Shots from the Block: writing on the ground/underground

It’s January (again). As the new year begins I continue my self-imposed exile in suburban Nashville, extending the indefinite holding pattern initiated by the pandemic just a little while longer. It has largely been a favorable transition. Life is quieter here on the cul-de-sac.

One of the major changes the new year has brought to our street is a revised recycling policy. The ancien régime of clear categories and orderly collection has been upended. It’s caused a bit of confusion in our daily routine, but it also precipitated my visiting the local garbage dump. I think it was my first time visiting a dump, and I now believe it is essential. Everyone should see where their trash goes, should glean some surface knowledge of the material and procedural infrastructures involved in processing your refuse.

This past Sunday was clear and cool, so I went for a walk and some fresh air. The country here is quite beautiful, though this ostensibly exurban area seems as prone to transformation as any city center. Subdivisions are rapidly developing, roads are constantly being widened. Our immediate neighborhood is both sans sidewalks and situated along a busy traffic corridor, which can make walking quite perilous. 

A few nights ago the family dog got loose in the neighborhood. I spent a half hour trudging about with a flashlight before finally cornering the capricious canine. During my search I surveyed the creek that runs behind the house and discovered an unexpected cache of graffiti within a culvert that carries the roadway over the stream. It was such a shock to see the spraypaint starkly illuminated by the flashlight’s beam, because it was an irruption of urban street culture in an area that is invisible and nearly inaccessible from the street (the aforementioned lack of sidewalks).

Yet where there’s a wall, there’s a way. The ample planar concrete provides a generous canvas, and the semi-seclusion of the stream-side embankment is evidently a chill place to hang out. Most of the writing seems freeform aerosol, though there are some bubble letters and a few stencils. The prevailing sentiments are split between anti-racist police violence messages (“Hands up don’t shoot,” “I can’t breathe,” ACAB), and LGTBQ iconography including rainbow patterns, various iterations of the word “Pride,” and an ostensible commemoration of the Pulse nightclub. One concrete outcropping bears the archetypal enunciation: “I exist.” The entirety of one wall is dedicated to a solitary, scrawled, half-hearted apology: “Sorry, this blank wall was boring me.”

Leave a Reply