Author Topic: The Immortal Class


The Immortal Class
« on: June 05, 2008 »

The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power by Travis Culley

from the book:
For most of us, there was no religious incentive to strive for greatness, or even goodness. Most messengers were not divided into souls and bodies, goods and evils or egos and ids -- our psyches could not be cleft or viewed separately. Why live? Why fight? Because history could just roll right over our heads and forget us all. Young men and women with years of hard living inked or etched into our skin, with the jeans and sweaters that we've worn since we ran away from home, with limited resources and limited opportunities, we, some of us, were still striving for glory with the will to be remembered for what we do well.

Seems we have little else. Outside of our artistic pursuits and our useless degrees, what else might mark a messenger's status? Some of the messengers I know have no solid education, some of them have no aspirations beyond covering a few outstanding bills and then taking it easy. Some of us look like militia and speak of ourselves as anarchists but, in fact, we aren't that revolutionary.

No one watches out for us. We do whatever we want to do because no one seems to care. Any predilection we have toward anarchist ideals is supported not by our extremist appetites as most people assume. The free market, the family, the department of revenue, and the well-fare system have done little for us. We really wouldn't be here if there were an easier way in sight. Our anarchy is not idealized. It is simply lived through the disregard of the people around us.

All of these messengers I met seemed to surf a tide. They ran from poverty while committing most of what they earned to their own work and creativity. Having little food left on the table, their money went to bike parts, art supplies and pints of brew at a bar named Phyllis's on Division Street.

They were black, Asian, Latino, Latina; they were parents and the runaway children of wealthy lawyers. They were 13th generation Americans whose lineage has suffered the sagas of our war-torn farmlands. They had come from Poland, Japan, Hawaii and Peru, from the suburbs, the homesteads, the war fields of Iraq, the public housing projects down Taylor Street and elsewhere, bearing the stretch marks of a deeply polarized political system. They got to this country by plane, by boat and by land and together, riding in groups or talking in groups, they looked like a rainbow coalition surviving on the outskirts of the thunderdome.

They had stopped playing the games of the capitalist system. Instead they had burrowed themselves beneath it and dug out the culture and the creativity that they were seeking. They weren't looking at the free market to find their reflection. They were looking at its buildings, its ventilation systems, its ducts and docks and shafts, its sleeping subways and its cracked asphalt.

To the world, these messengers are like rats, too low to concern the average man; thus they duck his conventional rules, traditions and the means by which they find their credibility. They are free, but somehow, sadly, indistinguishable. Among messengers are many different kinds of people though no one seems to ever shine a light on that. I have taken elevators with guys who stunk of liquor, wearing the last pair of clothes they own. I had a conversation with a man whose afro was mangled and tainted with his own vomit. I could see a line of the dried residue crawling back behind his ear. He was a messenger. I was a messenger. Yet we were so many worlds apart.