“Foundry Cycles is looking for five brand ambassadors, Foundry Tradesmen and women, to ride our bikes and document their experiences. If you’re chosen, you’ll be given a Foundry bike. In return, you’ll spend the year talking to people about your Foundry. Go on rides, take it to races, local events, coffee shops, the grocery store, your local bike shop—everywhere you’d normally take your bike. Answer questions about it. Tell people what you think of it. Let them take it for a spin. Throw on a helmet cam and send us video of your adventures. Write up your experiences. You’ll have to earn your keep, but if you work as hard as you play, then you’re right for Foundry.”
This is my entry—submitted this 30th day of March, 2012. Wish me luck.
I cursed as the tire lever slipped, and I bashed my knuckles against the cassette. Glancing down, I could just barely see the blood beginning to collect by the desolate yellow glow in which I was forced to work.
Looking up and stretching a sore back, I made a personal decree that I would get my next flat tire in front of a brighter sign. The proud, canary-yellow rectangle that proclaimed Morgan’s Fish Fry to be “Black Owned, Family Operated” left something to be desired in the way of illumination.
What the hell am I doing, I thought dejectedly. (I have this thought about once a month, for various reasons.) It’s almost six in the morning, and I’m at a deserted intersection in Southeast D.C. Okay, so there’s that other guy over there, but I’ve picked him up in the ambulance before—I’m pretty sure he’s zonked out on heroin.
I was riding the streets of the city to familiarize myself with alleyways, side streets, major buildings, and unusual addresses; but my morning workout/educational experience was going to be cut short today. As I chuckled to myself about comedian Chris Rock’s routine about what happens on MLK Jr. Avenue in every city, I silently thanked my now-torn inner tube for making it this far. I wasn’t more than a few blocks from the firehouse, and my shift was starting soon. In the pre-dawn darkness, the only sound in Anacostia was the crisp clicking of my cleats as I navigated the neglected sidewalk.
In June of 2008, I moved to Washington after an eager and hurried post-college application to the District of Columbia Fire Department. After a short period of tortuous waiting to “get on the job,” as they say, I entered the fire academy that very December. Today, my length of service with the District government stands at just over three years.
My short career has brought me all over the sixty-nine square miles that encompass our nation’s capitol, working in all four quadrants and damn near every one of the thirty-three firehouses dotting our diamond-shaped city. My original appointment was to a location in Northeast Washington, where I learned about the crowded violence of a Go-Go club and the peaceful slumber of a heroin overdose. The move to the big leagues, however, was my eventual transfer to a firehouse in the Southeast quadrant. In the notoriously violent and fiscally-depressed area east of the Anacostia River, I was taught the finer points of PCP-induced manic ranting (both with and without physical altercations), as well as the strange things one will shout when there’s a knife sticking out of your spine or a bullet in your left ass-cheek. Gunshots, vicious assaults, heart attacks, suicides, “intentional vehicular contact,” you name it—Southeast had it.
And I loved it.
Every shift brings twenty-four straight hours of uncertainty and excitement. As a firehouse staffed with fourteen bodies, Engine Company 15 and Rescue Squad 3 spend 25% of our waking lives together. While on duty, we train, we cook, we bullshit, we laugh, and we work our asses off. We’re one of the busiest firehouses in the Department, and we’re tasked with knowing this city—our city—like the backs of our well-worn hands.
I’ve been writing about my experiences since I entered the Training Academy years ago. The links provided throughout this essay are to my personal firefighting blog, RaisingLadders. I was selected several ago to be a contributor to FireEMSBlogs.com (a successful industry blog aggregate geared towards the emergency responders of the world), and I have been faithfully writing and recording my experiences ever since. Additionally, I was recently selected as a customer testimonial for RoadID, tying together my experiences as an emergency responder, husband, runner, and cyclist.
As a firefighter and paramedic, I continually serve the citizens in any multitude of emergency situations. The one thing that I will always need to do my job successfully is to have access to the proper tools. We use tools for extinguishment and tools for demolition. We use tools for giving medications and tools for shocking someone’s heart back to life. I agree very strongly with Foundry’s mission that bicycles should be tools, and I’m constantly using and testing everything that is made available to me. Another thing you’ll learn about most firemen: our job isn’t what you’d call lucrative, and so most of us have a part-time job. I pad my income (and feed my addiction) as an employee at the best-reviewed bike shop in our fine city, BicycleSPACE.
For four amazing years, I have lived and worked in one of the greatest cities in the world. I know this place, in more ways than most citizens or commuters can imagine. I’ve worked in the firehouses and the bike shops; I’ve been to the large-scale training drills and the group rides; I’ve explored the back alleys and the bike paths. I assure you that this bike will never hang on a wall, unloved and unridden. I appreciate the function, utility, durability, and form of every tool I use in my journey, and I like to push the limits of each and every one. In a city like this, everyone is always looking for the next best thing. Foundry is it—and I want to be the one to tell them all about you.