« 99% Invisible

409- California Love Scared Straight

2020-08-04 | 🔗

Walter Thompson-Hernandez was just eleven years old when he was admitted to L.A.'s infamous Scared Straight program for graffiti related crimes. In this episode, Walter, through a chance encounter, checks-in with his friend who went through the program with him, their anti-tagging arch-nemesis, and how they have turned out after all these years.

Part autobiography, part reportage, California Love is a richly sound-designed audio tour that takes us into the homes of communities that are touchstones to Walter’s life.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This- is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars. I love. Of park, I really do not just mine and the one on some associated with, but I was dozens of past week. Always looking for some spark that excites me conference. Challenges my entertains me I have seen the proliferation upon casts. It would never occur to me to market like I know the joke and one has passed now, but I always want more, not the more for me, but one one hit. I just get excited about its existence, get excited about existence in general, and this happened to me when I was listening to a new show called California love. It's up. Because about seeking to understand what it means to belong and not belong to the places that we are from the episode, I thought would most resonate with with you merits is about graffiti, which is which part of the visual
expression of sittings. There culture war being played out before our eyes in the back and forth between tigers and anti tankers? In this I didn't mean story is about those sites in what it feels like to be in the middle of it were the stakes to an outsider can seem so low, but actually couldn't be higher. This is California love ears. Thompson, Hernandez, is spring two thousand and seventeen, and I'm on the seven hundred and thirty three bus line, heading west on Venice Boulevard, in the back of the bus. It's the early afternoon, Nobody else in next to me I'm listening to music on my headphones when I noticed, friend happened. It's Ivan to be in the same circles on waste attack an early enough, other hasn't changed. He still want
precisely shirts, still speak from the sight of mouth, like you used to windward teenager His hair still really low too one fifteen years and glass on one another without each other up and hug? You sit next to me aced alright year. I do sir this is going to live in a modern, I've told you so now I was great who next wetter these weapons at office at issue. To me,
ass. I was written on the back of my sweater to identify in nice on the scarcely programme. Doubt analysis, a police station. We times we twice with week. We had classes and on Saturdays, that's when here no sir, amazing, pushups, barbies, squats, spreads and more and are on the station house roof. About two dozen of us all in the age of seventeen or in the programme, usually the judge in order to attend for some crime. We are committed one of the guys with a graffiti imagining site, essential right name, can be seen throughout the city. He was right, is gone, and off environment history was everywhere, although Dana site, What I do remember his arm. Other cars gonna marry. Screaming at me. In my face this
liver, all my face tat. Some people were there for skipping school fighting evaluing probation beside and I were above the effort We demand vandalism. I have eleven warrants. Fini are kind of stuff. I started talking with a group of friends. I have met in middle school and once I learn how to tag I'll be going to go out and paint the streets. Maybe it with other things I was seeing and experiencing a ha the job to be, as far away from it is possible, Mamma had a boyfriend at the time this. Why did who is unemployed in a small way in and drank heavily every single day. He was abusive controlling toward me, Mamma any and I would add, to physical fight, which led to numerous visits from the police. Every summer. I didn't want to be in sight on life. There was,
Thus, as rocky is mine My mom was sleeping in parts in the car peanut butter, jelly scientists for night always level our back streets. This also to allay western Imperial serves, will take us out or block over. Really, with a lot of things for me, it was an outlet away. Me to take out the rage, the pain and the heart of experiencing at home, the street in the wars. There are basically my therapy, I just it when I did see I exit, as Mr Daul that sense, away, rebirth the first item it s eye and I were there. The amazing Garth took turns yelling on us.
And he and I smiled at each other the whole time without their sacrifice our miles above with us that. And when you guys can put the has on us, so we feel safe and we tackle this gear straight in accidents, Emmy stream. In fact, you got me deeper into graffiti about two years, I finish the programme. I started catches spots of a guy named alone. He was pretty well known, writer in the graph remote and the crazy part. He looked just like one of my favorite. Wrappers when you are going to work in just a few months. We became like brothers and we join the same You are young women graffiti sounds like a we could be these was foolish together. Go I can now head right now he's really. Only is older than me,
I've been everyday together pending the sitting. This means going the tag. I remember there were times on light of Asia. Doing this come on. Let's go, let's go. Go in and insight were there it's like I'm so guy like I did, is there's a lot of people like. I know a lot of people to and that everyone don't say: oh yeah, yeah, let's go let's go but like who really wants to go, and I mean like who's really going to go I've been a wholesome together in our body. Stronger than any relation about had as an adult, author unhappy aftermath, I've gone like we're just kids, steady, each other's pain and how nor without fell, hello taught me how to tag on events, boulevard bus lines. We call spots And of any headlights I told him how to do. The thing that he knows that so
describing into a transparent case. People will be able to see it. There has to be some way for you to make. Would you this rope Papa the world so easy. What we would do is we would take like dirt from somewhere. Our fingers the top of a life. Smoke tat on the spot. The dirt would end up feeling the spaces of the graffiti spotlight describe Van nice, Basque. Anything I used to show my different slap tags and how you write on the latter. For those of you that don't know like post office you used to have like stickers that people use for mailing graffiti artist, just Cohen Garden free stickers because right what we want, we
thousand about Alice House after feigning, lock ourselves in this room, the smoke and drink and their play music. Not. I will turn to love me Londoners, not a biggie, just right. He's right, just right Evil our names all over the city, because we found the visible and it was fine- I just wanna- existed. We and if we were overpasses national of our Robertson crash off, we painted words, Aventis, Venice Boulevard, repainted. My heart, Dalai River antimony yards. Everywhere. Name's rarely stayed out for more than a few days for four years. I tag and reform there a wide dude named Joe Connally painted a vast, but ninety eight, ninety nine two thousand and two does one
The sky Joe has mentioned above our tags using pay and equip, and he approaches himself. Sir. In him, but I'm not rough, wasn't feeling because crane the Arctic ladder me like this. One time when I say in turn. I do no piece of large bubbles, tat letters on a rooftop nor people rogerson and was gone next morning, and I knew it was Joe and it wasn't just us it was all of us. There was a whole city of kids for their spots, trying to be seen and then is why Guy named John will come out of any races again. Joe is definitely a villain, the fellow he was our villain. You can write all day long. First you're, never gonna get up mornings you as our bee birthed ukrainian redesign early. You couldn't be assign means Joe Connally. They committed graffiti.
Marilla, among other things, look at that not only the following was made, but it's nice net nicely Joe, was a woman integrity in unit you may have seen it if miss sign up a Peacock Fairfax says. Graffiti no longer accepted here, please find a day job. Thank you. Ninety ninety three Joe currently the graffiti guerrilla. Joey such cases out of the Monti yards and pain of our spots, Are you the city employ, but really direct alone after me, all right I'll, never organized out the building was still burned out. Trees. Didn't want to get planned all these people on that sticks, the neighborhood helicopters river, this meeting and how these things that people they wanted, people do was accelerative us. There. So uncertain. I think I'll knock. I say anything I'm a volunteer for IBM work in seven days a week. I too little kids are making money online. So this
Graffiti was lasting on the thing station. You're taking groovy, unlike yeah cool thou, be acts like us there's no graffiti around. I got the next day and I are driving around like. Oh, my god, we are right. It was late summer. Two dozen, I don't. I spent an eye catching spots all over the west side before going out with ass the chair, and then a forum I got a weird craving for hawaiian parts, so decided to act wrath, and then you took a step and then first some strawberries- and I was like hey, let's record this, and I took this video camera that I had, we didn't make it door, we cross the street.
And you decide to start tagging a trash scam, my dear mass, instead of look, looking back I'm looking to the law. So I urge you and police port of honours the cops handcuff this medicine on the curb and then separated us for questioning I was already information for a previous were freely offence, for sure, gonna Juvy the cops enemy. What's your name then I started off using Mama last name Hernandez. So I said Walter Thomson and the capture like that's about lighter They don't want to talk to sound like an arrow. Why do now and now that I'm thinking about it, they were gonna write I remember them ask me about that. So much of friends in and I was like basil-
because I'm gonna give up your name. I don't know what you sets out like basil chemicals. I don't know his name is I was I Maybe he's not gonna give his name, sir. When I start laughing at the council? I believe me, but the cops didn't think it was funny they got. Maddening, are frustrated and punish the in separate cars and take us back to the station I went home after three hours, but ALA here There are almost three days There is no mere site aside php, a market me? I want to graduate from high school. She kick me because she felt she can afford to, Tell me more so here I am thinking particularly welcome in college.
I obviously my mom is garage. I sleep and the greater the dog comedy and seventy six. Seeking to. Let me stay in his house where he lay yogurt rod sometimes mean a dog: overhaul Slavonic out. That's where the feeling really chicken high gear, because our the press, lonely hungry and this is only let go, my spirits when their trauma doing defeated as a human need to express yourself are, fortunately the lower classes and impoverished. Don't have the spaces and law today's be creative then our own, nothing. They can't write in their own apartment building I kicked out. Then I have a high
to do in the back yard, sorting undue that the streets where they can be got stars and they got a guy can't control of profit at the top some advantage in the game, for while this is nice, once I started noticing and all that I got interested in it and then I started studying in going, I mean, tigers. I said: look I just want to travel with you guys, like you stupid. I would like ok as will learn about this. No matter what I suggest. One learns see that you are skinny goes up and it pops up there with a little circle. Let's call can control, there's nobody. I don't think there's any body of world that gets graffiti like me, I don't it would take a lot because it's this stuff, that's how to stuff. I've had stuff like you forget they don't get. That graffiti has to start with all these tags and then move to
rob and then it could be a miracle that can be a brown or it can be a production. To give you no answer only a small amount of people going to be able to get to the to the art side of it, the real our side of it whatever that might be and then make a living at it's cool, but if they are found allowed a tag they will get there and, if The world would really sock. If we didn't have graffiti. I'm ok, I suppose that takes a while to fight every day takes no time. I don't get excited by graffiti. Doesn't bother me that it keeps going up? It has to go up, otherwise the artists can emerge and they should be entitled to emerge. I mean it's it's in I have on their stories, are interesting to hear what kind of can read it. So why would I keep painting aggravating? If, if I enjoy it, because the aid they have to do it to the expected get painted out and three candidates, I'm a fresh canvas to keep them.
I thought I booked tomato. How could somebody love graffiti so much and spend every single day destroying It doesn't really outbreak, as others. These other photographer that he won't give it up, After getting arrested at night with Almah, I changed my life Mamma the reason she paid me from the station at six a m- and it wasn't the first time. But there was something about that night. I was different. She let worn out she looked like a mom where no more fight left in I was really tired of disappointing as afraid of her being afraid for me and I knew how to change things Remember trying to call you like you, are avoiding me
I finally got a hold of you. And then you said something like just kind of busy right now, as I you busy for me what the world who's gonna arena as not answering his car like you just pretty much ghostly from right. There I started going to classic. It was just cite yeah. What then, as airplane. Asperger, Sir I'm getting tourism sings, smoking and drinking to after that, I guess I think I can find anyone also really connect with and then I actually started. Getting more to like fighting for some reason. I was never like a big fighter, but all of a sudden, unlike Mr Monti, romanian fight everybody.
My best friend and I wouldn't say, or talk to each other for seventeen years. It was one of the hardest choices I ever made because I live Friends behind who are concerned a family and a hit hard when I see their names and wars and not my own they carry on with their lives and forgot about me, and it was harder began deep inside. I knew that it was something brought upon myself. I left the world whilst completely safe I Toronto world were being seen, wasn't guaranteed and for a fourteen year old with our really confusing. I wanted to change and soon. The entire alley graffiti world will also change.
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All the way from graffiti, what used to be a misdemeanor offence was now a felony graffiti, I started to a hard time, for there are People now lay referred to this time as a tear campaign. It's when tigers housework. Reportedly been raided, like they were. Drug dealers are members of a violent gang. It was if any day a thousand dryly, As key was a couple days for those. Two thousand and six. Loud, bang on the door, the bear nagging sleep. And he opened the door to door to door. Older children die anyway he's comin, Lithuania WAR. You slice unable to drive it, I've got some rifles beans come not of the pull me out.
Into the main din and allow were the drugs unworthy. Go online. No drugs again that the wrong arson read it wrong: how there's no drugs were easily gains in the drugs the turn of the whole house, applause from she's. Only no socks past Nobel shirt. Ankara's me They walked me outside and then a whole neighborhood outside watching you. Now most people be Let me now turn to the sheriff station in our watts anyway, five, a man there were high five and they were, we got to do with them and will do for IRAN lie though my had allowed in over fifty two series of honour. The treaty was a series
Then I will not only messing with it. The game interrogation room, I dont, know alone no law semi. Now they sit down a folder, of paperwork about six inches tore off but all the stuff- I didn't know I open a folder showman pictures on my do this. All oh, do their work, if you d these two more recent date, we'll let you today light through but it wasn't for it. Site, was charged with multiple accounts of non violent family vandalism. He says he s Site was facing around Using s him in court according to him, Andy patient of this tax to a more recent time to allow within,
the statute of limitations, sight was around thirty years and present, so they would have to do the three years in eight months single is just part of the city's draconian anti graffiti movement and Water On ten years I came arrested city a journey Jake, it's about time. Tigers are treated like criminal gang number No nine, then Alley City attorney Carmen to admission and writers, Venus after dinner the street level intelligence and prepared and John. Just Tarzan, graffiti cruised, Whilst I was imprisoned, alive of tag. Is him to provide support Putting one he didn't know that were blue eyes, You really Tyler. Low wrote me while I was in prison: I met him only once in person on the minutes, I never hear now I like the DE winter
prison for something that we were all doing we could have been any one of us is what I'm saying so psyche. Got to their respects, respecting for whom only meet me at one. Twice one belie hey. I'm all rejected is due August. Mr Fini: did we together. Every yeah like every three weeks or so what a model and has opening Owen Shaughnessy, whereas mine was that Therefore, like I wasn't alone, I felt like a feed is bigger than way was more than one I think it is enough about five years. I was like the behaviour fire can Lester Then he will let you know I like a year too, if I got out, he was like I'll pick you up from prison. They pick me up damn offers meal. Certainly not even beach.
Brian, the saudi air crash in ocean for my feet in the water, Remember I fell full broke into full vulnerable. This is this all of us to have to get rid of that you're feeling we make. We thank you Well, the city, he not a babe, I hate to say they killed my kid to this data? Never apologize about that. He went to school feel tripping. Undone, drowning. Isn't it. They told us that was then there was never convening swimming at their. The way it happen in all the things that happen in the city, the city could of me and they
Never chose out me they chose to desert me. They ve never said we're. Sorry about your son. That's. I think one reason why stand graffiti baby is because I'm not able fix my life because you can ever control It is my turn heard catch. You can't control psyche, photography, which makes people's eyes better. So for me, it just ice, Ben Povey a small fortune on it, but really save me, mentally or e mail. By twenty fifteen, I was working on a journalist in writing about recent identity. One day I received the car much out her friend Nicky, tell me about the company should just art in Compton, Nicky company was primarily hiring undocumented workers and formal incarcerated people too. The people who live at the mass stigma. Walked inside of the lobby. Is our friend
however article featuring a black man sitting in front of a graffiti. While I took a step closer look really familiar. I took another step forward. I noticed that the war red S I g hd, big and ball matters. It was sight o down. Thus items go straight. Do no sight. I asked Nicky sight. She replied yet who works here? He's actually in the bag driving afford left left receives back to what are the odds. The three of us when at last TAT Day and began- missing, a basque illustrate straight angry feeding, something when we decide about alone because I want a lot of other black graffiti artist, so what I have to lose ILO sire replied. Yes, my boy My jawdropping always Beflour gimme, Never I said I call them and nobody answered,
I went home after lunch and wait that they receive a phone call from an unknown number. I answered and if there is voice asked, is better. I I met a week later at Earth CAFE in downtown away. I was nervous and I was scared because, even though a lot of time passed, I didn't know, I felt it befell abandoned by me. When I saw him he did really like to buck anymore. He now had a frown and tattoos leaves halfway down his arms honestly. He looked like he had been through a lot, but he still had the same. Charming smile. In the same laugh, Much has happened since we last Alan another. He had got married survive to jog overdoses, vegetarian and of all things. Lack of all things in the world. He was dead. To become a lawyer. A lawyer
talk about our families about food and our friends. And towards the end of the night. He looked at me and said something to give me out. Does I pay you remember this. And I remember your faces- decide how. Hand me a flap tag. Remember those both office figures talked about earlier. Will I have failed us At the same time we got arrested, before that weird Hawaiian punched raving this laptop our names on it. I said, Bessy said Aloe set our crews and he had kept his launcelot AG through the years everything and now I have thus lab tag the most important things in my life, mean another sign, allopathy a to see what our own nemesis jealous of two may the closure of thinking. I don't know
found you on the internet, a contact and I've been a few days ago. It turns out having changed he still governor, feeding and Fiti still doing it free. I was wrong about you. To really surprised me. He listens essential with his wife. And cares for an abuse before so I think she found it wasn't. A yard wishing was like a dog, whereas I really like the judge agreement the door for Red magazine, but he did it. He does have an award from fountain. Graffiti abatement of all things, president drop best guy in the planet for community and the state of California. Forty people and are no one's got one of those instead of government anyways Joe actually has the government. These people don't give up. Our people, what he means that everyday people working class. Folks many people of color also really into fitness.
Bite writer in a form of operations outside of Chicago ready that guy's almost We remember the film Rudy, the classic, that guy stole my story. That was my thing man. I wanna be a walk up, a ballplayer where we are now after three years ahead of me? It took Well, we are area. I d, that's a big genocide together because I wanted them to talk about how to proceed. One another side thinks there was a part of the Bob. You know another, why did with part of the system to lots of black ruby? On the other hand, however, I, the human above, on this basis, but he'd another man I was just another due to get caught up in the system, so I invited both of them two months after talk, because it was a neutral space to one above them. First counterpart farcical, I'm day in the have sites, like you know, somebody you
is really generally Malaga. They're just come out there, the star Are you finished all, but I was Are you really that's gonna like this? I am I'm starting table have when about what they agreed on graffiti Are you looking at the outside of is ugly or what's this but once you see them, Britain's in our world, another hole in other parts of Europe active on the matter, you'll? Never be relate unless you hang out with graffiti artist or are graffiti artist. You know they relate just be. Judging from outside and silence messing around. He came ready. He even we stoutly graffiti community on Facebook to see that at any. Actions for do you wanna hear those questions. Now, let's go shy and blanks want to know why you both that the rooftop and ninety two and told us
you told him a good day jobs. I thought we just twenty. It was. This funny came on American Express Commercial, another person. Why did you say Questions were really angry. Those gal I got transition is so insane about how they buffer I told you he was really hated. Who applauded on you planning your family while allowing people went out your kids secretly I can't say who ok, The sun is almost similar to leg I will say the same Despairful Boylike you know how a cop Those are issued the two kids and people feel that pain forever. As this is clearly the same, it's you Michael people went out to Joseph years really affected him, especially since Joel Ass, the sun, he was visibly shaken and he really let down his guard Joel. The difference I to him there? People when you see it, if you like farmers anymore. It felt like we were.
Finally, getting the real Joe Ass, my son, I lost my grandma, my parents, my brother's my inlaws, my sister in laws. A lot of artists, alot of people. I knew why people my community, I mean there was. A time in like Ninety nine through seven away where there's law funerals, there's just somebody funerals and adjust the I mean it's a lot, and so I just and then with laws things it mainly might with my son and there's stuff often that which is now almost it's almost twenty one years. You know an end, so I just kind of Van just really became. Allow me like that. You are not I met a different failures, at least. But a thousand of them, but I know more stories. You are similar yeah and I'm late, listening to you Listening to you,
and what people don't know and through forget is Amy caught him. Therapeutic painting doing. Are activates was out of the brain the house you'll trauma You ve been through some trauma. I further the more the longer the person paints reflects how much healing they need and how much the happy that painting provides. I still do it because I still sovereignty armor. That has now been Rudy, uprooted, soul. And I see it in you. You mine be doing graffiti, but european. Oh yeah yeah. It is still in a way reputed and provides a sense of relief and the other side of that is that it's fun And, as I understand people that game ass, if we were not.
In tat moment, I think justifiably felt seen her too. He wasn't in your face to the wild show the raw Roger. You know he was soft annual gentle inside. I'm pretty sure he felt the same way too. People see was of her feelings and think that the people responsible for the tags or criminal, but it's hard to know a whole lifetime spray paint and emerged from the warp tend to be real. Its impact. What does he think that people dealing with at home, It's already hard and have been a teenager, but imagine having a way to express yourself. That's really hard. Some see it as property damage, but what about the damage? experiencing in their lives. Trees graffiti the window, the sum of life Sometimes the windows hard to see it through
because he's writing on let each window. Water is the different story, What are the first thing I see when I travel to a new place? They tell me I need to know about math get me a danger. Tell me who in community, I need to be aware of let's go back to their birth spring twin. Seventy among the seven thirty three butler and waiting ass, a metaphor. In the back of the bus, its yearly after and there's. Nobody else in next to me I'm listening to music on my headphones when I noticed an old friend hop on, is I've
and we ve been the same sort of lies- the tag I've had to change one bit. Still wearing oversized t still speaks from the side of his mouth, like youth and his hair, still got really love? It's been more than fit. Ten years since we last saw one another, we doubt each other up and any sit right next to me as the right, When I've and asked me if I still wrote a past, because the truth is nothing really changed, I am still I'm just now writing on walls or buses or freeway anymore, but I'm still writing to be seen year. I thought I adduced around
Delete producer, for this episode is Elizabeth Economy supporting produced. To make Adams, our necks, I see him this is maintain our sounded as you know, in their region You think my answer either. The service was written by me Thompson Hernandez with help from ITALY This kind of Angelo Ramsden, our executive, producing. For more information. On this episode of scared, three go to L a I asked: come forward, Slash California. California. Love is production of Aaliyah's Estonians and the host Walter Thompson. Early vision,
this is one of an eight part series. I encourage you to subscribe to California love, so you can hear them all love a link in the show notes ninety. Nine percent of visible is too compulsory Sophia class Katy made in its turn Rio, Joe Rosenberg Crisper, obey Madame It means we, the founding members of Radio topic from paradox still based in beautiful, downtown Oakland Caliphate. Do not fret woman new episode from us next week. In the meantime, check out and pre order, our new book, it's called the ninety nine percent, invisible city at nine p I org book or pick out share cool story about design and cities in the world and share it with friends and no I m p dot org radio too,.
Transcript generated on 2020-08-05.