My friends and I were drinking forties at a park by my house when we decided it was time for me to hit my first billboard burner. I’d been doing graffiti for about a year, busting tags across my city with racked markers from Michaels, spray cans from OSH, and custom made, multi-colored mean streaks my friends and I constructed while chain-smoking Kools we bought by the carton from a dude named Wino Juan. My other two boys had already broken their billboard cherries—now it was time for me to get down.
“I say you hit that plastic surgery board off Capitol, towards Milpitas. There’s little to no lighting, and cops patrol less on the edges of the city,” Blend told me and my boy, Giant. He was the seasoned graff artist in our crew, KILL THAT NOISE, or K-10 for short, so we usually followed his lead. He was also the most talented. His older brother went All City a decade ago, and he taught Blend everything about graff: how to 3d and shade, how to one-line and throwie, how to rack supplies and mix streaks. Blend was busting tags on the benches of our elementary school while I was still drawing Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers.
“Na man, Capitol is hot right now. That cat from tops, M4ker, got caught up there a few weeks ago. His first time needs to be in the cuts. Dude will get spooked every-time a car passes. He might fall off like Just-us did,” Giant laughed and nudged me.
“That shit’s not funny. That dude broke his tailbone” I said.
“Ah, fuck that fool. He crossed me out at Hellyer,” Giant said
“HAHA, that was hella long ago,” Blend said.
“I don’t give a fuck how long ago that shit was. He’s lucky I never ran into him. Dude would’ve gotten smashed. I’m glad that shit happened to him. Aaand he was crossing out another dude on that board. Karmas a bitch.” Giant responded half angry. He was always ready to funk. He liked to fight more than paint, but he was just that type of dude. His entire family banged, and despite him not clicking up with the gang, he still sometimes acted like he was a banger, instead of an artist.
“Calmate fool, you take shit too serious…but he kinda did get what he deserved. Could’ve been worse, though—he could’ve busted his ass, then get busted by rollers, then get his ass busted in county,” Blend said with a snicker, causing Giant and I to crack-up.
“That’s fucked up, yo,” I said, still laughing.
“You got a spot in mind, Abel?” Blend asked me. “Giant’s probably right. It should be a board in the cuts. How bout one in Morgan Hill or Gilroy? I know there’s some on Monterey, and Morgan hill don’t got shit for cops.”
“The fuck, how would we get there? I asked. “There’s no bus stop out that way, and we can’t trek out there. Three dudes wearing back-packs and hoodies walking down the shoulder of Monterey–the fuck outta-here with all that jazz. And I’m not trying to hit up some farmer’s board. You know the rules.”
The three of us created our own graffiti code of conduct. One of the rules was that we couldn’t hit up signs or walls or anything that causes private businesses to lose money; except for ones we didn’t like: the plastic surgery board, for example, or advertisements for lawyers or fast-food or anything political—basically things we felt were detrimental to society. The code made sense at the time, but we didn’t figure in the tax money spent on cleaning up graffiti, and the indirect impact that had on people we tried not to affect. We also never tagged on playgrounds, or anything kids had direct contact with.
“I could hit up Lexus. She’d be down to drive us out there,” Giant said. “She’s been on my dick since Sum1’s party.”
“Ya wey, you and your groupies,” Blend said. “Sometimes I think you only paint for pussy and funk.”
There was an abundance of graff groupies, as we called them, that orbited around the scene. Girls who’d fuck you just because they could say they did with a cat that caught city fame. Blend and I didn’t fuck around with these girls–too many of them were shady and/or annoying–but Giant partook liberally. He had a Myspace account dedicated to girls he’d fucked, and dozens of half-naked pics with his tags on their bodies.
“You guys are gay,” Giant laughed. “I can hit up Lexus, have her drive us out there, throw up, then we could go back to her pad and take turns fucking her.” he said, absolutely serious with the proposition.
“Fuck that,” I said. “That girl’s fucked half of San Jose. I’m not trying to catch herps.”
“Ditto,” Blend said. “But I’m down to have her drive us. Does she know about the crew?”
San Jose had recently changed its Graffiti Laws. Crews now caught gang charges if there was three or more cats in it, and recently a kid new to the scene got caught up with a black-book, and snitched out dozens of cats from a bunch of crews. Some of the artists caught charges that put them up in Elmwood for six months and thousands of dollars in restitution fees, just for graff, so the scene was real hush hush about crews, not talking about them in the vicinity of civilians. We were only known by our individual names to reduce the likelihood of catching heavy charges. Blend had already been caught up once, but with his old name, Jest, getting him two-hundred hours of community service and a five-thousand dollar fine that his grandma was still paying off.
“Na man, she doesn’t know shit. I think she still thinks I’m Mad1,” Giant snickered.
“Cool, hit her up,” Blend said.
While Giant called his beezy, Blend and I planned the bomb.
“What are trying to bust?” Blend asked. “It’s your first billie, so you should probably bust a throwie you’ve done before. That one you did at Hellyer earlier today was clean and simple. It would only take a few minutes to do the whole deed. Fifteen seconds to climb up, and a minute, tops, to bust your shit.”
“Na, I think I want to do something new. I’ve been doing that throwie for the last few months. It’s old and boring. I’ve been working on a nu-mark,” I said while breaking out my mini black-book.
“Yoooo, that’s fresh,” Blend said after grabbing my book and peeping my new pieces. “Look at you all stylin and shit. No lie, this is the best I’ve seen from you. You’ve really come up, man.”
“Thanks bro. Not to ride my own jock, but I think it’s on point with your shit.”
Whoaaa tiger, calm down. It’s dope, but I’m grey death,” Blend responded with a phrase I think he just made up.
“Alright, it might not be on the level of ‘Blend‘,” I said mockingly, with air quotations.
“HA HA,” Blend responded straight-faced.
“I play, I play,” I snickered. “Alright, what cans did you bring?”
“I got two white and two black Rustos, and one brand fucking new red Montana.”
“Ayeee I haven’t used a Montana before,” I said excitedly. “Let me see that shit.”
Rusto was a good graff spray can, but Montana was top shelf shit—aerosol created solely for graff. Regular cans you’d toss after using them up, but you always kept Montanas. They’re the graffiti equivalent to trophies. Blend had dozens lining every flat surface in his room.
“Cool, so white fill, black outline, with a Montana stamp?” Blend asked rhetorically. “You got the initial outline in white, I follow behind you with the white fill, you come back around with black outline, I clean up any light spots with white, then you finish with the dirty, Montana red stamp.”
“Fuck yea,” I responded as Giant got off the phone with Lexus.
“Yoooo, she’ll be here in twenty,” Giant said. “And she wanted me to tell you, Abel, that’s she’s already wet.”
End of part-one.
Somehow I woke up today, after sleeping ten hours, oddly refreshed, considering my three day drug and alcohol binge. I feel fantastic and inspired and creative, hopefully it continues. I plan on being happy for the next few days. My sister made a surprise trip out to see me, and she’s bringing my niece, so that should extend my good mood, at least until they leave. I’m going to go have sushi with them, maybe catch a flick, but I’m going to finish up this story tonight or tomorrow. The title’s tentative—I couldn’t think of another one, but something will come to my mind as I work on part two.