Wednesday, August 5, 2009


im very happy to present to you cats adam clark. he's an ex-messenger and i thought it would be nice perspective to have. you know...someone who has done the work and has moved on. he's got alot of great info and knowledge...presenting...

1.why did you decide to messenger?

Oh boy, bear with me here, as I explain the events leading to that decision. Before I moved to Chicago, I was living in Madison, WI working at Whole Foods Market, a bike shop and a bar on the east side. I broke up a relationship that was just not going right. It was an interesting chapter in my life. I was definately busy. I read a lot, biked everywhere, felt kind of like a buddhist or something. My head was completely shaved. I don't know what that has anything to do with anything, but... anyway, my friend started messengering in Chicago about the time of 9/11 and told me some stories about his days on his Spaulding Blade. A bit later, I read Travis Culley's book, the Immortal Class. So, my friend and that book planted the seeds of thought in becoming one myself. I had met Chicago-based friends during my time at the Whole Foods in Madison. A close friend and co-worker at the time, moved back to Chicago and offered me his Leadership job in the Produce dept. So, I started working harder, longer hours here. I visited Chicago a lot during the next year- the place was really growing on me. Soon, I moved to the great land myself, packed up everything, mostly being bike crap in the uhaul and moved to Humbolt Park. I transfered from my Madison store to the Gold Coast store downtown. I was a slave working for Whole Foods. I actually took a demotion to work the close shift at the store. One day, they decided they were going to punish me, by writing me up for not stacking lemons high enough. That kind of made it easy to say, " Fuck You!" It was like jumping on the other train going another way. My friend was messengering, and it seemed sweet to get paid for riding your bike. I researched messenger companies on line and found a bundle of information on being a messenger in Chicago. Mmm...I don't think I answered this question yet. Well, all I can say that deciding to start messengering was a very wise decision, as it opened up all kinds of avenues for adventures learned from for sure.

2.when did you start? has the time been on/off or straight?

I saddled up Dec. of 2003. at Apex courier. quit there summer of '04, went to On The Fly, worked almost a year there, then went down the street to Dynamex for another year. I quit couriering, went out to bicycle mechanic school out in Oregon to polish up some skills to help my friend and mentor, UV resurrect blackstone in Hyde Park. This didn't pan out, so I was asked to deliver subs for Bari, a great Italian sandwich place on Grand Ave. I Delivered there for two years, then quit and went on over to courier again in the summer of of '07 for Service First, which was definitely my favorite spot.

3.what bike did you start on? what do you ride today?

I started out riding my fixed Surly Steamroller with a front canti brake set up and bull horns. I miss the days flying around on that bike. Felt real solid on the streets. Currently, I mainly ride a inexpensive, steel Giant mountain bike that I painted safety green. I got a rack and panniers on this baby, with XT thumbies and super plush XT v's!'ve seen a few come and go...any stick out in your mind?

Oh yeah. Slow Jim! I met him at the Thompson Center cause I needed to fix my flat, and I didn't even have a 15 in my bag. He had this crazy little multi-tool that saved the day. I always loved talking with this dude. He was very nice and cursed a shit ton, but he helped me out. Oh,, and Anthony "T-bone" He was a bad-ass and looked like he could flip a bus over if he got pissed. He was just so smooth. I really miss George Alvarez. We would talk at the can all the time. Manny from OTF and...205 the driver, Man, I remember You! and your crazy low front end lurking through the snow...Ha! There's so many though. you know... 86 Tony and the whole OTF crew a few summers ago. Blunt man, Deathmetal Pete, and Bobcat. I can't just name one, we're all family!

pic from the cuttin'crew...

5.since you started...what changes have you noticed for the industry? what changes would you like to see?

Obviously respect. Seems like it just keeps going down and down, but I've been out of the loop a bit and don't know what's happening currently with things. It's a crazy machine, downtown, I wish everyone got along, just worked more smoothly. I guess it's always up and down. Some days you're a super hero, then the next you're scum. Messengers are such unique people, the times we would talk in elevators, through the days are golden moments, you know. Those are the times I'll never forget. I may be the wrong person to ask this question, because I can't think of another concrete specific thing that I want to see change, other than the respect thing, but one could say this about all kinds of jobs. Definitely higher wages too. FourStar did the only thing possible to make it better, I believe. They started doing it themselves, running it, that way there's only your clients to listen to. I would love to keep seeing companies like this start up. It's hard work, but it wouldn't be honest if it wasn't hard, you know.

6.greatest day messengering...worst?

Well, you had to ask. The worst day was when I saw someone stabbed to death. It was nuts, I witnessed the whole thing, right there on Dearborn, just south of Chicago Ave at a bus stop. I called 911 and watched Tony, who was 24 years old drop in front of me, and died right there. I don't know why I had to see this. It was a split second decision to drop at the law firm at 745 N. dearborn instead of going to my 833 N. Dearborn drop first. I was holding a lot of packages and the way I would do things would be to hit stuff on the way, I hated back-tracking. On a more positive note, the greatest day was when the whole OTF came to my rescue after a run in with a cab. Open channel is sweet, it connects everyone, it's the best way to communicate between your family. I had a 50lber on the handlebars, going from 200 W. Adams to 300 south wacker. It paid me almost 70 bucks or something. I was cruising west on Adams when I got smooshed between two cabs, and lost my momentum. I knocked a side mirror back, and caused the driver to get out and grab my arm. He was saying crazy things to me about sparing my life and other nonsense. Well, I couldn't move. The guy wouldn't let me go, I was making it seem bad and started screaming, and no one stopped to wonder what the hell was going on, so I just hit the button and told everyone and they came riding to the rescue! It was such an uplifting feeling to see everyone drop what they were doing to help out the situation. Remember Roosevelt? This guy looked like the predator. A real nice person, that would listen to you. The cabby took one look at him and let me and my package go. It brought goose bumps to my arms and made me feel like I was part of something awesome.

7.what kind of projects keep you busy nowadays? what kind of work do you do currently?

I just launched my business called Pedal To The People. It is a full service, mobile bike shop. I made this trailer to haul two bikes and all my tools behind that green bike I mentioned earlier. I've really enjoyed learning how to weld. I've got some fabricating projects I'm working on now, including a tandem-trike for burning man, and some custom computer brackets for a hospital. I've been busy making the website for my business too. I picked up the trumpet for the first time since marching band days in middle school, a little over a year ago too. Music has been a whole other trip in it's self. I've really fallen in love with it again. I play with some really amazing people. We are called Environmental Encroachment. Check us out sometime. We'll be in Wrigleyville at the end of this week, playing on the streets. Dos Equis hired us to play for an event. Hopefully, we inspire you! Also, I hope this business works...Did you say you needed a brake adjust??? Basically, Chicago has been good to me, blessing me with so many opportunities I couldn't turn down. I've met the most amazing people here too. I've taken a bit of a break from the Cuttin' Crew race team to start Pedal To The People. I have this dream of making metal sculptures of bike messengers in the loop, crazy uh...

don't sleep on pedal to the people... you think you'll come back?

I don't plan on it. I've learned so much from being a courier. No disrepect, but my life is leading me away from that type of work right now. I feel like I need to contribute to life in different ways. For me, I need to continue learning and discovering, starting Pedal To The People is about that discovery.

9.advice for rookie-rookies...

Just listen to your heart and do the right thing. Never stop learning and stay positive. Realize how free your spirit is on the bike and love everybody out there. You're all in it together. Something I never did and still look up to people that do, are to keep the culture alive! You're doing it yourself, man! and godbless you.

thanks for the good words...i realized after the interview that i only provided adam with 9 questions and not my usual 10...f*ck! i owe you a question apologies. great interview. i can't believe you f*cking witnessed someone getting stabbed dead in front of you!! asking you what changes need to get done was a right choice...respect! it sounds so simple but all this industry needs is some respect...from all sides. i love hearing the stories of messengers coming to the aid of other messengers. t-bone used to say..."even if i don't like the guy and he's a messenger in helping him out". thanks for the interview is much appreciated. good luck in your new adventure. pedal to the people sounds like a great project. do you make trips to the burbs? i might have to hit you up sometime soon...peace.