villain would have constructed, or perhaps it resembled the lair of some comic book bad guy. In it was our headquarters, our command tent, our private lounge that served as our secret war cabinet. Our Round Table, with each of us looking to fill our Holy Grails with whatever was on tap that day. The effort that went into crafting bubble wrap and cardboard La-Z-Boy recliners and cotton stuffed sleeping mats was labor intensive. Not to mention surreptitiously loading our liquid stash in and out through the drop down hatch that we cut through the wood slats of the pallets that served as the roof. Our cooler was always stocked to the gills with a variety of suds. This was the real deal for us. That was our debaucherous shrine, and we’d retreat to The Bunker to devour a few bottles or cups of the drink of the day, every day. And when we weren’t in our venerated safe zone, we’d just down our spirits from the red plastic Solo cups in broad daylight like it was a house party. Like we owned the joint.
We developed into exceptional drinkers; a functional alcoholism that allowed us to perform at our best with just the right amount of whiskey flowing through our veins. We’d field instructions, calmly attend meetings, and cheerfully converse with the front office staff while being lit to the core on liters of Rum and Diet Dr. Pepper. And no one was the wiser. It was the only way we were able to make it through the monotony of the day, a monotony which by now I hope you sincerely feel. It was an alcohol fueled, fun steeped binge that lasted for years, and invariably suffused our livers and our minds with loads of lasting good memories. But all good things must end at some point, right? The question ticked in my brain every single day, like a turgid time bomb just waiting to explode; what the hell was my purpose? There had to be something that I was good at in life. Thoughts like this lingered in my head on a regular basis as I walked the aisles up and down filling orders. Whatever that ‘something’ was, wasting away under layers of box dust was not it. What was I good at? I was in my twenties, but felt as if I was past my prime, or as if I’d missed the ferry to Success Town. I felt utterly left behind by life, and my fun, yet counterproductive daily dealings only resigned me to that early grave and kept me pinned tightly. There just had to be more to life than this.