My Friend Brion Shimamoto
Brion and I were friends. We met in the 7th grade. I remember being impressed with the precise way he spoke and thoughtfulness he gave to everything he said. I remember talking to him about the science of chemistry… a subject I thought I knew something about. Brion invited me over to his house to see his chemistry set. It was nothing like my chemistry set that could fit in a shoe box. Brion had an organized laboratory of chemicals and equipment that he packed into a floor-to-ceiling cupboard in the breezeway between his house and the garage. He was
Brion and I never spoke about his birth parents or his personal history before 7th grade. From talking to his mom, I believe that I was one of the first “school friends” he made after being adopted. Although when we first met, Brion appeared to be shy, I soon realized that he was not. Brion was a magnet that drew people to him because of his quiet intellectual curiosity and knowledge gained from reading about things that were of interest to him. Brion was a math wizard who had an expanding and eclectic interest in the world around him. He loved to learn about the sciences like astronomy, and chemistry. He read every science fiction book he could find. He loved to laugh about clever satirical comedy records. He was interested in photography where he developed his own film and creatively printed his own pictures. He loved to listen to music and play the drums to it. He enjoyed water skiing as a family sport and
cycling as a deep passion. Most of all, Brion drew people to him. He invited them to participate with him when he talked and wrote about his detailed understandings of the world. Brion communicated his discoveries about life as though he saw himself as a visitor.
When Brion became interested in cycling, he studied it. He read every magazine he could find about it. In the early 1960s 10-speed bicycles were rare in the United States. Brion sparked the interest in several of his friends to get 10-speeds and take cycling day-trips of 20 to 30 miles. We rode with him. Brion was always in the front. At age 15 we began taking the longer trips. We rode from Whittier to San Diego. We rode from Whittier to San Francisco. During the summer when we were 16, we rode 1,390 miles from Brion’s uncle’s home in Sedgwick Colorado to Canton Ohio. As young teenagers the two of us were on our own, riding across the US for 17 days. Although we had planned our route, we had no itinerary. We made friends with all types of people along the way who were curious about us and unaccustomed to
interacting with an Asian/American young man. We told our parents that we intended to camp in city parks and occasionally rent a motel with a shower. As it turned out, people in the towns we passed through fed us and invited us to stay in their homes. Often the local police gave us warnings about storms and suggested that we find shelter. As a result, we slept in churches, court houses, a school bus, motels, people’s homes, and even in a jail cell.
On each of our trips, Brion kept a journal. His wit and cleverness was always a work of art.
After sixty years of friendship I realize that Brion was the first person I ever met who fit the present-day description of thinking outside the box. He possessed a rare blend of curiosity, creativity, intelligence and determination.
Brion was a “computer” before there were computers (as in the film Hidden Figures). At his family home in Whittier there was a small statue (I believe it was a bust of Ludwig Von Beethoven). Under it was a quote from Calvin Coolidge stating that Persistence and Determination are Omnipotent. Brion lived that quote.
Brion was my lifetime friend who was always there to talk to me about anything, and expanded my understanding of the world.