[Note: I have corrected the following examples for misspellings, of which there are typically one every 6.4 words.]
Anthropologically, graffiti intrigues me. Where I’m from, it’s apt to be found primarily in bathrooms and to be heavily flavored with juvenility.
“Jerry Smith is a fag”
“Call Tracy for a good time; 555-3855”
You encounter the same puerile graffiti in Baltimore, but you also find comments of the sort oddly juxtaposed with ostensibly inspirational messages. You’re liable to see debates like the following:
“John 3:16; Jesus saves!!!”
“Be here at 4 August 20 for a blowjob”
(God forbid I should ever happen to notice that I’m on the crapper at the designated time.)
“I will pray for you all. Repent!”
“There is but one God and Muhammad is His prophet!”
And so on.
Yet with any city, there’s a gang component that manifests a severity I never encountered in the half-horse town I grew up in.
“BGF!! Fuck whitey!”
I may be a “whitey,” but I’m just here taking a dump.
And, of course, such edifying commentary is found in public places, not just bathroom stalls. There’s one I see that pops up in geographically disparate places: Radius. The tags bear a unique calligraphic style that leads to the conclusion that they’re the work of one individual.
Yet what if Radius was actually an upstart gang of math-oriented nerds? Their initiation would involve feats like memorizing pi to the 50th digit; justice would likely be meted out through compass stabbings.
Perhaps I will someday see the following exchange:
“All Radii are pussies! Slide rulers rule!”
“Fuck y’all! The Protractors.”
“Our sine is a beatdown with a graphing calculator. Go back to pre-calc.”
With my sociological interest in sub- and countercultures, not to mention my tendency to occasionally consort with badasses, it’s probably best I abandoned an Engineering degree my first semester in college. I’ve heard intellectual arguments between utilitarians and Kantians, between those who prefer Plato and philosophers more inclined to an Aristotelian perspective, but our discussions never degenerated into fisticuffs (or worse).
It’s just never been part of the equation.