William Gibson Part I

William Gibson’s connection to bicycling, or more specifically, to bike messengers, began with his novel Virtual Light which recounted the adventures of San Francisco bike messenger Chevette Washington. Chevette has stolen a pair of high-tech sunglasses which are embedded with a kind of software that details the massive redevelopment of San Francisco and forebodes the even further displacement of the city’s poor and disenfranchised. Like all of Gibson’s work, Virtual Light is a critique of end game capitalism and envisions a future in which the annihilation of the middle class is complete and the working classes consist of people like Chevette who subsist on marginalized low paying jobs like messengering, and squat in place like the abandoned Oakland Bay bridge.
Gibson evidently solicited help from a messenger named Markus, aka “Fur” who published a messenger zine back in the early nineties and shortly afterwards died of a heroin overdose. Gibson’s elegantly turned tropes and dystopian themes have won him prominent place of notoriety in the mainstream of literature and have solidified his reputation as a techno-prophet. He single-handedly invented the concepts of “cyberspace” and “virtual reality” and may have contributed to the evolution of “reality TV”. instead of 15 minutes of fame, the most we can hope for is 15 seconds.

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Landed in glacier Park

Wonder of wonders! Just about the first thing i saw when i entered glacier Park was a bear! I’m pretty sure it was a black bear, and, being the elusive creatures that they are, the picture I got(which I’m afraid that you won’t see now because once again the library computer that I’m writing from does not upload pics!) that I got was pretty indistinct. I know that he either saw, heard or smelled me because he jumped up and then scrambled further into the bush where he continued to frolic and rummage for grubs or whatever it is that bears rummage for.
I don’t want to mention tea party again, okay, I will: Tea party! There is something comically and diametrically opposite in the American character that can accommodate the kind of people who identify so closely with whatever it is that they stand for (I don”t think even they know what it stands for because many of the issues that some of the members support are the exact opposite of what I would construe as being libertarian…

I met a very interesting biker on the road to Glacier near Libby Montana. Doug Charleston was riding along route two when he spotted me. He had a friend driving with as a support vehicle and claimed to be riding 150 to 200 miles a day. He insisted on giving me his mirror(worn on glasses), which I never use, but accepted out of politeness and then, after ensuring there wasn’t anything else I needed, including gator aide and inner tubes, he went off on a tirade about being forced to submit to security screenings at airports and being “profiled”. Then in the very next breath complained that Mexicans should be profiled and screened at random during highway stops. Now Doug seemed to be a generous and charismatic man, deeply religious, who failed to see the essential contradiction in what he was saying. I think we should either all be profiled or none of us, but i have a problem with profiling one segment of the population because of their racial or ethnic profile.

Meanwhile, back at Glacier On Monday night, August 2nd I saw the wonderful singer Jack Gladstone at the amphitheater at McDonald Lake. Jack is part German and part Blackfoot Indian, and is full of amazing folklore about Indians and very wry and astute observations about the history of America. You can check him out at: http://www.jackgladstone.com/Oki,_Welcome.html

A mere bag of shells

Back in the early days of the Roman Empire, mad emperor Caligula decided to declare war upon Neptune God of the sea after Caligula’s failed expedition to Germany and Britannica.  He summoned several  of the legions to the waters of the English Channel not far from Calais and compelled them to hack at the waves with their swords while Caligula stalked up and down the beach while gnashing his teeth and hissing.  I cannot verify the accuracy of my description but it sounds like something he might have done.  In more contemporary times the modern day equivalent to Caligula, the highly overrated film critic(publicist!) of the New York Post has launched a Caligula like offensive against the bicycle riding citizens of  New York.  Bad enough that he passes himself off as a film critic(he wouldn’t know a good movie from a good slice of pizza) but now he has taken to slighting the hard working members of the bike messenger and food delivery community without which his very mediocre film reviews not to mention his take out Chinese food would never get delivered.  Making jest of this much maligned and marginalized community is always fair game for the Post.  Remember the front page story about the inebriated pedicab driver?  This vicious criminal on three wheels had the audacity to drive two of his bar friends over the Williamsburg bridge drunk (so were the passengers) and had a little spill on the other side of the bridge that required stitches and an ambulance ride for the passengers.  Horror of Horrors.  I guess Mr. Smith failed to notice the white ghost bike placed near the intrepid for Dr. Carl Nacht, run over by a garbage truck in 2005.  Or maybe he missed the other ghost bike down near Tribeca, also on the Hudson, placed for James Ng who was run over by a drunk driver who mistakenly thought he was on the west side highway.  The attitude here I guess is that we shouldn’t be allowed to ride bikes anywhere.  Kinda like what Mayor Koch had in mind back in the mid eighties when he wanted to ban bicycles in midtown.  Perhaps Mr. Smith might have seen the white ghost bike placed near the bottom of the Williamsburg bridge for my friend Jon Neese who was killed in 2006 by a limo driver right near that spot.  But then again I’m sure Mr. Smith is too busy riding around in his own limo to pay attention to such things.

Hence the expression:  Mere bag of shells?

Coleman Younger Messenger Service

Back in 1966 a man named John Dwyer got it into his head to open up a motorcycle messenger service.  I’m not sure where the name Coleman Younger comes from.  I don think it had anything to do with the old outlaw “Cole Younger”, but you never now.  At any rate, it gave the service a certain outlaw license and in fact some of the bikers from the Pagans actually worked there at one point.  By 1980 the service was on its last legs and John Dwyer was deep in the grip of a serious cocaine problem.  it was pretty funny but if you happened to walk in there during normal business hours in all likelihood you would find a bottle of Jack Daniels with some shot glasses and somebody cutting up lines of blow next to the bottle.  That’s just the way it was back in those days before intervention and zero tolerance.  The biggest change was that the motorcycles were gone, replaced by bicycles.  I worked there during my forays back and forth between attending college and trying to experience what I thought was existential living.  I know now that existential doesn’t mean closing the bar every night.  But what the hell, we all make mistakes right?  Anyway, there was a beer distributor right around the corner and six packs of Rolling Rock were $2 American.  I was having the time of my life.  Every night was a party.  I use to go down to the Mudd Club or hang out in one of the Ukrainian bars on Seventh street and on Fridays I would take my girl to parties down in Soho because one of the guys who worked at Coleman was an artist and he always had the inside scoop on the best parties to go to.  One time he invited me to an art exhibition somewhere out in Brooklyn and I remember taking my girl and a bunch of my friends and driving out there in a pickup truck.  It was really off the hook with lasers and a big portrait of Adolph Hitler that I’m told someone slashed with a razor before the night was over.

Soon summer came to an end and the girl was gone.  I decided to go back to school in the fall of 1980, but still lingered on at Coleman.  Business was falling off and John Dwyer’s behavior was getting more and more erratic because of the cocaine.  He had taken to carrying a gun around with him, surely, not a good idea when you a doing eight balls of blow.  One day I came into Coleman and the lights were dim and the phones were off.  I was told that Dwyer had been shot and killed outside of a bar.  Supposedly he had threatened someone with his gun inside the bar and that person had come back with HIS gun and got the drop on Dwyer.

Transit Strike

Okay, let’s back it up.  No, I mean way back.  Before the internet.  Before cell phones.  Let’s travel back thirty years ago to the year 1980 and see what crazyflybikeguy was doing and what the world looked like.  Check out the dude in the background with the funky lid.  You don’t see people wearing those kinds of lids anymore.  This picture was taken during the transit strike of 1980, when the entire city had to resort to other means to get to work.  This was the event that put bicycling on the map for New Yorker’s. It made the city seem more proletarian, as if it were some kind of Bolshevik plot(thank you Barack Obama), seeing the streets filled with bicycles like Amsterdam or Peking.  Hundreds of bikes everywhere you looked.  It was also the year that I became a messenger, quitting my job at Simon and Schuster, to go out on these streets to wait for the apocalypse.  I gotta say that the apocalypse never came(unless you consider 9/11 apocalyptic), but the new millennium did and with that the beginning of a new age in transportation.  In the coming weeks and months I’ll try to expand upon my thesis about the transit strike and the evolution of bicycle culture in New York.  Stay tuned.

Don’t hold me to this…but

At this point I’ve got to put in a plug for Mayor Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner Janett Sadik-Kahn.  OK–I know the guy pretty much bought the election and is mostly on the side of big business(well–maybe completely on the side of big business!) but I like the stance he has taken in terms of the pedestrian mall in Times Square and I respect that he tried to enact the bridge and tunnel fee for cars coming into Manhattan.  When will these idiotic drivers ever think about anyone else but themselves?  Oh, and by the way, as an aside, I think they should keep raising the taxes on cigarettes, booze and sugary soda.  One of the reasons I stopped smoking and drinking is because of these taxes and I’m glad that I did.  And don’t believe that baloney from all those pathetic barfly’s and rummy”s who are singing the blues about “Unfair taxes” and the like.  They are drinking, eating and smoking themselves into an early grave and it is the tax payers who will most likely end up subsidizing their health care when their collective livers, lungs and hearts give.  With these taxes they are just paying for their health care in advance.

Anyway, getting back to the drivers who put my life in jeopardy every time I get on my bicycle.  What the mayor has done, and I really respect him for it, is that he has taken a principled stance with respect to urban space and has made a statement about the future of automobiles in the city.  If people insist on taking their gas belching vehicles  into the city they should have to pay for it.  Tax them.  Tax them.  Tax them.  Let them buy bicycles or take the subway.  And that goes for all those drinkers, smokers and over eaters who are whining about having to pay for their future health care problems.  Let them ride bikes!