The Motives behind Graffiti

When I left work the other night, all was right with the world. When I came back 8 hours later, it was to this travesty:

I take pride in my drawbridge and in my city, so when people deface them in this heinous manner, it breaks my heart. This kind of wanton destruction, this desire to make things ugly, is beyond my comprehension. In an attempt to better understand the motivations behind graffiti in general, I did a lazy Google search on the subject and came up with dozens of articles, most of which seemed to occupy two distinct camps.

In the more positive camp, the best article I found was this one. It discusses the desire of those oppressed to express political opinions. It also gets into the longing for fame and popularity, and even gives an example of a tagger who then went on to collaborate with companies and thus became accepted by mainstream society. It talks also about graffiti as a form of self-expression that reveals a secret and thus draws the reader into the community by the simple act of sharing that secret. It then discusses graffiti as a form of positive affirmation. It only mentions gangs in passing, and finds it ironic that governmental authorities and most citizens see it as an anti-social activity. In conclusion the article says,

According to an ex-graffiti artist, one must understand his or her own motives and not create graffiti simply to destroy public space. An artist must have a clear motive, whether it is to communicate a social/political/religious message, to shock or amuse people, or merely to defy legal authorities.

Well, that certainly paints a pretty picture. Unfortunately, I don’t think the artists who chose my bridge as their palette had such a squeaky clean image. They were vandals, pure and simple. This article discussed this type of tagger.

It mentioned that “in the year 2000, vandalism accounted for $1.6 billion in damage to households alone” in this country. It says vandalism is one way that juveniles use to vent anger. It’s also a way to fit in and be accepted by a gang.

I think this ugly, incomprehensible crap on my bridge is gang related. It has no value and sends no message other than, “we can get away with destroying things.” It’s like dogs claiming territory by peeing on a fire hydrant. It’s an exercise in ignorance and rage, and I can’t wait until the city heeds my report and  comes out and gets rid of it.

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An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Vandalism

Barely a day goes by without some young fool putting graffiti on my drawbridge. I’ve also noticed that if something is breakable and it’s accessible to the public, it will be broken. Signs are defaced. Stickers appear everywhere. Human beings seem to love to trash things.

I’ve never understood this instinct to demolish and destroy. It makes me angry. I don’t see the point of it.

When discussing it with a wise friend of mine recently, he said that he thought it was people’s way of making their mark. Everyone wants to be able to say, “I was here.” “I existed.”

Okay, I can understand having that instinct. It’s why I blog. It’s why people have children. It’s why we create art. Everyone wants to have a legacy. We want to have something to show for having lived on this planet.

When it comes to youth, I suspect they feel as though they will never have an impact, and therefore this petty destruction is their only outlet. They don’t realize that they’ll grow up. They don’t comprehend that there will be other opportunities, but that some of those opportunities will take hard work and sacrifice. Graffiti, on the other hand, happens right here, right now.

I think it’s really important that we teach young people to be positively creative. We should give them projects and outlets for their energy. They should be taught to build their communities. They need to learn to problem solve, not problem create. And dare I say it? The worst, absolute worst educational trend is that of defunding art and music programs in schools.

Producing beauty is essential for everyone who wants to make a mark on this world. Otherwise, ugliness will prevail.

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An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Goodbye Seattle Viaduct

On Saturday I bid adieu to Seattle’s iconic Alaskan Way Viaduct, along with the Battery Street Tunnel. Both of them were not considered up to current seismic standards, and are being replaced by the new State Road 99 Tunnel, which is scheduled to open today. Read more about it here.

It turns out that I wasn’t alone in wanting to say goodbye. It’s estimated that 100,000 other people walked the tunnel and viaduct this weekend. I’m sure many of them felt a lot more nostalgic than this relative newcomer did. The viaduct had been around since the 50’s, after all.

I was enjoying taking in the view for the last time, and marveling over the massive construction project. I had also expected a different kind of celebration. I was disappointed.

I was expecting food trucks and vendors and souvenirs. There were more port-a-potties than there were food trucks, and there wasn’t a single souvenir to be had. There were a few musicians here and there, and a smattering of antique cars. That’s about it.

I did enjoy checking out the graffiti in the tunnel. I think the city missed a great historic opportunity there. The tunnel is eventually going to be filled in with the debris from the viaduct and sealed off. They should have handed out sharpies and allowed people to write on the walls. Imagine what a treasure trove that would have been 500 years from now, what a time capsule, if we humans have managed not to completely destroy life as we know it. Archeologists would have been fascinated with what we found important enough to say, one day in time, back in 2019. So while others were feeling nostalgic, I was feeling kind of sad at historic opportunities missed.

And then I ran into a coworker. He was standing mid-tunnel, next to the office door. That’s a room most people don’t even know exists. I certainly had no idea. So he let us peek inside. How many people have come and gone in that office over the years? I wonder. I felt privileged to get a glimpse of this lonely little room.

But even better, my coworker had a sharpie. And I took advantage of it.

So, if you are reading my humble little blog post 500 years from now, first of all, nice to meet you. Second of all, if you’re excavating the Battery Street Tunnel, just outside the office door, you might still be able to see my graffiti. “Barb Abelhauser, Bridgetender, 2019”. That was me. I was there. In that tunnel. Saying goodbye.

Here are some pictures from the experience.

Portable gratitude. Inspiring pictures. Claim your copy of my first collection of favorite posts! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

My Response to Search Queries

One of the great features that I get to take advantage of because my blog is on WordPress is the “search engine terms” feature. It lets me know what questions or phrases people have used to find one of my blog posts. (Never fear, it doesn’t tell me who is searching for what or even when, so if you recognize yourself below, rest assured that I do not.)

Can I just say that there are a lot of strange people in cyberspace? Some of them are so odd, in fact, that I feel the undeniable urge to interact with them. I’ve done a post like this before. But new levels of bizarre seem to have cropped up, so I thought it was time for another one.

What follows are honest to God search engine terms in bold, my response to them, and links to the blog posts these queries probably came up with.

  • Can psychopaths have friends? Actually, I’ve gotten many queries along these lines, and they never fail to make me sad. Yes, I used to have a friend who was a psychopath, for many, many years. I thought she was my friend, but was I hers? In retrospect, no. I must have served a purpose for a good long while, but as soon as I stopped serving that purpose, as soon as I started pushing beyond the boundaries that she established, it was over.

    If you’re making this query, dear reader, my first instinct is to tell you to find a better friend. Psychopaths, by their very nature, cannot and do not truly care about you. You deserve more. Set your sights higher. See also: My Friend the Psychopath.

  • Is it bad to change your favorite color? Well, I’ve done it. And the world didn’t come to an end. So I’d say no. A better question might be, “Why do I care if it’s bad to change my favorite color?” See also: Changing My Favorite Color.

  • Gas gauge empty pee, gas gauge montana pee. Okay, there’s a story behind this query. There has to be. And I’d love to hear it. But it probably sent you to a post about my trip through Montana when I was moving from Florida to Seattle.

  • Can you get addicted to acupuncture? Yes, I once wrote a blog post called Addicted to Acupuncture, but I didn’t mean literal addiction. I just liked the way that title rolled off my tongue. I apologize if this caused any confusion. I absolutely love acupuncture and highly recommend it. I can’t imagine how an actual addiction would be possible under these circumstances, but then, I’m no doctor.

  • Where are the best location for the drawbridge and why? Er… over a river? Where you need a lower bridge but taller vessels must still transit the waterway? I’m really not sure what you’re getting at, and I doubt any posts of mine were much help. This one must have just sent you to my blog in general. I hope someone was able to answer your question for you.

  • Why is he picking a fight with me? I have no idea. If he does it often, though, you may want to move on. This kind of thing can go downhill quickly. Take care of you. Good luck. See also: How to Become a Battered Woman.

  • Why are drawbridges so scary? I am sorry you feel that way. You’re not alone, though. I’m sad to say that quite a few people are frightened by them.

    The most common reason I’ve heard is that when you’re going across them, you can feel them move and bounce. But trust me, you do NOT want a rigid bridge. Rigid bridges can lead to disaster. We learned this with Tacoma’s Galloping Gertie. You really do want a bridge to be able to move and flex within reason, so it can adjust to shifting weights and winds and temperatures. If you don’t allow for that, the bridge will find a way, just like Gertie did.

    Other people are afraid of the open grating that many bridges have, as opposed to solid asphalt or concrete. This is to reduce weight and wind drag when they are up in the air. I used to be afraid of these grates, too, but trust me, they will support your weight. Buses and semi trucks cross over them all the time. If they can support that, they can hold up your car, your bike, and/or you. Just don’t look down. You’ll be okay.

    Other people are afraid that the bridge will open up while they are crossing it. There are a whole lot of safety systems in place that you aren’t aware of to prevent that. And most bridgetenders take their jobs very seriously. Do people get hurt on drawbridges? Yes, it happens. You can do a lot of very common sense things to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. First of all, DO NOT wear headphones or ear buds when crossing a drawbridge. You want to be able to hear the warning gongs that signal that a bridge is about to open. And if you see a red light, stop. If you see a gate go down, do not try to run past it or crawl under it.

    I’m sorry you are stressing out over this. I just suggest you stay safely outside the gates when a bridge is opening and enjoy the show! If you allow yourself to become fascinated with drawbridges, they won’t seem nearly as scary.

    This is another query that probably just sent you to my blog in general, but I’d also like to invite you to join my Drawbridge Lovers Facebook Page.

  • Construction man cement porn. Okay, I have no freakin’ clue why this brought you to me. And I’m not sure I want you to stay. Maybe you stumbled upon my post about Gender Specific Jobs? I don’t know. But I’m kind of worried about you.

  • Drawbridge jokes. If you know any, I’d sure love to hear them. But I got nothin’. Something about this job having its ups and downs? Yeah. I’ve never heard that one before.

  • Weird face. I sure hope this didn’t bring you to me because of my face. That would be crushing. But perhaps you stumbled upon my post about Uncanny Valley. That one has some weird pictures. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

  • How to hate alcohol. It just so happens that Why I Hate Alcohol is one of my most visited posts by far. It seems that there are quite a few people out there who hate it, and for very good reason. I think if everyone did, the world would be a much nicer place.

    Unfortunately, there’s no one who will be able to convince you not to like alcohol if you do, in fact, like it. The fact that you’re making this query leads me to believe you are ready to make a change, though. I wish you the best of luck.

  • Anorexic women with breast implants. Okay, I did write a post about Valeria Lukyanova who is the poster child for this. But I hope you didn’t just go there to “admire” the picture of her. My post was a cautionary tale. This woman is not healthy, and I hope you don’t want to emulate her.

  • Hoop skirt pee, and/or six inch heels. I wrote about the first topic because I was genuinely curious about how this maneuver was pulled off. But it seems to have drawn quite a few fetishists to my blog. I’m quite sure they leave very disappointed. And I think the photograph of the heels in another post (in which I was trying to explain how self-destructive humans can be) is the most viewed photo in my whole blog. That kind of makes me sad, because the post is informative, but I bet it’s rarely read. I wasn’t really trying to please pervs. Oh well.

  • Graffiti is like dogs peeing on lamp posts. I do tend to agree. But I have to say, some graffiti definitely approaches the level of art. And I think I said as much in my post entitled Sliz. It’s a shame these artists choose to destroy other people’s property instead of using their power for good.

So welcome to my blog, you fascinating, quirky people! Hope you’ll come back soon.

Welcome

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Sliz

Every day on the way to work, I pass some graffiti on the highway by someone who calls him or herself “Sliz”. I choose to pronounce that “Sleaze”, but there’s nothing sleazy about this person’s artistic abilities. Just from the calligraphy I can tell he or she has a lot to offer the art world.

Since my commute is a long and boring one these days, I’ve kind of created a whole persona around Sliz. I think of her as a skinny 16 year old girl who hides her hair under a ski cap and wears an army jacket and ratty jeans and some well-worn Chuck Taylor high tops. She’s really pretty, but she has decided that it’s much safer to hide that. Sliz has a lot to be angry about. She’s had it really rough. And her graffiti is just a way to express that fury in a non-violent, albeit property-destructive way.

I wish I could meet Sliz and encourage her to use her talents for good. For example, a nice big “Love is the Answer” in bright colors on the freeway overpass would hit the spot quite nicely. Maybe an image of people of different races holding hands. Or a psychedelic peace sign. Even some beautiful imagery would be cool. We all need more beauty in this world.

For all I know, Sliz is a violent gang member with a severe drug addiction. But I like to think that that artistic instinct means that there’s a glimmer of hope. And I’d also like to think that each one of us can nurture our own glimmers, in whatever form they take, into positive forces for change.

peace
No, this is not the work of Sliz, but this is the kind of thing I had in mind…

Start a gratitude practice today. Read my book. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

The Urge Toward Destruction

There was this paint bubble on the wall at work. I sat there for 8 hours, resisting the urge to pop and peel. But I wondered how long that bubble would remain intact. Sure enough, when I came back after a few days off, I discovered that one of my coworkers had gotten to it. Now this patch of white is peeking through the institutional green. That didn’t take long. I have no doubt that that patch will increase in size over time.

What is this impulse that humans have to destroy everything? Is it our way of marking our territory, like a dog peeing on a lamp post? Does our existence really need any more validation? You can already see our planetary destruction from outer space. I bet we could fill the Grand Canyon with the number of cigarette butts people leave lying about. It’s truly disgusting.

There is a crew in the City of Seattle that does nothing but remove graffiti. It’s a full time job. They have to come to my drawbridge quite often. People also like to put stickers everywhere, and deface signs.

And is there some reason we feel the need to carve our initials on trees? Thank goodness most of us don’t think we can carve our initials on other people as well, even though, as I see it, trees have every bit as much value.

What really gets to me is when historical things get defaced. I once saw some graffiti painted on a wall over an ancient pictograph, and it moved me to tears. Why do I not consider the pictograph to be destruction, too? Just as with modern murals, it was not placed there to destroy what had gone before. It had a higher purpose than simply to say, “Look what I can do, whether you like it or not!” It was an act of creation, not one of defiance, disrespect, youth and too much beer.

Why does respect have to be taught? This would be a much better world if it were instinctual. But since it does have to be taught, here’s an idea: let’s teach it.

vandalization
Ace, you’re a douchebag.

Shield Man

Not far from one of the bridges where I work is an abandoned building covered with graffiti. A homeless guy is squatting in one of the sheds on the property. He likes to carry a bright pink shield that he seems to have fashioned out of scrap wood, duct tape and a plastic bag. He isn’t doing anyone any harm. He’s a lot safer there than he would be squatting under some overpass like the majority of the mentally ill in Seattle seem to do.

But the other day I saw four teenage boys descend on the place. They were probably only looking for someplace out of the rain to smoke weed. They went into the dark building and disappeared. This rousted shield man from his shed, and he started patrolling the perimeter of the property, brandishing his pink shield. He paced back and forth, back and forth, for about 15 minutes. I was actually kind of scared for him, because these four young men could have easily taken him out if they wanted to, in spite of his protection, or perhaps because of it.

Finally the boys left the building and watched shield man pace for a minute or two. They were obviously thinking. I contemplated calling the police before someone got hurt, but they would have kicked shield man out of his shed, too, and he’d be a lot worse off. So I simply watched nervously. First sign of trouble I was going to get on the phone.

Finally the boys left, and shield man went to where they had been standing and indignantly tamped out their reefer butts. Clearly he has some form of pride of place. He then went back into his shed. Crisis averted.

I can’t even imagine what this man’s life is like. He’s all alone in his damp metal shed with only his shield to keep him company. But he’s doing the best he can. Aren’t we all? Or are we? We should be able to do better for men like him.

graffiti

[Image credit: thedirtfloor.com]

I Don’t Know Graffiti, but I Know What I Like

For some time now, ugly electrical boxes in certain parts of Jacksonville, Florida were being  painted by an anonymous artist who called himself Keith Haring’s Ghost. I always enjoyed coming across this delightful work. It brightened up things that were otherwise nothing but eyesores and places for people to glue advertisements.

Frankly, Jacksonville suffers from an appalling lack of public art, and that’s a shame. But it surprises me not at all. Art is something that you can’t control. It might express opinions that you don’t agree with. It refuses to conform. And in an ultra-conservative enclave like Jacksonville, that must be one terrifying concept. We can’t have artists going all willy nilly and acting all liberal, now, can we?

Case in point, the thought police have tracked down this artist, whose name turns out to be Kevin Southworth, and he has been arrested. He’s facing 5 years in jail and a $5,000.00 fine. I cannot believe that the city has nothing better to do than hound someone who wants nothing more than to bring beauty to our neighborhoods.

City of Jacksonville, shame on you.

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For More:

Video: Man arrested in graffiti art tribute

In depth article: Who’s Afrad of keith Haring’s Ghost?

Ljubljana, Slovenia: Here there be Dragons

Another delightful tourist destination that you rarely hear about is Ljubljana in the heart of Slovenia. I have no idea why. If for no other reason, it should be a part of your itinerary simply so that you can say Ljubljana. It rolls off the tongue in a whimsical way. (Listen to it here.)

Not only is the city absolutely gorgeous, here seen from the castle that looks down upon it,

Ljubljana

but its symbol is the dragon, so you are treated to dragon sculptures everywhere.

IMG_1398Some very obliging local students posed for us on the dragon bridge.

IMG_1399 - Cropped

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It’s also home to one of the coolest hostels I’ve ever stayed in, the Hostel Celica. A former prison, each cell was redesigned into cozy accommodations by a different artist, and they’re all unique, hip, funky, and cool. Here’s one.

Hostel Celica

 A university town, even the graffiti and unexpected art is well done!

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A river runs through the center of town, and that means that you get to feast your eyes on several pretty bridges as well. Here are two of the many.

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 And the architecture in this town is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

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  So if you get a chance to visit this charming city, do not pass it up!

I’m Going Slightly Mad

I’ve got another cold. I’m feverish, and I suspect I’m hallucinating, so I apologize in advance for whatever I write today. Combine that with the fact that I’ve been looking at a summary of the search terms that people have used to find my blog, and having quite a giggle over that. Why did the following search terms bring you to me, dear readers? I have no idea.

  • range rental of rant stable apt
  • coole account bilder psychedelisch
  • stupidity
  • the book something girl reality-based
  • walmart sucks the soul out of you

Okay, so I’m trying not to take the “stupidity” one personally. And on top of all of that, I just got through watching the movie Contagion. Don’t ask me why. But in it one of the characters says, “Blogging is not writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation. “

So…hallucinating…weird search terms….graffiti…are you following me? Probably not. But from that muddled mental soup I got the idea that it would be kind of fun to write a surreal paragraph that would bring me an unexpected readership. So here goes:

Nuclear war is the broccoli and cheese soup of the Elizabethan Era. Labradoodles often breed anarchy amongst Croatian Cosmonauts. The porcupines of Greenland are constantly mistaken for barbed wire handbags. The robots of Kuala Lumpur toil vigorously in the Martian vineyards. Classic mustangs carry swine flu in Tamar Braxton’s panties. Daylight savings time accosted Justin Timberlake in the Australian outback. Barack Obama eats boysenberry aspic on melba toast while doing the watusi in a frothy silk kimono.

And that’s all I have to say about that, Forrest Gump.

hallu (Credit: Wallpaperscraft.com)