Today I went to a small, run-down, almost forgotten skate park, far outside the city limits. The ramps were made of metal, and most had rust.
Once removed from larger population centers there are palpable ontological differences. One place these differences manifest is in vandalism. Yes, vandalism. Most “Big City” skate parks are covered in “fresh,” “urban” graffiti like this.*
This nearly abandoned park had almost nothing of that kind. Instead, it flourished with words and images of disaffected youth. Which, unfortunately, is not something you see much of anymore. Seeing it now, in 2019, reminded me of graffiti I saw 30+ years ago in my home town, before “fresh urban” graffiti became gentrified in its own way, and commonplace around the globe.
Angst that was once scribbled on public walls is now on a virtual one, tapped-out with a keyboard.
This guy was on the side of a ramp. Did they know he resembled Q-Bert from the 1980s video game, or is he just some “fly-guy” with a vintage hat and an acute proboscis problem? No “tags” are to be found here, nor any of the "Nike SB" or "Supreme" scrawls I've actually seen in the city. Here, there were only creatures that might have crawled out of The Metamorphosis. Gregor Samsa might feel at home in this skate park. I certainly did.
“Memes” have more backbone when they are illegal street art/vandalism, rather than tired social media tropes. Everyone in hell loves Facebook.
This one has some great irony, because it can be read in two starkly different ways (and I am sure that was unintentional).
The obvious reading is that “dream life” should take precedent over “real life.” The darker and bleaker meaning is that “dream life” is now over, and “real life” has begun. Both are apt messages for a skate park that falls in the shadow of a high school, with the dreamland optimism of youth in its twilight hours.
The metal ramp was old, rusty, and from by-gone era. Just like me, and my generations of skaters. Knee slides left iron oxide dust on my pads and shoes.
My shoes and pads were now marred with the residue of age. They are marks from the past.
Just like all this graffiti, in form, and content.
In another sense, all this graffiti was "fresh," but in the sense that it was "new," and "recent." It wasn't old, like me, or the rust. In the wake of modern commercialism, corporate sponsorship, the Olympics, and greater social acceptance, it makes me happy that this spirit is still (somewhat) alive in skateboarding—that there are some who still want to be outsiders.
I salute you.
*I am in no way bashing serious graffiti art. I am just pointing out observational differences of time and place.