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NYC Train Yard

The Steel Giants

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into the train yard. Graffiti shaped my life. It gave me a perspective while I was running around New York as a kid. It was my life’s work. In graffiti, there are levels of things you can do. The highest level, the most respected, is painting MTA subway trains. Getting a runner—a painted train that actually runs in service and doesn’t just sit in the yard—is the ultimate goal.

I will never forget the smell and feel the first time I walked into that yard. The rumble of the metal vibrating. The engines turning off and on, making a puffing sound. The smell of gravel and grease, so pungent it burnt my nose hairs. All of it seemed so real, so in the flesh. I quickly snapped back into reality, or whatever you could call this. My boy Dom was telling me where to paint. “Go over the windows, don’t worry about them” was the first thing he told me. So I did.

"We Waited on That Train Platform in the Freezing Cold for 3 Hours"

It took about 10 minutes. I was only 14. It felt like I was in a movie. I got in, I got out. Dom was 16, and had stolen his parents car while they slept, so we can drive from Brooklyn to the edge of Queens to paint this. As we drove in his car, barely understanding life, he looked at me. “Those are gonna run”. I skipped school the next day. We drove to the stop where they would come, if they would. If that train ran, it would be between 9AM-12PM. We waited on that train platform in the freezing cold for 3 hours, to maybe see our names on the side of steel for 20 seconds. Around 11:30 AM, it happened. It came. The runner. I’ve never felt such jubilation in my entire life. This is what got my hooked on graffiti. This rush was unlike anything I had ever felt. It was almost as if I had done drugs.

 NYC Graffiti Subway Cars

It forever shaped the way I viewed New York. Everything I saw was viewed as a spot to write on, or something to climb. The city was my jungle gym. Now, I went to college, and I actually teach high school English. I still paint all the time—as you’ll see in my next story—but not on the scale of what I have done. Those experiences though, are what makes me, me.


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