Saturday, December 09, 2006

Doing Stuff: Day 11, A Grafitti Exhibit And A Trip To The DMV

I returned to the Hawthorne Rec Center today (the place were two nights earlier I waged battle against fellow knights) to see a scheduled exhibit on the art of grafitti. This intrigued me because how much art remains in grafiti? A lot of grafitti does look really cool, but it doesn't look like an artform that has changed much over the years -- tags on buildings, bridges and trains still all look exactly as they did 10 years ago twhen I was briefly into all those old grafitti magazines. Is graffiti the art world's version of ska or is ska the music world's version of grafitti?

Alas, this exhibit was nowhere to be found. The Hawthorne Rec Center today was filled with parents watching some sort of dance recital while in another room young kids were making crafts. I probably seemed rather I Know My Name Is Steven-ish, hanging out by myself in such an atmosphere. I asked a custodian if he knew where the grafitti exhibit was -- he said he never heard of such a thing, but the kids inside one of the rooms were busted for vandalism and were doing some sort of community service. Then he said that every weekend afternoon, a group of folks head to the vacant lot across the street and spraypaint on the walls.

I didn't have much else to do, so I wandered into this vacant lot to take see what I could dig up. No one was over there when I was there, but I took some pictures. And now I can brag to my friends that I walked into a vacant lot at 12th and Carpenter -- not one of the better neighborhoods in the City of Brotherly Love. I know have street cred! And maybe lyme disease! The tags were pretty cool, not anything I haven't seen before, but it did make me wistful when I was 19 and would spend my money at Vintage Vinyl on TwoTone Records albums and various fanzines. Hood kids are still bombing buildings just as suburban kids are still going to see the Bouncing Souls and Mephiskaphales. I wonder of Trubo and Ozone ever had to save the rec center across the street?

I wanted to do something that wouldn't take a lot of effort because afterwards, I had to go to the DMV to get my license renewed and I prepared for this to be a draining experience. Naturally, things didn't go so well -- I can't find my social security card and in the Keystone State, this is required for a license, even though their website and printed literature at least indicates otherwise. The DMV clerk told me to take it up with a supervisor if I wanted to. I did, thinking that maybe I could convince some cold bureaucrat in a god-awful state-appointed position to see otherwise.

Needless to say, I didn't. But I did meet the most warm-hearted, fatherly Pennsylvania Department of Transit License/Photo ID Center employee in all of the state. Ken took me into his office and showed me the help desk prompt which all PennDOT customer service folks read from. Then he looked online and saw where the confusion lies and made a note to contact his superior to have that changed. Then he showed me a picture of his daughter. After that, a crooked-toothed degenerate in oversized, outdated FUBU ran into the office.

"Heeeey, Ken my man, how you doing? You remember me? I was in her a while back, you helped me out with a license question."

Ken said that he did but obviously didn't.

"I'm here with my ex-wife today. She needs help getting her license."

The man left. Ken stared at me.

"Did he just say ex-wife? Man, I loooove this job."

I asked Ken how crazy his work gets, tossing him a softball hoping for a good story. Ken said folks have stormed into his office and have knocked the belongings off his desk, have thrown his office furniture around and have made some very dire threats. Luckily, Ken and other DMV employees have access to a panic button which notifies the police, like a bank being robbed.

Do people ever get arrested and handcuffed at his place of employment?

"I'm surprised when a day goes by when someone doesn't get dragged out of here in cuffs," he said. "Best job I ever had."


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