Date Night

I was at dinner the other night and saw a handsome older man enter a restaurant and what follows is what I kind of observed and insinuated.

The distinguished older gentleman enters the restaurant, dinner jacket and dress shirt with just a tuft of gray chest hair peeking through, pressed slacks and shined shoes, the spring in his step accompanies the smile on his face. He briefly talks to the maître d and approaches the bar glancing back over his shoulder at the entrance before motioning to the bartender and ordering a drink – nothing too strong tonight but something to help calm the tensions and nervousness.

A date, it’d had been too long since he’d had a dinner date – he’d all but given up on ever having one again. He misses his younger days when he could pick and choose from the different guys that noticed his swagger or just begged for a kiss. But age catches up with you before you know it and the prime of gay life had passed many decades ago. He glances at the door and checks his cell, the young man should be here any minute. Maybe one more drink to sure up his confidence, this time a double.

He’s almost finished his third drink now and the time has come for his date to arrive. The bartender has tried to start up a conversation with him and he tried to pay attention but glancing at his phone and the entrance to the door it’s hard to keep track of the bartenders joke.

While he’s looking at his phone again it rings and he almost drops it. His eyes light up as he answers knowing his date is probably parking right now. Then his shoulders slump and his face changes the joy and expectation replaced by disappointment and confusion. He assures the young man on the that he understands, these things happens and he’s looking forward to rescheduling – trying to remain upbeat.

Ending the call and just staring at the phone for a good long while the distinguished gentleman then orders another drink and settles in for a night of forgetting and resignation.

Deep Thought and the Ultimate Answer

Today we are officially 42 days away from my 42nd birthday – that’s the more important birthday a person could have… well a person who loves the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and I certainly do.

42, as you may or may not know, is the answer to Life the Universe and Everything. See when a group of pan-dimensional beings created a computer named Deep Thought which takes 7 1/2 million years to compute the answer they got exactly what they asked for the answer said Deep Thought: 42. Obviously they were a bit confused by this answer and their planet was patiently waiting for an answer with festivities and awe… Fortunately for them Deep Thought knew they wouldn’t be satisfied with the answer and told them of a great computer that could give them the question that would fit the answer to Life the Universe and Everything. Deep Thought even helped them design that computer and that computer is called “Earth”.

Now Earth, according to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy a truly wonderful, totally amazing piece of technology – at first with the following description: “Harmless”. But after Ford Prefect had visited the planet he managed to add to the description, thankfully, and it now says “Mostly Harmless” (obviously the writers had seen the US Congress in action).

Well as it turns out the day before Earth was to finally release the Ultimate Question to the Ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything it is destroyed to make way for a hyper-space bypass – if you’re not expecting these kinds of things to happen, you’re really not prepared to live in the universe with the rest of us.

Now there really were really only two instances that anyone actually said they knew what the Question was… one was Marvin the depressed robot, one of the most wonderful characters in all literature, who said he could see the answer imprinted on Arthur’s brain (see Arthur was on the planet/computer Earth seconds before it was destroyed, fortunately for him he got to listen to Vogon poetry instead of dying horribly… well I guess that’s really a matter of taste, like any poetry really. And in the book Life the Universe and Everything Prak, a man who knows all that is true, confirms that 42 is indeed the answer and one would assume that if Prak knows all that is true he would also know for certain what the question was.

Anyway, back to my birthday which as I mentioned earlier is 42 days from now, I plan to celebrate in style. I’m flying to Las Vegas for a conference about the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. (You should note that the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, references the number 42 in the chapter There is a Solution – coincidence? I think not. I have tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil show Ka at the MGM Grand and  reservations at  Craftsteak and a date local guy there.

I will have a freshly inked tattoo from my friend Matt at Jinx Proof tattoos in Georgetown – Matt is designing it and is fully aware of the importance of 42 and it’s significance  to the universe so it might incorporate a lot of things including, but not limited to: two white mice, at towel, the words “Don’t Panic” (which are written on the cover of each Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy)… well, we’ll see what he comes up with in a few days.

So happy start to my birthday celebration to one and all, I know you’ve all been waiting for this day all your lives and I thank you for being so patient. If we don’t make it through the end of the year (perhaps they’ll come and destroy our planet to make way for a hyper-space bypass) I hope to see you all at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe if not before then.

Below you’ll find a few cultural references to the number 42 (from wikipedia):

On the Internet

The number 42 and the phrase, “Life, the universe, and everything” have attained cult status on the Internet. “Life, the Universe, and Everything” is a common name for the off-topic section of an Internet forum and the phrase is invoked in similar ways to mean “anything at all”. Many chatbots, when asked about the meaning of life, will answer “42”. Several online calculators are also programmed with the Question. If you type the answer to life the universe and everything into Google (without quotes or capitalising the small words), the Google Calculator will give you 42, as will Wolfram’s Computational Knowledge Engine.[18] Similarly, if you type the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything into DuckDuckGo, the 0-click box will read “42”.[19] In the online community Second Life, there is a section on a sim called “42nd Life.” It is devoted to this concept in the book series, and several attempts at recreating Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, were made. In Facebook Chat there is an emoticon for 42 created by typing :42: .

Shortly after Adams died in 2001, the Darwin Awards Forums announced that, in his honour, the number of posts required for a member to get out of “newbie” status would henceforth be decreased from 50 to 42.

In the OpenOffice.org software, if you type into any cell of a spreadsheet =ANTWORT(“Das Leben, das Universum und der ganze Rest”), which means the answer to life, the universe and everything, the result is 42.[20]

ISO/IEC 14519-2001/ IEEE Std 1003.5-1999, IEEE Standard for Information Technology – POSIX(R) Ada Language Interfaces – Part 1: Binding for System Application Program Interface (API), uses the number ’42’ as the required return value from a process that terminates due to an unhandled exception. The Rationale says “the choice of the value 42 is arbitrary” and cites the Adams book as the source of the value.

The random seed chosen to procedurally create the whole universe including all the regions, constellations, stars, planets, moons and mineral distribution of the online massively multi-player computer game EVE Online was chosen as 42 by its lead game designer in 2002.[21]

Cultural references

The Allen Telescope Array, a radio telescope used by SETI, has 42 dishes in homage to the number.[22]

In the TV show Lost, 42 is the last of the mysterious numbers, 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42. In an interview with Lostpedia, producer David Fury confirmed this was a reference to Hitchhiker’s.[23]

The TV show The Kumars at No. 42 is so named because show creator Sanjeev Bhaskar is a Hitchhiker’s fan.[24]

The band Coldplay‘s album Viva la Vida includes a song called “42“. When asked by Q magazine if the song’s title was Hitchhiker’s-related, Chris Martin said, “It is and it isn’t.”[25]

The band Level 42 chose its name in reference to the book.[26]

The episode “42” of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who was named in reference to the Answer. Writer Chris Chibnall acknowledged that “it’s a playful title”.[27]

Ken Jennings, defeated along with Brad Rutter in a Jeopardy match against IBM‘s Watson, writes that Watson’s avatar which appeared on-screen for those games showed 42 “threads of thought,” and that the number was chosen in reference to this meme.[28]

Responsible

I want to talk about Tradition 3: “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.”  All you need to become a member of A.A. is a desire to not drink anymore, that’s it. The long form of this Tradition goes on to say:

Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.

That just gets you in the door, that’s it. You have a desire to stop drinking? That’s great come in have a seat We have a solution for you. Once you become a member you have certain responsibilities.

What!? you say These are just “suggestions” you cry.

“On the other hand—and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand—once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.” Alcoholics Anonymous, page xxv

“Further on clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered.” Alcoholics Anonymous, page 29

If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us.” Alcoholics Anonymous, page 85

Once you’re a member I suggest you have a responsibility to follow the program as laid out in our basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous. In there you will find detailed directions on how to find a solution. It states on page 20: “What do I have to do?” It is the purpose of this book to answer such questions specifically.” And once you have followed the directions spelled out in our book then I think it’s your responsibility to share that solution with others.

“I am responsible . . . when anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that I am responsible.” In short, when newcomers walk into our meeting rooms, we want A.A. to be there for them as it was for us— something we can do continuously only if we function as a group.” The AA Group Pamphlet page 18

Essentially I think that also means that as groups and individuals we need to study and practice the Twelve Traditions.

I’m a black and white person, it’s either this way or that way, usually there is no middle of the road where I’m concerned. However I realize that groups filled with strict Tradition following naysayers, like myself, would probably be very unpopular.

At present we have a tip in the scales the other way, we have so many groups that have little to no practice or understanding of the Twelve Traditions that entirely too many A.A. meetings are group therapy and not the program of action that was shown to me in our basic text.

On Sunday morning I was the lead at a meeting and shared my experience strength and hope. That experience includes watching others go to A.A. meetings and complain about how life had dealt them a bad hand again, and how there problems were the reason they drank or the reason they came to A.A. – to share them. My experience has taught me that A.A. is not a place I come to complain about my problems – if all I needed to get better was a place to complain about my problems I’d still be sitting on a bar stool drinking, but all my problems would have taken care of themselves. After I expressed that AA was for talking about solutions as found in our program of action and not for complaining about todays issues – six men, some with more time without a drink that I, disagreed with me.

There isn’t anything I can do for those who think that A.A. is their group therapy, except be responsible (see the quote above). If I want the real recovery, the real message of hope to remain for millions of alcoholics to come then I have to be responsible. I don’t want a watered down solution for others, I want the one that was given me for free and for fun. I want others to be able to experience the entire psychic change that has happened for me and for countless friends like me.

Friends of mine have suggested the reason we have such watered down A.A. in places is because of hard drinkers or moderate drinkers that weren’t true alcoholics, but needed to escape a bad problem and stayed. They’ve suggested those people don’t have to do those things we had to do to feel better.

“Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation.” Alcoholics Anonymous, page 25

Almost none of us liked it, but all of us have to take the steps as outlined in our book, and all of us are responsible to make sure AA is here for the man or woman suffering after we’re gone. Take a look at your meeting and think back to when you were new – is that the solution you were taught or is it the group therapy you remember from the treatment centers?

The AA Group Pamphlet has a Group Inventory that I think most would find helpful in looking at their group. Often people who have been going to these same meetings for years see little reason to look at their group, they are comfortable resting on their laurels and don’t want change to rock the boat. But I say to you who have been shown the solution in our book – rock the boat! Talk about the solution, live the solution and be responsible.

You Kept Your Promise

I recently had a story published on aagrapevine.org which makes me quite happy. This is the second time the Grapevine has published one of my stories, the first time was in the magazine back in May 1998 Issue. I’ve reprinted the story below:

“You Kept Your Promise

I work the graveyard shift at the local treatment center. It’s a laid-back job with not a lot to do, and there are times when I wish something would happen just to relieve the routine. One night that’s just what happened.

A former resident called at two A.M., drunk as a skunk. He’d just been released the week before. He told me he’d always respected me and wished he could have what I had. He kept jumping from subject to subject but finally he said something that chilled me to the bone: “I have a gun. I just can’t live like this anymore.” I thought about myself having those same feelings before I sobered up. I remember feeling that hopeless. I tried to talk some sense into him which really didn’t work too well. He kept talking about how he liked my home group, the Eau Claire Pacific Group, how close we were, how family-oreinted. I kept telling him that AA could give that to him too. All I could do was share with him what AA had given me, how it had radically changed my life for the better. After this conversation had gone on for a while, he said he had to find something else to drink and that he’d call me back. I extracted a promise from him that he would call. When we were off the phone I called the police.

When he called back, he agreed to go into detox if I’d send a bunch of people from AA up to see him in the hospital. I agreed readily. I started to tell him about the program of action  I’d been shown in the Big Book. He said he’d never experienced any of that. He hadn’t done any of the Steps except in treatment. He said he’d be interested in trying our solution but still wasn’t convinced it would help him.

The police managed to trace the call, found him, and escorted him to detox. I started to call the people in my home group at six A.M., and didn’t stop until iI had gone through all my phone numbers. When I got off duty, I went straight to the hospital. It amazed me how fast he had deteriorated; he was hardly recognizable. The alcohol was just oozing out of his pores. When he saw me, he was astounded. “You kept your promise!” Throughout the day, fourteen more men from AA went up to see him. He was in detox for two or three more days, and by the time he left you could see that little spark of hope in his eyes had grown a thousand fold.

Today this man is a member in good standing in our group. His family is slowly getting on the right track, and he attends three to four meetings a week with commitments at all of them. His little stay at the hospital opened up the doors for AA to continue to help drunks there. Every tie the hospital gets a drunk who needs help, they call us and we send a troop of AAs over there to carry the message. So helping that one drunk has led us to help countless more.

James A. Eau Claire, Wisconsin”