I met Douglas Adams in a very surreal way:
On a boat, in the middle of the night, on the Thames in 1998, drunk off my ass. He was very polite and smiley. I was very loud and obnoxious. I’m sure I cracked some sort of H2G2 joke that was completely inappropriate. Yet, if my recollection recalls, he didn’t seem to be overly offended. In fact, my memory seems to recall him responding something like, “Ah, I’ve never heard that before.” Of course, it was said in a dry British humor sort of way. I’m not too clear on the details, but I’d like to think he was being nice to me.*
The reason why I was even on this boat was because I just happened to have very lovely friends who had just worked their assess off on Starship Titanic and they were celebrating its launch with an epic boat party. Yes, I know I’m a jammy bastard – we all were back then. We roamed hipster parties in packs in the late ’90s. The thinking was this, “Why go to a party alone when you could take twenty of your closest friends?”
Needless to say, it was brilliant, a once and a lifetime experience, and something that I will fondly remember for the rest of my days.
But back to Douglas.
I didn’t really appreciate the effect that he had on my life until I was much much older. I had to look back at my life to see the subtle influences: seeing The Guide the first time at the age of seven because my hippy uncle was reading it, watching Dr. Who with my doctor, Tom Baker, and not even knowing that Douglas was behind the scenes somewhere. Then nothing for several years until I was old enough to read HHGTTG myself. Little smatterings of Douglas working on my young, tender psyche, yet I was too immature or frankly, too busy chasing boys to see it.
It wasn’t until Douglas died that I cottoned on, but by then, it was too late. And of course, in typical twenty-something style I got caught up in my own drama and the thought past out of my head like a sieve.
By some sheer coincidence, I just happened to be re-reading H2G2 last week when we were without power. It began to dawn on me as I re-read The Guide how brilliant Douglas Adams was. There was no one else like him. His style, his voice was like no other before him and anyone after would only ever be an imitation. I will always want to try a pangalactic gargleblaster. Or hear some Vogon poetry even if it does indeed kill me. The number of cultural references that Douglas has imparted on us still astounds me. And as a writer, he humbles me.
There are some things in my life that I wish I could take back – that night on the boat would be one of them. I would’ve had a few less drinks and I would’ve listened more as Douglas waxed poetic. Perhaps I might’ve refrained from my joke and said something more gracious and more deserving of his talent.
I guess I’ll never know.
Today, Douglas Adams would’ve been 61 years old. To him I say . . . Happy Birthday and thanks for all the fish.
*Too many pints has a tendency to do that to one’s self.