Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Top 5 Totally Uncool Things About My 'hood - The Final in a Series

#1 – Tagging

Why do they do this?

Is it for the same reason Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson release a personal porn tape? Do they need the notoriety?

Or is it the same reason dogs do their business on trees? Are they just marking territory?

And what’s with this tag?

Who are the 90026 Blax? Does that refer to African-Americans living in the 90026 zip code? Or the stage crew of an Echo Park theatre company?

If the latter, maybe I know the taggers. If the former, then I think it's a frame-up. There aren’t many black people living in the 90026, certainly not enough to form a gang. The few I’ve seen were definitely not the type of people who spray paint walls.

Degrees of tagging vary – from this most egregious example . . .

. . . to this girly example, done in pink chalk.

This girl (I’m only guessing it was done by a girl) spread her message down my street and around the corner. One bit of this graffito appeared on my neighbor’s retaining wall, which I washed off with soap and water. Another appeared on the wall of the 7-11 around the corner. That one I left in place.

This is a more aggressive example at the 7-11:

This one I don't get. Surely, there's no glory in tagging a 7-11.

It’s getting better though. Tags used to appear on my retaining wall on a regular basis. K and I would paint them out as soon as we could. Sometimes, a couple of days would pass before we could get to it, but we did our best to get to them as soon as possible. We’ve noticed that the taggers seldom target us anymore. It still happens once in a while, but rarely.

I don’t know who does the tagging. My guess is that in my own 'hood most of it is not the work of organized gangs. I think it’s just kids who like to paint stuff. I caught a pair of boys in the act one afternoon. In the middle of the day, they decided to defile the big white wall on the house down the street. I yelled at them; they kind of scoffed at me but they stopped their vandalism and went on their way. The next week, a woman in another neighborhood was shot and killed for stopping some taggers in action. But that was a totally different 'hood.

Like littering, tagging is an act committed by those who feel they have no investment in the community and no responsibility toward the neighborhood. But tagging is a much more aggressive act, a much more conscious act. Littering is simply laziness, negligence. It is done without thinking, without premeditation. Tagging is always intentional, always premeditated.

School boys aside, maybe taggers tag because they do have an investment. Maybe it’s just an investment that the dominant culture doesn’t recognize.

But from our side of the fence, it’s such a stupid act isn’t it? It’s really the human equivalent of marking territory. What if I went around putting my tag on other people’s houses?

How totally uncool would that be?


Christopher Busta-Peck said...

Argh. If someone ever tagged my house, I'd hunt them down ... and make them remove every bit of the paint from my house, with a dental pick, if necessary.

I have this fantasy that involves tagging the cars of taggers with my own tag. I don't see it happening, though.

As for your ideas about tagging the White House, I don't think they're very original - why do you think they have to keep it covered with so many layers of white paint?

Why S? said...

Christopher, I share your desire for vigilante justice, but I don't think the taboo against tagging cars is one you want to open up. I'm impressed that personal autos are still respected. Not U-Hauls, though. If you ever rent a U-Haul here, be sure to get the insurance. It WILL be tagged.