Archive for street art

PPP SGU Abroad Edition Part 3: “The Apology” JAPAN

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2012 by SLUTLUST

“If someone does something wrong they are expect to come clean and apologize. One of the worst sins is to deny guilt and not come clean in such a situation. In the past, issues involving loss of face were often dealt with by revenge or suicide.”

Jeffrey Hays

Tokyo, also known as the Eastern Capital, is a beautiful florescent empire in neon and plasma. As far into the future as the ever present technologies of their daily modern lives go, their traditions are based in roots deeper than the shallowness of our Western philosophies and arrogant appearances. There are as many temples as there are skyscrapers. One thing I learned that if you wrong someone else, the law doesn’t interfere as much if both parties can settle the dispute themselves. Another thing I learned was that when you hand a person an item you use both hands as a sign of fair play and transparency—even when a cashier would give me my change in coins, they passed it to me with two hands.

Apparently Tokyo is very model-friendly, complete with model houses that could double as out of state college campuses. I also saw the foreign women that came in from all over Africa and other 3rd world countries because Japanese businessmen spend fortunes on the touch of an “ethnic” girl, and how in some marriages a stop at the Blow Job Store before you got home was widely accepted and encouraged. I saw these mega video gambling malls where the prize was a basket of ball bearing, and pet adoption stores that kept the animals in what appeared to be vending machines. Every street had a confusing alley to go with it and the building numbers were based on the years the building was made and not on any particular grid order  making getting around without a local a guaranteed fall into the rabbit hole. Basically what I’m trying to say is that Tokyo was as traditional and mysterious as it was very advanced, progressive, and very weird.

K*****s was the owner of Club Feria, located in the Roppongi District. He was about 5 ft. 7 with a real chill backpack rapper feel about him. He came to the live graffiti art that LOVE ME and M**F did as a guest of DJ LINO and Z**T. You had to love Z**T’s hustle; he’d had no problem negotiating a party for us complete with a flyer and enough bottles to stock up for the 2nd coming of prohibition. He also somehow also got Kiwanis to consider having our gang do the live art exhibition in his nightclub. You’d think that a bunch of New York graffiti writers – whose idea of a live graffiti show was to rag each other’s name until the wall was completely textured with overlaying colors and perceived disrespect – would graciously turn down someone with a pristine five-star nightclub and very gang affiliated, but no, we accepted. Kiwanis loved us. Being that he also studied and lived in New York City from time to time, he missed the hooliganism that decorated his East Coast neighborhood. In my life I had never seen a venue owner literally ask a bunch of vandals to tag up their bathroom, and here he was asking us to do that to his entire club. Did I mention that he was the Yakuza member that owned the place?

One day, while awaiting our host at And A, we bump into a friend of N**S. Yutaman was a born and raised Japanese kid that knew him from his stay in Florida during their “INKHEADS” days. He invited us out for some authentic Japanese barbeque in a tiny local eatery were we discussed N**S dismal situation. Japanese barbeque is basically anything you can grow in a garden – wrapped in meat. Even the meat was wrapped in meat and deep fried in vegetable oil. Instead of ordering from the menu we allowed our fiery lady chef to feed us her personal choices. Somewhere after the 4th course my heart tapped out but my stomach ignored him and continued to wrestle on.

Yutamans assessment of N**S’s situation was not a welcomed one. What we thought was going to be a night in jail was looking more like a couple of weeks. On top of that the Tokyo police where actively searching for his “co-conspirators” after arresting N**S with a flyer in his possession for the And A event. In what had to be our favorite “Lost in Translation” moment: when they investigated N**S’s scrawl they saw it as “N**S LOVE ME Art Show!” announcing the exhibition and not as 2 individual and separate tags. And A was immediately notified and they nervously called our host who then tore M**T and S**F an extra asshole to bullshit out of. And A was being accused of gorilla marketing and wide spread vandalism. The guys basically had to use embassy levels of diplomacy to separate us from N**S, signing papers and downplaying our connection to him to the point where we called N**S a deranged fan. The exhibition was still allowed to go on but LOVE ME changed his tagged and signed everything with “NEVER EVER”. S**F used a spray can like a blow torch and we all had our American rock stars moment. Then we were told that the police would be there by 10pm… We cleaned up and left by 9:59.

We didn’t see N**S until a month later in New York City.

When our conversation turned towards our art project in Club Feria and K*****s’s name was mentioned, everyone within eavesdropping distance gasped and N**S’s friend face went blank like a shaken Etch-a-Sketch. I wish this moment was made up. As soon as he drew his face again he told us a story of how K*****s got into a tiff with a sumo wrestler who tried to resolve the argument by punching him in the face. The sumo wrestler – realizing what he had done – then made a public apology, paid him like a million dollars and disappeared. Do you know how bad ass you have to be to make something as big as a sumo wrestler vanish? And we have to tag up his club?? Talk about your artistic anxiety.

I saw firsthand how bad ass K*****s was.  After several members of his security team couldn’t control a drunk and unruly patron, he calmly approached the wasted guy, disarmed him of his 9mm, and then casually walked him out. This – mind you – was an ultra-aggressive drunk that was shaking down very single canopy on the roof, punching in walls, and grappling with five bouncers at once while screaming his lungs out- the veins on his neck bulging like any fighter in an anime cartoon. Now he was walking out with his free will, very relaxed and sedated as if he was headed towards his first communion.

But back to us:


We had no filter.

Nothing scared us; we were too drunk to rationalize anything. Like a toddler’s first time playing with fire, one minute we were being cautious and the next catastrophic. One night in one of Feria many levels A**O and S**F thought it would be cool to play a game of “Why are you so pouty? Here, catch this beer bottle!” One bottle landed squarely on A**O face resulting in a black eye and blood shooting out of his cheek  like a faulty water gun. We didn’t even as much as look for First Aid; we just hopped in a cab and went to what I found out was the freshest fish market in the world. A**O held his face together with bar napkins while N*W and I sniffed raw wasabi to the sound of Ghostface Killah’s “Fish” coming from Z**T’s iPhone. I even boothed (inserted into my asshole) some of it, and till this day I don’t know why. A better use of my time would have been volunteering to help a Japan still reeling from a major earthquake or at least trying to find some medical help for my friend’s battered face – maybe even some legal advice for my arrested friend…

But no.

I stole the cup I was served beer in and we got chased out of the first market. Even LOVE ME, whom I had met for the first time, got into the act. My impression of him was that he was more reserved and level headed than the rest of us, but how accurate are first impressions? He dyed his hair blonde, got belligerently drunk, and tore up the dance floor with the smooth moves he learned from that “Cornhulio” episode of Beavis & Butthead – complete with his army jacket pulled over his head. One night he spent the better half of the evening covering every M**F sticker his long arms could reach while M**T followed him covering LOVE ME stickers in some drunken competition in waste.

A**O’s bruised face and our crumpled sticker cakes was a perfect analogy for our trip. We were unkempt and faceless for six days straight, not one of us ever exercising any restraint or common sense at all.

Now let’s rewind back.

The lights of Roppongi started to shimmer during my minor panic attack. I was alone – and dirty. Everyone looked suspect. With S**F and his pursuer’s gone with the wind, my paranoia induced xenophobia was starting to set in. I felt like a child in one of those “I forgot my son at an airport” commercials. Every step I took was another one met with a vomiting Asian or an aggressive African who felt I really needed a blow job and knew just the girls with the skill sets for my ailment. In retrospect my anxiety made it feel like I was alone for an hour; in all honesty, it was about two minutes. DJ LINO and his Swedish meatball of a model where standing right outside to the left of where everything had just went down. They weren’t even aware of the malarkey S**F and I had gotten ourselves into and didn’t waste time in asking me questions as they quickly shoved me into a getaway cab. I wasn’t even being chased, but that didn’t stop me from ducking into the back seat when we drove past Club Jumangi.

The ride was what I could only describe as a couple of lefts and rights. My overwhelming “vandal on the run” fright night had me on blackout levels of drunken nervousness. How I got to White Room—another after hour’s club in the Roppongi district (every club felt like it was an afterhours)—at 6AM still eludes me to this day. How I randomly found A**O in front of a Japanese 7-11 also eludes me. I told him about S**F and he traded me a story about how he was at some club called “Club Asia” (racist?) and was chased out by security and escaped by wriggling out of his really cool shark swallowing a shark t-shirt.

The shark t-shirt anecdote broke my frozen in headlights anxiety (not really; I was too alcohol-dumb to be scared, which is a very necessary emotion needed for basic survival) and off to White Room we went. We said goodbye to DJ LINO and ping ponged shots with two Canadian girls till eight in the morning. A**O slobbered on one ‘til she evicted his fingers from her vagina, while I promised the other one marriage if she ever came to the States and needed a work visa. Finally I was just a jolly old wing man.

Both girls abandoned us with our liquor boners and we stumbled out into the eyeball-rape that was the Tokyo morning sun. We walked half a block until we reach a major intersection where we could catch a cab, then realized we were only around the corner from Club Jumangi. Before I could do an “uh oh” and turn the other way, we magically bumped into S**F and Z**T. That brought out the way-too-intoxicated, happy-to-see-you cheerleaders-in-high-school greetings from all of us. Except for S**F. Z**T thought this was hilarious, especially being that he’d slept twenty hours from when I’d last seen him the night before and was now in great spirits.

But S**F was definitely not amused.

Not in the slightest.

“Yo you motherfuckers look crossed-eyed,” he said, a disgusted look on his face.

“Son what happened?” I asked.

“I got fucking chased out because of you! Why did you even take that big ass tag in the bathroom?”

My eyes rolled back into my head like a turn on a losing slot machine and the letters ‘TILT’ popped up.

“Fuck this I’m out.”

“But yo where are you going?”

“I’m going back to the hotel with Z**T to get breakfast.”

He stops a cab; they both get in.

“Yo son hold up we going with you…”

I go to reach for the door, but S**F grabbed it and slammed it shut, punctuating the moment with a “FUCK YOU GUYS!” as the cab sped off. A**O and I just looked at each other, grimaced, then broke out into laughter. We grabbed some food and a couple more cans of beer and went back to his hotel room where we shared a bed and promised to never tell anyone.

Later, I woke up and walked all the way back to my hotel room. After sleeping for most of the day I dusted myself off and asked S**F what had happened, being I couldn’t recall our previous conversation or anything for that matter

“Motherfucker I got arrested because of you. I ran as fast as I could but then my legs gave out and that Nigerian fuck caught me. They held me in jail until the club owner accepted my apology or some shit. They me had in a cell for like four hours till DJ LINO and Z**T came and got me.”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Wow, um, well how did you apologize? Did you say I’m sorry?”

“Fuck no…”

PPP

PPP SGU Abroad Edition Part Two: “Tokyo Drift” JAPAN

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by SLUTLUST

“In April 2010, the National Police Agency instructed police nationwide to begin cracking down more seriously on “small” crimes like shoplifting, littering, graffiti writing and other “behavior that could disrupt social order” as a way isolating petty criminals early and preventing from committing worse offenses. The aim of the effort was to make Japan “a society in which crimes cannot easily take place.”

Jeffrey Hays

I wish I could describe the feeling in the room without using a dated reference to “The Matrix” but I can’t.  You know the scene when Neo finally does that gravity defying awkward lean backwards while dodging an insane amount of bullets? The near-stillness of the moving shrapnel fluttering around him that then suddenly speeds up? How the surrounding sound that was muted before filters rapidly back into a loud BOOM as Keanu goes from slow motion to real time?

That’s how I’ll remember it: the sloppy and pointless hiding of evidence and the failed erasing of internet posts that were already reposted and the coordinating of the alibis. The stressful rubbing of the forehead and the witch hunt for someone to blame that infected each of us. Well, we all agreed that it was Pablo’s fault: that fact was certain to us like the blue sky, but in the end it was all of our faults. Once we accepted that inevitable truth, as intense the moment was, it was over and everything settled like the dust after a fall out. We are vandals—international vandals now—we all knew the risk and the only rule we followed is every man for himself. Well, there are other rules (fill-ins over tags over markers and yadda yadda yadda) but in the trenches when those lights come on you’re nothing but a roach amongst many on a tenement apartment floor.

LOVE ME decided that he had enough for one evening and calls it early. M**T, exhausted from trying to rationalize all of this, followed suit. SERF and I were electric. We were in total vacation mode — far from the “lay low” mode we were obviously supposed to be exercising. We both needed drinks, something to suffocate and erase the memory from our frazzled nerves. I needed it more the comedown from the rush of almost being locked up was professional steel-cage wrestling match brutal. I received a text from N*W with directions to some bar not far from the hotel and thankfully in the opposite direction from the scene of the crime. Our responsible adult selves committed to being well behaved, banning the shenanigans like our 1st night in Tokyo and our 2nd night at the train tracks. Our manic, compulsive ignore-what-our-responsible-selves-just-committed-to selves grabbed some moremarkers and a couple more cans of paint.

I grabbed another camera to document it all.

The bar could have made millions in the Williamsburg part of Brooklyn. It had a seedy hotel feel with red velvet walls, plus a ski-lodge sensibility that came embellished with elk horns and exuberant antique picture frames. The chandeliers that filled every inch of the ceiling were as Victorian as they where dusty, although the dust took nothing away from their eloquent and dignified beauty. N*W was outside smoking a cigarette while Will and the two models, Tanya and Kamaryn, sat inside what looked like the tableau of a sexy high fashion gothic photo shoot. In the back of the bar there were a couple of older Asian gangster types smoking cigars, and a bald, leather-faced bartender that could have been the Japanese Vin Diesel. I felt his aggression in my heart when he told me I couldn’t take a photo in his bar. The disconnect between my heart and brain became apparent as I ordered a shot, turned the flash off, and marker mopped his entire bathroom.

I love tagging bathrooms.

Everyone chatted up the “Great Alaskan Escape” (Will and the two girls shared the same flight to Tokyo, which had to make an emergency landing in Alaska due to engine trouble, delaying their trip by a day) while I bummed N*W for a cigarette outside. Before we left the hotel room we all had agreed not to tell ANYONE about N**S’s arrest, as to not alert Tanya – whose mother just happened to be our host – and endanger the upcoming exhibition for And A and not get paid. Of course, after three drags off my duty free cigarette my diarrhea of the mouth made its appearance. I topped off the gossip with a “but don’t tell anyone else” cherry that decorated the N**S cake NAW would then slowly share with the rest of the group – and why not?! One of us was already in jail and most people would consider that important news. For someone whose sole means of income was based on keeping things quiet I sucked at being the clandestine person I should have been.

The more drinks we poured, the later the night went, and the more removed I was from our “Great Tokyo Escape” the more it set in. Excitement like that you just don’t hide. This was me receiving my Boy Scout adventure badge—and what was the purpose of having one if anyone doesn’t know? (This particular conviction won me a “what the fuck is wrong with you?” award from S**F – who stated this fine piece of contradiction as I played look out for him as he casually defaced half of Japan.)

We paid our tab and left what could easily have been—décor-wise—the inside of a Betsy Johnson purse for a better party with a clientele less “townie” and without the murderous edge. Le Baron, a well known “It” bar in France, had recently opened up a Tokyo outpost. We opted out of taking a cab and walked what felt like thirty blocks to get there. The girls skipped in their slender heels and giggled charming drunky girl stuff while the boys leaped-frogged over each other scribbling on any surface within reach. Our friend had been in jail for no less than two hours, and whatever lesson we should have learned from that fiasco we skyrocketed it out of Tokyo like a clown in the circus cannon.

By the time we got to Le Baron it was around 3 in the morning, and the Tuesday or Monday (in all honesty, by then I had lost track of the days, and I was only in Japan for two days) night lull had cleared out the spot, which was closing their doors. DJ LINO, a good friend of Z**T (whom we had not heard from since the “Great Hand Job” escape), who had a three-month DJ residency in Japan, met us outside the dead venue and suggested we all go to Club Jumangi in the Roppongi Hills District. It was “Models Night”, also known as “No Need to Twist Our Arms We Are Going Night”. I took a deep breath after vomiting bits of the previous night’s anxiety in my mouth – swallowed it – pulled up my jeans and we all split up into separate cabs.

There is some rule in Tokyo nightlife where if you are hired for a residency, you’re not allowed to appear in another competing nightclub. You’re not even allowed to walk in as a client. DJ LINO’s residency was at a club called Fiera, a spot rumored to have been owned by a member of The Yakuza, a very well known and feared Japanese mob or gang or whatever you picked up from any nineties action flick. None of this meant anything to this New York City DJ as he used his tongue to grant us free passage into a club we paid to get into the night before. Now we were being ushered into for free like visiting celebrities. Since it was “Models Night” any female model (or male? We never *ahem* got asked) got to drink top shelf liquor for free. We had two of them; both ethnic-looking with legs longer than the attention span a simpleton could have used to pay attention to calculus. The ladies received their magical free booze wrist bands and the men feverishly sent the ladies to the bar for drinks so many times you could have swore our models were over worked cocktail waitresses.

The activity in the booth we acquired for ourselves reached microwave popcorn levels of frenzy. DJ LINO and his imported Swedish model arm candy were the first to leave our 4am straight-out-of-a-movie – night – bowl of excitement. Before he left, he introduced me to a friend who was selling the coveted green plant I had been fiending for. Before he even told me the price, I was already pulling out yens like a sex addict at a strip club. His boy slipped me what I would normally pay $10 for on my block: an honest third of a gram. “Okay,” I tell myself, confident that getting stoned in Japan was going to be cheaper than my duty-free cigarettes.

“How much?” I asked, scanning the room as if I could spot a Japanese undercover cop.

“5000 yen”.

The DJ might as well have stopped the music; everyone in the club might as well have turned to me and gasped in unison.  I paid what equated to $75 for a $10 bag of weed. You only live once. Right?

Soon enough Will and N*W decided to leave with the girls in tow – leaving only S**F and I to troll the spectacle of a Tokyo “Models Night gone after-hours”. If I don’t mention how apprehensive I was about the intense one-on-one hang out time I was going to have to with him then I’d only be telling half the story. You would swear S**F was bipolar by the stories you would hear of him. He was known to be as charismatic as he was chaotic. Before I could find out if the rumors where true, we were approached by a bouncer, who upon finding us quickly proceeded to talk on his headset while shouting accusations none of us could understand. Then another bouncer followed, translating what the first bouncer was shouting at SERF.

“You graffiti up our bathroom!!!”

“Yo, what are you talking about? I didn’t even go to the bathroom.”

When we first entered the club a bouncer had searched the plastic bag S**F was carrying with him which still held a couple of full spray cans. The bouncer didn’t care- as long as it wasn’t booze and S**F promised to keep it in the bag. S**F kept repeating over and over that he didn’t go to the bathroom, but the bouncer wasn’t having it; he called more staff over and pointed to the hidden cameras located in the booth we occupied and in the surrounding nightclub. Exhausted from defending himself, S**F demanded to be taken to the bathroom and shown what exactly he was being accused of. I followed, knowing exactly what they are going to see: a huge S**TL**T tag I took a couple of minutes earlier with a Krink ink mop. The drips from the ink were still running wet down the wall, staining the fingers of a really pissed-off club manager.

“%^$^%#%^$&^$*&%&^$@#@#&^*(&(*&%^$%#$@^@&!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

From what I gathered we were being kicked out.

S**F led the pack with an intensity that could only be described as a General going to war. The entire staff of the club followed his march with me several steps behind like a curious but cautious shadow. Before we descended down the stairs that lead to the exit, I ditched the Krink that was seeping ink through my jeans like a Tell Tale Heart. S**F was still holding the bag of spray cans when we reached the exit and one of the Nigerian bouncers posted outside tried to snatch the bag from him. This prompted S**F to flail his arms around like he was defending a rebound he caught in a basketball game. The Nigerian then tries to bear hug S**F but couldn’t find a grip on S**F’s wiry frame and wound up hugging himself. Another bouncer, a chubby Ukrainian in a Men’s Warehouse suit, popped out of nowhere from the left of me and gave chase—but quickly fell victim to S**F’s fancy footwork. The bouncer lost his footing and landed on his face. When he fell every single item in his pocket and one of his shoes exploded from his person like an Andy Capp cartoon cloud.

S**F’s moves went from basketball court to Track & Field as he sprinted down the block—knees nearly touching his chest—as the Nigerian bouncer again joined the hunt and followed. The only thing missing from this montage was theme song from “Benny Hill”. Soon they both vanished around the corner to the right. I, under the disguise of feigned confusion, slowly shuffled to the left of the street, undisturbed in the opposite direction of the commotion. My only thought being “We just saw Pablo get arrested several hours ago—what the fuck?!”

It was 5 AM in Tokyo and the only person who knew where the hell we were – and who had the room key to our hotel room – was now gone. And I had weed on me; a drug I would find out later that’s very punishable by Japanese law, on my person.

I was in Japan, riding dirty, lost and alone.

But let’s fast forward for a minute.

(To be continued…)

PPP SGU Abroad Edition Part One: “I Want To Take… A Sentimental Journey” JAPAN

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on August 15, 2012 by SLUTLUST

“…Not surprisingly, the rise of hip-hop music also hasn’t meant a rise in gangs or violent crime in Japan. But it has meant a rise in the crime of vandalism-namely graffiti. (Japan has a native word for graffiti, “rakugaki”, but this term usually describes simple etchings of the “yoko likes yuya” or “ichiro is a geek” variety.)”

Natalie Stanchfield.

A hacking cough wakes me up sometime late in the afternoon. I’m begging God it’s not the Swine Flu or a nuclear fallout cold I caught from dry humping the streets of Tokyo on my first night out. It had only been only 5 months since a major earthquake/ tsunami decimated the Japanese coastline causing a meltdown in 2 out of the 3 nuclear reactors. I pretty much felt my worries were justified. The air was humid with only an uneasy hint of fall making the simplest wardrobe choices terribly difficult. One minute you were glass cutting nipples chilly – the next minute you were clawing yourself out of your layers like you were on fire. My eyes were glazed and my face balmy as my hands reeked of cheap whisky and acrylic paint. I looked sick.

M**T was kind enough to let me sleep my stray dog antics off on his bed at the Cerulean Towers hotel while he put in a day’s work at this installation he was creating for “And A” along with S**F and LOVE ME. “And A” was a clothing/ lifestyle brand/ store that was hosting them for their 10th anniversary – and had something to do with the Sotheby’s enterprise. Sotheby’s sounded fancy – I recognized the name from Page Six when celebrities would buy stuff from other rich folk that they would then auction off for outrageous prices. We would later find out it was “Sasabee’s” which meant something huge in Japan but nothing to us in America. I needed to clean myself up. I was there to do important shit. I was supposed to be taking pictures and not sleeping off a night that started off with a 16 hour flight and ended at 9am running out of a Tokyo hand job shop.

“You pay now!”

That played over and over in my head as I blew a pack of cigarettes out of my nose. I never drank with such boorish behavior back in New York City. Apparently I snored. Something that’s always cool to find out when you’re bunking with other men. When I was approached about joining this fieldtrip a couple of months ago in truth I didn’t really want to attend. I had never did an all homeboy camping trip so my first one being on the other side of the planet had me a little apprehensive. I also remembered reading a story about M**T and S**F almost dying in a gang fight in Beijing so yeah I was definitely apprehensive. Japan, with its mystery dragon, lady boy, Yakuza, samurai shit – and these two certified wild boys? No thank you. I’ve gotten into violent boxing matches with my shadows that have ended in decision.

And then I found out Pablo “P3D” aka “The Kentucky Gentleman” himself, N**S, was going. Greg NAW and ZOOTED also agreed to come along with the guys from Roberta’s Pizza in Brooklyn. DJ Will Robbins also attached himself to the line up along with his girlfriend Tanya (who was the daughter of our host who facilitated the And A deal) and her best friend forever Kamaryn, who I swore were sisters until I befriended them on Facebook. I didn’t know LOVE ME, whose moniker was all over my city and easily spotted in the opening credits of Saturday Night Live was going till we got there. And then you have my very eager camera and 18 rolls of film – all just dying to go.

That decided it… If I was going to die out in Japan, this was going to be a very crowded and fun way to die.

I did the best (or worst) I could’ve to saved up enough money to cover my flight and a little bit of pocket change so I could feed myself. Our hotel room was booked in a 5 star hotel in the Shibuya district. According to The M**F’s – who had already visited Tokyo – the room was big enough to fit at least 4 people.  They set it up so N**S and I would bunk with them. A graffiti writer sleepover! I thought to myself. A graffiti writer sleep over scented with the fresh smell of Krink markers and spray cans, paint splattered sneakers and half empty bottles of booze. Our sleepover would also have the proverbial “loose cannon” (N**S), the crankiest Jesus Christ/ ZZ Top impersonator on the illegal side of a spray can (S**F), a human Smirnoff vodka bottle (M**T), and myself, a wide eyed Mogwai (from the movie “Gremlins”) minutes away from midnight and his next meal. I made sure to pack an extra liver and opened up a bank account with 2 separate ATM cards in case I lost one in this perfect maelstrom of a “working vacation”.

The room goes from dark and quiet to really colorful and busy. M**T and S**F entered the room from working all day to pick up a few more supplies and to wait for Pablo’s arrival. It’s around 6pm. I drag myself into the bathroom and peel off last night from my skin. My fingernails are caked with spray can fluid and my clothes are spotted with ink. I’m pretty sure the streets of Tokyo looked worst – our urban nicknames scrawled on anything not neon or florescent. The quick shower I took does little for my composure – just enough to allow me a legible word in between my disruptive coughs. After I brush my teeth I use a shot of whiskey and Red Bull as mouth wash. The jolt to my system shakes me like a battered woman. When N**S finally arrives I throw up a little in my mouth out of sheer excitement. After exchanging pleasantries we each grab a bag with supplies and head out to And A.

Our walk through Shibuya is all anticipation with no expectations greater than more drinks and more painting. Every intersection was four more roads we could travel and vandalize. As we turn the corner to the store we are confronted with a huge M**F wheat pasted on the side of a 2 story Japanese version of an Urban Outfitters – but neater. The inside of the store was all glass, mirrors, and wood grain shelves combined into some post modernist concept only a nerd into architecture, design, and fashion could love. Everything down to the drink coasters they sold had this feel of “New York won’t be seeing the likes of this until next year” vibe. Even the T-shirts they sold had more technology than most of our inner city public schools. The staff was extremely pleasant and disarming to the point where we felt uncomfortable trusting them. Our sarcastic jokes fell flat and our bravado felt dated amongst their honorable posture– Japan is where egos go to die under the wrath of manners.

On top of the huge fill-in that decorated the outside of the store the crew was given a separate room inside of the store to defile. This would be the room that kept most of the products illustrated with the vandalism that used to be exclusive to the concrete walls and delivery trucks of a city in urban blight. From coats to a coffee mug with a velvet handle and high tech head phones, this was graffiti meets Skymall. The LOVE ME/ M**F tag had went from being blackbook scribble to an actual brand – as if tagging your building wasn’t enough these guys wanted to tag up your home interior and everything in it. The room was filled with a repetitive LOVE ME written over and over on a mirrored wall and glass with the M**F fill-in painted over it. A huge “Peter Pan Posse Forever Young Having Fun” was painted over everything complete with the ink drips that turned the room into an acrylic forest. Standing inside the room felt like you were watching the store form the point of view of the painted walls, trapped inside a black, silver, and red doodle.

The guys wrapped up their work for the day as our host in Tokyo arrives to the store. Her daughter (Tanya), who was supposed to have arrived in Japan with us the night before but had to spend a day in Alaska with Will and Kamaryn due to airplane trouble, finally arrive. Everyone applauds the fact that they are not shrapnel scattered all over Canada in some horrific engine malfunction. Our New York City in Japan crew is now a basket ball team with a full bench. Our host, in a celebratory mood – invites us all to a few drinks and food at a nearby restaurant. This turns out to be my first meal in Japan, interrupting was felt like a 24 hour alcohol binge. Before we leave the store we snatch up a few cans of paint at the behest of a suspiciously animated N**S. He repeatedly keeps telling us of this wall along some train track he wants to hit. It was like he wouldn’t shut up about it. Our host warns us of any shenanigans and advises us not to go bombing. Of course we agreed, while filling our pockets with an assorted collection of markers and mops. N**S blatantly grabs an entire box of spray-paint. This is when we learn that he’s already downed 3 bottles of sake. He’s been in Japan now for about 3 hours.

The dinner was cozy and jubilant – an authentic Japanese fare with a dash of western curiosity. Any place where you have to remove your shoes and sit on an embroidered cushion is automatically humbling. Our boisterous “happy to see you alive in Japan” vibe was muffled by the ambiance into a quiet scream. Everyone was on their best behavior outside of a formal dinner with your parents. As the foreign food and sake flowed our respectful apprehension turned into a welcomed familiarity. This is when I first started to notice N**S’s voice. It went from gentle giant to ardent politician. It got worst as the wood chip he was given that held the key to the cubby hole that held his shoes went missing:

“Come on guys, who got my piece of wood?”

“Hahahahahaha! Pause, N**S…”

“No I’m fucking serious who got my block of wood?”

“Shhhhh chill did you check where you were sitting at?” I say, trying to weather the tempest.

“Yeah it’s not there come on guys give me my block.”

By this time our host and the others had already filtered out of the restaurant, M**T and S**F couldn’t contain their laughter at Pablo’s growing temper tantrum and skipped outside leaving me to deal with it. This only agitated the situation.

“Are you fucking guys kidding me COME ON GUYS GIVE ME MY WOOD.”

“N**S I think you put it in the box with the paint did you check it?”

“YEAH I DID IT’S NOT IN THERE!”

(This was the 1st time in Japan I felt slightly embarrassed – and I ran out on a hand job the night before.)

“No I don’t think you did, let me check it” as I go reaching for the box of paint.

“NO!” he pouts like a spoiled child in a day care.

“N**S, just give me the box.”

“NO!”

I passively wrestle the box out of his hand and after a few moments he reluctantly lets it go.

Of course the wood chip in question was in the box. I had to bite my lip to keep me from exploding with laughter.

We all exchange goodbyes with our host and plan on meeting the other kids later on in the evening for some Tokyo nightlife. We leave them under the guise of returning back to our hotel room for a disco nap. They all stress again for us not to do anything stupid informing us that the Tokyo police doesn’t take kindly to vandalism. We adamantly agree not to, nodding our heads in agreement as N**S is climbing on a garbage can to catch a tag in the foreground. There is no taming him now. No one noticed this incredibly loud and sloppy move but me.

The minute our host got into a cab – once again – we were climbing over everything to like ants at a picnic leaving our names as evidence of our infestation. Somehow, in what was the ball dropping move of the trip, N**S became our Peter Pan and we all blindly follow him.

This is when the deal goes sour.

It’s about a 20 minute walk from the restaurant to the dearly coveted, and oversold, wall. N**S leads the charge – like a pirate declaring anarchy against clean surfaces – with M**T and LOVE ME in tow. S**F and I hang back, slowed down by his need to tag every 3 seconds, my taking a picture every 3 seconds, and our paranoid need for caution. Soon enough we reach the train track which is outside and down a steep ditch several meters away from an entry to an underground tunnel. While walking along the outside of a track we notice a large team of train workers sorting out their equipment and getting ready to start their shift – complete with flood lights and a video camera. For a minute I thought the workers were being interviewed by the media about their DEVO’ish (80’s nu- wave band) work outfits. You would think this would have been seen as a major red flag – but no. We address it with a wise crack and proceed to walk another 100 or so yards before breaking into the Tokyo transit system

I’ve always loved graffiti. Since I was young I would change my name over and over again till I found a moniker easy enough for me to write and connect all the letters with a respectable street penmanship. I never went bombing. I always kept my vandalism to art blackbooks and whatever desk I was stationed at in public school. By the time I was old enough to move around the city without my mother chaperoning me the train era of graffiti was over. The first time I actually grabbed a can of paint was in my senior year of high school while attending night school at Washington Irving in lower Manhattan. My friend at the time, FOCUS RFC, took me right after class and we tagged the entire length of 14th St. from the West Side Highway all the way to Avenue D on the Lower East Side. Mind it you was 9pm and a very different New York from the homogenized metropolis it is now.

I would tell you the feeling was better than sex or drugs but I couldn’t – being that back then I was still a sober, wide eyed virgin. 18 years later and every conceivable vice I could get my hands on and try at least one confirmed it – nothing beats seeing your name up on a wall or when other people tell you that they have seen it. Nothing would ever beat the fear of getting caught or the feeling of paint shooting out of your hands like a super hero blasting a complex signature from his palm onto someone else’s property.

Nothing.

In.

The.

World.

And now I was all the way the fuck over in Japan about to do the same with some of the most infamous writers ever to touch a fat cap. And tagging in a train yard? My inner child couldn’t stop masturbating to the thought.

We find entry to the train track at a part of the gate with not that much barbed wire and next to a wall making it easier for us to scale it. Once over the gate and through some bushes, the trench dipped at an angle for about 10 feet before touching a ledge and then it went down for another 20 stories. I was the last one to hop over. By the time I reach my motley crew LOVE ME and N**S where already on the train tracks decorating the holy grail of walls. M**T and S**F were still on the upper ledge changing spray can caps. I readied my camera. This was going to be my film version of Video Graf (a graffiti video magazine from the 90’s that showed writers bombing all of existence), Ryan McGinley (a well-known NY based photographer that started with photo’s of street art) moment. In my excitement I take a photo of S**F catching a tag with the flash on – forgetting everything I had learned from watching Mr. Brainwash fumble around in Exit through the Gift Shop. This wins me a resounding “What the fuck are you doing!?” quickly cooling my first time at an amusement park experience. The bass in S**F’s voice reminded me of how tense and dangerous everything we were doing was and how I wasn’t on the other side of the gate looking in, I was a now a co-defendant.

Before I could allow the thought to settle in and cement itself into common sense we are met with a running and out of breath LOVE ME. The train workers who we had seen earlier had started their shift and were make their way down the track in our direction. He quickly scurried up the wall and hid with us under the shadows of an over pass that was near us on the upper ledge. We could only assume that N**S was still hiding somewhere on the track. This was it: my “Locked up Abroad” moment. I refused to allow the guys to see me shake in fear and instead of going with my better judgment of leaving I stayed in the shadows with my team.

We laid still under the silent Tokyo darkness with only our heartbeat and gasps for air as our conversation. Each second felt like an hour. Once the track maintenance train shuffled passed us without incident we relaxed and waited for its light to fade into the tunnel. The minute the coast was clear M**T and LOVE ME slid down to the rail road to finish what they started while S**F stayed with me on the ledge to work on the fill-in he started. N**S came out of from whatever whole he was hiding in and continued painting. The worst was now over.

Or so I thought.

The last few paragraph repeated itself exactly 3 more times.

Back at the hotel room we kept trying to figure out where we went so wrong. The consensus was that if this had been NYC we would have never entered the tracks after seeing all of those transit workers idly standing by. Not only did we walk right by them we broke into the tracks only a couple of feet away from them – basically the equivalent of holding the door for them. If that wasn’t enough of a bad omen how did we even conceive it was of a sound mind decision to stay in those tracks after the first maintenance train rolled by? Did we believe that a police force in Tokyo was nonexistent? We definitely acted as such that the first night we arrived, ragging any surface without care as to what property it was or who was watching.

Things we never would have done in NYC…

Well that’s all not entirely true.

So we blamed NEWS, who was so drunk we are all still experiencing his hangover till this day.

LOVE ME scaled back up the wall in what appeared to be one hop. M**T followed like he was still in communist Russia trying to fly his way out of Siberia. All I heard was that there was someone with a flash light on foot. Cops?! We didn’t wait around. One by one we flew over the gate like it was an Olympic hurdle and we were all going for the one gold medal. In my anxious escape I scraped half of my shin off but didn’t realize it until several days later as the adrenaline masked any pain I should have felt. I looked back once to make sure N**S was following but I only saw the guy with his light saber of a flash light screaming like an extra in a Godzilla movie. N**S was nowhere behind us. We quickly spot a cab and pile into it. I keep yelling at everyone to wait for N**S but I was in such a frenzied shock I couldn’t even hear myself. This gave me my first lesson in graffiti: every man for his motherfucking self. I didn’t even have my door shut before the cab pulled off into the neon city – as if our driver knew he was our getaway car. I look back towards the scene of the crime to see N**S face finally appear over the gate. I try to get our car to stop for him but my voice is lost amongst the commotion. I closed my eyes in exhaustion and quietly pray he finds his way back to our hotel.

We pour out of our taxi and into our lobby in an exhilarated rush of “we fucking made it”. Everyone picked a corner of the room to nervously giggle off almost being caught and “Locked up Abroad”. I grab the lukewarm whiskey I had stashed behind the window blinds and do a shot straight out of the bottle like it was a much needed sedative. I’m so pumped up my hacking cough is no longer. Everyone catches their breath and the room starts to fill up with everyone escalating and elated gibberish. This was normal shit to the others – it was a moment of an entire lifetime for me. I was no longer playing it safe, taking pictures from afar, I was in the story. Shit I almost was the story. My common sense and need for adventure collided at the bargaining table and the negotiations fell apart. Everything was one big “what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck???”

Soon M**T’s voice cuts through our slowly settling rabble; “Yo call N**S’s phone.”

I scrolled through my Black Berry until I reached his name quickly like my fingers just remembered it had some chores to do and our mother was almost home. I even didn’t care about how much I’m was being charged in roaming fees my main concern was The Kentucky Gentleman’s safety. Each ring had my finger crossed and an offering to the God of Overseas Vandalism. By the 4th ring he picks up.

“Yo you ok?”

(Obviously.)

“Yeah yeah I’m good where are you guys?”

“We are at the hotel, come to the hotel.”

“Yeah but how do I get there?”

“Just grab a cab any cab tell them the name of the hotel they’ll take you.”

“Nah fuck it I’m gonna walk.”

“NO DON’T WALK, GET IN A CAR!”

“Ok ok I’ll get a cab, but where?”

“THEY ARE EVERY WHERE!!!”

“Ok ok”

The phone hangs up and the room explodes with life again. S**F stops with the doomsdays scenarios and M**t stops hiding all of the evidence that littered our room, LOVE ME starts laughing. I go on a 20 post twitter rant about what had just happened to us. The last thing any of us needed was N**S getting arrested and starting some huge international incident and getting us all into major trouble with our host. Everyone relaxed and the next few minute are filled with the congratulatory jargon and the “what if’s” every graffiti writers showers each other with after a great escape.

Once again this was common place for them but for me – this was now Heaven.

Fifteen minutes have passed. We all collectively stop with our bullshitting and wonder why N**S hasn’t arrived yet. I call him back. This time he answers in one ring:

“Yo I’m getting arrested…”

That’s followed by a bunch of inaudible screaming in Japanese.

“What?!” I yell into my phone, eyebrow raised and the smile dripping off my face.

“yeah I’m getting arrested I’ll talk to you la…’

And the phone goes dead. And the air leaves our room. Our jaws drop and everyone starts frantically hiding paint and stickers again and I start erasing tweets. This was only my 2nd evening in Japan – N**WS 6 hour in Tokyo – and the deal has gone extremely sour.