By Howard Koplowitz
Cambria Heights author Kurt Boone’s sixth and latest book deals with what he has known best for 14 years: the life of a Manhattan foot messenger entrusted with quick and accurate deliveries of everything from payroll checks to garments.
Boone, 51, who claims to be the fastest foot messenger in the city and walks an eight-minute city mile, became a messenger 14 years ago after being let go from his job as an insurance account representative for MetLife.
“Me and my friends used to explore the city. I knew the streets pretty good,” Boone said during an interview at his Cambria Heights home, referring to his days as a track star at Andrew Jackson High School, where he attended many meets in the city.
Boone said he uses the messenger business to pay rent and that employers do not just look at quickness when they determine who is a good messenger.
“They want you to be fast, but they expect you to complete the assignment,” Boone said. “I can walk a city mile in eight minutes. In my career, I’ve been in the five boroughs.”
In “Asphalt Warrior,” Boone writes about the high-end office buildings and luxury apartments he has brought packages to along with the “street messenger culture” of parties and so-called “alley cat races.”
“I’ve had deliveries for President Bill Clinton in Harlem. Or I’d take deliveries to HBO Productions for ‘The Sopranos,’” he said.
Of course, Boone said he is curious about what is in the packages he is carrying, but never takes a look.
“You can identify a lot of the important packages by the names of who we’re delivering to, but we don’t know what’s inside.”
Boone recalled how he rushes by pedestrians but never got a jaywalking ticket.
“The messenger is sort of like an urban warrior,” he said. “The messenger job is a workout. I’m doing seven, eight miles a day.”
Boone said his toughest day at work was five years ago during a storm that broke his umbrella.
“The rain was coming down on me hard nonstop,” he said. “I got really soaked and what made it the toughest was my cell phone [was] ï»¿busted. It was so brutal.”
Boone also talks about alley cat racing in “Asphalt Warrior,” which he calls a “side culture” among bike messengers, who participate in races that simulate messenger work with the cyclists using manifests with checkpoints throughout the city for their competitive rides.
“It’s a community that’s between bike messengers and other people like me,” he said. “We try to separate ourselves from the day-to-day work as messengers. That’s what the alley cat culture is about. It’s a natural street culture that comes from the work ethic.”
Boone said he wants readers of “Asphalt Warrior” to understand what it is like being a messenger.
“I hope they get an appreciation of the messenger business and they come away from the book learning what the messenger businesses is and how hard we work,” he said. “It’s a very informative book.”
“Asphalt Warrior” is Boone’s sixth book. He has also written a number of poems and collaborations, with his first book being “Looking for Myself,” which was published in 1996 and deals with growing up in Queens, violence, girlfriends and gangs infiltrating Andrew Jackson HS.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.