EUREKA! I have found it! A state motto with not one, but two exclamations points. A state motto with the added bonus of using such a fun word, EUREKA. A state motto for a place that I will soon call my own.
I compared the California motto with the one of my home, a year and a half ago when I began toying with the idea of taking the biggest leap of my life. That’s what one does when they are looking to move. They research state mottos, compare, and base their decision on which one has more pizazz. States who use exclamation points and words like EUREKA usually win.
Virtue, liberty, and independence, the Pennsylvania state motto, put me to sleep before I could even finish reading. They just added one extra word so they could be a little more edgy than their downstairs neighbor, Delaware. For twenty-four years, I have been living in a state with a motto that was equally unoriginal and uninspiring. EUREKA! I thought. I am leaving!
For the next year and a half, I lived in a world with one foot out the door. I was totally blind and completely directionless. I accessorized all life plans with question marks. I threw my resume into the LinkedIn abyss, refused to buy items in bulk, and started packing in February without even having an actual moving date.
In the midst of trying to get out of Philadelphia, I forgot to live in Philadelphia. I have four days, less than one hundred hours, left in this city I have called home for the past six years. I owe a terrible amount to this place, and feel awfully silly for taking a break in appreciating it.
Philadelphia was a community where I could think up the wildest things and watch them come to fruition and be greeted with support and applause. Philadelphia surrounded me with friends who lived in a place we affectionately called Great. Philadelphia gave me roommates who heard ice cream and always said yes. And Philadelphia really knew how to throw a hell of a good themed party.
Philadelphia is unbearably cold in the winter, ungodly hot in the summer. It’s the underdog. It’s ugly. It’s the butt of all jokes. But. It’s also magical. And I feel rather lucky for all the things I learned, all the people I met, all the ways I grew, because of it.
EUREKA! I have no idea what I actually hope to find, but I’m glad to be taking some virtue, liberty, and independence with me while I look for it.
Graffiti? Who cares? Everybody, apparently. Some people love it enough to donate time and resources to painting it. Some people hate it enough to donate time and resources to painting over it. Really the graffiti writer and the buffman (and it’s always a man) are more or less the same. They both make a mark on a wall that doesn’t belong to them, they don’t make it better or worse, just different. Writers are winning in that theirs is the mark of humanity that says “I’m here.” The buffers are losing because theirs is the folly of humanity—to try and sweep waves off the beach.
Graffiti in Philadelphia hasn’t changed much in 40 years, but the attitude of the public toward graffiti has changed in several ways since the halcyon days of Cornbread. First everybody loved it, then everybody got tired of it, then Mr. Blint and Razz and the class of 1980 made it cool again. By 1984, it was hated enough to get a guy who promised to get rid of it elected mayor. And that hate persisted all the way until after the National Guard came to Kensington and buffed walls in the run up to the Democratic National Convention—I think the entire city got buffed once and for all. And once graffiti was gone, people got nostalgic for it, and now in 2014 people like it again. The Mural Arts program has gotten fewer and fewer complaints about it over the years, and now my application of a medium to a surface, once hated, is now appreciated. Progress!
Jane Golden has been watching this change in attitudes as long as I have, and we’ve talked it through. In the 30 years since the Anti-Graffiti Network started, people have come to understand that graffiti is no big deal. All the walls got clean and it’s still easy to cop heroin and die in the street, proving the “broken windows” theory is broken.
On saturday a guy named Lee, misguided about graffiti and out of his mind, buffed the wall ICY SIGNS painted for Kurt Vile’s Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze record. Misguided because he thought our commissioned album design was responsible for the graffiti in the neighborhood. Out of his mind because he was using a crappy 1/4 inch nap roller and interior paint. ICY SIGNS recommends 3/4 inch nap and KILZ exterior primer/sealer.
Lee got caught mid-buff, and was washed out by a wave of internet indignation that was hilarious to me and every other writer I know, past and present. None of us can believe anybody gives a care about spraypaint on a wall. As I’ve been telling the buffman since the 80s, graffiti isn’t permanent—the sun is going to take care of it, eventually, and sooner than you think. So, buffman, go solve a real problem, how about shutting down the open air drug market a mile away? Too hard? Tell me about it, you know how long it took me to get a good hand style?
When we first painted the wall, we left the tags that were already on the wall when we started. I thought they were kids from the neighborhood and I wanted to leave them up and make them part of the design. I painted the lower half of the wall as fast and as fun as I could, with the same joy as I painted graffiti when I was 17 and free as I will ever be. Turns out the kids were from Baltimore, but a few Philadelphians snuck prints onto the wall and consequently onto Kurt’s album and in doing so returned graffiti to its rightful place on the Philadelphia cultural landscape, dead center where it doesn’t belong.
We’ll fix the wall, it will be better than it was in the first place (it’s ALWAYS better the second time). Lee the buffman is retired, now he’s Lee Major Crimes Unit. We forgive Lee, we don’t want anybody in trouble for painting a wall. And graffiti will come and go as it has since the caves in Lascaux. Let’s all go back to not caring too much either way.
I spent the weekend finishing the painting for our next print, which of course speaks implicitly and explicitly to the situation at hand, you know how I do. We are taking orders for this 24” x 24” hand pulled screen print on 334 gram Coventry Rag paper. It will be a signed and numbered edition of 50 in black and coral (or Chanel peach, whatever looks better). It’s $200 plus shipping, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your location and we’ll send a Paypal invoice. Proceeds go to spray paint and loosies from the corner store on Front Street, buy now, we’ll ship on July 14. Oh the painting is on hold, but thanks for asking.