Posts Tagged ‘renegades’



Its been a year since Cuchessi passed and although the initial shock is gone, you still wonder about what happened.  This would be where anyone thinking about how it is that loved ones are taken so young, say whatever it is that means something to them, but to me its just that they are gone.

I have been working on a small narrative about Cuchessi for the last year now and I don’t want to give it away until its done but I want to refer to it in some small way.  How many times we had a week in the shop with some event that had passed the week before and we dissected every possible point of view on what took place.  

Like a Supreme Court Justice, Cuchessi would hear the case with the entrance and testimony of witnesses and those willing to detail their opinion.  Afterwards he would evaluate each fact and filter out the exaggeration and truth for what it meant to our small town.  The theorems and co-theorems would stack up until it was obvious that all the info was in and after it all the final decree would come.

Sometimes it might be a single sentence of fact or a paragraph of Cuchessi truths with some mix of Italian wisdom that only his DNA could deliver.  He would apply  and  cross apply other “cases”, comparing them in some way to the web of small town occurrences that archeologically fell on top of one another and never ended; we had a constant presentation of new facts and information.

Cuchessi was not always right but like most small town characters, he was never confused.  The inevitable news would arrive, providing more details of what might have occurred, and Cuchessi would weigh each morsel; usually, wordlessly, he would glance up from the sales counter to the mechanics bay and smile wisely at the confirmation of his intuition and sometimes commenting with “Too Funny…”,  “…what’d I tell you?” or  simply stating, the predictable nickname of whomever just left that, with his inflection, indicating disbeleif, astonishment or confirmation.

This was mostly done in the late afternoon, with the Sun Post News spread across the glassed case that held the steel, durex plastic and aluminum jewels from which he made his living.  Cuchessi had memorized the sayings of the cycling greats that stared down at all of us from the posters on the walls; he would sagely quote them in a way that would in some way apply to the case at hand.

“…I accept the challenge!!!(French accent/Jaques Anquetil)…When I am in question I…ATTACK!!!(Belgian accent/Mercyx)…Haa!!!…I scoff at you!!!(italian accent/Felice Gimondi)” or “…alo, baby…(Flemish accent/Freddy Maertens)”

I can imagine that anyone in the shop the last few weeks and talking to Sue, Andrew and the mechanics about what the last year has been like and what it all means, that if you really carefully listened hard you might hear John’s voice above it all.

“…Don’ worrr’ ’bout it!!!(San Clemente accent/John Cuchessi)”


I wrote this for the OC Register:










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Cyclists gather at San Clemente Cycles on Sunday morning for a memorial ride in tribute to shop owner John Cuchessi.


Over the past week I had already seen that several websites, from newspapers to cycling teams and a few industry sites, had highlighted the Sunday morning ride from San Clemente Cycles, in honor of Cuchessi.  I knew that there would be a lot of people just because the word of mouth; I went to take some photos and had to keep backing up as people kept coming.  Finally I got the best shot of everyone from the roof. 


Originally, to me, 120 people would have been a lot but then it turned out to be about 350 I would guess.  The motivation for the ride was not only to honor Cuchessi but also to talk about his spiritual side that many may not have known he had. 


The street next to the shop, San Luis Rey, filled up, row by row, of earnest cyclists with a mixed stew of their affiliation to San Clemente Cycles, printed on their jerseys.  Bright, volcanic neon colors everywhere, it was hard to focus on any single one thing except the bright shining faces ready to ride.  Some announcements were made as everyone quieted down and a few spoke of their weekly prayer and fellowship time with Cuchessi on early Thursday mornings at the shop.  It was not easy to hear everything said but there was no doubt about the effect Cuchessi had on everyone that he came across.


A few more announcements through a big Cal-Trans road cone (a very low-tech P/A system) and the group moved together for a group photo behind a banner that read “We Love and Miss You John 5.25.08”.  I think I was supposed to be in the front for the shot but then ended up on the roof.  I could hear my name being called and knew I’d never make it down; everyone was ready to go and anxious.  Now I’ll have to find someone to stitch it all together in Photo shop.


I guess it’s always something and it reminds me of what Cuchessi always used to say.  After one shared personal catastrophe or another he would inevitably comment “Well, Bro…if it’s the worst thing that ever happens to you, you’re pretty lucky”












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Well wishers, friends and family of John Cuchessi, who died on Sunday May 18th at the age of 54, have decorated his bicycle shop with flowers, cards and signs in tribute to how much he will be missed.

John Cuchessi died on a ride last Sunday(May 18th) on his way back from Camp Pendleton. 


I got the news through a friend’s text message on my phone as I was working at the shop.  I can’t always hear the phone go off with all the tools and so I check the phone here and there throughout the day.  I felt something tug when I read it and I thought it wasn’t going to be good.  The text didn’t say too much; only that it had been a bike crash.  I called and they said he was at Mission Hospital.  I can see Mission from my shop and said a little prayer as I looked up over the freeway and through the trees to the top floors and the medi-vac pad on top.


I went up to the hospital and he wasn’t there.  My feelings that it was not good increased.  They gave me the number to Saddleback Memorial and I called.


“I’m sorry, how do yo spell the patient’s name?”  The Receptionist said through a hail storm of static and background sounds.


“J-O-H-N…A…C-U-C-H-E-S-S-I .” I spelled it out as simply as I used to when signing checks in his name at the shop for the UPS deliveries when Cuchessi wasn’t there.


She stalled a moment or two and continued.


“What is your realtionship to the patient?” She asked.


My memory wound back instantly to a long time ago when I first met Cuchessi.  How do you get those many memories out of your mouth in the few words she was waiting for?  Like some giant fish waiting to be pulled up onto the deck of the boat I jerked as hard as I could to try and get it out in one effort.


“Long time friend” I blurted.


She stalled again seemingly weighing what I had said.


“Sir…I am going to transfer you to the back…can you hold on?”


“Yes” I said. 


Yes to the transfer and yes to what I already knew would be the worst news.  This is a fish I didn’t want to catch and I imagined Sue sitting somewhere in that hospital and gathering up her memories of the man that was her husband and the father of her son.  I hung up in the middle of wait.  A call into my voice mail confirmed it.  A friend had called and I listened to what I already knew.


“Hey Dave…John’s gone…he died in the ambulance…” 


The message went on but there was nothing more to say.



















NOTE: I am doing a little write up on how I met Cuchessi which I will post here later.  Its almost done but I am deciding whether or not to submit it to a Narrative writing contest, in which case, it can’t be published until the contest is over.  Stay tuned…



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