Friday, December 01, 2006

The death of subtlety in the city of big shoulders

Chicago is not a subtle town. Not a whole lot of nuance. People from Chicago don't tend to have hidden meanings when they talk about things, choosing instead to blather earnestly about sports teams and sausage.

Our mayor is a good example. He gets all kinds of frustrated when asked questions about his motives or the nuances of his thinking. Upon leaving a controversial meeting at what was perceived to be a critical juncture, it was revealed that he departed not in protest of the speaker, but because he "had to take a leak." That's why he's probably always going to be our mayor, until he dies, at which point we'll probably dally with some other folk before giving up on the whole idea and simply electing his son.

So it is no surprise that, when the time came to ring in December, Chicago took the obvious route and laid out a sheet of snow. So virtually overnight we went from autumn to wintry. The temperature had been hovering in the 60s for several days, and has now plummeted into the 20s and 30s. (For British readers, take these numbers and convert them into something more...centigrade-y? Centigradary? Centigracious?)

They told us this weather was coming, so yesterday I ran over to the store to get some food in case it was bad enough to make me want to stay indoors for a couple of days. I loaded my cart with convenience foods (they didn't have a lot of other kinds of food). I even, with apologies to Julia Buckley, bought some ice cream, in spite of what ice cream apparently does to her precious vegetarian food. In my defense, this particular store doesn't carry much vegetarian fare at any time of year. Back when I was veggie, I never would have shopped there at all.

When I went out to my car to head to the store, I discovered that someone had apparently decided that vandalism and my car should be featured more regularly on my blog: someone had tagged my car with a marker. My guess in this instance is that it someone from a former Soviet republic, as there are no vowels. Or a doctor with the initials S.K. who cannot afford proper business cards.

My first apartment in the city featured a tag on the back door, which led out onto a wooden fire escape thing. The tag featured a cartoon cat extending its middle finger with a caption encouraging the reader to do something to themselves which is, um, very difficult to accomplish. I'll admit that this graffiti probably had something to do with my decision to rent the apartment in the first place (yes, it was on the door when they were showing the apartment to prospective tenants).

This instance, however, makes me a bit sad. I drive this car to work and such (when I work) and I wish they'd done it in a less conspicuous spot. Now I am faced with either repainting my car, or leaving it there forever. And let's face it: I'm not likely to repaint a fourteen-year-old station wagon.

Maybe I can play it off like it's a greeting I picked up from a Tourette's patient. "Drsk!" I'll yell cheerfully when I encounter someone.

There is no personality to the tag, no originality, no verve. It isn't even really a tag. My logo for the blog seems more authentically "street." This looks like a marking they might make with a soap pen as the car is being shuttled off for auction or something. "Deflated Right Side Tire," maybe, which is true enough. Scribbled by an uncaring hand who has to mark 3,000 other cars during his shift.

If you're going to deface my property, is it too much to ask that you put some time and thought into it? Craft a message, use some color. Wow me. Taggers used to care about the art. If you cannot muster this sort of feeling, give some thought to maybe not writing on my car. Or at least take a vacation, recharge tha batteries a bit before you do. Try to rekindle what it was that made you love tagging things in the first place.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the lackluster nature of modern vandalism. As I've already said, Chicago is not a city of subtlety.


Anonymous said...

Wow, sorry that your car got tagged. That sucks dude. Maybe we can paint the Moon Topples logo over it. Of course, that would only encourage other taggers to add on to your car.

As to the style of the tag, it looks more like pichacao, the Brazilian style of graffiti. No real artwork, just simple letters forms. Did you notice any Brazilian youths hanging out in a nearby alley as you walked into the market? If so, it was probably them.

No worries, the thick blanket of snow should hide the graffiti on your car for a while.

The Moon Topples said...

I think we should put the MT logo on there. It may encourage taggers, but maybe it'll also encourage them to add some personality. Thanks again for the logo design by the way.

How on earth would I know if they were Brazilian? I didn't spot anyone dressed for Carnivale, if that's what you meant. Or carrying around a Brazilian flag for that matter.

This happened in the alley where I park, and I did not see anyone suspicious, but I hadn't been out there a whole lot recently.

Anonymous said...

That is almost certainly both Brazilian in origin and an acronym for a subgroup of the Latin Kings. Unless you like the idea of someone randomly unloading weapons into your car, you might wanna just splash something over it temporarily until you decide what to do.

CC2383 said...

Just use some white shoe polish to cover it up, or get gawdy or humorless sticker to put over it. Or pretend to be an evil dentist... is an actual website for a dentist in Iran.

Here is a link to an interesting grafiti artist. Some of this stuff is quite profound. When I tried to go to this link it said it was down for maintance, but if you google Bansky you can see some of his pictures.

The Moon Topples said...


A Google search turns up results featuring Latin Kings and my neighborhood, draining pretty much all of the fun from this post.

So, yeah: I guess I am gonna have to cover it with something.

Anybody know if Earl Scheib will still paint any car for just $99.95?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be a buzzkill, but better upsetting news than swiss cheese brother.

And as for Earl Scheib, I dunno. I suppose you could put stickers over it in the meanwhile. :)

The Moon Topples said...

I have been looking for a place for my "My other car is a Latin King" bumper sticker. that or "Don't shoot: it's paid for."

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking you need to look at this as an opportunity. A challenge, if you will - not unlike your London Challenge, which was such a smashing success.

Let your readers take the picture you posted of your tagged car, and work a little magic. Let people take the artist's original work, and create something more FUN! ...or at least, a little less gang-y. Whichever you like best, you can print, walk out to your car with a Sharpie® and ...well ...turn that frown UPSIDE-DOWN!

I'm emailing you a quickie I came up with. Hope you like it!

Drsk ...I mean...


The Moon Topples said...

Dirk: don't think I failed to notice the similarity to your handle. It's basically your name, as pronounced by Popeye.

I'd have to check to be sure, but weren't you the only one to officially enter the London Challenge? Smashing success.

He Who Does Not Subscribe said...


Okay, a couple of bottles of White Out (or Liquid Paper, if you prefer, Mrs. Nesmith) and you'll be as good as new. Our boss here at the studio said he would gladly supply a few bottles. He is free and easy wih the cash, as you know.

A white station wagon? Good god, man, do you wear sweatpants as well?

Liz Dwyer said...

You are so right...tagging ain't what it used to be. Go over to Jewel and get one of those magic eraser things. It got black sharpie off a wall in my'll work on your car.

Or you could move to LA, where folks don't tag your car...they'll just flat out steal it. :)

The Moon Topples said...

HWDNS: I have, in fact, almost never worn sweatpants in my life. I'm not sure I understand the correlation.

And you've been in my car. I don't recall you bitching about it when you needed a lift to Taco Bell, you ungrateful bastard.

Liz: Magic eraser is a brilliant idea, and I therefore would probably never have occurred to me. I was actually trying to figure out if I could afford a paint job, or if I had a big enough sticker.

Not sure I'm gonna move to LA, though. I don't think I'd like living any place where they would actually steal a station wagon which doesn't run very well and which, if it were a person, would be in 6th or 7th grade.

Are there no perks left for hanging on to my crappy old car?

Sebastien Millon said...

Didn't know you lived in Chicago! My favorite city, cept for the weather... I was sad I had to leave it.

Sorry about your car, I like the idea that maybe a doctor left his calling card on your car.

The Moon Topples said...

Picking up some "magic eraser" today. Hope that'll be the end of it.

Sebastien: Yup. I live in the Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders, the Second City, Chi-town or whatever else you want to call it. I like it, too, except for the weather sometimes, and the crime rate being slightly higher than I'd like.