Reading the (Obscene) Handwriting on the Wall

#Art

Mon, Jul 19th, 1999 02:00 by Jester ARTICLE

I'm a great connoisseur of literature of all kinds. My favourite author is George Orwell, who was a strong advocate of good writing and the preservation of the English language. But he wasn't a snob, and had a strange fascination for what might be called the "lower" forms of writing. George had a strange interest in postcards with raunchy jokes that could be bought from newstands during his days.

Me, I like to peruse the kind of prose that's written on bathroom walls when I'm not reading Orwell.

I'm talking about the good stuff, obviously. Yes, there is good and bad bathroom graffiti. Any moron with a pen can write "Such and such is an asshole," or old stuff like "Beware of the gay limbo dancers" but it takes wit to write "If you voted Conservative you can't shit here, your asshole's at Queen's Park." (Insert political party and seat of local power to modify for your area).

When I went to university, I saw some of the best vandalism ever.

For the first year of my program Radio and Television department shared a building with Engineering. If you've been to university, the loudest group is always the Engineers. The Engineers are perpetually at war with the Humanities departments, or "Artsies" if you prefer. Engineers usually refer to them as "Artsy Fartsies." Ryerson isn't structured like a regular university, though. It does of course have Humanities, but most of the programs there are for more hands-on vocations. RTA was the closest thing to Artsies that the Engineers had to gang up on. It's ironic really, became some of RTA was really technical and business-oriented, and there were plenty of people who didn't fit the Artsy archetype. There were some Bona Fide Artsies, with blue hair and pierced nipples (my Artsy status was revoked because I refused to have a hot pin jabbed through my foreskin) but not an overwhelming number of students were hardcore artsies. For some reason, the Engineers didn't want to go after the Film or Drama departments, which fit the Artsy bill more than we did. Maybe it was because we were so conveniently close. We did after all, share a set of washrooms.

And in one stall, the door was *covered* completely in a transcript of the war between RTA and Engineering. There was some great stuff in that stall. The Engineers like to substitute the words of the RTA acronym, such as "Ryerson Transvestite Association." Sometimes they would write stuff like "I'm gay and I like RTA because they have Really Tight Asses."

I'm biased here, but I really have to say that I thought the RTA counterattacks were more stinging and more imaginative. For example, the toilet paper holder was labeled "Ryerson Engineering Degrees--Take one." Engineers seemed to focus a lot on physical threats. When one RTAer wrote "When you Engineers come home after a hard day of building bridges and pay your cable bill, you'll finance our 3rd Porsche and we'll drive it all over your stupid bridges." A bit of an exaggeration, as only Julie (see "Random Reminisces of Radio and Television, CoN issue 3/18) has that kind of cash, having clouded the minds of three oil sheiks and a handful of banana republic dictators into giving her their wealth, but it was still stinging anyway. One angry Engineer wrote back "If I knew where you were, I'd kick your ass" or words to that effect. To which the RTAer responded "But you don't, do you?"

A friend of mine gained a minor bit of notoriety when one of his scratchings actually got mentioned in the Eye Opener, the school newspaper. The EO was doing an article on vandalism, noting what kind of vandalism could be found where in the school. Now, before I tell you what he wrote, I have to explain that Ryerson's mascot is a ram, nick-named Eggy. There have been about five Eggys or so, and the last I heard there was talking of abandoning the whole thing due to financial constraints of keeping a live ram, and animal rights pressure. During my time though, there was a live ram for a mascot... God knows where it was kept.

I believe the EO article went something like this:

"The Quad: We've discovered that apparently, Engineers and RTA don't like each other (`ENGINEERS FUCKED EGGY')"

The sexual habits/orientation of the Engineers were an easy target for us. Homosexuality seemed to be a sore spot for them. Most Engineering departments have a reputation for being homophobic, so a lot of the homoerotic stuff was directed their way to aggravate them. I have no idea if our Engineers were homophobic. There wasn't any incident that I'm aware of to suggest that they were. Still, that didn't stop it from being amusing.

During one exchange of insults, someone wrote "Why can't RTAs and Engineers get along?" Underneath someone wrote "Right on. Engineers have nice tight asses and big juicy cocks." Some had written a homosexual slur underneath this, but there was no indication as to which department it came from. This may have made the Engineers uncomfortable, but it was nothing compared to stating that Engineers were suffering from a total lack of sexual habits/orientation. One of the best and boldest comments was:

"All right, let's get this straight. RTA: 60% women. All babes. Engineering: 5 women who look like Zorba. We RTAs make out like bandits!"

In another washroom at Rye, there was a great example of a rare kind of vandalism--a continuing thread, started by one person and adapted and expanded by many others.

It started with a tiny pock mark above the urinals. Someone had noticed the mark, circled it with a black pen, and wrote "Spot" on the wall.

Then, someone else had drawn a line to the word spot, and wrote "Spot label."

Then, someone else had drawn a line to the words "Spot Label," and wrote "Spot label Indicator."

My memory is foggy at this point, so I don't know how it all unraveled. I believe at this point someone had written "Knock it off you idiots" under the spot. Someone then drew a line to that comments and wrote "Jag Bhudaria remark["] (a local MP at the time).

Someone then labeled this "Political Commentary." Someone else labeled the same remark "Weak comment pertaining to current events."

"Weak comment pertaining to current events" was labeled "Opposing view/rebuttal." Soon, a large section of the wall was covered with this stuff. All from one little spot.

I actually once copied this whole thing down on paper. Sadly, I don't know where that paper is, otherwise I'd scan it and post it online.

I also like vandalism on top of vandalism, when someone writes one thing and then someone else writes a rebuke or changes the meaning of what was originally written. I particularly like this when some writes something sexist or unimaginative. For example, I saw someone write "If a girl won't suck your cock, put some coke or hash on it! She'll go `nuts'" (Goddamn, I hate it when people use quotation marks incorrectly too. That really pisses me off.). Someone had inserted words so that it read "If a girl won't suck your cock, put some diet coke or hash browns on it!"

Making fun of religious commentary is great too. At a local restaurant near where I live, a bathroom stall has big block letter vandalism declaring "JESUS DIED FOR YOUR SINS." Why zealots want to spread the word of Christ in a bathroom stall is beyond me, but anyway. Two people had struck back at this one. The first guy did some editing so that it read "BOBBY ORR DIED FOR YOUR SHINS." Someone else wrote the stinging rebuttal to the original comment: "SO DID LAKE ERIE, MORON."

Words aren't the only things you'll find of course. A lot of drawings make their way on to bathroom walls, particularly of genitalia. Back at school, someone had drawn an erect penis. Although the image was huge and took up nearly half of the stall door, another smart guy had drawn a ruler to indicate that the penis measured just 0.6 inches.

Written next to the penis drawing where the words "Suck me and get me off!" Someone else, apparently not objecting to the concept of fellatio per say, but at issue with this particular erection, wrote "Fuck off, it's pointing down." And indeed, he drew attention to the fact the penis was pointing at 180 degree angle from the base of the stomach, which is unusual.

Penises protruding at unusual angles aside, there's really one more subject to touch upon--my own vandalism. So far, I have been mainly an observer. I haven't really done much to contribute to the world of graffiti. However, I do have plans. Occasionally, you'll see posters for pet care products that show a cute little doggy looking out innocently at you. I've been dying to write a word balloon that says "What the fuck are you looking at?" on them. So if you're in the Toronto area and you happen to see a subway poster so marked, you'll know that Jason Was Here.

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