Friday, April 27, 2012

Ciao, Beppe.

Our buddy Giuseppe Maino.
We usually don't start things off on a down note around these parts, but the last few days have been nothing but sad ones. You see, we lost a good friend to a senseless freak bicycle accident this week. There's no easy scapegoat, no one person or group to blame, no place to put our grief; just an empty space where Giuseppe used to be. As the last couple days have passed, reflection on how Beppe died and  who he was became inevitable. Walking down those dark emotional alleys led me to a few places I didn't want to go, but ultimately to these thoughts about Beppe.

I met Giuseppe last year on a bike ride. He rolled up smooth as silk and with an aura of calm and self-assurance. Never saw him before. I immediately did the visual checkover to see who exactly we had among us. I mean, it was Tuesday after all, so we would likely be trading pulls before long.  He was tall and trim; quiet, but seemingly open and happy - unencumbered by the arrogance that so often rides in the pocket of a roadie who is faster than most. No helmet, white cycling cap turned backward, glasses just so. Roman nose in glorious profile and tanned olive skin. And then he opened his mouth. "Ciao!"  Oh holy shit. He's from Italy. The mother country! This took things up another notch entirely. And just like that I turned into the new kid who mistakenly sat down at the cool lunch table. "Is he gonna let me stay here or will it be painfully obvious that I'm a pretender?"  Mercifully, the ride ended up being uneventful. Both Beppe and I suffered a bit (I think he was humoring me) and we ended up rolling in, shaking hands and exchanging numbers. "How cool was that?", I thought as I rolled home. "Hope he can make it to the Peckerhead..."

You want to know what cycling does? Over time, it reveals exactly who you are as a human being - regardless of your talent. Are you a cheat? Do you look out for others? Do you have anger issues? Are you fun to be around? Can you carry on a conversation? Eventually the people you ride with are going to know these things. You will be exposed. You want to know what cycling revealed about Giuseppe?

It showed us that he was humble and kind. It revealed him to be a good and caring man who loved his family very much. His riding buddies learned just how classy he was on the bike - smooth like cream, that Beppe was. We learned that he was willing to change if his friends badgered him enough -- Beppe even started wearing a helmet even though we knew that he knew it made him look like another dorky American cyclist. The more cycling told us about Beppe, the more he became our friend and a special part of our little community.

And so this week we had to let go of our friend. We grieve for him and his family, for each other, and for ourselves. Each day on the bike will be a little more ominous and frightening for a while as we reflect on how suddenly it can all come to a halt. But over time, little by little, cycling will reveal in us the people we truly are. It will help us remember why we love to ride our bikes, and how much Beppe loved to ride his. And  when we reach for a cycling cap and head out for a ride in the beautiful Ohio countryside Beppe had come to like so much, we'll think of him. Ciao, Beppe. Vi vogliamo bene.


Anonymous said...

Jay, What an amazing tribute to an amazing man. You described Beppe to perfection.

I remember a couple things about Beppe that I would like to share. Beppe would often come up on your right side, even if you had 12 inches between your tires and the edge of the road. He did this to me on several instances and it scared the shit out of me every time. I would look to my right to see who was riding TOO close to me and Beppe would just be looking at me with a big smile on his face. If I read his smile correctly it said, "Relax rookie, I got this." Not in a cocky way, just with the confidence of someone who had done this his whole life.

On another occasion we were talking and he asked what the English name was for my type of cyclist. I looked at him kind of confused. He was more specific while still managing to be diplomatic. He described me as a strong fast rider on the flats, not so much on the hills. :) I laughed and told him that I didn't know of an English word for that. I told him I didn't think cycling was popular enough in this country to have one word that encompassed those characteristics. He then proceeded to tell me the names for my type of cyclist in Belgian, Spanish, French and Italian, I am just too stupid to remember them.

What I will remember is how special Giuseppe was and how much I enjoyed riding with him. He was so generous to ride with us and at our pace. He loved cycling and life, I hope I can hold on to the life lessons I learned from the short time I knew him!

Jason J. Molyet

Anonymous said...

Nice post Jay! Giuseppe was all the things you described and more. He's a model for all good people to follow,and made more of an impact in our community than he will ever know.

Godspeed Giuseppe

Jeff Braumberger