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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Jimmy Bishop

Jimmy Bishop was a good friend of mine.  He could be one of those over-the-top personalities, depending on the day you were with him.  We worked together some back in the mid-eighties at the old PJ's bar across the river in Delta, LA, when it was really rough.  We also hung out together a good bit when we weren't working.  Jimmy could party about as hard as anyone I've ever met.  He was also a regular guy who liked to fish and loved old rock music.  He was one of those people who, when the mood struck, had no limits and knew no speed other than wide open.  He had a great sense of humor and if he couldn't make you laugh, well, you just weren't paying attention.  And with Jimmy, that could be dangerous.

Jimmy Bishop AKA Jim-Bob

When Jimmy was living at home with his parents, his dad used to get mad at him almost daily.  Jimmy's mom always made his dad's lunch for the following day and put it in the refrigerator so it would be ready for him when he left for work.  Jimmy liked to stay out late and have a good time and had a habit of coming in after his parents had gone to bed and eating his dad's lunch.  It seemed that they had an understanding; Jimmy knew it was going to make his dad mad and his dad knew that Jimmy was going to eat his lunch.  It was a system that seemed to work for them.

When we worked at PJ's Jimmy was always there when I was working the Sunday afternoon shift.  None of us ever felt very good on Sunday afternoon.  Jimmy showed me a trick that I still practice to this day.  He kept a bottle of Visine in the beer cooler and every Sunday we'd all take turns squirting cold Visine into our eyes, it not only helped with the red, burned-out eyes, it also just seemed to make you feel better in general.  Then he would go to the jukebox and begin the afternoon's musical entertainment.  One of our favorite hangover songs was “Hang Fire” by The Rolling Stones.  It just had that certain “something” that could lift you out of the doldrums and make you feel human again.

One of my favorite Jimmy Bishop stories is from 1986 and sort of explains the way he was when he was in full party mode.  It was a night off for Jimmy, and I was working with the other bartender, Spot.  Spot was a big guy with a big heart, he'll get his own story soon.  Well, Jimmy had come in and started the typical Jimmy drinking pattern, anything and everything.  He would order three different drinks and before long would mix them together in one glass.  One example would be a Rusty Nail, a Screwdriver and maybe a beer or a Jack and Coke.  It looked like mud and scared the hell out of me but he'd drink it down like it was water.  It didn't take too many of these to get him wound up.  On this particular night, Jimmy had acquired some, shall we say, M&M's.  He came to the bar mad as hell.  He said he'd paid for some M&M's but the guy never gave them to him.  I told him, “Yes, he did.  You already ate them.” We argued back and forth about that for a while then he forgot about it and went on about his business.  A while later, I told Spot that I was going to drive Jimmy home, there was no way he could drive.  Hell, he could barely function at this point.  I arranged for a girlfriend to follow us to Jimmy's and then take me back to work to finish my shift.  I got Jimmy strapped into his dad's car and we set out. If you never had the opportunity to drive across the old Mississippi River bridge between Delta and Vicksburg before they closed it down, you don't know fear.  It was barely wide enough for two cars to pass and if you happened to pass a truck or, god help you, be behind a truck as it passed another truck you don't understand the term “pucker point”.  Truckers used to slap mirrors with other 18 wheelers when meeting on that bridge occasionally.  Halfway across the bridge, Jimmy became convinced that he had dropped his M&M's down beside the seat in his dad's car and opened the door to look for them.  This forced me to move to the center of the bridge so the door wouldn't hit the side.  I looked up and, of course, there was a car coming.
“Jimmy, there's a car coming.”
Nothing, he kept looking for his M&M's.
“Jimmy, there's a fucking car coming.  Close the door.”
Still no response.
Nothing, nada.  So I reached across the car and grabbed the collar of his shirt and jerked him back inside, slamming the door in the process.  I was able to get the car back in our lane in time for the other car to pass us without a collision and very little organ damage.
“Shit dude!”  I was a little tense.
“I think I saw my M&M's.”
“Fuck that man, leave that shit alone.”
I got him to his house without any further life-threatening incidents and, after parking in the driveway, I turned off the car and gave him the keys.
“Where are we?”
“We're at your house."
"How'd we get here?"
"I drove."
"There's your front door.  All you gotta do is walk inside and take a left.”
“Oh, okay.  Shit, where's my dad's car?”
“We're in it.  This is your dad's car.  Here, here are your keys.”
“How are you going to get back to PJ's?”
“Susan followed us.  She's right behind us in the driveway.”
“Oh, okay.  Thanks.”
“No problem.  See you tomorrow?”
I got in Susan's car and we watched him amble up to the door, unlock it and go safely inside.  She backed out of the driveway and took me straight back to PJ's.  When I got back I walked in on the rock side (PJ's had a rock side and a country side, it was huge) and went behind the bar.  Spot said, “You get him home all right?”
I walked behind the bar and through the door leading to the bar on the country side and looked out the big window into the parking lot.  A couple of guys were fighting and a crowd of people had gathered around to watch. There, on the edge of the crowd with his crooked grin, watching the fight with a drink in his hand stood Jimmy Bishop.  I watched him for a few seconds just to make sure, shook my head, said, "Holy shit." and retreated over to the rock side and went back to work.  I will never understand how he managed to beat us back to PJ's, much less have time to park, go in, get a drink and wander back outside to watch a fight, all before I could even get back in the building.

Jimmy, myself and our misfit, scofflaw friends all got into a lot of mischief over the years and had a lot of fun.  I went to bonfires at the house he shared with his wife and family and sat in bars with him and told tall tales about the glory years.  Life came along and I got married again, became a family man and tried to work at real jobs and so did he, so we didn't see each other very often.  I was reading the newspaper while having my coffee one Sunday morning in 1999 and Jimmy's name caught my eye, it was his obituary.  On October 1, 1999 Jimmy had fallen asleep behind the wheel and ran off the road.  He wasn't doing any of the things that probably should have caught up with him in earlier years, he had just gotten back into town from a job and was trying to get home, he was just tired.  I called a mutual friend who was living in Vegas and told him about it.  We talked for a while about the old days and agreed that the world just wasn't going to be as much fun without Jimmy in it...and it's not.

I've since become friends with Jimmy's son, Logan, who recognized me in a bar one night and came up and introduced himself.  He remembered seeing me at their house when he was little.  I like Logan, he's a good guy and looks a lot like his dad.  It makes me miss him.

"Yeah, take a thousand dollars.
Go and have some fun
Put it all on at a hundred to one
Hang fire
We hang fire
Put it on the wire baby."  ~ Jagger/Richards

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