I live in a relatively affluent township in northern New Jersey. We're not rich (well, not all of us) but we do have some nice amenities. For instance, we have a great Community Park which includes a terrific playground. Now you should know that I really like little kids, and not in a creepy, call the police kind of way. There is nothing like the smile on the faces of little kids when they run around a playground, climbing, swinging, yelling, bouncing...you get the idea. My kids love going there. So I was wondering what was going on when, on a recent trip to the park, my son was yelling something about riding on the hooters train. Hooters the restaurant? Maybe. I took him there for his 4th birthday. But it turns out he was talking about some graffito he saw.
Here's the thing: I've never been a fan of graffiti. I never understood the point of it and I never saw it as art. To me, calling graffiti art is one of the biggest rationalizations out there. If you're drawing or painting on something that isn't yours, that's vandalism. But all that aside, this was in a playground. A harmless, pure place where kids get to run around and just be kids, far away from TV and traffic and anything bad. So what goes through a person's mind when they feel that, of all the public surfaces in the town, he/she chooses a child's play train as the choice to write "hooters", complete with nipples in the 'O's? Are these angry teens who resent kids having a place to play? Nah, there's a rec center right down the hill. Does this playground have bad memories for them? Nope, it's too new. It wasn't around when they were young enough to use a playground.
Okay, I moved on from the train and followed my young daughter up the stairs to the rocket slide. That's what I call it, anyway. Someone else said it's a silo, due to the farm theme of the whole place. She's probably right. Anyway, at the top was a whole bunch of things written into the wood in marker or pen. None of it was really offensive, beyond the really clever one that read "Penis DeMilo" (who says kids aren't getting an art education?). But what angered me was the idea that some people came up to this haven for kids and decided to deface it.
I'm sure I acted differently when I was a teen. I'm sure I thought things were a riot then that I don't think are funny now. There was a time when I was hanging outside the Red Lobster where I worked with a bunch of other guys. It was late and two guys decided to climb the movie theater marquis to rearrange some titles. "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" became "Who Framed Roger Rabbi." Well, that one's kind of funny. It also tells you how long ago this was. There was another movie title but I forget what it was. The point is that I grew up. So maybe these playground vandals aren't really vandals at all. They're just teens out having a good time. Maybe. But it's the permanence that leads me to believe that this was the work of some pretty stupid kids. I mean, they wrote their full names in some places. Jeez.
Being in advertising, I know the importance of getting your message out there. But there has to be a better way to let people know that Mitch Cramer known as the local Ferris Bueller. Perhaps the person saying hi to "cunt face" could have used a personal ad instead of a child's slide. But what do I know? I'm just an old man compared to these young Hemmingways.
I once read that if you put a bunch of monkeys in a room with a bunch of typewriters, you'd eventually get Shakespeare. In case anyone wants to try it, there are a few monkeys loitering in my town.