We were in the 9th grade.  It was the last year that my best friend Aaron and I would be together at the same school.  We'd met a few years earlier and both being the silly but smart kids that we were, we became good friends.  We usually met on the way to school and hung out during lunch and after school.  I got him into church and he got me into reading books that weren't comics.

We were on the way to school one day, taking the long route, as usual, and Aaron was excited to tell me about a book he had started reading.  It was unlike anything he had ever read before.  He wouldn't tell me the name of the book or even tell me what the book was about.  He insisted on first reading the end of a chapter in the middle of the book.  He couldn't help but laugh as he began reading about the thoughts going through the mind of a sperm whale that had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet.  

  Ah...!  What's happening? it thought.
   Er, excuse me, who am I?
   Why am I here?  What's my purpose in life?
   What do I mean by who am I?
   Calm down, get a grip now... oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It's sort of a... yawning tingling sensation in my... my... well, I suppose I'd better start finding names for thing if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument i shall call the world, so let's call it my stomach.
Good, Ooooh, it's getting quite strong. And hey, what about this whistling roaring sound going past what I'm suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that... wind! Is it a good name? It'll do... perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I've found out what it's for. It must be something important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What's this thing? This... let's call it a tail--yeah, tail. Hey! I can really thrash it about pretty good, can't I? Wow! That feels great! Doesn't seem to achieve very much but I'll probably find out what it's for later on. Now, have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?
   Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I'm quite dizzy with anticipation...
   Or is it the wind?
   There really is a lot of that now, isn't there?
   And wow! Hey! What's this thing suddenly coming toward me very fast? Very, very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide-sounding name like... ow... ound... round... ground! That's it! That's a good name--ground!
   I wonder if it will be friends with me?

And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

I still remember my utter confusion about what was going on as he read that to me.  He tried to explain it to me, but I just didn't get it.  But at his insistence I went to the library and checked out my own copy of The Hitchhicker's Guide To The Galaxy.  

I remember that before reading the book I thought about how the name of the book sounded familiar.  I remembered that it was the name of that weird looking TV show about outer space with the really bad special effects on PBS that would play late on Saturday nights.  The one with the astronaut floating through the title.  I had never given the show a chance, because I thought that the guy with the second head looked ridiculous.

As I began to read the first few pages of the introduction about digital watches and people who regretted evolving out of the ocean I was a little worried about the book, because I was a good Christian young man.  But then there was a bit about Jesus being nailed on a tree for suggesting that people should be nice to each other for a change and I was more comfortable reading on.  Then there was the girl in the restaurant who finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy I grew more and more intrigued.  

But it was during the first pages of the first chapter and the introduction of Author Dent, as he wakes up in the morning with a hangover wondering why the word Yellow kept wandering through his mind in search of a something to connect with, that something extraordinary happened.  I found myself laughing so hard as I read that I thought I was going to suffocate because I couldn't catch a breath.  In a matter of 6 pages my 15 year old virgin mind was suddenly awakened to a rainbow of humor that ranged from social satire to surreal silliness.  I fell utterly in love with the book as I devoured it and then the other 4 books of the trilogy.  

I can actually remember the difference between how I thought from before and after reading the book.  It had an affect something like how I felt changed after seeing a naked woman for the first time.  Everything was just different.  How I saw people was different.  How I saw myself was different.  How I saw life was different.  Everything was vast and brilliant and full of potential and passion and playfulness.    

Before reading the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy I had grown up my whole life being told that the answer to life, the universe and everything was to make God happy.  After reading the book I realized that the answer to life, the universe and everything is just to live and enjoy what happiness you can and that if there is a god that he is probably just trying to do the same thing.

As I mentioned above, Aaron moved away after 9th grade and for a few years we lost touch, but today we are still friends.  The kind of friends who can go a few years and call each other and it's like no time has gone by.  One of the things about our friendship that I will always treasure is sharing the experience of having our minds opened and expanded by reading The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.  

You know what, I better call him and say hi.  It's been a few months.  I shouldn't take his friendship for granted.  After all, it's 2012.  For all I know, we are about to be bulldozed to make room for a hyper space bypass any day now.

3:57 PM PT: Thank you for all the wonderful comments everyone.  I have been smiling really big reading every single one.  

I didn't expect such a response for this diary.  But I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to discover that there are so many fans of this series here.  This is Daily Kos, after all.  We are froods who really know where our towels are.

Now, if I can just get a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster Friday here then all will be at balance in the universe.  Maybe if I provide the recipe?

1. Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol' Janx Spirit.

2. Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V.

3. Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzene is lost).

4. Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it.

5. Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qalactin Hypermint extract.

6. Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger.

7. Sprinkle Zamphuor.

8. Add an olive.

9. Drink . . . but . . . very carefully . . .

6:00 PM PT: For anyone who's reading this on the rec list, definitely click on the Readers and Book Lovers tag to find more and better diaries about books.

Originally posted to Anton Bursch on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 12:52 AM PST.

Also republished by DKOMA, Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter, Readers and Book Lovers, and Community Spotlight.

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