Clarion Alley In Waves

photo 2Graffiti is as old as civilization.  When the first man ape erected the first post or lintel or cairn or stone or wood totem, there was another ape man who long after the camp fire was out came along in the night and scratched h/i/s/er/t’s symbol for the utterance he or she identified with into that structure or approximation of excited male genitalia experiencing tumefaction and perhaps pointing at an enlarged female genitalia in order to lazily leave his or her or it’s mark on the struggle and edifice of another. And so was born art, the first depicted unsanctioned erection, and pre historic Banksy, the defacing of that said official art or waddle and daub structure with some statement, even if that statement was stupid and solipsistic and just a wee narcissistic.
photo 4And from that olde days to today, Graffiti has been an issue.  Regaled as the tool of the oppressive White Male Colonialist (when on ancient monuments such as the Temple of Dendur) and liberation, especially when White Male Art School Trained youth make it on other White Male property.  Graffiti has long been a sign of urban blight. In more recent times these marks are a sign of this or that struggle of Urban Youth, even if many scribbles or defacements are but tags to mark territory or otherwise are simple unsanctioned non-art-school decoration quickly made on surfaces because humans cannot smell their territory based on pee or the odor of certain buttocks.
photo 3I remember my first experience with graffiti art.  It was behind the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (AKA A&P).  The A&P was a food store in a strip of commercial development in our childhood suburbia.  This shop was accessed from the front by those riding in cars, however, the few walkers of suburbia, such as the homeless, elderly, those with no money, or the children of the… ahem… “community” would access the A&P from the short cut, a social path as the parks department would call it, that ran through some bushes and may or may not have been private land or that belonging to the village.  Bethatasitmay, we cut through this path on our way to and from the A&P with or without our parent’s permission as the situation unfolded.
photo 1(1)Behind this store Lori hung out with teenagers.  These teenagers were frightening beings and we could not for the life of us understand why Lori, a teenager but on occasion our minder when our parent was tulitque pro local ignota, so we liked her and did not see her as a …. teenager…
Anyhoo, these teens would choose to not be at home, not play with the other kids building forts in the woods or doing cool stuff… these teenagers gathered for reasons unknown to us next to dumpsters pushed up close to the A&P and filled with trash.  And that trash smell. Even on the long summer evenings when we would try to ride bikes long past the comings on of the street lights the teens would be there smoking and just standing in various groups. These teens waited close to the solid cement block wall that had upon it all manner of adornment and messages.  All graffiti. Markers. Spray paint. Paint paint. Ink. (This was long before those cut outs slapped on with wheat paste). Some messages were very decorative and hard to read. Others all too simple. My sibling and I were riding our bikes when we read (we were kids but knew how to read at a very young age), “Lori come on! My cock is getting stiff. Steve”  Maybe it wasn’t Lori.  Or Steve.  Maybe it was Sarah.  And Bob. Someone painted that message on a wall in larger than life letters. This was no mistaken scratching, someone had to plan this out. We did not know why but this message had to be written on the A&P but there it was. In shocking colour. We, at least I, imagined Mr. Steve’s cock was drying out from being outside his pants since we had some technical knowledge of the human condition but it was yet jumbled up and full of gaps.  Apart from this nasty message we knew was pure smut, there were other decorations. Some were rather complex and wonderful. We were in the final hours of the 1970s and caught the wreckage of the Age of Aquarius as well as teh Disco Generation. We got to see the last gasp of Hippie folk art. True American graffiti that was yet unstudied and raw. Just a couple of naked apes screwing up the vast and plentiful A&P giver of Entenmann’s Cheese Cakes with their drawings and pithy statements. What is life? Are we all that there is? Come on Lori, my cock is getting hard.  These decorations and messages changed all the time. Each time we kids stole down there there were new ones. I wish I appreciated the yet untrained eye of these “artists”, yes, they were white kids, who created all manner of images and decorations for the A&P wall most of which was inspired by too much Mary Jane, stiff cocks, and Styx albums or all three at once. Back then we kids were rather conservative. We hated graffiti back then. Now, decades later, as a property owner, I again hate it…
In time, we moved away from that suburb and the A&A was but a memory.  We may have changed our names, went in to a sort of witness protection program for reasons uncertain and still unknown.  Then, suddenly, one day we returned.  The place was transformed, but only in that subtle manner a true hood rat would know.  The little details that had changed.
photo 1It was in the late 1990s.  I think.  Maybe the early 1990s.  For old time sake Jimmy and I walked to the food store formerly known as the A&P.  The back way.  I noticed that the graffiti was degraded.  Forlorn examples of expression.  Gone were the attempts at art.  It was all just scribble scrabble and the usual dicks. Nevertheless, while local examples had become but those ape man scratchings on the tombs of olde, the art form of graffiti was now elevated and taught by many art schools.  There were buildings devoted to being scribbled on, this time with spray paint rather than a bear tooth, uncircumcised something, or sharpened something else.
photo 2(1)And as more A&P’s closed down as the world moved to more tag art, simple markings of gangs and unknown teens, there grew a moment of high end graffiti to the point where there are names, trends, schools, and well know dark alleyways dank with piss but otherwise museums or galleries where the marker can lay claim to bragging rights and C.V. builders, and grant makers, and foundation funded markings typically delivered by sprayed paint…
One of these places is Clarion Alley in San Francisco.  If you are ever in San Francisco you should visit this alley.  It is pretty.  I am not sure if any of the work was done by Steve.  Some of it deals with erections but in a more sophisticated manner.  And even today sometimes… I wonder whether Steve’s cock… all dried out or otherwise was nurtured by Lori.  Or Sarah.  Or whomever he was calling out to.  You can find his work out there I am sure.  With a little paint removal and some time.
You should really visit Clarion Alley. Or somewhere with nicer graffiti than behind the A&P.  Or perhaps the Temple of Dendur.  The penmanship in stone is rather amazaballs… even if just by Dead White Men.
photoEditor’s Note: The A&P pictured is neither in Selden, NY nor in San Francisco.  Since the company went bankrupt, it may not even exist anymore.

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