As part of my ongoing campaign to maintain what little sanity I have left at this point by trying to find ways to escape, however briefly, the headlong rush into actual Fascism that the United States seems to be on these days, I decided to reread Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently series.
It’s a short series, after all – he only wrote two books about that character before he died an early and much lamented death. And BBC America is running a series that they claim is “based upon” the books, though to be honest as far as I can tell the only things they took from the books are the name of the title character and the phrase “holistic detective.” It’s not a bad series, don’t get me wrong. It just has nothing really in common with the alleged source material. It’s like powdered iced tea that way.
As a historian, I am trained to go to the sources. Especially if they’re funny. There are some good jokes hidden away in the Federalist Papers, but you need at least a Master’s degree to understand them, and if you try to explain them to outsiders the historians’ guild will send people to come by your house and discuss post-modernist readings of the Code of Hammurabi until your ears bleed. We keep those jokes to ourselves.
So to the books I went.
The first Dirk Gently book went by pretty quickly and confirmed my general feeling that the television show was both enjoyably humorous and something else entirely from the television show, so I moved on to the second one. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul starts with a disaster at an airport that gets labeled an Act of God, and figuring out which god becomes important as the story progresses. By the time it wraps up (somewhat hastily, as if Adams had gotten tired of the whole thing) you have also learned a great deal about why you do not want an angry eagle in your living room. This is good advice, I think.
Tucked into the back of my copy of the book was the receipt from when I bought it, which I no doubt used as a bookmark the first time I read it. Apparently I purchased my copy at a Barnes & Noble in New York City on May 1, 1990. Paid cash for it, too.
This, of course, raised the question of just what I was doing in New York on May 1, 1990, other than buying this book. I had no idea.
I have friends and family in New York these days, but they either didn’t live there at the time or I didn’t know them yet. I have several other friends who have lived in New York but have moved on to other places, but most of them weren’t there at the time either. There’s maybe one other friend who might have been there and who I might have visited – I do remember doing that at one point – but I had no idea if that was this trip or not.
I was finishing up my first year of graduate school in Pittsburgh at that point in my life. Classes probably ended the week before, and I was about a month or so away from my first trip to England (indeed, my first airplane ride of any kind). How I might have ended up in New York between those two events was unclear.
So it was a quandary.
It is a strange thing to find irrefutable evidence that you were at a given place at a specific time and have no recollection of this at all.
Eventually I worked out that the choir I was in during my time in Pittsburgh went on a tour around then, and we did in fact stop in New York. I did get to see my one friend then, too. I even have photos of some of this, though none of them include me (which is not unusual, really). I will just have to trust that I took them, and that I did not just arbitrarily end up with someone else’s photos. We even went to Philadelphia on that tour, and my dad came to one of our concerts. We had a good time.
It was a pleasant mystery while it lasted.
Though it still leaves the mystery of just why I decided to take time out of a choir tour in New York City to buy a book.