"The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power" Travis Culley

Posted on Thu 01 January 2009 in ClubReading

The Immortal Class is a fast-paced energetic prose full of rawness and humanity. It provides a lens into the life of the bike messenger. Written more as a series of essays or thought-pieces then a memoir, the author creates brilliant mind pictures of the Chicago streets as seen from the saddle of a bike.

Mr. Culley uses this fast pace environment as a backdrop to dive into complex subjects such as urban sprawl, immigration, health care and insurance for low-wage employees. Yet the author does a good job of keeping the book going and doesn't preach at the reader.

The book is a journey of discovery, the authors search for self and place.

This snippet is from the introduction and reflects the motivation and energy of the author.

At 5:22 P.M. my eyes feel heavy as sewer grates. I lean against a USA Today paper box on Washington and Clark and think: Who the hell are you to make such a claim? I stand in the heart of the lurching flow of self-consuming crowds, surrounded by a whirlpool of technological and economic development. It is a time called rush hour and I am nursing liquids from a polystyrene cup. The water is free, though the cup cost twenty-five cents. Who am I? The question is difficult because my system has been hit with a virus. I am pixelized infinitely, a series of zip codes and floor numbers, drop schedules and street names. Who I am is a parallel pursuit, a city and a man. My name is Travis. I am twenty-five now, in no position to generalize. I can only hope that maybe, just standing here, a drifter, a dreamer, a messenger both outside and inside this pinnacle of advancement, my position may be a valuable one. ... the bicycle is more than a sport and more than a job. The bicycle is a revolution, an assault on civilian territory, intent upon taking, from the ground up, responsibility for the shape of our cities. It is a mutiny, challenging the ever-one-way street. The bicycle is a philosophy, a way of life, and I am using it like a hammer to change the world and to redeem our war-torn cities. With this simple story, and with the perspective of the lives involved, I challenge you to consider that in the overproduction of big media, we may have missed a few aspects of this "USA today." We may have overlooked the cult of human power that is reclaiming public space and giving it back to average people. Where am I? I am at Washington and Clark, right outside of Chicago's Daley Plaza, and I am not alone.

This is an excellent book - well written and engaging. I strongly recommend it. The bike in my garage is in sad shape - the tires are flat, the gears are stiff from lack of use, the chain is clogged with dust. Yet after reading The Immortal Class I have been looking at the bike with a new respect. It's heading to the shop for a tune up and we are going to hit the road. I am eager to drink in a new perspective of my town and the beaches from the saddle of my bike.