Life and change
My house is getting fumigated tomorrow for wood-boring beetles, similar to termites. In my haste to pack and leave, I’ve failed to get a proper newsletter together (as much as I enjoy writing them). So, here we have a blast from the past, existential stream-of-conscience Wren in 2014, struggling to understand life as she works a terrible food-delivery job and slips from a life of communal living and travel:“I went to Santa Cruz a couple of months ago. I don’t have any travel plans for this summer except few-days-long bike trips, and while that’s exciting I wonder what’s going on right now that makes longer expeditions less appealing. I’m kind of tired, in a lot of ways. My last two trips (a two-month one and a four-day one) wore me ragged and my last house tore through my belly and these past nine months have been a strange hole where I feel vague shadows of things I’ve done, but can’t really hold any of them down. I guess I helped start a pedicab collective that went nowhere and briefly defended an autonomous space that’s now held snugly in the fist of the state and desperately fought through a cloud of consuming defeat in my old living space, every day trying not to drown in conflict and emotions and mediated conversations and space that could not be in any part mine because it was not everyone’s, it had to be no one’s (which was a way for it to be everyone’s, but that’s not quite how it follows for me). I’ve also had jobs that pay money (however sporadic and meager) and I got two CrossFit trainer certifications and my hair is growing longer and I have a second bike and I wonder what I’m becoming. I haven’t written in a long time. I start so many things I don’t finish. I usually relish in that I have no idea what I’m doing with my life but that grand nebulousness is beginning to feel strange. I have attachments when I know they’re just cages, so finely dressed. Why have I grown so used to their metallic embrace? I can’t become comfortable but I’ve become so comfortable and there’s a lot around me and in me that could make that so simple but it’s not something I can do. If I wanted to strip all meaning from my life maybe I’d consider it. It’s creeping on me, though, and I’m having trouble finding worth in the things that I do. Anyone can get on me for whining, sure, and plenty have told me plenty have it worse (one of my old housemates’ favorite suggested coping mechanisms), but this is my journal and I’m feeling awful, as the sun dips behind the hospital down the block, so I’m writing down this strange serpent within me.”In grand conclusion, life is hard.-Wren(Ed. note: Check it out at https://www.sfbma.org/quake-city-rumble-2016/. Also, Cupid Courier will be CLOSED Monday, September 5th, in honor of Labor Day!)
Quake City Rumble is an annual fundraiser that includes a series of races, parties and events to raise money for the Broken Bones Fund. That’s a pool of money for wounded messengers hurt working while on the road. It can be a dangerous job that attracts some crazy people. I’ve made many friends through the community who are artists, musicians, performers, and wingnuts. I enjoy the company of this colorful crowd, and it’s exciting to participate in the organization of QCR. Mostly it’s a great day to celebrate the pure fact that bicycles are the fastest way to get around in a city.-Jacki(Ed. note: Check it out at https://www.sfbma.org/quake-city-rumble-2016/. Also, Cupid Courier will be CLOSED Monday, September 5th, in honor of Labor Day!)
It all started when I finally said it out loud.
“My love affair with bikes is over.”
I’ve spent the most formative years of my adult life slinging packages through every weather condition in cities on either side of the country pretty much every day for nearly 6 years. I’ve had just about every experience, save death, that I can really imagine having. I guess what I’m saying is I think I peaked in my bike messenger career.
I’m certainly not regretful that I spent so much time doing this. I’ve met some amazing people, seen some beautiful and not-so-beautiful places I never otherwise would have seen, learned just how hard I can push myself and actually developed a pretty okay work ethic which I never thought I would have 6 years ago.
I’m not off the bike yet, however I’m going an alternative route with bike work which will hopefully result in me being off the bike entirely (I always thought when people said that it sounded like they were kicking a bad habit. Something like “off the sauce”). Although I’d love to just deliver my final package on my last day working with Cupid I unfortunately can’t say that will be the case, although I always swore to myself it would be. But good things come to those who wait, or so I’m told.
So I guess in the end at worst being a messenger was a means to an end which left me jaded and reluctant to ride my bike for fun anymore. At best it was some of the most fun, interesting, social, strengthening and sometimes even lucrative times I have ever and probably will ever have in my life and would never trade those times, friends and experiences for the world. I think the medium in there is a pretty happy one.
If you see me out in the world feel free to say hi! Or don’t, that’s cool too.
A room I rented earlier this year required $200 and four laborious days of mold remediation. I’ve gotten mold poisoning before; in 2012 I’d spent four nights in places that smelled thickly of my basement growing up; I was hacking mercilessly for a month and a half. Mold poisoning more commonly takes the form of chronic nausea and fatigue with long-term exposure to milder concentrations. I really didn’t want that, hence my efforts with this room.
At first I thought it was just in the closet, where stains darkly mottled the paint. I cleaned and sealed the small space, but the room still smelled rankly. There’s a particular sensation of cold, abrasive dripping in the back of your throat when you’re around mold for a few minutes. The feeling filled me with regret, despair, disgust, and panic. I realized that the carpet, long-ago soiled by the dog that once lived there, was a festering landscape of mildew. It was even still damp in spots. That the room got no direct sunlight sure didn’t help (I could see the sky though, at a certain angle, which is more than my partner can say).
I resolved to tear out the carpet (Sam helped, she lived four blocks away!). I wanted so badly to sleep in this place I was paying so much money for, where I’d acquired illusions of safeness, stability, and respectable citizenship. A chunk of the carpet was already missing anyway. From that gap, I thought it was concrete that lay beneath.
But oh no.
Half the floor was exposed particle board. The other half had this weird shale-like stuff poured over it, starting thick at one end and petering out to a thin layer to even out the un-level floor. The thinner parts broke when I stepped on them. The real problem, though, was the that the particle board was spongy where the carpet had been damp. Some of this lay beneath the shale. Well, I thought, I already had one afternoon of sweating in goggles and a respirator, why not treat myself to another? This time I was accompanied by my crowbar friend, and we broke up the shale to expose the rotting boards beneath.
I then doused the floor in mildewcide, let it sit for a day with a fan, and painted over it with mold-sealing paint and concrete-floor paint (for which I chose a pleasant shade of sage green). I also painted the walls to be extra safe; the worst part of all of this was at no point being sure that any of this would work, and worrying that I’d just sunk a bunch of money for nothing. But, to my swelling relief, it didn’t smell after that. The last step was acquiring a rug to protect the floor (paint, particle board, and shale remnants), and when my partner helped me pick one up from East Oakland, we got into a collision on the freeway. But that’s another story.
You may ask, “But young Wren, noble and fair, why did you move into a moldy room?” At the time, I was in between housing, and pretty desperate for a stable spot. The last time I’d looked for housing in Oakland, it took five months for me to land a room. Houses are overwhelmingly swamped with applicants, especially those with less-pricey rooms (and, as a bike messenger, the less pricey is a necessity). So, when I was accepted into this house, I wasn’t paying much attention, and thought it all smelled musty because the last person living there was a slob. Besides that, though, most people I know in West Oakland are living with black mold. It’s not easy to find a house without it. Professional remediation requires evacuation, as well as bringing up an expensive problem to a slumlord who’s itching to evict you and double the rent on new tenants. West Oakland has six times the asthma rate in children as the rest of Oakland. The Port and freeways are a big part of it, but black mold, I’m sure, takes some blame as well.
Memorial Day weekend is the annual messenger ride/camp out. It’s an interesting profession, attracting an eclectic group of people. Many of us share parks, steps, doorways as break rooms. Having these shared moments huddle under overpasses in the rain, brings unexpected friendship. Even though many of us work for different companies, we can come together in brother/sisterhood. What better way to hang out in our most natural setting, the outdoors? So I returned yesterday, sunburnt, covered in bug bites, and gassed from the 200 miles in the heat, with minimal sleep, with some of the best memories I’ll ever have.
Just a quick reminder we will be CLOSED on Monday May 30th for Memorial Day. We will resume our regular business hours Tuesday May 31st. See ya bright and early after the long weekend!