A person. A photo. A story.
THIS WEEK: Mark on a Life of Bikes
“I gravitated to the city out of boredom as an early adult. After being fed up with college, I, unfortunately, fell in amongst some bike couriers. We were all living together in a group house up in Crestwood. Group houses tend to be viral, so I just fell into their lifestyle. One day, I followed one of them to work.
“I spent the greedy 80’s working as a courier. My parents were cool with it and my Mom just told me, ‘Wear a helmet.’ That time was great because you could really make money as a courier then. We ran letters around town armed with a two-way FM radio…I know, it was super high-tech. You could move several letters at a few dollars a pop and do pretty well for yourself. I did that for several years and not being very creative, I didn’t have anything to do with my money so I bought a house in D.C. That was cool because it meant that when I finished being a courier, I didn’t need to leave the area.
“By the end of the 80’s, I was done as a courier. My body couldn’t handle it any more and my Achilles tendons were in complete disrepair. It was time to quit, and I did so happily. At the time, the courier headquarters was next to a gas station. One day, I rolled by and saw the place had been turned into a bike shop. The guys who opened the place were crazy enough to have taken tools and welded them onto a long chain that was tethered to the building for people to use. That blew me away. I had never seen anybody do that. It hit me then and there that I had to work at that hippie bike shop, and I needed to hurry because they would be out of business in a year.
“As a courier, I developed my bike fixing tools and used that to get a job at the shop, which turned out to be City Bikes. Now, I have been here for many years and have a great repertoire and experience based on learning by hard knocks. Once I learn something that way, I will be damned if I forget it.
“While I love what I do, I sometimes wish we had more time with the bikes that come in. There is nothing sweeter than taking your time with a bike and well, making love with it, so to speak. You want to get everything just right, and the way you would like it if it was yours. We do the best we can and handle things efficiently and effectively, but we get so many bikes coming in that spending a lot of time with one is a luxury. I guess that is so important because for me, bikes are it. There is nothing else in life. What else can I say? I haven’t owned a car in 25 years. I don’t do anything that I can’t do on a bike.
“After 22 years at City Bikes, I am still here and still waiting for them to go out of business.”
“Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. Every Thursday he’ll share a favorite story with us”