Building (and Burning) Bridges

Portland, Oregon, has a TON of bridges that span the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, unsurprisingly earning Portland the official nickname of “Bridgetown.” As the Willamette divides Portland down the middle, starting at the top, there’s the St. Johns Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Steel Bridge, Burnside Bridge, Morrison Bridge, Hawthorne Bridge, Marquam Bridge, Tilikum Crossing, Ross Island Bridge, and the Sellwood Bridge way down at the bottom. So, with my car packed up full of my belongings (again), I departed Portland thinking about all bridges in my life…

The very first bridge in Portland was the original Morrison Bridge, built in 1887, also happened to be the longest bridge west of the Mississippi River. It was an architectural marvel, finally allowing people and horse-drawn buggies alike to pass over the Willamette. It was originally a toll bridge, but the toll was dropped in 1895. The Morrison Bridge has been rebuilt a number of times, the most recent redesign was in 1958.

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St. Johns Bridge, Portland, OR.

My favorite is the beautiful blue St. Johns Bridge, where you’re 205 feet off the water!

Bridges physically connect two locations that would otherwise be unconnected (or too cumbersome for success), bonding the “places” (not just the physical locations, but the inhabitants and spirit) together through building and exchange of a bridge. Goods, people, whatever. We all know this. Bridges are cool. But if you really dig down on the friendship-bridge metaphor, it is both inspiring and painfully honest.tumblr_nvrmk9sId81rt7qgbo1_500
It takes a lot of energy to build a bridge, and equal energy to maintain it. Both sides of the bridge benefit from the connection, some more than others at times.  If the tedious, general upkeep is not maintained (the check-ins and touch-ups), even a well-built, and well-traveled, bridge can break down over time. Here it comes… the same is true with our friendships.

I love Portland, and I had a great time living there. I made some amazing connections, friends I’ll keep for the rest of my life. But what about those people that didn’t become my best friends? What about the people that wronged me? And perhaps more introspectively, how do we address the relationships that have grown to become imbalanced? How do we build the right bridge?

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Tower Bridge, London. (Not in Portland)

There are so many quotes about burning bridges, I chose not to include one in this post, simply because we all get the metaphor by now. We like burning bridges because it’s an instant satisfaction, exciting, energy-filled exchange where you hope the end result will be complete and total destruction of your enemy and there’ll be exclamations in of worldwide vindication that in the end, they were wrong and you were right! And we all know, it rarely (if ever) ends like that. Instead, you’re emotionally drained, somewhat ashamed, slightly confused, and the ripples of your outburst will continue to echo outward, essentially ruining your reputation behind you (i.e. burning other bridges)… Not so cool now, huh?
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But old bridges aren’t actually burned. Not even old wood ones. Bridges, when they’re decommissioned, are for the most part disassembled. The bridges are stripped down to the bare bones before destruction. Many pieces will be salvaged, reused, repurposed, into other objects in our everyday lives. What if we applied that principle to “decommissioning” our bridges?

What if, rather than exploding at that friend that never returns your phone calls or text messages, you simply, gently, emotionally disassemble that bridge, piece by piece, and put that energy into other facets, other friendships, other bridges?tumblr_nnszn1e0ZY1rt7qgbo1_500
The need for connections is a symptom of the digital landscape we’re currently creating. The idea that things can be connected is being celebrated. The belief that everything should be connected is, in my opinion, sometimes needless and counterproductive. Some bridges just don’t need to exist, and that’s okay. We are not only defined by who we choose to associate with, but also who choose not to associate with.

Some bridges should not exist. You don’t need to be “friends” with that guy that never calls you back. You don’t need to be “friends” with the owner of the company that fired you. You don’t need to be “friends” with that roommate that you really didn’t like. The truth is, those were never large, sturdy bridges to begin with. They were footpaths. A dangling line across a chasm. It served it’s purpose when you needed it, but it isn’t intended to last the rest of your life. These bridges are okay to let go.

I’ll be honest, I wanted to burn bridges. SO BADLY. Ultimately, I just let them be. There’s was little fire. Maybe we’ll cross over them again sometime in the future, or maybe they will fall into the relentless river of time and life. I valued them, but I can’t look back at the bridge and wonder if it will make it, I’ve got to keep moving forward, over the bridge.IMG_1007The bridges that we should be spending most of our energy on are the bridges to the future. What are we doing today that will connect us, in a positive way, to where we want to be in the future? What kind of incremental bit of progress, which plank can I add today, to get me one step closer to the other side, where I ultimately want to be? And who can I connect with, work with, support, and partner with, where we can achieve our goals together?
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For me, that’s filmmaking, and that’s not going to happen in Portland, Oregon. And despite all the reasons to stay (Fall in Portland is the best, the solar eclipse, Crater Lake, etc.), I have to build on my 15 years of screenwriting and put it all into action, to finish building that bridge, with a complete move to Los Angeles.

So yesterday, I loaded up my car with every item I own (for the sixth time in just over two years), said goodbye to Portland, and I’m currently on my migration South.
(Bonus drive over the Bay Bridge!)tumblr_n25hg1eshy1rt7qgbo1_500

I’ll see you in Los Angeles!

CHE

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Starting A Monthly Newsletter

I took the leap yesterday and started a monthly newsletter called Mystery Tin MonthlyThe experience was enlightening, and humbling, to say the least.

I finally decided to put my money where my mouth is, so I started my own Mystery Tin newsletter. I previously wrote a post about what starting a newsletter can do for an artist, but after binge-listening to over 50 episodes of the Side Hustle Nation podcast on the 16 hour holiday road trip home (and back), it is the unanimous opinion of online business owners that in order to succeed, you absolutely must cultivate a mailing list for direct e-mail contact and marketing. Most importantly, this group isn’t primarily a sales pool. These people are your tribe. So at first, it is advisable to move slowly and tread lightly. I think I did that part right.

It took me a quite while (and a little bit of magic) but I managed to scrape together nearly 700 e-mail addresses of my friends, previous businesses associates, and business contacts. I know I didn’t get everybody on the list (I still don’t think my parents are signed up yet) but chances are if you’re my friend on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, I most likely added you to the mailing list for my new newsletter. Did you get it? (If not, click here and sign yourself up!)

The newsletter is a monthly e-mail newsletter, Mystery Tin Monthly, containing the top blog posts, photographs, great links, and updates on projects under the Mystery Tin Brand, sent out on the first Monday of each month. This first newsletter was a little bit longer, broken into sections with an introduction to the newsletter, my top 3 blog posts on MysteryTin.com, my top pictures on Instagram, a sneak peek of Happy Hour!, and a reminder that Dinner’s Ready! is available for sale. Oh yeah, and a call for action and sharing. Duh.

I designed the newsletter in MailChimp, which also offers a number of added benefits that you can work into the campaign, including opens, clicks, bounces and unsubscribes. I clicked all the boxes I could and I scheduled my first newsletter to fire off at 12:15 PM, landing squarely during the lunch hour on January 2, New Year’s Day Observed. It definitely got my heart racing, but once the e-mail was out, I was refreshing the report over and over again, watching the results come back in real time…

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For the sake of transparency in the pursuit of knowledge, I’ve included a screenshot of my newsletter report. At the time I’m publishing this post, Tuesday, January 3, the e-mail was opened by 38.1% of recipients, with 26 total clicks for a 3.2% click rate, 10 bounce backs and a grand total of 33 unsubscribers. At first I was weary of the seemingly low numbers, but when compared to the industry standards, it actually appears I’m doing really well with my list (nearly 2.5x the industry average!). Maybe there will be some promise in this newsletter thing for me after all!

Of course, as a glutton for punishment, I couldn’t help but go through the unsubscribes. Who would unsubscribe from my newsletter?!?! I was expecting a small number of unsubscribes, particularly from those obscure apiary connections from China I friended on LinkedIn, but when I opened the unsubscribe list, I was actually quite surprised. Former co-workers and bosses, fraternity brothers, high school classmates, and more surprisingly, a handful of close family friends had all opted out of my newsletter. Part of me was shocked to see that people I really cared about, people I was actively invested in, people I grew up with, were not interested in hearing about my life. The way I looked at it, it was a monthly newsletter, so if you can’t stand one e-mail a month from meyou’re basically saying “I really don’t give a fuck about you.” It’s only one e-mail a month!

Thanks for being a good friend… jerk.

Emotions aside, e-mail marketing is simply a game of averages. Yesterday, I e-mailed nearly 700 people, so there’s bound to be some blowback. I can’t spend my time worrying about each and every person that unsubscribes from my newsletter, because no matter what, there’s always going to be somebody who isn’t interested in reading what you have to say or isn’t interested in buying what you’re selling. The challenge is, you must go on ceaselessly toward your goals, because “you’ll never get where you’re going if you stop to throw rocks at every barking dog.” I think that was a Winston Churchill quote.

The only thing I need to do now is set up the all the extra bells and whistles to get people signing themselves up for the Mystery Tin Monthly mailing list. I have the sign-up page, but I’m having some trouble with the pop-ups on my own website and embedding a sign up box in the text box (anybody out there want to help me with this?!)

What did you think of the first Mystery Tin Monthly? What would you like to hear more about? Let me know what you think by responding to the e-mail to mysterytin@gmail.com or by posting your comments below!

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Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
Personal Fire Ecology
 is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
The A-Z of My 2016 is my year in review mega post of 2016, complete with anecdotes, photographs, and some of my favorite songs and content from 2016.
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.
Starting a Podcast (Network) for Under $200 on WordPress is the play-by-play I used in setting up the show MAD Potential (with Ben Mehl) on the Mystery Tin Podcast Network.

An Honest Look At My Failures in Friendship

I’m not a good friend.

There’s no excuse. No matter how realistic or valid it may sound, friendship is a two-way road that involves nearly constant effort and upkeep, and that’s where I (and many others, I assume) fall short. Of course life’s friendships move in waves, but the lifelong friendships survive despite distance and time because of the continued effort by both friends. Only recently I’ve realized that I haven’t been keeping up with my end of the deal. I’ll try to explain why while trying not to justify.

I’m a relatively solitary guy. If you know me personally, I’m quite sociable, in the same manner your kitten is when you arrive home after a long day at work. The existence of someone else in the room overexcites you to a point of gushiness. And over the past 18 months, I have lived in five very different places. San Francisco, San Jose, Lake Tahoe, Ojai, and Portland. Many of these places, I lived by myself. I ate by myself. I slept by myself. While living in Tahoe, I would find myself walking to the nearest 7-11 just to speak to another human being, but I couldn’t buy much because I’ve also always been on the precipice of poverty. Okay, not that bad, but “vacation travel,” as a concept, has been unattainable for me for years now. I lead a pretty streamlined existence.

So I found solace in social media, particularly Facebook. While living in these lonely places, I was still able to see the going-ons of my friends and family as they lived seemingly fuller lives than mine. I would spend hours on Facebook perusing my friends pages, not in a creepy way, but appreciating the life experiences of people I felt were my friends. And truth be told, if you’re someone I care about, chances are I’ve “liked” and “commented” on a shit ton of your pictures. (Go ahead, look).

I couldn’t be at your wedding this past fall, but I saw it from 50 people’s perspectives. I wasn’t at your baby shower, but I know your daughter is going to have plenty of diapers. I’m sorry for your loss, that video was truly touching. The major life events that are shared with your friends. Your real friends in particular.

Where was I? Here. “Liking” your pictures and status updates.

But clicks aren’t the same as texts. Wall posts aren’t the same as phone calls. One is digital, the other is actual. Friendships require a commitment greater than “a social presence” in someone’s life, because the best moments in life are had with your friends, not appreciated by them after the fact.

In my egocentric world of solitary and transient living, I wrongly believed that by digitally appreciating your life’s experiences, I was doing my part in maintaining our friendship. I couldn’t be there in person, but I was studying up on my part of the deal. But that’s not good enough. Not only do my friends not have the time to scan Facebook like I do, but I realized that over the past 18 months, I hadn’t been sharing much of my life on social media because, quite honestly, there wasn’t much to share. This two-way road of friendship had slowly changed into a digital footpath. How sad.

One of the reasons that I can live in these different places is because I create art. Over here I write. There I paint. Up here, I’m designing. Some projects are paid for, others are self-funded. Still others are crowdsourced. I’ve had three projects crowdfunded over the past few years, two independent films and currently Dinner’s Ready!

In doing my part and promoting the crowdsourcing campaign, I’m reaching out to my friends and family about donating to my latest project. Instantly, my family and closest friends would contribute, but even that number dwindled by the third campaign. I didn’t get it. Everyone I chatted with about it was totally jazzed at the idea, but nobody’s really backed the project yet. Surely everybody can’t be full of shit, can they?

Of course not. The more I thought about why people weren’t backing my project, the more I realized it wasn’t the project, it was me. I was talking to them with a warped sense of intimacy. Again, not in the creepy way, but   in there being an imbalance of knowledge. They didn’t know how much I knew about their life. I didn’t know how much they knew about mine.

In this moment, I’m simply a random guy from their past, popping up, asking for money.

It didn’t matter I saw every picture of their beautiful wedding. I wasn’t there. I didn’t touch the floor on “a little bit softer now.” I didn’t taste the cake or smoke a cigar with the boys. In fact, I probably wasn’t invited because chances are I wasn’t able to go anyway. Life has pulled apart some of my closest friendships to a point of unfamiliarity. We’re “friends” on Facebook, but now virtually strangers in the same room.

I feel guilty about it. I feel so much guilt, in fact, that at times I shy away from interacting with my real friends in fear that I’ll be reprimanded for not being a better friend, or I’ll be brought to the table for any of the other regrettable things of my past. If that isn’t a snake eating it’s tail, I don’t know what is. I’ve ignored calls from my friends and deferred to sending them a text message instead. Now I’m hiding behind technology while still trying to maintain a solid friendship. Coward.

Needless to say, it’s not working. I’m not a good friend.

So I’m turning over a new leaf. I’m gonna try harder to be a good friend. This has nothing to do with podcasts, crowdsourcing campaigns, Instagram followers or blog hits. This has everything to do with redefining my priority list and the areas of life that deserve my focus and attention. Maintaining my friendships, and re-establishing my lost friendships, are definitely near the top of my list as my 30th birthday creeps closer every day.

What about you? Take a look at your Top 10 Facebook friends. When is the last time you called them on the phone? When was the last time you went out and got a burger together? Pick up your phone and call one of them. Right now. I assure you, you won’t regret it.

And if you see me calling, please pick up?

Lightning in a Bottle 2015

This last Memorial Day weekend was the Lightning in a Bottle Music Festival in Bradley, California. Put on by The Do Lab (they sponsor a stage at Coachella), “LIB” as it is lovingly referred to by those who have attended, is a wonderfully unique spectacle. This was my first LIB, and I was completely ready to let down my guard and open up to the whole experience.

Our caravan arrived at 12:30 PM on Thursday and the place was already packed! Some of our friends were camping in the Woogie and Namaste camps, and we had four tents for all our other friends, but the parking volunteers weren’t letting any car campers past Gate 4. Our friends were somewhere near Gate 10A, but they were stopping cars and sending them into Base Camp. We pleaded to let us join our friends, the guy just laughed at us. Naturally.

tumblr_noz0jlUDTm1rt7qgbo1_500We took a few laps around the huge camping area, looking for possible exit routes or ways back to the main road. Eventually, after nearly an hour, we gave up on getting deeper inside the festival, but the other car with us continued searching for a way inside. We found a great spot and laid out all the tents, but moments later we got a call from the other car… they’d made it through. They explained how to get past the gates, and after a little guilt tripping, we decided to make one last run for it! If it didn’t work, we’d be fine camping where we were. After a little shrewd maneuvering and smooth talking by yours truly, we were parking our BMW station wagon next to our friends in the Woogie Camp. Off to a good start.

When you’re camping, time is nearly irrelevant. If it’s sunny, you’re up. If it’s dark, you’re down. When you’re camping at a music festival, time is only really important with regards to musician set times and yoga classes, because at any hour of the day you could find something to do. Accordingly, I won’t attempt to continue this story of my LIB experience in chronological order, but rather, a fond recollection of my favorite, transformative moments at Lightning in a Bottle.

THE SPECTACLE
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Musical festivals like Lightning in a Bottle are special because they attempt to exist outside the realm of modern buzz of life on almost every level. For a majority of the festival, I couldn’t get any cell reception, but I honestly didn’t care (unless I got separated from my friends). I didn’t really need my phone, nor did I feel the need to interrupt my experience by sharing it on my social media platforms (and I do that all the time!). As you can tell, I took plenty of pictures with my phone but it was immensely refreshing to rid myself of my “social media collar.”

Thousands of people have come together for a long weekend to create this magical space, an interactive spectacle of art, spirituality and music. Rather than forcefully pushing past each other like rush hour traffic on urban sidewalks, complete strangers would smile and gave each other high fives as we passed on the narrow footbridges. Angered scowls were replaced by face paint and gems. Take off that tie and put on a Pinecone necklace. Leave the world out there, build your own world in here.

tumblr_np3oyo9Km31rt7qgbo1_500The art was amazing, everything from free standing structures to live action painting to the Android Jones exhibit in the art dome. So many blossoming forms of creative self-expression, perhaps unappreciated by the comparison to the mainstream media consumed in our everyday lives. But here, we can take the time to stop, and watch, and appreciate, art’s place in this beautifully chaotic world. Art is created to make you feel something, there may be no better way to remind yourself you’re human.

THE UNIQUE COMMUNITY

There is an unspoken agreement (I mean, maybe it’s written down somewhere but I haven’t seen it) that when you join a camping community at a musical festival: we are all in together. The music, the people, the earth, we’re all part of the same collective experience and we agree to keep an eye on one other.

tumblr_np2jay3Jyh1rt7qgbo1_500Coachella (arguably one of the most popular music festivals in the United States) has a very clear divide between the camping community and the music venue. Is it money? Is it liability? Whatever their reasoning, the community at Coachella is, in my opinion, significantly different and far more compartmentalized from the crowd at LIB. Don’t get me wrong, I love Coachella, but the entire experience of camping within feet of your favorite stage drew me in and blew Coachella out of the water. I no longer had to do all my drinking at my camp before going out, I could take my time with my drink and take the entire handle with me to the stage. No harm, no foul.

The police were definitely there, but the “law enforcement stigma” was thankfully, nowhere to be found. They were walking around among us, smiling, giving us high fives and making sure we had enough water to drink. They weren’t concerned with the letter of the law as much as they were concerned with our general safety and wellbeing. There was even an information stand called “Dance Safe” that provided you with condoms, ear plugs, and drug tests. People helping people.

LEAVING MY COMFORT ZONE

I definitely consider myself an extrovert, but there are still TONS of things I rarely do because, quite frankly, I’m scared of doing them. I don’t think I’m going to get hurt or anything, there’s just a level of apprehension that comes with doing something everybody else is already well ahead of me at. I guess it’s really a fear of being judged for not being good enough. Cowardly, I know.

tumblr_np4zueYHXR1rt7qgbo1_500Perhaps comically, I’ve always had these mixed emotions about yoga. I’m athletic but I’ve never really done yoga, just stretching and acrobatics. For some reason there was an expectation that I would be “good” at yoga and I was afraid to prove them (and myself) wrong. I was also never that into the mysticism commonly associated with yoga. With all due respect, I’d rather just focus on the stretching in my hamstring then collecting the energy in my soul and radiating it outward in rays of happiness and sunshine. So traditionally, I just stayed away from yoga.

But not at LIB! Oh, no! I was more-than-eager to embrace the entire spiritual awakening of the weekend, saying “yes” to experiences and opportunities that I would have previously quickly passed on in lieu of staying snugly inside my comfort zone. So I did… and it was glorious! My body felt great! And I didn’t stop there. I tried foods I’d never heard of. I took a Sound Bath. I drank things I’d never tasted before and I saw new art and artists. I was eager to take it all in, chasing experiences that would leave me a different, somehow better person. Perhaps I was looking to divide my life into two parts: my life before Lightning in a Bottle and my new life after.

FINDING ENLIGHTENMENT?

Everybody’s got their own definition of enlightenment, but I tend to use the Webster’s definition, especially now. Enlightenment is defined as the “action or state of attaining or having attained spiritual knowledge or insight.” Lucky for me, that moment happened somewhat early in the weekend, and I remember it beautifully.

tumblr_np0on2MCAM1rt7qgbo1_500Sunset at The Woogie stage. Thomas Jack was playing a Tropical House set. I was wearing a sick blue outfit and dancing my ass off on a picnic table with Baby Chips, Katie K. and the rest of our group. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so appreciative of all the volunteers, and all the musicians, and the Do Lab, and everybody that came to contribute to this amazing festival experience we were all enjoying. And when I told Baby Chips how beautiful I thought it all was, she reminded me that my own journey to get there, my own contribution to the festival, was equally beautiful and worth appreciating. She was right, I had to thank myself for making this experience happen for myself. So I did. And it was great.

When you can recognize that we’re all connected, you will appreciate, and be grateful for, everyone’s contribution to your own, personal experiences.

I was so thankful all weekend, frequently voicing my exuberance on the bridges, calling out for high fives from strangers. I must have given out 500 high fives over the long weekend but it was so worth it. As cliched as it sounds, I really did make a handful of new friends, and a handful of friends grew into members of my “family.” My tribe. My squad. My people.tumblr_np50apcwtZ1rt7qgbo1_500

THE FESTIVAL HANGOVER

There’s definitely a festival hangover. I’m not talking about the alcohol induced kind, although the Lightning in a Bottle beer by Belgium Brewing Company was absolutely delicious, I’m speaking more of the slow, painful reacclimation into the “real world” from the camping, festival lifestyle. Our two hour drive to festival took us five and half hours on the way home. By the time we arrived at home, I was totally exhausted and down for the count.

It’s been nearly a week since I reluctantly traded in my LIB Visitor Guide for my credit card bills. Now I check the time for conference calls instead of set times. I’m apartment hunting rather than meeting my friends at the Thunder Stage to dance. My cell phone works now and my hair is no longer dyed blue.

tumblr_np500d7NAW1rt7qgbo1_500I’m headed to a couple more music festivals this summer, some camping, some not. But there’s no doubt that LIB is going to stick with me for a while. Dancing at the Woogie Stage. Drinking Scotch in a tree hammock. The Empire of Love structure made entirely out of tin cans or the Jive Joint. The cairns have all been knocked down and the stages have been disassembled, the only things left are my wristband and a couple photos, but a part of me will long for those days and nights spent laughing, dancing and goofing around with Baby Chips, Sarah, Brian, Guce, Trish, Luciano, Sophia, Matt, Brian, Ducky, Christabella, Brendan, Victor, Jake, Evan, Shawn, Meghan, Katie, Chris, Ally, Mark, Maddie, Caitlin, Blake, Nina, R.J., Zina and everyone else at Lightning in a Bottle.

CHE

Snitches get Stitches… or a Playboy?

I love Graffiti. I hate “throw ups.”

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Graffiti artists spend hours sketching their pieces in notebooks, making stencils or printing stickers. They’ve come up with aliases based on letters they enjoy drawing. Graffiti has been used to make social statements and remember the departed. There is significant skill involved.

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“Throw ups” are vandalism for the sake of marking territory, most often by gangs. They are applied in less than a second and require no real artistic skill, just going through the motions of the gang’s “same old” packaged acronym. Blah.

But I didn’t always feel this way. As a matter of fact, when I was a kid, I was vehemently against all forms of graffiti.

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It was 1999. I was 13 and playing competitive tennis, which meant I was training with bigger kids. One night I was invited to “hang out” with the older kids at “a friend’s house,” which happened to be located near my elementary school. There were four or five kids, ages 14-17 and the 13 year old, 90-pound me. So… I was up for anything… right?

After a few hours (and the parents went to bed) we headed out. I really didn’t know what we were doing, but I was gonna tag along… mostly because I would be the only person not on this little outing and I wanted to look cool… duh?

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We walked quickly down the street, jumped over the wall, and sat on the ground, talking game plan. The older kids were in a “gang” together and they wanted to mark their territory: my elementary school. [Quick side note: my elementary school was actually split into two groups of buildings, one for the elementary school and one for the middle school. The middle school was further up the hill.] Their gang name? The WHITE RATS.

I told them that I attended this school, but I went to the middle school up the hill. If they only tagged the lower playground, I wouldn’t say anything. I mean, how much damage could they possibly do with two cans of black Krylon?

I didn’t go with them. I stayed by the picnic tables while the boys ran cackling into the darkness. I don’t remember how long it took them, but they eventually came back and we all decided to part ways and go home.

“Good work, guys.”

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The following Monday I was on my way to Physics class (or maybe it was just “Science” back then) when I turned the corner and saw it. Next to a “throw up” of their initials, WR, was a terribly drawn rat. A black outline that looked more like an Etch-a-sketch than a freehand spray painting. Clearly the work of a teenage amateur. Either way, they had gone beyond the lower playground and onto my classroom.

At the start of class, the teacher mentioned the Rat, to which I responded, “I not only know who did it, I was here while they did it.” [Side Note: I struggled with writing this line today. I’m actually quite ashamed of this. If I could go back in time, I would punch my prepubescent self in the face and give myself a quick rundown on the importance of maintaining a trustworthy reputation and, if there’s time, why this incident didn’t really matter in the long run of anyone’s life. Nevertheless, I am keeping this line in to keep the story authentic.]

Peak-into-the-Principals-OfficeI was a Snitch, plain and simple.

I was rushed away to the Principal’s Office, where I truthfully told her everything. I couldn’t remember the kid’s name, but all it took was a little deductive reasoning for her (with the help of my neighbors) to track down the kids. By the time my Mom picked me up from school, the graffiti was the latest gossip and I was the “good boy” for speaking up.

I didn’t see the older kids at tennis practice that day. Or the day after.

A few days later I was called back into the Principal’s Office. When I got there, the Principal, my English teacher, and my Mom were all seated around a small conference table. All eyes were on me.

“We found this on the lower playground. It looks like it belongs to you.” The Principal placed a PLAYBOY magazine on the table with MY NAME written in blue Sharpie on the cover 5 TIMES. I was stunned. It definitely wasn’t mine.

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“Isn’t this obviously a retaliation against my son for having told on these older kids?” My mom was right. It was totally obvious.

“Except that is Chris’ handwriting.” WAIT… what?

The Principal had taken the Playboy to my English teacher and asked if it was my handwriting. My teacher, clearly an expert on juvenile calligraphy, pinpointed me as the only culprit. My 13 year old handwriting was SO UNIQUE that it had to be me. [Funny story, the first “C” I ever received was in “Handwriting.”]

Just so we’re all on the same page: My principal accused me, a 13 year old boy, of acquiring pornography, writing my name on the cover 5 times, and “accidentally” leaving it on another playground of my elementary school.

Yeah… right.

* * * *

Nothing ended up happening to me, but I don’t know what happened to the older kids I told on. Word quickly spread about my indiscretion in the Principal’s office. I tried to defend myself but it was no use… I was out. I legitimately lost some friends over this. Who knows how those kids feel about me now, 14 years later. Maybe they’ve forgotten about me… Maybe they forgave me for being a kid… Maybe they’ve built themselves an alter and a voodoo Doll of me they poke with rusted safety pins.

… Maybe this blog post was a bad idea.

CHE

P.S. I went on to study graffiti in college, participating in my own “guerilla” pieces as well as staging graffiti for exhibition purposes. “Throw Ups” are still weak sauce.

Here is a link to one of my graffiti projects, “Nina:”