Monthly Archives: March 2017

Catch a Tagger by His Trail

Tagger 2Spray painted graffiti really bothers me.  I consider it to be vandalism, as I’m sure most people do.  I certainly don’t think of it as art, unless, maybe,  I were to commission it to be painted on my fence, which is highly unlikely.  KRQE in Albuquerque reported on March 22, 2016 that graffiti cleanup was increasing across the city, upwards of 20 cleanups per day.  The city has 15 crews searching for illegal tagging and an app where you can report incidents of tagging for cleanup.  The station reported that graffiti cleanup in Albuquerque costs the city an estimated $1.3 million per year.  WTF.

This story appeared on my old blog on Monday, September 22, 2008.  Thought I would post it again because it never appeared on “What the Fluffy.”  I was living in Reno, NV at the time…..

 A neighbor on the corner has a long, whitewashed, six-foot picket fence, which is a blank canvas too hard to pass up to a few wanna-be graffiti artists. The fact that we call them “artists” doesn’t sit well with me anyway, but I call them wanna-bees because they just aren’t up to the “standards” of a real graffiti artisan. What I don’t get is why the guy keeps painting over the graffiti fence, and then two to three days later, the tagger strikes again on a fresh canvas. I think I’d be sitting in wait for them with a shot-gun loaded with rock salt.

I remember Johnny Mayer got a full load of salt in his ass when he was trying to steal a watermelon from Mr. Beachum’s field. According to the story, it hurt like hell, and he never went into Beachum’s field again. The truth is, the only thing that probably happened to Johnny was Mr. Beachum scared the shit out of him. The barbed-wire fence where he left most of the seat of his pants hanging, probably did more damage then even a close-up load of rock salt. But I saw the scars when I was a kid, so I’ve always thought it might be a good non-lethal way to catch the little sons-a-bitches in the dark with their spray cans. Might just make them think twice next time…and you’ll probably get sued.

And another thing; I believe The Home Depot advertises that they can match any paint color exactly, so why do all these paint-overs look worse than the original graffiti? There is also a product I know of, called Graffiti-Melt. Once it’s applied to a surface, graffiti won’t stick. It’s sold as a sacrificial product that you can just use a hose to clean the graffiti off then reapply, or as a surface cleaner that quickly removes the graffiti with just a pressure washer, thus the “melt” part of the name. It’s low-odor, non-toxic, and biodegradable. Sounds like just the ticket to me. That would save a whole lot of trouble for that neighbor down the street.

I don’t sell Graffiti Melt, but I’ll bet they sell it around here somewhere, because we get our share of tagging. How they get on those big signs over the interstate, with no one seeing them, is beyond me though. It might be fun to pick them off with our salt-loaded shotguns as we’re driving by swillin’ our beers.

“I think I nicked that one, Jake.”

Tagger 1

I remember seeing a diagram of a tagger and how to spot them in the newspaper when I was living in Tucson. What to do about them after I spotted one, seemed to be the problem. That’s why I always thought lying in wait with a shotgun was a good idea. However, after discovering the actual effects of a salt-filled shell, I’m favoring the “melting” process. I mean, if you have a wall, and I’ve seen several around me, that seem to get hit on a regular basis, let’s look for some alternatives besides whatever paint is left over in the garage. Trust me, it looks worse than the graffiti art to have 50 feet of multi-colored fence on the street-side of your house.

In Arizona, and I’m sure most states now, you have to be 16 or 18 (I can’t remember) to buy spray paint. Although the law was probably put into effect so that the delinquents wouldn’t sniff the stuff, the intent was also to keep the main tool of the tagger off the street. Takes too long to use a brush and can, I guess. The law, as most, doesn’t work though, and it only aggravates those of us who need to buy a can of spray paint that is now in a locked case. You have to find the clerk, usually difficult if you’re not looking for one, and get them to open the case, stand there while you make a selection, and then lock it up again. And, of course, there are the stores, that, tired of the locking and unlocking, have taken to leaving it unlocked. Surprisingly you don’t have to answer a questionnaire about what you intend to do with the stuff.

I buy a lot of clear-coat spray paint, and I amuse myself by telling the clerk, and then the check-out person, that I am going to spray some graffiti on my neighbor’s fence with it. That never gets the laugh I’m expecting. Doesn’t it seem ridiculous to lock up clear spray paint? I guess it has the same hallucinogenic effects as the colored version though, but less likely to be in the backpack of a tagger in my mind.  I buy it on line from Amazon now and they ship it right to my house, no questions asked.

I heard somewhere that they actually had a graffiti art exhibit in New York or somewhere, in the 80s. I wonder how they got those walls, train cars, semi-trailers, street signs, and fences into the art gallery?

Although I’m sure you have seen some pretty impressive graffiti, the majority of it is marking territory and just plain vandalism. One of the things they discovered in Tucson was that if you had a mural painted on the side of a building the taggers would respect the art and not deface it. There are a lot of murals in South Tucson, and I never saw one that was sprayed over with the initials, nickname, or symbol of some idiot who wants to see his name in print on what amounts to a billboard.

My favorite graffiti was the large white letters on the highway, both directions, that I would see every day on my commute to and from work. Sprayed on the pavement, like a “stop ahead” or turn arrow, was:
is a

Read properly from bottom to top as if you are driving across it. I imagine painstakingly painted, in the wee hours of the morning to avoid the oncoming cars, by the unfortunate x-boyfriend of Becky. Like I said, it was in both lanes, so you got the sentiment coming or going. It had to have taken some time to accomplish, especially in the dark.

My most recent exposure to the tagger’s art, was done by a young man by the name of Connor Burton, aged six going on seven. During his August visit to his grandfather’s fifth-wheel at the lake, in the pristine mountains of the Sierra Nevada, young Connor chose to leave his mark.

Tagger Rock

This is the actual rock prior to the tagging.

I didn’t discover it right away. It was on a big flat-faced rock at the base of the campsite. Seen easily from the road by passersby, but generally hidden to me standing at the top of the hill. Three or four weeks after the tagger left the area, I was walking up the path when I saw clearly the name “Connor Burton” emblazoned on the rock face. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Like I said, it had been there a few weeks and the biodegradable “paint” (I assume charcoal from the campfire.) was still holding up fine. Had I caught him in the act, I think a shot in the butt with some rock salt might have served him well. Maybe it’s harder to catch a tagger than I thought.

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The “Hamsterslaughter” of Speedy

Not “Speedy” but isn’t he cute?

The crime of manslaughter is when you kill another human being without malice aforethought, which is just a fancy way of saying you didn’t spend any time planning to do it.  If you spend any time at all planning to kill someone, then you’re up for a degree of murder, like first or second.  You will most likely be guilty of manslaughter, and likely convicted of it, if you kill someone, say, by running them over with your car.  If you kill a hamster, accidentally, you won’t be guilty of manslaughter, because there is no crime of “hamsterslaughter”.  Killing a hamster can have long-lasting and far-reaching effects though.

I can still hear the crack of the little rodent’s neck as it snapped under the full weight of my teenage foot.  He didn’t feel a thing.  My older sister, seventeen at the time, had been playing with the hamster in the doorway of the kitchen.  I had simply stepped over her leg blocking the entry, and came right down on the scurrying critter.  Death was instantaneous, as was hysterical screaming from the person sitting in the doorway that was entrusted to its care.  In her defense, she tried gallantly to grab Speedy before my foot landed on his head, but he was too fast for her, but not for my foot.  In my defense, I had no idea what the hell she was doing sitting across the doorway and was aggravated that I had to step over her to get into the kitchen in the first place.  I have no idea why I was going to the kitchen, but motive isn’t necessary for my defense in this case.

I can still hear her screaming at me, and then crying as she held the mangled hamster corpse up, hoping somehow my all too accurate step hadn’t been fatal.  I didn’t know what to say, so I berated her for playing with the damn thing in the middle of a doorway.  How stupid could she be?  How could his death be my fault?  I clearly had no intention of stepping on it, thus there was not a scintilla of malice aforethought.  The real problem was, the hamster belonged to my younger brother, and he was right fond of it.  He wasn’t anywhere around when it happened.  He was outside playing, I guess.  And to make matters worse, the sister in the doorway, didn’t exactly have permission to be playing with it.

The plan formed quickly.  Hamsters all look-alike don’t they?  We could run interference for a time, keep the kid busy, until we could run down to Woolworth’s and get a replacement hamster.  We stick him in the cage and no one, particularly little brother, is none the wiser.  Big sister was off and I headed out back to find Speedy’s owner.  The deceased was unceremoniously put in a shoe box, and I put him out in the garage for later burial.

Not Speedy either. Speedy is dead, but he looked like this I think.

Big sister returned in short order with a replacement hamster that looked to me like it could be Speedy’s twin brother.  Although it’s difficult to determine the sex of a fluffy dwarf hamster, the Woolworth’s clerk, who sold her the thing, said he was a boy.  Yeah, I know, check between his little legs but that’s not easy either, and this guy wouldn’t let us do it.  It was also a fluffy hamster so their equipment can be largely hidden.  She put him in the cage and we went back to our usual routines.  Little brother had no idea what had transpired.

When he went to get his hamster after dinner, we mulled around to see if he would notice anything.  He looked into the cage at the replacement hamster and didn’t seem to realize it wasn’t the same one he had left in there the day before.  He put his hand in the cage to get Speedy II, and the critter proceeded to try and snap off his finger.  The original Speedy did not bite or, at least, had never bitten him before.  Speedy II was a carnivore.

I don’t know to this day why we contrived to replace the stepped on Speedy with the new hamster.  Guilt maybe.  Maybe we didn’t want to upset my little brother for something we had not wanted to happen in the first place.  Maybe we just didn’t want to answer for the crime.

And why did this come up in my conscious mind again after 49 years?  Because I still feel bad about it.  My brother claimed over the years that he knew it wasn’t the same hamster right away, but he never said anything.  Needless to say, he didn’t have the same relationship with Speedy II that he had with Speedy, and I have no idea what ever happened to the little rodent; probably died.  They don’t have the longest of life spans; staying alive, without being stepped on, for maybe three years.  Little brother probably remembers.

Another more sinister  hamster death occurred in Tucson, Arizona, in the frigid closet of my youngest daughter.  She was clearly guilty of “Hamstercide.”  The little rodent had a habit of running in his hamster wheel in the middle of the night.  Hamsters are nocturnal animals.  They are awake in the dark, not so much during the day.  So running in his exercise wheel was a natural thing for him to be doing at 3 am, but the damn thing was noisy.

See, it’s night-time.

So when the daughter couldn’t sleep on a cold January night, she decided to put the hamster in her closet so she wouldn’t hear it.  That, in my mind, was malice aforethought.  When she was moving the cage in the dark, she spilled water out on wood chips in the bottom of the cage.  The hamster got wet, and in temperatures in the 20s, the little dude froze to death.  The closet didn’t get any heat when the door was closed.  Of course, we figured all of this out the next morning when she removed the hamster from the closet and noticed he wasn’t moving.  Like I always say, ignorance of the law is not a defense.  Good thing there are no laws against freezing hamsters to death.  I still call her a hamster murderer.  Takes one to know one.



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