Two semi-related things. First, I have a new bike (about which I will almost certainly write, because that’s the sort of thing I do), but I’ve also been uncharacteristically busy, so unable to ride it as much I’d like. I’ve done a few short jaunts around the area, but that’s it.
Second, over the last couple of years, I’ve developed a habit of stopping when I see bike path graffiti. Sometimes the graffito is chalk art, sometimes it’s bits of philosophy, sometimes it’s a sort of editorial opinion. Regardless of what it is, the notion that somebody has deliberately made their way down a bike path and stopped to express themselves pleases me. I keep telling myself I should start photographing all those graffiti; it might make an interesting project.
So last Thursday, when I took a short ride, and saw some bike path graffiti, I did just that. Stopped, read it, photographed it, then went on my way. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the graffito itself since a) my mind was largely occupied by what I’d been working on before I went for a ride and b) a word in the graffito had been smudged out.
It wasn’t until later, when I actually looked at the photo, that I tried to figure out what the smudged word was…and why it had been smudged out.
The [blank] never happened… but it should have!!!
Google Lens has an image-to-text application, so I tried that first. It suggested The halogen never happened, which didn’t make a lick of sense.
I tried to think of things that should have happened but didn’t. Because a lot of bike path graffiti deals with either matters of the heart (you know, stuff like Chad hearts Becky) or inspirational comments (like ‘Life is Good’), I initially focused on words that would make the phrase sweet or celebratory. The first smudged letter seems to be a ‘b’ or an ‘h’. Boyfriend…no. Backstory…no. Bahamas…maybe? The Bahamas never happened, but it should have. Possible.
Then I just tried to find words that would fit. Hangover…possibly, if the writer was into self-punishment. Harlequin…unlikely. Horseplay…don’t think so. Hologram…probably not. Holo…oh, fuck.
Holocaust? The last smudged letters COULD be and ‘s’ and a ‘t’. And Iowa has increasingly become a Red-MAGA state. Our governor and legislature have been actively encouraging and passing more hateful, authoritarian policies. So this sort of irrational hate is very possible. It doesn’t matter that Jews make up less than 1% of Iowa’s population; antisemitism is never based on reality.
As much as I hate to say it…or even think it…holocaust seems to fit.
In the first photograph, you can see there’s another graffito just a few feet away. One word, maybe one short line. I didn’t even stop to look at it. Again, my mind was largely elsewhere when I stopped. But tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll get back on the bike and ride this path again to see what it says. Maybe it’ll add some clarity.
I’m really hoping somebody can decipher that smudged word in a more positive way. But even if there IS a better interpretation, I’m disheartened by the fact that my worst-case rendering seems so very possible.
EDITORIAL NOTE: We must burn the patriarchy. Burn it to the ground, gather the ashes, piss on them, douse them in oil and set them on fire again. Burn the patriarchy, then drive a stake directly through the ashes where its heart used to be, and then set fire to the stake. Burn the fucker one more time. And keep burning it, over and over. Burn it for generations. Then nuke it from orbit. Then have tea.
Also? Include antisemitism.
ADDENDUM: I went back yesterday to look at the other graffito. It’s also been smudged, which leads me to assume it was equally ugly. I can’t make out the word, though it seems to start with ‘JE’. Here it is: