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Leonardo, amico mio

Those of you who are fluent in Italian may be chuckling to yourselves right now. I have no idea if this title is correct or just another in a long line of close-but-no-cigar moments. Regardless, it’s the best effort from a guy who studied five years of Spanish but can only order a beer and find a bathroom in his official second tongue.

Leonardo is a fellow I know. Actually, we just met after casually greeting each other at Weller Park for the past few years. Pudge (The World’s Greatest Dog) and I have circled the park’s walking paths day after day, season after season for seven years now. When I first began to notice Leonardo relaxing on his usual bench, I would always wave and say hello, while my trusty companion hastily pulled me along. But in the past year or so, I would slow enough to shake hands with him, simply because he took the time to regularly acknowledge me with a wave and a broad smile.

A couple of weeks back, Pudge and I broke free of Cincinnati’s frigid spring temperatures and flooding rains to venture out on an extended walk. While circling Weller Park, I noticed a slightly bent white haired man up ahead on the path, walking briskly in his cardigan sweater, baggy slacks and black leather shoes. Surprisingly, it took a few minutes to catch up to him…he kept up an impressive pace. It was only in the last few steps that I recognized my friend, who also was emerging from his own winter hibernation.

I was glad to see him again, the same way you’re glad to see an elderly uncle at a family reunion, relieved that he hadn’t expired during the long time apart. He turned as Pudge trotted past him, then smiled as he saw me coming up from behind. “Hello," we both exclaimed, each smiling and grabbing the other’s hand.

“How are you,” I asked him.

“Good, good,” he replied in a heavy accent.

“It’s so good to see you,” I continued. “How was your winter?"

Then, in the disjointed syntax of an old immigrant, he said, “Me no speak-uh de Eeenglesh."

“Ahhh, okay,” I shrugged. “You look good!"

“Eighty eight,” he bragged, pointing to himself with his weathered, olive-tinted finger.

Yowza! I thought back on how fluidly he moved and how quick his pace had been. Apparently, his established walking regimen has done him a world of good.

Happy to see my friend again, a line of exuberant questions spewed forth before I remembered that he speaks little to no English. I stopped, apologized, and did what should have been done years ago.

“My name is Tim,” I carefully annunciated.

“Tim?” he repeated back to me. “I…am…uh…Leonardo."

“Leonardo! It’s good to know your name,” I said. “And I’m glad to see you again. Have a great walk and I’ll see you again soon!”

I knew that much of what I said was not understood, but I felt quite sure he could read the meaning in my smile as I patted his shoulder. “Goodbye, Leonardo!"

Pudge and I continued on, and I was walking on air. I guess I’m an old romantic, but there’s nothing like the positive vibe that comes from seeing an old friend after a long absence. Add to that the excitement of finally knowing Leonardo’s name, and the fact that I can now call him my friend…amigo mio.

To my Italian friends, I ask that you check the following phrases so that I can greet my new/old friend on my next walk. Let me know if my English/Spanish/Italian translations are close enough for that cigar. Grazie!

“Hello” Salute

“How are you?” Come vá

"Have a great day” Hanno un grande giorno

“Goodbye, my friend” Addio, amico mio

Timothy Condron

May 1, 2015

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