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For legal purposes: this story a work of fiction All taken, without permission, from http://www.12ozprophet.com/index.php/psycho_love/
The First Spark
I’m the guy who use to write Psycho Tc5/Fc primarily on the 1 line. If you followed the graff game back in the mid-eighties, an introduction is probably not needed. For all others, this is just my story of my times and memories as a writer in the streets and subways of New York City. Funny, Scary or sad, these are the stories only a true graffiti writer can tell. The moment the subway exited the tunnel into Brooklyn’s sunny skies, my sleepy 5 year old eyes lit up. Like most little boys my age, I climbed up on to my seat to kneel and look out the window, excited about it all. My trip to Coney Island, the subway ride and now being outdoors. The Italian middle class neighborhood the train was traveling in was different than my own with it’s sitcom perfect two family houses with swimming pools in the backyard, but that’s not what fasinated me. Another train was crawling the opposite direction from my train. It had all kinds of markings and designs spraypainted on it. As it came closer, I could see that it had letters in big bubble or blockbuster styles. “Cool”, I thought to myself, curious to know how the markings got there. I imagined teenage guys in flared leg jeans, suede navy blue Puma Clydes, wifebeaters and big curly afro’s hanging on by the windows and the narrow edges where the trains doors opened and closed, surf-riding the outside and carefully painting their colorful letters on the subway’s surface as it moved full speed. The thought of this got me excited with life. I wanted to see one of these graffiti guys tag up right then and there. I looked out for them, but saw none. I thought how cool these guys must be. So cool that I decided that I was going to become one of them just as soon as Ibecame big enough. I was going to paint my own top to bottom bubble letters on the train. Overwhelmed with my vision for the future, I had to tell somebody. This was a secret any 5year old couldn’t possibly contain. Not for too long anyway. “Mommy, mommy!....I’m going to do that when I get big.” I announced to my surrogate mother, my aunt Elsie as I pointed to the throw-ups and tags and the train coming from Coney Island. “Do what?” She asked confused, not quite sure what I was talking about. “That! See! I’m going to do that!” My aunt’s expression changed immediately when she realized I had plans for a career in vandalism at such an early age. I didn’t see the backhand coming. I only felt the sting in the middle of my face and then something trickling down from my nose. I touched my face to discover blood on my fingertips. I hyperventilated about half a minute before letting out a good scream. I cried my ass off. “Shut the fuck up! And sit down right and don’t you dare look out that window again!” Damm, graffiti was already getting into trouble and I didn’t even write yet.
How Graffiti Saved My Life
A few years back I had dinner with Mare 139 and a few other graffiti guys. Mare said something that intrigued me. He commented something that if he could live his life over again, he just might skip graffiti. It made me wonder about his perspective and think about my own love/hate relationship with the sub-culture. For better and for worse, graffiti has played a major role in shaping who I am today.
Even with all the grief and trouble it’s caused me over the years, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Maybe just a little bit differently. From the age of three, I was groomed for a life of failure and self-destruction by the folks who raised me. My aunt Elsie and her husband Ernie. I spent my childhood isolated, neglected and I suffered every kind of abuse imaginable on a daily basis. As a kid I couldn’t wait for life to end. As a result, I grew up angry, confused and hateful. I was socially awkward, lacked confidence and the ability to express myself. I showed an early aptitude for art by the time I was four. A gift I inherited from my mother and grandmother. Drawing was my only means of expressing myself. It was the only time I felt free and at ease with the world. My aunt Elsie had a deep resentment towards my mother because she claimed she was the source of my father’s suicide. She hated anything that reminded her of my mother, including my love for drawing. I was forbidden to draw and the punishment was severe if I got caught doing it. Instead, I was given books because my father was an avid reader. Fortunately, I loved to read almost as much as I loved to draw and I was able to escape my world by losing myself in a book. Alcoholism and cancer was kicking my aunt’s ass. Her weak husband Ernie was as much of an alcoholic as she was. Despite a daily diet of Twinkees and Yoo-Hoos that I had to steal from the corner bodega in order to eat, I managed to grow into one strong, pissed off kid. Elsie and Ernie’s beatings had less and less effect on me and it was only a matter of time before I attacked back. Then I left my house. I was eleven years old. I was picked up as a run-away while sleeping on the number one train by two policemen and placed in a group home in East New York, Brooklyn. The seedy home was a huge improvement in the quality of my life. It was the most peaceful and stable environment I have ever experienced. Soon another aunt, Titi Olga located me was gained custody of me. I was taken back to Washington Heights. Washington Heights was and still is a tough place for a kid to grow up. Most kids come from single parent homes that lack education, resources and ample options. Mothers tend to spoil their boys and encourage a perverse sense of entitlement by showering them with all the material things they can manage to afford. Kids come out of their homes misguided into streets so infested with drugs and violence that it all seems normal. The results are not good. Washington Heights doesn’t have many success stories to share with the world. Titi Olga felt sorry for me because of my tragic childhood. In an effort to make up for it, she entrusted me with a riduculous amount of freedom that I could never be prepared to handle. “Titi, what time do I have to be home?” “Just not too late, honey.” Soon, not too late was three, four and even five o’clock in the morning. Every other kid I befriended was crazier than the last. My friends stole, robbed, fought, experimented with drugs and sex. All I wanted in life was fit in and try to be normal. Fortunately for me, I had enough hate and rage within me that it didn’t take very long for me to become “normal” for Washington Heights standards. As an adult, I know no less than 50 people who I grew up in the streets with who have either been murdered or are serving life sentences in prison. I know enough now that this is far from normal. I once had a girlfriend who would tell me whenever I was down that considering my background, I was a huge success story being that I wasn’t dead or doing life. She often mused what my life would have became of, only if I had a half decent upbringing. I’m convinced much different and for the better. But it’s not over yet though. I’m also convinced that there is one real reason why I am not doing life in prison or worse. That reason is graffiti. Graffiti did one simple thing in that it took me out of my neighborhood and exposed me to other neighborhoods and lifestyles and to people who thought and behaved differently. I made friends with white kids, jewish kids, black kids and other latin kids. Graffiti showed me that there was a lot more to life than Washington Heights. I got to meet people like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, go to art openings in Soho and drink wine and eat cheese with the sophisicated people and hang out with kids
who had real hopes, dreams and ambitions and the belief that they can actually achieve whatever they wanted to in life. These are the things that seperated me from the other kids who stood on their streets back in my hood. These are the things that made a difference to me. Like Mare, graffiti’s brought me my share of troubles and grief, but it also helped to save my life.Without it, I would just be another ghetto statistic.
Titi, I Know Somebody Who Knows How to Do a Piece!
Soon after I started living with my aunt, Titi Olga, it was time for me to attend my first year of junior high school. I was to go to JHS 143 and I was terrified of my first day. My elementary school bus drove past the notorious school every morning and again in the afternoon and it was always chaos, especially in the afternoon. There were always gang members from the Ball Busters and Manhattan Blood Brothers present on every corner of the Audobon entrance. They all looked hard and dangerous and it was easy to imagine that they all had knives and even guns. They were known to rob kids and fuck them up just for making eye contact. On most afternoons there was some kind of a fight which alway escalated into gang fights or some poor kid getting jumped. The police always arrived after the fact. My aunt’s daugther, my cousin Patricia went to 143 for 4 years before me. Patricia was one of the most popular girls in my neighborhood. She was pretty, dressed fly and liked to fight. She always kept a jar of Vaseline in her bag and was ready to smear it on her face in a moment’s notice so she wouldn’t get scratched up during the fight. She didn’t fight like most girls with awkward, flimsy swings. She beat the shit out of girl with correct, solid punches. She was feared by most girls and all the guys respected her. Back then, they used to say that she was down by law. Me? I was still weird in my own skin. I didn’t have much fighting experience and I was busy trying to figure everything out. I didn’t make friends easily because it never occurred to me that maybe I should say hi and introduce myself. Because of members of my family who were known in the streets, people often introduced themselves to me. Once I befriended somebody, it was usually for the long term. I never spoke much at first because I was too busy studying their every move, word and how they interacted with other people. I knew from my own family that people could be unpredictable and I needed to feel safe enough to expose myself. People seemed to like me and once I saw that, it was then that I opened up and then it was hard to shut me up. I think people were amused at how much I really talked once you got to know me. One of the first things I did was tell them some kind of story, sometimes they were true and sometimes they were not. People found me funny and entertaining and that was good. During my first days at JHS. 143 I thought it was best not to speak or make eye contact with anyone. I didn’t have a good sense of fashion and dressed weird, which got me unwanted attention. I used to catch some of the cooler kids whispering about me, probably making fun. This made me paranoid. I always tried my best to sit in the back of the class. I couldn’t bother to concentrate on what the teacher was saying. I found most people boring compared to the stuff that was going on in my head. My mind was active but undisciplined. One day during the last period of the day, I sat by a boy named Eddie Rivera. I was bored and couldn’t wait for the class to end. I observed Eddie. He was heavy set and I thought he was a funny looking. He had very expressive eyes that revealed a lot. I could tell that he was studying me as well. 15 minutes into the class he spoke to me. This shit sucks. I didn’t speak, but I agreed by nodding my head. He started drawing letters in his looseleaf notebook. He drew effortlessly. The letters were in nice shape and had style. He added 3-D to them and some designs. I was immediately hypotized. I knew it was graffiti, but it was by far the best piece I’ve ever seen in my life. He finished it off by adding a b-boy character that had an afro and shades that had a shine. I finally spoke.
Oh shit. That’s nice. You like it? I didn’t like the question because at that time you were often told to “get off the dick!” if you paid somebody a compliment. But something about his eyes made it safe. Hell yeah! That’s cool. Can you do me one? Yeah. I’ll do it tomorrow. The period ended and I was disappointed. I wanted to see Eddie do more graffiti. I think Eddie appreciated my admiration for his art. We walked out of class together and he invited me to go to his house. On the way there, he asked me if I had any money. No. Why? Because I want a Pepsi. Okay, wait for me here. I went into the bodega and shoplifted a big bottle of Pepsi. You stole that shit? I nodded my head nonchalantly. He laughed. Oh shit! You’re crazy. Once at his house, he fried up slices of salami and white cheese. We ate the salami and cheese and drank the Pepsi together. Afterwards we went into his room. It was huge and he had a lot of cool art supplies and showed me other graffiti he had done, including a Lee jacket he painted. I didn’t know much, but I knew that he was amazingly talented at such a young age. I liked being at his house and watching him draw. It inspired me to want to draw again. I had to go home for dinner. I went home excited. My aunt greeted me at the door. “Hi hon, how was school today?” “Great! I know somebody who knows how to do a piece!” “That’s nice, honey. Are you hungry?”
Welcome to the Ghost Yard
I skateboarded down the steep San Francico-like hill on 187th street going down Broadway. A feat considered “psycho” by the guys in my neighborhood, but to me it was only a matter of timing the traffic lights and flowing in with the cars at the bottom. I had a lot of changes going on in my life and felt nostalgic to see some of my elementary school friends. I skated to Benett Avenue to see my friend Elliot Silver. Elliot was a chubby, smart Jewish kid who wore cheap slacks and dress shirts. If it wasn’t for his love of sports, he would have been lumped in with the nerds or maybe not...Elliot was a very likeable kid. I skated onto Elliot’s block in time to catch him coming out with some other friends. At first I wasn’t sure if he was Elliot or not. He must have lost at least 40 pounds but besides that, he dressed
differently. He now wore burgandy Lee twill jeans, shelltop Adidas and nylon a BVD top. He no longer had a haircut that was parted in the middle. His hair was pushed back with a bleach blond tail hanging in the back. His ear was prieced with a feather earring. For the time, he looked cool. Very cool. “Hey Elliot, what’s up? I can hardly recognize you.” “Vinny, what’s up bro? Good to see you.” He introduced me to his friends Isha, Anthony and a tall, skinny lanky kid named Raymond. I knew who Raymond was because his cousin Maria was my cousin/sister’s Patrica’s best friend and was was a constant presence in my house. Raymond was a dick. He liked to diss people at every opportunity. He wrote Sir and claimed that Tracey 168 had put him down with Wild Style. I doubted that though. “I got juvenile diabetes. I almost died.” “Oh shit! Thank God, dude...you didn’t.” “We’re going bombing. Wanna come?” “Sure why not?” Then I thought about it. Bombing? “What are we going to blow up?” “You stupid ass, we’re going to tag up. Graffiti. Don’t you know shit? Sir told me. I glared at him, hating him. I visualized knocking him down and pinning him to the ground with my knees on his chest, making it difficult for him to breathe. I would fit my hand inside his mouth and slowly force it down his throat. I would try to force my whole arm down until I can grab one of his slimey organs inside of him and squish it with my hand. I wasn’t sure how possible this was, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t try. I didn’t like being dissed. “Don’t call me stupid ass.” “What are you going to do?” “Come on, Raymond, why do you always have to diss everybody? Just chill the fuck out.” Elliot stepped in. I kept my eyes focused on Sir’s eyes, making it a point not to blink. He looked away first. Faggot, I thought. “We’re going to the Ghost Yard.” Elliot announced. With a name like the Ghost Yard, it had to be fun and I was always down for some fun. Elliot showed me homemade markers called “mops” made out of deodorant bottles, chalkboard erasers and purple ink stolen from a local supermarket. Elliot tagged E.T. and claimed that he was down with The Master Blasters, Iz the Wiz’s crew. Isha tagged Sinner and his brother Anthony wrote Star. I didn’t have a tag yet. “Write Psycho. that’s what everybody calls you anyway, you crazy motherfucker!” Elliot advised me. It made sense. On the way to the Ghost Yard, everybody randomly took tags. They all had impressive handstyles. Mine sucked and I knew it. I even misspelled psycho. “Look at you, you’re fucking toy!” Sir barked as soon as I finished my first tag. I didn’t know what a toy was but it didn’t sound good to me. I wanted to kick him in the balls. I wondered why Elliot hung out
with such a dick. Years later, I learned that Sir commited suicide by jumping off the roof of his building, landing onto a spiked steel fence in broad daylight during summer. Traumatizing half his block. I guess he was an asshole to the very end. Elliot had the keys to the bobwired entrance to the Ghost Yard. I was impressed. We walked leisurely through the yard to where the trains were parked. I thought that maybe we should have been more stealth-like, but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to get dissed. We climbed into a subway car. Everybody started to bomb the insides. For no reason in particular except that I was mischievious, I started kicking out the windows. Everybody yelled at me at once to stop. I shrugged. Sorry! We tagged up car after car and by the third car, two boys snuck up on us. They were older boys and we knew them from our elementary school. They acted friendly and asked a lot of questions. They wanted to know how we entered the train yard. Elliot bragged that he had the master key. I thought he was foolish for this. They asked how long we were going to be in the yard and instead of telling them that we were about to leave, Elliot told them that we were there for the whole day. They left abruptly. I was suspicious, but kept my thoughts to myself since I was the new jack in this scene. About half a hour later the two boys returned. They warned us that Rolling Thunder Writers were in the house. We looked out the window and saw a posse of about 30 guys walking on the other side of the yard. The boys told us to follow them. We ran through car after car after car of the train. We jumped out at the first car to be greeted by a group of older guys. They looked to be 16-20 years and about six of them. The guy who seemed to the leader announced: “Y’all know what this is. It’s a big vamp!” The leader had his face full of scratches. His girlfriend must have fucked him up I thought. He was probably caught cheating, I decided. They made us take off our sneakers. Raymond had a ridiculous bandage on one of his big toes. “What the fuck is this?” the leader laughed. “Why don’t you fuck off?” Raymond shot back. The leader smashed his toes with a softball stick. Raymond yelled. The leader whacked him a few more times on his legs and knees, causing him to make funny noises out of pain. I had a hard time not laughing. “You guys are pussies. We’re jus little kids!” Elliot shouted. I thought he was brave, but there were no way that we could beat these guys. Not only did they have more guys then us, but they were so much bigger than us. I played the back and kept my mouth shut. I didn’t have anything to rob, not even fifty cents. The leader whacked Elliot with the stick. This shut him up for a few seconds. He went into Elliot’s pockets, took a few crumpled up dollars and chucked his housekeys over a fence and into the East river. “Where’s the master key?” “You just threw it away, asshole!” He was about to whack Elliot again, but Sir had to say something. “What a stupid ass!” All the guys jumped Sir, beating him with the stick and kicking him. The leader asked him, don’t you learn to shut up? Sir yelled and screamed, acting like he was in more pain than he was really in. I could tell that the guys were holding back because Sir was a little kid, 12 years old. I found the whole affair funny and I had a hard time not laughing. I didn’t want to upset my friends nor did I want to get beat up by the big guys. I liked the whole vamping idea. Except that I would be the
one doing the vamping from that point on. Hell, I didn’t even want to tag all that much. I just wanted to vamp. “Give me your shit, motherfucker!” I smiled, knowing that I could get into that. The big guys threw us out the yard. Star and Sinner carried Sir out like a wounded soilder. He was moaning and groaning the whole time. I had to depart from them as soon as possible. I needed to be able to laugh in peace. I stashed my skateboard in Elliot’s building. I told him to hold it for me and I would pick it up during the week. Later that night I went to Eddie’s house. Eddie wrote Resk. Little Man One and Rize TNB was there. It was the first time I met Rize. He was cool a guy and knew a lot about graffiti. He did whole cars on the 1 line with a guy named Sak. I told them all about misadventures at the Ghost Yard. I described the guys to a tee. “That was T-Kid, bro.” Rize informed me. He should know because he was down with T-Kid’s crew, The Nasty Boys and Tat. I loved T-Kid’s work. He was and still is one of graffiti’s biggest style masters ever. I was a fan. “T-Kid? Cool. He fucked Sir up!” Many years later I would get to meet T-kid and become friends with him.
My First Big Vamp
I never went bombing with E.T. and those guys again, except for some local street bombing and motion writing. Motion writing was bombing the insides of a train while it was running with passengers and all. I didn’t like motion writing because it seemed to me that an undercover detective could pull out a badge on us at any given second. Besides, E.T. had fell in love with a girl and now wrote exclusively “E.T. Loves Angie.” I didn’t want to be associated with that. Back on my block, I still didn’t know all that many people. The guys on my street were in a gang called the Playboys. They all looked mean and always had a glare in their eyes. Little by little, they all embraced me once they learned that i was Patricia’s little brother. My sister Patrica was friends with everybody there was to know in the streets at that time. Crazy Legs, all of the New York City Breakers, Afrika Bambatta, leader of Zulu Nation and Big Moe, leader of the Ball Busters. I didn’t realize her power, but obviously you didn’t want to fuck with Patricia’s little brother. There was this sneaky looking kid that always hung out on the stoop of the building next to mine. He was always there, even if it was raining, just hanging out, doing nothing. He gave everybody he made eye contact a dirty look, including me. I thought that we were going to get into a fight sooner or later. He didn’t know that I was obsessed with doing push-ups. I drove my famil crazy with my push-ups. I would do them in the middle of dinner or while somebody was talking to me. I was able to do almost 75 push-ups in one clip and I was only 13 years old. I was also getting into how many correct, solid punches I could throw in a minute. I was up to 90. I couldn’t wait to unleash my “flurry” on somebody. I was introduced to the kid before we got into a fight for that very exact reason. His name was Gene and he turned out to be cool. “You wanna be down with my crew M.G.W. “What’s that?” “Manhattan Graffiti Writers.” It seemed that everybody was down with a crew but me. I wanted to be down with a crew bad as hell,
but acted casually. “Who do you have down with you.” “All the Playboys and the writers on 175th street. Disco, Fize, Dint and Zook. “Fuck it, I’ll be down.” The next week after school, Gene invited me to explore an underground train yard called the 175th Street lay-up. I didn’t hesitate to say yes, but I learned my lesson from my experience with T-Kid at the Ghost Yard. I knew where my cousin Junior kept his 357 Smith and Wesson and I snuck it out, fully loaded. I met Disco, Fize, Dint and Zook and got along with them right away. We all agreed that if we caught any writers in the lay-up, we would fuck them up and take their shit. They all had knives and machetes. I wanted to show my gun badly but didn’t trust Gene. He would probably tell Junior to score points with him. My cousin had Mike Tyson-like power in his day and would have severely fucked me up for such a serious infraction. I found the 175th Street lay-up way more creepier than the Ghost Yard. You entered from the train station and it was at least 4 city blocks deep into the pitch black tunnel that had a serious bend somewhere in the middle that made it appear that trains came out of nowhere. You could either walk on a narrow, one foot wide ledge that was muddy and slippery or you on the tracks. Either way, if a train came, you had to lean flat back against a wall while the train sped past you eight inches away from your nose. You could clearly see the passengers inside. I once took out my dick and pissed on the train as it past me. Once you got to the entrance of the lay-up, it felt like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The stairs and walls were made out of concrete and every single inch of it was bombed. There were Min, Boe, Rich, Zephyr, Rasta, Futura 2000 tags as well as the more famous neighborhood writers like JonOne, Rize, Eps Tc5, Nel-One, Little Man, Stem and Con Two. It was an unbelivable experience. Once in the lay-up, there was 4 to 5 trains parked on both sides. The motors of the trains were still running, making eerie sounds. The middle of the lay-up was clear and there was a big “NE” throw-up on the wall. Ne was Min-One. I got into thecar of the first train that I saw and I smelled chicken. I looked in the conductor’s booth and found a bag of kentucky fried chicken with an extra large coke. I got excited and started eating the chicken. I didn’t want to share with the others, not until I had enough anyway. The chicken was luke warm and the coke still cold. I wondered where it came from when I heard the door in the train slam. I looked and it was a big, angry, black conductor. “Why you little motherfucking son of a bitch....eating my motherfucking chicken!” I got scared but then I remembered that I was strapped. I took out the gun but my fingers were greasey and it slipped out my hand. I wiped my hands on my jeans and picked up the gun quick. I aimed it perfectly between the man’s eyes. “I’m taking your motherfucking chicken and there isn’t shit you can do about it!” “Take it easy there, son.” “I’m not your son, Pops. Now back the fuck up!” The man froze. I cocked the gun. “Say I won’t. I dare you. Say I won’t!” The conductor wasn’t stupid, he backed up.
“Go in the next car!” He did. I escaped by climbing down inbetween two cars. “Yo, I just vamped a conductor for his Kentucky Fried Chicken! Let’s be out!” Some other conductors appeared at the end of the lay-up with paddles. One was taling on a walkietalkie. We ran and made it safely back to the streets. Gene went back to the block and I stayed hanging out with Disco and the others. We ate the chicken and then we robbed some hippies copping weed. After we smoked blunts, we got hungry again and ordered Chinese food from a pay phone and robbed the delivery man as well. I liked hanging with the guys from 175th street. They were fun. Gene stopped writing and gave M.G.W. to Disco. Disco renamed it to F.K. Which became one of the most notorious “toy” crews next to the HOT crew that ran the City Hall lay-up.
Little Man One
When I wasn’t hanging out, being a menace in the streets with my F.K. boys, I was usually at Eddie’s house. I didn’t have my own room yet and had to sleep on the floor in the living room. I wasn’t too crazy about this. On most nights I arrived after hours in front of Eddie’s window and threw pebbles at it until he appeared sleepy eyed and grouchy faced. He always knew what I wanted but had to ask anyway. “What do you want?” “Let me in, motherfucker!” “Go home!” He would then disappear and I would panic. “Okay! Okay! Come on, Eddie!” He would reappear. “Go get me a Pepsi. A big one.” “Now?” “No, tomorrow! Yes now. And hurry up!” Bastard!, I thought and I jogged up the block to the corner grocery. I would ask for something that I knew the grocer had to make an effort to look for. Grab a 32 ounce Pepsi and roll it out the door. “Forget it, you’re taking too long.” “Wait!” “I’m going someplace else. You don’t have it.” I would rush out the door and retrive the Pepsi from the street and run back to Eddie’s house. He had a giant king sized bed and even with the both of us on it, I was able to stretch out and sleep comfortably. A writer named Little Man lived on Eddie’s street and was at his house frequently. Eddie was known on his block for his art and graffiti. People who knew his talent and what he was capable of, believed that if he took his art more seriously, he would have evolved into the best graffiti artist ever. Period. At 13, he was able to burn most writers. We all wanted outlines from him, including Little Man and me.
I got to become good friends with Little Man and got into the habit of skipping school to pick him up to do mischief with him. We would comb the city, looking for spots where we could steal paint and whatever else we wanted. In Canal street there was astore that sold shitty, watery paint by the case and kept them outside the store with the rest of the junk they sold. For about a week straight, we went everyday and snatched a case and ran around the corner on Greene Street. The China men who ran the store chased us, but we always barely got away. With the cheap paint, Little Man took me to the 3 Yard on 148th street with a kid named Joz One. Little Man did LM bubble letter throw ups and I just copped shitty, watery tags. I didn’t like the 3 yard because it was adjacent to the subway station and from the platform, civilians were able to see into the yard. I was positive that one could smell the paint from outside and all it took was a cop to enter the station to get busted. Despite my theory, many writers had success in the 3 yard, including Skeme and Dez. At the end of a very long night, Little Man always got locked out of his house. I couldn’t invite him to my house and I didn’t dare show up at Eddie’s window with him and I never thought to leave him alone. We would search Saint Nicholas Avenue for large cardboard boxes, which wasn’t always easy to find and sleep on his roof top inside the boxes. It was always cold and miserable and made sleeping on the living room floor back in my house seem like paradise. Eventually I stopped going bombing with him at night because the end result just wasn’t worth it. I kept my activities with him limited to the day time. Little Man wanted to go back to Canal Street to steal more shitty paint. I argued that it wasn’t a good idea, but he was determined. Once there, I saw that the China men were extra alert. I told Little Man that he could do whatever he wanted, but I was going to wait for him around the corner on Greene Street. I waited and waited and waited. I peeked around the corner to catch him procasinating and looking obvious. I got distracted by a drug addict couple fighting over a last bag of herion. “I know you got it stashed in your pussy, you lousey cunt!” The junkie kept on screaming. “Fuck you Charlie. Go to hell!” She repeated back while picking on the nasty scabs her face. The junkie ripped the buttons on her dirty jeans but had a hard time tugging them down because she was slapping and pulling on his hair. I found it all very entertaining and wanted him to pull down her pants so i could see what her pussy looked liked. All of a sudden, Little Man came running around the corner, carrying two cases of paint. The China men were right behind him and grabbed him by the back of his shirt. Little Man had a stupid look on his face and I couldn’t help but laugh at him. He caught me laughing and I felt bad. I controlled myself long enough to sneak behind one of the China men and kick him with all my might in his lower back. “Run Little Man! Run!” I screamed. Little Man and I ran for blocks without looking back. “Those motherfuckers can’t fuck with us!” He boasted once we got away. I just laughed at him. He told me to shut up, but i couldn’t stop laughing. All this running got us hungry, we ordered hoagies from a fancy deli and ran out without paying. I had good times with Little Man. He took me to many different yards like the D yard, Baychester, New Lots, City Hall and 145th Street One lay-up where I did my first piece. It was when my aunt Elsie passed away. We were entranged at the time and I had many conflicted feelings for her. I did a “Mom” panel piece. It was whack, but I was the first “toy” in my neighborhood to do a piece on the train and I got a lot of respect from my boys for it. Even though I considered Little Man a real writer, he was considered a toy by some writers in my neighborhood. I remember Eps and Nel-One always used to diss him because they thought they were better than him, solely because they were down with Tc5. But Little man wouldn’t retire from graffiti before ecthing his name in the graffiti books.
Little Man was friendly with two street writers named Pek and Lock. I suspect that they sparked Little Man’s interest to start street bombing. He would pester me to go with him, but I wasn’t into it. I was a traditionalist and believed graffiti belonged on the subway, but really, I didn’t want to ever get stuck sleeping on a rooftop again. I really underestimated Little Man’s street bombing ambition. He truly and surely became one of the first in a new wave of writers who bombed New York City, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood and bourough by bourough, along with guys like Chino BYI, Track Two, Joz-One, Easy and later on, Sane, Smith and J.A. Little Man retired from graffiti being a true all-city king. This feat gave me the first glimpse that little Man was actually very methodical and disciplined than most underneath it all. To this day, I’ve met very few personalities as intiguing and interesting as him. He was barely 5’3”, good looking but not in an obvious way and he was very charming and funny. Because of his playful and child-like behavior, it was easy to underestimate him and not take him seriously if you weren’t wise enough to scratch beneath the surface. He wasn’t a tough guy. He would try to talk his way out of a fight but when push came to shove, he was swinging first and if he didn’t win, you knew you were in a fight. It didn’t matter how much bigger you were than him. People slept on how strong he was, but he didn’t smoke, drink or use drugs. I’ve worked out with him and seen him bench press his own body weight up to 15 times and he wasn’t even a work-out person. The average man can’t even press his own body weight one time. Little Man took a job as a look-out for a well know weed spot uptown called Fipher’s. People ridiculed him for taking such a lowly position where he was stationed on a rooftop with a walkie-talkie keeping an eye out over Saint Nicholas Avenue. I hung out with him a few times and not only was it cold and boring, but his boss spoke to him like shit. I wouldn’t have lasted half a night. In less than 6 months he saved up enough money to have his own spot, except that he sold coke , with his own workers. He fixed his chipped tooth and dressed better with relatively sophisicated taste for the era. He was the first person to have a 4 finger gold, diamond encrusted ring and a fat gold rope chain and an equally impressive Cuban link chain with a Saint Lazaro medallion. Within the year, he had many cars, everything from Toyotas to Jettas to BMW’s a Mercedes Benz. The biggest and most dangerous drug lords paid him the utmost respect. Some people claimed that he had changed, but I just think he treated people accordingly. I never asked him for anything and treated him the same, except that it was obvious that I was happy and impressed by his success. He always took time out for me and never acted funny with me in any way. One night I saw him at a club with some fine white girls from Long Island. he invited me to hang with him and the girls. He lied to them and told them that I was the biggest drug dealer in all of New York City. That I just kept a low profile and didn’t like to be flashy. Afterwards, two of the girls sucked my dick at the same time in the back of his BMW on our way to eat at City Island. Sometime that morning he dropped me off in front of my building and I thanked him for the night. I also gushed how he always had the finest women. “Psycho, those bitches don’t like me. They don’t even know me. They only fuck with me because of what I have. You’re much better off than me, because at least you know your bitches like you for who you are. I never know with these bitches.” It was the realest thing anybody had ever said to me in my life. I felt bad for my friend, but the conversation made me see life from a different perspective. A more healthier one. Little Man was shot point blank in the head, allegedly by his best friend and business assoicate over a conflict about money. He survived the shooting but would never be the same again. After that, his family sheltered him and I only got to see him one time. It truly broke my heart at a time when my heart was very much numb and cold because of my own life experiences. I shedded tears for my friend Little Man One.
One night I came home and there was this man inside my sister Patricia’s room. She wasn’t there. I went inside to check him out and waited for him to introduce himself. After all, he was in my house. He didn’t though. He was in his thirties and well groomed and dressed like a homeboy with all new clothes and Cazels eyeglasses. He was funny looking with protruding eyeballs. He reminded me of an amphibian. I grew annoyed with his lack of respect. “Who the fuck is this joker?” I asked myself out loud. “Watch your mouth, kid. I’m Kano Tc5” “Yeah right! You’re not down with Tc5!” Tc5 was and still is a legendary crew that stood for The Cool Five. It’s considered graffiti royalty and has a certein mystique about it. To be down with the Five in graffiti is the equivalent of being made in the mafia. “What? I should go in your mouth for disrespecting me like that!” “I rob motherfuckers like you! You lucky I don’t take your shit right here in my own house.” “You’re bugging. I’m from Brooklyn, son!” At the time, Brooklyn kids were notorious for robbing kids from Manhattan. So much so that there was a saying:"Manhattan makes it and Brooklyn takes it.” “I don’t care where you’re from. I’m a stick-up kid!” “You ain’t no real stick-up kid!” Right then Patricia came in from the store. “Yo Vince, you met my new boyfriend Kano?” She was wearing Kano’s Lee denim jacket. On the back of it was a Kano piece painted on it by the late Dondi C.I.A. Dondi was something of a living god in graffiti. “Oh shit! Dondi did that?” “You better recognize, kid. I don’t know who you think you’re fucking with.” “I write. I write Psycho!” “I ain’t never heard of you. You must be a toy.” “Well, I just kind of started. But everybody knows who I am around here.” “You know Eps?” “No, but I’ve seen him up.” “You know Nel-One?” “No, but he lives on my friend Eddie’s block.” “You ain’t shit. Stick with me though.” From that night on, Kano pretty much lived in my sister’s room for the duration of their relationship. I
went with him to his house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn so he can pick up some clothes.Dondi was ouside his building with his sister Marisol who was skinny and pretty like a model. They were in a on and off again kind of relationship and didn’t look happy. Even though I was star struck at the sight of Dondi, I didn’t show it when Kano introduced me to him. “Psych, this is Dondi.” “Oh word, what’s up? I said, looking around at the buildings. “I really like this neighborhood.” Kano’s room was like a graffiti candy shop. He had all sorts of markers, spray paint and poster art by Dondi and Phase 2 hanging up. He had a black and white autograph head shot of Maddona in her “Like a Virgin” phase. It read, “with love.” “You know Maddona?” “Maddona used to be my bitch. She used to love my ass!” I didn’t believe him but then he produced some flicks taken in a photo booth and in one of them they were kissing. I thought to myself that he must of met her when she got out the bus from Detroit and she used him as a stepping stone. “What happened?” “I dumped that bitch and then she went with that faggot nigga Jellybean.” I think I was right. One day I went with Kano shopping on 8 th street in the Village and he ran into this gay man with glasses and curly hair. It was obvious that the gay man liked him and in my young ignorance, I thought Kano was way too friendly with him. After we moved on, I questioned him. “What’s up with you and the homo?’ “Yo kid, that dude is famous. Don’t you know who that is? That’s Keith Haring.” “Just because he’s famous doesn’t mean you have to suck his dick!” “Yo kid, one of these days I’m gonna punch you in the face. You wait and see.” I liked Kano a lot. He was always fun to be around. He smoked a lot of angel dust and introduced me to it. And then I started smoking a lot of it too. So did my sister Patricia. We were always dusted. Kano kept bundles and bundles of it in my freezer and I took daily liberties with his drugs. I smoked at least 5 bags a day. Not only was Kano able to gain entry to just about every club in Manhattan, but he was able to bring in an entourage as well for free. It was almost as if he was a celebrity in the nightlife. He would just tell the doorman, “Kano plus ten” and we were all in. We never had to wait on line or be searched. I was only 14 and hanging out at the Roxy and Dancertia every weekend. It was at the Roxy that I met the guys from the Rock Steady Crew. I got along especially with Frosty Freeze and Rozzy Roz Tc5. One night at Dancertia, Kano’s sister Marisol and I went to sneak off to smoke some dust I had stolen from him we were sitting on a staircase and started fooling around. She was 27, so this was a big deal for me. I wasn’t really getting girls yet. and here I was, 14 with a woman. Later on, I felt the need to show off and started making out with Marisol in front of Kano. Stupid mistake. Kano yelled at her. “Yo, you can’t be kissing him. He’s like your little brother!” “But he’s cute though. Come on, Kano.” she whined.
“You heard her, punk. I’m cute!” I told him. Kano put a stop to our brief fling and made sure I never saw Marisol again after that night. I was mad at him and heartbroken for a few days. Because of Kano, I got to enjoy experiences that no 14 year old should ever have. However, I was exposed to how exciting and diverse new York City really is with it’s nightlife, resturants, culture and personalities. I’ve been in love with this city ever since and made it my business to get out of Washington Heights every opportunity I got. I love Kano for that. One day I came home and Kano was gone. I asked Patrica about him and all she said was, “Fuck that motherfucker! he could go to hell.” I was depressed by his absence for over a week, but it was all for the better for Both my sister and I. Our brains were being fried to mush from smoking too much angel dust.
December 15th, 1983
As a child, I was taught never to fight or even defend myself by my aunt Elsie and her husband Ernie. If I violated, my hands and feet would be bounded together with duct tape and I was throw into a shower of cold water. I would then receive countless lashes all over my wet, naked body with a thick suede belt and be doused with rubbing alcohol. How the neighbors never called the police upon hearing my screams, will always be a mystery to me. If I was lucky, there wasn’t any alcohol in the house. If I was unlucky, I got hit with the buckle end of the belt, ripping pieces of flesh off my skin and then have alcohol poured on top of this. Either way, it was a miserable existence that made me pray for my own death. As a result, I didn’t fight very much and took a lot of shit from other kids. I was considered soft. What the others couldn’t possibly understand was that it wasn’t them that I was afraid of. I just had far worst nightmares waiting for me at home if I arrived with the smallest scruff on my face, hands or clothes. My aunt Elsie passed away on December 14th, 1983. I was estranged from her at the time and lived with my aunt, Titi Olga. I had conflicted feelings towards her death, but something about it freed me psychologically from her grasp. The next day I went to school and pretended that I was fine with it all. But how could I possibly be? I was numb, shocked and confused. Alfonso was a boy in school who was reaching 6 feet in height and outweighed the average kid by at least 50 pounds if not more. He was a cliché of a bully. He picked on anybody he was able to, talked about their mothers, pushed, shoved and tripped and slapped the smaller kids for no reason except that he felt like it. I sat next to Eddie in class and confided in him about what happened the day before. He was warm and supportive towards my grief. I thought I might cry and asked the teacher to be excused to go to the lavatory. Once inside, I peed in the urinal. Moments later I heard the door open and somebody walking in. Then I heard Alfonso. “What’s up you bitch motherfucker? Are you going to cry? Awwwww!” I ignored the jerk. “I should fuck your little bitch ass up and give you something to cry about.” My aunt Elsie used to tell me that, “I’ll give you something to cry about.”
“Leave me alone, Alfonso.” I advised him with forced but calm monotone. “You don’t tell me what to do.” Alfonso shoved my head hard, making me slam my forehead into the ceramic tile wall. I zippered my pants and faced him. “What?” Without warning I swooped down low, grabbing the back of his ankles and yanking his feet from underneath the floor, slamming him on his back. I kicked him in between his legs one good time. This knocked the wind out of him. I towered above him and suddenly dropped on one knee on to his fat stomach. I still can’t identify what came out of his mouth to this day. It wasn’t exactly vomit and it wasn’t entirely blood. I slammed my elbow into face and then I lost my cool. I slammed my elbow into his face excessively, unleashing 10 years of rage and pain in the process. I finally got up with tears in my eyes and kicked him one last time in the face. “If you ever put a hand on me again, I’ll take your fucking life.” I allowed him to get up and escape before I could decide to attack him again. I went into a stall and cried and cried and cried for my aunt. Emotionally, I was broken. Alfonso left the building immediately but not before enough people could see what I have done to his face. Eddie says to this day he’s never seen anybody’s face as badly beaten as his. The news sent shock waves through the school. Nobody suspected that I was capable. People looked at me a whole lot differently after that day. Alfonso returned to school about three weeks later, very humbled. Fortunately for him, his face healed up well. No permenant damage was done. We were both changed boys after that incident, but I’m not sure if I was the one who changed for the better.
In a neighborhood filled with wild, reckless and violen kids, I quickly developed a good, solid reputation. I wasn’t the craziest, strongest or even the best fighter by far, but I could always be relied on to always fight fast and hard. I’ve been asked many times if I ever lost a fight before and my answer is always consistent. “Of course. Anybody who has never lost a fight must be a coward who chose every single one of his fights very carefully.” When one comes from a neighhood where violence is the only language some people speak and understand, having “heart” is an invaluable asset to have. It could also be your biggest liability if you’re not careful. Tracey was a black kid who migrated to Washington Heights from the Bronx. At a time when the Bronx was the place to be, this gave Tracey instant street credibility. It didn’t hurt that he had a stocky, powerful built. He had a big afro and carried himself like a tough guy. He had an intimidating presence and I was glad to be his friend. I learned fast that in the Heights where beef could pop up at any given moment, it was better to hang out with people who could handle themselves with their hands. There could be consequences to keeping company with the weak, stupid and unreliable. When choosing my company, I always tried to make the best choices I was capable of making. They weren’t always good. One day after school I was sitting on a car, basking in the sun, enjoying my rising popularity. Just a short time earlier I was a nobody, and now kids were going out their way to say what’s up to me and slap me five. It did wonders for my condidence and ego. I had on my first pair of white shelltop Adidas with black stripes. I wore the sneakers with fat laces as loose as slippers, which was the style at the time. I didn’t like it. It made me feel vulnerable. The style just wasn’t practical for a life in the street. I remember feeling annoyed with myself for not thinking for myself and falling victim to the popular trend.
Maybe I gave my thoughts too much energy because Tracey came along and snatched a sneaker off my foot and started playing catch with it with some other moron that I didn’t know, but seen around. Both kids were pushing their boundaries with me and testing how far they could go, in a way that must have felt innocent and safe enough to them. Tracey missed a catch and my brand new Adidas hit the concrete ground and got scruffed up. The two allowed me to pick up my sneaker and examine it. I made an effort to control my anger. “You fucked up my sneaker. Are you gonna get me a new pair?” “You better suck my dick! You must be crazier than a motherfucker!” There were many kids observing, waiting to see how I was going to handle the situation. Tracey also knew he was being checked out and his eyes kept on darting from me to his audience and back to me. He decided to make a show out of dissing me, calling me all kinds of names. I had no choice but to take action or look forward to Tracey fucking with me more and more until I finally did. “Okay. But you know you’re doing this to yourself?” “Do what? You punk ass motherfucker!” I secretly had a razor blade sitting in the side of my mouth. I had mastered spitting it out flat out my mouth so that I didn’t slice my tongue or anything. I spit out the razor, confusing everybody and took a swipe at Tracey’s brand new jeans. Giving them a nice clean cut across his thigh. “Good. We’re even.” I declared. Tracey looked at the rip on his Lees and looked at me shocked. “My mother’s gonna flip! Nah motherfucker...you’re gonna buy me a new pair. Fuck that!” “You and your mother can suck my dick, if you think I’m buying you shit.” All eyes were on Tracey now. As soon as he came within three feet of my space in aggression, I didn’t hesitate to swing. He never saw my flurry of hooks coming. I landed every one of my punches on his head. He charged me and I grabbed him in a head lock and ran towards the brick wall of the school building. I stopped short and let him go, causing him to smash his head against the wall. The Playboys from my block saw what was going on and took it upon themselves to jump Tracey. I didn’t stop them. Instead I sat back on the car and watched gleefully, knowing that people would always think twice before testing me from now on. After the Playboys finished fucking Tracey up, I walked off with them. Tracey called out to me. “That’s fucked up, Psycho! I thought we were boys.” “Like I said, you did it to yourself.” The following day after school, I carelessly passed by Tracey’s block on 184th street as I always did. I saw some of the guys on his block checking me out. I walked extra hard, eyeballing them. I knew they were up to something. I didn’t see Tracey and I didn’t want to act too concerned about him. Suddenly I felt a sting and saw yellow and orange sparks. It felt as if somebody had cracked an egg over my head and it was dripping all over me. It was weird. I couldn’t figured out what had just happened. I touched my head with my hand and it was covered with dark burgandy blood. It started to drip into my eyes. I looked at my reflection in the nearest car window and I was drenched in blood. I turned to see Tracey with a motorcycle chain in his hand. He looked pensive and scared. His boys started closing in on me. “Any one of you motherfuckers put a hand on me and I’ll have this whole block flooded with niggas. You know who my people are!” They paused. I could see by their eyes that they were wising up. I approached Tracey. He looked like he wanted to run but didn’t dare. It would be hard for him to live in the Heights afterwards if he did. My
veins were alive with adrenalin. My eyes were crazed with rage and the sight of my own blood provided me with motivation. I grabbed Tracey by his afro and smashed my knee into his face. There were a cast iron gate in front of the building next to us and I rammed his face into it. I tried to push his head through, inbetween the bars ,but it just wasn’t possible, but the attempt inflicted much pain to Tracey. Frustrated, I wanted to give him a punishment that he could never forget. Ordinary punches just wasn’t going to do. I took out a Pilot marker from my back pocket and tagged “Psycho-Rock” sloppily across his face and pushed him away in disgust. “I tagged your face! You see, you can’t even beat me sneaking me. You can never ever beat me. I’m better than you!” I walked off bloody. A huge crowd had gathered during it all. I recognized many faces from school and the neighborhood but I didn’t have anything to say to anybody. The next day at school, word got around that I took on Tracey’s whole block by myself. My reputation started to proceed me and I foolishly felt the pressure to live up to the hype. I tried to sneak in my house to clean myself up and see how badly I was damaged. My aunt Titi Olga was in the corridor and busted me. “Oh my God, Vincent! You gone too far now. You’re punished!”
Little-Man and I walked out his building and up the block. Several buildings away stood a tall, lanky, funny looking kid with a short afro and somewhat bad skin. “Little Man, what’s up? Still perpetrating the Five?” “What are you talking about? I ain’t perpetrating no Five! You’re bugging.” Supposely, Little man had told some toy that he was down with Tc5 and it got back to the tall, lanky kid. “That’s not I heard.” “Whatever. This is my boy, Psycho Rock!” Little Man introduced me proudly. “Psycho, I ever told you I was down with Tc5?” “Nah, man.” “You see. And my boy Psycho is a down by law nigga!” “I’ll be the judge of that.” The comment took me off guard. I thought oh shit! Who does this clown think he is? Nel had a snug look on his face. He caressed his chin as he checked me out. “I heard of you. You’re suppose to be that ill kid.” “I guess so.” “You guess so. Are you ill or not?” I thought I ought to punch him in his face to show him how ill I could get. “I’m ill when I need to be ill.”
“Hmmm. Why you’re hanging out with his guy for?” He asked, referring to Little Man. “He likes to perpetrate the Five.” “I don’t perpetrate the Five!” Little Man exclaimed, frustrated. “Little Man’s my boy.” “Loyaty. I like that.” “Yo, we gotta go.” Little Man and I walked off. “That motherfucker talks a lot of shit.” “You don’t even know.” Little Man agreed. I kept on seeing Nel-One around the way. We always talked. I found him rude, arrogant and obnoxious, but I liked him anyway. I liked him a lot. He was also animated, funny and always entertaining. He always had a story to tell and he told it well, often acting it out with the best facial expressions. He would have made a good comedian. he embraced me and welcomed me into his house, where he showed me all his art and numerous black books and pictures of his work on the trains. He didn’t have alot, but he was involved in a classic one line production. The “Poke, Nel, Rize” end to end whole car. It’s was rare, but sometimes it only took one or two cars to solified an artist’s place in graffiti. This was such a case. Not only was Nel down with the legendary five but he attended the High School of Art and Design. His books were filled with A&D alumnus such as Mare 139, Son-One, Tack as well as Tc-fivers, Doze, Seen, Poke, Eps and Par. He had pages and pages of B-Boy characters in the Tc5 vein. All very Doze influenced. He introduced me to the Five style that I fell in love with. To me, the style had so much soul and attitude. The letters weren’t stiff or contrived. They had movement and a life of their own. There were plenty of styles that were more wild, but their was a sophisication in the simplicity of 5 style. It burned most styles with little effort. Nel-One and I would smoke blunts and drink 40 ounce bottles of beer in the park as he schooled me to the ways of the Five. His arrogance started to make a lot of sense. It came with the confidence of being an alpha male in the graffiti world. Nel-One declared me Five material. He said that it was only a matter of time because I would be put down. I was destined. One day Nel-One got an opportunity to design a record cover album for Africa Bambatta and the Soul Sonic Force. He invited me to go with him to meet Bambatta in the Bronx River Projects to discuss business. This was a very big deal and we were both excited. It was a glorious Saturday afternoon and the two train was practically empty. The ride from Manhattan to the Bronx was long and Nel and I had a lot of nervous energy in common. We were both the types that couldn’t stay still for too long. Nel-One took out a marker and started motion writing. “Chill nigga.” “Come on, this joint is empty. Let’s bomb this shit!” “Come on, Nel...chill the fuck out. I’m telling you.” “Fuck that! I’m bombing this shit. I’ll put you up. Watch my back.” I went to look over into the next car of the train. Two white guys were watching us. I knew what was up before they they smiled at me and flashed their badges at me. “Nel!!!” I yelled out, pissed off.
We never made it to Bambatta’s house. I ended up skipping court and as a result, I was walking around with a warrant out for my arrest over a bullshit tag. I eventually got myself arrested for something else and had to deal with the charge then. It ended up getting dismissed. After that, I kept my hanging out with Nel-One limited to his house and his block. My reckless behavior was a liability to myself. I was wise enough to know that I didn’t need another one. One day I went to visit my friend and he just wasn’t the same. Something was wrong. He was ten times more animated and spoke in an abstract manner that made little sense. Days later he was hospitalized in a mental health facility. West One and I went to visit him. It was a very sad affair and we both left stunned. Nel’s sister explained to me that he had taken between 4 o 5 tabs of mesculin, a type of acid and never came down from his high. This scared me a lot becuae I was guilty of the same kind of excessive behavior with drugs. Just never taking a second out to consider the consequences of my actions. I could have easily been in Nel-One’s postion many times over. Because of Nel, I never indulged in mesculin ever again. I continued to visit Nel, even though it was always challenging, but I thought it was important that he had company from time to time. Nel’s condition alienated him from the world and he was painfully aware of it. He was very sad and lonely. He attempted to take his life but failed miserably. He jumped out his window. His building was built on top of a small mountain and the back of it was supported by a steel beam skeleton. Nel hit just about every beam and tree on his way down. He survived, but he broke countless bones and his body was covered with scars from head to toe. To say that Nel-One suffered a lot would be an understatement. He lived hell on earth. About a year later, I recieved a phone call from his sister. Nel-One jumped out his window again. “Oh my God. Please tell me that he’s dead.” Nel-One had succeeded and my friend was finally resting in peace.
Hyenas in the Night
As I got to know more and more serious writers like Eddie(Resk), Little-Man, Reas, Pure, Rize, Wane, Kano, Nel-One and Eps Tc5, I hung out out less and less with my F.K. boys from 175th street. During my days with them, we had taken complete control of the 175th street lay-up. The yard just wasn’t a safe place for other graffiti writers. Lucky writers were able to escape, running for their lives upon the sight of 15 upwards to 30 little hyenas and jackals, looking to cause trouble for anyone caught in the yard. Unlucky ones got caught, humiliated and sometimes worst. Dint F.K. caught a writers putting up tagged up stickers in the train station and placed his own stickers across his mouth and over his eyes. We made him sit on the platform bench and watched, entertained at the the sight of commuters passing the guy, staring at him, either amused or confused. We often stripped kids and made fun of their genitals. Somebody always decided to spraypaint the poor guy’s penis, testicles and sometimes even his anus. The kid was sent home naked. The rude and arrogant who foolishishly felt invincible were left to find their way to the emergency room to either get snitched up or have a cast plastered over one of their limbs. We were a savage bunch with little compassion or empathy for others. The fact that we were underground in the tunnels, away from the eyes of society gave us a perverse sense of justification for
our actions. If you were doing graffiti inside the lay-up that meant you were breaking the law. If you were breaking the law that meant you must have been an outlaw. If you were an outlaw that meant you must have thought you were a bad motherfucker and these were just some of the things that came with the territory of being an outlaw or bad motherfucker as far as we were concerned. One Sunday afternoon, three of our smallest members found us hanging out at “Jew” park on 175th street and Fort Washington Avenue. They announced that they had just gotten vamped by three members of a crew called M.S.K. The guys drom the Manhattan Subway Killers sents the little ones back with a message. “M.S.K. were taking over 175th Street lay-up.” No less that 30 of us charged into the train station, jumping over the turnstiles and flooded into the tunnels. We were all efficient in getting around them like if they were the street. I learned how to run swiftly along the tracks, using the balls of my feet to land on every fourth track, without having to look down. We all rushed into the lay-up to find nothing but the tags and throw-ups left bhind by the M.S.K.’s. We watched out for the crew daily, most of us strapped with knives and machetes, but their weren’t any evidence or signs that they had been around. We predicted that they would return the following Sunday. We would be ready. M.S.K. came on the graffiti scene strong in 83 and 84. The prominent membere were Dia-One, Magnum, his girlfriend Shorty Shock, Two-New, K.C. and Sak. Because of Sak they were loosely associated with The Nasty Boys, T-Kid’s crew. M.S.K. bombed the insides and did a respectable amount of end to end productions on the one line. They were older kids in their late teens and came from the next neighborhood above Washington Heights, the Dykeman/Inwood area. They had major beef with Jon-One, Flite, West-One and the First Class crew, all people I would later on in life become friends with. One time I went to an opening of a art show that featured Jon, Flite and West with some writers from my block, Skee-One and Mec. M.S.K. showed up and Two-New fought with Jon-One. Jon-One was unfairly outmatched by the obviously more powerful and aggressive Two-New who was said to have been recently discharged from the Marines. The fight was heartbreaking to watch. Even though I didn’t know Jon-One at the time, I could see that he was a sweet, friendly, peaceful guy. I remember feeling pissed off at the injustice of it all. Sunday arrived and we waited for the M.S.K.’s inside the trains and sure as clockwork, the same three members arrived. All were much taller and bigger kids than most of us, especially one called Ram. It was too many of us and they cooperated. We relieved them of their graffiti supplies, jackets and sneakers and sent them back to Dykeman with a kick in each one of their ass’es. We went about our business, foolishly thinking it was over. That week I was called over by Little Jose,the leader of the Playboys from my block. He coincidently was involved with Shorty Shock’s sister. “I heard you and your little graffiti friends vamped some M.S.K.’s cats in the yard.” I proudly confirmed. “Y’all know they’re planning to come back and fuck all you niggas up.” “They’re not fucking anybody up!” “You’re just a bunch of little kids. What the fuck do you know. You just came out your house. I remember when you were a little punk. You’re still a little punk. Thoise guys are men!” Little Jose’s comments stunned, but I knew that he was very unaware of what I had become or the damage my boys were capable of doing. I behaved myself on my block. Elsewhere, I was a very different person. “Little Jose, trust me and this is word on my mothers...those motherfucker aren’t fucking any of us up.”
“You’re fucking delusional. Your little punk friends have no win, but you can’t say I didn’t tell you.” I went back to 175th street to report what M.S.K. had planned. We knew that they hung out at night in the school yard of Junior High School 52 at Dykeman and Broadway. We weren’t going to wait for them to come to us. We were going to them that night. We all went home to get as many weapons as we could get our hands on. Because we all were walking to Dykeman, everything had to be concealed. Bats, chains and the obvious would not do. I snuck out my cousin’s 357 magnum. Some of the others had guns as well. I spoke to them. “If we have to shoot any of them, we got to shoot them in the knees. Cripple those motherfuckers. We can’t shoot to kill. I don’t want to do life. Fuck that shit! Okay?” Fortunately, all agreed with my logic. We all left 175th street and headed uptown. Washington Heights had a lot of little crews from different blocks that were all friendly with one another. We left 175th street with about 30 kids and every other block, we picked up 5 or 10 more kids from crews like Wild Creation and City Boys. By the time we arrived on Dykeman street, their were no less than 70 of us. All excited, ready to kill. We entered the school yard of J.H.S. 52 and sure enough there were Dia-One, Magnum, Shorty Shock and Two-New sitting on a ledge like ducks, smoking blunts and drinking 40’s. I was the only one who knew what they looked like and confirmed that it was indeed them. Shorty Shock knew who I was from Little Jose on my block. She appealed to me to squash the beef. “Nah ma, I can’t do that. But don’t worry, we ain’t going to do anything to you. But your boyfriend there...” Magnum looked terrified as I spoke. “...is getting fucked up tonight.” We closed in on them. Dia-One pleaded. “Wait, wait up!” Disco told us to chill a minute to hear him out. I didn’t like all this talking stuff. It was bullshit to me to give Dia-One a chance to talk his way out of this. “Fuck that shit, Disco. What are you doing?” “Chill!” Dia-One suggested that Two-New fight any one of us. To me that defeated the purpose of showing up the way we did. Two-New was a man with a five o’clock shadow and built like a body-builder. I was sure that he could fuck any one of us up. Only a few of us actually had a chance. One of them being me. I didn’t want the fight but before I could protest, Disco agreed. I sucked in my breath, think how I was going to approach the fight. Two-New was short and stocky like me. I would have a hard time body slamming him because the leverage wasn’t to my advantage. He could surely punch harder than me. I decided the only way I would win was to do something drastic like trying to bite his face off. Disco nodded to me to take the fight. I passed Disco my gat. Two-New and I squared off, but a kid named Razo intervened. “Let me get this, Psycho.” “No, I’m good.” “Nah, let me get this one.” Razo was a skinny but wirey kid who was known for his break dancing. He was very swift and agile. He almost always had a pleasant demeanor about him and wasn’t known for fighting. I think this concerned most of us. I know it did me. But I was happy to let Razo to take on the fight. The second I saw he was having a hard time, I intended to put one in Two-New’s ass.
Two-New and Razo faced off. Two-New looked overconfident. Razo looked intensely focused on what he was doing. I turned my head for a second to tell Zook and Dint to get ready to attack. I heard the slam and the “ooohs and ahhhs.” I looked and Two-New was on his back. Razo had body slammed him. TwoNew’s own boy’s were shocked. Razo allowed him to get back up. In less than a minute, Two-New found himself on his back again. Even Shorty Shock laughed. He got up and charged Razo. Razo just went low and scooped him and slammed him right on his back again. Two-New gave up. “You got that! You got that, money!” Razo allowed him to get up. “Squash the beef!” Dia and Magnum congratulated Razo, Disco, Zook and I on our victory and we all shook hands. We retreated into the night. We all knew our places in the graffiti food chain. Yeah, we were all pretty much toys, but we demanded respect and knew how to take it when necessary.
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