Today in the UK it is Remembrance Day, our version of the US Veterans Day. And now that the US election dust has settled, the balloons and confetti have been swept away, and across the Atlantic from you guys a nation mourns and gives thanks, it seems fitting I post this eulogy to my fierce friend, my mentor in mischief and fellow expatriate who on October 21st lost the battle with Cancer - the only enemy who ever got the better of him.
My Quiet American chum EDWARD MICHAEL FISHER, aka Chicago Mike, a true American hero.
Chicago Mike was never an easy bloke to get to know. Despite being a fully blown bohemian crazy cool cat, and the life and soul of any great night in the bar, he was a very private person who it took time to connect with. Once he counted you as a mate and drinking buddy though slowly but surely he opened up.
In his youth Mike had been a proper model "looker", whose cool and panache one night had earned him what I would count as the highest of compliments. As he stood at the door of a club Marilyn Monroe swished past, and as she noticed Mike she turned to her friend and giggled "He's cute!".
Mike was a bit of an anglophile, who loved to wear the best English suits, and drove the coolest of the classic British sports cars of the 50s and 60s. Almost every car from the period I love he had at one time or another driven (and crashed once or twice). He had lived through the classic age of rock n roll, and he and I would groove together to rock and blues classics, each supplementing the others collections of music. I loved the war poetry of WW1, but it was Mike that introduced me to the brutal, bleak and desperate beauty of Charles Bukowski, who Mike had got falling down drunk with in a bar one night. We laughed and grooved on Kerouac and Thompson, and in return we introduced Mike to Brit comedy like "Withnail and I", which he loved. Mike was an archive of history on legs, and had anecdotes from the 50s on, from taking an LSD trip with a Swedish stunner during an ice storm, to wrecking a catamaran off the Keys in his big bushy bearded Hemingway period.
Mike showed me that getting old was nothing to fear, and that was his greatest gift to me. He showed me that the way to live life was by your own damn rules and sod what others thought. He taught me that the correct response when speeding towards Dead Mans Curve was to grip the wheel, put the pedal to the metal, and cry "Wheeeeee!"
The one subject we tended to avoid in the bar was Mikes time as a medevac pilot in the hell of Vietnam. When he did open up the conversations were brief, and petered out fast as the pain and horror still left behind showed in his eyes. He would rub the unit tattoo on his arm, order another rum, and we'd shift back to comfortable ground. We knew Mike was an ace copter pilot, and had been decorated and made a chosen man, but we never realised this till a friend sent through his official obituary:
He was a veteran who served in both the Air Force and Army. He entered the Air Force when he was 17 and worked as an aircraft precision instrument mechanic. He later joined the Army and became a decorated medevac helicopter pilot in Vietnam. His awards included 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Star with V Device, 15 Air Medals and Combat Medic Badge. A highlight of his career was being selected to be 5-star General of the Army Omar Bradley's pilot for the 25th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion in France. He flew General Bradley from Paris to the Normandy Beaches where General Bradley described the action that took place on June 6, 1944.(extract from Mikes obit)
When Mike came back he never flew a helicopter again. When one night I asked why he said that the thwop thwop sound of the blades brought back too many bad memories. Mike was in Vietnam during the worst years, and I guess he could never really explain what he had seen and done. But the war was never Mike, and Im glad he lived the crazy cool life he did to make up for that time in hell.
So tonight his friends left behind are gathering in our bar of the lost and damned (as Mike would call it). We will play Jerry Lee and Bob Seger, raise our glasses, and toast the memory of a friend and hero now gone by.
Mike will be missed by all here that knew him and counted him as a mate, an honor not given lightly. And whenever the juke plays and Jerry Lee tears up the keys, or Bob Seger ride down to Fire Lake, Mike will be there by our sides laughing and boogying about with us.
Bye bye Mike, my mate, my mentor, and my hero.