page 38-39, Issue #5
– Jimmy Lizama
-Ben Guzman & Bicycle Kitchen
Superheroes are dope. Ordinary heroes are even doper, cause they’re all around us, walking around like normal people, eating that taco next to you, whirling away in front of you or sharing a good story with you while nursing a pint of some dark amber brew.
I saw one this one day. I had heard that you could get a job in downtown L.A. delivering stuff by bicycle. “Really? I can get paid to ride my bike all day long?” I asked my friend, an artist and former messenger. “Yeah, you could be a BIKE MESSENGER!” he said very nonchalantly about this very non-nonchalant concept to me.
I thought, “Whoa,” as a big grin crawled across my face like a jittery centipede, while a deep grimace dribbled down across my ex-wife’s face like Slime dripping from a punctured inner tube. The next day I hopped on my Cannondale mountain bike and rolled down Allesandro, a steep hill that ends at Glendale, a huge arterial that dumps a lot of people in mobile steel boxes onto a few lanes en route to larger stationary steel boxes.
So I’m waiting for my green, ‘cause I didn’t really understand that there was an option not to. From the right corner of my eye I see this galloping blond figure swooping down like Pegasus through pickup trucks, SUV’s, RV’s, sedans, limos, buses, motorcycles, tow trucks and who knows what other silly contraptions, as if he were simply unaffected by space and matter and impervious to bodily injury, dismemberment or even death—the whole time whistling. He must have been leisurely rolling at 30 mph in between, ahem “traffic” (ha, “traffic” they call it, ha!) but managed to seemingly stop time just long enough to glance to his left and give me a smile that went ‘TING!’ and sparkled, like in a commercial on the TV.
That was Morpheus in the form of Scott Free.
Scott Free rode a 60cm Specialized road bike, full gears, from Tujunga, 20-some miles north, uphill, from DTLA—one hour in;
an hour fifteen back.
At six feet and six inches of pure cycling rawness, Mr. Free was quite the sight for me: an uber-dorked-out helmeted side-walk-hugging, knobbied novice.
The next day I prepared. I drank enough coffee to fuel a small hydroelectric plant and consumed one pancake, large enough to end hunger in L.A. County for at least one day. I blasted out of the house determined to overcome my fears, draft Scotty, and time my “commute.”
At the bottom of Allesandro, I waited with my trusty Cannondale. And then I spotted him a few blocks up. My heart rate increased, my eyes opened up and the sweat poured down with thunderclaps. I was running a 46/12 tops, but not knowing any better, I decided that that was my day and this was the machine to have it on.
Scott passes by and I drop in, like a coin into a slot, hear it catch and the machine engages into gear. It was like a video game: Left, right, slow, fast, near, far, and adrenaline like I’d never known. The cars can’t touch me and Scott, well, you know, he’s gone, he’s way gone, but I’m still zooming though this in a vortex of possibility, of immense power and of a new life. I was learning the way of the Jedi, the way of the Bike Messenger.
I got to work, 3 miles away, in like 10 minutes. Down from 20. Fuck yeah, there was another way!
The next few weeks saw some modifications: 1” slicks, a 48-T chainring and an 11-T cog, clip-less pedals, chopped straight bars and a black cycling cap. I took the blue pill and I was staying and consequently was getting to work in 8 minutes.
This is a story about heroes. Heroes all around us.
Scott Free is one of my many, many heroes. He not only adapted superhuman powers through his personal dedication, but he entered into a conscious role of defying the frequency of normal. It is normal to sit an hour in your car, in “traffic,” by yourself and righteously usurping every resource known to us to do it. It is not normal for transportation to be an adventure every day.
I’ve met many heroes, most of them on bicycle. José, the undocumented worker that commutes from the valley to south of downtown on his full suspension Huffy and is there by 6am; Jeet, the young lady that isn’t a bike freak, but has for years ridden her bike form Koreatown to Culver City, a hilly ride no doubt, but has only recently realized what those funny “shifter thingies” do; both Muff Master and her boyfriend Joshua that traverse the city, east to west on fixies, to go and work in the large metal boxes; Allejandro “Chico Che” Perez, a messenger who’s still battling a brain tumor but is back on the road trying to make a decent living and enjoy one thing that makes it all better, his bike; Psycho John, a mythical figure consumed by time, by crack, by an immense connection to the rush that is life itself; anyone who commutes on Santa Monica Boulevard through Beverly Hills….
This story is about heroes—ordinary heroes, on bicycles, pedaling against the current and loving every stroke of it.
The Bicycle Kitchen is a breeding ground for heroes. There, ordinary people—teachers, artists, architects, editors, organizers, messengers, accountants, doctors, pyro-technicians—all give their time, their energy, their love to ensure that the blue pill gets in as many mouths as possible. They develop their superhuman skills to ride, to educate, to invigorate, to agitate and to help other ordinary Angelinos become demi-superheroes. Every time another person decides to ride a bicycle in Los Angeles, it is one pedal stroke closer to peace, to reform, to health, to synchronicity, to a life that I want to live in and a city I hope to die in.
As Psycho John once imparted:
BIKE IT! (for fun)
BIKE IT!! (for work)
BIKE IT!!! (for life)