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A strange place… for graffiti?

Written By: Youki on February 3, 2009 4 Comments

On Saturday my wife and I took a stroll through Tilden Park in Berkeley.  Just off Lake Anza we came across a small trail that led into Wildcat Gorge, shrouded by trees and cutting deep into the earth.  It was a fairly isolated trail, far removed from any sounds of civilization.  We even came across a dragon emerging from the dense undergrowth:


Its gaping maw threatened to devour us but we quickly escaped.  It looks a lot scarier in real life!

Further down the path we came across a small stream, and saw the following sign:


I was boggled.  Growing up in downtown Los Angeles and now living in Berkeley, both very urban areas, I’m used to seeing graffiti on walls, signs, even mailboxes.  It’s a natural part of the linguistic landscape in urban areas, practically banal in nature.  Yet here I am with my wife, on a trail that runs along a gorge deep within a 2,000-acre park, and I come across a piece of urban text, an utterance that declares “I am not a part of the establishment,” a visible sign of individuality within a conformist society (presumably).

Except that I take a closer look at the graffiti, and notice what it says: NERD.

Nerd?  Nero?  Neko?  It looks like NERD to me.  Now I’m intrigued.  Who comes miles into a park, into a trail that only a handful of people walk through daily, with the intent of writing “NERD” on a sign?  I can just imagine the conversation: “hey guys, let’s drive to Tilden Park, go deep into the park where that gorge is, and graffiti up a sign.”  yeah, right.

So now I ponder the meaning of “NERD.”  Am I the nerd?  Is the writer the nerd?  Or are we all nerds, bound by the activity of hiking through park trails?  Has Tilden park spawned some soft of graffiti nerd, thick marker in hand, running (I mean hiking) around writing “NERD” on signs?  That sounds absurd.

Probably not too absurd for Berkeley, though.

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4 Responses to “A strange place… for graffiti?”

  1. Usree Bhattacharya on: 3 February 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Very interesting, Youki!

    I am wondering though, what does the “defaced” sign read? It’s a little strange…”Sensitive Resource Area” (that’s the only part I can read)? Looks it like it has some kinda “nerd-y” accompanying text. I guess the “defacers” might have gotten angry that such a beautiful, romantic spot was “defaced” by the cold scientificky sign (what’s with the scary looking fish?), and decided to “deface” it in turn?

    Sal Reply:

    You’re over-thinking this. A graffiti writer ‘bombed’ a sign. Period. Not exactly anything deep or profound about it. Happens everyday. What is written has absolutely nothing to do with the location/sign/nature/conformity/you/the government/the fish. I’m sure if you spent a day walking around Berkeley, you could find ten of his/her other tags.. As far as the ‘unlikely’ location, taggers go hiking too. They go skiing, boating, to sports games, and to beaches. And wherever they go, they carry something to tag with and they hit every spot that will take their marker, grease pen, or paint. You may have even passed the tagger on the trail. Could have been the 40-ish man walking his dog. You’d be surprised by who is actually out there tagging stuff. By looking at them, you’d certainly never guess they were out hitting up signs with markers on their days off from work. It is a clandestine activity, and blending in can often allow one to get away with it much easier. There are graffiti writers spending significant portions of their lives in prison for tagging. No joke!
    Anyway, this remote location is the perfect place to tag. Not many people, smooth sign, attention grabbing and not already littered with other tags. Furthermore, look back at the origins of graffiti and you will find that the first ‘tags’ were found in caves and on rock faces. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graffiti#History
    This is, again, nothing new or unique.

    Often, things are what they are. Nothing more. Simple. Tags.

  2. Usree Bhattacharya on: 3 February 2009 at 7:01 pm


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