Cupid Courier is a San Francisco messenger service that can serve all same day delivery needs for the Bay Area.
Working solo on New Years Eve is bound to be a strange and nostalgic experience. Business is slow and the atmosphere is mildly festive. There is also plenty of time to more or less screw around. It's like having afternoon detention on the last school day before winter break. It doesn't hurt my feelings of nostalgia that the eating and drinking establishment where I've been standing by is playing a Pearl Jam album considered by some to be one of the top rock albums of all time and also came out the year I moved to San Francisco. Who's responsible for coining the term “grunge” anyway? (O.K. a quick internet search points to sunny Australia. That's a long way from the Pacific Northwest, land of Seasonal Affective Disorder).
In the street I've spotted a smattering of discarded calendar pages. I guess in the age of the smart phone that the daily pocket or desk calendar has gone the way of the typewriter or the fax machine or the receptionist. Or bike messenger? I remember the first New Years I worked this job; the intersection of California and Sansome was carpeted with tens of thousands of days of the very soon to be previous year tossed into the street in multiple formats from the surrounding office windows, a symbolic purge by those confined to their cubicles above, something like painting over the daily hash marks on a prison cell wall after an inmate has been paroled. These days only a scant few large building downtown have windows that can actually be opened. The historic Russ building across the street is one of them. Are there other new rituals to replace this one or are we just too overwhelmed by being “productive”, neglecting another opportunity for good clean catharsis?
One purpose of this newsletter is keeping y'all up to speed on the changes here a Cupid Courier Collective (and maybe a little navel gazing while we're at it). It's possible that 2013 had our highest variety of changes, good, bad, ugly and indifferent. 2014 is hinting at plenty more surprises and who doesn't like surprises? The year sure is starting out on a clear and pleasant note in the weather. I think I'll wrap this up so I can go outside and enjoy it.
HAPPY NEW YEAR from Cupid! -tim
Hang in there, folks, we are just days away from the most optimistic day of the year: winter solstice. Things only get brighter from there.
Cupid will be closed 12/25/13 and 1/1/14. On the days between these dates, we will operate as a skeleton crew with normal 8am-7pm hours, and charging holiday rates (applying late-night fee of $20 to each job but NOT upgrading to rush service price as during regular late-night periods). Also important: look for rate-increases beginning on 1/1/14, no too huge in our opinions!
The end draws nigh in this messenger’s career. Coccydynia basically translates to tailbone pain. The streets of the Bay Area alternate between Barry White smooth and Baja bumpy. These roads have taken their toll on my body over the years, usually bumps, bruises, roadrash, sprains and strains, with even minor bouts of this coccydynia before. But this time it just ain’t going away. It is pretty rotten. It is only exacerbated by the bodily position on a bike saddle, extended periods of sitting, or really hard chairs. Being pretty active, I don’t sit too often (I’m standing right now typing) so it isn’t bothersome right now. But I basically can’t do an incredibly important part of my job, be it cycling or driving far to do our clients work.
With Cupid’s business model, there really isn’t much recourse. There is some light bookkeeping to do, but as many of you know, we handle a huge portion of our work on the road. We don’t have an office, and take calls, troubleshoot and execute the jobs while riding or in between rides. To be frank, there isn’t room for someone like me at Cupid and I couldn’t support myself much longer anyway. I’ve cut down to two days on the road, as that seems to be about the limit of my body and brain in terms of stress and pain.
Enough of the sob story. Just wanted to say that I am on the road out of Cupid, in all likelihood. Such a bummer. There will still be time to separate smoothly from you all and the 14 years of memories that you all have provided. I am very glad to live in America, and California especially, as some social safety net programs into which I have paid over the years will hopefully help my transition. The California Employment Development Department has a Disability Insurance Elective Coverage program for the self-employed (which is what the various government agencies consider Cupoids), which I signed up for back in 2000. If you too are self-employed, I beseech you to look into it! It hopefully will get me not back on my feet but OFF them and into a comfortable seated position.-rev
PS: Anyone looking to hire a smart, creative, disciplined and hard-working person with a BS in engineering?
Well folks, the great feast has passed and the leftovers are beginning to run low. I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend and made the most of our perfectly bay area fall weather by taking long slow post dinner walks in your favorite t-shirt and shorts. I only speak of the mild temperature second hand though, having not been in town all of last week.
I was fortunate enough to spend the days leading up to and following Thanksgiving with five close friends on a road trip through the great Pacific Northwest. It was the first time I've ever left the bay area for the final week of November and was greeted by an uncharacteristically dry Oregon and Washington. It was cold but not once did I have to dawn my rain gear.
In the days leading up to our departure I began to feel nervous about being away from home for the holiday. Going on tour with a band has always been something that I look forward to and can never come soon enough, but the idea of not being close to family was kind of unnerving. Thankfully this feeling quickly diminished after realizing that I was going to be celebrating the holiday every night for a week straight. Each night we stayed with a different group of people and were consistently treated like family. We pre-gamed for the big day with free beer and sports television, fixed our plates from a table covered in tasty comfort food on the big day and then basked on leftovers on each subsequent night. I feel confident saying that I have tried 15 different mash potato dishes since Thursday. In between eating we played some music.
Back to work for now... -Jason
HOLIDAY SCHEDULE NOTICE: We will be closed December 25th & January 1st. Also, we want to remind you again that rates will bump up just a smidge on January 1st.
In the cultural ecosystem of San Francisco, bike messengers might be like the Raven's Manzanita. This is a scrappy little plant that might be hard to love and thrives in an increasingly rare band of serpentine soil that bisects the city; soil that is toxic to most other plants and because nothing really pretty grows there we've paved over most of it.
I recently tagged along with my fiancée (oop, that cat's out of the bag!) for a weekend long habitat restoration class she was taking. We learned that a lot of the less charismatic species are valuable parts of the biological puzzle but are too often over looked until they're gone. Raven's Manzanita was down to one lonely plant before we realized its plight and its future is a bit grim.
During our class we also visited a beautifully restored patch of coastal dunes along Lobos Creek in the Presidio. This type of habitat once covered 3/4 of the peninsula now occupied by our lovely city and very little of it remains. Lobos Creek is a haven for numerous rare and endangered plants and critters. By a fortuitous chain of events (which included a rather expensive home being eaten by the landscape), the nearly useless clay at the site was swapped for local sand from under the nearby neighborhood. During a heavy storm the ancient sewer main failed and a massive amount of water began washing away the land from under the buildings. The clay shored up the hill preventing more homes form being swallowed and the loose sand was moved into the restoration site. In this sand was a 100-year-old seed bank full of natives eager to sprout when given the chance in the new spot.
Back in our cultural ecosystem here I wonder if we have the foresight to preserve some habitat for our more marginalized folks. Our current tech bubble, much like the previous ones, is squeezing out the grassroots people that truly are the base of vibrant character that makes SF the desirable place that it is. The same forces of expedience that very nearly wiped out the more fragile pieces of the natural landscape in the Bay Area are leaving precious little room for the working class in this city.
It's hard to say how much of our seed bank of San Francisco Values will remain intact, much less have any room to flourish. I know I've tapped into the rabble rousing and creative minds of those who shaped this city before I got here. Let's hope there is room for future starving artists and community activists to sprout.
As our class was leaving Lobos Creek Rachael spotted a beautiful coyote, with a rich ruddy coat, coming our way. Because of the long term efforts of local sand and tree huggers these resourceful animals had somewhere worth coming to when they dared to cross the Golden Gate Bridge from wilder lands to the north.
P.S. We are moving ahead with a small rate increase starting January 1st. We'll have new rate sheets if you need any and we'll put them up and the website as well. As always, let us know if you have any input on this or anything else Cupid related.
On this page in times past, I have talked about a really cool foundation that an old friend of mine started. The Center for Land Use Interpretation was founded in a low-slung and slumping warehouse on the Oakland waterfront in the early ‘90’s. The brainchild of Matthew Coolidge has since grown into an internationally-recognized verbal and visual library, virtual university of environmental resource, and collaborative investigative arts institution.
A good example of what the CLUI does can be seen at the Oakland Museum of California today. Matt went up in a helicopter and flew around the SF Bay coastline, 500 feet above the water. The three hour tour is nothing short of astounding, as you fly over fill, waste, history, nature, recovery, adaptation, hard edge and marshy expanse, man-made alteration and natural inclusion. It is a concept so familiar-sounding at its root yet so breathtaking in the delivery of our environment back to us, the human residents of this great and beautiful estuary system.
When the exhibit opened back in September, Matt gave a highlight tour of the ‘scan and did a q&a session. What I actually found most interesting was that once again, the audience seemed most interested in asking about the CLUI. What are its politics? From whom do you get your money? Where do you stand? I asked him later, and yes, these questions have been asked every engagement for the last 20 years. Matt always does his best to deflect, but I for one can only feel like some people are missing the point. The Center’s purpose is merely to provide information to people about THEIR environment, for them to interpret as they will. For some reason, this seems to strike people as somewhat subversive, or makes them feel distrustful.
Politics is the societal manifestation of pure emotion, like an id avatar made from the individual feelings of every community member. When we sense something that hits our gut, we can react with lizard brain. Is there a sense of shame or accusation given when someone is shown their trash? That is what it feels like to me. We need to OWN our trash, and learn how incorporate it into our world, the world of which we should be so proud and respectful. Trash is entropy, it is natural in its own right, it is us. Every living thing makes trash. Humans are just more ambitious in its production.
“Above and Below: Stories From Our Changing Bay” can be taken in at the OMCA now through February 23rd.-Rev
Well folks, the middle of October is upon us. It's once again that time of year in San Francisco when our second summer is moving into its final stretch and folks are beginning to weave scarves into their daily wardrobe, even if the temperature is still lingering in the mid ‘70's. On Saturday night, I wore pants to a party for the first time since June in an attempt to publicly display my acceptance of the equinox having passed over 3 weeks ago now. While standing in line at the grocery store on Sunday morning, I saw a smiling cartoon turkey being showered in red and orange leaves on the cover of a major news publication, and everyone keeps asking me what I'm going to be for Halloween.
Anyway, more important than the weather, the careful choosing of the easiest costume I can manage, and of course pumpkin spice everything, everywhere I look (which if I had it my way would last all year long!), it's also that time of the year when those of us who embrace football and baseball equally are forced to spend many of their days juggling between tv stations in order to catch both the MLB playoffs and all the important NFL games (just how did Deion Sanders do it?!). On Thursday night, I listened to the final unfortunate seconds of the ALDS over the radio as the Tigers knocked the Athletics out of contention, and eliminated the much anticipated Boston-Oakland series. It doesn't quite make up for the loss, but on Sunday afternoon I went to Candlestick Park for the Niners game, and watched them defeat Arizona in a close enough game to keep me entertained all the way to the end. Once again, in an attempt to celebrate the Fall and protect myself from what I expected to turn into a cold afternoon, I wore pants to the game and was thoroughly soaked in sweat by the time we began to catch any shade in our northwest nosebleeds, about midway through the 3rd quarter. Regardless of my wardrobe choices, it was a great day and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience one of the final Niners games at The ‘Stick.
Well, are you sick of hearing about sports and the weather yet? Other things are happening in the Bay Area besides play-off games and tailgating. As I type this up, we're entering the 14th day of the government shut down, BART is most likely going to strike on Wednesday, and rent is still out of control. Hahaha, really though, I do genuinely love this time of the year, and can't wait for the Fall to really kick in! Bring on all the ridiculous costumes and all pumpkin pie! I'm more than ready for it. Also, although it’s still over a month away, remember that we will be closed on Thursday 11/28 and Friday 11/29 for the holiday.-Jason
P.S. Remember that during the month of October Rainbow Grocery is offering 15% off your grocery tab when you bring in an original receipt/invoice from a genuine worker-owned business like Cupid!
So it looks like I get the honor of officially announcing National Co-op Month, which starts today, October 1st. This event goes back to a 1964 pronouncement by the Department of Agriculture when, in the U.S. co-ops largely represented farmers and ranchers. These days co-ops cover all areas of the economy, including humble service sector workers like Cupid Courier Collective. We've sung the praises of the worker-owned model many times in this forum so in brief I just remind y'all that we stand by it as a sustainable, stable and highly ethical way to earn a living. We can only hope that the momentum for the co-op model, probably fueled by the recent disparities in the economy, continues to grow.
To that end, grab as many 2013 Cupid invoices that you can find (dig into the recycling bin if you have to) and get down to Rainbow Grocery. Every weekday in October Rainbow is offering 15% off your grocery tab when you bring in an original receipt/invoice from a genuine worker-owned business like Cupid. Rev Jim mentioned this last newsletter and it does indeed appear that ANY 2013 invoice will do, so support yer local co-ops.
I kicked off Co-op Month by picking up a lunch from the Mandela Food Co-op in West Oakland, supplemented by dumplings from a hole-in-the-wall in Oakland's Chinatown (thanks to a tip from Cat & Jim). From there I rode out onto the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge. It really is a beautiful ride on a nice multi-use path and a fine place for a picnic, but it is otherwise, quite literally, a bridge to nowhere and that is a gall-darned shame.
I'll come right out and say it. It is completely ridiculous that after over a decade and however many gazillion dollars we haven't figured out a way to connect that thing to San Francisco. The lack of vision here is astounding when the only self-propelled way to make that crossing is by kayak (I caught a podcast about a guy who does just that). To rub salt in that wound you can't even get to the dubious destination of Yerba Buena/Treasure Islands for at least another 2 years. I shoulda read the fine print on that one.
I'm with local bike activist Chris Carlsson, give bikes and peds one of the ten lanes all the way to SF. Maybe there will be room for that when gas prices hit $10 a gallon, which will probably happen sooner than the alternative.
Just a quick head’s-up, Rainbow Grocery is once again going to offer their awesome Shop Co-op program in October. It looks like any original invoice will do, so you can probably save this one. You might want to take your next invoice also just in case and use one when asking; I have not been able to clarify if it MUST be an October receipt/invoice as of printing.
We are two weeks into our service-type update. So far, you all seem pretty positive and understanding about our elimination of the two-hour. We thank you all for keeping us in your business plans with the new four-hour, or going ahead and upgrading to the one-hour service. We do still need to raise our rates, though. We are starting to lag behind the rest of the SF messenger industry with our rate levels. It used to be that Cupid was always at the forefront of rate increases, reflecting our hard-won opinion that we were absolutely THE premium company in The City. Well, guess what? Our high opinion of ourselves HASN’T CHANGED! Hopefully you agree with us, of course. We put a lot of thought, effort, and care into doing the work that you trust us to do.
It isn’t that easy to parse why our rates are starting to stagnate toward industry ‘bottom-feeder’ levels. Some of it has been pure lack of inertia. Things like new partner or new client searches can really push other agenda items to the back burner when we have meetings. Maybe all us Cupoids are lucky to have lived in the Bay Area as long as we have and have relatively cheap lifestyles locked in (man, who understands the SF rental market?!). Whatever the reason, we definitely will take any feedback into account, should you offer any.
Thanks as always for calling Cupid!-Rev
By the time you read this, Labor Day Weekend will have already come to an end and you'll be back at work reflecting on the extended weekend. Most people across the country think of the federal holiday as a marker for the end of Summer. In San Francisco, we like to think of this as the beginning of our second summer. Hopefully you made the most of it, lounging in the sun at a barbecue or at a baseball game (if you're an A's fan, since the Giants won't be home until later this week), at one of the many beaches conveniently located along our beautiful coast, or maybe even just the closest park to your home. I'm writing this on Saturday morning, so I still have the next couple days to look forward to. Earlier this week, I had made grand plans for a long brutal bike ride this afternoon, but I think instead, I'm going to make a much shorter trip down the steps that lead from the kitchen where I'm writing this to my big empty backyard. There, I'll lay down in the grass and do absolutely nothing but think of how good it feels to do just that.
P.S. It was mentioned in our last newsletter, but please remember that as of September 1st, we will now be offering a 4 hour service to replace our 2 hour service. For more deliveries more urgent than a 4 hour window affords, please request a 1 hour (or faster) service.
Cupid has evolved. Is evolving. If asked the age-old question of the chicken vs the egg a nerdy geneticist might say “The egg of course!” That ancient proto-chicken laid an egg, and that egg hatched a bird which had mutated just enough to become the new species. Evolution is fluid though and our scientific distinctions, though useful, are arbitrary. Rarely in nature would we find such a fine distinction that we could tell that one chick was a pre-chicken and the next bird was the first chicken. Also, I’d imagine that if you asked ten ornithologists you’d get eleven opinions on where to draw the line.
But we do draw those lines and as I said they’re useful to our understanding of the biological world. One of my favorite trees, the gnarled and twisted bristlecone pines of the Eastern Sierra, are the oldest living things on earth (over 5000 years old) and also quite distinct from their nearest cousin, the somewhat less tortured foxtail pines. On the other hand, grizzly bears and polar bears, though visibly so different are interbreeding in the Arctic, possibly as a result of climate change. Are we seeing the beginning of a new species? And are we really going to call them grolar bears? Or pizzly bears? I think I might like nanulak, a portmanteau of the Inuit words for the polar and grizzly bears.
I was supposed to be talking about Cupid evolving wasn’t I? Those who have read this newsletter for any length of time have probably seen a fair bit of that evolution. We’ve had quite a number of Cupoids come through our ranks. We’ve tried new projects, picked up new clients and seen some go. Our methods have adapted to those needs both geographically and temporally (sometimes physically and emotionally). We’ve also seen a number of you folks move on to other, hopefully better things, notably Luci and Michelle recently. Good luck if y’all are reading this. However, as Jim pointed out last newsletter the rates we charge have changed at only a glacial pace. Glaciers actually move rather quickly geologically speaking, but I’m not sure Cupid can wait until the next Ice Age to change especially with the climate models I’ve been seeing.
Jim’s modest proposal of last newsletter hardly accelerates our evolution at Cupid. Much like a glacier you’ll have to be really paying attention to see the difference. So officially we plan on moving forward with the idea. The 2 hour in-town services will be discontinued as of September 1st. We’ll be giving you lots of reminders over the phone as we take your orders. Perhaps the biggest point to make note of is that the new “economy” 4 hour service will not be available after 2pm (as normal business hours end at 6pm), so 1 hour or quicker rate after then. As always feel free to give us any feedback on this or any other aspect of how we take care of your needs.
We (I) have brought up many times on this page the fact that we have not raised our rates in quite some time (bike rates back in 2006!). That is seven years without a virtual raise! Who would work for a company that did that to its workers? We are our own terrible bosses. We all have been living here so long that we probably have pretty fixed costs, pre-internet bubble 2.0-style. Or so. Maybe that is one reason.
It occurred to me today, what if we discounted the time instead of the dollar amount? I hereby propose to my partners and to you the clients, that we convert the slowest two-hour service rate into a four-hour, and eliminating the two-hour altogether. The modern SF business climate has our coverage zone expanding, as big silicon valley companies (among many others) creep up into the downtown core and eastern SoMa. This forces smaller clients like ours away. This larger coverage area without a raise has been growing for quite some time, but I for one have basically reached my breaking point.
We just don’t make enough to ride as fast as we do over these terrible streets for a pittance. Allowing our cheapest service to be a four hour would make things a touch more efficient, and perhaps encourage our clients to just call it a one hour if four is too long. Have you ever looked closely at the rates? Really, the one hour is just a shade more expensive; it might really help my morale. Ok, begin discussion. Please direct any and all feedback to your nearest friendly Cupoid.
We never put it into this page, but someone that I think we all greatly appreciated at Cupid passed a while back. We love the outdoors and love being Californians, so it is a big bummer to have Huell Howser pass back in January. He was host, writer, producer and pretty much everything else on ‘California’s Gold,’ often shown on your PBS station. Such curiosity and enthusiasm over neat people and places really made me love this place. I will miss his “WOW!” It really seemed like he meant everything he said.
All for now, thanks for listening and thanks for calling Cupid.-Rev
Hello strangers! Bryan here, and it's been quite a while. The last time I wrote a Cupid newsletter I thought for sure it would be my last. But here I am, helping out a few days this summer while I'm out of school, and while numerous Cupoids take numerous vacations. It's turning out to be quite a pleasure to be back on the bike. The highlight, of course, has been the opportunity to work with all my old co-workers. (Jim and I have killed a few two way radio batteries trying to catch up on months of baseball nerdiness).
Since I've been away I've been mightily busy. I left Cupid last winter to pursue a nursing degree from USF (as some of you might remember), and wow I've learned a ton! The best thing about nursing school is that they throw you right into the thick of hospital life. At least one day a week I've spent all day on the hospital floor (although students wear all white scrubs, and I can't say they're very flattering on me).
One thing that's been a pleasant surprise is how I carry some messenger skills and experiences over to the world of nursing. First of all, as you can imagine, nurses work long days on their feet, sometimes with only a rushed break or two, which is exactly like many days on the bike. Also, I need to continue those back exercises! As you can imagine, messengering can put some wear into your back, and if I thought I'd avoid that by changing careers into nursing, I would be wrong. In fact, back problems seem to be the #1 reason nurses leave the job (other than retirement). Plus, nursing can get gross! Luckily, I've had many a day as a messenger where I've had to change flats and work on broken chains in the pouring rain. Washing my hands over and over and over is second nature at this point.
The skills I've brought over extend beyond the physical realm. Patience is probably the most valuable skill. Messengering gets stressful and busy,and you learn quickly the importance of being patient with drivers, pedestrians, clients, building guards, court clerks, and many other things. It probably isn't hard to imagine the multitude of things nurses need to be patient with during their day. Along with patience comes good time management. In class we had an assignment where we were given a list of patients and all of their prescriptions (written by different doctors in different wording). Our task was to quickly organize a timetable for administering all the necessary meds to our patients. If you've never seen something like this it can be quite challenging, but to me it just looked like a list of deliveries, all with different due times and addresses, and the task was pretty easy (familiarity with military time helps also). Lastly, teamwork and camaraderie are everywhere. I can't stress how important both of those things are for both occupations, and years of messengering, especially working with the folks at Cupid, have hammered teamwork and camaraderie into my bones.
I'll be on the road a few more times this month, so if I haven't seen you yet, hopefully I will. It has been really cool to see some of the familiar faces, both clients and other messengers. Again, it's been especially great to work my old Cupid coworkers, and I'm thankful they have asked me to help out this summer.
All the best, Bryan
This installment of the Cupid Courier Collective newsletter is coming to you from Summer, but not in San Francisco. Just as the weather was beginning to heat up in our far-too-often city-without-a-summer, I found myself boarding a flight to the other side of the country. While you're basking in the cloudless low 80's, I'm taking in another kind of Summer afternoon. As I type this up from my friend’s small office in West Philly, I'm listening to records but making sure not to turn the volume on the stereo up too loud so that I don't miss out on the drops and bangs of rain and thunder outside the window beside me. The temperature here is hovering right around 80 degrees, so I'm sitting comfortable in my running shorts and a tank top. You can smell the electricity in the air from the lightning.
As a young child and into my early teens, I spent all of my Summers with my grandparents in a suburb on Lake Michigan, just outside of Chicago. The weather was hot and sticky, the cicadas never quit singing and lightning bugs were worshiped and captured on a nightly bases. It was a great time. There was a break during my teen years, and then in my early 20's I began spending the season touring the country with bands. For every one of the past 6 Summers, I've spent ceremoniously at least a couple weeks on the road east of the Mississippi. This year I'm not planning to get in the van, but I did make it out here. For the next 2 weeks, I'll be riding my bicycle from Philadelphia to Louisville.
Anyway, my first shift with Cupid was back in the Fall of 2012, and although I still feel like the new guy on a regular basis and probably will for a while to come, next month will actually mark the 9th month of my time with the awesome folks that make up the collective. One of the main reasons that I became a messenger years ago, aside from enjoying cycling, was to have a job that didn't make me feel like I was a prisoner while on the clock. What I quickly learned after becoming a messenger is that not all companies are created equally. For years I was underpaid and taken advantage of. That being said, as the newest member of Cupid Collective, I want to say that it's been and still is a pleasure working with all of my co-owners and with you, the clients who have chosen to work with us. So yeah, thanks everybody! I never feel like a prisoner in my job these days.
So why aren't I at work right now if it's so fun? Because it's time for vacation. And how am I going to spend my vacation? Well, riding my bike of course! See you in mid-July everyone.-Jason, the newest partner at C.C.C.
(Ed. note: Don’t forget that Cupid is CLOSED FROM THURSDAY 7/4/13 THROUGH SUNDAY 7/7/13!)
A few newsletters ago, Nice Tim brought up the apocryphal story behind (mostly) SoMa district streets named after, um, er, ‘female pleasure consultants.’ In an unrelated nonlinear fashion, I HAVE LEARNED THE MOTHER OF ALL APOCRYPHA! According to fine and entertaining snopes.com, Mr. Twain/Clemens never actually said of our fair city: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Can you believe it? Perhaps further research is necessary. I think we have available only one volume of the three volume autobiography that Twain said in his will must wait 100 years to be published. What a guy.
“The closest resemblance to it appears in an 1879 letter in which Twain quoted a wag who, when asked if he’d ever seen such a cold winter, replied, “Yes, last summer.” Twain then added his own comment, “I judge he spent his summer in Paris.” Paris! One of snopes.com’s list sources is a book called They Never Said It (Boller & George, Oxford U Press, 1989), so I am inclined to believe them. Not that anyone hasn’t ever woven an elaborate web of internet lies, of course. And not that it could be a word-of-mouth hand-me-down properly accredited over the intervening century. But wow.
I have to say, the same article gives me a great word: treppenwitz. A long time ago, I made mention of a new favorite phrase,”l’esprit de la escalier.” Think always coming up with an awesome retort/bon mot/witticism long after the fact, the spirit of the stairs (as you leave the party). Treppenwitz is the SAME thing. Sometimes you just need to sound a little more German (and maybe a little less French?). I’ll leave you with that.
Hey, Cupid is thinking of closing Friday, July 5th. By our reckoning, there is a VERY good chance that none of you will call us that day. Please let us know if you are thinking you might need Cupid that day. Hope y’all’re having a great summer, famous Twain quotes (man, it is going to be so hard to give up on that one. Who do we say actually said it?) notwithstanding.-Rev
It feels like we have officially hit the summer doldrums. When enough folks are taking time off from work it seems to have a ripple effect; just a bit fewer people are sending out a bit fewer packages while a bit fewer people are around to receive them, and we spend just a bit more time sitting around waiting for y’all to call. That’s the going theory anyway about why it’s always a little slow in the the messenger business during the summer.
It seems to me that it started a bit earlier this year than the last and that maybe last year was a bit earlier than the year before. Are messengers a canary in the coal mine for climate change? The models do predict that summer will begin earlier as well as being warmer. The weather has been awfully nice these last few days, though we certainly got our share of the May winds.
I’m not sure if birds give a hoot about the delivery business but they seem to be telling us something about the climate if we care to listen. They definitely seem to think that summer has started earlier and that things are getting warmer. It’s been documented that over the past few decades many northbound migratory birds have been arriving sooner than normal and have shifted their ranges northward. They don’t seem particularly interested in debating with the climate change skeptics. Brian Kimberling, a brother of a friend of mine and a talented author, wrote an opinion piece about these birds for the New York Times a few weeks back if you’d like to hear the story put more eloquently.
The extra time twiddling my thumbs has given me the opportunity to put some thought into all the great clients we’ve had over the years. Maybe we’ll put some of this free time to use and come up with some ways to show y’all our appreciation for sticking with Cupid. In the meantime I’ll just say thanks and I hope you get some free time of your own to enjoy this summer.
It is our last best chance to remind you all that Rainbow Grocery is giving 15% off to
patrons of other NoBAWC (pronounced no boss) workplaces this month. Visit www.nobawc.org to find other workplaces, then take this invoice or a receipt from one of those other worker-owned biznesses and get that big discount. Yay Rainbow!
Ever hear of the Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna? There is an eponymous documentary film out there, I think from last year, about him that I saw recently. Not sure why, usually movies heavy on cars are just not my thing. Personally I think Pixar’s Cars franchise should be rated R, or PG-13 at least, for its benevolent anthropomorphization of dangerous machines. Ok, that is kind of a joke. But Senna turned out to be quite fascinating. The subject was known for being very aggressive; very, well, um, driven (sorry); very religious; and very proud of his Brazilian roots. He made the F1 establishment nervous for his protests against apparent political decisions against him, and other drivers for his audacity and spirituality. Some of the most interesting archival interviews of him revolved around his devotions. Winning a race early in his career was a sincere transcendent event for him, seeing God near the finish. Asked about other drivers’ fear that his belief in God made him a dangerous zealot full of hubris and unrealistic imperviousness, he is unequivocal: it was driving, and its danger, the absolute and near presence of mortality that enforced his beliefs, not the other way around.
This really hit close to home. I wouldn’t say that I ride around in a cloud of doom, but mortality and danger definitely flash through my mind just about every day at work. It enforces feelings of humility and gratitude that make part of this job so satisfying sometimes, in what at times can feel transcendent and even spiritual.
Ayrton Senna died in a single-car crash during a race at a very innocuous turn on the course. It was 1994 in San Marino, Italy; he was 34 years old. Keep the rubber side down, y’all.-Rev
Cupid will be closed Monday, 5/27/13, in celebration of Memorial Day.
I recall from my rookie days standing one Friday evening on the corner of Natoma & Mary, two small SOMA alleys that happen to be the location of the Tempest, a perennial messenger happy-hour spot. A veteran messenger was explaining to me that the little alleys in the neighborhood, Tehama, Jessie, Minna, etc., were named for the ladies of the night favored by the early civic leaders of San Francisco. Though I’ve since heard this repeated in various ways, it is likely apocryphal (I’ve been waiting for a chance to work that word into a newsletter). Natoma is a name used for an ancient native culture of California, Tehama is possibly a native word for “high water,” and Minna Quilfelt was apparently an early SF pioneer and foster mother. We’ve still got Mary, Harriet & Clara, so who knows? There is Maiden Lane, though, formerly a well-documented strip of “cribs” or small workspaces for the ladies in the famous red light district.
Through the magic of social media, I stumbled across: http://sfstreets.noahveltman.com. This project by Noah Veltman is an interactive map that compiles much of the historical info on the naming of San Francisco’s streets, though he appears to steer clear of the iffy nature of our supposed harlot-named alleys. As you might expect, many street names are dull references to politicians, military officials and robber barons of various eras. With the multinational heritage of our city, a number of these folks are from Spanish and Mexican history such as de Anza, Arguello, Castro, Portola and Junipero Serra. There are also interesting sagas with the explorers: Balboa, Sir Francis Drake, Ortega and Humboldt.
Certain districts have themes to the naming. There's the Ivy league schools of the University Mound neighborhood. The Excelsior has international cities and countries laid out like a shredded world atlas. Similarly I’ve long puzzled over the U.S. state streets running North/South in the Dogpatch over Potrero Hill and down into the Mission. They follow no apparent geographical, chronological, alphabetical or even proportional order. My last best guess was maybe they are names of warships built at the nearby pier 70 shipyards in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but only a couple of the names match. And don’t get me started about the Presidio. It has it’s own set of names, predominantly military that often confusingly duplicate the names of streets elsewhere in the city.
For practical reasons, street names change infrequently, but those changes can positively reflect the the dynamic culture of a place. It’s a great reminder of the diversity of our city to have a Rosa Parks Lane, Cesar Chavez St, Walter Lum Place and a Lapu Lapu alley, though I’m sad to report that San Diego has beaten us to a Harvey Milk St. Streets are some of the stock-in-trade of the courier business. It’s nice to know that I can learn a few new ones from time to time. -tim
P.S. It's May Day! The international workers day that Cupid forgets to take off. Once again Rainbow Grocery is offering a 15% for folks that patronize NoBAWC members in May. Check out http://www.rainbow.coop/shop-coop-may-2012 for details.
How do you write a moment of silence into print? Tonight’s newsletter is especially difficult to get going. I went to university in late-80’s Boston, and loved it so much, I stuck around to have good post-college fun for a while. Still loads of friends back there, lots of great memories, and all my current sports affiliations were acquired there; it still feels as much home as anywhere else for me.
Watching the Marathon on Patriots’ Day was always such great fun. Someone you knew always lived along the route, so you and a big posse would go and stand out there all day cheering for hours. Maybe running in and out of the flat watching the traditional early-starting Red Sox home game. Full disclosure: it was the one day of the year where you were basically allowed to drink outdoors (not counting certain St. Paddy’s Day parade routes), which helped the fun factor a tad. This does not do justice to the experience of being there on the sidewalks of the Back Bay. The tableau of human toil, the commitment on faces, the bodies nearing shutdown, 1000-yard stares, wheelchairs, crutches, bodily fluids of all kinds, well, sorry, but you would see it all. And you didn’t laugh at these folks. You could only feel true respect watching all these people run/limp/totter by. Bay Areans might think Bay To Breakers but without the jocosity; this is not a drawback at all. While irony is basically the point of our little peninsula’s transit, the Boston Marathon was just a euphoric and inspiring epic running by you. You could feel that every single runner was a huge story, an epic novel moving past you.
Today’s explosions are just stabbing my heart.
To feel better, I am going to bring up one of my original topics. April Fools’ Day in SF brings about one of my favorite events. Does anyone know if St. Stupid’s Day is a national phenomena, or happily endemic only to SF? Nonsensical sandwichboards, punny protest signs, non sequitur-printed t-shirts, unflattering nudity, clown costumes: now that’s a parade. It always takes me by surprise, but one of these years, I swear, I am going to accept their entreaties to blow off work and just have fun. Be a fool. Maybe not get naked, but be a fool, at least. Is it coincidence that it occurs just a couple of weeks before the Great Donation to the Nation Day (aka the federal filing deadline for American humans)? We need something just like the St. Stupid’s Day parade as everyone’s blood pressure rises.
Sorry if this is inappropriate in any way. Here’s hoping that tomorrow will bring answers, relief, and the forthrightness and forgiveness to move on. Have a lovely day!-Rev
Is Cupid more than the sum of it’s various parts? As one of those principle parts I’d like to think that the straight math is pretty good by its lonesome. It‘s an interesting expression though; the idea that when bringing together various pieces the whole has a significance beyond the raw value of each component. The expression rings true metaphorically.
I’ve also learned that it can be quite literally true. After listening to a re-run of one of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab, I got to thinking a lot about emergence. In this finite space I’ll put it this way. A complex system can find higher structure built from the relatively simple actions of its individual parts. Ant colonies are the classic example. They form societies and perform elaborate group tasks based on the acts of many single ants that show no awareness of the larger purpose and without any “leader”. There is no commander telling the ants what to do, just the ants themselves acting and reacting to each other, self organizing based on simple rules hardwired in them through evolution. The structure of human cites and the neural networks of our brains show a similar quality of emergence.
Recently I’ve been compelled to think back on some of the great people that have been part of Cupid Courier over its nearly fourteen year run. As most of you know, Bryan left Cupid at the beginning of the year and as Jim reported last newsletter, Sarah is also moving on. After myself and Jim, she’s had the longest run here and I’m writing this on her last day as Cupid partner. It’s impossible to say just how much they’ll be missed. They have both expressed interest in doing guest appearance fill in shifts so we'll hold them to that.
Cupid itself is too small an entity to show emergence, but we’ve contributed our share to the idea of bottom-up, leaderless organization. I feel that all the folks that have put part of themselves into this little company over the years have shaped it and continue to influence how we operate. In some way I feel we owe a debt to them that we continue to run our shop in the ethical way I believe we do and pass this on to the new people we bring on board. In that sense Cupid truly is more than the sum of its diminishing parts.
Changes continue to abound at Cupid. It looks like we are losing another partner in 2013, as partnerfriend Sarah has given her notice. She might even be gone by the end of the next billing cycle, so now might be the last chance to tell you to wish her well in her future endeavors. She is one of the longest-tenured partners in our collective history, so we hope she stays close to the Cupid family.
By the time these invoices go out, St. Patty’s Day will already be past. My mother was one of those green milk and pancakes with green margarine people, so I have a genetic disposition towards making a big deal out of this proto-Irish Heritage Day. I was surprised upon researching that I have never brought this up on this page before. Did you know that it really isn’t that hard to ‘corn’ your own beef? And have you ever heard of grey corned beef? Despite living in Boston for 6 years a while back, I had never even heard of the latter food until just a few weeks ago. It sounds like a New England thing.
Grey corned beef is just brisket brined for a day or two, in a saline solution that does NOT include pink curing salts. You can find this stuff at some gourmet cookshops. Those in SF should be able to track it down at the Ferry Building. I have actually never found out which kind of pink salt I have been using, as there are two kinds. One is made with table salt and sodium nitrite, the other has both of these AND sodium nitrate, aka saltpeter. I have been telling everyone that I pickle my briskets with stump-rotting gunpowder-like compounds, but it turns out this might not be true. The fun is throwing in my own spices and flavorings, and really controlling the flavors. Try star anise, cardamom and FRESH bay leaves in addition to the standards: coriander, mustard and dill seeds, cinnamon, juniper berries, clove, allspice, etc., etc. It needs a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Corned beef is also not really a traditional Irish food. The Irish did supply a lot of pickled beef to various navies back in the day, especially England’s Imperial one. That didn’t necessarily mean it was a regular to the Irish dinner table. It sounds from a little reading that, like many foods and language terms, it is an American hybrid. Perhaps it is the traditional Irish ‘bacon joint’ preparation applied to more-available-in-America beef brisket, as learned from Jews in East coast cities. Who knows. Delish though, give it a try some day. Sláinte!-Rev
How many of us are familiar with the flag of the city of San Francisco? The central feature is an image of a Phoenix rising from the flames and most people assume this refers to the city recovering from the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906. The design actually dates to 1900 and represents the half dozen times the city had already been burned down (often by gangs like the Sydney Ducks) then built itself back up again.
Fire can be seen as an elemental agent of renewal and California, possibly more than anyplace on earth, has a landscape sculpted by fire. Across the state are plant communities that have adapted to and thrive on periodic burning of built up growth. There are ancient oak trees that show in their growth rings dozens of fire scars dating back hundreds of years. Their size and fire resistance protect them from ground blazes that kill the smaller plants they compete with for resources. The chaparral communities of the inland ranges have plants that store reserves underground. When a quick burn removes the above ground vegetation they spring back more robustly than before. Underground seed banks hold species that won’t germinate until the the heat of a 1000 degree scorch penetrates into the soil. In the Sierras sequoias over 200 ft tall with 12 inch thick fire proof bark won’t open their cones until the intense heat of a brush clearing fire stimulates the release of the tiny seeds. In order for the smallest of seeds to become the biggest trees on earth they need the space to grow offered by the occasional fire.
These fire cycles were both natural and human-made, though in the time before European contact the distinction might be a fine one. Abundant thunderstorms generate lighting ignited blazes but probably just as often the native people used thoughtfully timed fires to create the landscapes they preferred. Fire was used to stimulate the growth of food plants like certain grasses harvested for seeds or to increase the amount of basket and tool making plants such as willow. It was also used to flush game or to create game friendly habitat.
The fire suppression regime of the 20th century has created a drastically different scenario. Formerly open landscapes have grown denser and built up an excess of fuel. Material that might have been tidied up with a small fire every few years has piled up over many decades. We see the results every summer and fall; frightfully powerful firestorms that would have been exceedingly rare in previous centuries lay waste to even the hardiest, most fire loving species.
Like those early blazes in San Francisco there are winners and losers in the immediate aftermath of drastic change. It seems though there are people and plants which are adaptable, persistent and patient enough to find a way to relish a modest bit of cleansing chaos every now and then.
Punxsutawny Phil has promised has promised us an early spring this year. MLB players have reported to their respective Grapefruit and Cactus League camps. I have already purchased tickets to some upcoming baseball games. We need to rush to trim our feral-looking backyard apple trees before they begin to bud. We haven’t turned on our electric blanket in a week and a half or so. Laundry dries completely before dusk when put out on our clothes line. Some nights, I can get home from Cupid duty in time to put the chickens to bed before the sun goes down.
These statements are all very jinx-worthy, I know, but at least I can blame some of the greatest hoaxsters of the the last 123 years, those western Pennsylvanians and their (in)famous groundhog. It is probably raining right now as we pass out some of these invoices on Tuesday. A respiratory infection brought on by flulike systems has persisted in my airways for about a month. There will surely be even more rain to come. That blanket will get turned on again before it goes into the closet. My favorite baseball team will eventually come here and lose to the respective local nines. But there are signs, folks. I am ready to hope that we are very nearly there. Maybe two months will get us to the promised land of, if not warm weather, at least a lot more light. Man, am I ready for that.
I have long thought of Cupid as collaborative not just among the worker-partner-owners, but with you all as well. It is why this newsletter even exists. It is a (hopefully) long-term relationship with a continuity that allows us to do things like charge a lot more during the end-of-year holiday week - paying a little more during that week allows us to make it worth someone’s while to be on staff those days, and hopefully you all see it as part of a yearlong relationship where we keep things cheap 51 weeks per year.
Despite working our tails off most days, we really do not seem to be getting very far. Business is definitely slower than ‘back in the day,’ so we don’t work as efficiently. Riding really far with one thing just isn’t going to bring home the bacon like riding really far and dropping things along the way. If anyone is wondering, no, we are not very wealthy. I just did some number-crunching to figure our hourly rate. We are fortunately above the SF minimum, but I always considered the target in this job to be $20/hour, and we aren’t very close to that. And haven’t been since before that 2006 rate increase, I bet.
Some of you know how well we work. We try to insulate you as much as we can from the troubleshooting we often need to do. We think of it as within our purview to do the maximum before involving you in the process. You are busy. Sometimes we get the feeling though that we should stress a little more how much we do. Having a smart, motivated, experienced workforce saves you money, even if you are paying a little more (barely) for Cupid’s services. Things go haywire, even with the simplest-looking of deliveries. We fix it.
All that said, after some research, we have not changed our bike rates since 2006. Seven years! Maybe inspired by the POTUS’ State of the Union, we need to get our wages back on track with inflation. Seven years! Any of you think you pay too much? Would you call us less if the rates went up?
What about marketing? Why not facebook-friend us, and share us with some friends? We need to be better about self-publicizing our gigs. We need more clients, and any help is greatly appreciated. More clients and more business allows us to work more efficiently which allows us to keep our prices lower. This is artificial of course, and the exact reasoning behind some of the ‘bottom-feeders’ in our industry keeping prices far below sustainability for their illegally-employed (as independent contractors) riders to hustle for minimum wage. But their clients get what they pay for, believe me. And hopefully so do you.
Thanks as always for being part of the family.-Rev
I’m writing this installation of the Cupid Courier newsletter from my brand new stand up desk that I built myself. I’ll be honest, it’s rustic, made from scraps of 2x4 and planks cut with my jigsaw; a bit of stain to finish it off. It’s sturdy and functional and should serve my needs perfectly. I’m on a small kick of building stuff that started while making a full sized (kid sized) Angry Birds slingshot game to give to my niece and nephews for Christmas. I’d forgotten how satisfying it is to make things from scratch. My girlfriend and I especially enjoyed hand painting the wooden piggy targets.
If you were wondering if I was going to make an awkward metaphor out of this desk, the answer is yes. Cupid Courier is something of a sturdy, improvised entity built from scratch. We’ve been blessed to have a lot of great misfit parts come through our team. I feel truly grateful to have worked with these folks and Bryan was no exception. As you all may know he has moved on to nursing school and I have no doubt his skills will be well used. I should know, my mom was a nurse for over 40 years. You may also have noticed that we’ve got a new face over here. If not keep an eye (or ear) out for Jason our new prospective partner. He’s the friendly and enthusiastic one, as opposed to us jaded old timers.
It was this week in 1847 that our city got it’s enduring name; the village of Yerba Buena renamed as San Francisco. It didn’t take long for the defining boom of 1849 to hit, but this town has seen a number of booms and bubbles bursting ever since. Cupid Courier has ridden up and over a couple of these in it’s 13 1/2 years, but the current tech boom/bubble seems to have it’s sights set squarely on us. There are a number of gee-wiz ideas about “disrupting” the same day delivery business out there, some that we’ve had direct contact with. I have yet to see one that is on track to offer a living wage to the folks doing the actual work. Part of the legend of that first Gold Rush is that only the guys selling the shovels made any money. Lately it seems some opportunists are offering up some new fangeld shovels with little interest in knowing how one actually digs. It doesn’t matter how fancy your shovel is, it’s still a shovel and someone has to do some actual shoveling for any of us to make a living.
Wow, here it is, my last Cupid Courier Newsletter. Yup, that's right, after 5-plus years of working here (and 14 or so as a bike messenger), this Friday will be my last and final day. Part of me has been ready for this day for a while, and part of me can't really believe it's actually here. I imagined for quite a while that this last newsletter would be full of everything that I would miss about messengering and about Cupid. In fact, as I was riding a bus back from LA yesterday, I even started a long conversational newsletter about all those things. Reading it, however, I realized that it wasn't quite what I wanted to say here. So here's a quick and incomplete list of what I'll miss about messengering and Cupid: bikes!, sunny beautiful days, seeing the city (I've worked in 4) from every angle, the feeling of a busy day complete, knowing that those afterwork beers won't show up in the midsection (and then getting older and realizing that they might anyway), the power of collective businesses, Cupid's great clients, and writing newsletters. And here's a short and incomplete list of what I won't miss: rain, the broadway tunnel, and writing newsletters.
So instead of going into details about everything I could say about my time as a messenger, I wanted to focus on these five things: Sean, Tim, Jim, Sarah, and Bruce. Back in 2007, not long after moving to San Francisco, those 5 people agreed to take me on as a partner at Cupid and I couldn't have been happier. I still am, actually. It's hard to believe, but since then it's only been us 6. Boy, we've seen a lot over those years: two presidential elections, a economic collapse, birthdays, vacations, and Cupid's 10th (plus) anniversary. Those 5 people have been amazing and inspirational, and while I know I'll keep in touch and always be friends, being lucky enough to work with them won't be a part of my daily life anymore. No work place is perfect, but I couldn't imagine anyone else getting to have such great friends as business partners. I can't say for sure what aspects about messengering I really will miss, or won't, in a few years, but I do know for sure that I will miss those five people. I will miss talking to them about sports, books, gossip, music, and politics. I will miss hashing out business over a few beers at our work meetings. I will miss hearing about Jim's house, hearing about Sean's band, hearing about Sarah's shop, hearing about Tim's travels, and hearing all of Bruce's thoughts on just about anything. I will miss keeping each other entertained and laughing while we sit through a boring slow day, and I will miss surviving an extremely complex and tiring busy day.
As some of you know, we here at Cupid will soon have a new partner. While I'm really happy about moving on, I am extremely jealous of that new person because I know that they get to work with the same amazing group that I have worked with.
Sean, Tim, Jim, Sarah, Bruce: thank you so much for these years working together. It is impossible to put into words how honored I've been to work with you all.-bryan
Note: Cupid will be CLOSED for MLK Day Monday 1/21.
Also: Cupid still has a limited supply of hooded sweatshirts available at Sarah's shop for $35. Ask and we'll see if we can't deliver one to you.
Brr. Brrrrr. Our house is typical to many in the Bay Area: uninsulated, with dubious means of environmental control. One of the first things we did was take out the existing heating system before we even moved in. It seemed like the right thing to do, since the inspector told us that the dingy streaks above the registers meant a healthy release of carbon monoxide when the furnace was in use. Yikes. Three years later, we still barely heat our house, with just one small electric/oil heater used sporadically. Like almost everyone, we do not have an air conditioner for those two really hot days a year either.
I bring this up because right now it is way warmer outside our house than in. And yet, we have been killing ourselves this vacation getting insulation laid in our attic. The question is, why insulate at all when you don’t alter the environment to begin with? Aren’t you trying to save energy? We basically don’t use any energy. Isn’t that new insulation just keeping this house cold while outside it is warm? Won’t the same thing happen in the summer half the time, keeping heat in while outside it has started to cool down? Seems like just about exactly half the time, insulation does what we don’t want it to do. Have we been conditioned by the climate-change mafia, laying kraft-faced fiberglass batts indiscriminately?
Ok, the wife being an architect and all, I listen to her. She says the net heat generation from our small heater and sleeping bodies is enough to make it all worth it. But it seems a little ironic to me sometimes.
By the time you all read this, it will be 2013. We survived ‘Gangnam Style,’ the Mayan Apocalypse, and the 2012 US election cycle. Hurray for you and me. It has not even been two months, but remember all that yelling, all those angry people that suddenly went quiet on November 7th? We still have a presidential inauguration to experience in January. As if the election cycle has not yet ended, in a way. By almost everyone’s metric of the soul, we are living in the most polarized political period in American history. Yes, its annoying, an annoying time for all of us, no matter where you stand. Absolutely no one is going to attain political satisfaction during this age in which now live, with its unfettered criticisms and the complete lacks of compromise and civility. What I’d like to propose is, insulate! Let’s all find a way to keep the edges off the cable news/blogosphere’s ‘weather.’ If someone is TOO extreme, shut ‘em up with virtual fiberglass. As soon as someone goes too far, just stop listening. I know, this is just blah-de-blah, but a boy can dream.
Have a great year,Rev
Camaraderie and teamwork, as I’ve said many times here before, are some of the biggest joys of working with coequal partners at Cupid Courier Collective. When things are busily humming along it’s great to have the intuitive "hive mind" bouncing ideas off each other and making a plan out of the mismatched collection of spontaneously appearing tasks that constitutes a same day delivery business. It’s not uncommon to have one new job appear on the board that sets off a chain reaction forcing us to change a complex plan that we’ve spent 10 minutes discussing. I think we all love it, though there can be a lot of teeth gnashing in the moment.
I had a work related chain reaction of another sort a couple weekends ago. I have a kind of tiered system of running bicycles. I have my weekend/touring/fun bike, my everyday workhorse bike and my rain bike. I generally put the newest and best components, tires, etc. on my weekend bike. As need arises I’ll swap parts down, first to my workhorse bike then finally the most forlorn and worn out, though still perfectly functional parts move onto my rain bike for a last round of grimy abuse. Benign neglect forced a big overhaul a few weeks back and I was reminded of a truism of bike mechanics; there’s always one small detail that arises and changes a perfectly good plan. Well, O.K. sometimes it’s a bunch of small details.
While making an order to get his mangled bike replaced(see 11/1 newsletter), Jim picked me up a set of new wheels I was going to swap onto the workhorse, moving it’s wobbly wheels down to the rain bike and getting both prepped for the winter in the process. I’ll try and make this concise. New front wheel didn’t fit the tight specks on the workhorse’s fork, my roommate and Cupid co-conspirator Bruce finds me a new fork, new fork requires new headset, headset and fork replaced I discover that my requisite solid axle is 9mm, new wheel needs 10mm, 10mm axle acquired, new wheel in, success! Still with me? I move on to the rain bike; Bruce discovers the bottom bracket is broken which means I have to go back to the workhorse and scavenge it’s bottom bracket and give it the one I’ve been saving for it (it’s nice we have 2 bike stands), this also involves swapping cranksets and peddles which leads to the discovery of a broken pedal on the rain bike. Fortunately I have an old set of partly broken pedals and between 3 units we’re able to get 1 working pedal. I could actually go on with more repair minutia but I’m running out of space and I really want to give a thanks to Bruce. He spent the better part of a whole weekend helping me work on my bicycles and battling my expediency as the problem solving bike mechanic savant he is. You’re a real gem Bruce.
ANNOUNCEMENTS! We have a new batch of Cupid hoodies in stock at Sarah’s shop, Pushbike. Give any of us a shout or look up her shop if you’re interested. I think $35 takes one home as (quite limited) supplies last.
And again Cupid Courier will be CLOSED 12/24, 12/25 12/31 &1/1 for the Holidays with holiday rates in effect 12/26-12/28.
As Jim as pointed out in his last couple of newsletters, somehow we here at Cupid have gotten on a newsletter rotation that copies the previous year. Not only did I greet y'all post-thanksgiving last year, but the year prior also! Reading last year’s, it’s incredible how much stays the same. Yup, I (purposefully) made too much gravy again, and am still eating it on everything I made. On top of too much gravy, this year might have also seen a tad too much whiskey and hot cider, but with the day off for everyone (and no desire on my part to 'shop' on Friday) it was a perfect time for spirit indulgence. This year, my girlfriend Andrea and I had a couple old friends over, and they brought some recent SF transplants. This couple, who we've never met, brought a thanksgiving mix cd for everyone at the table as a "thanks" for sharing the day with some unknowns. I have to say, what a great, simple idea! I might steal their idea for the next time I'm the guest at someone's I haven't yet met.
As for our Cupid's seeming newsletter 'rotation' and it's repetitive nature, I'm sad to say that I'm about to ruin it. Yup, this is my last post-thanksgiving newsletter. As a few of you know, I've only been working part-time recently and that's because I've been working towards a nursing degree. Well, with my hospital rotations starting next semester, finding the time to stay on at Cupid is going to be basically impossible. I've still got one newsletter left, so this isn't the last you'll hear from me, but if I see any of you in the next few weeks I'll start to say my good-byes. You all really are the best clients out there! -bryan
Scheduling Note: Cupid will be closed Monday and Tuesday 12/24-25 and Monday and Tuesday 12/31-1/1 for the Christmas and New Year's holidays. We will be open the few days between Christmas and New Years (12/26-28) under a skeleton staff and with our holiday rates. If you have any questions about our availability over the holidays please give us a call.
How’s that for consistency? When three people alternate authorship of a bimonthly newsletter for a long stretch, one might find writing a certain issue seems familiar. For the last three years, I have charged myself with trying to wrap up another American election cycle; by arbitrary rotation, I get the mid-November shift. Most importantly, I would like to thank all of America for getting through it. Like the re-electee said, ”Democracy...can be noisy and messy and complicated.” Let’s now ask for three years of these soon-to-be-installed officers shutting up and getting to work. And wish them luck - it might come in handy.
Thanksgiving this year, by my calculation, can not possibly occur earlier in the month. So many folks have said that it really snuck up on them this year, and I am no different. It’s here! Black Friday! Christmas decorations! Holiday songs! Yikes. Cupid will close next Friday, November 23rd, as well as the Big Bird Day the day before. We are usually verrrrry slow the Wednesday before and might have a smaller crew, but will treat it in every other way as a normal day.
What is it about tool fetishes? There is a certain brand of screw that we can get locally only at one mid-sized, unaffiliated hardware store. It’s a starhead anodized thing that is absolutely bombproof, and, embarrassingly, quite pretty to look at. It is also about triple the price of similar fasteners found in the chains and the big box improvement centers. Maybe it is kind of like wearing sports paraphernalia, which you wear not just because of allegiance, but you like the look AND because you feel a little like a pro if you wear the same clothes. All the screws and tools we are slowly acquiring, they do have functionality of course, but man, some of ‘em are downright badass and/or sexy, and at times give me the feeling that I might actually know what I’m doing around this old house.
On a down note, just over a week ago, a highly respected messenger company owner succumbed to skin cancer. Mike McGinn of Specialized Legal employed many many good friends over the years, and will be sorely missed. There was a traditional SF mess’er wake (think Irish style) last Friday. Usually the spirit does not move this author to testify at times like those, but I had known Mike to be a deeply conscientious employer who really really cared about his people. It did not dawn on me until much later that I had spoken from the perspective of a fellow owner. Even though we have never had employees at Cupid, we need/have the same kind of trust in and responsibilities to others that a boss must have. It feels pretty cool and unique sometimes. Thoughts go out again to Mike’s wife and children.
Peace and love to you and yours at the dawn of this time of thanks.-Rev
I often use this space to write about the various positive aspects and pleasures of being part of a small cooperatively-run business in general or being a bike messenger specifically. Sometimes, though, we’ll have a week that illustrates just how grittily urban, physically and mentally challenging this job can be.
Last week started out with an early cold rainstorm so I pulled out my dedicated rain bike. With a rich street grime patina, this ride has all my hand-me-down components, plus full fenders(I can’t believe it took me 10 years of messenger work before I saw the light on full fenders; ahh youth). At the end of the rain season I’ll hang ‘er up and not touch her until we start getting green blobs on the radar. This means that she wasn’t quite road-ready as I tried to head out the door on October 22nd. I was hoping to get away with merely inflating the squishy tires. However, just as I was getting the front wheel up to high pressure, a pop in the rim reminded me there was a crack I had chosen to willfully ignore last April. This crack quickly grew, peeling back my rim like an aluminum banana. I stepped back just in time to give my ears a safe distance from the shotgun blast of sound that results when your inner tube explodes out of the wheel. I was officially still a few minutes away from the start of the work week.
Among other highlights of this week, Pumpkin had to fix his bent front rack after some drunken miscreant apparently sat on it in front of the bar. Bryan had to limp through the last few hours and 15ish miles of his shift on a broken back wheel that barely rolled. In the urban wildlife department I found myself thwarting the theft of some valuable items from off my bicycle. I was understandably upset and expressed to the perps in Tenderloin vernacular just how lucky they were that I was too busy working to implement the appropriate street justice.
The coup de grace for the week would have to be last Friday’s mauling of Rev Jim’s bicycle. In a totally fluke accident, his bike fell from the curb directly in front of the rear wheels of a double axle truck that was just hitting the gas at a green light. We are very, VERY happy to report that Jim was neither on nor particularly near his bike at the moment. The bicycle is nearly a total loss, though. I think the saddle and pedals might be salvageable.
As always, though, our mode of work and camaraderie seem to have gotten us through in the plus column emotionally, and the week wasn't without its joys (Did somebody say Giants?). To paraphrase the bumper sticker; “The worst day at Cupid Courier still beats the best day at work.”-tim
For about three hours last Thursday, I don't think Cupid received a single call for deliveries. Then all of the sudden we had a rush of orders. Our work volume can vary widely throughout the day, but this was particularly unusual. Of course, it didn't take a detective to find out why. Look in any establishment with a tv during those three hours and you would see crowds in black and orange watching the Giants’ conclusive Game 5 against the Reds in the playoffs. In our newsletters, we've mentioned many times how this job can give us a sense for the 'pulse' of The City, and last Thursday was a perfect example. It seemed as thought the entire city decided to take an afternoon off for baseball, and who could blame them?
Riding around all day in San Francisco, we get to catch all sorts of these events. Describing some of what we witness is part of what we get to do with these newsletters. Someone once described our bills, with these newsletters, as sort of a 'love letter.' I think that comparison is great! For me, writing these newsletters is a way to reaffirm that we are a cooperative business, and my role as a partner in this enterprise. Although every aspect of our work (from taking calls, to picking up packages, to entering billing info) is handled by every member of our collective, sitting down and writing a 'love letter' to all of our clients is really what reminds me of how cool this model is. It also gives me one of the strongest senses of 'ownership' in our business. Hopefully, it helps remind you, the client, just how our service works, and how important each and every one of us here at Cupid think of each and every one of you. Hopefully buried somewhere in these newsletters is also a glimpse into the 'pulse' of what is going on around town.-bryan
I Think that I have noted my love for weddings in this newsletter before. Having officiated at a few and attended a great many, there has never been a dud. My wife and I just got back from an awesome ceremony/party/Texas-swingin’ hootenanny/campout in Sonoma County. Perhaps most surprising was that we needed 3+ hours to get somewhere in Sonoma. This place was so remote, I hypothesized that they scouted the location via helicopter. Lots of backroads, rolling hills, redwood forest, glimpses of river and the Pacific, and many different microclimates make it quite a drive. I have been to the Russian River many times, but points north of it not too much. Sonoma, man!
Sometimes when it is my turn to do this newsletter, I’ll obsess about it for a week leading up to it, and still have no idea about what to write. Sometimes I save interesting news from other places a month ahead of time, thinking it might come in handy at times like this. So please don’t think I am crazy for asking about that Stanford study finding that organic food is probably no healthier for you than regular food. It was over a month ago at this point, but did anyone really think that was the biggest reason to buy it?
Over in my favorite farm blog at terrafirmafarms.com, Pablito labels this a straw man (ooh ooh ooh, my new favorite phrase: “an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position” -Wikipedia) and goes on to reaffirm some aspects of the organic label:
No synthetic pesticides or fertilizers were used to grow it.
Certified organic farms must meet certain environmental standards.
Organic food is genetically modified, and has no GMO ingredients.
It contains no artificial ingredients, flavors or colors.
Making fraudulent claims that a product is organic is a felony.
Producers and processors are inspected at least once a year by a USDA approved and audited third party certifier to assure compliance with the law.
...you can be reasonably certain of two things:
You are eating GMOs if you eat non-organic foods made with corn or soybeans, including ingredients like corn syrup and "vegetable oil". The vast majority of the conventional corn and soy crops grown in the U.S. are GM varieties.
If you want to be sure that you are not eating GMOs, buy Certified Organic food.
I do not eat only organic food. And I dislike GMOs MAINLY because I don’t like a company (Monsanto, I‘m looking at you here man!) being able to patent seed and monopolize the entire root (bad pun) of our food system through the courts. If birds or the wind bring GMOs into an organic farm, Monsanto can, and has, sued the farmer to dump their entire (now non-organic) harvest through patent infringement laws. Crazy, huh? So I try to do the organic thing, and I love it when others try too. So just sharing a little info and now getting off my high horse. Thanks again for calling Cupid!-Rev
This morning just before 8am I took my mobile office (see newsletter 6/15/12) down to the Ferry Building. As I drink my coffee and get organized for the day I can see the sun glowing behind the fog shrouded Bay Bridge. From my bench on the viewing platform I can observe the pelicans and terns swooping and diving for fish while below me the passengers of three different ferry lines board and disembark, the boats pulling in and out in sequence. In the other direction, beyond the Port of San Francisco marquee and the Clocktower our world famous skyline is just so thinly veiled with remnants of the quickly evaporating fog. It’s easy to see why a lot of people, from a lot of places come a long way to visit the best city in the U.S.
Before long I’m called away to pick up a nearby delivery and ride it out to the Sea Cliff neighborhood in the still foggy west side of town where I can hear the surf crashing at China Beach alternating with the fog horn. My return route through the Presidio takes me past a beautifully restored ecosystem then through a mist dripping grove of eucalyptus trees and beyond I get a nice view of the Spire, one a couple Andy Goldsworthy sculptures out here. Exiting the historic Army Base turned National Park I cut by the classical dome of the Palace of Fine Arts before following the shoreline along Marina Green and through Fort Mason. My radio has been quiet so I take a few minutes to ride out onto the Municipal Pier at Aquatic Park. This might be one of the most under recognized viewpoints in the city. The fog is almost entirely burned off now and the sun is sparkling on the water in the cove, swimmers quietly doing laps. Beyond is Ghirardelli Square, the Hyde Street Pier with its hodgepodge of local historic water craft, the Wharf and North Beach crowned by Coit Tower.
These are just some of the “name brand” spots in our beautiful city. We Cupoids have all made deliveries to the Academy of Sciences, City Hall, the Giants ballpark, even the curvy part of Lombard Street. The town is also full of minor landmarks, urban oases and cozy nooks and crannies. There are certain common deliveries that we have been doing for literally a decade or more so I know that I relish the opportunities we get to explore some of the less frequented parts of the city and find her secret treasures.
If you spend enough time somewhere it’s seems normal to start to taking it for granted. Similarly, in this job we’re often too rushed, have too many things to keep track of or are just a little too stressed to stop and appreciate the scenery. Riding a bicycle in traffic also requires a certain amount of focus. It is one of the rewards of our profession though, these occasions for serendipitous discovery.
Hopefully everyone out there is well rested after a long Labor Day weekend. Aside from getting out and camping, I can't think of a better way to celebrate the unofficial end of Summer than a day at the ball park. And that's exactly what Jim and I have planned for Sunday afternoon! Obviously, by the time you're reading this, we will know just how bad this weekend went for my Boston Red Sox, who are having an absolutely terrible..well, let's not talk about it. Watching the A's this year has been a treat though, huh? I've never been a huge A's fan, but I think everyone loves seeing a team that no one expected to do well, do so damn well.
Of course, the 'unofficial end of Summer' might mean that over hear in SF we might finally escape the fog! I usually feel as though June and July are the foggiest and coldest out there on a bike, but boy we've had a chilly August. I think all of us that work outdoors are looking forward to some belated September/October warmth. If my understanding is right, the hotter the Central Valley gets, the colder and windier we end up.
This Fall also sees classes resume for many who are in school, including myself. If it seems as though I'm hardly out there picking up packages or answering phones, it's because I'm in class most days. Add this to a couple other planned vacations for Cupoids, and you might be seeing a random new person come through your office. We at Cupid always kind of enjoy having the occasional fellow messenger come over and work with us for the day. We're a small crew, and hearing a different voice over our radio airwaves can be fun at times.-bryan
Boy, what an eventful summer. July was a tricky staffing month at Cupid, as pretty much everyone had something(s) going on extracurricularly. Tim and Sarah took different routes but both ended up in Chicago for Messenger Worlds. As always, it seems, they succeeded wildly. Tim qualified for the final and finished in the top 75, while Sarah made 3rd Woman, won the Skid Comp, and most impressively got Queen of the Track for overall consistent excellence in multiple trackbike events. Think Gabby Douglas on a fixed-wheel bike. It is especially sweet, as I think of it as the most ‘messenger-y’ of titles. The so-called fixie is unofficially claimed by messengerdom as its most proprietary of devices, so nice work Sarah!
I went to upstate New York to hang out with my huge family, and returned without a case of Lyme disease, unlike last year, hurray!
I once again tell you all that 2012 was designated as International Year of Cooperatives by the United Nations. Next Tuesday, August 21st, the Great State of California hosts representatives from our community of worker-owned businesses at the Capitol building in Sacramento. Yay, another celebration of collectives!
Who reads Harper’s? Man, that mag is so great. The cover price is $7, but subscription makes it like $2 or something. Aside from having a great puzzle (through which I have won 4 different years free - sorry, had to toot my own horn there), it consistently amazes with its breadth, scope, quality, and almost-but-not-quite-too-much braininess. Grab one sometime if you have never read it. In an unsigned article draft attributed to Albert Camus from 19391, there is a timeless condensation of life during wartime for a journalist. What caught my eye was,”In any philosophy worthy of the name, an important precept holds that one should never indulge in useless lamentations over an inescapable state of affairs.” It made me promise to never complain about our new smartphones again. A promise which has since been broken a few times.
The rest of the article builds to a final massive praise of irony in journalism. I feel like Camus/non-Camus is reaching across the ages to endorse programs like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” with all of their wit, sarcasm and buffoonery. It really is a great article, and a great magazine. Check it out.-Rev
1“[Manifesto] Rules of Engagement,” Harper’s Magazine, July 2012, pp 16-18.
Cupid Courier billing info, 7/16-31/12
I just woke to the sight of a big red squirrel staring straight down at me, knocking whirligig maple seeds from the tree I was sleeping under. I'm guessing from his high pitched chirps that the little guy wasn't expecting to see a couple dozen bike messengers strewn about his grassy back yard in Ann Arbor, Michigan this morning. We're one night into a four day ride from Detroit to Chicago and the yard is behind the house of a bike polo aficionado. He knows a few messengers and was glad to have us camp-out and drink a few beers.
Many of you may remember from earlier newsletters that there is an annual Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC) and this year is the 19th in Chicago. I decided to go out early to Detroit and hang out with the scant few messengers who make go of it in Motor City. Group rides are usually on the agenda and that's what has brought this rag tag group of folks from around the world to the heartland of the USA.
There's nothing like a scruffy mob of urban couriers rolling through the countryside. I have some great memories going back to my first trip in Switzerland and riding into the Alps, the group of us sleeping in an empty ski chalet after a big pasta meal and maybe a few beers. Sarah and Rev Jim were with me a few years later when we found ourselves rolling through dark Hungarian villages after midnight, the bemused residents pausing to watch a long line of riders go by (yes they do seem to hang out late on warm summer nights). There were also echidnas and huge lizards in Australia, a ride through a cloud of fireflies in Central Park, the endless bike paths in the Swedish countryside, along the Danube river in Austria and along the Elbe river from Germany into the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic also has the added benefit of an awesome beer garden every 30 miles of so (are you sensing a theme here?).
It seems that delivering stuff for y'all has taken me farther than I would have expected.-tim
Cupid Courier billing info, 7/1-15/2012
Friday after work at home, and what sounds great is curling up under a blanket and sipping a hot toddy while writing the newsletter... must be Summer here in foggy San Francisco! So what do us SF'ers do during these cold Summer days? Well, we get out of town and find other places that are actually enjoying some heat, and that's exactly what we've been doing over here at Cupid. So far this season I've been off to Colorado, Sean's headed north to Portland, Sarah's followed Sean to Oregon, and Tim's taken a week in Yosemite. And that's not the end! This week's got Jim in upstate New York, then Tim taking off to the Midwest, ending up in Chicago and meeting up with Sarah for this year's Courier World Championship! Whew... if it feels like you haven't seen or talked to your favorite Cupoid in a while, well, blame the fog...
That said, we're still getting it done and then some. This last couple of weeks has found us updating our phones here at Cupid. There's been a couple glitches with the new phones, and if you've had troubles getting through, we apologize. We always talk about how communication is the key to Cupid's success, and of course that starts with communication between us and you, the client. We should be up and running smooth at this point, and these new phones should provide us with even better service. Also, now all of us on the road have access to Cupid-specific smart phones. We're still learning all the ways we can use these phones to improve Cupid's day-to-day service. If you or anyone in your office have specific things you might be looking for from a smart-phone-equipped messenger, please let us know.
Enjoy the rest of your summer and, if you can, get out to somewhere warmer... -bryan
Cupid Courier billing info, 6/16-30/2012
Omigosh, did July ever get here fast! Longtime readers might remember this time of year as not only the nation’s birth time, but also Cupid’s! We have hit lucky thirteen! It is our tredecennial, or lace anniversary, as Wikipedia informs me. We are a teenager! We will celebrate both by closing shop on Wednesday, July 4th, hurray! Cricket, bratwurst and Tarte Tatin, or whatever their American variants are called by the kids these days.
Here at the ol’ Casa de las Tres Gallinas (my house), we continue to plug away at our humble fixer-upper. We are getting quite close to being ready to put in countertops, hurray! Setting cabinets is quite possibly the hardest thing we have done yet. Few floors are level, especially in older houses, and ours is typical. When you need your cabinets going the length of the kitchen, you make them true level rather than perpendicular to the floor. When you have five different pieces and an oven to align and level over the whole area, man o man is it maddening.
Have any of you ever built a bicycle wheel? If not, you probably have done something similar. It’s a complex system, where one adjustment can cause three other previous adjustments to change. Cabinet leveling is exactly the same. You want them level, of course, but in three dimensional space. The top planes and the front faces need to be true so they don’t look lopsided. Then the faces need to be parallel, so the continuous face of multiple pieces is flat. Hard, when these things are heavy, and one piece is holding a really heavy old sink with pipes sticking into it. Making myself a little ill just thinking back on it.
What is more fun? Jewelry! It took us months of full research, with a year or more of dabbling before that, but we finally got cabinet hardware: drawer pulls! Friends do not need to wonder what the blue tape all over the kitchen is anymore (it was our sticky paper handles used to open doors and drawers). I many times compared it to buying an engagement ring: sometimes made of or at least looking like precious metal, something you hope will impress others (in this case, our cabinetmaker friend David), something that both parts of a couple want to look at forever, and that they really need to negotiate their choice’s look and cost between themselves and then with the merchants that sell them. Another complex system! We got some pretty hard-to-find-yet-not-all-that-expensive cast iron things that look awesome, real iron-y and cast-y. I think they call the look ‘distressed,’ which was the source of more than a few appropriate jokes in the process.
Ok, have a great week, if your business is even open. Last week ended like everyone had already left town Wednesday night.-peace ‘n’ love,Rev
Cupid Courier billing info, 6/1-15/2012
Once in a while I am asked where the office is for Cupid Courier Collective. I should start telling folks that it's on my back. Most of you probably know that we Cupoids do our "office work" out of our various homes, and that we work from the street using cell phones and radios, clipboards and pens. Our workplace is The City itself and instead, of a cubicle, we have our messenger bags. Have you ever wondered what we carry in these messenger bags of ours? Well, envision the Clown Car at the circus as I unpack mine for you.
I'll start with the basic essentials to keep my bike running: 2 multi-tools, 1 small adjustable wrench, 1 set of front & rear bike lights, 2 tire levers, 1 spare tube, 1 patch kit, 1 tiny bottle of chain lube, and 1 smallish tire pump. I also carry a smorgasbord of zip ties, safety pins, binder clips, twist ties and tape. During the rainy season I also try to have a large plastic bag to protect oversize packages, and smaller bags to protect my radio and phone.
The mobile office is comprised of: Radio (this is actually attached to the the strap on the outside of the bag, but I'll include it too), 1 personal phone, 1 sturdy folder (containing manifests, rate sheets, receipts, client packets, stickers & other miscellaneous paperwork), 1 clipboard with the day’s manifest, miscellaneous pens, 1 vintage 1997 Rand McNally San Francisco Cross Street Directory (out of print). This is well-used and is patched together and reinforced with various bike messenger related stickers. After all these years, I still pull this out once or twice a week.
Personal items include: eyeglass/sunglasses case, 1 tube of sunscreen, 1 small digital camera, whatever book I'm reading at the moment, my personal journal, toothbrush and toothpaste, dental floss, 1 portable media player (brand name omitted), 1 wifi-enabled electronic device (brand name omitted), lip balm, a handful of pain relievers, a few band-aids & spare clothing, adjusted seasonally (hoodie almost always especially in "summer", rain jacket in winter, gloves, cycling cap, etc.).
This is probably fairly typical of a courier's bag worldwide and this is before we start putting your stuff into them. On a social network that I will leave unnamed, there is actually a group called Messenger Shakedown where couriers have posted photos of the contents dumped from their bags. This past June 5th, I had an extra item in my bag. I brought the special Solar viewing glasses I had picked up at the Exploratorium. Some of you may recall that there was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view Venus passing in front of the Sun that afternoon. It was a lot of fun the pull them out and share them with people. Every time I had them on, someone would stop and ask about them. I got no fewer than a dozen people to look up and see the tiny black dot of our sister planet (named for the mother of Cupid btw), crossing the face of the Sun over several hours.-tim
Scheduled Note: July 4th is on Wednesday this year and, as always, Cupid Courier will be CLOSED.
Cupid Courier billing info, 5/16-31/2012
Let's hear it for small businesses. While we spend many a newsletter expounding the virtues of worker-owned cooperatives (and will happily continue to do so), its just as noteworthy to talk about other small, independent enterprises. Many of these businesses are but a few employees, while others are simply one person making a living independently. While it's hard not to simply express the liberating and democratizing power of the co-op, I'd imagine that working for oneself (alone) is empowering. For that matter, I would bet that as an employee of a small business, it is still generally more democratic and enjoyable than many large corporations. After all, your boss and employer probably work right next to you rather than 20 stories up in the board room.
How about a chance to help out a new small business simply by voting online? One great new small business that we've been working with is Farmgirl flowers. I'd imagine you've read about Farmgirl here in our newsletter, and if you haven't gotten a chance to see Christina's arrangements I'd recommend that you do! But here's the deal: Chase Bank is giving away a free grant to an enterprising new small business, and Christina is hoping that a grant like theirs would help her make Farmgirl even more sustainable. All that's needed is to go online and vote for Farmgirl, and/or any other small enterprise you think could use help.
To vote, visit: missionsmallbusiness.com, and if you haven't checked out Farmgirl Flowers, check 'em out here: www.farmgirlflowers.com-bryan
Cupid Courier billing info, 5/1-15/2012
Woohoo, another holiday! Memorial Day is here already, ushering in summerish events and maybe even weather. My grills are ready. Cupid will be closed Monday, 5/28/2012 in celebration.
How many people have smart (sic) phones? Everyone? And is that supposed to be a compound word now? I feel pretty new to the idea of mobile data access, especially for the SF Bayrea. For a little while, Cupid was beta-testing a delivery app for a SoMa startup that gave us an iPhone to use for free. At first, it was really useful, in fact almost shockingly so. Looking up addresses when needed, train schedules, among others things, right at the finger tips. Ultimately, the app’s energy use was too high to conveniently keep it charged, and they decided to get their device back and move in a different direction.
That led me to finally start using one of the original iPhones, truly first generation, that my wife had been given in exchange for a bag of rocks or something a while back. Mostly to listen to podcasts, but it became nice to have certain downloaded info files on hand. I didn’t want to actually activate it and use it as a phone or anything. I have since realized that you can have internet access almost all day long, here in SF. Sometimes you have to search wifi out a tiny bit, but never really move very far. It is very different when it is raining: I do a lot of sitting on my bike outside various Starbuck’s which I wouldn’t do on wet days.
Where is all this leading? Only this: how do you deal with what is virtually highly addictive behavior? I would not say I have IAD (Internet Addiction Disorder - thank you Wikipedia), but I certainly have made it a major focus at work sometimes while withdrawing from other activities. Apparently that is addictive behavior. Embarrassingly, I have to admit that I mostly read sports junk, something I never EVER used to take in as much as I do/can now. I used to scoff at high-volume social networkers that would send me too much stuff. Now I envy them - at least they are communicating with other humans, whether you like the method or not. I just learn behind-the-scenes views and opinions about various teams that can be used in conversation, sometimes, sure, but really are not that useful in the volumes at which I take them in.
Do any of you have good techniques to self-limit? Our job is ripe for abuse, as there are gaps throughout the day that you can “jack in” (remember William Gibson and cyberpunk? Where did they ever go?). It is not really harmful or anything, which is good, but I feel like I could be a much more productive and well-informed person, if only I had less access to information. Go figure.
Thanks as always for using Cupid!-Rev
Cupid Courier billing info, 4/16-30/2012
Viva May Day! As some of you may know, today is International Workers’ Day. Its a good day to remember that a lot of literal blood, sweat and tears were shed to earn the better working conditions many of us have today. As you read this, there should also be a lot of people taking that message to the street around the Bay Area, the country and worldwide.
Today though, as I write this, I’m just sitting down to a post-ride beer after washing off the rural road grime and campfire smoke from a 3 day bike trip into Sonoma County via the Vallejo ferry. I joined a great group of friends who are connoisseurs of secret backroads and swimming holes and aren't afraid to stop riding every twenty miles or so to to enjoy where they are and have a beer. About fifteen of them are continuing on for another week to the Mendocino coast, then back down to San Francisco.
I‘ll have to find ways to squeeze in more trips like this. Courier work is often about squeezing in a little more than you thought you could. There have been many times that, as big as my messenger bag is, I’d assumed it was full, but I had no choice but to find some way to carry just one more package. We also have to work within a fixed amount of time. Even in these slower business days, we still have moments of crunch time at Cupid Courier. We may all have an hour and ten minutes of work to do in our “box” with less than an hour to do it in. Then one more job comes up and somehow we squeeze it in.
I’m not sure if there is a point in this scatter-shot newsletter, but I think there’s a paradoxical metaphor in here somewhere.-tim
What an absolutely perfect weekend so far around the homestead. After taking the dog on a hike up to Potrero HIll, I found myself enjoying the sunny day on the deck. With mojitos made with fresh mint from the garden, I began the task of sanding down a really cool old desk that had been salvaged for free. After a while, I fired up the grill and my girlfriend and I enjoyed some delicious veggies that we had bought a couple days ago from the Mission farmer's market. And all of this was done with a couple great baseball games on the radio (the Giants, of course, and earlier a broadcast from my other favorite team, Boston). Sunshine, grilling, cocktails, and baseball! It must mean that we here in SF are entering that season that is slightly warmer and sunnier than that darker, damper season... or dare I say, I can feel Summer coming!
But wait, how, you ask, was I listening to the Red Sox broadcast way out here in California? Well of course there's an app for that! (Quite handy actually, ‘cause with my phone in my pocket and some headphones I don't have to subject the rest of the household.) Honestly, the 'app-for-everything' is a little new to me, as I only recently switched over to a 'smart phone.' That said, there really is a whole lot of useful apps and tools that I've found for my phone. Having a tiny computer in my pocket as a messenger is also quite handy and helpful for Cupid.
So where's the Cupid Courier App? Quite a ways off, and probably never. Why? 'Cause we love talking to y'all!! The short client-messenger phone conversation is a great reason why Cupid works so well. How else can both you the client and us the messenger make sure we are on the same page as far as all the little minutiae of every delivery? Many, many years ago I worked at a messenger company that had on-line delivery orders, and boy what a mess! In San Francisco, how easy is it to type 3rd ave, instead of 3rd st? Or, if Cupid only took on-line orders and there was a rush down 3rd St, we might not get the chance to explain that the Giants just won a walk-off game at home (!), so that part of town might be a traffic disaster, but we'll get it down there as fast as we can! Computers make many things easier, but here at Cupid we'll take an old-fashioned phone call any time, and in fact prefer it.-bryan
Cupid Courier billing info, 3/16-31/2012
It’s always nice when the end of the billing period occurs on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. This gives the bookkeeper more than 48 hours to organize, proof and print the invoices. When the end falls midweek, a couple of Cupoids have really long days, writing the news or doing the data entry so that then the invoicing can begin. Ugh. But even when we have all the extra time, it can still be difficult to get it done. For instance, this period has me doing both the news and the invoicing. I have gotten a lot of the process out of the way, but still have to think about what should be written to inform or inspire you. I have listened to a million NPR podcasts and programs just in the last 48 hours, it is Spring and April Fools’ Day, yet still haven’t been able to think of anything appropriate.
Lack of inspiration makes me think of one program I heard. The gent being interviewed had written a book about inspiration, of all things. He was Jonah Lehrer, talking about Imagine: How Creativity Works. As it turns out, brainstorming doesn’t work! More constructive processes can involve complete relaxation, and basically ignoring or avoiding the problem you are trying to address. Profound solutions come to us all the time, at times when we are not at our desks (or on our bikes). I have come up with many solutions in the middle of the night, to both puzzles and home electrical wiring. The part of brainstorming that is not effective is allegedly its deferred criticism and the emphasis of quantity over quality. Interesting!
The home wiring is a great way to learn a lot. I’ve been working on the overhead lighting lately, and each ceiling/joist bay has a new approach, an existing fixture in a different state of disrepair, a new scheme to get power to the fixture. It has been hot and dirty work lately, but can feel really satisfying deleting a lot of podcasts that I’ve been meaning to listen to for a while, after flipping a newly wired switch that turn on a refurbished lamp. Sweet!-Hopefully your weekend was more interesting than that.
March 15th, 2012
Earlier this week, for the third time in 6 months, I came across a semi-truck high centered on the crest of Divisadero at Broadway. Because the street drops off so steeply and the truck is so long, the trailer drags the pavement and actually lifts the drive wheels off the ground stranding the vehicle until a service truck can come to the rescue. This is clearly not the way for a large truck to be going but I think the only warning might be a street sign at the very last moment. I’m fairly certain that the widespread use of GPS is to blame. Surely an experienced Bay Area trucker would know better than to try going over that hill, although a quick glance up from the bottom should be enough of a deterrent. There are legions of us out there slavishly and expediently following the blue dot, but there really is no substitute for actually knowing and/or paying attention to where you’re going.
I like to think of myself as something of a Luddite but the fact is I use these tools and more, just like most of us do. However I have put some thought into what we lose when we blindly adopt new technology. Geographical confusion is just one of the latest examples of how what was once a basic life skill has fallen by the wayside.
How many of us can cultivate enough food for ourselves to survive, much less provide the cornucopia we have in modern America? I can barely keep my meager houseplants alive. I have caught wind though of the variety of urban agriculture going on in the Bay Area. Lots of folks are tapping into our collective memory to grow food and be more self-sufficient. It seems especially empowering in “food deserts” like West Oakland where fresh food is not so near at hand. I’ve also got a handful of friends doing some micro food production; gardens, chickens, even bees. Most notably among them are Rev Jim and his lovely better half. Their egg laying ladies have made at least a couple mentions in this space and I’ve personally sampled the bounty of their garden and fruit trees.
I could take this point back even farther to before the agrarian revolution. The fact is that we humans have spent the vast majority our existence as hunter-gatherers. Those tens of thousands of years shaped our brains and bodies far more than the tiny fraction we’ve spent as “civilized”. I think we assume that we’re achieving ever more sophisticated lives compared our tribal counterparts past and present. I’m not sure I can make a fire without matches. Can you? Even us modern primitive bike messengers would be quickly humbled if we were forced back into the Stone Age and in our perpetually pre-apocalyptic times that could be any day now.
March 1st, 2012
Ever wonder where us messengers here at Cupid might find ourselves when we're not delivering packages? Ok, maybe you think we are busy all the time (we are awesome after all), but alas, throughout the day we find lulls in the workload and have to find somewhere to hide out. This is not quite as easy as it may sound, especially during inclement weather. Downtown San Francisco is quite dense, with almost every block dominated by large corporate buildings. Luckily for us there are POPOS. What, you ask, are POPOS? Well, for those of you that saw an article last week in the Chronicle, you'd know that POPOS stands for Privately-Owned Public Open Spaces. These spaces, as you might imagine, are a blessing for messengers during a slow day.
Some of these spaces are outdoor seating areas and parks. My personal favorite of these is the Redwood Park on the backside of the Transamerica Pyramid. Other spaces are indoor atriums. These indoor hideaways are what really saves us messengers during a rainy day. Lastly, there's even at least one rooftop garden (343 Sansome St. if you're wondering).
All of these spaces were allotted for during various buildings’ original permit process with The City. With the goal of keeping Downtown as inviting to the public as possible, they definitely help. Unfortunately, however, many buildings do whatever they can to hide, obscure, or discourage public use of these spaces. It sounds like now some city supervisors, along with SPUR (SF Planning + Urban Research Association), are trying to clarify the rules regarding these POPOS and in particular make their presence more known to the public.
Of course I support this goal, but it does give me pause. As messengers one of the coolest things is all the little shortcuts, alleys, nooks, crannies, and other urban idiosyncrasies that we get to learn. Tim, for one, has written here about how valued we all treat these 'finds'. That said, since y'all are our rocking clients I'll send you here: http://www.spur.org/files/popos-guide.pdf. It's SPUR's quite cool map and guide to all of SF's POPOS. Maybe you'll find one right around the corner from your office. -bryan
February 16th, 2012
Hi all! When I was a kid, it seemed like leap years were a much bigger deal than now. Adults sweep it under the carpet like a dirty secret, while kids recognize it as the magic it is. A whole extra day, created from nothing. Shouldn’t there be a big party? I am picturing a St. Patrick’s Day-April Fools’ hybrid, a day for silliness and revelry. Who’s down?
It hit me when looking at the calendar to figure out how many days there are left in Rainbow Grocery’s ‘SHOP COOP February 2012’ campaign (14 at writing). Tim wrote about it two weeks ago, but you should really take advantage. It is like supporting 2 worker-owned businesses at once. Their website makes it sound like they have restricted it a bit from last year’s similar deal, allowing only original receipts/invoices, but each one gets a whopping 15% discount. That seems really generous, no? Maybe your office can auction off the invoice original or something fun like that.
The big news on Cupid’s radar was the just-completed St. Valentine’s Day Massacre aka delivering about 220 flower arrangements in the City and County. It was all hands on deck as Cupid had five people on the road for the first time in maybe ten years. We have pumped the metaphorical tires for our friends at Farmgirl Flowers many times before on this page, so you can guess from where those arrangements came. It averages about 45 per Cupoid, and factoring in all the fragile glass/sloshing water/plodding security/slow elevator/distance/elevation/hunger/fatigue/no one home/you-name-it that was dealt with, you can’t call it anything but Herculean. We had a cargo bike, a bike trailer, at times even a car and an impressed (think 18th century British navy impressed, not 20th century admiring impressed) wife. It was Farmgirl’s first real Valentine’s Day, so the project had a lot of similarities to the unknowns and complexities of the 1960’s moonshot. I am still pretty sore. I salute everyone at Farmgirl and my impressive (admirable kind now) co-owners!
Real news: another reminder that we are CLOSED on Monday, 2/20/2012, for Washington’s Birthday aka the Holiday Weekend That They Might As Well Play The Super Bowl On So We Can Recover A Little Better. Have a great day!-Rev
February 1st, 2012
Have we said lately how much we appreciate y’all? Well it’s probably one of those things you can’t say too often. Recently I’ve had a few of those moments where I feel really proud to have such a diverse group of clients to work with. Despite the fact that most of our interactions are by necessity brief, it is by and large genuinely pleasant to interact with you folks. There’s a lot going on in this city and a scan of our client list and a look at Cupid’s various pick-ups and destinations reveals a colorful cross section of our community and some uniquely San Franciscan fixtures.
One of the coolest things I came across in 2011 was the book Infinite City; A San Francisco Atlas by Rebecca Solnit. A collaborative work, she taps into dozens of local writers, artists and cartographers to create a series of maps and essays. Each one takes an imaginative look at San Francisco or the Greater Bay Area combining different themes from ecology, politics, culture and history. I would consider it required reading for anyone who feels strongly about living here. The project is intended to inspire and be built upon and I think the messenger community in general and perhaps Cupid in particular would give a unique perspective on our landscape. We have a specific collection of landmarks, routes, short cuts and secret passages as well as a 3 dimensional concept of our hilly town that you don’t get from most maps. We also have our “cultural” spots; messenger bars past & present, stand-by hangouts, even places with emotional and sacred meaning. And as I mentioned above there is the constellation of our clients and where you send us.
One of the frequently mentioned strands of our particular web is NoBAWC, which includes our worker/owner friends at Rainbow Grocery. During the month of February you should feel free to tap into your connection to Cupid’s web and get a 15% discount there by bringing in this or any 2012 invoice when you shop. It’s Rainbow's way of supporting their fellow co-ops and the folks that do business with them. Seems like a great gesture for Valentine's month. For more info check out: www.rainbow.coop/shop-coop-february-2012/ .
P.S. On another programing note, Cupid will be CLOSED Monday, February 20th for Presidents Day.
January 16th, 2012
What great weather San Francisco has been having! Why would I mention the weather (and risk hexing things)? Well, ‘cause my current reference for SF weather is through a TV watching football playoffs while visiting the ol’ man in Colorado where it is much, much colder than in SF and as all this white stuff called snow laying around. What I miss more than the weather back home, after watching the game, is San Francisco itself. You see, where my father lives is quite a sprawling suburb. And while it is very clean and quiet out here, there is absolutely none of what makes SF great. For instance, in order to get around my father’s hometown, one has to drive. While driving itself is no problem, it is literally impossible to go anywhere without an automobile, even just to get a coffee or a beer. How do the elderly and very young get around? It’s not just a small town either; there are lots of people that live out here. Now I realize that everyone doesn’t want to live with the urban density of SF (did I mention how quiet it is out here?), but some better urban planning would be great. And what comes with a little more livable city? How about all of the great bars, coffee shops, and culture that we have in SF. On top of that, a vibrant and dense urban core that requires bike messengers. Particularly friendly and worker/owner messengers like all of us here at Cupid.- having a great time visiting Dad, but missing our beautiful City, bryan
January 1st, 2012
Like Bryan noted two newsletters ago, we have cycled through authors to retain the lineup of last year. That means I once again have the difficult position of both eulogizing the past year and getting us rocking into the new one.
For its part, Cupid had a solid eleventh year. We have maintained a remarkable consistency for the last half-decade or so. The crew, the volume, you: all things that kept on keeping on in 2011. We started delivering lots and lots of flowers in earnest this year with Farmgirl Flowers. That has been brought up a lot on this page, so I won’t plug it again. It has been a challenge, moving top-heavy water-filled glass with biomaterial in it via bicycle. But Christina at Farmgirl is awesome, and the response from both recipients and folks on the street has been great. We literally transport smiles for hours a day sometimes. One thing we never counted on was the obvious amount of time we would end up spending in hospitals. It is rarely more than once or twice per week, but we bring arrangements to people who are not very well at all. Or obviously grieving a great loss. This made me uneasy at first because of poor emotional preparation. Now it feels pretty cool, being the avatar of some else’s love, care, and/or admiration. We get to bring lovely things to loved ones. Pretty cool for a company named Cupid, after all, huh?
On a personal level, the ol’ homestead made leaps and bounds in 2011. Our third year of home ownership really saw massive progress. A lot of electrical work made us feel a bit safer, and we nearly have a 100% working kitchen! This latter is all I really want, so 2012 will hopefully have a lot more family and friends in for visits. Food being my main reason for going anywhere, you see. Our chickens are just now starting to lay eggs again. They went through a ‘hard’ molt this winter. They stopped laying and lost a massive amount of feathers. Not sure why evolution programmed this in the coldest part of the year. But they have muddled on, and now seem a good bit happier. With most of their feathers back, they don’t look so funny, and we hope we don’t have to buy eggs again. It felt weird buying a dozen last week.
Hopefully you all had a productive 2011 as well. We at Cupid look forward to serving you well in 2012. Thanks for everything!
P.S. We’ll close again to celebrate the Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., Monday, January 16th
December 16th, 2011
We all like to find hidden treasure right? In the sagebrush dessert hills around where I grew up I loved to go on rambling walks, usually with the family dog Zuzu. While he was off doing dog miles (3 or more to my one) I would imagine coming across some long forgotten treasures left out and now half buried. More often than not I would find them in the form of some bleached coyote bones or a really nice chunk of obsidian, maybe even an arrowhead if I was really lucky. I never did stumble across an x that marked the spot of some old timers hidden gold. Maybe that’s why I came up with the idea to make that happen for my nephews and niece. For Christmas I plan on burying some treasure for them in hills near grandma's house and my brothers and I will take them out to find it. Of course we’ll need a treasure map.
The Bay Area is full of hidden gems; it’s one of the things I love about living here. It’s also one of the fringe benefits of our job. Being out, moving around the city and the greater Bay Area especially on a bicycle I constantly come across nice little surprises.
Most treasure hunts involve a quest right? This past weekend for my birthday some friends (including the Cupoids!) joined me on a quest to find a polar bear. We had to catch BART to the East Bay, but then we hopped on our bikes. Our ride took us past John Muir’s home where we climbed to the top of the rather large house to take in the view from the cupola and ring the bell. From there we dropped into downtown Martinez, rode past the famous beaver dam then onto the Carquinez Scenic Drive. This road is definitely a gem of Bay Area cycling because a large portion has been closed to cars after a landslide almost 30 years ago. Bikes have no problem getting through and it’s a cozy ride with Carquinez Straight on one side and rolling, open, oak-lined hills on the other. It also takes you right into Port Costa, the goal of our quest. Where else can you have a beer (or a few) with a 10 foot tall polar bear then stumble across the street and stay the night in a former bordello now serving as a “rustic” hotel? If you’re looking for a car free weekend getaway I couldn't recommend it more highly. I’ll even draw you a treasure map if you’d like.
P.S. Don’t forget we’ll be CLOSED Mondays Dec 26th and Jan 2nd and that HOLIDAY RATES apply during the week in-between. Happy Holidays!
December 1st, 2011
Not sure how it worked out, but one year later and I'm up for the post-Thanksgiving, pre-December holiday newsletter. After rereading last year’s I was almost tempted to simply copy it (who would notice?). Some things haven't changed...Thanksgiving leftovers took a while to finish with leftover gravy lasting the longest (yup, I make lots for just that reason!). I hope everyone had as great a Thanksgiving as I did, and also enjoyed the long weekend. Last year's newsletter also had me suggesting some gift ideas for those of you searching around. Because I think it's such a great idea, I'm going to throw out another plug for local worker-owned businesses. Check out NOBAWC.org and you'll find all sorts of local worker-owned businesses (bookstores, baked goods, groceries, bike shops, and more).
Looking for something really cool and different to give for the holidays? How about flowers! As many of you know, Cupid has been partnering with the new local company: Farmgirl Flowers. Offering locally grown flowers in new arrangements daily, Farmgirl is a great local, and conscious business. Even better than receiving flowers once? How about receiving flowers all the time! Farmgirl offers the ability to set up scheduled flower deliveries on a regular basis (weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc.). Many people receive magazine subscriptions for the holidays, but how great would it be to receive a flower 'subscription'? Not only would that lucky recipient get to enjoy local, seasonal flowers, but they'd be delivered by your friends at Cupid. Curious? Check out Farmgirl's website at farmgirlflowers.com.
Scheduling Note: Cupid will be closed Monday 12/26 and Monday 1/2 for the Christmas and New Year's Holidays. We will be open the week between (12/27 - 12/30) under a skeleton crew and holiday rates. If you have a question about our availability over the holidays please give us a call. Thanks.-bryan
November 16th, 2011
My parents are in town for their decennial visit to the West Coast this week. They do have 19 grandkids on the Right Side, so their general absence can be excused. I was nervous, before they came, that I might not be able to find enough to do with them. They have done some of the classic touristy things before, and even lived South Bay (where I was born) many many years ago. It felt like it would really be a dig to find new interesting things to do. Where was the list of Secondary Things for Tourists To Do In SF?
And then yesterday with a map, the wife and I tried to point them to places that are not touristy, where the sightseeing buses do not take you. There is so much! We weren’t able to hang with them today, so they took the tall bus anyway. Knowing they’d be going, we tried to point to places along the bus routes. Guess what - there is still so much!
If you like people, its good to remember that you can do nothing in places, just walk around and gab and gawk and just take things in. You do not have to send anyone to the best thing, or go with them to the tastiest restaurant, or make sure that they see the Greatest Art Exhibition EVERRRRRR! Outatowners can be shown just about anything around here if you are familiar with it, can explain it or share little tidbits about its history or raison d’etre. It is really easy to be an accomplished ambassador for the whole Bay Area. You know a lot more than you think you do, in all likelihood, and every neighborhood and institution is probably worth a gander.
So that is my lesson this week: don’t get nervous when you have to play the host. Relax and remember that you can go anywhere and do anything. Even if you set aside only some time for these auslanders, it will probably end up not being enough. You will wish that you had more time during their stay, as more and more things will come to you as you shuffle around the streets and parks of our cities and towns, the hills and waters around them, and mingle among the cohabiting humans of the parts thereon. This place rules.
Thanks again as always for calling Cupid!-Rev
November 1st, 2011
There is probably nothing I like better than the taste of a few perfectly ripened blackberries eaten straight from the bush still warm from the sunshine. All these years of riding to every corner of town I’ve casually noted a few choice berry patches and beginning midsummer I like to check in on them if I happen to be going by while working. They are usually good for a least a few berries from about June through October. This year I was trying to keep note of when there was a lot of ripe ones so I could go out and pick some. I was also planning on making time to scout for some more obscure spots. As usual though, I got somewhat preoccupied over summer and didn’t get out berry picking until a couple weekends ago. By then the fruit was already past the peak and the nearby patches on Bernal HIll had been clearly picked over by other urban foragers. My girlfriend and I did have the company of hundreds of orb weaver spiders though. These arachnids apparently flourish right at the same time as the blackberries are winding down. The thickets with all their nooks and crannies are perfect for the spiders to weave their classic nets, usually right in front of a cluster of fat purple berries. Our method involved me wading into bushes while she spotted some choice berries and whacked at any unseen webs with a stick found nearby. I had to dodge the hard to see spiders (serious case of the heebie-jeebies), try not to scratch the heck out of my arms (I wish I were wearing long sleeves), all while keeping a close eye for poison oak (cycling knickers were another bad choice). It took a couple hours but we managed to gather enough berries to make a nice fat tart to share. Nice and simple; plain dough, not too much sugar, 45 minutes in the oven and it was freakin' delicious if I do say so myself. By the time you read this there will be a photo of it on the Cupid Courier Collective facebook wall. Check it out.
October 15th, 2011
Well it's been quite a start to the month of October here in SF. We did see a bunch of fantastically warm and sunny days out there, but we also got quite an unusual amount of rain this early. If you were of the superstitious school of thought, you could blame Jim for the recent rain, as he had the audacity to preview October's weather in our last newsletter. Seeing as how it's his birthday month, I think we should let him off the hook. This is a good time, however, to remind everyone that we are entering the season of rain, and extra caution should be applied to any packages. We all have great waterproof messenger bags, but on an extremely wet day everything is at a slight risk. This is true especially if you're sending out anything that might be larger than our bags, and might stick out the tops. We always try to carry plenty of plastic bags, and other waterproof barriers, but help from the sender is always appreciated.
As messengers we get to see the city in flux and action everyday at work. Usually this action causes extra traffic, whether it's construction, festivals, or protests. A couple construction projects will be causing minor headaches in downtown for a while: the new transbay terminal and the new central subway. Of the less planned variety are protests. The OccupySF protests have been on our radars for weeks now. While I support them completely, I'm still a little glad they haven't interfered too much on our work day. That said, even if Occupy marches or protests did interfere, I would still be in support. I think political protest is an integral part of what makes San Francisco great. Props go out to SF politicians who have been willing to show support and willingness to work with the protesters (and those that do are surely getting my vote in a couple weeks). It's great seeing the Occupy protests from the view of a work day at Cupid, as I believe our business model (worker-owned co-op) is one way to address many of the 'Occupy' issues.
As for great businesses, our partnership with Farmgirl Flowers is going great. The founder Christina has just redesigned her website and added a few more options for flower arrangements. Even better, you can now add some chocolates to your flower delivery for that special someone (or yourself!). While our basic messenger service is rewarding, I do enjoy seeing the look on recipients’ faces when I show up with flowers. If you are thinking about sending someone flowers, or are looking for flowers for the office, and want them delivered by your favorite messenger service, go check out her recently redesigned website: farmgirlflowers.com.-bryan
October 1st, 2011
Whassup, y’all?! Welcome to October. As we all know, this is one of the best weather months of the year in the Bay Area. It is also my birthmonth! My wife and I firmly believe in celebrating the other’s birth for our entire respective months. This makes for some great fun for me. My Cali license says I have 44 years under my belt, so maybe I should be getting a tricycle or a Segway to do your deliveries.
We are in the midst of getting ready for a new roof put on our home here in North Oakland. This has involved a lot of hard work scrabbling around in a very hot and dirty place, dark and dangerous to the old noggin with low crossbracing and protruding nails. It’s pretty exciting, as it’ll lead to a lot of other projects being made possible to complete. We’ll have a new venting (openable) skylight and soon after that a nice new hood over the range. Pretty sweet, but the operation has been all we’ve thought about about a month now. Leading to a boring newsletter.
One thing that constantly amazes me is the weight inside of words. Within a couple of days this past week, really short conversation with different parties revealed a whole world of thinking. It is hard to describe, but in a couple of sentences, these folks revealed an entire history of thinking that they had never communicated before. And last week I learned that my family, mostly on the East Coast, got pounded by the remnants of Hurricane Irene much harder than I thought. The night it hit up there, we had a little flurry of emails going around, where everyone basically said the were doing pretty good. After hearing little more, I assumed that meant things only got better. Turns out that my upstate New Yorkers got hammered. Personally untouched, fortunately, they were surrounded ny neighbors whose lives were altered forever. Small towns were submerged under headhigh waters. The NY State Thruway about 100 yards from one of my sisters was completely closed for days. The dam above her house burst, causing that flood. Had its reservoir been an acre or two bigger, her house would be gone. Scary.
What am I getting at? Not sure. Something like how I am constantly reminded too late that talking is so incredible. Sharing thoughts and ideas, well, there is no substitute. Never think that you know enough. When you don’t hear or ask anything, you can’t assume things to be how you expect them to be. Check in with your friends and family often. They are awesome!
Thanks as always for being Cupid Courier’s client!-Rev
September 16th, 2011
Wrapping up the end of my workday this afternoon involved handing over to Bryan the bandolier’s worth of electronic devices that we use to communicate with ourselves, you all and the universe at large. I can imagine an PigPen like cloud of invisible radio, cell and WIFI signals emanating from me, to accompany the more obvious messenger aroma. I often wonder if all the extra electromagnetic signals our hyper-connected world creates is unhealthy for all of us.
I’m not ready to pack it in and move to Green Bank West Virginia though. I caught an article this week about how people who feel they suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) are moving there because it is a large area that is free from cell phone towers and most other forms of radio signals. The World Health Organization currently does not recognize EHS though it agrees that many of the sufferers symptoms are genuine.
Why is the area of Green Bank kept free of radio transmission? It is home to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. We are actually constantly being bombarded by electromagnetic radiation generated by the diversity of objects in the universe. One way to study the distant stars is by “listening” to these galactic frequencies so the area is kept clear of the Earthbound radio clutter we create.
There is actually a brand new object up there for us to observe, if 21 million years ago can be considered new. That’s how long it took the light of an enormous exploding star to reach us last week. This supernova has the elegant moniker of PTF 11kly and with a good telescope it should be visible for weeks as a bright spot in a galaxy just off the handle of the Big Dipper. It’s probably too far away to affect Cupid’s communication devices but I might still use it as an excuse when I have trouble understanding Jim over the radio.
September 1st, 2011
Who has the most tedious and boring occupation? A rhetorical question for sure, but one that I've been thinking about lately due to a great book, The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, that I've been reading. Published posthumously, the book tackles many concepts including the idea of boredom. In order to tackle the idea of boredom (or possibly tediousness), Wallace places his fictional tale in the depths of the IRS. His main characters are midlevel accountants who work at an IRS office in a suburban office park. As you can imagine, this setting is perfect for what most of us might imagine as the epitome of a boring occupation. But is that fair? As Wallace's tale continues, even as he highlights his own ideas about boredom, he describes just how this tedious job has its own interesting and challenging bits. Using humor, and examining the minutiae of tax codes, Wallace surprises me by pointing out how even what I might assume to be boring might not be (and especially might not be to his characters).
This is probably a given, but we all have vastly different ideas of what would make for a boring, or interesting, occupation. Ask any of us at Cupid and we'll usually tell you that we have a pretty exciting and dynamic job. I would bet that many non-messengers would agree. That said, to many people the idea of riding around delivering packages would seem pretty tedious or boring. As a messenger, of course, I get to see all sorts of workplaces: accountants, artists, construction, etc. On any given day, any of these occupations seem to me either really interesting, or really tedious. To me this is pretty cool! Not to be too cliché about it, but it's pretty great that we have opportunities to do all sorts of things. Want to ride your bike around town for a living? Want to work in a co-operative workplace? Or, find video editing exciting, or accounting challenging, or social services rewarding, or bread-baking fulfilling? It's pretty great riding around the city all day and seeing people doing all of these things and, hopefully, not finding them boring. And, as a part-time student myself, we should make sure that the freedom to explore occupations is always around, through support in education or small business opportunities, etc.
What's even better than an exciting job? How 'bout a Labor Day Holiday! Please enjoy the vacation if you got it. -bryan
August 16th, 2011
Summer shenanigans going on for me lately. I have been to a wedding each of the last two weekends. One was up in the Oakland hills, and most recently a few of us Cupoids were in Pescadero for our friend Kevin’s betrothal. The last few years have really killed my getoutandaboutedness, so it was pretty crazy going to Pescadero twice within a few days (one of you sent me there last week). It is so hard to believe just how beautiful it is down there. The coast highway feels like another world, even though it is just an hour or so south of SF.
This is analogous to where my parents live in upstate New York. Some upstaters wouldn’t even call it upstate, as its only about an hour north of Manhattan. The west side of the Hudson River is actually mighty rural, and my parents will tell you that the property taxes there are going to keep it like that for quite some time. In fact, they pay waaayy more than I do in Oakland for a house and lot each just a bit bigger than mine. This is kind of crazy, as there isn’t much to do around there except sleep and drive somewhere to go shopping. That may be an exaggeration, but I definitely prefer living in the Bay Area.
There is probably some element of inflation due to a workforce that still lives close enough to commute and earn NYC dollars. Still, it’d mean at least 2 hours on a train every day, with cars taking, mmmm, its New York, so forget cars.
I got to thinking about where they live in the first place because that is my other ‘shenanigan.’ A big bad bug bite after returning from a reunion there over the 4th of July weekend came with a mighty bad rash. It showed up over a week later and seemed like a really bad reaction to a spider bite, of which I get many in the opened up old fixer-upper of a house. Nope - Lyme disease! Its pretty rare on the West Coast, but my brother-in-law has had it four times. It was a little bit scary as it affects a lot of things, and my initial clinician got me really worried about neurological damage. Some things that were really hard to find out: it is by no means always a target-shaped rash, although that is a good indicator. Look for a growing red circle too. I got a bunch of them after a little while. And the ticks bite in the nymph stage - the size of a poppy seed! Still on my antibiotics course, which should wipe out the evil bacteria. Take care if in the woods of the Northeast, them critters are nasty!-Rev
August 1st, 2011
My handlebars broke the other day as I was bunny-hopping a speed bump. Though I was moving a bit quickly, I wasn’t going full speed; the resulting crash gave me a few scrapes, but it could have been much worse. There are any number of situations (most of which I’d rather not contemplate) where a catastrophic failure of an aluminum part could have been quite dangerous. Things wear out and most messengers go through bicycle parts the way a busy office goes through copier supplies. At this point I’ve broken just about everything you can attach to a bike as well as several of the bike frames those parts were attached to.
I’ve never kept any real records, but by a very conservative estimate I have ridden well over 100,000 miles as a messenger (this does not include a substantial number of non-work miles). This translates into a lot of tires, tubes, brake pads and other expendables. I was locking up my bike this past week and I thought of all the times I’ve done that at work over the years (well over 50,000 times on a half dozen mini U-locks). The metal cleats that attach my beat-up shoes to my fancy pedals has worn down to a tiny nub. I’ve gone through at least a half-dozen of these cleats over the past several years. This one is still just hanging on but I’ll have to replace it and the shoes soon. Messengers are also known to squeeze a few extra miles out of their gear. If your tire has a hole in it a folded dollar bill wedged inside might get you through the week until payday.
The summer doldrums are officially here. This means business at Cupid can be a bit slow so not much work-related news. As I write this, though, I’m about to crawl out from under the Bay Area fog and head for the hills on a five day hiking trip in the Trinity Alps up north. I’ll see y’all next week.-tim
July 16th, 2011
As you might be able to figure out from previous newsletters, everyone here at Cupid has been able to get out of town over the last month or two. Seems weird that so many of us are taking off for weekends, or weeks, until I remember that...oh, yeah, it's summer! Living in San Francisco and working outside in July sure can make it hard to remember that we are in fact in the middle of the summer. Luckily, all it takes is a long bike ride, or BART ride, or short car drive out of our fog-covered coastline in order to experience summer-like conditions. Last weekend, my girlfriend and I were able to drive up to Chico in order to see a friend. Summertime indeed! It was up in the 90's, and finally I was able to get some good swimming in. We also got some great blueberry picking in ($3 a gallon!), along with some leisurely bike riding (small, flat town with little traffic makes for some relaxing biking compared to the normal work day in SF). And of course, what better way to end a bike ride and swimming, but to visit the Sierra Nevada brewery.
The best part about our trip, however, was to see our friend Sara. She's currently interning at a cooperative farm up in Chico called GRUB Farm. GRUB Farm is a small-ish operation with a few partners and focuses mainly on their subscription-based CSA service. They also sell produce at farmer's markets throughout the area. It was really cool to see a cooperative enterprise in such a different environment than Cupid's urban existence. I would assume that their experiences as a coop might be quite different from ours, but it was cool to hear how similar our business practices are. It is definitely great to see how cooperative enterprises can work in completely different environments and businesses (urban bike messengers compared to rural farmers). Although you can't find their produce in the Bay Area, if you're interested in looking up a cooperatively run farm, check out GRUB's website at grubchico.org.-bryan
July 1st, 2011
Well, happy July to you all. We didn’t really warn you well, but we, like you, are closed on Monday, July 4th. Have fun! While most of these bills are being distributed Friday, I’ll probably be 35000 feet up in the air on the way to an East Coast family reunion. My parents in their silver years jet around like a couple of business execs, and generously got me a ticket with their frequent flyer miles. Pretty sweet - with all the skimping in that industry, it is surprising that people actually still get perks out of it.
Normally I would be really psyched about heading toward the land of hot days and summer rain, but check it out. This past Tuesday’s storm (which personally made me feel more wet than any thing offered up last winter) brought us to a monthly rain total of 1.67.” By my calculation, using the average from weather.com, this equals 1285% greater than normal. And this weekend’s July 4th temperatures look to spike in the 80’s. Which means I am leaving hot and moist to get to hot and moist. Usually I look forward to the vive le difference aspect of travel, especially where weather is concerned. C’est la vie.
Trying to get over writer’s block for the past two days over this newsletter, but the only significant thing I could think of was sports. Lame, huh? I acquired all of my sports affiliations (well, except for the Giants, as I needed an NL team) while living in Boston. It was no small thing when the Bruins won hockey’s Stanley Cup recently. It was an ill-tempered series with Vancouver that famously climaxed with riots outside the arena’s downtown location. Despite this, it still gives me shivers.
I lived in Boston during my college years, attending BU, a major hockey school. The Bruins always felt a close second to the fabled Red Sox in terms of popularity and cultural gravitas. Always bridesmaids and runners’-up, they would tease, tempt, and predictably trip as seasons and generations rolled on. I watched more hockey than anything else there (mostly because you don’t go out as much during a long Boston winter), probably, so it is still stunning that the B’s overcame their archnemeses Les Habs, the Montreal Canadiens; then their embarrassers of last year, the Flyers of Philadelphia; a really tough Tampa Bay team; and then glory in Vancouver. 25 playoff games! 3 Game 7’s! Miraculous and record-setting goaltending from avuncular Tim Thomas! Hockey is back, at least for me. It sure can be hard seeing my team play during the regular season, but here’s hoping that this victory will help me out a little there. And also be good for the sport in general - hockey is great, especially live if you ever get the chance to see a game.
See you next week, and thanks for calling Cupid!-Rev
June 16th, 2011
All cities have layers. Any geologist or archaeologist will tell you that, in general, the deeper down you dig the farther back in time you will see. On some mornings my ride into work takes me through some of the many layers of San Francisco. After I pass the vacant lot that my neighbors have appropriated as a run for their friendly chickens, I’ll cut over to Harrison St. With it’s bike lanes it’s a popular route for cyclists, though for the past month sewer line work has made the ride a bit frustrating and sketchy (if you get a chance to peer into the road cuts you can literally see some of the layers I’m talking about).
One hundred years ago Harrison St., through the Mission, was part of a rail line that continued all the way down to San Jose. With a sharp eye you can spot loading docks and roll-up doors, various signs of the industrial past. Take a quick look at an internet satellite view and you’ll see the curving diagonal to the southwest from about 22nd & Harrison toward San Jose Ave. The old railroad right-of-way is marked by angular buildings and a few parks and yards filling the linear space.
Continuing on to 17th & Harrison I will now be above a former marshy area; a confluence in the Mission Creek drainage. This low area is prone to flooding. Our friends over at Godspeed Courier have a office near here and I once caught co-owner Brandon on the nighty news, the lower part of his office ankle deep in water.
As I turn right onto Division I have the decked Central Freeway above me, the ghost of the former rail line underfoot and the entombed creek bed below that. Entering the Design Center district at the foot of Potrero Hill these three features diverge again as we reach what was once the shoreline of the ecologically rich, shallow tide flat of Mission Bay. This bay cut deep into what is now SOMA, the sand hills that hemmed in the early town flattened and dumped into the low areas to create new real estate.
If it’s a nice quiet workday morning I might take my coffee and stand by at Mission Creek park. This is the last remnant of Mission Bay and is home to a lingering houseboat community as well as various herons, egrets, pelicans and the frequent sea lion. Though it’s a shadow of it's former ecology, I’m glad for this bit of habitat. It empties into the greater SF Bay at Lefty O’Doul Bridge, what we now call McCovey Cove.
The layering of our city is wonderfully approached by many contributors in Rebecca Solnit’s recent book “Infinite City”. If you have any interest in a sampling of the historical/physical/metaphorical layering of this crazy town I highly recommend giving it a look. -tim
P.S. If you have any interest in a short film our friend Tanya Mia made in homage to Cupid Courier, you are cordially invited to a screening at ATA, 992 Valencia, this Saturday June 18th, 8pm.
June 1st, 2011
One of my favorite aspects of working as a bike messenger is the way in which I can really get a sense of what folks throughout the city are thinking about. It may sound cliched, but it's kinda like knowing the current 'pulse' of the city. Overhearing conversations on the street between construction workers or conversations between policemen in a coffee shop, chatting with clients and receptionists, listening within crowded elevators, gabbing with coworkers on our radios, and seeing headlines on every newspaper stand we pass by gives the messenger a good idea of what happens to be on every one's mind. It could be sports, local or national politics, traffic jams, and every one's favorite topic: the weather.
What happens to be on a San Franciscan's mind these days? How about our World Champion Giants. Even those that aren't really baseball fans can be overheard talking about our local heroes, or at lease complaining about game-day traffic. Unfortunately, the last few days have been full of discussions about injuries throughout the Giants ball club, particularly the young rookie Buster Posey. Hopefully the Giants can call up some young talent from their farm system to fill some pretty big shoes.
Here at Cupid we've had our own shortage in our daily line-up of late. All-star Rev Jim has been on our version of the 'disabled list' with an unfortunate rib injury. I myself have injured my ribs a couple times, and boy oh boy do they hurt for quite a while. Hopefully in a short while, Jim won't be wincing in pain every time someone tells a good joke. With Jim out, along with a couple planned vacations (as you're reading this I will probably be somewhere in the desert southwest), we've had some help from some really good friends. Cupid may not have a farm-league team down in Fresno to tap into, but we have been able to get some great production from some really great pros (at last check: Jason, John, and Travis). I think it says a lot about the camaraderie between many of the 'indie' courier companies in SF that we can all help each other out. -bryan
May 16th, 2011
A couple of us here at Cupid have seen Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Shot with that hip, newfangled 3-D technology, it is the latest movie by Werner Herzog. The German director went a-filming to a cave in southeastern France where some incredible Upper Paleolithic paintings were found in 1994. They are in fact the oldest paintings ever found.
I’d give the film a pretty strong recommendation. A 3-D documentary, you ask!? It works, it really does. It is completely humbling to learn that somebody 32000 years ago was a better artist than me. The director also somehow finds some rather odd characters out in the middle of nowheresville France. But most importantly, you get to watch and listen to Werner talk. As always, he has some great, frenetic, visionary, epistemology-bending self-aware observations as he injects his own bad self into the movie. Judging by some snickers in the theater, I am not the only person who finds Mr. Herzog comically charming.
He’s made some 60 movies over the years, according to imdb.com. My favorite movies, though, are usually about him, intentionally or not. Burden of Dreams from 1982 is possibly the best making-of doc ever. His buddy Les Blank, also a great documentarian, co-directed it. It is about his production of a movie called Fitzcarraldo, which involved, among other things, hauling a steamboat over an Amazonian jungle mountain, and then sending it downriver, out of control , with madman Klaus Kinski aboard with cameras rolling. It also has the greatest Herzogian monologue ever.
Another great one, which I haven’t seen but LOVE the idea of, is called Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. Apparently Herzog bet another buddy, Errol Morris, that Morris could not make a movie about a pet cemetery. Gates of Heaven is a GREAT Morris doc, and so Les Blank again directed another movie about Herzog called, you guessed it already, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. While masticating, he polemicizes about life and everything. Check any of these titles out, and let Cupid know if you like ‘em too.
Don’t forget, Monday May 30th, we are CLOSED for Memorial Day! Thanks for clientifying with Cupid!-Rev
May 1st, 2011
A messenger friend of mine who had moved out here from Chicago once said to me over a beer after a blustery work day,“Man, this is the windiest city I’ve ever worked in.” I replied,“I thought you were from the ‘Windy City’?” He told me that the nickname comes from the wind-bag politicians, not the weather.
I find it hard to believe that it’s windier out here than in the Midwest, but Chi-town probably does have us beat with blowhard public figures. We do get our share of wind, though. Take a trip out to Point Lobos, and you’ll see dramatic evidence in the wind-blown shapes of the Monterey Cyprus; a beautiful evergreen native to the region but apparently not to the originally treeless San Francisco. Springtime seems to be our windy season, and this past week lived up to that.
You’ll find a lot of cyclists who say that they’d take the rain over the wind; though maybe not in March of an El Niño winter. Rain you can dress for, and the grime normally washes off pretty easily. Wind, though, can make the work doubly exhausting, and after a long day in the skyscraper canyons and traversing the hills, it can seem that it was always blowing in your face.
It can go both ways though, so to speak. I once rode over 120 miles in one day when my touring partner and I had a kickin’ tailwind in West Texas. This was followed by a few rough days when we struggled into 30 mph headwinds, lucky to break 40 miles a day.
Rain, wind, weather, experiencing the full gamut is one of the pleasures of working out-of-doors. You won’t catch me complaining when it’s a rare hot San Francisco day, and I’ve got sweat in my eyes. I also have to say that when I found myself this week with two of the infamously large “Color G” boxes strapped to my bag, the crazy push I was given while flying down 10th St. went a long way towards making up for the gusts I’d been fighting for most of the afternoon.-tim
Schedule Note: Memorial Day is coming up and as usual we will be CLOSED Monday, May 30th.
April 16th. 2011
"435 Pacific 15 to 555 Market, 1777 Montgomery oversized 30 to 500 Sansome, 501 Second 2 hour to 2100 Oakdale ten minutes old...." At any given time during the Cupid workday a stream of addresses, times, clients, and other information goes over our two-way radios and we have to be able to hear, process and remember what is going on. Not only are we responsible for new deliveries that get called in, but assimilate them into what deliveries we might have in our bags already.
I found myself thinking about this feat over the last week as I have been working through the book "Moonwalking with Einstein" by Jonathan Foer. Currently a bestseller (maybe you've come across it also) the book is about how human memory works. What I found particularly interesting, with regard to messengering, is how we can 'trick' our minds into remembering more information than technically feasible. According to Foer, we really only have the ability to keep 7 separate bits of info in our short-term memory at any given time. But we are incredibly capable of remembering and processing geographical information: where we are within a three dimensional landscape. Important for early human survival, our minds have evolved for centuries towards becoming excellent machines when it comes to location. In his book, Foer follows 'memory athletes' (eventually training himself) who can remember astounding amounts of random information. One way these 'athletes' are able to do this is by connecting information to what we're naturally good at: geography. For instance, take a random stream of words and attach them to a familiar landscape (maybe your childhood home) and they become much easier to remember.
This seems to me exactly how a messenger can process information on the fly. The list at the start of this newsletter is already over the magic number of 7 (and actually pretty short for a busy day), yet we can remember it no problem. Instead of just numbers we hear clients and locations that we can visualize within our mental landscape of the city and of our workday. Numbers become images of buildings, lobbies, streets, past delivery experiences, and our clients smiling faces. Pretty cool if you ask me. -bryan
April 1st, 2011
Passing out bills on March 32nd doesn’t happen all that often. I wish there was some awesome prank to play on y’all. As super-superstitious as I am, though, all I can think of is some lie actually coming true and getting shafted by fate somehow. For those of you in SF, though, keep an eye out for one of my favorites, the St. Stupid’s Day Parade. It should be downtown, lunchtime, as always; watch as silliness promenades about our fair city.
How ‘bout this weather? Nice Tim went to Chile recently, as you read here. He sent me a postcard from there with a Pablo Neruda poem. I think of him (Neruda, not Tim) as the greatest poet ever, mostly because he isn’t too ‘arty,’ and you can always ALWAYS find something of his that perfectly expresses how you are feeling, or says just what you want to hear, any time, any situation. From a birth to a wedding to a funeral, Pablo’s got you covered. The poem on the card really speaks to how it feels on the streets this week, after such a soggy and bone-chilling winter (thus far, knockknockknock on wood):
Ode to Bicycles
I was walking down a sizzling road: the sun popped like a field of blazing maize, the earth was hot, an infinite circle with an empty blue sky overhead.
A few bicycles passed me by, the only insects in that dry moment of summer, silent, swift, translucent; they barely stirred the air.
Workers and girls were riding to their factories, giving their eyes to summer, their heads to the sky, sitting on the hard beetle backs of the whirling bicycles that whirred as they rode by bridges, rosebushes, brambles and midday.
I thought about evening when the boys wash up, sing, eat, raise a cup of wine in honor of love and life, and waiting at the door, the bicycle, stilled, because only moving does it have a soul, and fallen there it isn’t a translucent insect humming through summer but a cold skeleton that will return to life only when it’s needed, when it’s light, that is, with the resurrection of each day.
- Pablo Neruda, 1956-Rev
March 16th, 2011
It’s interesting the way that geography and culture are interrelated. I learned somewhere that the average walking speed of a city can be correlated to population size and average income. It’s also safe to say that an isolated desert dweller has a different set of priorities and attitudes than a Manhattanite.
In the 21st century it’s arguable that the Japanese, with their long history with earthquakes are the best prepared people on the planet both psychologically and practically for natural disasters, their worldview shaped by their geography (and geology). They did create the word tsunami after all. That they are struggling with such widespread devastation should give us pause, both in our compassion for their situation and as warning for our own vulnerability.
My thoughts about geography and culture have been inspired though by something more pastoral, after reading “The Ohlone Way” by Malcom Margolin. The Ohlone were the original inhabitants of much of the Bay Area at the time of European contact and conquest. They lived in a world so rich in resources and with such a forgiving, mild climate, that it’s thought that for as much as 5000 years they lived in stable societies that knew neither true warfare or famine. That would be almost unprecedented in human history. They certainly knew the power of earthquakes but if you live in mobile reed dwellings and have a strong cultural memory of tsunamis it unlikely it would have been as devastating as we find it. The Ohlone weren’t a monolithic tribe with a single set of values. They were more of a loose association of family based groups speaking at least 12 mutually unintelligible dialects. Their world was not a perfect eden to be sure; different groups tended to be generous but wary of each other. However a sophisticated set of traditions and taboos made for a strong balance between conflict and cooperation.
I’m compelled to make the comparison to our modern Bay Area culture with it’s variety of socially, economically and environmentally conscious endeavors. It’s as if the same geography that the Ohlone knew, though not nearly as pristine and rich as in their time, has produced a new flourishing of positive interconnectedness Our member organization, NoBAWC would fit into this picture. They’ve recently produced a beautiful map of the worker owned businesses of the Bay Area that actually covers roughly the northern half of the the original Ohlone heartland. If any of y’all would like to have one let us know and we'll get one to you.
March 1st, 2011
There’s a form of Murphy’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”) that applies every day at Cupid. If you’ve ever seen one of us come in to your office bouncing off the walls and dancing back and forth like we have to pee, well it’s probably because we just drank a large coffee in 30 seconds in order to get to your office for a rush delivery. It happens every time. As a messenger, you start to think that you’re in a slow period during the day, so you sit down to an enjoyable cup of coffee… just to get a call for maybe the first rush of the day. And to make things more aggravating, you’ve probably been sitting for a while beforehand with nothing to do. If you’re the client in this situation, please don’t feel bad…we love getting rush deliveries! In fact, I like to use this ‘law’ from time to time in order to drum up business. Slow day messengering? Just order some hot soup, and blamo - rush work pops up, guaranteed.
A form of this Law came in to play the other day while I was at work on a cargo bike. First of all, a cargo bike is just what it sounds like… a bike that can hold quite a bit. What’s great is that Cupid just had the opportunity to test out a new cargo bike design from CETMA, an independent builder up in Eugene, Oregon. The bike was really fun to try out, and could hold up to 200 lbs (maybe more)! Unfortunately, the day I rode it around I felt like good ol’ Murphy came around and ensured that clients in whatever part of town I was in called in rushes. First, the bike was surprisingly nimble, and rushes were little problem (just required a few extra calories on my part.) Second, maybe this is a good thing? Instead of buying coffee every time I want more work, I could just ride a larger bike.
If you’re curious just what a cargo bike looks like, please check out the CETMA web site at cetmacargo.com. CETMA also makes some great racks for regular bikes, so check them out as well. And if you want to see Cupid in action on a cargo bike, we’ve got some pictures up on facebook, please look us up.-bryan
February 16th, 2011
Well, Cupid has passed yet another of its milestones: we have celebrated our 12th Saint Valentine’s Day. I have seen pretty much every single marker pass by during Cupid’s life. Every anniversary, every ValDay, every New Year. Come to think of it, what haven’t I seen? Not many billing nights, that’s for sure. Mentioning these milestones is good fodder for these newsletters, much like the weather. As the rain gargles in the downspouts outside, it sure is weird thinking of a 12th year for anything. Cupid is a tweener.
In a perfect messenger world, rain would fall only at night and on weekends. I can’t speak for my entire community, but I get enough sunshine and fresh(-ish) air at work. Cruddy weekends, well, they’re fine by me. Sort of like phone calls: Cupid has ruined my telephone manner. Or more precisely, it has ruined my desire to talk on the phone. Don’t get me wrong - I love talking to you all. But on weekends, the last thing I want to do is put that thing to my ear. If my friends don’t leave a voicemail, they’ll never hear from me.
Remember I have chickens here in Oakland? They are awesomely fun. There are some new things I’ve learned. Three hens can be almost as noisy as roosters. They are quite impatient to get outside, once the sun comes up. I tend to let them out before they can raise a ruckus on work-mornings, but weekends, well, they squawk up a storm until you let ‘em out. They are pretty young still, and are laying 2 or 3 eggs a day. That is hard to eat. We give a good many away. They really are a lot smarter, and more personable, than I had expected. They talk to each other all day long - unless they have snuck into the house, where they creep around silently until you find them.
We are remodeling our house too, mostly ourselves. It is a funny process - I have learned so much in terms of electrical that I would feel pretty confident in rewiring another house. Unfortunately, it has been learned by screwing up a lot in doing a fraction of what needs to get done. And once we finish, I will in all likelihood use all this knowledge, umm, say, never. Not really, but it feels that way, you know? That said, it is mighty satisfying. We are close to halfway done with the kitchen, I’d say (all I want are kitchen counters, really, that’s all). That is pretty far, for us. Seeing a newly-wired run of receptacles, ready for the breaker flip-on, is a thing of beauty. Do you know how hard it is to twist together 5 12-gauge wires? It’s hard. My hands are sore.-Rev
February 1st, 2011
Have you ever traveled 13,000 Km over 36 hours; hopping on 4 different airplanes, then jumping in a truck to drive on rough unpaved roads through mountains, around an enormous lake, past glaciers and down a long desert valley only to get stopped 3 km from the beautiful turquoise lake where you had planned to camp. Yeah me neither, until almost exactly 1 month ago when I found myself in northern Patagonia standing next to a cold and silty glacial river that was too high to cross in our rented truck. I don’t have space to tell the whole story here but if you want to see my photos, you can find them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicetim/sets/72157625908789308/
There is actually a lot of Cupid stuff to tell y’all about today. First off, VALENTINE’S DAY, always a favorite for us here. If any of you are interested in having flowers delivered in SF by one of us Cupoids, on or around V-Day (or anytime) you should hit up our friend at Farm Girl Flowers. Her arrangements are very cool, made with local flowers and love: http://farmgirlflowers.com/.
We also have another project starting this month. Our friend Lane who hand builds cargo bikes and racks in Oregon has asked to put his latest design through the paces of full time messenger abuse. We’re really excited about getting the chance put his new bike into our stable, but we need your help. We need to have cargo to put onto it. Hopefully everyone out there already knows that we can handle almost any size delivery to the greater Bay Area. We have various vehicles at our disposal by we very much prefer to use bikes, so if you have file boxes, bathtubs or 70 burritos that need delivering we’re dying to put some scuffs into the pretty green paint on Lane’s latest creation. More about him at: http://cetmacargo.com/
I know all this may seem a little commercial coming from your favorite “anti-capitalist” messenger company, but these folks are small scale operations with a desire to do what they love in an ethical way, much like us at Cupid Courier as well as many of y’all. In that spirit of camaraderie, don’t forget that Rainbow Grocery is offering 15% off this month to customers who bring in receipts from other NoBAWC businesses (or Cupid invoices). For more info checkout: http://www.rainbow.coop/.
As a final note today, Cupid Courier will be CLOSED Monday, February 21st, for Presidents Day.
January 16th, 2011
Cupid Courier is happy to announce that this invoice you are currently holding is good for FREE FOOD! Well, ok, not quite free food, but a wonderful 15% discount at Rainbow Grocery; which, if you think about it, is almost the same as getting that extra pint of ice cream at the end of a shopping list- for free! What's the story? Well, the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBAWC - aptly pronounced "No Boss"), along with Rainbow, is putting together a promotion for the month of February in order showcase some of the various worker-owned businesses in the Bay Area.
Here's how it works: during February, Rainbow Grocery is offering a 15% discount to customers that present an original receipt, invoice (such as the one you're reading), or ticket voucher from a participating NoBAWC business to a Rainbow cashier at checkout. This offer is good for the entire month of February, but only Monday through Friday. Also, the receipt or invoice must exceed $5. If you have any questions, feel free to ask any of the Cupoids over the phone, or when we stop by to pick up your deliveries.
NoBAWC is a fantastic organization here, and one of which Cupid has proudly been a member for years. I highly recommend checking it out at NoBAWC.org. Also, if you haven't already experienced the greatness of Rainbow Grocery, here's your chance! Rainbow is probably the mother-of-all co-ops in the Bay Area, and is located at Division and Folsom. Check them out at rainbow.coop. Lastly, I think this is a great excuse to check out a few more local cooperatives. A couple of my favorites include Box Dog Bikes (a really friendly, supportive bike shop), and Arizmendi Bakery (with some of the best pizza in town). Box Dog is located on 14th St. at Guerrero (boxdogbikes.com) and Arizmendi has 5 locations all over the Bay (arizmendibakery.org). Happy Shopping!-bryan
January 1st, 2011
Man, do I get all the good newsletters? HAPPY FREAKING NEW YEAR, EVERYONE! How weird it is going to be to type, yes, here it is, for the first time anywhere, 2 - 0 - 1 - 1! Wow. 2010, well, as you read this it is already 2011, so you have already been completely inundated with ‘best of...’ lists, analyses, synopses, epilogues and codicils. I’ll leave it there. It was the better and worse of times, to paraphrase (relative to 2009, to be grammatically correct).
Scheduling: the Feds and Cupid Courier will honor the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and CLOSE JANUARY 17th. You should too!
Hoodies! We got another big batch of hooded sweatshirts aka hoodies printed up. This happens every 5 years or so. We are proud to offer them to clients at cost, $24 cheap! That is a reaally good deal for a four-screen (hearts on sleeve, ‘tattoos’ on other sleeve and left breast, large logo on back) job, and is the same as worn in-game by your favorite Cupoid. You can get them at Sarah’s other gig, her retail boutique Pushbike, located in the Mission, 3049 22nd St. at Shotwell.
My newsletter before last, way back in September, had some things to say about politics. I called chemistry political, and someone, maybe Nice Tim, later said they wanted to hear how I got that one. And I never got around to it. Now that I have no idea what else to write about, and for some reason I have been thinking of it again, I thought I’d try.
Think of an atom as a person. There are many different elements, like people. They can form bonds with each other, or be repelled. The world outside has a huge effect on the chemical bonds. The same two atoms might only bond under certain conditions. They can break apart as things change.
In chemistry and politics, tendency and capacity are quite important. Individuals and groups might tend to do things a certain way, and generally retain the capacity to do what they ‘normally ‘ do, but as the environment changes, so too the bonds that keep things together. Extremes like highs or lows in temperature or pressure really bollix things up.
Y’see, it is all about abstract influence over distance. Attraction and repulsion. Environment. Building. Forming bonds. Atoms that are nothing alike can form some of the strongest bonds. Atoms can go on to form molecules, which can have very different properties from their constituent atoms. If molecules glom together, they can form compounds or gases or mixtures, many different states to choose from. Chemistry to me is the study of how things work together, to make other things, which can make other things, and so on. Ditto politics. Whaddaya think - total b.s.?-Rev
December 16th, 2010
So we’re getting into the thick of the holiday season. I should start with a few reminders. Some of you might have noticed a little typo in the last newsletter. No, we were not closed yesterday. However, we will be closed on Friday Dec 24th and Friday December 31st. Also, for the last week of 2010, from the 27th through the 30th, we will be working at holiday rates as Bryan described in the last newsletter. Give us a shout if you have any questions or special requests. This is always a slow time, as most of us seem to be spending quality time with loved ones or merrymaking or what not, but we do like to be available for the few deliveries that are necessary for you folks.
Speaking of spending quality time with loved ones, have any of you ever seen Cupid’s Book of Good Counsel? They were printed in Oakland and given out free to newlyweds. Ostensibly meant as a guide to marital success, they were mostly filled with ads for local businesses, but they also have lots of recipes and fun stuff about etiquette and housekeeping notes, etc. I bet a few copies are hiding in attics or garages around here. The SF public library has a few editions, look here if you want to learn more: http://sfhcbasc.blogspot.com/2010/02/from-our-test-kitchen-cupids-book-of.html
I borrowed an image from what I believe is an early 1920’s San Francisco edition for the holiday card we are sending out with the paper bills. I have to give Bryan the credit for discovering the image. The card is a small thing, but we like to remind y’all how much we appreciate you. Here’s to a cozy season for everyone and we’ll see you all in the New Year!
December 1st, 2010
Well, it's officially December, which means Christmas muzak in every lobby and elevator for a month. Hopefully everyone out there had a great Thanksgiving. My better half and I had our second annual tofurkey-day potluck this year. I have to say, potlucks for Thanksgiving might be the way to go. Everyone only has to make a couple dishes and you end up with quite a feast! I believe it was Tim who thinks that it takes 4 hard hours of bike deliveries in order to work off Thanksgiving. Sounds about right to me.
With Christmas and New Years around the corner, it's time for us here at Cupid to pull out the calendar and figure out what days we'll be open, and what days we get to stay home under a blanket drinking hot toddies. It looks as though Christmas and New Years both take place on Saturdays, therefore the important folks in the Federal Government have declared the Fridays preceding as closed holidays. We are thinking that all of you, the clients, will also be closed those days. That said, Cupid is planning on being CLOSED on Friday 12/14 and Friday 12/31.
Also, every year we have to figure out whether or not to stay open during the week in between the holidays. Just about all of our clients seem to be closed those days, and it is tempting every year for us to also close up. What has worked over the last couple years, however, is to stay open, yet treat deliveries that week similar to deliveries performed during off-hours. That is, charge our off-hours rates for the week. So the plan is: we will be OPEN Monday 12/27 - Thursday 12/30 and will charge regular rates (as opposed to rush rates like we do for LateNight work) plus $20 (for SF deliveries) and $40 (for out of town deliveries). As always, we really appreciate feedback, so let us know what you think and when you might be open.
Also, this year Sarah will be participating in the 5th annual 'Supermarket Sweep' this Saturday. This is a bike race around the City with contestants trying to pick up as much canned food as possible for donation. It's a really cool event and you should check it out at supermarketstreetsweep.blogspot.com. If you'd like to donate food, Sarah will happily swing by your office this week with her cargo bike and pick it up. Just give us a call by Friday morning or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.-bryan
November 16th, 2010
Cupid began what feels a new era this past Friday, as we began delivering bouquets for Farm Girl Flowers. Pulling a page from visionary co-founder Meghan Mack’s original mission statement, we now deliver those fragrant symbols of beauty and ardor! We are actually pretty excited about it. Our partner in crime, Christina of FGF, has a wonderful business model. Only locally-grown in-season flowers (something like 90% of cut flowers come from other nations, let alone states) are used, only one arrangement per day cuts down on waste, and the price is great. We might be plugging FGF a lot more in the future, but for now, check out www.farmgirlflowers.com.
Thanksgiving is here already!? As per the last few years, we will once again be closed on “Black” Friday, November 26th.
Mi esposa y yo got back from Oaxaca almost two weeks ago. If you don’t know, it’s the state right next to Chiapas, way down on the Pacific Coast of southern Mexico. Quite an adventure. Some friends who own a little land near the ocean traded my wife’s architectural expertise for 2 round trip tickets. Among my many firsts: eating grasshoppers, wielding a machete with intent, seeing a huge pre-Columbian complex (called Monte Alban), drinking expatriate-mountain-man moonshine mezcal, having chocolate-corn porridge for breakfast, taking part in true Mexican Day of the Dead festivities, living next to feral bog-chickens, and so much more. I might have eaten my not inconsiderable weight in tortillas. Truly an unforgettable trip.
But here at Cupid we always try to be thoughtful with these humble newsletters -hopefully it is not too tiring to read. It struck me upon returning, after 2 weeks of Oaxaqueño plumbing, that Americans are water crazy! Granted, the gray water systems down there can make the towns smell a little, err, raw, but man. The first shower I took upon our return to the States seemed like an entire lake’s worth of H2O. NorCal water always seems to be just above drought levels (if not well below, knock on wood). Why is it so hard for me to remember that this substance is so precious? Just like petrochemicals, we think as a culture that what was once bountiful will always be thus. We should probably be treating water as if we were in a desert, and happened upon an oasis. Probably not too far from the truth.-Re
November 1st, 2010
Researchers studying hyenas in Africa have learned that they have a surprising level of communication and coordination. A pack of hyenas will actually pre plan what type of prey they intend to hunt and choose the size of hunting party appropriate to that animal. They will intentionally bypass other available prey en-route to the desired animals.
A lot of long held prejudices about animal intelligence seem to be dissolving as we take a closer look at the creatures with which we share the planet. At one time tool use and language were thought to be exclusive to us humans. Chimpanzees have been observed not only using sticks to fish for termites but also re-crafting their to tools to make them more effective and passing these techniques on to others. Ravens are known to attract wolves or coyotes to carcasses to do the work tearing the animal apart so that the birds can get at the meat. An observant primate researcher found that the monkeys he was studying have subtle differences in their danger cries that distinguish what kind of threat was around. A very slightly different pitch for an eagle as opposed to a leopard. He also learned that the other animals that shared the forrest with these monkeys could understand the different signals and act accordingly.
It’s a bit funny that we would be so arrogant about our communication skills. If we added up all the hours of campaign advertising on the radio and television with their sinister voiceovers and grainy photography, then mixed that in with gross tonnage on slick mailers that have been clogging our mailboxes I doubt we’d get even a short paragraph’s worth of useful information. It’s also questionable whether the proliferation of communication gadgets is helping us truly understand one another.
We put a lot a emphasis on good communication at Cupid Courier. It’s what keeps us efficient and effective while at the same time working within our seat-of-the-pants methods. This isn’t to say that we don’t have our share of misunderstandings and I’m sure a lot of our jargon would sound pretty silly to an outsider. This tag I’m running is about to get burnt so I better clean up. Copy that?
October 16th, 2010
After a nice long warm spell, it is starting to feel like Fall. I'll admit, I'm liking the weather change. Of course I can say that now, as I'm curled up on the couch drinking coffee and writing this newsletter, but the change of seasons is really pleasant. And change in itself seems to be in the air. I will be spending this weekend moving, along with a new dog in my little family. Other Cupoids are experiencing their own changes also. October means Jim's getting another year younger (make sure to wish him a happy birthday if you see him). Sean recently moved himself. Sarah's shop Pushbike is in the process of moving to a new and bigger location. The shop should be open sometime around the end of the month and is located at 22nd and Shotwell in the Mission. I can't wait to see what it looks like when it's open.
Change is also good for us here at Cupid. We've been working on a new potential project with a new business where we will be delivering flowers. Hopefully, this will start at the beginning of November and once it gets going we'll make sure to let y'all know the details, so stay tuned. Just figuring out how to deliver flowers by bike along with our regular deliveries has really forced us to think about changes to our daily work routine. It's also a slightly different business model than our regular deliveries, and adjusting has been thought-provoking. Cupid is 11 years old now, and being willing to adjust our system and methods after so long is a great way to reexamine our little collective enterprise. That being said, we are always looking for changes that we could make which would better suit our clients’ needs. If there's an idea or request for how our service could better suit your business' needs, please feel free to let us know.
Lastly, I believe that long time Cupid partner Bruce will be back on the road a few days over the next few, so say hi if you see him or talk to him on the phone. We all look forward to the chance to work alongside Bruce when possible.
October 1st, 2010
The topic of emergence and system theory has been popping up repeatedly in my media cloud (podcasts, radio, internet and still my personal favorite, actual books). My layman's understanding is that emergence relates to the structures and patterns created by the interactions of a complex system. Think of the the beautiful and mesmerizing patterns in a flock of thousands of tiny birds doing loops and turns in unison. You end up with some curious results in this field. For example, when you have a group of people guessing the the number of jellybeans in a large jar the average of all the guesses will most often be more accurate that any individual guess.
Related to this is the fact that systems (natural, social, technical) fail. The more complicated it is the more often is fails. So how does the world function if everything is failing? Well, the best systems have compensations and redundancies that keep any one small failure from becoming a huge one. If one ant falls into a creek and is swept away there are thousands more to fill its spot. If I break my chain at work, we adjust our plans; maybe Sean meets me to take my urgent deliveries while I get my part of our system put back together. However, as the bumper sticker says, sometimes “#%@* happens”. Thousands of people-hours go into keeping the mind-bogglingly complicated Space Shuttle flying safely, yet it’s had it’s unfortunate failures.
It seems like the last year has produced some monumental failures is some of our industrial systems. Mine disasters, pipeline ruptures, the Gulf oil tragedy. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it follows a decade of willful neglect of the checks and balances on the these systems. There could have been more levels of redundancy and compensation in the systems but they we’re cut to save money. Life has inherent risk, but our balance of who enjoys the gains and who suffers the costs may need serious adjustment.
As I hinted above, Cupid is it’s own system subject to its own particular failures. It can be immensely pleasurable when were humming along, adapting to and compensating for the quick changes or setbacks. This isn’t to say that our system is infallible, but when we’re at our best we hope that we create that illusion for y’all.
Speaking of our system, a couple biz notes:
A reminder that our overweight charge goes up today (Oct 1st) to 30 cents per pound on deliveries over 9 pounds.
Also Cupid will be OPEN on Columbus Day (Oct, 11th).
September 16th, 2010
Writers’ block has really been hitting me hard for my last couple of newsletter efforts. I can get off on a roll by saying that Cupid is going to increase our weight charge. Starting October 1st, it will cost $0.30 per pound for packages over 9 pounds. This isn’t really a big deal for almost all packages. We have done a couple of huge jobs in the last year, though (including one nearly a ton!), and it really seemed like we were undercharging despite their difficulty. I don’t really feel like doing the homework, but it is something like 5 years since we last raised our rates. Isn’t that crazy? Remember when everyone basically had a raise preprogrammed into their union contract or salary? Owning a business is something else. We don’t have that luxury, and really have to pick our spots when trying to pay ourselves a living wage.
Did anyone ever see the Ben Stiller movie Greenberg earlier this year? Pretty forgettable, really, but for some reason I remember its one funny line. Stiller’s cabinetmaker character Hank, in conversation, sums up his life in one line, something like,”Oh, I share a wood shop back in New York with some people, but...[shrug]...its political.” Knowing a few people in the trades (and having a former woodworking wife), well, we all laughed pretty hard. A place like a shop can be complex. Everyone needs to pool resources for really expensive space and equipment while vying often for similar (or even the same) work.
This situation is similar to one in the SF messenger industry, where many small companies try to work together. Being able to send a little overflow to another company can allow you to give great service while not having to overstaff/overhire. It takes trust by the subcontracting company, and the loyalty and hard work of the subcontractor, to keep a positive flavor on the community tongue. That relationship is political.
Inside a company like Cupid, there is a group of equals. But what is equal exactly? All of us are so different, bringing a variety of assets (and, yes, debits) to the table. We all choose to share expenses (financial, emotional, intellectual, you name it) for a common good, while giving unequal levels of many MANY different characteristics. This relationship to me, too, is political.
And y’know what? Everything is politics. Economics is the politics of money. Chemistry is the politics of atoms. Whatever - politics work. Perhaps inefficiently at times, but I’ll take it any day. There was a long series on NPR Radio about the human brain. The ability of humans to work together was mentioned many times. This ability has changed over time, and is given no small credit in allowing our weak bodies to overcome stronger but less intelligent species. Ok, current state of the world notwithstanding, of course.
It is just that currently, politics to many seems to mean Fox News and MSNBC screeching at each other. No need to say it with a sneer: politics can be a sign of the presence of higher thought, it is how you express what you need (without a big stick or a gun), it can be a sign of trust, loyalty, respect and optimism, and it can very well be the absolute essence of what it is to be human. Really. No need to say it with a sneer.-Rev
September 1st, 2010
Well here it is; Labor Day is just around the corner (Note: Cupid will be CLOSED next Monday), which just about marks the beginning of Fall, or more appropriately around here: Summer. Of all the things that symbolize the changing seasons (leaves changing, shorter days, colder (or warmer) days, rain), what has been on the top of my mind is Back-To-School time. Yup, I've spent the last few weeks trying to figure out what classes to take this Fall and it hasn't been easy. Now I could write an entire newsletter about education and budget cuts in our fine state, but let's just say that life has been a challenge for anyone trying to continue an education at a public institution lately. It's been almost three weeks already and I am just now allowed to enroll in the (overflowing) classes that I wanted after crashing about 15 different lectures. In order to do so, I've been practically living at campus and my head hurts from all of the possible schedule permutations (maybe I can get some sort of logic credit for all this?).
One bright point in all of this school mess has been my partnership in a collective enterprise such as Cupid. Cooperative ownership offers all kinds of benefits, but perhaps the most important one is that, as partners, we all see the enterprise as a larger picture than just the work day. All of us are able to work with each other, not only through the usual workday, but also through all of our outside endeavors. Some of us have other forms of employment, projects, recreational activities (re: some fantastic vacations and travels), or just life desires; and the ability to structure these things along with work is really amazing. The last few weeks have found me frustrated and tired, and having coworkers that were able to be flexible and understanding has meant the world to me. Thanks Cupoids! Now all I have to do is learn how to write an English paper....
Have a great Labor Day everyone! -bryan
August 15th. 2010
When I mention the San Francisco Mime Troupe to people who aren't familiar with it, I can see their eyes glaze over with visions of diminutive frenchmen wearing black turtlenecks and berets trying to escape from imaginary boxes. However, as those who have been to one of their annual performances can tell you, the troupe is anything but quiet or forlorn. The Mime Troupe turned 50 a few years back, and they've earned a reputation for their bawdy musical performances with a lefty bent and a bit of camp and sexual innuendo thrown in. They traditionally open the season on July 4th weekend with free performances in Dolores Park. I caught the first show and was pleasantly surprised to find that the theme was worker-ownership and workplace democracy. Trust me, they actually make this funny and entertaining. I'm pretty sure that you can still catch the show in the Bay Area, check out: http://www.sfmt.org/index.php.
The concept of worker-ownership seems to be growing in the popular consciousness. As Rev. Jim mentioned in an earlier newsletter, the U.N. has declared 2012 to be the year of the Co-op. I'm told that in Michael Moore's recent film, Capitalism, A Love Story, he extolls the virtues of cooperatives as an alternative to corporate greed. Worker ownership was a prominent feature of the SF Community Congress, which recently convened at USF to discuss a positive vision of the city's future. In these times of economic and environmental uncertainty, with many frustrations with top down decision making, I can see the appeal to having more input on how we make our way in the world. I know we cherish that over here at Cupid.
Speaking of the value of us workers, Cupid will be CLOSED Monday September 6th, in recognition of Labor Day.-tim
August 1st, 2010
Happy August, everyone! Now where’s my peacoat? Let’s hope that we some time this summer get a little heat. Even over here in Oakland (aka The Sunny Side of the Bay), it has been awfully cool for far too long.
There haven’t been many summery activities for me that require the hot sun. It feels like I have been stripping paint off of beadboard panels (an all-weather task) for months. Most of the country would kill for some of the howling wintry blasts of this past July. I got a taste of the ol’ hot and humid a few weeks back. My parents decided to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. They have been renting a big lodge for a week every summer the last few years. It fits my parents, five siblings and attendant in-laws, and 19 nieces and nephews - 33 humans total. The celebration was at that lodge, on a big lake one town over from Lake Placid.
It was quite a party. We somehow got a caterer to show up with a great meal (not easy out in the sticks), my parents’ siblings made a surprise appearance, and had the obligatory ‘slide’ show (quotes because now things are done on computer, of course). In fact, the whole week was pretty sweet. Hot, languid, and fattening. I was basically the weird uncle, drinking beer and trying to keep the little ones from being jerks to each other.
Overall, it was overwhelming. It felt like the last time that the whole family would be together for a while. You can probably imagine that it is quite difficult getting that many people in one place at one time. And 50 years!? What is up with that? The ‘rental units have made it look almost easy. They were 23 and 21 years old when they got married. How you can live so sweetly and modestly for that length of time, well, it is impressive and amazing and inspirational. Somehow I’ve made it four years with my sweetheart; maybe someday we’ll have the same party...-Rev
July 15th, 2010
Should bike messengers have to take an exam before hitting the road? That's the question I was asking myself the other day while helping my girlfriend, Andrea, study for her big professional licensing exam (good luck sweetie!). Of course it's a little silly for bike messengers to have to pass a test. Like just about any other job, messengering calls for a larger skill set than most people imagine, but we're not quite responsible for heart surgery, designing earthquake-proof bridges, or representing defendants in court. What would we be tested on though? Addresses and local geography come to mind first (especially how to get around the hills!) But many other skills are just as necessary such as bike maintenance, fixing a flat on the fly, and of course a level of physical fitness.
Working at Cupid however calls for a whole bunch of other skills. As a collective enterprise we are all responsible for having customer service skills, as we get to talk to the clients over the phone all day. In fact, I believe that those phone skills are just as important as being able to deliver packages on time. We also have to have some accounting skills (as I write this, Tim and I are about to do the books and print the bills in your hand). Come to think of it, future Cupoids will have to learn a lot and maybe we should test them. Cupid Courier Collective Partner Licensing Exam?... whew I wouldn't want to write that. The best way we've gotten so good at our work, though, is good old experience... and we have that in droves. With some quick math, I think our tiny crew has 70+ messengering years under our belts. In the end, it's all about creating a great service for you, the client. So what are we good at? What should we work on? What would you test us on? -bryan
July 1st, 2010
Imagine a rolling hillside loosely covered in softballs and overlaid with a deep pile carpet. Now try walking for miles across this unstable terrain. This is what hiking on the arctic tundra is like, and that was the easy stuff. Swap out the softballs with basketballs and pour in a foot of water, and you get the tussocks. Walking here, you either go calf-deep in the murky water or you try to balance on the wobbly clumps of grass as you move along. After miles of this, your feet are craving a solid piece of ground to stand on. You search for a rocky outcropping, or maybe a sandy river bed, so that you can put your feet on something firm for a few minutes.
A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to do some hiking through the tundra about a hundred and fifty miles north of the Arctic Circle, in the Brooks Range of Alaska. The place is stunningly beautiful. At first glance, it has the appearance of the Desert Southwest or the Great Basin; it's too far north for trees to grow and much of the area gets less rainfall than Nevada. However, though it looks like wide open country, a foot or so below ground is solid ice year round and the topsoil can't drain. In the 24 hour days of the arctic summer, this makes for soggy, tiring hiking. Like the desert, it's a place of subtleties. If you stop to examine the ground, you find a Dr. Seuss landscape of tiny plants, lichens & flowers. As you watch an hours-long sunset turn a craggy mountain golden, you’re astonished to find that it’s 3 am.
If you’re wondering what brought me to Alaska, check out my good friend’s website: www.ChrisMcCaw.com. He’s a photographer, and he’s been working on a very well-received project making long exposure, one-of-a kind images of the sun. He wanted to try working in a place where the sun wouldn’t set, and invited me to come along.
I suppose I should get back to work here though, and remind everyone of the upcoming 4th of July weekend, which means two things. One is that Cupid Courier Collective is turning 11 years old! We're going modest after our 10 year mayhem, but we will be BBQ'n on Sunday afternoon at Mckinley Square (20th & Vermont on Potrero Hill), and as always y'all are welcome to join us. The other thing to mention is that we will be CLOSED on Monday July 5th for the federal holiday.-tim
June 16th, 2010
Jeepers. The solstice and the the 4th of July weekend rumble down the pike already, just around the bend. Cupid will indeed be closed on Monday, the 5th of July, just like the feds.
Do you have vuvuzelas buzzing in your head like I do? My co-worker/owners can tell you that I am a bit of a sports fan. Right now I’m trying to juggle baseball, basketball, and the FIFA World Cup. Soon the Tour de France will begin. Holy smokes. The scale of the great soccer spectacle in South Africa is astounding. It makes me sad to read/hear so many negative reviews from American commentators. If you have tried watching some, and were bored, well, wait a sec. Or try again. The first round games tend to be cagy, conservative affairs. As teams that have lost or tied need points to advance, the second- and third-round games really open up. Or you might happen to catch a dandy. Today, No. 1-in-the-world Brazil played No. 106 North Korea (Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea), and it was great! Brazil are so big, fast, and flashy, but could not completely shut down the Hermit Kingdom of Kim Jong-Il. They won, 2-1, but the Koreans held there own. They showed great sportsmanship, skill, and organization, and had real human fans - I guess I was expecting a bunch of automatons cloned from the Dear Leader’s genetic stock.
I think I mentioned chickens in my last newsletter 6 weeks ago. We ended up with a bunch. Tragically, the first shipment got lost/held too long by the USPS, and 20 of the shipment of 25 hatchlings didn’t make it past their first day out of the box. That dismay has been tempered by the remaining five, and the replacements sent by the hatchery two weeks later. We now have 5 teens, about 4 weeks old, and 22 chick-a-dees (cheepcheepcheep) just 2 weeks old. It still has not yet sunk in, as we are not yet sure which ones we will end up with. We ordered for a whole community of people; we will be keeping somewhere from 2 to 5. All are ridiculously cute. The teens are getting a little more peevish and squawky, but they’ll be fun when they are older and aloof, too. For now, we call it Chick TV. You can watch the little ones go crazy in their little box, running around and over each other like popcorn; or take the big ones outside, watch ‘em learn how to eat bugs and try, sometimes successfully, to escape from their enclosure (they are still small enough to wriggle through inaptly-named chicken wire, for now). Urban farming! Please check out our friend Novella’s book, Farm City (her last name is Carpenter); it’s a pretty funny account of her farming in the Oakland ‘hood.
Thanks for using Cupid!-Rev
June 1st, 2010
Whew, after what seemed like an unusually cold and wet week here in San Francisco (especially for late May), we are treated to a beautiful Memorial Day weekend. I feel as though it couldn't have come at a better time. Hopefully all of you were able to get out and enjoy it. As I write this, I am unfortunately getting over quite a cold, but that hasn't stopped me from sitting out in the garden and soaking up some of this sun! As seems painfully obvious, bike messengers here in SF count the days left until we're out of the rainy season, and this year we keep counting and counting (I would like to write that the counting is finally over, but I wouldn't want to jinx things). Aside from just having a few months without working in the rain, it may soon be appropriate to clean and tune-up the ol' bicycle. Our bikes get quite a beating during the winter, and I always try to wait out the rain before putting too much love into tuning things back up. This year I may have stretched things as far as they go, as the bike is making noises I've never heard, and last week's rain might have finished off the brake pads. Messengering always calls for some after-hours work, but in this case tuning up the bicycle while hanging out in the garden and drinking a few beers on a sunny Memorial Day, well, that hardly seems like work at all!
As for not working, Sean and Tim both spent their holiday weekend up in Portland racing the annual West Side Invite messenger race (I'm a bit jealous), and after that, Tim will be going on one of his seemingly annual summer adventures (super jealous). Look for him to return later this month, hopefully with some good stories.
Also, did everyone see Pushbike, Sarah's shop, get Best of SF in the weekly? Pretty cool. If you didn't get a look, it's still online and you can check it out here: sfweekly.com/bestof/2010/award/best-bike-fashion-1985016/-bryan
May 15th, 2010
If you know where Herb Caen Way is, you may be able to find an obelisk dedicated to him that includes this quote: “THE TRUTH IS that like many a country boy before me, I respond to the city. I’m at home where the tall buildings grow, where the hustlers hustle and the buses bustle and the best way to climb a mountain is on a cable car, clinging to the outside step and watching all those natural beauties teeter past on high heels. Give me a place where you can pick up the phone and call room service and have anything in the world delivered on a sliver tray in 15 minutes.”
Although we’re not big on the silver tray thing, Caen may well have been referring to us messengers and our ability to get stuff delivered. He had a well-known affinity for bike messengers. If I’m not mistaken, he originated the now clichéd idea of cycle couriers as the last of the urban cowboys. I wasn’t around, but I understand that when the city dedicated Herb Caen Way, a group of messengers was on hand with a supportive sign saying,“Herb Caen Way Cool.” Willie Brown (mayor at the time) responded,“I think we have the only bicyclists in the world who could be arrested for drunk driving, but today, with me as mayor, you have immunity, guys.”1
This city has an infinite number of these cool little details worth exploring. It’s one of the fringe benefits of this job to discover them, and, as I explained in my last newsletter, little tidbits of street knowledge are a messenger’s stock and trade. One of the best repositories of arcane information about our fair city is my friend Super Mike, a fellow messenger and co-owner/operator of another small messenger company. Over this past weekend, he reprised an epic 24 hour Scavenger Hunt he created in 2007. Highlights of that one included stalking a raccoon on Telegraph Hill at 2am, and watching Sarah wade hip deep into a fountain to retrieve a special prize. As I write this, my lovely partner and I are down to the last 6 hours of this year’s hunt. I'm sure all this head scratching and blundering around is going to translate into good memories after a couple beers at the finish line at Benders.
Speaking of beer, another reminder: Cupid Courier will be closed on Monday May 31st for Memorial Day!-tim
1SF Chronicle, June 14th 1996
May 1st, 2010
Springtime! That means it is time for Bike To Work Day! Thursday, May 13th, see sfbike.org. A future with much better bicycle infrastructure is well worth some slightly more crowded bike lanes during commute times, so join the fun (if you don’t normally bike already)!
Speaking of more things vernal, Happy (Belated) May Day! Happily it fell on a Saturday this year, so we did not have to feel torn over whether to close Cupid for business. International Workers’ Day is something very close to our hearts. As members of NoBAWC (pronounced no-boss, the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives), labor and worker empowerment are issues close to our hearts’s.
The last NoBAWC general membership meeting was at a cool place in Berkeley: the BioFuel Oasis. It used to be over by Aquatic Park, but is now at the intersection of Ashby and Sacramento Streets. If you live in or frequent the East Bay, you have maybe seen it. Not only do they sell biodiesel made from recycled vegetable oils, but also carry many things for the urban ‘farmer.’ Or, perhaps more precisely, things to support your dabblings in api- and aviculture (bees and chickens). They also have pretty cheap classes to teach you the basics about these activities, as well as how to manage goats, rainwater, greywater, and more. Maybe this stuff isn’t for everyone, but urban chickens and bees have been getting ‘hip’ lately. The NYTimes and NPR seem to have stories about them all the time. If you have even a mild interest, check out biofueloasis.com.
My ol’ lady (a big gardener) and me have a mediumish-sized yard that is probably just big enough for those wee animals. Chicks will be first, as they’ll arrive in a couple of weeks. We don’t even have a coop yet, so they’ll be fostered out until we get one built. Speaking of Cat (the ol’ lady), she was in an LATimes story last year about this very topic. She and a partner designed the herb garden/chicken coop area for a local restaurant, Pizzaiolo in North Oakland. It is pretty fun - you can find it at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-citycoop18-2009aug18,0,1964942.story. So get something planted this spring - time for beans and tomatoes to go in, if you need some ideas. My next newsletter will be in June, so hopefully you’ll already have proverbial fruit by then. See you then!-Rev
PS. Don’t forget Mothers’ Day on the 9th; also, Memorial Day is celebrated on the 31st this year - Cupid will be closed!
April 15th, 2010
Hello all! It feels like spring has arrived here at Cupid for a couple reasons: first, the weather is getting to be much more agreeable (let's hear it for daylight savings), and second, we have all made it through another Tax Day. Although, because of taxes, none of us probably want to have anything to do with math, I came across something numbers-related lately that I think is pretty cool. Basically it's something like this: Why do Cupid's delivery times resemble something that a toddler might come up with? So it turns out that there is a theory out there that we have a different natural way of thinking about numbers than our usual linear process (1,2,3,4,5,6...) and that we inherently think of quantities logarithmically. Wha? Well it sort of goes like this: 1 doubled is 2 doubled is 4 doubled is 8, etc. It seems as though toddlers, before being taught 1,2,3,4,5,6..., have a tendency toward 1,2,4,8...
In fact, as part of the story I came across, researchers went to native tribes in the Amazon where the local folk have no words for numbers and no "math", at least as we understand it. These researchers would put together a chart with points from 1 to 9. They then placed items on 1 and 9, and then asked the locals to find the 'middle' point. 5 right? Well they picked 3! And here's why: 3 times 1 is 3, and 3 times 3 is 9, or.. (1,3,9,etc.). So what about Cupid's delivery times? Well they resemble that logarithmic process much more than a linear one: 15min, 30min, 1hr, and 2hr. (Bike delivery times). And this makes sense: a 30min delivery is twice a 15min delivery, and a 1hr delivery is twice a 30min delivery. There would be no sense for us to break it down linearly: what is the point of a 1hr 45min delivery charge? Ok, ok I know, too much math for the day after Tax Day, and I'm not sure I'm the best person to explain this. But I thought it was cool, and if you want to check out the story I found, check out WNYC's 'Radio Lab' online and download the 'Numbers' podcast.
One last note: Sarah pointed out to me that SF Weekly is doing their annual 'best of' voting and one of the choices is 'best bike messenger.' How cool would it be if Cupid won? They might just be looking for an individual, but as a collective entity I think Cupid Courier would count. Anyway, I think it would be great to win, so if you have a second: vote for us! Thanks. -bryan
April 1st, 2010
At the end of a workday a few weeks ago Sean (a.k.a. Pumpkin) and I were having a drink at the “office” (a.k.a. a certain downtown bar). We got to talking about how over the years at Cupid we’ve had certain deliveries that involve some creative routing. Maybe you have to cut across a gravel lot then jump off your bike and carry it across some railroad tracks; or perhaps there's a subtle pathway that cuts out a block or two. These trade secrets have always been part of being a good messenger but it’s probably fair to say that at Cupid we’ve refined the art of routefinding. Messengers can be notoriously stingy about giving away their secrets but working collectively we have an interest in sharing knowledge because it lets the whole team work more effectively. Rev. Jim scouted out a shortcut to one of our destinations that involved following a dirt road for about a mile. I gave it try and refined it when I discovered a faint “bummy path” out of the corner of my eye that went through a little tunnel and cut out even more distance. I have my doubts about whether this way saves any time but it has the satisfaction of being more direct and more creative.
Recently Google has added a bike routing feature to it’s mapping service. I think this is a great idea. The best bike route is rarely the same as the best car route. The promotional video you can find online actually features San Francisco’s famous “wiggle”- the popular bike route that connects the East side of the City to the West through the Lower Haight. However after playing with it I feel that I’m well qualified to say that it often performs poorly in giving you the best ways to get around in these parts. It’s good start though and it does keep you off the truly scary streets.
Software is no match for a resourceful cyclist but it should improve as users give feedback. Being a stingy courier though I don’t intend to give away my hard earned intellectual property that quickly. I’ll give y’all some freebies though. Good routefinding is more about your methods than just rote knowledge. Google got the first part right; don’t think like a car(especially one with a GPS). One Way, Do Not Enter and Dead End are more like suggestions if you’re on a bicycle. Try not to go up a hill just to find out that your destination is down the other side; try skirting around. And don’t be afraid to trust your gut and try a shortcut. You might discover something cool or learn a lesson. We once had a frequent destination in Alameda. I learned I could save over 2 miles by riding to a “Dead End” and hoisting my bike over a 6 ft fence. It took me a few months of this before I learned that it was much easier to go to my right 100 yrds and ride down a sidewalk. -tim
March 16th, 2010
The Ides of March! Beware, especially if this is right around the time that you and your designated tax preparer have set a deadline! What is it, exactly, that makes the tax season so horrible? I’ve been getting returns done by professionals since the dawn of Cupid; ownership sure seems to have a lot more complexity to go with its inherent responsibility. All I need to do is fill out a planner, total up some things I think are deductible and put ‘em in there. How hard is it?
Since getting married, the joint return has been that much more stressful than the old days of the individual return. Cupid has been sort of cursed in the past: we stuck with one guy way too long (every year we moved the deadline earlier and earlier, but still April 15th would see all of Cupid filling out extension applications), and then last year’s nightmare where we finally moved on, found someone after a long search, and then got completely abused as she went AWOL for weeks and weeks at a time. I don’t know about the rest of Cupid, but it sure has made life tough in my house. My joint returnee did not really know about marrying into Cupid corporate culture, with its attendant lame and tardy tax prep. Considering that she makes a good bit more than me (don’t tell her I said so), it makes not knowing how much to pay for our quarterly self-employment estimated payments brutal when they are unexpectedly large. Very stressful - and she is the kind of person who used to do her taxes in January. Help!
We do have a new guy now, though. It has been a huge relief, for he has already finished the Cupid returns. Those are the things that hold everything else up, and we are done-zo! Man, am I psyched. If you need a good CPA, this guy seems pretty sharp. Call us if you are looking for one - we can probably give you a solid recommendation. Although maybe I should call him first to see if he can deal with the extra biz.
Take a deep breath, and dive in. It really won’t be that bad. That’s all I can say. After all the stress, we are almost done with our individual stuff. It was of course nowhere near as bad as all the guilt and dread of not dealing with it made it feel. I just hope that next year I can remember that. Hopefully we are in it for the long haul with the new CPA and he can help wipe away some of the angst associated with this whole period. Good luck to you all!-Rev
March 1st, 2010
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” -Ferris Bueller
This last weekend, I found myself entertaining relatives who had never been out to visit San Francisco, let alone California. What this of course means is a whole lot of cable cars, trolleys, Alcatraz, Lombard St., Alamo Sq., Fisherman's Wharf, and, well, just about everything else SF-touristy one can imagine. First of all, I have to admit that I have been a resident here in San Francisco for a few years, and have participated in very few of the above-mentioned activities. Not only am I not generally inclined to, say, shop at Pier 39, but sometimes it's those really obvious things in life that we can let pass us by. How is it possible to live here for so long, yet never ride a cable car? I know that I see cable car sights every day at work, and that the ride is a bit expensive, but really…no other city in the States has cable cars (with their history and views). It just seems crazy not to ride one at least once, right?
Ok, I don't really mean to say that we should all go out and sign up for every tourist attraction in the city, but maybe it's important not to let something amazing or beautiful pass us by just because it's mundane or we see it everyday. And although I'm risking this being quite a sappy newsletter, we all live in and around an absolutely amazing city; something that can be easy to forget in the middle of winter, working away the days.
As bike messengers, all of us here at Cupid zoom past quite a tremendous amount of postcard-worthy San Francisco every day, see an incredible amount of urban activity and diversity, and encounter all sorts of wild events and characters; yet it can take a day off showing visitors around to really appreciate it.-bryan
February 15th, 2010
In these high rent times can you imagine having difficulty selling beach front property in San Francisco? What if I told you you could have a home and land in the Sunset district for about $600? This was the case in the late 19th Century, however the land was within vast inaccessible sand dunes and the home was an abandoned street car. If you’re like me you’re thinking that still sounds awesome and in reality it probably was a pretty cool time to live out there.
Around this time rail lines covered the Eastern half of the city and horse-drawn street cars had given way to steam and cable cars which in turn were being replaced by the electric street cars. We still have remnants of them on the Market St F line. The surplus cars had been piling up becoming a space consuming headache for the railroad owners so they were offered up cheap to the public. They ended up repurposed as all sorts of things like sheds, offices and lunchstands but many of them became the basis of an eclectic community in the Sunset remembered as Carville. In it’s heyday of the 1890’s into the early 20th Century hundreds of streetcars became beach cottages, cafes and even a clubhouse for a female bicycle club called the Falcons, to the shock of polite Victorian society. I’m told that several cars still exist out there, hidden within the neighborhood if you know where to look. It’s fairly easy to find a bit of info about the story, but there is also a recent book by local writer Woody LaBounty entitled Carville-by-the-Sea which is quite nice and well researched.
On the subject of repurposing, we Cupoids have recently been putting a lot of thought into adapting ourselves and it occurred to me that we should come to y’all for advice. Are there any types of service that Cupid doesn’t currently provide that you might find useful? Are there changes in how any of you work that Cupid could adapt to better? We can cover most any vehicle sized work we get now(mostly by car but sometimes by creative bike work), however doing more cargo work by bike is one area we are trying to expand into. One of the things I love about our little autonomous collective is our ability to modify how we work when necessary. Since you are our current customer base we’d like to think of your needs first whenever we make plans to adjust our methods. As always we would sincerely appreciate any input from you.
February 1st, 2010
It is a chilly Sunday morning over here in the East Bay. The plum tree in our backyard has the tiniest green budlets, though. The rain ain’t over by a long shot, but the days already seem just a shade longer. I leave my house a little earlier than do my partners in crime and Cupid, so I feel a little more affected by daylight. Or the lack thereof. There is already about 45 minutes more light than our low on the solstice. Did you know here in NorCal, that low is about 9 1/2 hours? Man, that sure seems depressing to think about. I guess it could be even less.
Great news! It is great to know that the United Nations is such a forward-looking body. In December, they designated 2012 as the Year of Cooperatives. Let us optimistically assume that John Cusack movies and the Mayan calendar do not predict the future. Cupid will then share with you a lot of the attention that will be garnered by this little ownership system. Meaning, we will keep a lookout for lots of topical op-eds, interesting articles and multimedia presentations to inform you about. We also will share with you the spotlight itself, as it were, since you deserve as much credit as we do. Our system doesn’t go anywhere without the patronage of our clients.
Here is a segment from our friends along the East River:
The General Assembly,
Recognizing that cooperatives, in their various forms, promote the fullest possible participation in the economic and social development of all people... are becoming a major factor of economic and social development and contribute to the eradication of poverty...,
Urges Governments…to give due consideration to the role and contribution of cooperatives…by, inter alia:
(a) Utilizing and developing fully the potential and contribution of cooperatives for the attainment of social development goals, in particular the eradication of poverty, the generation of full and productive employment and the enhancement of social integration;
(b) Encouraging and facilitating the establishment and development of cooperatives, including taking measures aimed at enabling people living in poverty or belonging to vulnerable groups, including women, youth, persons with disabilities, older persons and indigenous peoples, to fully participate, on a voluntary basis, in cooperatives and to address their social service needs;
(c) Taking appropriate measures aimed at creating a supportive and enabling environment for the development of cooperatives by, inter alia, developing an effective partnership between Governments and the cooperative movement through joint consultative councils and/or advisory bodies and by promoting and implementing better legislation, research, sharing of good practices, training, technical assistance and capacity-building of cooperatives, especially in the fields of management, auditing and marketing skills;
Hopefully that wasn’t too boring. I think it is neat. Have a great February!-Rev
January 18th, 2010
Well I hope everyone had a great holiday season. I know, I'm a little behind on the holiday wishes, but it's been a while since I wrote a newsletter. Also, I start back up on night classes this week, so it really is the end of my holiday. One class I'm excited to delve back into is Spanish (please don't quiz me on the phone, 'cause really I'm not that good). Living in the Mission has really prompted me to try and learn Spanish, something I've really always wanted to do.
As for foreign languages, I just recently came across a fantastic article about languages, in particular 'difficult' ones. Language, communication, and preconceptions have always been an important part of Cupid, and seem to be a bit of a theme through the newsletter lately, so I thought it would be relevant. For starters, the article points out that English really isn't that hard compared to many languages out there. An example is !Xoo, a language spoken in parts of southern Africa that requires speakers to develop a particular lump (scar tissue) in their throat in order to form certain sounds (ouch!). A couple of the languages in the article have really cool aspects. One language spoken by some native Australians requires speakers to know their compass bearing at all time. In fact, they don't have words for 'left' or 'right' and would say something like: “you have a spot on you southwest pant leg.” This language actually conjugates verbs based on compass direction such as: “I will deliver-in-a-westward-direction your package”. How cool is that? Apparently if you get a group of school children together that speak this language and ask them which way is northeast, they will all point in the correct direction immediately. I doubt a group of adult English speakers could do that!
My favorite language in the article has got to be Tuyuca, a language spoken in the eastern Amazon. Tuyuca includes endings on its verbs that describe personal knowledge. This might be something like; “yes the package is delivered (and I know this because I delivered it myself)” or “yes the package is delivered (and I know this because someone told me it was or I assume it was).” Boy oh boy that would be helpful in communication. If only English had this trick, especially when it comes to journalists and politicians! Think about how much b.s. we could eliminate from every conversation.-bryan
P.S. It's looking like a wet week, so please package your deliveries accordingly, thanks.
January 1st, 2010
Happy New Year everyone. I have the impression that most of us are glad to see the aughts come to a close. I’ll avoid the debate as to whether or not this ends the first decade of the new millennium, but I will say that the last ten years are book ended with some disappointments. As we said repeatedly here in aught-9 it was also the decade that saw Cupid come into being and thrive (mostly) past our ten year birthday.
Like Jim in the previous newsletter I’ve been inspired here to write about something I’ve recently read and it dovetails nicely with Jim’s topic.
In her book “A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster” Rebecca Solnit also produces evidence that altruism and egalitarianism are perhaps our truer “human nature”; that the myth of survival of the fittest and every man for himself in a time of crisis is just that, a myth. We find that the media is most often perversely fixated on a perceived breakdown of morality, unnecessarily demonizing the victims. The reality on the ground is much more likely to be people coming together in mutual aid to take care of each other in ways that clumsy bureaucracies cannot.
Solnit focuses in some detail on the 1906 earthquake here, Manhattan after the Sept. 11th attack and New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina. She also touches on many other crises, tapping into numerous anecdotes of people self-organizing and improvising, providing for the needs of themselves and those around them often by going around government agencies that seem more concerned with reestablishing their own authority than in caring for the public. In these stories it’s easy to see something to celebrate. In a times of suffering and challenge an innate sense of fraternity arises that we could do well to emulate in our daily lives. These crises can also lead to lasting societal change. In Solint’s words “The recovery of this purpose and closeness without crisis or pressure is the great contemporary task of being human. Or perhaps the dawning era of economic and environmental disasters will solve the conundrum for us more harshly”.
My hope is that is comes across as inspiring rather that pessimistic. As Bay Area residents most us have a healthy respect of the possibility that our world will literally come falling down around us. There is also a legacy here of civic life and self-organizing that can serve us well when the need arises. Like Jim suggested, it may be a basic aspect of human nature that we tap into at Cupid. That sense of purpose in working toward a shared goal.
December 15th, 2009
Happy Holidaze! I am honored to bring you the ever-special end-of-year holiday newsletter. Once again, important notes on coming scheduling: Cupid will be closed the biggies, Dec. 25th and Jan. 1st. That intervening week, Dec. 28th-31st, will see a bare-bones staff, and rates changed to something resembling our late-night charges. The ‘lnb’ charge ($20 in-town, $40 outa-town) will still be put on all jobs, but we will not auto-upgrade tags to rush rates. This seemed like a fair system when we tried it out last year. But really you all should be taking that week off anyway, right?
I saved an article from the Nov. 14th NY Times for when it was my turn for the news. It really spoke to me about a lot of issues. If you glance ahead at the footer (they always stand out, those little guys at the bottom, so go ahead and look down there. Uh oh. Evolution? God? Egad!). A teaser:
Religion is often blamed for its spectacular excesses, whether in promoting persecution or warfare, but gets less credit for its staple function of patching up the moral fabric of society. But perhaps it doesn’t deserve either blame or credit. If religion is seen as a means of generating social cohesion, it is a society and its leaders that put that cohesion to good or bad ends.1
The article is really not very long, if you feel like googling it. It isn’t really so much about there being a gene associated with theism. The author describes newish thinking on why group behaviors have evolved into what we do as a species today, in what they are calling ‘group selection.’ Why have cultural groups acquired all the crazy traits, the ethos, the religions, that they have?
Evolution is formulated to say that it favors the sole, well-endowed individual who has a new mutation that will allow for greater rep in the future gene pool. Group behavior, then, is anti-evolutionary. It is a product of a system where altruism and community are venerated, and where people acting in others’ interests, not their own, are the ones who pass down these long-lasting and powerful religions/traits. We can, of course, insert tons of cynical discourse on what really happens with humans here. But really, religion is just one of many ways that humans come together in action and thought, that they might further the cause of all rather than one. Sound sorta familiar? I am synopsising terribly, and can not do in 5 paragraphs what Wade does in 12. His article just got me to thinking about Cupid. Sometimes I feel like we are something new, nearly revolutionary in our free market/capitalistic iconoclasm. And then sometimes we are just plain old, really old, as old as religion itself. We survive by acting collectively towards a shared goal, and I have to wonder why it feels like we are so unique in the American business world? That’s crazy.
Sorry to bore you - we hope you have a great all-inclusive season of fests and joy with your loved ones in these dark cold days!-Rev
1Nicholas Wade,”The Evolution of the God Gene,” New York Times (Nov. 15th, 2009)
December 1st, 2009
Holiday Schedule News (Please Read): Once again we are approaching the holiday season, and we here at Cupid are trying to figure out our schedule for the weeks around Christmas and New Years. We never know exactly what our clients’ needs are for the week, so any feedback would be greatly appreciated. For starters, we will be closed on the 25th and the 1st (both are Fridays, which makes it easy). The big question is whether or not we should be open the week between. Most of you are generally closed that whole week, and we hardly get any calls. In the past we have stayed open with a skeleton crew, but have treated deliveries as after-hours calls and charged the standard rates plus the after-hours $20. Please let us know if you plan to be open, and if this works for your office. If you have any questions/concerns about the holiday schedule, please just give us a call.
Here I thought that I had finally, days later, digested Thanksgiving, but alas I found the leftovers in the fridge (especially the gravy), and now I can't move again. So, I figured I'd take advantage of my comatose state to write this newsletter. Hopefully everyone had a great Thanksgiving, and better yet, a great 4-day weekend.
I know traditionally I was supposed to start on my holiday shopping, but I think I just ate too darn much. Plus, I suppose I'm not much of a 'black Friday' go-to-the-mall kind of guy. If any of you are, thank you for your part in jump-starting our economy. For those of you that haven't started, or are still trying to find gifts, I would love to plug a local group called NOBAWC. For those of you who aren't familiar, NOBAWC is a network of worker-owned business here in the Bay Area (we've been happy members for years). Our website is nobawc.org, and you can find a whole list of shops and services (bookstores, movies, baked goods, groceries, bike shops and more). Might be a great way to support your local economy. As for plugging local businesses, how about Cupid? Yup, we make all sorts of weird deliveries during this season and love doing it. So if you want to send your client a bottle of wine, a basket of cheese, tickets to the opera, or pick up a truckload of cupcakes for your office holiday party, just give us a call. We do just about every type of same-day holiday delivery, although we still don't have a proper 'wrapping' charge.
November 15th 2009
On a recent cool morning I was taking a break in the park down on Mission Creek. Directly in front of me standing on the old pier timbers were, from right to left, a brown pelican, a cormorant, several sea gulls and a great blue heron, all seemed to be warming themselves in the early sunlight. Circling above was another pelican that came diving down into the inlet with a splash, coming up with a fish in it’s mouth. Nearby were a pair of cavorting sea lions and a little squad of western grebes. I thought about how fortunate we are in the the Bay Area to have these wild creatures going about their business in the midst of our human commerce.
I’ve written here before about how I appreciate the signs of nature near at hand; that fringe benefit of working outdoors if one is observant. You can see dolphins and whales, coyotes and raccoons all within the City and County of SF. That SOMA raccoon I saw on my street late one night looked pretty scruffy and citified though, not your clean and fluffy National Park variety.
This past Friday while having lunch in Washington Square I observed a hawk having it’s lunch. It had caught a small bird and was tearing into it atop one of the cypress trees while being harassed by a dive bombing crow. You can often spot hawks perched atop the Cathedral here and our famous Telegraph Hill parrots are sometimes their prey.
Speaking of eating birds and being appreciative, Turkey Day is coming up. Once again Cupid will be closed for Thanksgiving Day, and Friday, November 26th & 27th.
November 2nd 2009
Hm. Daylight savings time, Thanksgiving later this month - Christmas music in elevators and Salvation Army Santas ringing bells on the street corners must only be a few weeks away. If you read last period’s newsletter, you might join some of us in blaming Bryan’s hubris for the impending blizzards of snow. It is time to start thinking about short days and snuggling up with books by the fire. If you have a fireplace. And it isn’t a Spare The Air day.
I have been marveling lately at just how little time there is, daylight being saved notwithstanding. Errands, cooking, dishes and other chores can really suck up the day. It is getting very easy to see why people buy frozen and prepared foods. Not just saving on prep and cooking times, but also cleanup time. How people can get anything done with children too is an impressive mystery. I’m taking some shifts off at Cupid to accelerate the cold-proofing efforts of our pad. There are so many intertwined projects that will make it happen, though. It is hard to even recognize how far we have gotten in the year since we closed on the li’l’ fixer-upper. We know its a lot, but we haven’t even touched the electrical system, which seems to hold everything else up.
Today, the first day of November, is a great example of how time gets spent. We drop off buckets with the baristas at the local Sunday farmers’ market and return later in the day to pick up all of their used grounds. The amazing Cat Chang, my better half and an accomplished gardenfarmer, makes black gold (compost) out of it. She is also volunteering with City Slicker Farms, helping them make a market farm in a super-seedy West Oakland park. Today we helped break ground and build raised beds for urban agriculture. There was coffee of our own to roast. It takes just a few minutes in a West End Poppy II hot-air popcorn popper, actually. Give it a try some time (outdoors, as the chaff goes everywhere) with a $5 thrift store popper. You can get green coffee beans online, or at my local corner store, 48th & Telegraph in Oakland.
All that, and this boring newsletter to write too, wow. This was just some fun stuff we do that might be interesting. I hope you all have something that you can while away the coming fall and winter hours with, that makes you feel accomplished and complete and content. I often have a hard time seeing the big picture for the brushstroke, the forest for the leaf, and it can be frustrating. Don’t be like me. Even when you putter around, doing the fun little things, those matter too!-Rev
October 16th 2009
As I'm sure everyone can remember, last Tuesday was a rough one. That much rain in one day is pretty rare, especially this early in the season. Luckily for me, I had that day off! OK, not to rub it in too bad for my coworkers....I'm sure there will be plenty of wet days left in the season for me. This is probably a good time to remind y'all, our clients, that, well...it rains, and it's a good idea to take this into consideration when sending out packages. We all have some pretty great waterproof messenger bags, but extra care in packaging, especially if you think your package might stick outside our bags, would be helpful.
As I'm writing this newsletter I am listening to a news report about how we're heading for an El Niño winter. Apparently, that doesn't necessarily mean that we'll have an especially wet season, but I'm still cautious. I have to admit, I like the seasonal change. Maybe it's my Northwest upbringing, but these shorter, wetter days have a bit of a romantic feeling...excuses to stay in at night with a hot toddy and a good book. Of course, all of us here at Cupid still have to go outside for work all day. As much as I'd like to say working outside in the rain doesn't bother me, of course it does! Would I rather be doing something else?....probably not, but just don't ask me while I'm wet and can't feel my toes.
There is another way at looking at messengering through the winter, though. At least we see the sun! With days getting shorter, and darker, many people go to work when it's dark and come home when it's dark. Us messengers, however, get to see daylight all winter long, even if it's accompanied by a cold, wet, wind. And it still doesn't snow here in SF, so what are any of us complaining about anyway?-bryan
October 1st 2009
When asked about long bike tours I often explain that while not easy they are generally simple. You get up in the morning. You ride your bike all day. If you see something interesting you stop for a bit then continue on. Eventually you’ll find you’ve ridden a thousand miles. This is decidedly different from a bike messenger’s day where you get up, ride all day and if you’re lucky you find you’re back where you started.
I’ve long wanted to ride my bicycle across Nevada, the state I was raised in, so when my friend Ian suggested we ride out to Durango for a mountain bike event, it seemed like a great chance to do it. Ian, being British(among other things) was a good choice of touring partner because he has a dry sarcastic sense of humor, a stiff-upper-lip type of persistence and little experience in the Great Basin or Southern Utah. Most people wouldn’t knowingly ride across the driest state in late summer and all the cyclists we met on the road had little love for Nevada. The 1000 miles from Carson City to Colorado is arguably one of the toughest bike tours in the U.S. I loved it.
As Mr. Gandolpho, my 8th grade Nevada history teacher, taught me, Nevada has more distinct mountain ranges than any other state. Geologically it’s known as Basin and Range topography; the spreading continent has cracked into tilting blocks. This creates a series of north-south mountain ranges with long broad valleys in between(most have awesome hot springs!). This also means a lot of climbing as you ride across it. In Utah we traded the basin and range for mesas and canyons, so still more climbing. Ian added up over 30,000ft of uphill for the ride.
While I don’t expect others to share my enthusiasm for the desert, I do bristle a bit when I hear people describe Nevada as boring or ugly. They are simply not looking closely enough and through a windshield at 70 miles an hour you’re not going to see much. The smell of wet sage and blooming rabbitbrush as you cruise across a deceptively vast landscape under an afternoon thunderstorm is exquisite. -tim
September 16th 2009
Civility: or Returning Power to the Overdog
Lowbrow South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson’s shout during the President’s speech last week just ticked me off. Seems like I am not alone - Maureen Dowd in the NYTimes got whiffs of racism and condescension in her column last Sunday. To me, having just endured eight years under Wilson’s party, to which truth was not always the most important message, this sure seems ironic. Second, this is healthcare we are talking about, not an overseas land war. How could he dare to break that kind of everlasting protocol, respect, and decorum over this issue? Healthcare is only nominally about life and death. Not to mention that it only adheres to our internal citizenry (oops, that what he was cry-babying about), not international standing or the decimation of a foreign populace.
Then me and my ol’ lady saw Inglourious Basterds this weekend. This and Mr. Wilson and memories of Dick Cheney dropping the f-bomb on the congressional floor all got me to thinking. Liberals and Democratish-types are wusses! Quentin Tarantino’s latest made me think how awesome it would be for Jews to have an ass-kicking band of thugs to hero-worship; plus they can always fall back on The Golem (the Jewish legend, not the Tolkien character). And maybe African-Americans can now think of King Kong as another defender against victimization and enslavement, and, well, you should probably see the movie. It’s got some moments.
But now, the Left needs some ass-kickers, a roving (Rove-ish?) bunch of behemoths, with poor manners, bad grammar, and a just-not-going-to-take-it-anymore attitude. Forget gun control - they need Glocks and Kalashnikovs. They are the ‘party in power,’ but keep using the tone and language of well-educated, even-tempered pragmatists. THAT’S B******T! They’ll never get anything done if they keep letting jerks trample all over them and theirs. I want Joe Wilson’s scalp!
Does the Left really need to ‘man up’ and ‘grow a pair?’ I don’t know, but how about those sexist phrases? Maybe testosterone is the problem in politics, huh? And maybe in the long run, this even keel and this apology acceptance will be constructive. Maybe it will serve the country and the world. Time will tell, but for now I will dream of a good-looking, muscular Will Smith-as-Hancock-type raffish superman who can slap some politeness into some folks.-Rev
P.S. Apologies to all GOPers out here (there must be some, right?); I imagine here in SF it’d be pretty hard to find conservatives who approve of the latest Tourette’s outburst in Washington DC.
September 1st 2009
Who Represents the Messenger?
We’ve heard a whole bunch these days about ‘Town Hall Meetings,’ especially in regards to the ‘hopeful’ healthcare debate. And I think what gets a lot of us really worked up about the whole scenario is how much of us and our ideas are being represented. And to be fair, both sides of this debate should be upset. Of course ‘death panels’ are not even close to an accurate representation of what the reformers are proposing. Also, I bet a lot of folks who would like to see measured or no change in healthcare policy don’t like being represented as a bunch of loud-mouthed folks screaming “communism.” Unfortunately, it’s the loudest voices who end up representing folks way too often.
I just attended a ‘town hall meeting’ myself, although not about health care. This meeting was almost completely about representation. In this case, a good friend of mine belongs to a trade organization which recently released a publication that was disgustingly homophobic. The meeting was set up so that the members could have a conversation with the board that published the material. Of course, not only were they hurt directly by what was published, but also because the trade organization/magazine was their ‘voice’ in the general public. They don’t want to be portrayed as homophobic by the very body that’s supposed to be representing them!
So who represents us, the bike messengers? Well there are organizations such as the IFBMA and the SFBMA (the International Federation of and the San Francisco Bike Messenger Association(s), respectively) who do a lot of great work as representative bodies, but unfortunately most of the general public have never heard from or interacted with either (have you?). So when most of the public looks for the ‘representative’ bike messenger, they are faced with the ‘loudest voices’. What do I mean by that? Well, I think that when most people think of ‘messengers,’ they think of folks doing incredibly reckless things in traffic. Just search ‘messenger’ in youtube and you’ll find all kinds of videos of folks doing all sorts of stupid things in traffic. What really bums me out is that a lot of these folks you see aren’t even actual messengers! So who are we? Well, I can’t really answer that (and I can’t promise that I never ran a red light), but I bet you’d be surprised by how mellow you’d find most of us really are. It’s just the loudest folks who end up representing us.-bryan
August 17th 2009
Several months ago, an Australian messenger friend of mine was in town and he'd been reading this book, Traffic, Why We Drive The Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), which he recommended to me. My first reaction was "I spend the better part of my time dealing with traffic. Why would I want to read a whole book about it?" However, I did finally get around to picking up the book and it turned out to be a pretty engaging read. The author, Tom Vanderbilt, taps into the innumerable studies that have been done on transportation, and driving in particular. The psychological aspects of driving can be quite fascinating. One of my favorite studies had researchers staring at drivers who were waiting at a red light. If the driver noticed they were being stared at, they would almost invariably speed off more aggressively when the light changed.
Much of the information in the book confirms what we may already suspect from experience. Obsessive lane changing on the freeway doesn't get you there more quickly; people on cell phones, hands free or not, are less attentive to their driving. There are also some surprises, though. A Dutch traffic engineer found that if you removed many of the safety features on a thoroughfare (protective barriers, excessive signage, etc.) people will drive more carefully. One of the recurring points of the research is that the more safe we try to make driving, the riskier our behavior becomes. Vanderbilt describes the driving environment as "...a toddlers view of the world. A landscape of outsized highly colored objects and flashing lights with harnesses and safety barriers that protect us as we exceed our own underdeveloped capabilities."
I've long felt that we don't give driving and traffic the respect it deserves. Our brains and bodies aren't designed to travel at such high speeds and with so much mass. Being in traffic is one of the primary modes of social interaction we have, yet each driver is encapsulated in their own "private" sphere and we often act accordingly and with a lessened regard for those around us. Maybe we should all be on bikes or in convertibles. Studies have shown that drivers in convertibles with the tops down are less likely to cut others off or drive aggressively. Studies have also shown that most of us think we are better that average at driving. Because this is a practical impossibility, that means most of us are not as good at driving as we think we are.
Schedule note: Cupid will be closed on Monday, September 7th for Labour Day.
August 1st 2009
Hate to say it, but boy, am I glad that July is over. It started with the planning and execution of our 10th anniversary party. Even with the division of labor, there was still a lot to do. You know you’re nearly obsessed when you find yourself unable to sleep and go to the grocery store to buy 9 pounds of hot dogs at 4 am two nights before. The 3rd of July was spent making ~6o pounds of vegan yet tasty salads. When we got out there, it was pleasant to learn that Sunday street closure in GG Park extends to Saturdays on holiday weekends. Hurray to an extra 250 yards to haul 2 extremely full truckloads of party supplies and infrastructure! The ensuing fun and exhausting chaos was of course worth the effort.
That was quickly followed by a trip to the East Coast. That included driving from NY to Boston and then on to a week in the Adirondacks with my 19 nieces and nephews (!). More exhausting chaos.
That was quickly followed by a road trip last weekend to the Oregon coast to perform another wedding ceremony (my 7th, wow!). Indeed, even that was more exhausting chaos.
One thing that I didn’t really afford myself over this period was the time to reflect on the past 10 years. There was one odd moment, driving over the Bay Bridge on the morning of the 3rd. It was on the way to Costco, of all things, to shop for the big party. I was flooded with a very powerful emotional surge. Suddenly, 10 years of indefinite feeling seemed to be hitting me all at once - success, failure, happiness, worry, hurt, glee, hope, pain. It has been such a road that there seems very little way to even begin to sum up or encapsulate our history and meaning. Let it be said that I feel immense pride in Cupid and the place it occupies in our community, in all the fellow worker-owners over the last decade, and in our ability to serve you clients extremely well while putting food on our own tables. As the only partner around since day one, I have worked with every single Cupoid, and consider myself lucky to have worked with such an incredible cast of characters.
Here’s to a restful and recovering August, and ten more years.
Peace ‘n’ love, Rev
P.S. A massive special thanks to Ms Meghan Mack, our cofounder, whose idea this whole crazy thing was in the first place. She came down from Portland for the big anniversary, and we never really got to the big speechmaking time. She deserves unbounded thanks and praise from every Cupoid and satisfied customer from over the years.
July 15th 2009
We've been talking everyone's ear off about it, and now it's official, Cupid Courier is a decade old! We all had a great time celebrating out in Golden Gate Park as part of the annual "Independents Day" BBQ (which celebrates the network of small independent messenger companies in San Francisco.) If you weren't able to make it you missed out on some great food, good beer, and some wild times. If you were there, thanks for coming! We had some great help from friends within the community whom I hope all know how appreciative of their efforts we are. Cupid had a small run of shirts made celebrating our ten year anniversary. If any of you are interested, we might have a few left over. I think we're selling them for $10. Oh yeah, Sean also printed up a slew of Cupid Courier beer coozies, which I think we'd part with for a couple bucks a piece. Again, just ask any of us. -bryan
July 1st 2009
According to my records it’s been almost exactly 7 years since we started including these love letters to y’all in the bills. Apparently we celebrated Cupid’s 3rd birthday a little early in 2002; Jim mentions the somewhat infamous pig roast we had that year, as well as a couple clients that have come and gone since then. We’ve been writing these newsletters for so long now that it’s hard not to feel like we’re being repetitive. One common idea that is probably ok to say over and over is just how sincerely appreciative we are of all of you that keep calling us and keep our quirky enterprise going.
Well, if you do the math above or have been listening to us gush about it, you know by now that this week Cupid Courier Collective is turning 10 years old! Our various personal distractions and the sluggishness of the business in general may appear to have dampened our moods just a smidge, but the fact is that we’re excited. I think back on the roster of cupoids past and present and it’s a substantial list of truly unique and memorable people. Cupid really is more than the sum of its particular parts. The idea that in another 10 years Cupid could still be out here pedaling with an entirely new set of faces is both scary and wonderful.
I feel like it’s safe to say that we’re all proud that from our iconoclastic, misfit, bike messenger roots that we’ve found a way to sustain ourselves while also being a positive force in our community. If any of you all are looking for something to do in town on July 4th, consider coming out to our little party as we start our second decade as an entirely worker-owned and democratically-run endeavor. We’ll be at the Horseshoe Pits in the Northeast corner of Golden Gate Park (Fulton & Stanyan), Saturday July 4th from noon 'til dusk.
Historic San Francisco Courier Company Celebrates Birthday
The Cupid Courier Collective, a wholly worker-owned and -operated messenger company, will reach its milestone tenth birthday on this year’s Fourth of July weekend.
San Francisco, CA, 4 July 2009 - Founded in 1999 amid labor upheaval in San Francisco’s same-day urgent local delivery business, the worker co-op has been forging their own path while fully supporting the workers’ movement established by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in 1997. The founders began what was one of the first and continues to be the longest-active messenger collective in the United States.
Bike messengers are often considered to be a counter-cultural, ‘outsider’ urban demographic. Surprising creativity, industry, and intelligence lurks therein, however. Such has been the case for the Cupid Courier Collective during its ten year lifespan. As an attractive workplace, it has long attracted the most experienced messengers in The City. The combination of this experience with the responsibility of ownership seen by clients in their own offices and on the road has inspired an incredibly loyal and well-served client base.
The Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBAWC, pronounced “no-boss”) defines a worker cooperative as an enterprise that produces goods, distributes goods and/or provides services and is owned and controlled by its worker-owners. Ownership of a worker cooperative is vested solely with the worker-owners on an equal basis. Moreover, worker-owners control the resources of the cooperative and the work process. Each worker-owner has equal decision-making power and ultimate authority rests with the worker-owners as a whole. Worker control can be exercised directly or indirectly by worker-owners. If exercised indirectly, members of representative decision-making bodies (e.g. a Board of Directors) must be elected by the worker-owners and be subject to removal by the worker-owners. Cupid is a long-time member of NoBAWC.
CUPID COURIER COLLECTIVE - Serving the Bay Area business communities needs quickly, efficiently and responsibly since 1999.
June 16th 2009
It's pretty hard to believe that 10 years ago I was just quitting my first messenger job working at kozmo.com. Who out there even remembers kozmo? It was an online video-rental/convenience store. Remember the orange ads everywhere? In fact, it was a pretty great service for some folks. Heck, whenever I'm sick these days, I wish I could go online and order a movie and ice cream, wait an hour and have a messenger deliver it right to my door. The problem with kozmo, of course, was its wacky business model. Actually, everyone, especially in SF, can probably think of a whole slew of poor businesses during the 'dot-com' bubble. Most of those companies really existed on 'imaginary' money. There really was no long-term profit plan at kozmo (pretty slim margins already on $3 movies and $4 dollar ice cream) but as long as people kept investing money on top of other people's money...well you get a running enterprise that hopefully you cash out of before everyone realizes what's going on. Sounds a bit like the current 'housing bubble,' huh?
Luckily, around the same time that I was quitting my job delivering movies with investment capital, a couple of people were creating a new business model for the messenger industry right here. A company that had close to no margins, no need for venture capital, and, well unfortunately, no ice cream. Yup, ok, Cupid Courier is turning 10 years old! That's right, our birthday is this July 4th weekend, and boy are we proud. It's pretty amazing to think about all of the different partners over the years that have been involved with Cupid, and how our company still exists, especially that it is still a 100% worker-owned and a democratically-run operation. (Although if anyone knows any wealthy venture capitalists that want to invest a couple million in 'e-cupid.com' or 'cupid real estate holdings', I'll be happy to give them my card).
That said, come celebrate our decade of existence with us! We're having a bbq out at Golden Gate Park on the 4th of July. There should be a ton of food, and some fun 'n’ games. Look for us out there all afternoon by the horseshoe pits (northeast corner of the park). Ask any one of us for more details, or just stop by for a beer.
Also, if you haven't gotten a chance to come check out Sarah's new shop, this Friday is the perfect opportunity. Nice Tim is having a show of some of his photography at the shop. That's at Pushbike 3045 24th St. (@ Treat) from 6pm-9pm.
Lastly, Cupid Courier will be CLOSED on Friday July 3rd, for the Independence Day holiday.-bryan
June 1st 2009
There has to be something other than the effects of the current economy about which to write, there just has to be. We and all of you are getting pounded, by the feel of it out here on the streets. We really need to get more work/clients, which is a years-old situation magnifying our current difficulties. Please keep Cupid in your thoughts if you hear of anyone needing urgent deliveries done.
I have been tripping out on cell phones lately. We are reaching oversaturation when people need to see legislation passed forbidding them from doing it while driving. From the cyclist’s POV, nothing is worse than seeing someone’s head tilted, elbow out, while behind the wheel. Or maybe it is good - you know they are guaranteed to the stupidest thing possible, so you can prepare for the worst.
Texting drives me nuts. I am an old man, to be sure, but what is the attraction? To have two (or more) conversations going at the same time? To not have to actually use the vocal chords? To not enter fully into true dialog? Is it sneaky/cute/endearing? American kids are averaging around 80 texts per day, taking valuable rest time away from (hopefully) still-developing minds. Scientists are worried. Twitter freaks me out. Where do people find the time for all this stuff. Communication technology sure has seemed to speed up and increase its volume, but seriously downgraded its over-all quality. You know you are a curmudgeon when you view most modern means of communication as tools mostly of rudeness.
Some other companies now have software that allows them to receive orders from clients via e-mail. And this is seen as an improvement. Speaking to you all on the phone is such a part of our business that I can’t see how. Definitely let us know if this sounds interesting to you, and we can investigate further. The voice, in its tone and content, can convey so much more information faster than any fingers and thumbs, right? And it seems so much more real. I’d hate to not talk to you all any more.
We had a situation come up a few weeks back, where a sister company liquidated its bike ‘board.’ This means firing all cyclists and subcontracting out all the work. We are pretty sure we could have done all that work and taken one of the riders, but lost out in the deal to another company, basically because of speed. We ‘wasted’ time sussing out the whole situation. We spoke to friends (the firees and firers), talked among Cupid, and spent a lot of energy trying to grasp a quickly moving opportunity. We lost to another company that got in there instantly, one owner that leapt at a large discount and made some promises that will hopefully pan out for those involved.
Which hurt. Not only could we have used the business, but it, for the first time ever, brought our business model’s viability into question. We can not move quickly. Or not as quickly as one person can, anyway. It has taken some time to ‘get over it,’ but I am ready to stand firm with the model once again. The only way we could have ‘won’ would have been by acting very rashly and very competitively. I feel like the model has always been resting squarely on a very sturdy table of high ethics somewhere along the high road of ideals, supporting its clients, its community and its members as best it possibly can. We are your, and our, Cupid.-Rev
May 16th 2009
When European scientists first came across termite mounds in Africa they were so impressed by the complexity that they imagined they were built by an intelligent creature comparable to humanity. The mounds which can be over 30 feet tall show a complex city-like organization and social structure. If you think bike messengers can be smelly, imagine communicating by secreting odiferous chemical trails like termites do.
Our conventional wisdom is that human society is something distinct from “Nature”; that we have our cities and suburbs and that nature is something we go visit at a National Park. I’d say though that a skyscraper is not fundamentally different from a termite mound. The Earth is a closed system, just as millions of insects collaborate to convert the surrounding soil into a towering home, all our stone, steel and concrete come from natural resources. Unless we really were planted here by UFO’s thousands of years ago, humans and our endeavors are just as much a part of the natural world as dolphins or waterfalls.
One could worry that this belief that whatever humanity does is ultimately “natural” could be used to justify any activity no matter how destructive. However, we also have an arguably high level of self-awareness. I feel that if we really took this to heart, that we are the Earth, not just upon it, the way a Buddhist recognizes that there is no separation between oneself and the world around you, we’d take more care with it.
One of my favorite Far Side comics by Gary Larsen shows a pristine landscape with a naked couple scampering off from a broken specimen jar labeled “humans”. From the heavenly clouds above we see God saying “oops”.
May 1st 2009 "MayDay!"
Some of you may have noticed that I only work two days at Cupid. I've been preparing for my other business. I'm happy to announce that it's launching this week! Pushbike! It's a clothing and accessories shop for cyclists. Don't worry, I'll still be with Cupid. I love being a bike messenger!
Pushbike is located at 3045 24th St. at Treat St. Open every day, 11-7. We stock Swrve cycling apparel, Freight Baggage, Chuey Brand, Fabric Horse, and more! It's a lifestyle shop for today's city cyclists! We stock a mixture of practical and fashionable clothing, allowing our customers to build a utilitarian cycling wardrobe. We want to bring together products that we believe in, with an emphasis on locally manufactured goods. Cycling knickers, jeans, windbreakers, hoodies, techwear, bags, and hats!
The cycling movement in San Francisco is growing for environmental, economic, fitness and fashion reasons. We plan on making the shop a hub for the cycling community and will encourage our new customers to join us for group rides, local races and events.
Also, don't forget Bike to Work Day is Thursday, May 14th! There will be various energizer stations along popular commute routes. Check out www.btwd.bayareabikes.org for info. I'll have some treats at the shop during the after-work commute!-Sarah
April 16th 2009
My favorite way of knowing that Spring is upon us? Well, it's the start of baseball season, of course! In fact, my own favorite team has just come through the Bay Area. Although I was excited and had my tickets already, I unfortunately have to fly out of town. These two things (flying and baseball) actually tie into something that a couple folks have asked me about lately: pricing. To be exact, it's quite common for me to field the question,"So what do you guys charge for a delivery?". It can be difficult at times to answer, because we have dozens of possible charges.
What, you ask, does our delivery pricing have to do with baseball and flying? Well, if you go to a baseball game, or fly commercially, everyone else at the game or on your plane has paid a whole range of prices for seemingly the same thing: the same game or the same flight. I know this first hand. My flights this week are really expensive (last minute) and my baseball tickets were both really expensive (good seats) and really cheap (2 bucks for not-so-good seats).
There are a couple of reasons pricing is variable like this. Sometimes it's all about charging the most you can, depending on your client. Movies are an excellent example: it's the same movie, but they've figured out that adults can pay $10 while students and seniors can only afford $8. It seems like they’re doing a service, and they are a bit, but really they're charging everyone (approximately) what they can afford.
Messenger companies do this to a degree. We offer rush rates for those clients who need them. But really, it's all a bit more complicated. Airlines are a great example: if all of their passengers booked flights a year in advance, prices would be really cheap, as they could structure routes, planes, and times to maximize efficiency. But in real life, there's people like me, who need a flight right now this week! And what do they do to offer this service? Well, they charge me a whole bunch!
Cupid is similar - if all of our clients called in their deliveries the night before, and gave us 24 hours to do them, our lives would be so easy, as we could line deliveries up in a row and just act like a paperboy with one big route. But really we have to figure out prices that can make sure that couriers are available if three different clients call in rushes going in three different directions all at once. I've worked for maybe 12 different messenger companies in 4 different cities before joining Cupid, and it's an industry standard: lots and lots of different prices. Hopefully, with Cupid, the differences in price for any particular delivery make sense and are competitive with the industry as a whole. If you have questions about why your bill shows up with lots of different prices, just ask any of us. I'm sure we can explain why that is. Also....Go Red Sox! (or Giants or A's or whoever your favorite team is (except the Yankees). And here's to Spring!-bryan
ps Did you know that Cupid offers a discount to nonprofits? If you know of anyone in the nonprofit world who could benefit from a messenger service, let 'em know!
April 1st 2009
It is with great sadness that we at Cupid announce the end of our great nine-and-a-half year run as the first and longest-operating worker-owned messenger company in the SF Bay Area. It has been a great honor and pleasure serving you. As you receive this bill, the FDIC and the ATF are undertaking a rapid interdiction and review of our finances, and complete seizure of our assets. A series of risky loans, both underwritten and undertaken, as well as heavy leverage in the credit default swap markets and massive exposure in the Lehman Brothers dissolution, not to mention cheap foreign competition, outsourcing, reserve shortages and prospective gun control by the new administration in Washington have all brought us to this great great day of unknown provenance.
If Hallmark invented Mothers’ Day, who invented April Fools’ Day? Budweiser? Spencer's Gift Shop? Even Wikipedia is surprisingly unhelpful. There seem to be a few vague and/or fake-sounding ideas, shocking in the wiki world.
A few weeks ago, there was an over-long and -explanatory article in the NYTimes about the new vegetable garden at the White House. It brought me back to about a year ago. I had been reading about Michelle O and her nutritional ideas. Just after that, I stumbled onto a televised Q&A panel with restaurateur/food activist Alice Waters. She was asked what see wanted to see for food in the future. She began her reply,”Well, I want to see a Victory Garden on the White House lawn.” It has stuck with me because I love food, but also because a chill went up my spine. People were actually talking about Barry-O as a real contender right about then. And I remember still not really believing it. Still pessimistic and unhopeful.
This brings me to capitalism. When you are flush, and have reserves, well, that is wealth. One need be wise with it, though, because tough times always come. When they do, you will be able, in all likelihood, to help others as well as yourself. There is capitalism of ideas, of diplomacy, of faith, of politics, of everything. Markets do work, because markets are just another word for nature, be it human or global. The last administration got elected because enough people thought we could afford to have a man with no brains[struck through] business acumen or diplomatic skills but all faith in the big white house. And he spent every last bit of international standing, and as much money, as he could. This to the point where we are deep in debt, literally and existentially.
We’ll see how long this honeymoon with the new guy lasts, but remember how impossible it seemed even two years ago? A presidency like this? Wow. November was 5 months ago now, and there is still hope capital for me. Is it real? I keep hoping. No foolin.’-Rev
P.S. Pumpkin’s AIDS Ride fundraising continues with another alleykat race this Sunday. 2pm $10 registration, 3pm start, ending at the Knockout, 3223 Mission St. where lots of prizes will be awarded. Ride around, or just head for the KO around 4pm to donate and/or hang out with some fun peeps!
March 16th 2009
Last week I was having a drink after work, and the bartender told me that I was part of the most romantic nights of her life. Of course, my first reaction was, “Uh oh, who are you and boy am I sorry...” As it turns out, years ago when I trying to make a living by pedicabbing around the mission at night, I had rode her and her current boyfriend around on their first date. She remembered me from way back then.
So I decided I wanted to take them out again, even though I haven't ridden the pedicab in years. Then I thought, if I'm going to go through all the trouble of fixing it up, maybe I should ride it around other nights of the week when I have the time. First day of spring is this Friday, and I imagine people could use a lift in spirits. It could also help me raise a little money for the AIDS Lifecycle ride that I'm participating in this summer.
Maybe some of you already know that I'm riding to Los Angeles the first week of June to help out the SF AIDS Foundation and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. It should be a great time, and I'm looking forward to it. Hey, if any of you know anyone between here and LA, maybe you should check out the route map at aidslifecycle.org. Maybe I might pass through their town and drop off a letter for you! How awesome would that be, Cupid delivering all the way to LA by bike!!
-Sean Mosley aka pumpkin
March 1st 2009
I get asked for directions a lot. A bike messenger is probably an obvious choice when you’re driving around an unfamiliar city and you get lost. I do have a good friend though, a recently retired messenger, who had a pat answer when asked where something was; “Oh that’s 2 blocks up and one block over.” He’d say this even if he had no idea what the answer was. This wasn’t really malicious (though he’d make sure he was going in the opposite direction), he just liked to have an answer for people. It reminds me of how, while trekking in Nepal I was advised not to ask directions in the form of a yes or no question. “Is the village of Ghorepani this way?” This is because as a generally friendly and positive people the Nepalese often just want to give an affirmative answer even if they have no idea what you’re talking about.
I personally take pride in giving people good directions if I can. I was once asked for directions to Fresno, which I thought was a strange thing to ask someone on a bicycle in downtown SF. However, I know the answer, and gave the best route. What people do with this info is another question. I often feel stumped by people, not because I don’t know how to get somewhere but because I know that someone shouting at me from a car window is only going to remember the first few turns at best and if they have to cross Market Street you know they’re going to get confused. I guess you get them going in the right direction and they’ll leap frog directions from someone else.
It’s possible that with this topic I’ve stumbled onto another minor obsession of mine. I usually like to know where I’m at and where I’m going, literally if not necessarily metaphysically. I love maps and getting to know the lay of my surroundings and beyond. I earned a reputation, while traveling around to worldwide messenger gatherings, of being the guy to shepherd an unruly pack of messengers back to whatever couch, floor, basement or bush we were sleeping at after a long night of revelry in an unfamiliar city. One can see how this talent is part of what led me to my chosen profession. An ability to know where one is going (in the short term anyway) is a common trait of a good messenger. I’m often surprised by the arcane info we store in our brains. I often don’t know where I left my house keys but I can remember the suite number of an office I haven’t been to in 2 years.
February 15th 2009
Well, I hope y'all had a great holiday weekend. Boy, Friday the 13th, Valentine's Day, and President's Day, all in one weekend! Valentine's Day, for obvious reasons, is particularly important for us here at Cupid. I think it is a shame that it fell on a Saturday this year, as I think it's fun to see all of our clients on our 'special day.' Hopefully everyone had a special someone to spend it with. Tim, Sarah, and Pumpkin did a good job of putting together a last minute 'Cupid Courier Valentine's Day Challenge' on Saturday. Some little kid's bikes, good friends, and a few beers in the park sure can make for a good time (even if the weather isn't our normal California sunny).
Wow, speaking of weather, it sure feels like winter has finally arrived. I think the unusually dry and warm weather of recent times has made me a bit soft, 'cause man, that rain is cold! Even when hiding out at my house, I feel it. I don't think that my 100+ year old apartment has ANY insulation. A reminder, though, for you, the clients: please take the wet weather into consideration when sending out packages, especially if you think that your delivery might be large enough to stick out of our weatherproof bags. This even goes for the few packages that will probably be done in a car, as we will most likely pick or drop them off by bike (saving us the trouble/time of parking).
Cupid has also recently added a couple new clients to our business, which is always great, but especially during our current economic situation. While signing them up for our service, we handed out some stickers, brochures, etc. Which got me thinking: many of you have been using our service for a number of years now (of course, awesome!), but may have never seen our brochures. Please, if you or your officemates might think it would be nice to have quick reference guides to our service and rates, just ask and we'll drop some off. We also have stickers and business cards if anyone would like them. Is there anything else we could supply that would be handy, useful, or just fun? Let us know (especially now, as we will probably try to come up with fun 10 year anniversary stuff). -bryan
Last minute note: Sarah did a great job of putting together some Cupid Courier cycling caps. They're handmade by friends of ours and look really great. You'll probably see us wearing them, and if you or anyone you know might want one, just ask us. There are a few different styles left for sale.
February 1st 2009
What an honor to get to write the first post-inaugural newsletter. Did you watch the inauguration ceremony? It really felt like the whole world was tuned in, like the Apollo 11 lunar landing. There never was a defining soundbite, like JFK’s “Ask not...” line that defined the Camelot years (and went a long way in inspiring people and progressivism that made the late ‘60’s roar). But it wasn’t missed - I still could (can) not believe what I was watching. It was hard to choke back tears of disbelief and wonder. Maybe it was just a personal feeling. It really is something that can give an entire global society some hope. Maybe it will never pan out, all the great things people expect, but for now we can dream again. Which is a lot better than the cynical, regressive, fearful and angry power-projection politics that we have been exposed to for at least 8 years. The politics that made me embarrassed to be an American, not in an unpatriotic way but in that I knew we could be SO much better. So we are here. Good luck to us all, and especially the skinny left-handed dude in the big white house.
It is time to get ready for the tax man, sad as that sounds. Here’s wishing that none of us owes any taxes. Things seem pretty tight as it is for just about everyone you talk to these days. Cupid has seen a marked slowdown in January, which isn’t that abnormal. We just hope that you and us all see business pick up real soon.
That being said, it is time for us to issue our annual “Please pay us soon” plea/mantra. It really keeps the books clean when we get paid for all of the preceding year’s invoices before we submit our final numbers to the tax preparer. You all as a group are doing really well, with just a couple of stragglers out there. At this point, though, all 2008 invoices are at least two weeks overdue.
Maybe the great American holiday, Super Bowl Sunday, will be the great unblocking of the international economy. All the amazing commercials will stimulate people’s appetites for stuff, to get that car to go mountain-climbing in, to get that tv to watch NEXT year’s Big Game (and its ads) on, and so on. We often speak in a more Luddite, slightly anti-consumerist and eco-friendly tone here at the bottom of the page, but what this economy really needs is people buying stuff. I bought a new oven the day after Christmas in a Doorbuster sale, so now it is your turn. Ok, just kidding, but have a great February!-Rev
January 16th 2009
Most of us, when we think of nature and evolution, think of competition as the predominant factor; survival of the fittest, with superior traits winning out through natural selection. Cooperation, though, can be an equally strong force, and some would argue that it is an equal if not more important element in evolution.
Herd animals are an obvious example of survival through cooperation. Think of elephants or muskox (what a cool ice age relic) sharing the protection of their young for the sake of the group. There are lots more subtle examples as well, including some strange inter-species relationships. Flowers would be lost without honeybees, but plants also have fungal and microbial friends that they rely on underground. We’re not left out either. Inside us are innumerable tiny organisms that we quite literally couldn’t live without. One is never truly alone.
Competition has it’s value as well, promoting innovation and efficiency. However I often feel we revere it too much in our profit-driven culture. When the s*** hits the fan, I’d think folks looking out for one another will be more effective than a Mad Max world of might equals right (as much as I love the genre).
At Cupid we took the traditional messenger model and sort of flipped it around. Instead of a crew of messengers competing for a limited pool of work with the fastest or smartest getting the best work on commission, we choose to work as a team, sharing the fruits of our labors. Both methods can be equally effective when times are flush. But when the work thins out in an competitive environment, things can get a bit ugly.-tim
p.s. Speaking of working as a group, our fellow Cupoid, Sean (we like to call him Pumpkin) has signed up to do the Aids Life Cycle Ride this June. He’s going to need plenty of help meeting the fund-raising goal. If any of y’all are interested, feel free to let us know.
January 1st 2009
Wow, 2009 is upon us and the new year is already looking like it's going to be a great one! First off, many of you may have noticed (or remember!?), but Cupid Courier was started back in 1999, which makes this year our 10th calendar year in business! That's right, by this summer (July 4th), we will be a decade old. Keep your eyes peeled, 'cause I imagine their will be festivities abounding when the anniversary comes. Boy, it would be pretty cool if we could get some, or all, of the past Cupoids to participate also...
And what about the dude who co-founded (with our friend Meghan) this whole operation back in '99? Well, Jim has had quite a great start to his new year, as he and his terrific wife, Cat, just moved into their new house in the East Bay. Yup, instead of paying rent like the rest of us, he gets to reside in his very own abode (ok, maybe it's mostly the bank's) and join the Landed Class. Seriously though, their new place is already looking amazing, as they've been putting in a TON of work in it. I think seeing him and Cat go through the process has been one of the most inspirational things I've been around lately. If you get a chance, make sure to congratulate Jim as he comes through. I think he's pretty stoked.
2009, let's hope, is also going to produce a fresh start to the economy. I can imagine the recent times have put strains on everyone's businesses/jobs/bank accounts and I am always happy when our clients continue to call in deliveries. I feel like we've even heard from a few of our infrequent clients lately, which is just great. As a worker-owned co-op, none of us are in the position of being laid off, but we have had to make some adjustments. I think Tim has mentioned this already, but it's been really great to see our team adapt. These changes are not only saving our 'bottom line', but more importantly I think we've been able to improve our service in the process. There has been a good deal of 'back patting' going on here at Cupid.
Lastly, this year is finally going to bring in a New President! I know that putting much faith in any administration is probably not the best idea....but man is it going to be nice to wake up to the news in the morning and not have to hear the current guy talking about anything. I feel like even those of you who might not have voted for Obama might agree with that!
Please Also Note: Cupid is Closed on Monday January 19th for MLK Day.Here's to the New Year!-bryan
December 15th 2008
News (check the holiday stuff):
Brrrrrr. Brrr. ‘Tis the season, eh? Ok. Another reminder about the holidays! Listen up, pea-puhl! This gets confusing, even for me. After extensive research and exhaustive interviews, Cupid is ready for the end (of the year). We are indeed closed Dec. 25-26, and Jan. 1. Holiday rates apply on Dec. 29-31 and Jan 2nd. These are similar to late-night rates except there is no automatic rush upgrade. In-town jobs see a $20 add-on, and out-of-town jobs see one for $40. Very few of you are even open at all during that period, so enjoy yourselves! We will try to remind each caller in that period about this plan, but please pass on the word through your office if you think people will need work done.
Nice Tim has once again done a beautiful job on our holiday cards. Sometimes it is hard to not think, is this all we can do? You are all so awesome! The sentiment inside the cards is very sincere, and we try to iterate this message with almost every newsletter, but do you all really get the message? You rawk!
Has everybody seen the Gus Van Sant film Milk by now? It is pretty great. We never did a post-election wrap-up op/ed piece in this space, and it really returned some feelings to this past November. Somehow the old Prop 6 fight was reborn 30 years later and this time the ‘left’ lost. So bizarre after such progressive change was seen with Obama’s impending accession and the many other Cal Props that were on the ballot. I understand there is nuance and the potential for even more emotional attachment on the Prop 8 issue. But jeez. Really?
Join the hajj and go see Sean Penn on-screen at The Castro Theater until Dec 23rd. After that comes (what I bet is extremely popular and hilarious if somewhat grating on the nerves) Sing-along Sound of Music. Ooh, Julie Andrews is so fab-u-lous.
Ok, probably I could ramble on about the Milk/election thing, but that’d take more space than we got here. We’d just like to wish you and all Californians and all earthlings a great season. It is a time of year that for some is based on love and sacrifice for others, by a guy whose absolute single-most self-professed important message was to treat others as you wish to be treated. That is it. Peace and love to all, now and on into 2009, Rev. Jim
December 1st 2008
You never step in the same river twice. That's one of my favorite Buddhist aphorisms on impermanence and change. There is also a quote by the poet Diane DiPrima that I can't seem to find so I'll paraphrase; since we all change as people over time, one should be conscious and intentional about that change rather than being changed arbitrarily by circumstance. With this in mind I found the theme of our recent political season amusing. There is a certain brilliance in selling the one thing that is truly inevitable in the universe, heck even so called "conservatives" seem open to change. Though I'm as optimistic as the next person about the direction of things, positive and meaningful change is rarely handed down from on high. My hope is that the inspired enthusiasm I see is reflected in our actions.
As a small, democratically run workplace I feel that Cupid can adapt a bit more quickly and creatively than most. For those who don't know Cupid is closing in on it's 10th birthday. Over the years we've used many methods to meet our clients needs and our own. It's actually hard for me to completely remember how it was when I first began working here because our workload and road team has evolved so much. I'd like to think that we are able to accommodate our clients, especially in the small details like troubleshooting, in ways that a larger or more rigid company couldn't be bothered to. With each delivery it's nice to know that we have a full range of options on the table. We've used cars, trucks, trains, boats, blimps(ok not yet but someday!), and of course our overwhelming favorite, bikes to get stuff from A to B, or C, D, E... For the record it's the limiting factors (time frame, distance, mode) on these methods that affect the cost of what we do. In general, the more options we're given on your delivery the more affordable it will be.
A reminder about our holiday scheduling. We will be closed on Dec 25th & 26th as well as Jan 1st. Holiday rates will apply on Dec 29th, 30th & 31st and normal service will resume Jan 2nd. As always, feel free to call with any questions.
November 15th 2008
Wow, almost eighty degrees here in the city for the last few days, and I can't believe I'm writing the pre-holiday newsletter! I have to say, I'm heading out to the East Coast here in a couple weeks and it makes me want to never leave our temperate, warm California weather. It is funny though, and I believe Tim pointed this out to me, that this recent heat spell is a bit rare during any season here in the City, and could also happen during any season. So goes our strange local weather pattern. Anyways, I don't think anyone's complaining, and I'm sure not!
A couple seasonal/weather reminders though. First of all, believe it or not, but we have definitely entered the rain season here in the Bay Area. Please keep this in mind as you send out packages throughout the next few months. We here at Cupid try to use the best waterproof bags and equipment, but wrapping up packages with just a bit of extra care during these months is always smart. Also, next week is Thanksgiving already, and we will be closed for that day and the following day (11/27, 11/28). We will probably also turn off our phones an hour early on the Wednesday before (11/26) (closing at 6 pm versus our regular 7 pm late-night service). Please, please, please feel free to let us know if you might need courier service for that Friday, 11/28, or late-night service on Wednesday, 11/26, and we will attempt to accommodate your needs.-bryan
November 1st, 2008
Wow! What amazing times we live in. I can’t help but think of the terrible film “Point Break,” starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. Often when things seem really special/outrageous/spectacular/unprecedented, it brings to mind Bodhi’s 50-year wave (if you haven’t seen the flick, don’t). And getting handcuffed in the surf by Neo, the ultimate b****slap. Ow.
Greenspan calls the economic situation, one that the brightest minds of these living generations could not foresee, a once-in-a-lifetime tsunami. Imagine, rampant (and often insanely risky) debt leads to catastrophe.
Election Day Tuesday, 4 Nov 08! The Democratic Party is looking mighty strong right now, for the first time in decades. They stand a good chance of making history by putting a non-white man in office (and do so thanks to a woman who created a positive tension in the nomination race which in turn helped sharpen his message). The Republicans counter with a VP candidate who is a woman in her 40’s. Jeepers.
But what about all those Propositions? Locally and statewide initiatives are keeping us riveted. No matter which side of the aisle you sit or stand or hop in, there is a lot to look at. Can’t imagine the ones costing a ton of money will go through in this economic climate, but Touchstone California has all eyes watching. Prop 8. It is probably more professional to keep politics out of this newsletter, but is anybody in SF going to vote for that? Hard to imagine.
It’ll be good for everyone to see Dubya go. Even for him; I bet he is just plain exhausted. Will he or any other neo-cons be able to travel abroad in their lifetimes? For all the vitriol they’d face, it might be good for them to renew their passports and see why Americans care about what the rest of the world thinks about Americans.
Stocks cliffdiving! Houses foreclosed! Soup kitchens? Cupid for one is definitely hurting. Which means that some of you, our clients, are probably hurting. The next president won’t solve this international upset overnight, so keep cool under pressure, be Jonny Utah, and don’t be the one wearing the cuffs looking at that titanic wall of water. We’ll hopefully be out of this little situation with a little patience, if not pleading.-Peace-out, Rev Jim
June 30, 2008
I recently finished reading Alan Weisman’s much-talked-about book, The World Without US. In it, he examines how the various impacts of human culture would change if the entirety of humanity were to vanish suddenly; i.e., the rapture, the alien mothership scooped us up, or some super-virulent disease quickly wiped us out. With a couple notable exceptions, most of what we think of as solid human endeavors would become reincorporated into nature, often rather quickly. Untended radioactive waste would be an extremely long-lasting mess, but these glass and concrete cities, our sprawling suburbs and even the mind boggling quantity of plastic we create would all erode into a not particularly impressive layer in the geological record.
Weisman suggests that it wouldn’t take too many seasons of freeze and thaw cycles to make all our billions of miles of paved roads all but impassible. Maybe for cars, but I’d hold out more hope for bikes. I love a nice section of freshly paved asphalt as much as the next roadie, but I also know that even bicycles with skinny road tires can get through where cars would have to turn back. I found myself on just such a road a couple of weekends ago when and a friend and I took a bike-camping trip down the coast. Just out of Pacifica is an abandoned blacktop that hasn’t seen an automobile in maybe 50 years. It’s a fun way to bypass the none-too-bike-friendly Devil’s Slide. Some friends of mine dubbed it the “Planet of the Apes Road” for it’s resemblance to the crumbling infrastructure of a long-vanished human civilization. The pavement is cracked and crumbly throughout and missing at some points. In many other parts the foliage has overgrown, leaving a tight path through the scrubby bushes and poison oak. Most any òbike with a modestly determined rider can make it up and over to Montara. It’s the perfect place to practice your post-apocalyptic bike-handling skills.
In the meantime, there are some more immediate items on our bike agenda. This Saturday, July 5th, as part of a weekend-long messenger event called the Quake City Rumble, Cupid and a group of other “indy” messenger companies will be hosting an Independents’ Day BBQ. Feel free to join us at Marx Meadows in Golden Gate Park (near 25th and Lincoln). This also happens to mark the 9th birthday of Cupid Courier Collective!
Also if you get a chance, check out this deck of cards at: http://www.chromebags.com/products/accessories/show/59/. They were made earlier this year to support various messenger associations, and there happens to be a couple of Cupoids featured. If you’re curious ask one of us where you can pick up a deck directly.-tim