Mercury Falling

For 11 years, Markus Cook was synonymous with Bay Area bike messengers. But he didn't live to see his dream come true -- the Cycle Messenger World Championships held here in San Francisco.

"Jesus Christ," he thought to himself. "You just get to a certain point where you've been beating your head against the establishment and against the machine, living your life as a bike messenger for so long, and you just kind of kill yourself? You either OD, or you drink yourself to death? This band is playing the same songs that I heard them play before. My God, it doesn't change. It just keeps going on."

The funeral service was at Glide Memorial that Sunday. High school friends from Phoenix, bicycle activists, messengers, musicians, members of Walden House all appeared. People sobbed throughout the ceremony. The L. Sid horn section played a medley of their songs. Time was set aside for those who wished to say a few words. Over 30 took the opportunity. Many would grumble later that it seemed like people from Walden House -- people who barely even knew Markus -- hogged the time.

Jack Chandler was sitting onstage with the L. Sid horns, awe-struck at the intensity.

"It was very, very emotional. Many could barely get through a sentence."
"I have a lot of faith in fate," says Chandler, "and when it's your time, then you have to go. And it seems like he had done his thing here on Earth, and that it was time to go. Hopefully people will remember the music, or remember every time he made someone laugh."

"It's harder to accept our dark side than it is to deny we have one," says Cate Cusick, friend and former messenger. "But just because we have a dark side doesn't mean we're evil or bad. It's harder to socialize the dark side, so we tend to ignore it, and when we are ignoring it, I think that's what makes addiction occur. Everyone has one. If you don't accept it, it will run you. You will be the bastard that you don't believe you are."

The February benefit for the Messenger Championships at the Covered Wagon became a combination memorial show for Markus and the final performance of his band, which was billed as the Ghost of L. Sid. The band took the stage and performed for half an hour, rotating all past and present members who had played with the group over the years.

Jack Chandler insisted on no vocals, in honor of Markus. At the end of the instrumental-only set, the sound man punched in a tape of L. Sid, with Markus singing his song "E.T.A.," his anthem of bike messengers.

The 1996 Cycle Messenger World Championships will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 2. For information, call (415) 626-2692.

In "Mercury Falling" (May 8) a reference to Bicycles for Afghan Amputees' Rehabilitation should have made clear that BAAR still provides bike-related physical therapy for amputees in Afghanistan.

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