On Fat Tuesday night, a gaggle of messenger bikes is locked outside the Blue Frog, a friendly dive in tony River North. Most are sleek “fixies,” but one stands apart: a cobalt 1966 Schwinn Stingray with “ape-hanger” bars and a gold-sparkle banana seat.
This sweet ride belongs to John “Blunt” Robbins, 36, a 17-year veteran of the delivery business and a mainstay at the Frog. The building also houses Velocity Courier, making the saloon a popular spot for messengers to mingle with the area’s abundant suits.
“This place is like a Fortress of Solitude for all of us,” says Blunt, who rides for On Time Courier, relaxing at a table with a PBR after making his final drop. He’s rocking a Davy Crockett cap and Mardi Gras beads.
AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” blares in this scruffy rec room of a tavern. Hanging from the ceiling are a large inflatable frog, Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots and a Radio Flyer carrying Howdy Doody.
A handful of messengers cluster around the bar, wearing hoodies, knit caps and rugged Chrome messenger bags, sporting a bandana here, a neck tattoo there. At a high-top, three yuppies in dark suits devour the $2 grilled cheese special.
“I have a lot of respect for couriers,” says Kim Bingham, 43, a tipsy gourmet-food importer. “And Blunt’s everybody’s mentor in the industry.”
The messenger, who claims he earned his nickname for being outspoken, has delivered everything from office chairs to human eyeballs. He says he’s been hit by cars 21 times while riding. “Once an SUV ran over both my legs. But these thighs are made for the prize.”
Blunt’s funniest Blue Frog memory? When the tavern hosted the North American Cycle Courier Championships in summer 2008, “I tried to ride two girl messengers on my banana seat,” he says. “The sissy bar broke and they fell off backwards.”