This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 19, 2003 11:58 AM. The previous post in this blog was Fire and brimstone. The next post in this blog is The rising. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, April 19, 2003

Middle-aged guy's hobby

I got in a good session out on our block yesterday with my graffiti cleanup kit. I find graffiti personally offensive, and I climb around at a few of the street corners around the house every now and then to clean it off.

There's never any message to the stuff we get here, just inane "tags" identifying (but not really) the people whose mental illness is to write on other people's property in the dark of night. I used to do the cleanup with bile in my heart, but over the years, it's mellowed down to something approaching pity and amusement.

The latest crop of junk to find its way onto the traffic signs around here was pretty easy to handle -- black marker that comes off fairly easily. But the process inevitably takes the reflective sheen off the sign, so that at night, when vehicle headlights illuminate it, there's a blotch where the graffiti was. Taggers like to do the backs of signs, too, but that's the easiest spot to police. You can scrub the heck out of it, and not care about what you're doing to any official message underneath.

Mailboxes are a big target, and the folks at our local Post Office give neighbors carte blanche to tidy them up. Nowadays the finish on the standard blue ones that the public uses cleans up fairly easily, but the old green utility boxes, which only the mail carriers use, are a toughie. I have a can of drab green paint that roughly approximates the official color of these boxes. Every now and then, I slop a coat of it on the green box on our street. I did that yesterday rather than try to get off a particularly nasty gold paint that was attempting (and failing) to convey a legible tag of some kind.

Last year, some new advertising benches showed up at the bus stop I police. Oh, great, I moaned, what a huge new target for the taggers. And I was right; it gets hit all the time. But the surface on it is super-easy to clean, and if I get out there before the bench company's cleanup crew does, I find the job a breeze.

Perhaps the brightest moment in my graffiti cleanup "career" came a few weeks ago, when I noticed that other people in the neighborhood have joined in the effort. A couple of times, I have noticed new tags, and thought, Oops, I need to get out there. But before I could, somebody else had beat me to it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, whoever you are!

One thing the graffiti experts tell us, I have found to be quite true: The faster graffiti comes down, the less of it goes up in the same spot. I particularly enjoy taking tags down the first day they're up. Take this crap somewhere else!

To taggers and would-be taggers: Get a life. You're on the internet. If you need to abuse yourself in public, this is the place. Lay off the streets of the city. And if you come to our block in the night like a cockroach, your litter will be removed as fast as it appears.

One final note, to Bohemian Mama, whose blog I enjoy regularly. She posted this week (Thursday April 17 -- I can't get the permalink to work right yet) in admiration of the anti-war graffiti around here, and I thought I'd respond:

First of all, Mama, happy birthday, and congratulations on "the Kid." But I think you've got the graffiti artists all wrong. They're not a broad coalition of downtrodden people of poverty, fighting the good fight against the Man. They are most likely one or two white people in their 20s, quite possibly female, who are addicted to graffiti. If it weren't the war, they'd be painting the anarchy symbol, "stop gentrification," "no war but class war," anti-capitalism, anti-WTO, etc. For them to run down onto Williams Avenue and paint some preachy slogan about how "war kills people of color" in an African-American neighborhood is just their sad attempt to ease their bourgeois guilt. I'm sure the people who live where they vandalize are not pleased. So when you're done admiring their work, feel free to help the People by grabbing some Formula 409 and a green scrubby pad and taking it down.

If 409 doesn't do the job, I'll lend you my supply of Graffiti-X, a strong graffiti removing solvent, which works wonders.

UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.: On my routine bike ride to run errands this afternoon, I noticed that a particularly vicious vandalism attack occurred last night on the large retail/residential building on the south side of NE Weidler between 15th and 16th. This was one of those incidents in which the graffitists used acid to etch their message into the retailers' plate glass windows. The damage was along 15th and Weidler. It looked to me as if a dozen or so windows had been hit. Someone reportedly also burglarized the jewelry store.

Cleanup of this kind of damage involves sanding down the glass and repolishing it -- very expensive. Fortunately, the landlord had a crew out there right away today, doing just that. The police were by this morning and photographed the damage. It includes some very legible tags along with the usual anarchist signs. Taggers like to brag, and they also are well known for ratting each other out for reward money. At this level of vandalism, felony charges have been successfully brought against several Portland offenders. I suspect that this one will be apprehended eventually.

But no one, no matter how much they may agree with the "message," should be condoning this kind of crime.

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