It was on a visit to Chicago in 1988 that I first saw the spiky signatures scrawled across the wall. They were beautiful and mysterious, like some powerful message in a language I could almost understand. A few years later tagging finally made it to Columbus, and I had to show an i.d. to buy a big black marker. I developed a brief academic interest in these intersections of crime and art, and they sparked my imagination as well. I would see the tags on signs and buildings, and I thought of them as runes, their makers writing spells of influence on the city. I even entertained a story idea that germinated in my head: a teenage boy doodling in a notebook, trying to design his own tag, manages to write a glyph that he has a magical link to.
I am thinking about tags this week for a couple reasons. Primarily, it is because of this story in the Houston Press about crafty knitting taggers. But also because Santa is on his way to our house with an iPod Shuffle for Mike. How will we know which is his and which is mine? I think a little graffiti tag of my own might look quite nice on the bare white plastic Shuffle.