Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Cobrança É Na Rua


As I waffle between extreme anxiety and moderate depression in my daily life, I realize that it might be a good time to vent a bit.  And what better place to vent than on the Internet, for all to see and hear the faint bleat of my rage.  And what better thing to rant about than the very least of my problems, because: a. everyone loves a whiner, and b. the important stuff is going to have to wait for me to publish the book I'm never going to write.

So.  My store.  It is very small.  It has no ventilation, and the air conditioning is on all the time.  This is important to know because the product that I sell the most of is composed of toxic gases and other organic solvents and fun stuff.  It is sealed in steel cans so generally I am barely aware that I am surrounded by stinky, dangerous (not to mention flammable)  stuff.  It is a bad idea to let this paint out of its can in a non-ventilated area, and I don't let my customers do so.

Another thing about my store: for years now, I have been allowing my clients to leave their 'tag' on the wall, using non-stinky, non-noxious markers of course.  When I moved to my new location a couple years back I held off on this for a while but I eventually gave in and now the store is covered in tags, and my clients complain that there's no space left for their own.  They also complain if I paint over them in order to make space for new tags.  I tell them my store, my rules, and the store is not the street so the same rules don't apply to their tags.  Then I paint over them and the cycle starts anew.

No longer.  I'm going to paint over all of them and I will not permit anyone to leave their tag in the store anymore.  You want to know why?  Of course you do.  It has to do with "cobrança."

One thing about graffiti is that it's very territorial.  It's an integral, original and apparently eternal element of the art and to be honest I'm finding it increasingly to be a pain in the ass.  I used to accept it and deal with it but the truth is I'd rather just be able to make art in the streets and not have to deal with all the ego and the "respect" and all the other crap that goes along with it.

One important part of this territorial business is cobrança.  That means "collecting" as in collecting a payment for all you non-lusophone types.  If somebody paints over you, you go and paint over them.  That's cobrança.  Of course, it gets complicated, because a lot of the time it wasn't the graffiti artist that painted over you initially, it was the city, or the owner of the house that happened to have your graffiti or pixo on it.  Us graffiti and pixo types love nothing more than a blank canvas, so invariably it doesn't stay blank for long.  The previous artist gets pissed and makes their cobrança, which may make the most recent artist pissed off if they weren't the ones that painted over the first artist, etc.  There are serious amounts of bullshit and sometimes it gets ugly and it sure doesn't look nice to the general public - there's one wall on a very busy street here that had a fresh new painting on it and the previous artist wrote VIADO (slang for a gay man, usually offensive) in huge black letters over it.  I won't get into the details.  I've heard both sides of the story.  It's tedious and it bores me and it's wearing me down and it's part of why I wouldn't mind just not even selling spray paint anymore if I had a viable alternative.

Anyhow.  As the title of this post suggests, cobrança is a thing of the streets, and the way I see it, should be dealt with on those streets.  However, certain street artists who shall go unnamed have decided to do their little cobranças in my store.

As you may have figured out by now I hate cobrança (even though I've done it as well, I won't get into why) and it enrages me that people want to use the canvas I have provided to work out their stupid beefs.  My store, my rules, remember?  The other thing that I discovered about the recent spate of cobranças that have been going on in the store is that they begin and end here in the store - they aren't taking it to the street which would be a more serious and legitimate arena for them to be disputing in.

Which brings us to today.  I was already annoyed by some recent cobranças on the counter in the store, so this weekend I painted it black and announced that nobody would be allowed to leave their tags there anymore.  I had intended to leave it at that.  Then this freakin' numbskull of a client of mine (he's basically a decent guy, but he has a tendency to do stupid stuff, you know how it is) takes a can of spray paint he had just bought from me and, without consulting me, begins to PSSSSSSHHHHT cover up a large tag in the store with it.

I went kinda ballistic on the guy.  I mean, it's not like I'm dealing with a divorce and the constant fear of governmental collapse and extreme fiscal insecurity amongst other things.  I have to let the little things get to me or I'll be reduced to a gibbering mess.  This guy was doing exactly the thing that has been my personal pet peeve for the last couple weeks, but he was doing in in my store with the aforementioned toxic stinking product that I sell.  And after he split I was going to be left with the noxious fumes mingling with my air-conditioning and a guaranteed headache. I told him to stop and dude told me that the other guy had painted over him in the street.  I asked dude if he'd painted over the other guy on the street as well, and he said no.  So now I'm even more annoyed - same story as before: the guy doesn't have the guts or is too lazy to do his dirty business on the street, so he takes advantage of my store to restore his ego.  At the expense of my health and well being.  I was probably a leeetle bit more annoyed than I should have been under the circumstances, and dude told me to calm down and take a deep breath.  Then he informed me that he is now an ex-customer.  Oh well.  He's not the first.

But won't I miss all the colorful chaos that the walls provide me on a daily basis?  I don't think so.  Some of these tags are nice but half of them are butt ugly.  I might miss the entire store if I eventually can no longer scrape together the cash to pay the bills and have to close down.  But the tags?  I'm done.  I'm going to paint over all of these fuckers, except for one by a guy who died and maybe one by a guy who is kinda famous.  And then the walls will be white and peaceful and boring.

And the least of my problems will be solved.

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