please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

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Monday, March 07, 2005

The Guy Travis

The guy Travis had biked down to Portland from Seattle that day for a reading at Powell's bookstore. He had just published a book ("The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power", by Travis Hugh Culley, New York, Random House, 2002), and was holding court at a house on N. Commercial that evening. He was lecturing his entirely bike-messenger-ing audience on various injustices when we walked in.
I could feel myself being categorized, being the only non-crusty in the room. I was still wearing waiter clothes, though yes, I had arrived by bike. When it came to any kind of historical overview of how Portland got to be this way, eyes turned to me because I've been here-for the most part-since 1986.
The naivete at work in the author there was starting to disturb me. He spoke glowingly about how lucky we are to be able to vote. Sure-but that process has become so completely perverted that, well...It is gravely in need of fixing, to put it shortly. He also seemed to be playing into that whole image of bike-messengers-as-working-class-heroes thing. It's a half-truth that I'm really uncomfortable with. For one thing, they ain't exactly poor, and for a much more important other, due to the overproliferation of automobiles, the corporate beast has room in its structure for a class of worker (an Immortal class, turns out) that risks its life to ensure that the great engine of, say, real estate proceeds unimpeded. Then they sit around and get drunk, talking about what brave warriors for the rights of the bike-riding individual they are.
We all recounted our run-ins with irate motorists. The overarching message seemed to be that it was always the car's fault, which just ain't true. Mind you, I have noted that most people who drive shouldn't be allowed to, based on their behavior, and they can kill me, either through negligence or malice, and unless I have a rocket launcher on my handle bars, we have a serious disparity of defensive function. All the same, a fair amount of bikers are jack asses, too, and we all know it. The only difference is that they are nowhere near as likely to hurt anyone other than themselves.
The guy Travis wondered how Portland got to be as bike-friendly a city as it is, and I was sort of called upon to tell the story of how Portland re-imagined itself, back in the '70's. What I didn't really get to say was-not only is livability in the larger sense a good idea, but it also makes really good economic sense. It causes people and businesses to want to relocate to your area...Which is part of the problem.
Their view remained simplistic, though; like somehow corporate monoculture and livability were mutually exclusive. When of course-it's Gentrification 101, I thought-that when you improve an area's livability, it then attracts people who visit, then move there, and in turn bring in the same retailers they're used to everywhere else. I don't know who mandated that every city in America look the same, but it seems to be heading that way, in any case. Then, the people who were so very invested in making their community better are driven out by rising prices and rents, increases in traffic, and the quick death of the local businesses that have sustained (and have been sustained by) the community for decades. You know, the kind of scenario that eventually drives everyone to the 'burbs.
Now it's in its terminal phase in Portland. More skyscrapers are being built, although I thought we weren't going to do that anymore, and largely they're sitting empty. Long time local businesses are swept away by national chains that only put a tiny bit back into the local economy. Now, a bunch of hotels I won't be staying in, parking garages I won't be parking in, and shopping malls I won't be shopping in are sprouting up, taking up all the space.
I usually maintain that sheer self-interest keeps the really bad shit from happening: these people want to make money, so they won't fuck it up too badly, right? They won't make it unlivable, will they? From initial good ideas do so many crap results spring. If they'd kept to the original ethic as opposed to the part that includes short-term profit, it might have been different.
But at least we got bike lanes out of the deal, eh Travis? It's a lot easier to see it as The People wanted a better Portland, so it happened. I pointed out that none of this would have happened without a ton of federal money, and co-operation by local business, but it was drowned out.
So-it was depressing to listen to this simplistic twaddle. When the inevitable question came as to what it was that I did for a living, I told them that I served food. The guy Travis thanked me for having provided the 'middle-class perspective'. To be fair, he was exhausted; to be realistic, he still deserved a smack for that one.
Because-as I said-I almost certainly made less money at that time than your average bike messenger, and besides, bikies come from all walks of life, a majority of them not blue collar by any stretch. They just act that way because it has this weird social cachet due to the peculiar yearning of white people for Soul. Only the upper and middle classes idealize poverty, as far as I've ever noticed, although white trash worship does seem to have filtered back down, too, to the folks who want something to be proud of, as always.
The guy Travis had this habit of being more poetic than accurate. So-he trotted out the expected line about America being formed in revolution, and how it should be a lesson to us all that it's always possible. I didn't want to do it, but I had to say it; "If anything is to be learned from the American revolution, it's probably that nothing happens until the rich people decide that it is to be done." Which made me appear to idealize wealth, I know. That ain't it: I just know my history, and am not in the habit of lying to myself.
Or, for that matter, I'm not so simple as to see corporate influence as bad, per se. My bosses at the Art Museum, for instance, I viewed with a bright loathing because they were shitty bosses with business practices that were questionable at best. But they did accomplish what they came to do: save a good but small museum that was going rapidly bankrupt, how they did it was art tourism at its worst, and everybody's jury remains out on whether or not this was a good thing. Nonetheless, the Portland Art Museum is still there; it wasn't going to be.
We left that evening, and I knew right then and there that nobody was going to be steering the boat of Dissent for a while, at least no one that knew anything at all about what they were fighting. And as always, I was forced to note what kind of person gets a book deal these days, in America.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Gringa Alta Prima said...

Well, I'm so glad that you brought the issue up for discussion. I had picked up a copy of "Immortal Class" a couple years back with few expectations, but much curiosity. If only my patience had lasted a little longer. Somewhere in between pages 2 and 5, this guy starts in with the outrageous claim of delivering 64 packages in 8 hours (forgive me if my numbers are a bit off, I don't have the book in front of me). What I am certain of, however, is that this guy apparently averaged in the neighborhood of 1 delivery every 8 minutes over the course of an entire day. Now I have been accused of being gullible before, but no author has ever attempted to shove this shit down my throat. I've delivered pizzas downtown and I know you can easily wait five full minutes for the elevator. Then you have to wait for the receptionist to put down the phone and sign your damn receipt. If you're picking up something, you can wait another five minutes for some one to find out where it is or who the fuck is supposed to have it. The trip back down the elevator always seems to take less time, but not much. So I’m not saying this is typical, but it really can take a full eight minutes for a single delivery or pick-up from the time you enter the building doors to the time you leave alone. So I have very little patience for a man who tries to cram some Lance-Armstrong-type story of super-speed and endurance down my throat.

I waited for my anger to subside before I returned the book.
I'm sure the guy working the bookstore counter appreciated that.

so anyhow, since I’ve now been inspired to feelings of anger, disgust, and mild repulsion, what follows is a general list of complaints, commentary, kvetchings, threats and sarcastic apologies directed at the modern messenger mentality.

This, of course, involves a necessary disclaimer: I've met plenty of bike messengers in my life, and a lot of them have been really cool, awesome, intelligent, and truly non-judgmental people. The following tirade, is not, repeat, IS NOT directed at any one individual, nor does it assume any individual to be guilty of having ANY of the following characteristics, based on their messenger status (or should I say their membership in the Immortal Class?). These are not assumptions about individuals, these are general complaints directed at a herd of pack animals.

1. Being a bicycle messenger does not give you automatic superiority over those who work for 'corporate' businesses. For one, a hell of a lot of messenger companies are corporations themselves. And even if they aren't, most of their clients are. As Rich Bachelor said, risking your life for the corporate beast does not make you superior to anyone. Second of all, to most of us, working for a corporate company is considered abhorrable, if not simply undesirable. Thankfully, I don’t work at Starbuck's, but if I did, it wouldn't be a matter of choice, it would be because Travis Culley's mommy and daddy don't pay MY rent.
2. So I don't drink PBR. Fucking sue me, all right? But please stop harassing me at the bar. I can neither understand your anger nor your argument at my choice of beverage. I really hate PBR. It taste like water and gives me the shits. When I'm sitting in front of my neat little shot of Jack Daniels, its not because I'm trying to separate myself from your prestigious little group, its because I HAPPEN TO LIKE JACK DANIELS. It’s a matter of personal preference, not group identity. So get off my fucking case.
3. I'm not sure why my unwillingness to participate in your frat-boyesque-style drinking contest has somehow made me inferior to you. I have yet to see the attractiveness of lying in a puddle of your own vomit (amongst other things) as your friends spew more beer over your pathetic, heaving figure. I'm really not quite sure what superior quality one might achieve in such a state. Nihilism is a symptom of immaturity, often exhibited by teenagers and meth addicts. Hedonism doesn't mean shit when you spend two-thirds of your time hungover. And neither ideology/excuse is a sufficient basis for self-righteousness.
4. It’s none of your fucking business that I wear a bicycle helmet. I’ve been in your oh-so-heroic drunken bicycle wrecks (see above comments on nihilism) and I’ve pulled gravel out of my helmet twice now. I’m really glad I still have hair on those parts of my head, much less full brain capacity. So you think being a vegetable is superior to looking like a dork. Great, I don’t have a problem with that. Population control is a GOOD thing. But, hey, at least I’m not harassing you on the street over such trivial issues as head wear.
5. I'm terribly sorry my brakes weigh a whopping 3 oz. If I was that concerned about weight on my bike, I'd clean out my #$%@ backpack..
6. See above comment, insert ‘gears’ for ‘brakes’.
7. You aren't a member of the International Longshore Workers Union, so lose the fucking patch.
8. Ditto for that PBR belt buckle. Let us now praise famous corporate beer. (ugh.)
(disclaimer no. 9 : complaint 9 applies to a smaller percentage of messengers than complaints 1-8).
9. What is your beef against tipping? A five-dollar-bill does not entitle you to five one-dollar-pbr’s. It entitles you to, at most, three. And you STILL have to be humane to the waitstaff. Maybe you think mommy and daddy’s money wasn’t meant to feed the bar keep (THEY certainly aren’t as working class as thou). Maybe you think that all your hard work entitles you to drink yourself into oblivion. Maybe you think if you can’t keep your tips, no one should. But the fact of the matter is, if you aren’t mature enough to tip, than you aren’t mature enough to drink in a bar.
10. And last of all, (and this is mostly a question of curiosity), you people don’t really like Herbie Hancock, do you?

Ahhh, I feel so much better now. I pour myself another shot and look at my beat-up Raleigh ten-speed with pride. She’ll treat me better than any of those sheep.

P.S.
thanks for including me in your blog, Rich Bachelor, but you do know that prima means ‘cousin’ and not ‘first’, don’t you? Primera means first, but I guess I’ll just stick to my given name.
love,
your tall, white cousin

11:26 PM  
Blogger carrier said...

Well being a country dweller I have no idea what you're talking about concerning bike messengers. Frankly I'm astonished to learn that this arrogance exists. But what do I know, I am just a government drone making my deliveries from the comfort of a gasoline consuming, toxic fume spewing, combustable engine powered vehicle.

I did have a thought about revolution though. Our revolution was led by the landed gentry, making it unique as far as revolutions go. But it seems that most revolutions have been a product of the working class. Prodded along by the intellegensia for sure, but still largely defined by the whim and born of the masses.

And what is the difference between a revolution and a rebellion? The only differnce I can come up with is that a revolution is a success for the revolters while a rebellion is a failure for the rebels.

Big brother...in more ways than one.

6:38 PM  
Blogger alder park said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:36 PM  
Blogger alder park said...

Seeds of discontent are sown into the fertile proliteriat mind by the hand of the intellectual for the purpose of nuturing revolution.

Richard, I was an eighteen year old marine stationed in Saigon when that city fell to the North. A life long struggle for understanding of those last dark days has ensued within me from that time. A face in the mirror mocks me each time I look there and the bitterness sometimes wins out. Recognizing this is difficult for me and vinegar words often intrude on the honesty reflected by others.

With heartfelt apologies to you and your faithful legion, AP.

9:59 PM  
Blogger baby bulldog said...

it's really too bad you and gringa alta prima aren't together anymore becuase she is hilarious and i'd love to see the interaction. maybe you two could have dueling blogs. and we could vote. although, perhaps dueling between exes is not a good idea. but i like voting. maybe we should just vote on something for fun. i vote that prima starts a blog. who seconds me?

6:23 PM  
Blogger carrier said...

Hey Bachelor I've been thinking about what you said with regard to steering the boat of dissent. You know since we now have an administration in Washington obsessed with directing the moral direction of the country, maybe it's time we put that to a practical use.

What could be more of a moral obligation than addressing the health and wellbeing of the citizens of this country? In fact taking into consideration the moral standards this administration believes the citizens should be held to, it should follow that to allow the overall health of the citizenry to fall to substandard levels is a immoral act itself.

Following this moral obligation the federal government should be forced to nationalize not only the nation's pharmaceutical industry, but also the medical industry as well. According to the administrations guidline, the incentive for R&D of pharmaceutical products and the practice of all fields of medicine should be a moral endeavor as opposed to a profitable one. In fact making a profit from any form of human healthcare provision should be deemed immoral and therefore illegal. Kind of like gay marriage.

This notion should be authored into a cohesive thesis by one with those practical skills and forwarded to every website and web log on the internet. It should inspire a popular uprising demanded not from a politcal position, but from a human position.

Too grand a notion I suppose. But it would certainly be a notion of moral purpose. And since these boneheads think they can legislate morality.....

Go ahead tell me I'm nuts or maybe just a "what the hell are you talking about?"

Love, M. (and no I'm not high, just a little tired)

11:54 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Aw Kee-rist, what does "Segunda" mean, then?
And the Gringa's doin' fine on her own. I like being her friend, and furthermore would like to take this opportunity to rescind my earlier comments against those of the Scorpio persuasion, conditionally.
And I second baby bulldog's motion. Gringa Alta Prima should have her own blog. Given time and the proper place to stand, that lady will move mountains.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Gringa Alta Prima said...

Thanks Baby Bulldog, Rich Bachelor. Your inspiration has led me to post my own blog, although I really don't want to duel with Rich Bachelor. His capacity for language is much greater than mine.
So the blog is incomplete now, but thanks again for the encouragement, and the link on my name should be working now.

11:07 AM  
Blogger connie_ticklegoddess said...

Love to be tickled and to tickle somebody

Me & some of my friends are usually tormenting each other. I love tickling them to death, and they will tickle me back. Thats our trip everyday and when we go out, while we walking into the street going to the park we saw one guy,andguess what happen next? We fucking tickle him until he couldn't breath. He is totally fucked up! Can you imagine my face now?:D...ROFL....

After that he was pissed off at first when he recover. But one of my friend carry him to her house which is near by and she suck his cock.

When they finished I look at him and says: "You want more sweetie?"
He turn back and says: " I've just cum! "
LOL
I says: " I didn't say I will make you cum..... I'm gonna fucking tick.....le........y....o..uuuuuuuuuu!! "

3:01 AM  
Blogger connie_ticklegoddess said...

Love to be tickled and to tickle somebody

Me & some of my friends are usually tormenting each other. I love tickling them to death, and they will tickle me back. Thats our trip everyday and when we go out, while we walking into the street going to the park we saw one guy,andguess what happen next? We fucking tickle him until he couldn't breath. He is totally fucked up! Can you imagine my face now?:D...ROFL....

After that he was pissed off at first when he recover. But one of my friend carry him to her house which is near by and she suck his cock.

When they finished I look at him and says: "You want more sweetie?"
He turn back and says: " I've just cum! "
LOL
I says: " I didn't say I will make you cum..... I'm gonna fucking tick.....le........y....o..uuuuuuuuuu!! "

3:02 AM  

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