by John Bigelow
Graffiti! It is, without question, a national eyesore. But then, much of what we watch on television and see on billboards could very well fit right in there with graffiti. I’m bothered more, however, by the free-lance kind of graffiti, the stuff spray painted on buildings, bridges, railroad cars and I probably should add Facebook as well.
Because in our modern, computer driven society we seem to reduce everything to its lowest common statistic, I’ve done some exhaustive research and come up with some stats that should get me a university grant or, at the very least, a job as a federal government consultant. I’m waiting for a call from CNN as what I’ve discovered is some pretty heady stuff. What follows are some of my thoroughly researched and astounding discoveries.
96% of all graffitors (I invented this word as somehow, artists doesn’t seem to me to fit) are lame-brained, empty-headed and thoughtless. 1.6% are lame-brained, empty-headed and thoughtless philosophers. 1.2% are lame-brained, empty-headed and thoughtless want-to-be artists while the remaining .89% are lame-brained, empty-headed and thoughtless poets.
Additional research uncovered that 88.5% can’t spell, 17% defy death while hanging on railroad bridges, 34.6% defy death while graffiting (yup, I made this word up too) highway overpasses and 26% defy death or serious injury defacing scenic cliffs.
87% are insomniacs who do their work to pass away sleepless hours. It remains unsure, however, whether the 73% who are public toilet stall authors are constipated or suffering from a bad case of diarrhea. We do know they are not reading USA Today, and that while engaged in their graffiting, 4.3% miss their plane and 6.1% miss their train.
Of all the graffiti I have seen in my travels very little stands out enough to be remembered. On reflection, however, there was a place in Greenwich Village called the Ninth Circle, that was known for its intellectual graffiti as well as a scattering of really great poetry, however, I can only remember its fantastic hamburgers and nothing I had found written in the men’s restroom stalls.
On a railroad bridge in Bethel, Connecticut a graffitor once proclaimed that “Jimmie Hendrix lives.”
A wonderful southern humorist once made the comment that “Elvis Is Dead and I’m Not Feeling So Good Myself” but he had the good sense to put it on the cover of a very funny book. Unfortunately he has since joined both Jimmy and Elvis.
A hand painted message scrawled on an abandoned building near the Texas-Mexican border proclaimed “Poncho Lives!” I later found out that this “Poncho” was one Poncho O’Brian who owned and ran the only bar in a 130 mile radius and consequently probably deserved to “live” and be remembered.
The one really memorable piece of graffiti I have ever seen was on the back of a CAUTION-STOP SIGN AHEAD sign on Lordship Point in Stratford, Connecticut. Going east, toward Bridgeport one rainy night, my headlights, for just the briefest of moments illuminated the words “JANE YOU LIED.” Perhaps for just a couple of seconds this message was visible as I passed, and though it’s been well over fifty years since I saw that message, I’m still haunted by those plaintive words.
Who was Jane? What did she lie about? To whom did she tell this lie? Was it even, in fact, a lie? If it was, was she ever forgiven? If not did the author get over Jane? If forgiven did they make up, get married, have children, live in a big fancy house and have separate careers at IBM until their divorce?
Whoever wrote these words was a true poet. Lame-brained, empty-headed, heart-broken, and thoughtless yes, but a true poet. As long as I live I shall wonder about the passion that drove him to paint that message to Jane. It certainly was shorter that the message in a bottle.
A thousand times I’ve tried to picture her in my mind. I’ve created scenario after scenario, yet she still remains as mysterious an enigma as the Mona Lisa smile. I must admit now, in all honesty, that I never really want to know the truth about her, as that would end forever my dreaming and wondering which continues to haunt me through the mists of time.
So here’s to Jane, whoever she was, and to the lame-brained, empty-headed, heart-broken and thoughtless poet who gave her to me.