Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Center of the World

"Place one foot on the center of the disc," the lady said.

"Take your certificate and make a wish. Congratulations! You are now standing on the Center of the World.”

The desert brings out strangeness. Or it allows for it. We’ve seen parks filled with giant dinosaurs. We’ve heard tell of museums dedicated to the art of burlesque. in the span of a hundred feet we’ve seen wastelands of sand and scrub transformed into fields of green and back to scrub again.

Maybe it’s the wind that drives a man batty. Maybe the unforgiving sun makes a man want to build a road in the sand--or dig a bunker and stockpile it with canned goods and ammo. Maybe the space, so vast and parched, makes the craziest of plans seem reasonable.

Take, for instance, the wooden plank road that was in operation from 1914-1927. Built for the Model-T and kept in operation with horse teams, this road spanned a seven mile over the Sahara-like dunes west of Yuma.

Many writers have tried to capture the essence of the American desert southwest with words. All have failed. And, as you have just seen, I have continued the tradition. Not so for the owner-operators of the Center of the World in town of Felicity, CA, pop. 4. For here the complete recorded history of mankind is etched into stone. Plus some other stuff.

A section of the original stairs of the Eiffel Tower...

... a bronzed statue of the hand of God, as spec’d from Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel, doubling as a sundial and pointing due north...

... a chapel situated on a two-tiered ziggurat, where one stairway and 49 stairs will take you to heaven ...

... and then the many aspects of man’s history, in English and in French, chiseled into granite and built to last 4,000 years.

Plus it’s free. Well, it costs $2 to stand on the Official Center of the World and get a certificate to prove it. Such as small price for such a big honor.

Make no mistake. The owner-operators take their business very, very seriously. Their histories are remarkably complete and somehow stilted. Being French (and we suspect Foreign Legionaries), they adhere to and insist on all of the official formalities. Every major event is dedicated. Officials are summoned. Speeches are given. Certificates are handed out. The French Ambassador to the US declared this place to be the Official Center of the World. The Chinese government has also recognized it as such. And the day we were present, it so happened that dignitaries from the US Border Patrol and the wife of the mayor of Yuma, AZ were on hand for a scholarship award ceremony.

It goes without saying that the Center of the World is one of our new favorite places. What’s more, they have some apartments for rent. There’s about at least a hundred years of work left to finish the work that’s been started. So if you’re looking for something to do, go for the tour but stay to build a legacy that will outlast the generations.

Unfortunately we couldn’t linger at the Center of the World. We had to catch the 3:10 to Yuma. Bob Willow was waiting for us.

1 comment:

  1. Most of us lead lives of chaotic improvisation from day to day, bawling for peace while plunging grimly into fresh disorders.


    Too much proximity to folly tends to make it seem normal...

    or better yet,

    Enter at your own risk. Carry water. Avoid the noonday sun. Try to ignore the vultures. Pray frequently.

    -- Ed Abby