My Encounters with Bucky

After a miserable year at UCLA (grad school 1964-1965), I was set to go to Australia to get an advanced degree, but the draft board wouldn't let me out of the country. So I found a job teaching (making possible a deferment), working under Norm Gunderson, the Dean of Engineering at San Jose State. He offered me a chance to co-teach "Cybernation and Man," a course in Engineering that dealt with the impact of technology on society (and vise versa, I suppose). In the spring semester of my first year of teaching that course, Bucky came for two months as our visiting professor, and I wound up spending many hours like so many others, listening to Bucky weave a story which has influenced my own mission ever since.

Around 1970 I wrote an article for DomeBook One which opened the door to designing and managing the dome project at UC Davis. Over the years I bumped into Bucky many times; I just seemed to find myself in the same place he was -- Yale University, Athens (Doxiadus' Ekistics conference in 1969), Vancouver (Habitat: the UN Conference on Human Settlements, in 1976), San Francisco (see below), and even here in Santa Cruz. So the design principles for spaceship earth sank in pretty deep.

The last time I spoke to him (shouted at him, that is -- he was pretty deaf) was at a huge Hunger Project hoopla event at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. He was not on the program but was introduced to the audience -- "We have a special visitor in the audience tonight..." -- that kinda thing. My friend John Nolan happened to be with me and he had never met Bucky, even though he had built several good-sized geodesic domes and had worked closely with me on the Davis project. So after the event was over, we sought out Bucky, walking from the balcony downstairs and all the way through the dense crowd.

A few months earlier I had heard him talking about a new invention (I forget just what -- something to do with hydraulic structures) and after introducing him to John, I asked him to tell me about that invention. I was startled when he said, "none of your business" (not in so many words, but that was the essence.) He went on to say that, when it was ready, I would hear about it. [Something along those lines, you know.]

Having seen him so often on stage, I had succumbed to a bit of hero worship. Upon reflecting on that encounter, it was reassuring to know that he was actually human and not just a nice guy or some kind of mythical being. Of course in the years since, I have come to appreciate that Bucky was an enigmatic character who had successfully upset many people. That I now realize is an important part of the journey for those who are steppin' out. Like my friend Beatriz says, there are three kinds of people in the world: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened. Bucky was a master at the first of these, and he propelled more than one person into the third realm!