Sweetwater & Mr. Chin
By Don Barone
"Glad I told you all I meant to…"
He had greasy hair.
He wore Goodwill suits and reading glasses from Woolworth's.
Black shoes shinned.
White shirt stained.
And he changed my life.
His name is Dr. O. He was my professor and head of the Media Study Department at UB (S.U.N.Y Buffalo).
Nothing I have today.
Nothing I have tomorrow.
Nothing in my professional life doesn't come with his fingerprints on it.
He was the weirdest person I ever met in my life.
He was the most brilliant person I ever met in my life.
Sometimes, he would tell me things and what he told me would make no sense…until a decade or so later.
I haven't seen or talked to him in years, but I still hear him in my head. Dr. O is the one who told me, "Write the way you think in your head."
"Yeah right, that will work, I don't write like anything you make me read."
"Good. Write like you."
It was Dr. O who introduced me to a famous Documentary Filmmaker who was going to be my mentor, Cannes Film Festive Critics Choice Winner, James Blue.
It was during the showing in Buffalo of one of James Blue's films, "The March" which chronicled Dr. King's protest march in 1963 ending with Dr. King's famous speech in Washington, when James Blue, wearing a cape came up to meet me for the first time.
"So what is it you want to do with your life."
"Don't know," I said looking at a rough faced professor in a cape.
"Don't know, then what is it you want to be when you grow up."
I was twenty-eight at the time, had lived several lifetimes by then already, and I didn't wear a cape.
I didn't say anything, just looked at Dr. O standing behind James Blue.
"So, what do you want to be when you grow up."
I looked back at Blue, looked straight into his eyes, bushy eyebrows, full head of wavy hair…a genius with a film camera…and said this to his question of what I wanted to be when I grew up.
"Me. Not you, not him (nodding at Dr. O), I just want to be me."
James Blue just looked at me a minute, turned to his friend Dr. O and smiled and turned back to me with the same smile, then he reached out and shook my hand and said to me, "Me is good. Me is all you should be, and we are going to have some fun."
Three months later, June 1980, he died in Buffalo of cancer.
I never took a class with him, or even talked to him again.
A year later when I graduated Magna Cum Laude with Dr. O as my mentor, I took him to his favorite Buffalo restaurant, a diner-like place called, "Your Host," where we sat at his seemingly always reserved back booth.
We talked this and that stuff, laughed at some of my now honest descriptions of his classes, he talked of leaving UB for Harvard or back to Rice University, I told him UB would be worse off for that, but wished him luck.
As I dropped him back off on campus at the Media Study building he shook my hand before getting out of the old Ford Mustang I was driving, but this time he didn't let go right away, he put his other hand on mine, a two handed shake and leaned forward and said to me, "Just do what James told you."
I'm thinking James…Jim who, which Jim…
Dr. O: "James, James Blue…when he asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up and you said…me…he said me is good…and all you can be...you're all grown up now…go be you."
And he stepped out of the Mustang.
And I've never seen him since.
But every time I'm me, and not someone else, it is for Dr. O.
"…while I had the chance…"
Came Mr. Chin.
Into the life of a young boy.
A young boy who would come home from school, grab his fishing pole, and then jump onto his bike and pedal off to fish.
"My Father could care less about fishing, but he would take me sometimes to Redondo Beach Pier or Alondra Park off Redondo Beach Blvd."
Darin Dohi, the young boy on the bike with a fishing pole, now the General Manager of a fishing pole company, Seeker Fishing Rods.
When I asked on Bassresource for your story ideas, one answer that came back was about influence. Who influenced a person to fish? When I asked that question around, most, if not all, came back with the same answer, Dad, Mom or Grandfather, something I suspected would happen.
But it was the Dr. O, I was looking for.
It was the James Blue, I was searching for.
The stranger equation.
The Random Act of Kindness the universe sent your way. Imagine, out of nowhere, you meet up with someone who, in a very short time frame, can have a huge influence on your life.
I always wonder, just how random is this?
The few people we meet in our lives who become such a big part of our lives.
Like Mr. Chin.
In Darin Dohi's life.
“He was a tournament angler in California and he sort of took me under his wing when I was a young boy, showed me all about tournament Bass fishing. I learned from him respect for the sport, learned about the work ethic needed, learned how to tournament fish. He was a huge influence in my life.”
When Mr. Chin passed away his family gave Darin Mr. Chin's best rod and reel. “I gave it back to them. I was honored, but I thought it was something that should stay with the family. I did do a tournament in his honor though…came in tenth I did."
As Darin is telling me this he is holding a fishing pole, he twirls it in his hand and looks at me, "It's his impact in my life, it's why I'm pushing this."
THIS, is a new rod that Seeker Fishing Rods is making under their new GM (Darin has been on the job a little over a year.) Normally known for their Saltwater series of rods, "…we are moving into sweetwater."
Sweetwater…what Darin calls freshwater as opposed to saltwater.
I don't ask much about the rod. It looks nice, made of some military grade of something, seemed pretty light to me but you should know I've held maybe three, four fishing poles in my life.
It is Mr. Chin that interests me.
"I made it very clear to the company that I'm a Bass angler and that I wanted to take the company inland; to the sweetwater."
"…cause every moment I had with you…"
A boy on a bicycle carrying a fishing pole grows up to be the General Manager of a fishing pole company.
What's the chance of that?
The chance, was Mr. Chin.
What do you think the chances are of a guy who in high school failed English three times? Who didn't go to college until ten years after barely graduating high school? Who would then go on to a thirty year career as a writer?
About nil, right?
What would be the chances of that?
The chances…would be James Blue.
The chances…would be Dr. O.
Random Acts of Kindness.
Sent by the universe.
Feel free to believe that.
Not for a moment.
Not in Random.
Kindness, yes, random, no.
I believe Mr. Chin was sent Darin's way.
As was James Blue and Dr. O. sent my way.
As is the person, or people who have changed your life, was/were sent your way.
As will be the people sent your way, and who's life you may change.
Gifts from the universe, to all of us.
Gifts, the universe floats our way in its own version of,
"…made me who I am."
Gonna Get There Someday