Friday, November 20, 2009
Hanging from hooks and wire
Under the women who give me courage
And the men who inspire me
I sleep to the sound of your voice
It seeps into my dreams
I dream of your laugh
And that sly, sly smile
I sleep through my classes
I drift off in the middle of a…
I write love letters to you in the margins of my notebooks
I draw thumbnail portraits on the covers
I am failing English because of it
I sleep past noon
I wake up when sun is setting
And I feel like I’ve wasted another day
I’ve wasted almost all my days
I sleep always
But for some reason I am compelled to stay up all hours of the night
Maybe I am nocturnal
Maybe I am an owl
I sleep inside of you
In the deepest, secret parts of you
I will always keep your secrets
I will hide them where I hide my own
I will hide them in my dreams
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Check out Part 1 here.
* * * * * * * *
Andy is standing on a bridge that overlooks a train yard in west Baltimore. The cars are lined up, waiting to be hauled off to their destinations. The railways split and cross each other like a maze of twisting metal, like rivers snaking towards the sea. It is dusk and the dozens of rows of blank cars are lit with a deep orange glow that make them look like they are made of fire, a labyrinth of flames waiting to be explored.
Andy leans over the railing and focuses his camera to snap a photo. He hears a long, low whistle behind him. “Shit, wouldn’t it be great to bomb all those?” Byrd walks up from behind him and steps up on the bottom rung of the rail to get a better look. “Can you imagine? I’ve got to tell Germ about this.”
* * * * * * * *
Germ is wearing all black, from his coal skullcap that gives Byrd a peek at his auburn hair to his gunmetal doc martins. Byrd is following him, dressed in a similar monochromatic outfit, carrying her favorite bag that is packed with the tools of her trade. She is following Germ through the train yard. When she went to tell him about it, he somehow already knew, and had a plan.
This was the first time Germ asked Byrd to come with him to do a piece in over a year. She was overly eager to say yes and now she was stuck being his lookout. But she didn’t really mind, she was just excited to watch him paint again.
Germ had scoped out the yard earlier that day and had picked out a small string of cars with two tankers at the end. He would do a throw-up piece on one of the tankers, and his tag on the other. Byrd follows him through the twisting rows of boxcars to the two tankers. Germ sets down his bag and smiles at his two blank canvases. He puts on his black latex gloves and pulls out a spray can.
He paints in long, broad strokes, creating a maze of line work. The white paint forms a shadow of the piece to come, like a specter waiting to solidify. He sketches a nest of fat lines, twisting around each other in knots and loops. Protruding out of the center and ending in great, fat arrows. Just as the piece begins to take form, Germ hears a shuffling sound from behind one of the tankers. He drops to the ground and peers under the car. He can see two pairs of shiny black shoes matched up with two bright oblong spots made by flashlights.
“Shit” he murmurs under his breath as he hops to his feet and throws the can and gloves back into his bag. “Hide,” he whispers to Byrd. But before they can even look for a hiding place, they hear another shuffling sound behind them. They turn around to see two more pools of light heading in their direction. “Let’s get out of here,” Germ says, turning towards a gap in the cars and hurrying through it. They hear muffled shouting and louder, faster shuffling. They are being chased. “Run!” Byrd says, and the two take off down the row. After about 20 yards, they hit a T in their path. Byrd takes off to the left as Germ heads right. “Damn it,” he mutters. They shouldn’t have separated. Always work in teams. Always.
Germ can hear more footsteps behind him and he speeds up. As he peers back to check on where his pursuers are, he turns a corner and runs into a brick wall. He tumbles to the ground. “Fuck!” he says and scrambles for his bag. He pulls off his mask and hat, stuffing them into his bag before pulling out a Canon Rebel.
Suddenly he is sitting in a pool of bright light. He can’t see who is pointing the light at him, but he hears a stern voice coming out of the darkness. “Stand up, and drop the camera!” it says. “You’re kidding right!? Do you have any idea how much this thing costs?”
The officer lowers the light, but is now pointing a gun in Germ’s direction. He can’t believe what is happening to him. His mind is racing. He thinks of Byrd. He wonders if she got away, if she is safe. He sets the camera on the ground and stands up, putting his hands in the air.
“Vandalism is a serious crime,” the officer tells him as he lowers the gun. The same speech Germ has heard a million times. He pulls out his wallet and hands the officer a business card. “I understand that sir, but I’m a photographer, shooting a photo story for The Sun, I had nothing to do with this.”
* * * * * * * *
Byrd is running down the rows of train cars. She has lost her bearings and has no idea how to get out of the yard. She ditched her bag in one of the open boxcars, so she doesn’t even have a cell phone or flashlight to light her way with. She hears the crunch of footsteps over gravel behind her and jumps under a train car, deciding that it would be better to hide than get herself even more lost. The footsteps stop. She cranes her neck, trying to see where they are, when she feels something scuttle across her hand. She turns just in time to see a rat running past her face. She screams and jumps out from under the car. She is blinded by a flashlight. “Got you,” a deep voice says as she feels someone grab her from behind. She kicks and screams, trying to get away from him, but it is no use; this cop is as big as a tree.
The cop with the flashlight, a short, thin, waif of a man, leads them through the maze of boxcars around a corner where an officer is holding a flashlight on a man dressed in black. “We found his accomplice,” the tree-like man says. Byrd’s looks at the man in the spotlight, expecting to see Germ, but furrows her brow in confusion when she discovers Andy in his place. Andy wasn’t with her tonight, why would he be here? Then she recognizes the hoodie and Doc Martins that he is wearing. “Germ?” she whispers under her breath as her eyes grow wide.
* * * * * * * *
“Shit,” Andy thinks to himself. He can’t believe they got caught, not here, not now.
The officer takes Andy’s card and studies it carefully.
“Andy Hayes?” he asks. “I think I’ve seen your work. Did you take those pics of the fire on Madison and Howard a few weeks back?”
“Well, yeah” Andy says and laughs nervously.
“I know some of the men that were in that building. You did a fine job representing them.”
“What are you doing here, at this time of night?”
“Well, you know, I’ve heard there has been a lot of graffiti going on in this yard. I was hoping to get some pictures of someone in action. It’s kind of a hobby of mine. I’m doing a street art photo story.”
“Oh… and do you know this girl? Is she one of your ‘street artists.”
“Oh, Lindsay? Oh no, she is just my assistant. She’s here to help me look for cool shots.”
“Lindsay?” Byrd mouths angrily in Andy’s direction. He ignores her and focuses on the officer’s questions instead.
“Well… you are trespassing you know. Even if it is for the paper,” the tree-like officer says.
“Oh really? We didn’t know that, we’re sorry,”
“Marshall, give them a break,” the officer with Andy’s card says. “And let that girl go, I think you’re hurting her.”
Marshall releases his grip on Byrd and she rushes over to Andy. “Just your assistant!?” she mutters through pursed lips. “Shut up,” he whispers back.
“Well, we’re going to let you go with a warning,” the lead officer says. “Just don’t go wandering around here again.”
“Thank you officer. We won’t. Let’s go Lindsay,” he says, pulling her away from the group by her arm.
As soon as they get out of sight of the officers, Byrd breaks free of Andy’s grip.
“What the fuck was all that about? And why the fuck didn’t you tell me you were Germ?”
“We all have our secrets Byrd; I don’t even know your real name,” Andy says as he starts walking towards the gate of the rail yard.
“That’s not the point!” she yells, throwing her hands into the air and following him. “The point is that you deliberately hid who you are from me.”
“What we do isn’t exactly legal Byrd. I can’t have Andy’s name tainted by that. I have a career you know.”
“Speaking of, how the hell did you do that, get them to just let us go like that?”
“You can get away with a lot if you have a camera and a press pass,” Andy says as he smirks and walks through the gate.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Katie Briggs, the Design Chief at the DN, and I decided to start a new tradition at work: MUSTACHE TUESDAY!! (AP Style dictates that MUSTACHE TUESDAY!! always be fully capitalized with two exclamation points.)
I got so excited about this week's installment of MUSTACHE TUESDAY!! that I decided to make a poster for it.
Here's what I came up with:
Monday, November 9, 2009
This is the first half of the final story that I wrote for the fiction writing class I took last year. I'll post the other half some time next week.
Andy is cornered in a train yard, trapped by a cop between the rows of boxcars and a brick wall. He has his camera in his hands, and is standing in a pool of bright white light. “Drop the camera!” a stern voice says. “You’re kidding right!? Do you have any idea how much this thing costs?” He can’t believe what is happening to them. He can’t believe they got caught, not here, not now.
* * * * * * * *
Andy is in the streets. His lanky frame is dressed in all black. His Canon Rebel K2 35mm hangs around his neck and sways as he darts into a dark alley. It is nighttime and the streets are that eerie kind of quiet that isn’t quiet at all. The kind that makes it seem like every thing is alive, like everything is dangerous.
Andy works freelance for The Sun, the Baltimore newspaper, shooting whatever spot-news he comes across, getting a few bucks here and there whenever he gets an especially great photo. But what he really loves is to shoot the city, the people in the streets and the art on the walls. His passion lies in his art, just like those taggers. Sometimes he will sneak out late at night, following them, hiding with them in the shadows, and photographing their fresh works.
Andy is working with a girl who goes by the name Lady Byrd. Always work in teams; always have a lookout. That’s what Andy read in some graffiti book once. So Andy is here, being Byrd’s lookout.
Lady Byrd is a short, solid girl, covered in tattoos. A deep-orange octopus fighting a pirate ship covers her left arm, from shoulder to wrist. Three of the tentacles spread across her body, twisting themselves around the skull and swords on her chest. Her other arm is Japanese themed, a geisha smiling and holding the severed head of a samurai, standing over a koi pond, which spills onto her hand. A branch of cherry blossoms spreads across her back and onto her right shoulder, dropping their pedals onto the smiling geisha. Andy assumes the rest of her body is covered, but he wouldn’t know and is almost too afraid to ask.
But Byrd’s tattoos are all covered now; they make her easy to recognize. She is wearing a black hoodie and dark cargo pants with lots of bulging pockets. She is carrying a small duffle bag full of paint, stencils, brushes, markers and whatever other tools she may need for her trade. She is quick and quiet, and loses Andy several times as they slink through the alleyways.
Andy is crouching in front of a dumpster in a dark alleyway, after losing Byrd for the third time that night. “Byrd!” he whispers nervously, “where the fuck did you go?” “Shut up and get down!” she whispers back as he feels her hands on the back of his shirt, pulling him behind a dumpster. He tumbles into a pile of cardboard boxes. She giggles and helps him back to his feet.
“You need to learn some stealth, man,” she says as she turns towards a blank spot on the brick wall next to the dumpster. “This is it,” she says. “Where are we? Is that Pearl Street?” he asks, pointing to the north end of the alley. “No, it’s Paca. There’s a gallery entrance just over there, everyone will see it.” She sets her bag down with a light clinking thud and pulls out a paint can and roller. Andy watches as she starts working. She rolls out the bright yellow base and then pulls out her spray cans. She starts sketching the line work for a blue bird when a faint crashing sound comes from around the corner.
Byrd’s hands freeze as she turns to look at Andy. His shock is mirrored in her eyes. “What the fuck man? You’re supposed to be lookout!” Byrd says, throwing her stuff in the bag and shoving it behind the dumpster.
She pulls Andy by his shirt collar to the other side of the dumpster. “What are you doing!?” he whispers franticly.
“Shut up and follow my lead.”
She pushes him against the wall and wraps her arms around his neck as a man in a black hoodie enters the alley. He pauses when he sees them. “Can I help you?” Byrd asks in a voice that mimics that of a snotty valley girl. The man laughs. “No need for the show, I’m no rat.” He starts to walk away then pauses and turns towards them. “By the way, the paint on your hands is a dead give away, try wearing gloves next time.” As he walks down the alley, Byrd notices he is wearing a rather full backpack that makes a familiar faint clinking sound with every step.
Byrd smiles and turns back to her work. Andy snaps pictures as she adds great flourished wings to the bird. Her hands are surprisingly steady for the speed at which she works, creating swirls and textures that collapse into each other and reemerge like a sea of blue feathers. She stands back to look at her work. The large, feathery wings are a stark contrast to the sleek, sculpted cobalt lines of the body. She nods in approval and pulls a marker out of her bag. She scrawls “LByrd” in large, loopy letters near the left wing. She ends the tail of her “y” with an arrow, like the tail of a devil. She smiles and slings her bag over her shoulder. It makes a faint clinking sound as it comes to a rest at her side. Andy snaps another photo and the two slip off into the darkness.
* * * * * * * *
Byrd enters Germ’s worn-down house. It is a small, off-white building, packed between two identical houses. The railing is missing from the front step and the siding is turning gray with dirt. She is here to check up on him. It’s been awhile since she has seen any new work from him on the streets, and she wants to make sure he is ok. They have been partners since the beginning of both their careers. They have to look out for each other.
Germ is an artist. If you asked him, he would probably deny it. He would tell you he is a tagger, a poster bomber, a stencil maker, not an artist. But he is. He throws up huge pieces that defy gravity. He is stealthy and fast and patient. He is tall but limber. He can slip in and out of alleys and hop any fence. He always wears a mask, usually a black bandana covering his nose and mouth, and a baseball cap or beanie over his head. All she can see are his intense, pale blue eyes and occasionally a curl of his reddish-brown hair poking out from under his cap. Byrd used to think the mask was to keep out the fumes, but he wears it even when he isn’t painting. This used to make her uneasy, but it is a trait that she has gotten used to now. In fact, she doesn’t think she would even recognize him without it. Germ is a master of an underappreciated and deviantised art form. Germ is a graffiti artist, a king of the streets.
But right now, Germ is in the basement. The only light in the room is the desk lamp that hovers above the old, beat-up drawing table. Germ is sitting at the table, a dust mask covering his nose and mouth. A sharp, chemical, burning smell stings Byrd’s nose as she walks closer. She coughs and Germ wheels around to look at her. She notices he has drawn sharp, pointed teeth on the front of the mask with a sharpie. She doubles over with laughter. He gives her a look of annoyance, the kind that you give to your little sister who wont leave you alone, and turns back to his work. He is using a wood burner to melt designs into a thin sheet of plastic. The plastic makes the stencils easier to carry and reuse. You can roll them up and shove them in a bag instead of carrying around huge pieces of cardboard. He is cutting two large music notes. Byrd doesn’t bother to ask what they are for; she knows Germ wouldn’t tell her anyway. He is secretive about his work, even around her. She doesn’t know why, but this fact bothers her a little.
* * * * * * * *
Andy is hunched over a sink in the dark room in his basement. An eerie red light highlights a series of photos hanging from a cable that is strung across the room. They show the silhouette of a woman leaning on wall, smoking a cigarette; a group of middle school boys, sitting on the stoop of a brick building, stern looks on their faces as they squint into the sun; an old man in too many layers pushing a shopping cart through a damp alley. A lock of Andy’s wavy, auburn hair falls into his face as he submerges a piece of paper into a tub filled with fixer. He lets the paper soak for a minute before pulling it out and squinting at it as he holds it to the light. He smiles and clips it to the cable. The figure of a short, solidly built girl is visible on the print. She is standing near a brick wall, one arm raised above her head, holding something flat to the wall, the other is poised in front of it, with a spray can in hand.
* * * * * * * *
Germ is standing in a dark alley near the entrance to Expression Art gallery on Paca St. He is looking at a big blue bird with flourished wings sprayed on the wall near the dumpster. Byrd’s piece. He pulls a stencil and some black latex gloves out of his backpack. He puts on the gloves and sprays two red music notes by the bird’s beak. He over sprays them, letting the paint drip down the brick wall. Above the bird he writes, “creatures in cages still have wings and songs” in a tight, rounded font that flows with the swirls in the bird’s wings. Next he pulls out a marker and writes “GERM” in angular red letters next to Byrd’s tag. The marker is filled with a special kind of wet ink that drips and runs in ways that mimic the over sprayed notes. He stands back to admire his work. He stares at it for a moment then smirks and walks away.
* * * * * * * *
“What the fuck did you do to my piece?” Byrd screams as she descends the stairs into Germ’s basement.
He smiles as he crosses the room to pick up a can of paint. “I gave it a message,” he says.
“You should have asked me first.”
Germ laughs. “Would you have told me not to do it?”
Byrd pauses, caught off guard by his question. “Well… no.”
“Then what does it matter?” Germ says, walking towards his drawing table.
“That’s not the point.”
“No, the point is your stuff is pretty but has no force behind it.”
“What!?” she yells, her voice rising with disbelief.
“You have things to say. I know it. You don’t shut up about your ideals, so why not use them in your art?”