Lately my understanding and tolerance for graffiti has decreased dramatically. We’ve been living with Sloth for nearly a month now and his undying obsession with this art has only brought us to a higher state of bewilderment and confusion with why anybody could become so obsessed with a culture so hell-bent on the destruction of other peoples’ things.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a lot about graffiti out there that I love; the kind that’s actually illustration or at least a word that has actual meaning. I used to want to be a part of the whole culture, but quickly realized that I didn't have enough inherited talent with a can of spray paint to constitute my graffiti education (in other words, I soon realized I wasn't good enough and would probably ruin an unforgivable amount of surfaces before I acquired any skill). There’s incredible things one can accomplish with a can of spray paint that they can’t with any other medium, and sometimes the view of certain stimulating artwork on a walk around the city can be nice. But graffiti is a lot more than good-looking pictures and well-styled lines. And by being a lot more, it’s actually in turn a lot less, because graffiti artists aren’t graffiti artists to be actual artists, and therein lies my problem with them.
The point of doing graffiti is to be up. It’s about writing your name in as many places as possible so that people will see it more than any other name in the city. They believe that something about this gives them fame, and something about them becomes untouchable and respected. But in all reality, the only added respect they get is from people as low as themselves, because the truth of the matter is that by having this need to be up everywhere, they infiltrate such surfaces that are so far from appropriate that it becomes sickening. Their lines become sloppy and it’s no longer a measure of quality nearly as much as it is quantity. For those of us that are still trying and hoping to find appreciation in the world of graffiti by searching for its quality, we are constantly being more and more let down by their inability to see that 90% of the time, putting their name on something is exactly what ruins all quality it ever had.
As we were walking to Safeway for my daily dose of fruit, I pointed out a sidewalk tag I’d done months and months ago that had greened and become practically unnoticeable, which I liked. I pointed it out to Sloth, saying “Look, that’s me!” As he squinted, he raised his arm and said, “Look, that’s me!” As I looked across the street to where he was pointing, I was shocked and almost instantly infuriated by what I saw. Sloth had thrown up a sloppy, disgusting, puke-green colored and dizzy-lined outline of his drunken word “OPERA” which made the neighbor’s shed look like the vomit victim. It was nauseating in itself, actually, and though I love Sloth to death, he had really crossed the line on this one. That shed he’d practically barfed all over after drinking too much at the Utah on the corner and coming home too drunk for his own good, belonged to a man named Doug who lived across from us and ran a business called “Remarkable Restorations,” for which he restored old antiques and sold them at beautiful quality. To top that, Doug spent about ten hours a day standing in his door, playing saxophone. And let me tell you, Doug is no average sax player; his talent quite resembles that of Miles Davis (except on a sax), and when he’s not playing himself, he’s blasting some sax-created masterpiece from his speakers that are just big enough to penetrate our neighborhood. Doug blesses this block with undisputable jazz nearly all day every day, and we adore him for that, aside from the fact that on Christmas, he gives every house a bottle of wine. In other words, Doug rules, and we wave at him every time we walk by and he’s playing his saxophone in his doorway, and realizing that Sloth had tagged his shed made me so angry at him that I didn’t even know what to say.
All I could do was condemn him and tell him that he was incredibly wrong for what he had done, and being that he was on his last chance for graffiti, it wasn’t going to be long with his attitude before he got caught and surely sent to jail.
Well on the way back, he lucked out, because Doug caught him.
He came out and confronted Sloth, saying he’d seen him admiring his artwork, at which point Sloth promised him he had planned to buff it tonight after I’d given him a load of shit for what he’d done. And by saying this he saved himself, because Doug flashed Sloth his sheriff’s badge – a little thing we hadn’t known about dear old Doug.
The other thing that really aggravates me about graffiti artists is that they call themselves Writers, when they are by no means such. If anything, I’d be happy to call them typographers, but I had a hard time accepting people that call themselves writers when they only write the same word over and over. What kind of writer can you be if you never progress in your message or your ability to say anything? How can you call yourself a writer if all you ever write is a series of names that have no relevance to anybody else’s lives but your own? How on earth does that make you a writer just because you’re good at adding arrows to 3D letters? As a writer myself, that had always rubbed me the wrong way, especially when after watching Piece by Piece, a San Francisco graffiti documentary that Sloth had become obsessed with, I looked through the book that had come with it and contained a slew of pieces that had made history all around the city. With nothing else to do, I began to read the opening statements, and came upon something that made me feel some word vomit of my own.
In the first few paragraphs, there was an uncapitalized sentence. I looked twice. I looked three times. And four. That sentence did not have a capitalized first word no matter how many times I looked at it. And in a book all about giving graffiti artists respect for being “writers.”
Now, I understand everybody has typos; even I do, in practically every single thing I write. But I read over what I write, and when I see them I try to fix them, but sometimes I slip over some that never end up getting righted. And I won’t get into how much I hate bad grammar, or how incredibly lame it felt to read a published document about writers that contained a typo as incredibly stupid as an uncapitalized sentence, because then we’d all be reading for hours. I’ll let you absorb its stupidity on your own.
The other night Sloth had given me a blank white sticker with sheer excitement in his eyes to tell me that I could put anything I wanted on it, and stick it anywhere! After seeing this, though, I knew exactly what I wanted to write, and I stuck it exactly where I wanted to stick it: in his black-book.