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Saturday, February 17, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO: My City of Fantasy

As my readers know by now, I live in Purgatory (which, if true, is good, because you are assured of getting to Heaven, after you're purified), also known as Hawaii.  You should know that existence here is not dismally sepulchral as depicted in those paintings.  Mine is a life of wagyu, otoro, truffles, foie gras, golf, poker and more.   However, San Francisco has been even more a fantasy for me, except, amazingly so, also real.

When I took my first trip away from home, I landed in Los Angeles, where my older brother, Stan, picked me up, for he lived in Oxnard and was a marine structural engineer at the Naval Civil Engineering Center in Port Hueneme.  He got me a summer assignment there.  I thought his job was so boring that I picked another type of engineering as far away as possible from his...chemical engineering.  Three brothers, with Stan on the left and Dan, who I will see tomorrow in Las Vegas, where he lives.

The irony is that thirty years later I learned from, perhaps the most eminent ocean professor of his time in Japan then, for he was chairman of the Japan Marine Technology Society, Toshitsugu Sakou, that Stan was the world's pre-eminent marine structural research engineer.  That's Toshitsugu to my left at a reception in Tokyo after I provided a lecture on the Blue Revolution.  I just realized I didn't bring anything blue to wear for my Las Vegas Blue Revolution talk.

So, anyway, at the end of the summer of '58--wow, 60 years ago--Stan drove me to Stanford, where my story of San Francisco and the Bay Area begins.  I saw a sign that said Leland Stanford Junior University, and my first thought was that I was enrolling into a junior college.

Stanford is about 36 miles south of SFO.  After graduating 3.75 years later, I found myself working for the sugar industry in Naalehu on the Big Island.

I met Pearl in September of 1962, and we married in December.  We moved to Kilauea, Kauai, where our backyard (here she is with our dog Pepper) was where South Pacific was filmed.  This was the slippery slide scene where Happy Talk was sung by Bloody Mary to her daughter, played by France Nuyen, who looks just like Pearl.

Note how things seem to repeat around the years 08 or 09 and 02, for we found ourselves in 1968 on the campus of Louisiana State University, a time of Mardi Gras, Pete Maravich and Tiger Football.  I graduated in biochemical engineering 3.75 years later with my dissertation on Tunable Laser Irradiation of Exogenously Photosensitized E. Coli. We moved back to Honolulu where I became an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii in 1972.

That laser background linked me with the NASA Ames Research Center located just south of Stanford and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 44 miles east of San Francisco.  I worked on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at Ames, while living back on campus, and laser fusion at Livermore, two of the more fantastical concepts one can imagine.  At Livermore, I remember watching the Watergate trials, and stayed in an apartment adjacent to a Wente Brothers vineyard.  

I had a second stint at LLNR during the Second Energy Crisis in 1979, at which time I was asked to join Senator Spark Matsunaga in D.C.  One of my purposes there was to draft hydrogen legislation, for Hawaii, a tourist state, was worried about the future of jet fuel, and some of us thought that development of the hydrogen jetliner had to begin as soon as possible.  Interestingly enough, I earlier this month gave a plenary talk at Kyushu University, where they have 110 staffers directly involved with hydrogen research.  A second bill I drafted was on ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), which is key to the Blue Revolution, my topic of presentation in Las Vegas next week.

I returned to the University of Hawaii in 1982 and helped form the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research, which ten years later in 1992 succeeded in the first open cycle OTEC experiment at Keyhole Point on the Big Island.  However, the SFO link was that on one of my trips I stopped by the Bay Area and stayed at the AMFAC hotel at the airport on 16October1989.  

I flew to Dulles in DC the following day and when I got to my hotel just after 8:30 PM, turned on the TV and saw that the elevator shaft at the AMFAC hotel had caved in.  My room was next to that scene.  They tore down the hotel.  This was the Loma Prieta Earthquake, a segment of the San Andreas Fault, which killed 63, injured 3,757, caused $6 billion in property damage and shut down the World Series.  The fantasy part for me was that I escaped in time.  

Of all the future coincidences, it was on 17October1989 that the Marriott Marquis Hotel first opened.  This is where I'm now staying in San Francisco.  Here is a photo I just took, and that lighted area in the middle is the Bay Bridge, which collapsed in the above earthquake.  That lit up tall building is the Salesforce Tower, at 1070 feet, the highest in the city, just finished last year.

Well, today, I meet my Stanford gang at the Ferry Building and we'll do something.  We now have annual gatherings, but here is a posting of five years ago in Napa.

In that photo to the right, Jim (who was my freshman roommate) and Bill (lived next door in Arroyo Hall), who got married to classmate Sue (below).  To the left a college photo of Jim and Kathy (in the right photo Bill is in the middle between them).

I'll later stroll through Chinatown.  More important, though, I wonder what will happen to me in 2018 and 2022.  Will my run of luck continue?  I good sign of at least a wonderful day to come, SFO at sunrise:


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