Like us on Facebook!

“We Don’t Do Drive-Bys”

Alfred delivers a lesson on graffiti taxonomy: the difference between tag and flare and roller, between a masterpiece and a throw-up. A masterpiece has more than three colors. A throw-up usually means bubble letters but makes it sound like some boy vomited the colors from his mouth. On a downtown wall, you see a painted face vomiting rainbows. Across the street, you see what looks like a polar bear illuminated by sunset. “Look at that throw-up,” you tell your friend. “Masterpiece,” he corrects, pointing out five colors. You realize that three-story MTA would’ve been a Masterpiece too. You learn that every graffiti act in the state of California is a felony. You learn that painted hot-chick skulls are called Sugar Skulls. You learn that three dots tattooed under the eye means, la vida loca, as in: I plan to keep living the. The dots look like tears suspended against gravity. You don’t know whether they signal commitment or renunciation or something in between — resignation, perhaps lament. Tiny’s teenage son asks Alfred, eager: “Were you much of a tagger?” He asks Capricorn if his family still lives in Watts, and — if so — if we’ll get to see them on the tour.

Leslie Jamison in the LA Review of Books on the exoticism and exploitation and discomfort and merit of gang tours.


Show Comments

From Our Partners