old new guestbook dland GLINT

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GLINT


Now that the weather has straightened itself out and summer has stepped in to rudely shove spring aside, it’s time to talk about a super fun outdoor activity. The nights are warm and inviting, cops have yet to shed their winter paunches, and the great outdoors is calling to you to get out there and personalize your town. Tag it! It's graffiti time, kids. I really like graffiti, preferring the type that goes beyond the purely egotistical and shows some thought or artistic merit. But either way, it’s an important form of public art, particularly in the urban landscape. Unless it’s on my house. Then it’s an eyesore and a crime. Graffiti gives us something to look at when we are tired of trying to avoid direct eye contact with people passing us on the sidewalk and counting the number of Starbucks on each block.

-Good tag-based graffiti can be fun simply because you get to spot all the different places a particularly agile delinquent has been able to hit. When I was growing up in my town, there was an especially gifted tagger named “Disco Dan.” Disco Dan had been everywhere apparently—hanging on the undersides of underpasses, off of roofs, railroad trestles, water towers, upside-down inside subway tunnels. Then someone named “Poopy Pants” started messing with DD and tagging over all his spots. DD defended his territory valiantly for a while and then faded into obscurity. Poopy Pants laid down his spray can not soon after. Sad. Last summer, when “Spider Man” came out, I started spotting “Spider Bitch” tags around, but she must not have been particularly leggy since she favored just about shoulder-high spots on the sides of buildings.

-Anything witty is good. Just outside of town, there is a magnificent Mormon temple, complete with crystal-white towers and gold spires. I used to think it was some kind of castle when I was a kid and begged to go there. When my dad told me you had to actually be Mormon to be able to go inside the main, grand church part of the building, I asked if I could switch to Mormon. He told me I was missing the point of religion entirely. Well, whose fault was that? Anyhoo, I wasn’t the only person who got a kick out of the temple. As you came around a curve of highway, the side of a bridge momentarily framed the temple just over the tips of its towers. For years, someone tagged it with “Surrender Dorothy!”—a (dyyyuh) reference to “The Wizard of Oz.” It was perfect.

-The political kind of graffiti that makes a statement can sometimes work out nicely too. In the neighborhood where I used to live, someone was fond of writing “Bush-Twat” over and over again on the side of the 7-11. This is actually a comforting mantra to repeat to yourself, Rain Man style, if our fearless leader ever does anything that may be construed as completely stupid. Someone else took out their Sharpie and wrote “LIES” on every single newspaper vending thingy for two blocks, right on the little window underneath where the headline appeared. How often does the sight of the front page make you smile? Just down the street from where I live now, there is a mural. Ok, I know that this is sanctioned art and is lacking the crucial aspect of graffiti, which is that it thumbs its nose at authority in a very blatant manner. But, murals are cool and this one is very bright and multi-ethnic and all. It has a computer in it, and the screen says “No Human Being is illegal.” I am not sure exactly what this means, but I take it as some kind of oblique reference to the INS or something.

-Graffiti in other countries written in English is fun. Laughing at broken-English when you have no idea what language the people in that country are babbling in and you can’t even ask where the bathroom is doesn’t matter because underneath your Ugly American mask you are speaking the uber-language. Once, in Belgium, I saw some graffiti that said, “Fuck the Policeman.” I love NWA as much as the next gal, but this gave me a start. Which policeman? Where? Hopefully, he is parked outside the leather bar wearing some assless chaps and bending over his motorbike.

-Once, when I lived in another town, some free-spirited art school students (god love ‘em) took it upon themselves to make all of these surreal street signs and put them around town. It wasn’t too bad an effort. You’d be stopped at an intersection and look around and there would be a diamond-shaped yellow sign that had the image of an eggplant on it or something. So crazy. One of these signs had chopped up question marks, and ampersands, and semi-colons and such all over it. It looked a little bit like it was telling me something in Russian, you know, all Cyrillic? So I used to sit at that intersection and pretend I was stopped at a checkpoint and I was on my way to deliver chocolate and cigarettes to orphans in besieged Leningrad.

-Actually, back then, I was on my way into the ghetto where I probably would only deliver some bad news from probation or juvie court to some poor kid about how the man and system was always going to get the last laugh as long as he lived at his current address, but that’s another story entirely. But it lends a sad closing statement to my graffiti stories. Real ghetto graffiti is usually the worst kind, often because it is completely indecipherable to me, referring to people I don’t know and events I wasn’t aware of. It’s usually something along the lines of “RIP, Lil’ Boo” or some gang thing or the like. I used to do social work though, and once, the little brother of one of the kids I worked with died, and the wall next to their house became this record of condolences from all the kids in the neighborhood. It was really touching.


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