Alley Pissers Inspire Listserv Poetry
I live in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, home to residents who like to get upset about everything for no reason. The "Boxer Girl Mural" that recently popped up in the neighborhood inspired derision that managed to graduate from the Listserv and onto the local news. After Channel 7 turned away, however, the debate raged on, and on, and on, on-line. Eventually, people stopped talking about the art and turned, naturally, to alley-pissing.
Say what you will about the punches-and-rainbows aesthetic of Bloomingdale's latest community wall-art; at least it's not free-form alley-pissing poetry.
In response to the Boxer Girl controversy, one resident of S Street NW submitted the following 747-word contribution to the Bloomingdale Listserv canon:
Like the owner of the boxer girl house, I also live in a house adjacent to an alley. And as she or anyone else living adjacent to an alley can attest, it's a mixed blessing. Having a bank of windows on the side of the house is a real bonus, offering fresh air and great light throughout the day. The downside is the traffic. Not just the trash trucks and the delivery vans taking chunks off the retaining wall, or just idling with an exhaust pipe 18 inches from the window; not just the boom-boom cars and scooters and other speeders; not just the fighters and the yellers and the drug-smokers—no, some of the most irksome and disgusting traffic comes from the urinators. As we all know, DC has a rich history and tradition of public urination, with alleys being a favorite destination for the pee-tourist. It's not just staggering boozers—kids on bikes learn at an early age that you don't have to go home when you feel the need for peed (plus you can write your name), and we've all seen that man on the go who can't wait till he gets there, and isn't going to turn back, just to tap a kidney. More than once I have watched that well-heeled gent hop out of a respectable vehicle, trying to look nonchalant, like some kind of, oh, maybe, masonry inspector, trying to conceal the telltale elbow cranks on the zip-up...
So what does this have to do with boxer girl? OK, as occupant of a house on the alley, I have tried to think of ways to address this difficult problem of misplaced relief. I considered posting something on the alley wall. But what? Signs? "No Loitering"?—yeah, as if. How about a mural? An appeal to the higher sensibilites, something that says Don't Pee On The Art... but what would cause the potential urinator to think twice? A girl in boxers? St Anthony on a skateboard? Hm... the best defense being a good offense, maybe something offensive? Well then how about URINALS, by heck? Artistic as well as ironic. Yep, I thought, why not paint a row of floor-length URINALS down the side of my house? And let's make it the full faux image, complete with tile surrounds, big old-style chrome flush handles, a long copper pipe running the length of the row and connecting them all. It would be a brilliant solution, just because: what lowlife could bring himself to pee on a wall painted to look like a bathroom? What if it was a trap? There could be cameras. This has to be a joke. What fellow wants to find himself a viral hit on YouTube under a title like "Drunk Man in Fedora Whizzing on Painted Urinal"? Ha, so much for the upscale offenders, and it would deter the stumblebums simply out of confusion: How'd that get there? I wasn't inside, was I? Where am I anyway? Better get outa here...
Brilliant, but alas, not feasible. The why-not came down to my neighbors. We have a great relationship and I wouldn't want to damage that. I don't know what they would think of my Art Project, if they would want to look at it every day, or have to explain it to the kids or to their visitors... so this excellent strategem unfortunately had to be flushed.
By the way I also considered the idea of it backfiring completely, by turning into an attraction. People coming from far and wide to get a shot of themselves doing the deed on the famous DC Whiz Wall. The law of unintended consequences...
I don't really have much of an opinion on the boxer girl as art, or on whose rights should prevail in this case. DC has a great tradition of building murals; I probably could have just called mine a "murinal" and alerted the press and gotten away with it just off the pun value. But irrespective of what would have been right or permissible under law, the more important consideration was the preservation of good relations with the people who share the environment that I live in.
Say what you will about the aesthetics of free-form alley-pissing Listserv poetry; at least it's not free-form alley-pissing Listserv response poetry. One Florida Ave. resident was inspired to submit the following Listserv response, which oscillates between mockery and hard-to-discern commentary on the attractiveness of the significant others of alley-pissers:
I would like to thank the S Street resident for educating me as to why people urinate (and defecate) in the alley. It now all makes sense to me—it's traditional. I, too, live on an end unit adjacent to an alley. All manner of people come to the alley at all times of the day and night to relieve themselves. We have the down and outs as well as the gentrified, women as well as men. We have people stop by on bicycles, in automobiles, on skateboards, in wheelchairs (motorized, self-propelled, and pushed by other people), and even my neighbors stop, before going into their houses, for a pee. My kitchen window overlooks the alley and I get to see all of this while preparing my meals. Occasionally, I confront a reliever and tell them not to do it because the alley stinks. The response is usually that they could hold it no longer. Across the alley is a newly renovated house being rented by a young professional couple. I was going to speak to them about the problem until I saw the young man pull into his driveway in broad daylight and pee on the side of his own house, three feet from his backdoor, while his attractive wife, or girlfriend, stood watch. I was confused about this until now, for now I know it's traditional. Thank you S Street resident for your enlightenment.
Photo by joelogon