WHY “POTPOURRI OF THE DAMNED”?

Ferdinand de Saussure's sign

by Joe Buonfiglio

With my sleep once again decimated by terror dream-driven insomnia, I found myself perusing my somewhat eclectic mix of books — collected in a most obsessive-compulsive manner over the years — in the hopes of finding a literary distraction to get me through the night.  It was there in the reading room that I stumbled across my embarrassingly dust-swathed signed edition of Douglas Adams’ The More Than Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide (to the Galaxy).

Ah, Douglas Adams.  He is truly one of my favorite authors.  The two main influences of my youth that ultimately led me to my life as a self-branded “Literary Absurdist” writer were the Pythons (“Monty Pythons Flying Circus“) and Douglas Adams.

I still clearly remember the night the late and unquestionably great Douglas Adams signed that book for me.  It was at a lecture he gave in Charlotte, North Carolina.  He spoke of his works, his “Digital Village” prophecy of the Internet’s promise of a “future” global-village site he intended to create, and so many more (at the time) visionary and often delightfully absurdist bits of craft that flowed forth from his brain that one did not want the night to end.  However, as with all good things, end it must; it was time for the obligatory Q&A.  And while there were many thoughtful questions from the audience followed by many insightful, humorous answers by the author, one gentleman’s input was — even now, decades later — unforgettable.

If you are familiar with Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide,” then you know that in the book the supercomputer “Deep Thought” takes 7½ million years to compute the answer to “The Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything” … which turns out to be 42.

42.

To my mind, this is one of the most brilliant, memorable and enduring moments in absurdist fiction.

Now, this guy in the audience stands up and proceeds to spend a good twenty minutes explaining to Adams how he has spent years — quite literally years — calculating how Adams must have come up with the answer “42.”

With the man finally falling silent and exhausted by his lengthy attempt at what seemed to be an engineer’s version of enlightenment, the audience all looked to the renowned author to hear if this man’s detailed calculation was, in fact, how Adams arrived at Deep Thought’s comedic conclusion.

After expressing sincere wonder that a fan would put so much effort into such an evaluation of his work, Adams, unfortunately, in the name of honesty, felt compelled to inform the gentleman that his theory was off more than a bit.  Adams had simply picked the first number that popped into his head.  It could as easily have been 12 or 89 or 56½.  It didn’t matter.  The concept of a simple numerical answer just seemed absurdly funny to him.

Now, you have to understand; this guy had devoted YEARS of his life to figuring out how Adams had arrived at 42.  He stood there stunned — in shock, really — as if someone had just shoved a smelly gym-sock down his throat and cut off his air supply.  But before Adams could move on, the guy’s eyes rolled back in his head, he rebooted his brain, and he began arguing with the author as to why his calculations were correct and Adams’ explanation as to how he arrived at 42 was wrong.

“Look, I just like the way 42 sounded” didn’t work for this person.  He became so agitated at Adams’ refusal to acknowledge the genius behind his theory that the in-house security almost had to drag him out for disrupting the lecture.

So, what the fuck does this have to do with my little slice of Internet heaven, “Potpourri of the Damned”?

Well, it seems people have been sending me emails and direct messages via various social-media platforms with their theories as to how I came up with the title of my little offbeat dark-humor blog…

My pothead friends and followers assure me that it’s a reference to the smoke emitted from sparking up a nice, fat blunt.

Sorry, dude.  Don’t get your nose out of joint, but you’re wrong.

“Nose out of joint.”  See what I did there? … … … Yeah, right, like you don’t think you’re funnier than you are when you’re stoned.

My “hang out at the bar slamming back Buffalo wings and cheap beer until last call” friends insist “Potpourri of the Damned” is a reference to the end product of some of our more robust flatulence-release tournaments, the flame-enhanced competitive division in particular.  While I’m up for barroom fart-lighting challenges as much as the next guy, I’m afraid that this, too, is an incorrect assertion in relation to my blog’s somewhat unique titling nomenclature.

Some of my more religious associates have absolute faith in their insistence that I am making a statement whereby there is hope for all sinners condemned to an Afterlife of torment in the everlasting Lake of Fire.  They believe that my symbolic offering of a slight, albeit fragrant gesture of light within the most unbearably sulfuric stench of Hell’s dark promise is why this blog is so named.

First of all, I’m an Agnostic.  I’m not so sure that the concept of Hell in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word comes with any credibility.  Even if I was completely onboard with the notion of Satan’s Funhouse, I sure as hell (pardon the pun) wouldn’t belittle an eternity of writhing in agony by simply offering up some dried posies as a respite.  I would probably name it something more like “Winning Lottery Ticket of the Damned” or “Cure for Cancer of the Damned” or “Instantly Lose Thirty Pounds of the Damned.” “Three-Way of the Damned” is even a more likely title than my current one if I actually thought it was my path to be doing God’s public relations with a blog.  I mean shit, how shallow do you think I am?

My friends with more Eastern philosophies manifesting their core belief system are quite certain the “Potpourri of the Damned” title is Zen in nature.  Balance.  Lesser opposites synergistically combining to create a stronger whole.  Yin-yang, if you will.

Not even close!  Anyone who has known me for any length of time recognizes and accepts that my yin must have strangled my yang in the womb.

I’ve had some parents and grandparents of young children tell me that the name of my blog surely must represent the innocence of youth in contrast with the oft-jaded experience granted to the elderly.

No.

The lightness of ignorance distinct from the burdensome heaviness of knowledge.

No.

Life vs. Death?

No.

Cold vs. Heat.

No.

Passive vs. Active?  Matter vs. Spirit?  Female vs. Male?

No. No.  NO!

Look, as my beloved Douglas Adams’ attempted when he professed the reality of the situation to that sad and exceedingly disappointed little man in Charlotte that day, you must come to terms with the fact that I just like the way “Potpourri of the Damned” sounds.

I’m an Absurdist with a strange sense of humor. To me, “Potpourri of the Damned” is perfection, a sliver of Bizarro Heaven.  Seriously, if you aren’t just a teensy-weensy bit curious about a blog called “Potpourri of the Damned,” then there’s not much I can do for you in the weeks, months and hopefully years ahead of this blog.  But if you read through the archives of this random slice of the cosmic pie and decide it’s for you, then cry havoc and let slip the meerkat statues of Mrs. Penderghast’s 6th grade Advanced Ceramics 101 class.

Damn it!  I knew I should have called it “Potter’s Wheel of the Damned”!

“Kiln of the Accursed”?

“Smock of the Messy Extracurricular Cour— Oh, fuck it!

 

© 2014 Joseph P. Buonfiglio     All Rights Reserved.

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