I tried something different today. This week, a friend of mine left a Nintendo 64 at my house, along with a few games, while he was out of town. I've never actually owned a Nintendo 64, let alone any video game system (besides a NES I found in somebody's trash can), but I'd played Mario into oblivion. So I decided to pose myself a challenge: beat Bowser In The Sky 100 times in one day.

Piece of cake for a seasoned veteran of the game. I had beaten Da Big Boss about thirty times before I started getting bored. So I decided to make it harder. I'd beat him without my cap. Or I'd jump off the big platform every time I took a single point of damage. Or I'd fight him as the little pieces of the star dropped off, before they actually fell. Cool stuff like that.

I was keeping tally marks with a penknife on the side of the cartridge. (One per five plays. I'm not crazy.) I got to the 95th time, and I started to hunker down. I didn't allow myself to use the Jump button. Or to turn to the right.

Game 99. Ever so close... I saw "C'mon troops! Let's watch the ending together!" one more time, grabbed the giant Power Star, and started flying. I landed in front of the castle, and looked up at the big stained glass. But then, something surprising happened. Three toadstools dropped out instead of the usual two, and a Japanese voice said something incomprehensible. The English subtitles were clear enough, though:

Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!

What the hell? The screen blacked out after that, and I'm not so sure that I stayed conscious either.

Nothing really remarkable happened over the next few days. I got a few weird phone calls, sometimes at 3 AM, when I'd pick up and hear some faint Asian dialect on the other side just before somebody hung up. I didn't get that much sleep, but I passed it all off to chance.

My friend got back from Liberia, and I gave him his N64 back. He left, and I didn't hear from him for awhile. But the phone calls stopped. I dropped by to check on him after a few days.

Needless to say, he was dead, a Goldeneye cartridge permanently fused to the charred remains of his console.

I still haven't gone to that other castle. I've yet to find anybody who'll admit to beating Bowser ninety-nine times using only left turns. I'm pretty confident that I'm the only one that's still standing; but it's only a matter of time before I'll be suckered into buying a GameCube.

This quote is the immortal phrase spoken by Toad at the end of every 4th level of Worlds 1 through 7 of Super Mario Brothers. After Mario defeated an common enemy posing as Bowser, he would find Toad waiting for him in the other room. After this message was spoken, Mario would move on to the next world.

My name is Mario and I was born in 1983. Super Mario Brothers hit the USA in 84. This means that, for my entire life, I have heard "hey Mario, where's Luigi?"

Every once in awhile, someone makes an attempt at wit, often involving shroom jokes and Bowser envy. I've given it a lot of thought, and as long as someone makes the attempt at something OTHER than "where's Luigi?", I am content.

But I have yet to hear a proper application of this one.

One of these days, I'm going to call up a girl and say, "hello, is X here?" The family member taking the call, recognizing my voice, will then say Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!

And then, then I'll know who I want as my in-laws.

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