Feathered Bastard

Graffiti on the Light Rail? Hey, I Told You So...

If these two were around today in P-town, the knuckledraggin' KTAR-types'd shoot 'em on sight: Keith Haring (above) and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Ah, let the provincialism roll like a mighty wave of something brown through our benighted Valley, where every time someone hacks a loogie or lets fly an air biscuit on the new Metro Light Rail, it makes the evening news. And so shall it be, ad nauseam: the first collision with a bluehair, the first time a rail-snoozing inebriate gets decapitated, the first case of public groping, that long-awaited first flashing, all of it, recorded for posterity by the local Fourth Estate.

(Actually, allow me to suggest some ASU frat, or better yet, a sorority, streak all the way -- via light rail -- from Tempe to downtown Phoenix. At least we could go ahead and get that one out of the way.)

That's why, by the time I finish typing this blog out, every news outlet in Maricopa County will have reported on the light rail's first case of graffiti. I think KTAR caught the fly ball first. Alas there are no gritty details other than Valley Metro doesn't know where along the line it was painted or who did it. It was discovered, according to KTAR, during a routine inspection.

(Psst. Send me your choo-choo flix, ye bombers, taggers, and piecers. If they're any good, I'll post 'em. Heck, you might be the next Haring, Basquiat, or TOOMER.)

A no-doubt well-paid spokeswoman for Metro Light Rail, one Hillary Foose, promises that a pound of flesh will be extracted from the guilty.

"Violators are prosecuted to fullest extent of the law," Ms. Foose told KTAR. "So we take it very seriously and will not come lightly on this issue."

Indeed, KTAR's redneck commenters, true to the station's yahoo mentality, are suggesting that taggers be shot on sight or be dipped in barrels of blue ink. They're also blaming it all on "the messycans," though no one knows the ethnicity of the vandals involved. The coppers are reviewing hours and hours of footage hoping for a glimpse. Maybe, whoever it was, had his (or her) ninja suit on.

If you'll recall,  I told you so on this one, and not too long ago. In a recent blog, I suggested that the city allow the trains to be painted by aerosol artists. In fact, I promised that there would be graffiti on the light rail, no matter what.

"Even if there is a cop on every car, and cameras recording every inch of space 24-7," I wrote just before Christmas, "taggers and other aerosol artists will have at the new light rail. And they will be successful because they love a challenge, and because `getting up' on a light rail car is a guarantee of being seen."

The city refuses to sponsor legal walls like the ones at Miranda's Custom Cars or at the Madison Event Center downtown. Instead, they spend $2.4 million on a public sculpture that looks like a floating jellyfish, and they fork over $2.3 million a year to have illegal graf buffed.

You know what, if graf artists out there want to hit the light rail harder than Rocco Siffredi on Viagra, I hope they're smart enough not to get collared. This city is too candy-assed as it is. It needs some urban edge. Plus graffiti keeps the Graffiti Busters program in the green, thus keeping folks employed in these tough economic times. So what's all the hubbub about, bub?

Oh, it's because graf cleanup's coming out of your taxes. Right, right. Of course, my taxes get used for crap I don't want all the time. Like paying off Sheriff Joe's lawsuits, or invading Iraq, or educating someone else's illiterate brats. In other words, cry me a river, Sweet Pea. Graffiti on the light rail? Sounds like urban bliss to me.  

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons