This kid had one sideburn and said about zero words the first night I met him. It was at the NBL Christmas Classic in 1993. We crept on a couple of girls long into the night to no avail. Years later and after hanging out several more times I would learn his name, Mike Tagliavento. Wait, that’s not right. I learned his named was Tag, then years later Mike, and then several more years later that Tag was short for Tagliavento. In between that time and his recent passing the memories and miles we collected together were many, and mostly unbelievable to the normal person. I’ve been wracking my brain thinking about what I wanted to share about him. Then it dawned on me to simply write about my trip to his celebration party. Dude is gone, but things were weird as shit anyways.
Mike requested no funeral, so his mom Jude had a viewing for a small group of immediate family. There was a family memorial dinner held on Thursday, April 19 at the American Legion the day I arrived for his celebration at his bar the Rhine House for all of his friends which was being held on Saturday. Heavy, heavy scene to say the least, but rest assured Leland got into some shenanigans with cousin Joey Tag that night to make the otherwise somber event pretty outrageous. I mean outrageous to the point I can’t even tell you any tidbits. Tears were shed and stories were shared, and quite fittingly as I previously mentioned, another tale was created. The rest of the weekend any time a weird opportunity presented itself we’d look at each other and say, “It’s what Mike would have wanted,” and then dive in head first. Tsss, tsss, tsss.
On Friday Fisher rounded a crew up and we pedaled all over Ithaca. It was a great day. Everywhere we went people stared like we were the shittiest bunch of dudes they’d ever seen, maybe so, but we were having more fun than them to be certain. Tag basically raised Fisher when he left a foster home at age fifteen. Fisher’s dad’s name is Beaver and his mom used to wear a shirt that said Beaver’s Beaver. For real. I know this because he mentioned it to us after cousin Joey Tag asked if he was from the area.
Cousin Joey Tag: “So you’re from around here, what’s your name?”
Fisher: “Jesse Bower.”
Cousin Joey Tag: “No shit, I know a Beaver Bower, spent five years in prison with him.”
Fisher: “Yeah, that’s my dad.”
There was no short supply of equally amazing stories being passed around.
The day was a long and exhausting adventure, and man did I want to check into the hotel with Big Dave and not wake up until we needed to be at the Rhine House the next afternoon. Could checking into a hotel room on the weekend of a Tag celebration go smoothly? Ah, hell no. First off, the hotel was $140 a night so my expectations of the place were high, which sank instantly when we noticed the hookers in the lobby. Not high-class escorts, street walkers. As we meandered the hallways of what once appeared to be a posh hotel we encountered more hookers and plenty of drunkards passed out all over the place. The door to our room was already opened, never a good sign. The room was annihilated. $140 a night. On the way back to the lobby we couldn’t help but laugh our asses off knowing Tag was getting a kick out of this from somewhere beyond. The next rooms they gave us the keys didn’t work, then the third effort there was a disgruntled man already in mine and of course neither key worked. We eventually found another $140 hotel room and bedded down at 4 a.m.
The gathering of friends at the Rhine House in honor of Mike was an absolute ape fest. Leland put together a slide show that displayed what an amazing journey Tag encountered while he was on this planet. Chris Hallman was the drunkest dude there, which was awesome because he’s a friendly, funny drunk.
Hallman: “Leland, not that I care, but were you and Mike gay?”
Leland: “Only a third.”
At times during the day it was emotionally brutal, but the celebration of a great friend’s life shined through above the pain we all felt. One of Mike’s last requests he made of Kate, his special lady friend, was for her to arrange a celebration at their bar knowing his friends would spend every penny they had drinking the place dry. And that’s what we did, and I’m sure Mike giggled knowing he pulled off the busiest day they’ve had since they opened the joint. One last scam from the grave. I’m gonna miss that guy real bad.
“Don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” – Bill Hicks
- John Paul Rogers