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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thankful for Douglas Adams

So, this past Wednesday was the anniversary of Douglas Adams' death, and although I'm two days late on the jump, I don't want to let the day pass completely without comment.

I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy my sophomore year of college, while going through, well, what in hindsight can only really be called "rough time." I was in the midst of a kind of identity crisis at the time - fearful of my future and anxious and terrified of the person I felt I was becoming; I felt alienated and disconnected from all the people I loved the most; I was beginning to question my until-then unshakable faith in some kind of inherent beauty and goodness in the universe. I cried a lot. I had trouble sleeping most nights.

I needed a distraction and, in desperation on one of my worse nights, I picked up my roommate's complete Hitchhiker "Trilogy".

It turned out to be exactly what I needed. Arthur Dent's hilarious and bizarre wanderings across the universe took me as far away from my earthly problems as I needed to be. And yet, at the same time, with it's wry yet loving observation of the weirdness of the human condition, it quietly, gently, humorously brought be back to solid ground.

Adams reveled in the weird, random, inexplicable mess we call life (the answer to life, the universe and everything is… 42?). He didn't shy away from the disorder and the chaos, the misery and mystery of it all. Instead, he exalted it. It all became part of a kind of fabulously funny, existential inside joke. And in hindsight, this was exactly what I needed. At a moment when I was quickly losing faith in any kind of benevolent order, Hitchhiker helped me peer into the abyss I was facing and laugh at it a little.

In essentially the very first page of the very first book, Earth as we know it is blasted into smithereens. If you haven't read it, that should tell you something about the series right there. In subsequent books, Earth sort of has a tendency of popping back in and out of the picture, thanks to some traveling through alternate dimensions (and possibly time?). Now, maybe this is a rumor, but I'm told that Adams never truly completed the series; the book it ends on is not really meant to be the final word, but Adams died before he was able to write another one. Still, the ending of the series is surprisingly appropriate: in it, every incarnation of every version of Earth in every dimension of space and time is permanently and irrevocably destroyed.

When I read the last page, I had to laugh. It would end like that, wouldn't it? And that's what Hitchhiker did for me in a nutshell: yes, it blew up the world, but somehow, it made me okay with it.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is, I owe Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker series an enormous debt of gratitude. So- so long, Mr. Adams, and thanks for all the fish.

And here's a link to an article of his I posted a few days ago, which is brilliant and funny and a little mind-blowing in its prescience: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet.

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