My closest friend, James R. Bickel passed away after a fairly short but intense battle against cancer.
He was the finest, most caring person I ever knew, aside from my father. He was a hippie (as am I), a huge fan of The Beatles (as am I), even more passionate fan of Genesis, YES and the Moody Blues, as well as a damn fine chef!
We met in 1982 while working together at Showbiz Pizza Place. We hit it off immediately as kindred souls. It was those early days that I enjoyed the most, when times were much simpler and age hadn't made cynics of most of us.
I recall one Saturday during the school year when Jim and I went to Greencastle to do a school event on behalf of Showbiz Pizza. It was there that I discovered that it was not a good idea to don the Billy Bob suit and try to navigate a set of stairs! Gravity had its way with me and Jim couldn't stop laughing for hours after that and my ribs hurt for weeks.
In 1983, I had to file for divorce and sue for custody of my two children, Melody and Charlie. I was successful on both counts, and in order to celebrate, I threw a party at Carl Goodwin's house. I called it my GROW party; and GROW (for those of you who may be interested) stood for Got Rid Of Wife.
It was party of legendary status that is still remembered fondly, 30+ years later by those in attendance. There's Jim Bickel in the green camo vest and curly hair.
He did so enjoy Life and I don't recall him ever being angry other than when the great flood hit a few years back and the madness of FEMA paperwork frustrated him so. I prefer to remember him like this.
Later on, Jim and I attended a number of concerts together, including Genesis, YES, Styx, The Moody Blues and others. Music was always a passion of his and I recall that when Genesis retired, Jim actually went online and bought one of their flash drive memory things that they used in the studio, which contained various sound effects and samples from Genesis's 1981 album, Abacab. I remember him playing some of the sounds on the flash drive and was amazed that I recognized some of them from the various songs on the album. A few years back, Jim asked me to help him transport a large Meletron organ he bought off Ebay for a dollar in some small town in northern Illinois. We drove in the pouring rain, packed it onto a small pickup I borrowed, covered it with a tarp and drove it back to his home. He was so happy as this was some sort of rare piece of musical device.
During the fall of 1983, a young lady named Amanda Kenmuir began working at Showbiz and Jim thought he might like to date her. However, once she laid eyes on me, there was no other for her (or me) and Jim took it all with great humor. He was immensely happy for us and even served as photographer for us in February 1984 when we got married in Shelburn, Indiana. He also gladly accepted our request that he serve as Godfather to our first-born daughter, Jamie Meghan Dannielle Wallace.
For the next few decades, we went about our time, enjoying various good times, including raft races sponsored by 107.5, a local rock music station that is no more, as well as the time the Formula One circuit came to the Indianapolis 500 Motor Speedway.
Jim loved the Formula One racing industry and was a huge fan of the Jaguar team. I went with him to the inaugural Formula One race at Indy. He loved it, I slept through half of it. Go figure? I do know that he finally bought a green Jaguar which he absolutely loved until it came time to repair it, which happened a number of times. Then, he got rid of it and swore never again would he own a Jaguar.
I wish I had more pictures of him, but we were never big on photographing each other. I tended towards nighttime photography in cemeteries and he preferred music and such.
I do recall the big flood a few years back that found Jim evacuating his elderly parents at 4am in 4 feet of water. We spent several weeks cleaning out the house, ripping out walls (I still recall every inner wall in the house had the first 4 feet removed and I could look all the way through his house from end to end when I got down on my knees), then laying a concrete floor on the western end of the house. Every afternoon, when I was there, the Red Cross would come by with a sack lunch for us. It was a wonderful time in spite of the hard work.
When he was battling this evil cancer, he had to go to Indianapolis to get some tubes removed and I was happy to take him. We talked about this and that... and even some of the other. There were many memories we relived during those few hours on the road and in the various waiting rooms. This was the last picture I took of him during that trip.
Jim was absolutely convinced he had this thing beat, and I was in total agreement. So when Jim told me that the cancer had returned with a vengeance and he was headed for the Choir Invisible (He also loved Monty Python) in a few months, I thought we had a few months. Instead, it was only days, which then became hours.
Now, he's gone and I gotta live with that. Not good!!! Every time I hear an old Genesis song (the ones when Peter Gabriel was still in the band), I'll think of him and remember him fondly.