“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Self-expression and urban decay

I took my time leaving Indianapolis.  I had a lot of dreams while on this leg of the trip and needed to sit awhile at the coffeehouse and work out my thoughts.  I attempted to do a little graffiti hunting before leaving but they had a parade that had me stopped in traffic for far longer than I would have liked.  Indianapolis is very serious about their parades.  The day before the parade the public works department set up bleachers on the sidewalks.

One of the last things I saw in the city was a sign saying, “Be yourself.  Everyone else is taken.”

The drive to Chicago was pretty short and pleasant.  Extremely windy even through Indiana.  I came upon a massive field of wind turbines, much larger than the one I had seen farther north days ago.  So of course, I attempted to stay on the road going 75 mph while taking photos.  I think I did alright but I’m very thankful for rumble strips.

Oddly enough, I also heard the last few minutes of a really interesting story on NPR’s “This American Life” called “Spray my name, spray my name,” which coincided with my thoughts on graffiti in my earlier meditation that morning.  I was trying to understand what I was trying to find in all these places I’ve encountered and why what I gravitate to, namely abandoned buildings and street art, is so significant to me.  My conclusion was that these particular things show me the underbelly of a city.  I appreciate decrepit buildings just as much as geological phenomena as they show a real sense of time; you can feel the relics of civilization.

Without them, I don’t feel I’m getting the authenticity I need from a place.  And yet in most cases, the more I see these things the more likely the place I’m in is suffering from economic destitution, which I understand looks far more real than a freshly painted house with emmaculate landscaping.  Suffering always feels more real than contentment; I think that’s just a psychological part of human nature.  Graffiti is self-expression and quite often expresses this economic state.   But I do have standards.  Some graffiti is chicken scratch and comes from a need for personal control and dominance, essentially like a dog peeing on a tree.  It has nothing to do with aesthetics and personal expression.

Here is the “This American Life” story from youtube:


4 thoughts on ““Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Self-expression and urban decay

  1. Am enjoying your travels and writing very much. Also coping them for dad and gramp and gram. And, yes, you should write a book!! You have the GIFT! You are refreshing, humorous, and real! Keep it up! Sal

  2. You are so right! Seeing graffiti and worn down buildings does feel more real than upper class suburban neighborhoods. You said that the area that the former is exhibiting is “suffering”. So I think that the reason why they feel more real is because they pull out our emotions. I can see why you have an affinity for these expressions of art and the unkempt look of abandoned buildings because it involves you in it’s expression.
    Thanks for posting your thoughts. This is the most my brain has thought in a while. lol

  3. Hi FADE, another nice chronicle of your last few days. Great stuff! I should have 2 framed prints soon,,cant wait to get them,,dropped them off last week,,where will they get to shown off??? we await your next posting,,,Jeannie loves them also!!

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