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This story is going out to my friend JagFarlane as a somewhat-belated birthday gift. Happy birthday, buddy. Many more to come.
Seeing the old Tag, on the side of a passing train, brought back a thousand memories of a thousand nights. When that heavy aerosol paint smell had drenching me, in head-splitting perfume, often from early dusk to late dawn. Night after night.
How many years did I spend doing that? Sitting, waiting for the train to go past-looking critically at both good and terrible graffiti art-I ponder that question. How long? Thinking back, I can’t easily recall an exact number; too many brain cells sacrificed to the graffiti gods, Krylon and Rust-Oleum. A decade? At least that long, yeah.
*RZTR* was a “known” tagger back in those days, before cellphones, and he had left thousands of pieces of art across a half-dozen cites and tagged easily a thousand train cars. As I watched the car rolling away, I thought back to the others I had known. CLAW, RAZE, Ghoster and a good dozen others, whose names escape me at the moment, but who I had stood beside in the dark and helped do work in those early years of my own spray can artist career. They had left tags everywhere, so many in fact that you had to often question if one person could possibly have enough time in their lives to manage that much paint. But then, I always found the time to do mine and I had almost as many works of illegal art as them.
Looking amateur as hell-in brilliant blue and metallic silver-my early tag had covered the rusty sides of maybe a hundred trains before I ever met my first fellow artist-of-the-can. It was late one chilly October night when I smelled paint fumes and followed my nose to the jaw dropping, still wet to the touch, paint covering a whole beautiful wall. I had stood there in awe, with my own backpack full of shaker cans, just looking. Begging to be arrested like the twit I was. Then out the dark came a grunted call.
“Hey! Scram, it’s still wet, you fool!”
That growly voice was Ghoster my mentor, though I didn’t know it at that time. Neither did he. With a sigh, he walked over to me and took me by the elbow and led me away from his wall like I was a child. With him telling me off the whole time. He was twice my age and had a mouth that would make a sewer rat retch, but he also had a heart-of-gold and more instinctive talent with a spray can that any other artist I ever met. Certainly more than I ever achieved in my time tagging trains.
A late breakfast at Waffle House later-with far too much coffee and syrup leaving us both with caffeine and sugar shakes-and I had my permanent tag
And a reluctant mentor-to-be already planning where to debut it. He said that people might look at it and think New York Ex, and that worked given that I was born in Queens. Not that I have any memory of ever living there. Hell, I was an infant-in-arms when my mother left the man she would forever call “The sperm donor” to head back to the deep-south where she had been born.
In fact, all the place of my birth ever gave me was the often unwanted nickname of Yankee and a dozen family members that called as often as twice a week to tell my mom or me how deep the snow was. Never anything important, like where my father was, why he never called, what time he was going to get out of county lock-up this month?
Through pieced together calls I got the idea he was a drunk. A fact confirmed when I managed to make a trip up to the “old neighborhood” and tracked him down. That was not long after I left high school. I met those eternally snow-bound relatives, who all warned me not to try and see my father. Well, I didn’t listen of course, I was still a teen I knew everything. He started the meeting by calling me his “Southern Bastard” and … well, that was the highlight of our reunion.
Mom had been right after all. Sperm Donor.
Anyway, painting “NIX” on trains led to tagging ~NYX~ on building, several bridges, even a tower crane on a high-rise construction site and then one night in my “Oh, hell! What were you thinking?” moment I put it on a half-dozen police cars. I was drunk. It seemed like the thing to do at the time.
That would be the year when I used PT*VPR as my tag, in a beautiful bright red with black fangs. It was sharp. Tacky, but sharp.
Under Ghoster’s tutelage-when he got done thinking I was too crazy to hang out with-my art began to improve. Can control is paramount for quality art. Six months after he started teaching me I saw one of my old tags and wanted to go chasing after the train with a can of black spray paint to erase it. And as my artistic skills improved, and he introduced me to others, I grew from “skilled” to artistically surreal. Huge panels of art, signed with a signature tag in the corner that was a masterpiece in and of itself. Well, as much as three letters can ever be. I met the very best of the best when it comes to shaker can graffs over that next summer.
That was also the same dreadfully canlı bahis and wonderful year that I met *Glass*
Bar-none the most psycho bitch on this whole planet, and that I even considered for a second asking her to marry me once still gives me the willies.
*Glass*, I learned too late, was what they are generally referring too when they say someone is certifiably insane. To begin with she was a “repeller” artist. She liked to tag the impossible to get places, things like the sides of high-rises. Tall bridges, freeway overpasses, train trestles. Anything tall and hard to get too was fair game to her. She was often to be found hanging hundreds of feet over dark nighttime waters of a river or over a heavy traffic congested roadway. Her work all done while sitting on a small board. Dangling, like a spent yoyo on the end of its string, she would put her non-artistic tag in places better skilled artist would die to put a tag on. But then, come to think of it, that was probably what it took to have the guts to tag where she did.
A willingness to die.
See, she didn’t care if she died, since she said she had already done it twice in her life. Once in a cold lake, when she was a kid. Dead twenty minutes and brought back to life puking freezing water through blue lips. The second time? Well, *Glass* didn’t talk about the second one as much, but that long scar on her left arm, from wrist to inner elbow, spoke volumes.
Now, at twenty six, YOLO was her motto. Something she said constantly, long before the twitter crowd ever was a gleam in a computer’s Geeks eye.
The car horn blowing behind me broke me out of my revelry. Looking up, I saw that the train was now long gone. The dinging bell had fallen silent, though ghosts of it were still being heard from further down the tracks, and the stripped crossing guard bar was already up.
Driving off before I go blown at again, I had to wonder where those old taggers were now? Blaze, Ghoster, CLAW and *RZTR* Some of them are probably like me, working the nine-to-five grind, their shaker paint can days a distant memory triggered only by passing trains. Yeah, I bet a lot of them were like me in fact. But then … none of them ever did what I did.
None of them. Not one, became I did the king of all tags.
But not alone.
XX * XX * XX * XX
“Hey, NYX, we going to do this or what?”
I couldn’t answer. How do you answer insanity on this level when it’s presented as a simple question?
“Yeah, Glass. We’re doing it, I still don’t see how, but yeah.” My hands shaking, I turned off the ignition of my Ford Pinto. I then sat, my hands gripping the wheel, with my heart was in my throat with nerves at what was to soon happen.
“What do you mean you don’t see how? We’ve got this as planned out as possible. Yeah, it’s not perfect as plans go and sure there is some room for things to go disastrously wrong, but hell, what’s the worst that can happen?”
“Ah… the Secret Service or the Marines shooting us dead where we stand!”
“Damn Skippy, right! See, if that happens you won’t even know about it, right? So … no problems.” Glass, looking in the rearview mirror, finished covering her face with black shoe polish. Happy with her mascara she spit the pieces of Midnight gum out her mouth into the high grass outside the car window. “Now come on,” She picked up her black backpack and ghillie suit and opened the door. “Let’s bounce. We don’t have all night, and the plane leaves in the morning.”
“We are in such deep shit. This is fuckin’ insane in the brain time shit.” Muttering to myself, I reached over into the backseat and grabbed up my own backpack and suit. Getting out, I looked over the roof at her and started shaking my head.”We’re going to die tonight and I’m blaming you.”
“Oh, bitch-bitch, moan-moan. Here, I’ll make it interesting. How about we make a deal? We pull this off and I’ll make it worth your while.” She closed the car door, tilted her head to the side and smiled a black-as-sin smile at me. With a skip in her step she headed down towards the shallow creek flowing nearby.
Catching up with her, I tapped her shoulder. “What ya’ mean?”
Turning, Glass caught a fist full of my faded black T-shirt and pulled me into a completely unexpected kiss! Her lips, mouth, and tongue-all tasting like black licorice-hit my face with tooth-loosening force, while her hand clawed in my hair pulling the kiss in harder.
Now when I had checked her out, like I do all women I meet, I can honestly say I never really gave more than a second thought to Glass as anything other than another tagger. She was wiry, but she seemed almost oddly proportioned. Her arms were too long, her hands seemed like the fingers were lacking the usual webbing a person had between them making them too seem longer. She was all but flat-chested, and her hips were slim enough that Glass reminded me more of a friend’s younger kid sister than a woman grown. Then there was her neck.
She could have easily worn the bahis siteleri wrapped wire coils like those women over in Asia. And that long neck was not helped by her chopped short hair. No, I had never given her a second thought. Till she kissed me. When her tongue teasing licked the end of my nose I began reconsidering that.
“If we make it, I’ll fuck you. Deal? Now come on.” She didn’t wait for an answer knowing that there was only one answer that I could give anyway. She simply walked off into the darkness.
Pussy … or death? If that isn’t an eternal question.
“Oh, I am such a fuckin’ idiot sometimes.” Following her down into the dark, I took a deep breath before stepping into the icy waters of the knee deep creek. The pebbly rock bed gave easy footing, but I still stumbled in a few places till I got to the tunnels. Standing there looking at the inky blackness that was the three, ten-foot by ten-foot, storm drain openings, that let the creek pass under the airport felt a moments fear of the dark. Stepping inside, I then no longer noticed the cold soaking my feet. Fear had the whole of my body trembling anyway.
And not of the dark.
Nearby a big 747 jet started to spool up his engines for takeoff, filling the echo-blessed tunnel with a monstrously building roar. It followed us into the inky blackness and then drifted around us like a blanket of sound. The ominous growl of an angry beast, giving warning to us fools that were going to try and tag its King with our silly paint. I would soon miss that sound however, when if faded away leaving me in this sensory deprivation-level blackness. Only my hand on the concrete wall told me I was making progress forwards.
After the first half-mile my imagination, starved for light, began to fill my sight with sparks. Then I began to picture those huge planes, filled with hundreds of passengers, taking off and landing meters above my head. Faint rumbles and then vibrations in the rough surface under my hand told me they were there. I was panting for breath, my mind in stark terror before I saw the first column of dim light. The manhole a dark circle above, it was backlit with lines of light through the cover’s drain holes. To our light-starved eyes those lines were as bright as Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. I looked at the light and at the patterns it made in the swirling water under my feet.
Glass was already past it by the time I got to it. I could hear her footstep in the water a dozen feet in front of me and I picked up the pace to catch up to her. I glanced back at the light, sighed and walked on looking for the next one. And then the next one after that. Then, looking like she was preparing to be beamed up, Glass was standing in the pool of light under the fourth manhole. Our pre-scouted destination. As I walked up, I watched her draping her back with the ghillie suit of strips of black burlap sacking. I followed suit.
“Ladies first, right?” she asked.
Her voice a soft whisper, I nodded and watched her climbing the metal rungs up and into the concrete tube. Then her body blocked out the light and now I was really blind from my time in it. I felt around and found the cold, damp rung only when she moved and I was given a tiny bit of light back. As I climbed, I was shaking like a leaf, and it had nothing to do with my wet pants, and feet. Reaching the top I had to crowd in next to her, tight enough that I could smell her Secret deodorant and that slightly acidic smell from the licorice gum. Hooking my left arm in the ladder, I helped her to push the heavy metal cover upwards a couple of inches then we slide it silently off to the side in the thick grass.
At her nod, I stuck my head over the top of the grass and looked around.
Our target was instantly in sight, in all its blue, blue, and white Boeing 707 glory.
“Remember, from here on out not a word. We are ninja.” She crawled past me, frilly bits of dark cloth and her backpack, filled with foam-silenced paint cans, whacking me in the face.
“Yeah, ninja,” I thought. “Because all ninja are about to piss themselves when they sneak out a manhole onto wet grass, and crawl across an airport to try and tag Air Force One. Ninja my fuckin’ ass. This is god damn insane.” Belly crawling, I followed Glass towards the President’s plane, Ronald Reagan’s home away from home. The big blue-white jet sat in a pool of lights, guards, black security cars, military jeeps, guards, more guards, and a dozen more guards for good measure. “Oh, god what were we thinking? This is so fuckin’ nuts. Totally. Fucking. Nuts.”
The grass was wet. The night was cold. My feet and legs were soaked. And I was, at best, going to be arrested. Looking up, at the side of the distant plane, my eyes fell on the big seal.
I was going to be shot.
Resigned to that fate, I followed the bottoms of her hiking boots across the low cut field-grass to the most lighted corner of the airport. Inch by inch we moved, never faster than a snail’s jogging pace. Glass, bahis şirketleri in her homemade ghillie, was nothing but a dark hump, an odd shadow in a sea of shadows. The bright spotlights were making tons of those. It did my own fears good to know that I-in a military surplus Marine Sniper suit-was, based on a picture taken of me once, even less visible than she was. I might not be a Ninja but I was doing my best impersonation of Carlos Hathcock.
We froze when the patrols walked nearby and then inched forwards, a marginal amount faster, once they were gone and their backs were to us. There were times when I was sure we were going to be seeing the sunrise soon. This endless crawl was taking so long, but a glance at my wrist showed me that mere minutes had passed since the last time I looked, not hours.
It only felt like hours.
Then, after an eternity of eating grass, we moved out onto the tarmac. That unforgiving concrete was brutal on knees and elbow, but we did stop. Not even when I was sure I was leaving a blood trail behind me I was in so much pain.
Expecting-hell, by then I would have almost welcomed-the bright spotlight and then a sudden impact of bullets to come raining down on me at any moment, I crawled on. Seeing that huge quadrangle of tires when it appeared in front of me was a shock. I watched Glass move till she was between the tires, her back up against the metal axle area. She gestured for me to move up next to her. Her whisper, by my ear, was a tickle of breath.
“Holy shit, NYX. I didn’t expect to get to this point. What now?”
My jaw dropped and I stared at her blankly for a moment. “What?” I thought to myself. “Oh, fuck no she did not just ask me that?” I glanced around for the expected guards, but they were not close. “How the fuck could we have gotten to this point without figuring that out and then expect me to have the answer?”
Feeling in shock, I looked up at the belly of the plane; looming like a breaching white whale, Air Force One curved outwards above us. The night sky past its side too light-polluted to show anything but blackness. Not a single star to be seen. Turning my head to face Glass, my lips kissed her ear as I spoke.
“We’ll tag the underside. Don’t do anything too elaborate. Just tag it and let’s get out of here.” I pointed her towards the front of the plane and then gestured to my chest and the back of the plane. She nodded and slowly moved off to pick her a spot. Easing around those four tires, I belly crawled towards the tail. Looking back, I saw when Glass stood up and went to work.
I decide that any part of the plane’s belly would do and went to work myself; no reason to go to jail and not have at least managed to place a tag.
With tiny, misty specks of green and black paint drifting back down onto my face-to no doubt add more color to my blackface-camo-I worked as fast as I have ever worked. Despite what I had told Glass, I took the time to make what I was doing as perfect as I could make it. This was the king of all tags and it would be seen on the news in the morning!
It would be seen by all those posers out there with their first cans of Rusto.
So I wanted it to be my best effort. When I took the neon green out and began highlighting the darker green, I was constantly looking around me. By now the paint fumes had to be spreading-with two artists going like paint-mad rabbits at both ends of the plane-far and wide. Out to where the guards still patrolled.
And I was done.
Standing there, every bit as foolishly as I had been years before in front of Ghoster’s wall, I looked over my handiwork for a minute and then turned to see how Glass was doing. She was an inch from my nose!
I clamped my hand across my mouth and ignored the frown on her face. Then she tilted her head and smiled at me. That creepy girl smile that always gave me shivers.
“Tourettes?” she asked sweetly and far too loud. By instinct I silenced her as I had myself, with a hand over her mouth. Her eyes went wide, and then she winked and began to lick my palm.
Quickly moving my hand I gave her a look. She stuck her tongue out and licked her lips. Then she mouthed “Let’s go,” while making move away gestures. Giving my head a shake, I dropped back to my knees and rubbed raw elbows and headed back for the manhole cover, so very far away. Glass was following me this time and I had to fight the urge to keep looking back to make sure she was still there. The mood she was in I would not have put it past her to do something silly and get us caught. We had done the deed; the tags were on Air Force One. All that was left was to get out of here and go home to wait for the FBI.
Oh, there was no doubt in my mind how this was going to end.
I’m sure someone in a local police force, of some city where I had tagged, they had long ago learned who ~NYX~ was. Be it from informants or simple rumor mill rumors, I was a known. And now my green-black “tag” was going to go into the stratosphere as far as the United States New Service was concerned. I was going to be famous in graffiti circles across the country, hell around the world even and even more people that knew me were going to talk.
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