Behind the Amtrak station
The Embarcadero

Tuesday after work


In 1999 I lived in Michigan and there were only two things I want to do with my life: be a DJ and a bike messenger in San Francisco. I graduated college and got a job offer that I postponed for the summer. I hopped on a jet plane and landed in SFO.

To this day, whenever I arrive home in SFO from anywhere in the world it’s like I’ve been reborn to the City I love. Traveling on the BART from the airport to 16th Street and surfacing to the city of sights and sounds and smells makes me smile and forget my worries. I suppose that’s what they mean by coming home again.

I arrived in 2000 and quite literally walked up to The Wall (at Sansome & Market where the old Sharper Image used to be) and started asking the tattooed, fixie riding, bike strangers where I could find a job. One of them mentioned a place in SOMA might be hiring so I walked over and into the alley based shop. I remember everyone I met that day like it was yesterday and the fact that they gave me a job on the spot because “a rookie had just quit the other day.” They never asked any of the questions I’d been expected to know for my corporate job. They didn’t ask any questions at all in fact. The next day I was given a radio, pager, and sent on my way. I remember getting strange looks as I asked pedestrians for directions on my first day.

For the next six months I learned all the secret ways into buildings and saw the City I love from a different perspective. I was an urban tourist exploring biker bars, union rallies, and living among the immortal class. It made me appreciate San Francisco all the more.

The strange thing about working as a bike messenger is that you don’t spend lots of time on your bike. Time is spent in elevators, waiting, moving, signing, dodging, but mostly thinking. In fact you have a surprising amount of time to think about your life and the world around you. It’s like a mashup between an exercise routine, unemployment and social security. Low pay, no benefits, all the time in the world to think, but you get to go as fast as you want.

For those who have never experienced it, manual labor brings with it lots of aches and pains but transforms the world around you into something more real. Food tastes better, the air feels fresher (even when it rained and you had to be out in it), and you never take your work home with you.

After my tenure on a bike I moved back to the Midwest to live for another five years. When I returned again, this time for good, the feeling filled me once again. In fact, every time I return to SF and surface from the underground I still get that little rush of being home. Welcome to my city. I am SF.


Mike’s blog is Chaordic Mind.

You can see the rest of his photo shoot here.


Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: