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 graffiti 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 The Subway Platform in the Freezing Cold for 3 Hours"
It took approximately 10 minutes. I was only 14 years old, but I felt like I was in a movie. I was in and out. Dom was 16 years old. He had stolen his parent's car while they slept, so we could drive from Brooklyn to the edge of Queens to paint the subway cars. As we drove, barely understanding life, he looked at me and said, "Those are gonna run." I decided to skip school the next day. Dom and I decided to wait and watch the train we tagged.
"those are gonna run"
We went to the subway platform where the train should arrive, hoping to glimpse our creation in action. If the train was in service, it would arrive between 9 AM - 12 PM. We waited on the subway platform in the freezing cold for 3 hours waiting to see our names on the side of the steel giant, if only for 20 seconds. Around 11:30 AM, it happened. It came—the runner. I've never felt such jubilation in my entire life like this. This feeling is what got me hooked on graffiti in the first place. It was a rush, unlike anything I had ever felt. It was like a drug.
Graffiti forever shaped the way I viewed New York. Every scenery and spectacle I saw was a canvas for me to write on. New York City was my jungle gym. Years later and much older, I went to college. I actually teach high school English now, but I still paint all the time—just not on the scale of what I have done in my younger years. Those experiences are what makes me...me.