A Space Oddity Reminiscence

On April 2, 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s epic film, “2001: A Space Odyssey” premiered in Washington D.C. For those that had seen it in those early days, their minds were expanded beyond the realms of space and time. The special effects were spectacularly realistic, the plot was dark and haunting, and each scene sucked you into imaginings about what could be. It was a time when we were just realizing the dream of JFK to be first to land on the moon and within a year, the good old USA would do just that.

Well, lemme tell ya about an event that will permeate my memories until the day that I pass into whatever they passed into at the end of that movie. I was 16 years old back in 1972 and had a couple of older friends that I regularly hung with. One such character was Christian Sahut, and God rest his departed soul, as he recently passed away. The one characteristic that set Christian Sahut above all others in my sphere of friends, was that he had a drivers license and could drive after dark. Chris made us all aware of THE MOVIE and the fact that it was playing in all of its heavenly glory at a beat up old theater in Schenectady, located on the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard. The theater would later decay into decrepitude as a porno theater, but that sordid fact does not apply to my story, although it is an interesting requiem.

On one dark school day night, Chris loaded us all into his dad’s old Pontiac and drove us over to the aforementioned theater to see THE MOVIE. I had no idea what we were in for as I had no clue what the movie was about other than the brief description that Chris provided. This was all pre internet, so data sources were relegated to out of date copies of the Encyclopedia Britanica. Well, lemme tell ya, what greater our ears and eyes was a wondrous and barely understood spectacle about the future of space exploration. I’m pretty sure that this is one of the events that sparked and drove me towards a career in engineering. As a 10:year old, I had followed very closely the Apollo space program and had watched first hand our landing on the moon, as well as the subsequent attempts and failures, so this experience was just another push in the direction of the engineering arts.

I often go back to these memories, realizing that they were the launching points for the arc of my life. Later in life I’d spend some time working on the inspection system for the space shuttle main engine turbopump at Rocketdyne in Canoga Park California. I’m kinda glad we didn’t go to the opening of Cabaret or The Poseidon Adventure, as the arc of my life might have been less than optimal.