Sunday, September 6, 2015
I AM 75
Wow, I made it. I am, today, 75 years old. That birthday cake will later today be the centerpiece of a small gathering at 15 Craigside, with Prosecco, or Italian champagne.
The greatest transition, for me, was my birth. My life has tended to significantly shift every decade or so. At the beginning, 6 September 1940, the #1 song in America was Tommy Dorsey's I'll Never Smile Again. The attack on Pearl Harbor was more than a year away, Mae West and WC Fields made My Chickadee and Hitler had conquered most of Europe.
At around the age of ten my parents were Buddhists, but, because a popular Christian church was a couple of block from where we lived in Kakaako, I was some fusion of both religions. I vaguely remember asking a Buddhist priest how many people attained Nirvana. He answered the question in a roundabout way, but never really provided an answer. Of course individuals have claimed to attain this ultimate state of mind, but at that young age I began to have doubts about the reality of religion in general. I could not get meaningful facts about Heaven and God. At that age I was transitioning from a child into an adolescent. The #1 song was the Weavers' Goodnight Irene.
At 21 I graduated from Stanford and found myself working at the Hutchinson Sugar Company in Naalehu, the southernmost point of the USA. I met Pearl in September, when the #1 song was Sheila (Tommy Roe), and we were married in December. To the left, our going away party, with Manager Bill Baldwin, who set up our first date. Our marriage carried through virtually the next half a century.
Ten years later, I earned my PhD in biochemical engineering at Louisiana State University with a dissertation research project where I built a tunable laser before you could purchase one to zap the DNA/RNA bonds of E. coli in a micro reactor. On my birthday that year, the #1 song was Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again. I then went on to the College of Engineering at the University of Hawaii, where I today, 43 years later, continue to have an office on the Manoa Campus.
In 1979, when the #1 song was Knack's My Sharona, I found myself working for U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga, where I helped write the original legislation for hydrogen and ocean thermal energy conversion. Both passed into law and set the tone for the future of these technologies for the world. I also helped shepherd the first wind energy legislation. Interestingly enough, that same Bill Baldwin, as the sugarman for Sparky, shared the same office with me. My three years in DC provided a base from which I was able to blend politics into academia for success in research fundraising.
1990 (#1 song was Jon Bon Jovi's Blaze of Glory--the worrisome thing about this song is that I just watched it, and it's totally unfamiliar) was a particularly monumental year, for I created the Blue Revolution with Hawaii Senator Richard Matsuura, who had worked for Norman Borlaug in the Green Revolution. We co-authored the original paper on the subject and gave the keynote address for the First International Workshop on Large Floating Structure. Today, Blue Revolution Hawaii has copyrighted the term and is progressing towards developing the Pacific International Ocean Station (PIOS). I endowed my penthouse apartment to the University of Hawaii, serving as the seed to spur the creation of a $1.5 billion fund to build PIOS. I still think this should have been the Pacific Ocean International Station, or POI-Station.
Then at the end of 1999, when Santana's Smooth was #1, I retired, to do something else for the rest of my life. Hard to believe this was 16 years ago, but I maintain an office on the Manoa Campus and regularly interact with the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and faculty of the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology. I've written three books and published more than a hundred articles in The Huffington Post.
Just before 2010, the #1 song was Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling, and to my profound shock, my wife of 47 years, Pearl, passed away. When I returned home the morning of her death, I wrote Gratitude...Not Grief for The Huffington Post. In many ways, her passage was a blessing, for if she had survived, she would have been on a ventilator for the rest of her life. She thus provided another transition, as I grew up in a family, lived with roommates through college and almost half a century with her. For the first time in my life I was alone, and friends/relatives were concerned. Would I become an alcoholic? Overly depressed? Well, I might drink too much, but this final phase of my life was been, actually, fabulous. The freedom to do what I want led to, first, planting more than 50 Gold Trees at the Hilo Municipal, Ala Wai and Makelena Golf Courses in her honor, and dropping her ashes at more than 50 sites around the world. I begin my next (tenth??) around the world adventure in ten days.
This has been only half a decade since that previous transition, but moving into 15 Craigside and attaining the age of 75 seem to have changed the formula from every ten years to every five years. The #1 tune on the Billboard 200 is Immortalized, by Disturbed. What a terrible song, but I like the title, and the best for me, certainly, must be yet to come. Perhaps some combination of the following:
Well, can't be a combination of Heaven and eternal gloom, so I can only hope for the former. Gives me something to fulfill before the final earthly termination.