Denver's Bike Messengers Are a Union Divided

Bike messengers ride fast and they ride alone, which is why an effort to organize them has hit the skids.

"School was never an avenue to make money or achieve status," he says. "I was more concerned with getting that in the messenger world. I found all the love that I needed in my own little circle, and it mattered more to me that I got it from those people than in the outside world."

And Marcus grew up in that little circle. When he was a rookie, J-Bone was the vet schooling him, buying 40s for the young rider and teaching him about life on a bike. He rode through the '80s making five bucks an hour and loving every second of it, hanging out at bars with older cats, learning the rules of the game. He rode out the fax-machine scare, then the e-mail scare — concerns that messengers would no longer be needed with such advances in technology — and experienced his most serious life lessons in the world of bike-messenging: seeing friends go through marriages, divorces, childbirth, abortions, drug addictions, alcoholism, suicides. For Marcus, bike messenging was the scene that cradled him into adulthood, so it's something he takes very seriously and treats with the utmost respect.

"J-Bone turning the DPBMA over to me — it wasn't him turning it over to Rich and Jaimie, it was him turning it over to me, and me bringing them into the fold," Marcus explains. "I wanted some new-school blood, but I was down with the scene before those two were ever even around. I think that sometimes with the old-school...older people, they paint themselves into a corner, and sometimes the old way is not necessarily the right way. Say you have a team and you bring in some new blood to try and win the playoffs — well, I wanted to do that. I wanted to be the guy to gel the new-school and the old-school messengers and really win the playoffs. But when Jaimie came back from worlds, I think she came back and thought that she was going to get this huge step-up in social status. I love Jaimie, I think she's a force of nature, but I don't care about winning races. I give props to people who have been messengers for fifteen years and never fucked up a package, never missed a drop, never called in sick. That's the shit I respect. I have respect for people who have hit that point where they look at their paycheck and look at their bills and realize it's not going to add up and just conclude, 'I just have to pound it out. I just have to ride harder. Quitting is not even an option.' Those are the true messengers."

Jaimie Lusk was poised to be one of three new leaders in the messengers' association.
Anthony Camera
Jaimie Lusk was poised to be one of three new leaders in the messengers' association.
Marcus Garcia is old-school.
Anthony Camera
Marcus Garcia is old-school.

Which is why he's wary of the scene's recent surge in popularity. "Now it's a much more trendy, fashionable thing to be a messenger, be associated with a messenger, look like a messenger," he says. "That wasn't always the way. When I started, a lot of the kids that rode were poor or really seriously into bikes, and it was usually born of necessity. It wasn't something that anyone wanted to do. Now there's a whole class of people that are getting into being a messenger not out of necessity, but because they think it's cool or glamorous or something. People that come and visit in our world and then leave — that bugs you out a little bit."

"Five, eight years ago, you would go down the street and see a bunch of messengers riding track bikes because messengers were the only people who rode them," adds Jacobs. "Now you see all these courier imposters riding track bikes, single-speeds, fixed gears. There's more of them now than there are of us."

And now that Jaimie Lusk has walked away from bike messenging, there's one less.

The day after the Road Rash Bash, Jaimie stopped messenging for good; she's since taken a job teaching math at Montebello High School. Her decision came at a moment during the Road Rash Bash that she found very telling. The Bash marked the last day in Denver for a messenger named Jonathan Tamesue, she explains, with whom Jaimie had grown quite close. After the awards ceremony, Tamesue, who was moving to Seattle, gave a going-away speech that Jaimie describes as a real tear-jerker.

"I looked around the room, and there were a handful of people listening and welling up, and the rest of the people were just hammered, not paying attention, breaking things, trashing things, being total idiots," she recalls. "And I looked at that and realized that when you get all the messengers in one room, you kind of think, 'Why am I putting so much effort into this?'"

Throughout the Bash, Jaimie says, she felt like she was babysitting, from the situation with the anarchist chefs to trying to corral drunken nonsense to making sure the race ran smoothly.

"I'm a hopeless idealist," she continues. "And I wish I would learn my lesson sometime, but I never do. When I came back from worlds, I was so pumped about what I could do in Denver, about putting on the biggest event in Denver's history, to make it go to that next level. But I just saw my whole vision crumble that day. Marcus and I don't have any hard feelings, but he was trashed by noon, and I really think he thinks his job was to do that — but it left me and Rich running ragged, and I was having to be pretty bossy and bitchy. I don't like fighting with people, but in this scene I seem to have gotten pretty good at it."

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