Jet Lag Reminiscences

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October, 2003

LONDON - I apologize for the tardiness of this month's installment of my report. September was a hectic month with two out-of-town trips - one to San Francisco and the other to Honolulu - again. It was only two months ago that I was in Hawaii, and, now, here I am on the opposite side of this planet.

I write this report to you from London, through the fog of jet lag. This travel woe called jet lag is a curse suffered uniquely by our generation. Through the vast span of history, only we are afflicted by this technologically created nuisance. Whether by horseback, stagecoach, train, or car, people a generation ago traveled at a pace in rhythm with the natural movement of the sun. Whether by canoe, three-masted schooner, or ocean liner, voyages then were made in cadence with the regular lapping of the waves. Now, technological advances have made it possible for us to hurtle through time zones and international date lines. For this abuse of the normal rhythm of nature, we are punished. We feel dazed and sleepy at the most inconvenient times and wide awake in the middle of the night, alert and utterly unable to sleep. So, through this bleary, modern-day travel fog, I will do my best to briefly recap some of the highlights of my September.

The trip to San Francisco was to campaign for a candidate for Mayor of the city, Tom Ammiano. This campaign is the second time up for Tom. He came in second by a heartbreaking margin the last time around, almost knocking out a grizzled, old politico, the former Speaker of the California Assembly. People have asked me why I campaign for a candidate for mayor of a city not my home. First, Tom Ammiano, the current President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, is a dedicated public servant with proven leadership qualities. A former schoolteacher, he is a passionate advocate for improved education. He is a strong voice for the voiceless underprivileged. And, having had a career as a stand-up comic in San Francisco clubs, Tom is a hilariously engaging campaigner. Most of all, I love the city by the bay - my father's hometown. I want San Francisco to have an outstanding Mayor to help make it an even more wonderful city. So, to all you voters in that endlessly fascinating city - vote for Tom Ammiano for Mayor.

Campaigning for Tom was also a great excuse for enjoying one of my favorite cities. San Francisco is a great eating town - almost like Paris. Restaurants are a good measure of the greatness of a city and San Francisco has more than its share. And, like all great cities, San Francisco is constantly changing. It is a dynamic urban organism.

New landmarks are built and old ones restored. The latest transformation is the spectacular renovation of the historic Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street. Just over a hundred years old, the distinctive structure with its iconic clock tower was a busy transportation center of cross-bay traffic in the early part of the last century. With the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge in the mid 30's, traffic fell off and the building went into decline. Then, to add injury to insult, during the roadway building mania of the 1950's, the massively grotesque, double decked, elevated, Embarcadero Freeway was built right across the face of this graceful landmark obliterating it from view. We don't like earthquakes in California. There is, however, on some blessed occasion, good that can come from a disastrous earth shaking. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused extensive damage to the freeway requiring its demolition. The Ferry Building and the shining waters of the bay were once again visible. Work commenced on the restoration of the Ferry Building and the roadway in front of it. I had read in the newspaper that the work had just recently been completed. My visit to the restored Ferry Building on a Sunday morning was thrilling. There, where the ugly freeway had stood, was an urbane, palm lined roadway vibrant with people. There was a bicycle race going on along the embarcadero. Inside, the sensitively restored Ferry Building was filled with shops, markets and, of course, wonderful restaurants sending out savory aromas. On the side facing the bay, tables spilled out onto the wharf for waterside dining. It was exhilarating.

The Ferry Building of old was back, handsomer and more effervescent than I ever remembered it. The historic mosaic of the seal of the State of California had been moved but it was gloriously restored and happy in its new location basking under a bright sunny skylight. As I have done so often, I again left my heart in San Francisco - with my fingers crossed that when I return, I'll be able to call Tom Ammiano, "Mr. Mayor."

The trip to Honolulu was for a Board of Trustees meeting of the Japanese American National Museum. Because our trustees come from all over the nation, we move our meetings around the country to be fair to all members of the Board. Our last one was in Chicago. For some mysterious reason, our Honolulu meetings always seem to get outstanding attendance. The torturous part of a meeting in Honolulu is the meeting itself. To be confined in a windowless hotel conference room discussing policy, strategic planning, and fund raising, knowing that beaches, pools, and fun activities are just outside was tormenting. But we soldiered on valiantly. The meetings were productive and, after the business was concluded, I was able to enjoy the spectacular tropical sunsets from my hotel room window. In the evening, I threw myself into the fun. The "aloha" hospitality of the Hawaiians was, true to legend, leis, hulas and delicious food. It was delightful. But, alas, my Hawaii stay had to be abbreviated so that I could catch another flight - this one to England.

So here I am, in foggy London - not the misty, pea soup kind for which London is justly famous but the jet lag induced kind. Somehow, even in this addled state, I've been able to produce a report on my September activities. My next report on this sojourn in England will be from Los Angeles and, hopefully, fully recovered from this jet-age nuisance.

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