Over the last couple of years, the state has been working to repair and restore the Longfellow Bridge, one of the connectors between Boston and Cambridge. The Longfellow is lovely.That’s it in the foreground. (Another wonderful bridge, the Zakim, is in the background.) And those towers that look like salt shakers are what’s given the bridge its nickname: the Salt & Pepper.
I walk over it pretty often, and always fantasize about living in one of those shakers. I’ve got it all planned out, including a cut-in that a car could swing into to make a delivery, and the geraniums I’d put in window boxes. The towers aren’t occupied, or used for anything as far as I can tell. So why not? But it would be pretty odd living on a bridge with the T-rumbling over it 20 hours a day. And likely damp, dank, and dark. But the views…
The restoration of the Longfellow is complete, but the graffiti taggers just can’t leave it alone. Here’s an example of one of the
brilliant works of art defacements that some a-hole left.
I don’t know whose mark this is, but I hope he’s among the three “high-profile graffiti taggers” that Boston PD recently arrested. (One of them is suspected of vandalizing the Longfellow Bridge.) Because they’re notorious reoffenders with long histories of defacing public property, they’re being charged with felonies.
“This is a habitual thing for these offenders,” police spokeswoman Rachel McGuire said. “These particular suspects create a quality of life issue in Boston.”
According to Massachusetts law, graffiti is punishable by up to three years in state prison for a felony charge and up to two years in a house of correction for a misdemeanor. A fine of $1,500 or three times the value of the property marked may also be assessed in both cases. (Source: Boston Globe)
I’m not a big law and order type. Although there are a couple of circumstances when I might be persuaded otherwise, I generally don’t support the death penalty. I think three strikes you’re out, which has put some guys in prison for stealing a $5 pair of socks or being in possession of a couple of joints, is absurd. I believe in prison reform. And I believe in second chances. As a volunteer at a homeless shelter, I’m around ex-cons a couple of days a week. Guess what? Most of them are actually just people, trying to get by.
So maybe three years in the state pen is too much time for someone who defaced a bridge. But graffiti vandalism is serious, as anyone who lives in a city knows. And it makes living in a city less livable.
I love when street artists ply their craft on blank walls in their communities. I like the decorated mail boxes. I like the work of the guy who replaced the late “Sidewalk Sam” and does chalk drawings on Boston Common.
But these graffiti guys?
I know art when I see it and this ain’t art. And it’s not even much by way of craft. I put these tags in the category of the kid who’s considered the best “artist” in eighth grade because he can draw Mighty Mouse and the Superman logo. Then I take points away because they’re destroying public property. And more points because their “tags” as a form of self-expression are really just a boring expression of their narcissism. It’s mostly ugly and detracts from the underlying beauty of what it’s sprayed onto. And there’s often a hint of menace in their work. Let them tag their own bedrooms. Have at it! Just stay off my bridge!
Maybe they all think they’re going to end up like Banksy, the British graffiti artist who’s exhibited in galleries and is a multi-millionaire. But most of them are going to end up like Chico 158, or whoever the guy was who did the ugly tags on NYC subway cars in the 1970’s. A big fat nobody.
Maybe they’ll all plead down to misdemeanors. But I have no problem with these guys doing time.
My father had a term for professional baseball players who were on his shit list, and it was “no talent bums.” It seems to apply here.