R.I.P., Mike Deme

I always snickered at the mugshot Mike Deme used when he was still in the editor’s chair at Adventure Cyclist. He always looks like, “Goddamnit, are we gonna have some fun here or what?”

My friend and colleague Mike Deme has gone west. He was 51.

Mike devoted nearly a quarter-century to the Adventure Cycling Association, winding up his tour of duty as director of design and media.

We may have first connected when he was editor of The Cyclists’ Yellow Pages — Lord, that would have been a very long time ago — but we had our first real professional how-d’ye-dos in 2009, when he emailed in his capacity as editor of Adventure Cyclist to ask:

“Ever do any touring? It’d be great to get an O’Grady story in Adventure Cyclist. Any interest?”

I confessed that I had never toured, so Mike wangled me a slot in the ACA’s 2010 Southern Arizona Road Adventure as something of a test drive. I wrote that up, and nobody threatened legal action, so next Mike shanghaied me into writing reviews of touring bikes despite another protestation of blithering and disqualifying ignorance. The rest you mostly know, because I’m still at it.

Listen you, enjoy your time,

you really don’t have very long.

You were born just a moment ago,

in another moment you’ll be gone.

—Wang Fan-chih, the Buddhist Layman, in “Cold Mountain Poems: Zen Poems of Han Shan, Shih Te, and Wang Fan-chih,” edited and translated by J.P. Seaton

Working with Mike and the rest of the Adventure Cyclist crew proved a welcome change from pretending to care about bicycle racing for VeloNews and pretending to write about the industry for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. Basically, Mike yanked my cycling head out of my racing ass, reminded me that it’s not all about counting grams, going fast and cutting corners.

We tackled a bunch of Interbikes together, along with a couple of North American Handmade Bicycle Shows, and keeping pace with Mike was always a tough hustle. Short and stout, he never meandered, but always marched, to the beat of his own running commentary. There was work to be done, and a booth to staff, and liquor to drink come quitting time.

And the man was funny. On our separate ways home from NAHBS in North Carolina we texted briefly about the joys of airport travel. When I noted that I’d dodged a cavity search at the Charlotte airport Mike replied: “That place was easy. I’m in Detroit drinking a Miller Fortune. All I can say is we really needed High Life in another package with a bit of Malt Liquor Bull added to it.”

This was his professional opinion, mind you. When Mike wasn’t overseeing the magazine, golfing, or touring, he tended bar in Missoula.

He was gruff and abrupt, liked all the right music and disliked all the right people, and I never had to pester him about money. Ask any freelancer how rare a bird that is. Practically extinct, is what.

I’m sad that he’s gone, and that I never got to ride with him. All the wrong people are shoving off lately.

• Late addendum: The ACA bids farewell to Mike.

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22 Responses to “R.I.P., Mike Deme”

  1. dsawc Says:

    So sorry for your loss, Patrick. I lost a lifelong friend this morning and feel your pain acutely.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      My condolences to you. It never gets any easier. I once asked our neighbor Marv’, a natty dresser, why he was always trolling the thrift shops for suits and ties. He replied, “At my age you go to a lot of funerals.” His was the last time I got all dressed up myself, if memory serves.

  2. Libby Says:

    Lovely tribute. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, Libby. It was quite a shock. I’m going to have a hard time listening to Steve Earle and Mark Knopfler without thinking of Mike. We saw Knopfler in Vegas one year and it was a damn’ fine show. Mike saw Earle in Missoula and said the crowd was so hammered that Earle basically just phoned it in.

  3. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Wow, a knowledgeable beer guy and a touring cyclist. So sorry he had to return early to the source. We could more of folks like him, not less.

  4. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    Mike was a good dude, one of a few folks who’ve altered the trajectory of my professional life:

    • George Gladney, a reporter at the Colorado Springs Sun who later became city editor at the Gazette Telegraph and helped me get my first honest-to-god job as a reporter.

    • John Wilcockson and Felix Magowan, who declined to hire me as the managing editor of VeloNews but brought me aboard to draw cartoons.

    • Marc Sani at Bicycle Retailer, who gave me space in his magazine for no good reason that I can think of.

    • And Mike, who ditto.

    I learned a lot thanks to all these guys, and I hope I repaid them in some small fashion.

    • psobrien Says:

      We really remember good bosses and mentors, don’t we. You don’t run into many of them in a lifetime.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        I’ve been lucky. Got to work with some really talented, smart, funny people over the years. There was the usual quota of blithering idiots, and sometimes the BI was me, but all in all I’ve had the good fortune to labor alongside a pretty stellar group of colleagues.

  5. Carl Duellman Says:

    man. that is sad.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      ‘Tis indeed, Carl. We all return to the source, as Pat O’B reminds us, but some of us should really hang around a little longer.

      I’ve provided Management with a list of candidates for early departure, but as usual my wishes are being ignored. I should really go to church more often. The Universe occasionally feels like a pay-to-play setup to me.

  6. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    WOW, that is sad. It seems like just yesterday. He was just a kid!
    http://cycleitalia.blogspot.com/2014/03/nahbs-2014-people.html
    RIP Mike.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It does seem like yesterday, doesn’t it? Living high on the hog in Charlotte, looking at all the cool toys. I feel for the folks in Missoula who worked so closely with him for so long. That’s some real history there, 24 years worth.

    • Pat O'Brien Says:

      I remembered that post and picture, Larry. We got a call last week that one of our best friends, that we had lost touch with over the years even though we lived in the same town, had died. He was damn near homeless when it happened. He rapidly went from sick, to VA Hospital, and then to hospice. We had camped, shot archery tournaments, and hunted with him for years. We lost touch when our spare time became consumed with cycling. Seems I am reading chapter 16 of the Tao too much these days.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Did you read about William McPherson? Went from the Pulitzer Prize to sitting on a bench with a quarter in his pocket before he shuffled off. As Mr. Waits reminds us, “The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.”

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        I didn’t know about Mr. McPherson until I read the article you linked above. That is depressing. I need a short road trip with some riding involved along the way.

  7. David Watts Says:

    Patrick, so sorry to hear of Mike’s passing. Great write up and tribute.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, David. When an editor rings me up at night I assume I’ve committed some fresh sin against journalism and am in for a vigorous beatdown. I wish that had been the case this time around.

  8. ryansubike Says:

    Sorry for your Loss Maddog, nice write up, a tribute any friend would be happy to have.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Gracias for that … I was in something of a state of shock, I think. The BRAIN guys wanted some quotes and contacts for their story, I had a column to finish for them, I was fielding emails from friends Mike and I had in common, we had a contractor banging away on Herself’s office, and Mister Boo was forgetting his manners, so we’re talking very much about a wing and a prayer here.

      The whole thing reminded me yet again that we need to keep in touch with our friends and families, let them know they’re in our thoughts while they’re still around to appreciate the solicitude.

      • David Rees Says:

        THAT is the bottom line, he says, as he drifts really close to those ages that have a 7 in front of them. It’s all we got.

      • larryatcycleitalia Says:

        Since you wrote that Davide – let’s try to meet up when I’m in Mabilu the 2nd week of Aprile? Perhaps we have cena or pranzo, aperitivi at Duke’s?

  9. Jim Sayer Says:

    Hey Patrick – thanks for this tribute – Mike was truly one of a kind. I get back to Missoula from the Southern Tier and the Bike Leadership thing around the 24th. Hope I’ll get to see you sometime soon.

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