So Nice, The People of Stencil Nation

Not enough time in the day for all the amazing things that can be experienced. Must figure out how to expand the concept of time to fit it all in. Wanting to share with you all the continued good times and amazing hospitality that I have received on the Southern leg of the California tour. And after sitting in the blazing car for six hours, driving to the Tempe, AZ burbs to meet up with Koleszar and see his mighty spray painted fortress (my room has stencil art on the walls), I am wondering if it is at all possible to dictate a blog entry to an application that can type it all out to post? While driving. Woah. That was a bit geeky on my part. Apologies, but I am sitting at the School of Spray Paint here in the urban sprawl.  Thinking geeky thoughts. And thinking about Koleszar’s neighbors: cows and horses and cacti. Oh, and a scorpion or two….

So April 30 finds me saying goodbye Swiv Tackle and hello UC San Diego. I show up to find my very own parking space, reserved with my name on the sign. In all of my stencil geekdom, I think I have now achieved a level of uber-geek, thanks to my very own parking space.

I find Groundwork no problem and land into a group of energetic and active young college students there. Who have great books to look at and free pastries to munch on. The food coop next door closes and a group of workers there come to the presentation. Some artists are there too, one of which wanted us all to tag his skin with Sharpies (“You know you’re gonna soak up all the toxic ink, right?” “Sharpies say they aren’t toxic on the label.” “Yeah, right.”) Great crowd, even though they don’t get my sarcastic Swine Flu joke I told. And still a great crowd after the food coop people leave to see a friend snowboard on a hill of fake snow (sponsored by Red Bull), because I sold a pile of books at this stop. Best in a while. And the Groundwork crew hung out while I put up some stencils on their counter. And then I got invitations for dinner and invitations to check out UCSD’s Graff Hall. So humankind’s amazing capacity to host and be sweet and supportive continues on this tour. I think I love this experience more than anything (even stencils).

The Graff Hall is a stairwell of the UCSD Arts Building. Stencils are around this building too, so we wandered up the stairs hunting stencils. And found a bunch. I even found a cut stencil that said “Zeus,” which most likely fell out of an artists portfolio. Adding it to the Archives. Later, I found the Free School house no problem and met the great people there. While hanging out for my host Brian to show up, we watched/listened to YouTube (There’s a definite trend here). We watched a hilarious video as we waited. The guy speaking is supposedly in a dark closet on acid saying all this crazy, sometimes offensive stuff. I can deal with the offending bits because this guy goes into insane visions soon after. “No way!”

Being a collective, we spent about 30 minutes figuring out where to eat so late in San Diego. Solution? DINER! Night and Day Cafe to be exact. At one point during our late dinner, we ended up being the only party in this tiny diner. The cook blended a strawberry smoothie and shared it with us all while he had the down time. Are my stories about how nice people are inspiring you yet? Hope so. Back at the Free School, Brian and I went to his house in City Heights. I set up my couch nook and slept OK.

Woke up on May Day and Brian and I fixed an oatmeal breakfast. Our task for the day? Stencil hunting. Brian helped me try to find some suggested spots. We talked about the Minutemen and the Drug War over burritos at Pokez in the “East Village” hood (this is a made up name that the condo realtors decided to call the hood). We stopped by the May Day start point so that Brian could drop off a banner. We wandered around the City College hood and found stencils. We then drove to Logan Heights and wandered over to Chicana Perk (a cafe in the barrio) before meeting the end of the rally at Chicana Park. Found stencils there, and the Free School crew. So ended up eating great, cheap papusas down the street. As evening began, I met a room mate of Brian’s who had made some stencils. Brian and I drove to a party at a collection of houses where a group of artists lived. Looking through windows, I noticed more stencils. We were located near canyons, but in an older surburb, so the SDPD shut the party down around 1am. Brian and I wandered back home.

May 2 and Brian’s room mate Michelle offered to cook up a great eggs and potato breakfast. She knows Josh MacPhee from their Chicago days and we had a great talk about immigration rights. In San Diego, the Mexican influence is strong. From San Diego to Tijuana, we are definitely in Atzlan (like the murals say in Chicano Park). Michelle’s boy friend is in Tijuana so she is saving up money to help him get his green card. I said my goodbyes to Brian and Michelle and left town, heading back to the CalArts area in North LA County. Got back in time to meet up with some Bay Area friends in town for Christine’s show. Lunch was being prepared when I arrived and then we went for a brief walk in the canyons of Val Verde.

Back to the house, and in the car to head to see Christine’s last ever CalArts graduate performance. So, seeing the first, I got to see the changes she had made, and the overall state of the show. This time around, I really got a lot out of the 3D woods segment. I think I looked at the actors instead of the shadows on Monday. The cuts she made worked better and the actors seemed to have some of the rough spots worked out. After the show, we played a bit with the 3D light and shadow. And then we helped Christine pack up her car.

We then drove back to Val Verde and went to the composer’s house for a closing night party. His ranch-style rental stood on the top of a ridge overlooking a great view of the other ridges and Val Verde below. We had to drive a winding road to get up there, and it was totally worth it. After a few hours of fun, I took part of the group back down the hill.  And to bed we went.

May 3 began with more communal food making. Christine’s roomie Ellie picked fresh veggies from their garden and poached eggs to go with the salad. Very good food! We then tried to make a plan to see either ocean or hippie enclave, and chose the latter thinking it was closer. Ojio was about a 40 mile drive, but a beautiful one. We wandered around down town, checked out the farmer’s market (with vagabond performers) and I actually found two stencils in this somewhat remote town. Back in Val Verde later that day, the Bay Area crew left to drive north. Christine and I eventually hopped in the Chevy rental and drove to Skylight Books.

Had a great talk there. Ripper1331 showed up. Submit did too. About 25 other people showed up as well, asking great questions and wanting lots of information about stencils. Sold some books as well as had a great talk with the manager there (he has a great graffiti street art section of books from all over the world). Needing food again, we had no problem choosing, you guessed it A DINER!!!! House of Pies sits down and across from Skylight. Their veggie burger looked great so I ate that. And a piece of lemon pie. Yum. Back to Val Verde for another snooze and then drive drive drive through the desert to the burbs of Tempe. And to bed once again.