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.