While most Americans will remember the late summer of 2001 as a time of mourning, Dan K. Harvest will always remember it for his awesome trip to Hawaii. But it didn't start out so rad. Al-Qaeda's suicide missions totally messed with his travel plans, scuttling all flights out of San Francisco International Airport for days. Once air travel resumed, there promised to be heightened security, with more dogs sniffing for contraband such as the marijuana that Dan and his crew were planning to bring with them to the islands.
As Dan K. tells the story, he and his posse caught the very first plane off the mainland a few days later. To avoid suspicion, he even wore nice clothes that day, donning slacks and a dress shirt in place of his usual baggy jeans and backward baseball cap adorned with two mudflap girls separated by a dollar sign. He and his boys made it through the checkpoint and boarded the plane without a hitch. When they landed, it looked like they were home free. There was just one problem: The bikes didn't make it with them. The airline lost the two-wheelers containing the stash they'd hid in the tires.
To everyone's relief, an airline rep called up the next day to say the bikes had been found. This sparked a panicky debate over who would go down to the airport and retrieve them. No one wanted to do it. "We were gonna give a bum a bottle of wine to go down there," Dan K. recalls. Eventually they all decided to go together. They recovered their bikes without anyone being arrested or detained. And, yes, later they got plenty stoned.
That week, they lounged on the beaches and biked down a 14,000-foot mountain from above the cloudline. "That was like the best time of my life," he says.
This post-9/11 smuggling tale is the kind of thing you might expect from a guy who goes by the name of Dan K. Harvest, a play on "dank," a slang name for pot. It's also the kind of exaggerated boast you often hear from stoners between bong hits.
The funny thing is, a lot of Dan K.'s bongload boasts are true. He really is a downhill mountain bike champ at one of the world's most prestigious two-wheel events; he really does have his own pair of signature sunglasses produced by a Colorado firm he wooed by schmoozing its owner; he really did perform and produce a rap CD; he really did make a wild Jackass-like video that some describe as an "underground classic"; and he really was the subject of a segment on a hipster-lifestyle TV show hosted by ex-Baywatch babe Carmen Electra.
No doubt about it: This Berkeley boy's got game. But the boy is now a man, and even celebrities with the profile of Dennis Rodman have a hard time turning a beach-party lifestyle into a paying job. But that's exactly what Dan K. Harvest, real name Dan Harris, is trying to do -- rise from the bong resin to become a national personality in the era of MTV and ESPN2.
Dan K. Harvest is at a crossroads. By the fall, Harvest reckons, he could be the next Johnny Knoxville. Or he could just as easily end up another aging slacker with a hangover but no steady job.
On Dan's birthday this spring, when he turned 32, his mom sent him an e-mail congratulating him on his survival: "Hello, Son. I can't believe you're still alive." From her oldest son's days as a Berkeley toddler, Mimi Luebbermann knew her boy had a thing for bikes. She remembers when Dan was four, neighbors gave him a bike without training wheels. The next thing she knew, her kid was racing down Hillegass Avenue. "He's always been one of those people who is a risk-taker," says Luebbermann, who adds that she still pays for her son's health insurance, aware as she is of his fondness for putting himself in harm's way. It's a good thing she does, too. "When they bring my file out, it looks like the phone book," Dan boasts.
Although he's a dude with many angles -- rapper, underground videomaker, pothead extraordinaire -- biking has always been the one constant in Dan's life. As a kid, he developed a rep for doing sick stunts at a place local riders called Horse Hill, an undeveloped hillside near the Caldecott Tunnel. The others started calling him Dangerous Dan. He and his buds would play tire-tag. According to Dan, the game always turned into near-chaos, with 39 guys chasing after one last rider: "I was famous for being last caught -- elusive and dangerous to chase."
The exploits of the Horse Hill crew were immortalized in a 1987 story in BMX Action magazine. The caption under his picture said, "Dangerous -- no one knows what his real name is." Dan, then in his mid-teens, was a total shrimp -- short with skinny arms, his blonde hair bleached from the California sun. After the article came out, he basked in the glory of being in a national magazine. It was a formative moment. He remembers quitting soccer, his other favorite childhood pastime, because "there was no publicity in it." Besides, team sports didn't make sense for a guy who didn't want to share the spotlight. "That's why I don't play team sports. I'd just yell at my teammates the whole of the game unless I had the ball."
Dan grew up at a time when schools in the East Bay were being integrated. In seventh grade, he and ten friends were sent to Claremont Middle School in Oakland where, as he puts it, they were "ambassadors of honkiness." That's when Dan got into breakdancing and rap. "My routine was hella dope," he recalls. "It ended with a jump split that left my knees black and blue for days. I had a little rap about bikes and chicks and breakin' that was pretty tight -- somethin' about the Lone Ranger ridin' into Oakland with Tonto, looking for some freaky chicks pronto."
It was a tough school populated by ninth graders a lot bigger and meaner than Dan. A former classmate remembers Dan surviving by becoming the class clown. "We went to school with, like, thugs, basically, and Dan was that kid who could breakdance and make everybody like him."
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