Hiking Up Your Pants Leg, New York Style

While the whole fashion world goes gaga over LL Cool J for hiking up his pants leg, be advised that his reason (You know what? I have huge left calf muscles, he said. They need room to breathe. I haven’t done that for years though. It’s just a style from New York) is utter nonesense. It is a style from New York because us messengers used to hike up our right sweat pant leg to keep the grease off our Addidases. Dumb LL is hiking up the wrong leg. And I am sure bike messengers were not the first. Anyone who rides a bike has probably experimented with it. Grease is not the word in Manhattan. . .

The Kilo Glow, by Purefix Cycles, and the 8Bar Bike

As a former bike messenger, I like to keep an eye on the latest in bike tech. And the Kilo Glow, by Purefix Cycles, and 8Bar Bike, both sport a unique paint job that make them noticeable in traffic. I used orange reflective tape that I purchased on Canal Street when I was riding. I think the Chinatown vender charged me five bucks. It was worth every penny.

The Pigeons Foul the Gear

Nothing breaks a bike messenger’s heart more than to see his seats fowled in this manner. These London pigeons are really no better than rats:

Patrick Dalton, Shit London, KK Outlet

Patrick Dalton, Shit London, KK Outlet

Sorry if it’s gross. Just imagine it is paint. Sort of a Jackson Pollock thing, whose work I’ve never quite appreciated until I read of his indirect contribution to the Cold Painting War:

Some posthumous exhibitions of Pollock’s work were sponsored by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, an organization to promote American culture and values backed by the CIA.

Autumn Rhythm, by Jackson Pollock

Autumn Rhythm, by Jackson Pollock

Certain left-wing scholars, most prominently Eva Cockcroft, argue that the U.S. government and wealthy elite embraced Pollock and abstract expressionism in order to place the United States firmly in the forefront of global art and devalue socialist realism. In the words of Cockcroft, Pollock became a “weapon of the Cold War.”

Have I ever told you I’m a big Pollock fan?

Cyclist Hit-and-Run in Berkeley

I have never seen or heard of this piece of gear, but when I worked as a bike messenger, I really could have used it. A YouTuber named brunogfmtube (first name Bruno) filmed his own hit-and-run with a camera mounted on his handlebars:

The hit-and-run occurred around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday on Tunnel Road in Berkeley, where the bicyclists were traveling east and were struck by a car traveling in the same direction, according to police.

One of the cyclists had a camera mounted on his handlebars. The video, posted on YouTube by brunogfmtube, shows a black car veer into both bicyclists at about the 2:40 mark.

According to CBS Station KPIX, Police Capt. Andrew Greenwood said the driver of the black vehicle did not stop afterward, as is required by law, so police treated it as a hit-and-run.

Bike accident screen-shot from brunogfmtube. Michael Medaglia to the left.

The riders, both of whom were wearing helmets, had abrasions from hitting the road but did not require hospitalization, according to Greenwood.

After the incident Wednesday, the suspect, Michael Medaglia, reported to the Oakland Police Department that his car had been stolen. A police alert was placed on the car.

What is crazy- I know that road in Berkeley. I’ve driven on it before, though in a car.

Cycling in Traffic

A Dutch student working on his Masters recently emailed me. He is writing a research paper on bike messengers. And he had some questions about the courier culture. I was always careful during my deliveries, but there are folks that behave the exact opposite way on their bikes:

Police say a woman in Azusa was riding her bicycle into cars on purpose so she could pressure drivers into giving her money.

One of the motorists called police after the 20-year-old woman was found crawling out from underneath their car near East Arrow Highway and South Azusa Avenue at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The woman fled and officers found her nearby. Paramedics treated her for some scratches and officers issued her a citation for alleged hit-and-run.

Azusa police said the suspect, Celina Pangburn, of Azusa, also tried to pull the same stunt a few hours earlier on a driver a few blocks east of Hollenbeck Avenue.

Thanks Celina for giving cyclists a bad name. It is not hard: obey the law, follow the rules.

Running Reds: A Bike Messenger’s Confession

As a former New York City bike messenger, I have run red or two. Usually they were yellows that popped on me. The good news is- I never did it in heavy traffic. I always had my head on a swivel in those situations. Plus, I usually had packages which slowed my speeds way down. It is hard to run reds with 30 pounds on your back.

Chris Bucchere struck Sutchi Hui

With the exception of Broadway running downtown, I don’t ever remember riding all that fast around Manhattan. It is flat and I had a mountain bike, not some speed racer. Here is what you don’t do, jam through reds at breakneck speeds:

A bicyclist who allegedly fatally struck a pedestrian in San Francisco’s Castro District last week is “devastated by the accident” but believes he entered the intersection lawfully, his attorney said Friday.

Chris Bucchere allegedly struck 71-year-old Sutchi Hui at Market and Castro streets shortly before 8:10 a.m. on March 29. Witnesses reported that Bucchere, who was traveling south on Castro Street, might have run a red light before striking Hui, according to police.

I will say it again, cyclists need to be extra careful. God bless Sutchi Hui and his family.

Wasting Nassau, Cedar, and Water Streets

Working as a bike messenger, I remember some streets better than others. Broadway is one I can’t forget. Catch the lights just right on Broadway and you can sail downtown.

Nassau was another, mostly because we had a lot of deliveries at a building along it. In fact, checking the map now, Nassau only runs for a short while before turning into Broad Street.

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators dragged large quantities of human urine and feces in containers to an open-air plaza on Nassau and Cedar streets in Manhattan.

Still, I found this extremely disturbing when I read of Nassau Street, in the news for the wrong reasons:

The NYPD released surveillance video Wednesday night detailing some stinky business they say is linked to Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Surveillance image of an Occupy Wall Street demonstrator pouring human waste inside a Chase Bank ATM vestibule on Water Street.

Police said that on evening of March 14, a number of Occupy demonstrators dragged large quantities of human urine and feces in containers to an open-air plaza before pouring the waste down a flight of stairs.

The incident occurred at the corner of Nassau and Cedar streets in Lower Manhattan.

Authorities said that that same night, about 20 minutes later, one of the suspects entered a Chase ATM vestibule on Water Street and poured human waste inside.

Nassau is in the business-y part of town. And the poor folks who are probably going to clean the stairs and the ATM are the janitors. Congratulations Jordan Brooks Amos, you prove once again why OWS and the 99%ers are spoiled, entitled punks. . .

Yikes, Montreal Man Lives on Bike?

For a brief time, I made a living on my bike. Working as a courier was exhilarating, dangerous, and at times, dull. I remember the exact moment when it dawned on me that I needed to find a new day job. (I had another job at night.)

I was riding crosstown, west to east. And I had something like 42 pounds in my cycle messenger pack. My neck was cramping up and blood flow was restricted because of the tight sash-like strap running over my shoulder.

And I thought to myself: I feel like a pack-mule! What the heck am I doing?

Those eight hours every day aboard my mountain bike made relaxing at home easy. I did not move for the first hour or so. I heard of guys working longer shifts, but never a shift 382 days long:

Guillaume Blanchet spent 382 days riding his bike through the streets of Montreal living what appears to be a normal everyday life on his bike. He dedicates the short film to his father, Yves Blanchet where he first got his love for riding a bike.

Guillaume Blanchet spent 382 days riding his bike through the streets of Montreal

No frikkin’ way. Painful city. This is a family-friendly blog, so I’ll try to put this gently. There are certain anatomical zones that need a rest from riding a bike. Yes, we have chamois (pronounced shammy) and other comfort items that we wear. But 382 days? Nope, not for me. . .

Ride Fast, Roll Easy

Fiction, published in the November 2011 issue of Urban Velo

Death made me a man.

I’ll never admit it, not now, not rolling Broadway on my bike, my single-gear. But s’true. Losing my parents last year forced me to grow up. To hunt their killer. The man with the tattooed knuckles. I got nothing on him but those fists and they clobber me, always in my thoughts, my dreams.

Riding Broadway, New York’s Mississippi, I catch green after green. I’m 18 and don’t expect anything less. Life’s forever green, no? John races right behind me. On rollerblades way too fast for him. Which is where I come in.

He reaches and grabs the rattly rack on my fender to slow down, dragging his back brake. Like some bladers, he never learned to stop. Quick-like. No hockey-T, no side edge. Never. We got us all greens, he yells to me. We have this conversation every day. An old married couple, we are. ‘Cept for the old part. And the married, couple thing.

Yup, I shout. A car cuts in front of me, and I let loose. Look sharp, I bellow at the taxi. The driver flicks his bored eyes at me, in his side mirror, and we meet. For a second. Before he riffles them away. Taxis. Me and them do not get along. Me and them. Do not. I got stories.

Read the rest at Urban Velo

New York City Snow Storm Scatters Flakes on Wall Street

New York City in Winter: A Cold Lion

New York City weather can be nasty nasty. I know, I worked as a bike messenger through one tough winter.

Take Riverside Drive, 11th or 12th Avenue, any of those streets that hug the Hudson River. The wind is vicious down there, it simply whistles off the water. And there are few buildings to block it.

I learned my lesson the hard way. It was December and I was riding south, midtownish. A gust of wind tickled my side and then pushed. Me. A good ten feet diagonally. As if I was a wind-surfer.

I skidded across a long metal grating and down along the edge of a curbed sidewalk. Shaken, I got off my bike, my heart beating in my ears. Somehow, I locked up my steed and sat in the lobby of an unknown building. No one said anything to me. New York is funny like that.

So when I read this, I think- those Occupy Wall Street clowns (the 99%ers) are in for a rude awakening:

It’s a record!

New York City broke it’s top snow mark with 1.3 inches at 2:11 p.m., the National Weather Service told the Advance.

The old record was 0.8 inches and was set in 1925.

The Weather Service just upgraded its forecast and is now predicting that 8-9 inches of snow will fall here by the time the storm winds down overnight.

Russell Brand, obnoxious British clown

More than 11,690 customers are without power, half of them in the Tottenville (Staten Island) area, according to Con Edison’s Storm Central website.

“We have a new record already,” said meteorologist Joey Picca.”We knew the moisture would be there, but the switch-over was sooner.”

Earlier in the week, annoying comedian Russell Brand even stopped by for a look-see.

Mr. Brand is better known on the these shores as Mr. Katy Perry. (I wonder if he purchased any of those special Occupy Wall Street t-shirts?) He had this to say of the protestors:

“The sense of cohesion and civic duty in the square, which many call Liberty Square, its former title, was something I found appealing. Protesters took the time to educate me on the matters that had brought them to the square.”

The first flakes:

Occupy Wall Street Snow Storm, Zuccotti Park

The above picture is from the NY Post. My favorite quote from the article:

“I got my blanket, I got my sleeping bag and I got my girl,” said 25-year-old protestor Rene, who came from Occupy Miami to Occupy Wall Street, “so it’s not hard to stay warm.”

Somewhere, somehow, George Gershwin is turning in his grave. . .

Update: I received a nasty comment which I am not approving for publication, but rather posting partially here. I cut out the insulting sections of it, aimed at another commenter. Dissension I understand; heck it is patriotic, right? But I leave my blog for stretches of the day and I can’t police squabbles. The part I can post:

“Spoiled Brats” and “Entitlement” ≠ “Sleeping on City Concrete in Snow”

Personally, I am not in agreement. This is how I see it:

“Spoiled Brats” and “Entitlement” = “Snoozing in sleeping bags on mattress pads in tents, with bathrooms around the corner. Not to mention the donated food or the shady $500,000 in the evil bank. Or the lack of a job. And the demand of free student loans. Or whatever it is that this movement demands.”

Or, how about this:

“Spoiled Brats” and “Entitlement” ≠ “Al Anbar, Argonne, any battle the US military has fought. . .”

Update II: Ah, nothing like the OWS folks to bring out a little unity. I also received the below comment, again aimed at another commenter. As per usual, I will not approve it, but post it here for your guffawing pleasure:

Your ignorance is astounding.

Here is the funny thing, the above commenter was only on the site for two minutes before posting the above screed. (I happen to be on-line at the same time, thus the successful sleuthing.) Usually it takes me a full ten minutes to be able to determine someone is astoundingly ignorant. Perhaps this genius has special powers?

Fashion Models and a New York City Bike Messenger

I am tearing crosstown, eastward on Spring Street and my derailler is clicking at me. Like some lost snare drummer. I peer at it, shift up and then back. It stops rattlin’ and I race through Greene, and then Mercer Street. Broadway looms, I slow.

Was this where that guy got doored by a taxi? Them hacks are brutal in traffic, dodging lanes without signal, stopping on less than a dime, a nickel. I have run black rubber from my handlebars down the sides of two cabs at once. In a misplaced game of peanut butter and jelly. The cabbies, they played the bread and I was almost jam, the jelly. And the peanut buttah’. With me pounding on both vehicles at once with angry, gloved fists.

I push through Broadway. It is a long, fast street, that. Running diagonal from the upper-west through midtown and the White Way, alleycatting east to the canyons of Wall. From one corner of Union Square through the other. Yeah yeah, I know: it jogs north of Columbia. But not to this courier. Not to say nothing of East Broadway or West. Better watch yourself there, newbie messenger, or you’ll go to the wrong one. My delivery is on Centre Street. Or was it Lafayette?

As if on cue, a cab lurches to a stop before me. I swerve. Ask any courier about getting doored. Roll a pedestrian and the fall is soft, softer then meeting an anxious taxi door. From some oblivious, exiting passenger who I glare at. Sorry pedestrians, I don’t want to bum rush you’s either, but hack doors don’t move. Much.

I cut a hard right on Lafayette into the slipstream of a cargo truck. Of all my draft choices, trucks ain’t great. If I stay a little in front of his exhaust, I’m fine. And I don’t have to suck fumes. It provides me cover from my left flank. But I have to watch him turning right. In front of me. That would really hurt. Once. And then I would be all sprawled out. Asleep or an imitation of it.

That little triangle where Lafayette splits off to Centre appears off my left. I can’t see it, ‘cuz (remember) I am running with an elephant on my shoulder. I slow and suddenly know where my two drop-offs are. I’d been to this place before. A modeling agency for gangly girls.

I brake and my derailler clicks twice. The same snare. Click click. I pull up to a bent no-parking sign and flip my chain-lock off my handlebars. Just ahead, hunched over a blue newspaper rack, another cyclist struggles with his bike.

I throw my chin at him. In greeting. Mostly because I want to stare at his track bike. Or whatever they call those one-geared dealios some guys roll. This dude is not a messenger, but he is a dude. A hipster. The kind with new facial hair not invented yet. All retro and futuristic at the same time. His shirt says something ironic, sarcasm lost on me. I snap my lock shut and dig into my bag for my deliveries.

Outside, two girls stand smoking. The models have the same shape as their skinny mini cigarillos. As in none. You’ve come a long way, baby.

I hate to break this to you, but some models are not models. Not for beauty anyway. Not up close. Nervous stringy things they are. Maybe they know how to work the camera, but as I pass them, they look like egrets, all swept hair and bob-necked. Sorry girls, I have no egrets in saying it. . .

I walk through the lobby and pass a modely type who frowns at me. I see myself in a mirror, behind the front desk, and I frown at me too.

Old story: how they push up close to the walls of the elevators I enter, glistening from jamming down Broadway, cutting across 59th, ducking through Canal. It did not help that I was a sweater, as in one who sweats, not the wooly contraption. Even in the building that stole my heart, the Trade Center, they would push away. God bless ‘em. All of them.

Two deliveries, I say to the secretary. She is not nervous, nor fidgety. And she looks normal, in size and temperament. Probably a model reject, but she smiles at me and I smile back. Thanks, she says, signing the slip with my sweaty pen.

Is my manager ready, one of the working girls asks her. She flairs her eyelids, the model, like a horse. The girls outside are fowl and this one is equine. What sort of zoo have I stumbled upon?

The secretary rolls her eyes at me, like we was tight, even though I don’t know her. Not yet, she replies to the model before turning to me. You stay safe, ai’ite?

You bet, I reply. And I step out of the office, out into the street. Towards the hipster still wrestling with the tricked cycle he probably just bought. I stop: I’ll hook this brotha up. His chain has jailbreaked and I crouch over it, trying to coax it back onto the gear. I got time, I just got an ai’ite from a receptionist. Almost nothing better.

Confessions of a NYC Bike Messenger (Part I) can be found here.

Confessions of a New York City Bike Messenger

I am standing on the pedals of my 18-speed, riding towards Rockafella’ Centah, to go somewhere, to see someone, to pick something up. I pop a curb. Something caught. I catch. And I tumble forward and my bike stumbles with me. And I go from upright to the ground with no memory of the travel. I am lying on the sidewalk, dazed. For five seconds or five minutes and a guy passes me and looks.

Hey buddy, you need a hand, he asks, hardly stopping, because it is New York. But he talks to me and I think he is perhaps from out of town. Or maybe I can’t think straight, ‘cuz New Yorkers wear their heart on their sleeve. Underneath that watcha-want usually is a lemme-help.

No, I am fine. And he passes by without another word. Just fine, I say to his back, to no one.

I pull myself up and limp over to my bike. I fish for a quarter, because this is the 90s. I call dispatch from a payphone within mute earshot of my biff. I got dinged up. I wiped, I say to her, the hoarse girl I speak to all day long. Not too bad.  

Go home, my dispatcher says. She’s a former bike messenger. Rest. She knows the job. Fun and fast. Sweaty, windy. You had a good day. 18 packages.

I leave her and the phone and stand back up on my pedals. Not as tough as the last time I rode tall. But still I’m moving. And I pedal uptown. Slowly.

Because to get home, I gotta ride there. I can’t hop a cab. I gotta get get over the 59th Bridge through Long Island City to Astoria, Queens. But I don’t ride home. Not today all banged up. I roll my bike to the 7th Ave subway station. The one near Carnegie Hall.

Down the stairs and to the Queens N track: I don’t even wait. A subway screeches toward me, the air running before it anxiously clearing the way. The doors open, I let people in. And then I swing my bike inside. People give me space. Maybe because I am sweaty. Or that I got my right pants leg all hiked up. Not ‘cuz I’m a homeboy, but to keep the lube off my Adidas sweats. Black grease streaks my right calf. I look like a b-boy, whatever they are.

And the subway doors close and we enter a tunnel and I feel a stream of air whistling through the crack in the door. I’m tired and I can’t tell whether it’s hot or cold air, only that it’s different. The car shrieks and metal scrapes. And we clatta clatta clatta as we wind down along a long straightway before turning left and coming up into the dying light of a New York December.

I am tired and I don’t think about college six months behind me. Or the Navy, still in my future. Or 9/11, which has not painted my city, my adopted city. Yet.

I stand up. Out into the real air, I bump my bike down the stairs and ride it slowly towards my house. I rent in the Greek part of town, mostly because my brain lives in my stomach and gyros and souvlaki are my oxygen and water. And because I want the rest of my body to stick close to my brain and gut, those ruffians.

My bike lock falls off my handlebars (dammit) and I have to circle around to pick it up. If you need a good chain, get you the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Bike Chain Lock. Yeah, Fahgettaboudit is right. That lock is one tough motha.

Some of the other messengers ride around with the Fahgettaboudit draped ’round their necks, like they was LL Cool J. I tried it once and I discovered I was not LL. It felt ridiculous, I felt ridiculous. Like an oxen or how an oxen should feel if he hadda larger brain.

I pick up the lock and wrap it across my handlebars. I pass Uncle George’s on the corner and even though I am trying to save money, I sloop up the sidewalk and lock my bike down with my Fahgettaboudit. Souvlaki, time to get some.

Part II here.