CJ, Seth, and I all lived in Ravenna close to the Ravine. Seth on the University side of the ravine. CJ and I on the 65th side. CJ’s older brother Gabe and my neighbor Milo had started a crew when they were in middle school with their homies called RC. “Ravenna Crew”.
We all looked up to Milo and Gabe and their friends, so when we were 8th graders CJ, Seth and I started our own RC chapter for our friends. Pretty soon boys who lived in View Ridge, Sand Point, Wedgwood, and Hawthorne Hills were all claiming Ravenna. We would even drink RC cola even though it sucked. We would all wear fleece headband ear warmers around our necks to show our allegiance.
At the end of the school year, the powers that be, had all the 8th graders sign a piece of paper. This was later copied into a two page “8th Grade Sign-off” spread for the middle of the yearbook.
When the sign-off sheet made its way across my desk one morning in home room, I copied what Gabe and Milo’s friends had done. I drew a shield with the letters RC at the top with a roll call inside the shield listing all of the RC’s members.
Some of us thought RC should be only for kids who lived in Ravenna. Some of us thought we should include the homies that kicked it in Ravenna with us every day. CJ was a purist, and was mad at me for including the kids we kicked it with everyday, but who did not live in Ravenna.
CJ said to me “I can’t believe you put all those fools names on the list, they don’t even live in Ravenna. That shit’s hella corny bro.”
CJ may have been right, but it was too late to change the insignia before the yearbook was published.
Seth and I were the most avid taggers of the crew. We decided to start our own sub-crew just for taggers. The “Ravenna Area Vandalists”. RAV. So it was basically just a crew for Seth and I….ha!
Everything was new and interesting. We would steal shoe polish daubers and paint pens for tagging. We would hit tags around the neighborhood as often as discretion permitted. Dumpsters, Telephone Poles, Payphones, Newspaper Boxes, Delivery trucks, under bridges, retaining walls, Bus windows.
We went by the monikers “KIN” and “MECH”. Seth wrote “MECH”. We would study graffiti magazines religiously in Seth’s basement. Copying the tags, throw ups, and pieces from the magazines on loose leaf paper whenever we weren’t doing what we were supposed to be doing.
Seth and I would walk home together almost every day. Some days we wouldn’t go straight home. We would explore the U District and the Ravenna Ravine together hitting up tags everywhere we went, lighting fireworks, smashing pumpkins (seasonal), throwing water balloons at joggers from the 20th bridge. Just being devious little bastards in general.
The U-District’s main attraction was a busy street that lay parallel to the University of Washington. It’s sidewalks were clogged with pedestrians. Unkept street kids with greasy hair that the locals called “ave rats’s”, gutter punks. Sorority girls and their Frat boy counterparts, sightings of strange looking middle eastern shop owners, and the butt of everyones jokes, the Juggalos.
The air was thick with the aroma of a dozen different foreign food vendors. Pho, Falafel, Gyros, Banh Mi’s, Hawaiian BBQ, and Indian. And if you wanted something more domestic, there was a variety of fast food and pizza joints.
We would roam the Ave and the alleys that ran behind it. Hitting tags and exercising our five finger discounts. We’d steal magazines from Tower Records, but actual cd’s we’d swipe from one of the many used record stores that dotted the Ave. One such store had a wall of shame behind the front counter, with polaroid snapshots of the people who had been caught shoplifting.
One of the snapshots was taken of a blonde haired boy wearing a black Northface backpack running up the Ave away from whoever was taking the photo. The caption written with a sharpie beneath the photo read “This little Shit got away with 4 cds and 2 adult videos.” It was a photo of Seth.
The store did not survive the advent of MP3s and iTunes, it no longer exists. Looking back years later I’ll always wish I had that picture.
We were so obcessed with graffiti we developed a game similar to the basketball game “Horse” that we called “Tag.” Someone would hit a tag then pass the marker to the next person, who would then have 30 seconds to catch a tag or they would get a letter. The first person to get the three letters that spelled the word “Tag” would be out. 30 seconds no matter what (remember this is all happening on a weekday afternoon, not the most optimal time for brazen acts of vandalism.)
We got ourselves into some hairy situations playing that game. One day I remember we’d made it almost all the way home and it was my turn with the marker. I hit up a hella big tag on the inside panel of a bus shelter thinking the coast was clear, but when I looked up I made eye contact through a plate glass window with the secretary in the building facing the inside of the bus shelter. She was on the phone and looked angry.
We kept walking down 65th a few blocks. I was stressed and trying to act as nonchalant as possible. Seth told me “Your tripping dude, that ladies not going to call the cops on some kid tagging a bus shelter, those things get hit up all the time.”
As we walked up towards the Bagel Oasis a cop turned the corner out of the RavEck parking lot by the Herbalist store on foot and started walking directly towards us. He was wearing wraparound baseball sunglasses and had short military hair, he looked pretty fit. A good runner.
My blood ran cold, my stomach dropped to my ankles. I took a deep breath and kept walking towards the cop, the cop kept walking towards me. Seth and our other friends had lost the color in their faces. Right as the cop was about to close in and say something to me, I broke a right down the alley on the side of the Bagel Oasis that the cop obviously wasn’t aware of.
I burst out of the alley into the rec-center’s parking lot, ran into the playground, then ran into and through the lobby of the Community Center, looking back as I entered to see the cop about 100 feet behind me. As I exited the Rec-Center I doubled back around the Gymnasium and back through the playground to the field before the cop could see which way I had gone. Once I left the field I tried to make myself scarce in the residential area on the other side of the Community Center.
My house was on the other side of 65th. So I was on the wrong side. I was now faced with the challenge of making it back across 65th without being noticed by the police officer who was probably still looking for me. I decided to sneak my way back to my house through the alleys behind the houses. I darted across 65th and was soon locking the deadbolt behind me at home.
I was out of breath and hyperventilating. I decided to take a cold shower to calm myself down. I sat down in the tub and let the cool water wash over me. Slowly I regained control of my breath.
I heard a booming knock at my door. Scared to death, I curled up into a fetal position, naked in the bathtub. Shower running over me, and I decided to ignore the knocking on the door. I was there in the shower long after the knocking stopped. I found out later it had been one of our neighbors stopping by to ask my Dad if they could borrow my Mom’s old pick up to make a run to the dump.
I got away scot free but I kinda felt like an idiot for hiding in the shower so long. My friends were able to walk home undisturbed since the cop had been busy chasing me.
Everyday was an adventure, I felt like a real life Indiana Jones or James Bond.