Sunday, June 5th, 2005: All morning I’ve been struggling with this huge dilemma. Which is, should I travel 2 hours to Carbondale, Illinois to meet this man for a Galactic Picnic?? I’ve called everyone I know, and nobody can go with me. I have to do it alone. I think I’m going. But maybe not. If I do, I need to leave within 30 minutes. I wish I had a backup plan of something else to in Carbondale.
Later that evening… Okay, so I went to it. About a month ago, this guy orders some Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy buttons from me on Ebay. They were basic HHGTTG book/movie-related buttons. Along with his payment for the buttons, he sent me a flyer for a “Galactic Picnic” along with a full page hand written letter telling me about himself, the picnic and other random things. I’m surprised to see that this Galactic Picnic is located in Carbondale, Illinois which is just a couple hours south of me. Just to be a hoopy frood, I whipped up a design for the Carbondale picnic (pictured to the left), pressed about 20 buttons and included those with his order, free of charge. I also gave him an extra 20 or so HHGTTG buttons that he ordered. I figured it was for a nice, nonprofit cause so why not.
I finally decided to go this morning, so I left around 11:45am and I arrived in Carbondale at 1:15pm. I stopped by Hucks and bought a 12 pack of Pepsi, some Tostitos and salsa to contribute to the picnic. It was supposed to be a potluck thing but I don’t know how to cook anything. I got there and it was the organizer and then 3 other people. Two of the people were there specifically for the HHGTTG thing and the other man had just wandered by and sat down with them all. As I expected before I even came, no females were in attendence. The 2 who were there for the meeting were father and son and I would guess their ages to be 40ish and 60ish. You know Harvey’s nerd friend in the movie American Splendor? The 40ish man looked just like him and seemed to have similar social skills. He even dressed like him and had the same glasses. He was nice, though, and we talked for the first 10 or 15 minutes that I was there. Then his dad said they needed to get going to catch their bus on time. He still lived with his dad.
The other guy left soon after that and it was just me and the organizer for the next couple hours. I’m not a hard-core fan of the Hitchhikers books but I have read them all many times and I’ve seen the movie a couple of times. He was playing the original Hitchhiker radio broadcasts on a boom box in the picnic area. The tables where the food was were covered with various towels. (Towels are so useful!) I forgot to bring a towel with me and I almost stopped at a Wal-Mart on the way up to buy one. But nobody said anything about me not having a towel so I guess they assumed it was in my backpack. Anyway, me and the organizer discussed the movie, the books, the Hitchhiker’s pubcrawling game and various other things.
He said he does this picnic thing every month during the Spring and Summer months. He spends over $100/year to rent the picnic area in the park and he spends money and lots of time to try and promote it through all kinds of media and by hanging up flyers around town. He said that last month about 18 people showed up because he handed out a bunch of flyers at the movie theater when the Hitchhiker’s movie came out. He says people tell him it’s such a waste of time and money to bother with it but he loves doing it because he gets to meet interesting people every month and he loves cooking things for picnics and his passion is the Hitchhiker’s story. Which I thought was kind of cool, just doing something weird like that because you love doing it. Especially in a small town like Carbondale where I’m sure interest in HHGTTG has to be fairly limited. This guy was in his 50’s and he’d been doing the picnic thing since 1999. He had a really cool way of inserting random HHGTTG philosophy and quotations into normal conversation.
Every time a random person would walk by, he would invite them to our picnic but nobody accepted the offer while I was there. He had several backpacks full of books and papers with him and he would occasionally dig through one of them to show me things. I noticed that most of his printouts were done on a dot matrix printer. He showed me a Douglas Adams eulogy and I started reading it. Then he grabbed it from me before I got very far and said he’d read it for me. So he gets up and puts on a BATHROBE, stands in front of me and reads the entire thing with all kinds of enthusiasm and hand gestures and stuff.
So that’s about it. At 4:15 I decided to get going. And as I was leaving a guy showed up on a motorcycle and announced that he did bring a towel with him. He looked like your average Harley guy but he was there for the picnic. We shook hands all around and I left. It was all quite bizzare, but definitely worth the drive. I’m sure I’ll come back someday, dragging along some unwilling friends with me.