There are two things I remember from the great Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: thanks for all the fish, and the meaning of life is 42. Because of this book, which I read in high school when the thought of being in my 40s was as real to me as time travel, I’ve always held my 42nd birthday (and the following year) in mind as a period when something special would occur. When I’d reach an epiphany of sorts. When I’d figure shit out. I will turn 42 on Thursday, good lord willin’, so I guess we’ll see.

Here’s a quote from Douglas Adams about his choice for the answer to the eternal question, which many people try to attribute deeper meaning to.

It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do.’ I typed it out. End of story.

That’s actually a pretty apt description of writing in general. You stare off into space, something pops into your head and you write it down. If you’re lucky, it works. It’s both totally magical and completely mundane. One could argue that the subconscious is at work even when it seems like the writer is grabbing bullshit out of mid-air, so it’s possible that Adams had something deeper in mind when he came up with 42. But prolly not. Sometimes a banana…

FOLLOW THE BACON (photo courtesy of the maker)

My brother, father and I have birthdays during the same week in March, and we got together this weekend to celebrate. The bookend/piece of art above is what Tohner made me for my birthday. FOLLOW THE BACON has multiple meanings in our family, from a culinary modus operandi to a way of looking at life. Those meanings take this piece beyond being something useful and fun to look at and morph it into a bigger symbol of shared history, where we are now and hopes for the future.

Tohner said he wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do with the tile when he bought it, but he knew he had to make something for me with it. And he had the faith to know that inspiration would come to him. That’s what separates artists from non-artists – trusting yourself enough to act on instinct, knowing that the rest will follow. Believing that maybe 42 is the answer to everything and that some day pigs will fly, despite all evidence to the contrary.

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4 responses to “42”

  1. I enthusiastically applaud your efforts to Fight Stupidization and so (if it’s OK with you) when I run across something people might want to know I’ll funnel it through you. I have what are called “pet peeves” and there’s a lot of them. My biggest and most strident peeves are the ones that are based on absolute untruths yet are ardently believed by those who obtain their world-view from television commercials. Those are the people who are making it bad for the rest of us, and they are legion.

    This one is huge. Twenty years ago I read somewhere that municipal water supplies are more closely monitored and regulated than bottling companies. That was the last time I bought a plastic bottle of water. It was an easy decision for me to make because I was always outraged that I would spend more money for water than beer and in fact I often chose a beer at the seven-eleven when I really wanted water. Sort of. Actually, I pretty much always want beer.

    But here’s a fun little Truth Cartoon. There’s a whole series of them.

    • I know what you mean – my bottled beverage of choice is wine.

      We use a Brita filter in a jug at our house – takes the tang off Houston tap water and doesn’t cost much or cause any trash. Leaves more scratch for wine.

  2. Happy 42… all the answers will now be revealed.

    Life after 42 has been some of the best years for me… I hope they will be for you too.

    Hogs and quiches from Bergamo, Italy

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