I note the passing yesterday of visionary science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. When I was in high school, I idolized Clarke, read and re-read every word he wrote. When I started college at Florida State, I was amazed to discover that Clarke was one of the featured speakers that fall, and since I worked for the student paper and blathered endlessly about Childhood's End, I was assigned to pick up Clarke from the airport early, "babysit" him all day until his talk and do an interview.
The catch was that I'd never done a real interview, in fact being a freshman in college in 1968 had trouble distinguishing my ass-end from a hole in the ground. So I picked him up in my clapped-out, primer gray 356B Porsche convertible with the top down and holes in the floorboards — the great man looked...bemused...at his transportation — then using one of those "portable" tape recorders the size of a suitcase I did what may be the worst interviews in history. Clarke was a consummate gentleman and answered my insipid questions with a thoughfulness far beyond what they deserved.
To top it off, since hotel check-in wasn't until 3 PM, I treated Arthur Clarke to lunch at a Sizzler Steak House...god help me, I was from Memphis...I didn't know any better! I was all set to talk about 2001 the move, but Clarke wanted to talk about the media, about television and satellites and changes that were coming beyond what I could imagine. The man was hypnotic...he talked about a time when everyone would be connected, where media would be omnipresent and linked in ways that allowed us to share information between individuals...
It was an amazing lunch...all I did was sit there and nod my head, enthralled. We both had cherry pie, and within six months I changed my college major from physics/math to media. I also learned how to interview.
I once watched a friend disassemble a pocketwatch and was awed by how all those little gears and levers pivoted on tiny ruby bearings...so you're reading this blog because I bought Arthur C. Clarke a really bad lunch once, and my life pivoted on that tiny bearing.
Rest in peace, Sir Arthur.