Messenger heroes no. 4 - Markus 'Fur' Cook
23.05.07 by Buffalo Bill
Markus was a friend and a brother to me, although he was also an infuriating man sometimes. For instance: he fell into the dock at London Cycle Messenger World Championships (1994) (this after we spent £2000 on barriers to keep people from doing just that!) and dislocated his shoulder trying to climb out. You utter muppet, no, we’re not going to call an ambulance, get a fucking cab. Or the time he printed a quote from me in Mercury Rising (the San Francisco messenger ‘zine which he edited), which was wrong in detail, and which had originally been part of a confidential chat (I thought). He had me saying something like: ‘The Cycle Messenger World Championsips should come to your beautiful city by the bay’. I would never say something as corny as that, you bastard! Or the time he got up on a table at CMWC 95 and announced that CMWC 96 was going to be in San Francisco. Oh yeah, nice one, Markus, fait accompli, cheers.
And, of course, he finally deserted me, and all the rest of his friends, comrades and family. I was very angry at the time, and have never really come to terms with his death, and I am sure I am not alone. Part of the reason that I started the Markus Cook Award (I think) was not to get closure or come to terms with the loss, but my way of saying to him that he can’t shirk his responsibilities so easily, and that he has to stick around to help us sort our shit out.
In my citation for the MCA, Joe said that I was the first member of the international messenger community. I think Joe was wrong to say that. You can not have a community of one.
In 1992 I was publishing Moving Target on a regular basis in London, but was becoming discouraged. Then a London courier called James Stephenson, who had worked in San Francisco, brought back the SF messenger zine Mercury Rising from SF to London and gave it to me. MR was an inspiration. It was… just superb, exactly what a messenger zine should be, full of reviews of messenger bands, and funny poetry, great cartoons, pictures, anarchic layout. It was everything that MT was not, as I was using DTP to layout, had no cartoons, almost no pix. But there was something more about MR, that I could not put in MT. MR described a community, and Markus’ column Fur made it sound warm, welcoming and sustaining.
So I would say that if I was the first member of the international messenger community, then so was Markus and the rest of the Merc crew, because it was through MR that I got a glimpse of what a messenger community ought to be.
Then in 93 I got to meet Markus in Berlin, at the first Cycle Messenger Championship, and the international messenger community was born. This was not thanks to the efforts of Markus and myself, of course, but it was great to go to Berlin knowing that in all those new, strange people there was at least someone that I already knew. And, of course, Markus was a very charismatic guy, so meeting with him was really great.
I met him again in 1994, at the London CMWC. I was organising, or disorganising and the SF crew in general were pretty sensational, just really great people, really friendly, really helpful and also really good at hanging out.
Something special happened at the event. We had commissioned a piece of artwork from a messenger sculptor to be the “Messenger Monument”. In my mind, there was to be a moment during the event when we would stop for a second, go to the memorial and contemplate our own mortality, and think of the people that we had lost to the job. The SF crew, led by Markus, turned it into a life-changing event. That statement seems very cliched as I look at it on the screen, but even at the distance of 14 years I can remember the impact that gathering had on those that were there, and on the ride from the site to Central London. It is not an exaggeration to call it ‘life-changing’. It was the first time that messengers at an international event had ridden together, in a Messenger Mass. It happens all the time now, but this was the first time. And Markus was right there, not the ride leader, but definitely a ring-leader.
I think it’s relevant to add that it was obvious to everyone at the event that Markus was really struggling with a drugs problem of some sort. But by the time he went back to SF, he seemed much better, certainly physically, but also spiritually. So it was two-way thing for Markus, he gave to the event, and received from the event.
The last and third time I met Markus was in Toronto, at CMWC 95. He really really pissed me off (I am sure that those who know me realise that it is easy to piss me off, and for those that don’t, well, it is easy to piss me off) in a number of ways, but mostly by being himself, and just going for it. Looking back it’s quite clear that Markus did exactly the right thing.
I WAS in favour of SF getting the CMWC in 96, so why shouldn’t he say so in MR? The SF messenger crew DID want to host the CMWC, so why shouldn’t he get up on a table at the prize presentation and say so? Looking back, it’s hard for me to understand what my problem was. (Ok, I’m sure that a number of you have a good idea already what my problem was/is.) But I couldn’t stay pissed off with Markus. He was/is too likeable, too good a person.
And so we all went to SF for the CMWC in 1996. For me, the 96 CMWC is one of the high points of my life. And it wouldn’t/couldn’t have happened without Markus. But he wasn’t there.
This is an edited version of an article that appears on the website of the International Federation of Bicycle Messenger Associations. View the original here.
A short history of the CMWC and IFBMA is here