9.62

The entire town is infested with tourists and hot as fuck this weekend. And you know what that means, dear readers. Yes, that’s right, I’m cranky.

I pushed my way through the hordes earlier in an attempt to reach the library, where some books were allegedly waiting for me. After being subjected to screaming children, yuppies blocking the entire sidewalk and refusing to move, and vapid vacuous schoolgirls clogging intersections, I finally made it safely to the library, which was also crowded and extremely hot. I retrieved my books from the hold shelf, taking note of what the other “Smith, S.’s” in the town are reading, and collecting Quin’s Shanghai Circus, You Can Get Arrested for That and Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body. I fought my way back home, briefly stopping by my Chinese mother’s house to see if she was at home.

She wasn’t, but I noticed that one of her buildings had been liberally bedecked with graffiti.

Her buildings are actually fairly regularly vandalized, though, thank Pete, the graffiti is never racial in nature. It’s also not terribly good. It’s just illegible scrawling with no real purpose, and it costs a lot of money and energy to clean up. I know, because I’ve done it a couple of times. Much to my irritation.

You see, in Fort Bragg, instead of punishing the people who leave graffiti, the City punishes landlords. If graffiti is spotted on your property, the police give you a notice, leaving 15 days to clean it up. If you don’t clean it up, the City cleans it up for you and then bills you. You can read all about the City’s stance on graffiti on their incredibly poorly designed and practically unnavigable website; it’s section 9.62 in the municipal code, if this supposedly direct link doesn’t work, and it probably won’t because nothing else on the city website does.

I have mixed feelings about graffiti. I don’t have very much respect for personal property, so the concept of vandalism doesn’t annoy me as much as the concept of bad art. I would be stoked, for example, to come out one morning and see the entire side of my house covered in an incredible mural. And I have seen some beautiful graffiti work, mostly in the Bay Area, demonstrating immense technical artistry and skill. Unfortunately, the graffiti up here is lame, and in the scenario above I am more likely to step outside in the morning and see a largely illegible curse word and a stripe. I can certainly understand a desire to legislate bad art. I agree that it should be banned. But a bad art can does not appear to extend to the assortment of crappy galleries around town, so clearly it’s only intermittently enforced. Alas. I imagine that an attempt to truly ban bad art would result in whining about First Amendment rights, which curiously enough does not manifest when graffiti in under discussion. Surely hoodlums are just as entitled to freedom of expression as shitty artists are?

The City doesn’t like graffiti because it’s a “blight” that makes the town look bad, dragging down property values. And we certainly wouldn’t want realistic real estate prices around here, so it’s important to keep them artificially inflated and insane so that no one who grew up here can actually afford to buy property. After all, if we did, we might open things like gun shops or actually useful businesses, thus further undermining the secret goal of City Council to turn Fort Bragg into the new Healdsburg. Therefore, the City must be tough on graffiti as part of a complex gentrification plan. It’s enough to make me turn to graffiti in protest.

I would argue that bad art in general is a much worse blight, as are the drug dealers next to Headlands, twee boutiques that sell nothing over a size six, grocery stores pretending to be Whole Foods, child abusers, trains which burn fossil fuel so that tourists can ride them to a crappy way station in the middle of the woods filled with tchotkes, bad website design, cooks who do not know how to cook, and indifferently run businesses which never have anything useful in stock and have rude staff, to boot. Unfortunately, I don’t see the City taking a tough stance on any of these issues.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “gang problem” in Fort Bragg, and what we’re going to do about it. It’s not a “gang problem,” it’s an assortment of bored little shitrags that have nothing better to do with their time, so they aimlessly cover buildings in spray paint. Rather than fighting the “gang threat” maybe we should work on making the town more interesting and accessible to youth. Perhaps we should, in fact, welcome graffiti, because nothing is less appealing to kids than legal activity. Or maybe we could just address our energy to more important issues, like the fact that this town is slowly being eaten alive by yuppie scum, who will vomit it up when they’re done, leaving us in a pretty pickle.

Speaking of invasions, I adore this review of Mendo Bistro, which I think pegs the restaurant beautifully, with a level of scorn for idiots that greatly endears the writer to me. I wonder if he’s married. If not, I totally want to date him. He’s almost as cranky as I am.