This morning started off like any other Sunday I decided to go to our Williamsburg office, with two exceptions: one, we arrived before noon (a rarity for us on weekends), and two, when I veered a block off our usual path so that I could show Veken a graffiti mural on N10th Street a man walking a dog stopped to ask us if we have spray paint in our bags–we were carrying two tote bags filled with Perrier bottles, papers, books and sweaters.
He was aggressive in his tone but still Veken replied, “no.” He wasn’t convinced. He quickly became belligerent and acted like some vigilante who was endowed with the power to enforce the city’s insane graffiti laws. His tone peeved me off and I told him to mind his own fuckin’ business and keep walking.
The whole incident was a sad reminder about how angry people like him are just plain angry at graffiti. He yelled about being sick of seeing graffiti on the streets, though something tells me he doesn’t harbor the same level of animosity towards illegal corporate advertising.
Among the zanier things he ranted during our run in were accusations of being “degenerates” and not “being from here”and “invading his neighborhood”–he said we were probably from Ohio, LOL. Of course, he probably didn’t realize that “degenerate” was the exact term the Nazis used when persecuting modern art in 1930s Germany, but I’m sure that fact would’ve been lost on him.
I was fed up with his nonsense and I had nothing to be embarrassed about so I stood my ground and told him to get a life. This graffiti-hater then said he was calling the cops–to which Veken repled, “be my guest’–and he proceeded to fake call then snapped our photo with his camera phone. I decided to do the same (well, the photo part, who has time to wait for cops) and captured his image which I’ve posted on Flickr & here (pictured above). I would’ve loved to have waited for the police just to hear this crazy man explain that he thought his paranoid suspicions were enough to have us searched or arrested.
The venom he had for graffiti was borderline insane. He was quickly becoming unhinged and there was no getting through to him. I even tried to explain that I was an art critic and I enjoyed looking at this. He didn’t believe me, people with predetermined notions about people never do.
All I could think about when we walked away after our verbal confrontation were the artists who are persecuted by people like him. Perhaps these nuts wouldn’t feel so empowered if more of us who appreciate good graffiti and street art spoke up and explained it was our city too. What we really need to do is find ways for street art to coexist with the other visual elements of urban life without these type of flare ups.
One last thing buddy, I said it earlier today, but I want to say it again, “Fuck you.”