SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…

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.

BABY-STEPS ONTO THE ELEVATOR…

The first tag I ever caught was on a dumpster in the parking lot of a Lake City church. My first tag name was “BALANCE”. I drew “A”s shaped liked triangles and three horizontal lines for the E. I was in the 6th grade. Milo who lived down the alley from me got me into graffiti. Although I had been fascinated by graffiti since I was a child. I would go on the computer at elementary school and bring up a grey wall and paint graffitti on it in KidPix.

 

I remember DEF KFM having power scribes on every bus shelter in the city.  His carvings were so prolific that I thought it was more than one person when I was little. There were colorful wildstyle pieces with cartoony characters on the old freewall at the upper playground of BF Day Elementary. A SABER heaven on the I-5 bridge by the Red Robin.

Milo said BALANCE was too long a word to tag and that I should pick a shorter one. He gave me the tag AFT, one of Milo’s old tags that he had moved on from. It was really easy, one line ran through the middle of the letters connecting all of them. Plus it was shorter and didn’t take as long to write. Since graffiti is a crime, time was of the essence.

Milo and I would go to University Bookstore on the Ave and steal markers and name tag stickers from the Art Department in the basement. He would look quickly over each shoulder before opening the package and removing the stickers and nonchalantly put them in his pocket. He even whistled a cheerful tune as we walked out of the store into the hectic bustle of the Ave. Then we would go back to his house and make slap tags.

There was a website called Kozmo.com back in the day. You could order anything you wanted and they’d deliver it in like a hour. Snacks, CDs, Movies, etc. It was the epitome of a dot com bubble company and it went out of business later that year. Milo would order a rap cd or two and maybe some snacks on his parents credit card. I’m not sure if he had permission but I was under the impression he did. It was summertime and his parents were at work. Then we’d sit in his kitchen listening to the cds and make slaptags and practice our tags on computer paper.

Milo was 2 years older than me and already in High School. He was a great skateboarder and snowboarder and a talented artist. All the girls in my grade thought he was hella hot. So he was pretty much everything I thought I wanted to be when I was in the 7th grade.

Miles would tell me all about the older graffiti writers at Roosevelt High School that he knew. Most of what I heard was about a dude named PKAE (who I would end up being friends with years later.) and how he was up all over and that he used meanstreaks, which were “…the best pens for graffiti.” according to Milo. Meanstreak. What a cool word I thought as I turned the word around in my brain.

I would look out for Milo when he would paint throw-ups underneath the 15th Street Bridge by Cowen Park. I remember how smooth the fill-in would look. And how he would outline the throw-up in slow smooth strokes in broad sweeps of his arms.

Graffiti consumed my brain. I was constantly looking for it, on the streets and on the internet. I wanted very badly to be an “up” and respected graffiti writer. I practiced my tags on paper for hours on an end, and they would still look terrible. That didn’t discourage me though it only made me want to try harder.

 

Sticky Fingaz

I don’t remember the first time I shoplifted, only that my friends Nick and Tarik were a lot better at it then me (although I never got caught, neither did Nick or Tarik but other kids did.). In the beginning I wasn’t much of a risk taker, especially before my dad died. I remember Tarik unplugged the cooler shaped liked a giant Red Bull can full of Red Bulls and wheeled it out of the Shell station on 75th by Eckstein Middle School and wheeled it all the way down 25th to his house a block past 65th.  Nick was good too, his closet was like something out of a Clockwork Orange. Stolen pornos, bb guns, cds, magazines, etc.

We kept all the 40 ounce beers we stole hidden in a bush in the alley behind Nick’s parents house. They were actually behind this older kid A—–’s parents house next door. Other than Nick we didn’t know A—– at all, but we knew all about him. His tag name was DREN and he had a mini ramp and a big trampoline in his backyard. DREN had turned his parent’s small alley garage into a graffiti practice wall and it was covered on the inside in multicolored (master)pieces.

We’d stockpile the 40s we stole on the walks home from school every day in the bush all week.  Then on friday we’d take them down to Ravenna park in backpacks and drink them in the woods there. Sometimes older kids would be there. They were always pretty chill with us, sometimes they would punch us on the arms  or in the chest out of nowhere to fuck with us, other than that they were cool. A lot of the older kids dipped tobacco. A strange habit it would seem for inner city youth. Nick accidentally swallowed some of his dip the first time he tried it and threw up. A humiliating experience for him? I’m not sure.

The first time I smoked marijuana was the summer after 7th grade. I was 13 or 14. It was me DJ, Matt, Nick, Casey, and Al. I was so paranoid halfway through I thought a car driving by outside the bushes was surely the police and I threw the joint and ran with all the other kids behind. Once they realized I had bitched out I thought I’d never live it down. Definitely not savage. A humiliating experience for me.

Earlier that day I had caught my first spray paint tag under the 20th street bridge. We had stolen a can of green Krylon from my parents garage. I had done a MOJO tag in a jagged script with quotation marks. Matt drew a picture of Snoopy smoking a blunt. But it looked more like Snoopy sucking a dick when it was finished. DJ wrote DJ. I think Al intentionally drew a penis and a “420”. I cant remember if Nick or Casey wrote anything.

20th.

20th.

The Negative Influences Of Gangsta Rap.

My homies and I all wanted to be savages. We dressed the part. Braving Seattle’s trademark grayness in baggy fleece sweatpants, hooded sweatshirts, and sneakers. We wore fitted baseball hats or sweatbands if we wore anything on our heads at all.  My first fitted baseball hat was a royal blue NY yankees hat I bought at the now defunct Mr. Rags at Northgate. I was 12 and in the 6th grade. You know how sports hats come in different colorways nowadays?  It didnt used to be like that. The NY Yankees hats were the first hats you could get in a wide variety of different colors. Id seen a rapper, Ma$e? Wearing a lime green one on TV.  And I wanted one like that. I didnt have the balls to pull off the tennis ball green hat so i settled on a bright royal blue.  All my hats before that were the kind you got from your baseball team at the Boys and Girls club, or the kind given away at Mariners games.

Savage was like being gangster, or being brave, or being tough. Being a bad kid. Tipping portapotties. Stealing 40s and candy bars from gas stations on the way home from school and drinking them in Ravenna Park on Friday (on a school day if you really wanted to be savage). Stealing porno and graffiti magazines from the Tower Records on the Ave. Smoking a joint in the bushes by the 20th Street bridge where up until recently you had played hide and seek, and capture the flag, and where the neighborhood easter egg hunt was held every year. Spray-painting your tag name on one of the flat panel trucks on 65th (Extra points if the spray paint was stolen). Savage was the opposite of being a pussy.

circa 2002-2003

circa 2002-2003