Bob Dylan’s name might not ring a bell at the Long Branch cop shop, but an unknown graffiti tagger in Hudson County is quoting him as part of an effort to encourage people to support those in need. “Dear Hoboken,” one tag reads, “don’t follow leaders, watch your parking meters.” The tagger is copping a line there from Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” arguably the first-ever rap song.
The 1965 tune is best expressed as visual art in the film “Don’t Look Back,” with Dylan holding up and rifling through cue cards scrawled with different words and phrases (Click here for the video). The point of it is to speak truth to power — and watch your back when you do.
Like Dylan, today’s tagger traffics in positive messages. Caren Matzer, editor-in-chief of
The Hoboken Reporter
, tracked down similar scrawls on walls and bridges in and around Weehawken, Union City, Hoboken and Jersey City.
“Your days of plenty are numbered” is the closest we get to a warning or a threat, though it actually serves a different purpose.
The phrase comes from the German film “The Edukators,” in which a couple of young anti-capitalists break into rich people’s homes, rearrange their possessions, and then leave without taking anything or causing any damage. Their calling card is a note that says: “Your Days Of Plenty Are Numbered.”
Their motto is “Meet one, educate a hundred,” so don’t be surprised if that tag turns up somewhere.
Hudson’s prophet urges people to fight for what they believe in, invoking the aphorism: “Better to be a lion for one day than to be a sheep your whole life.”
But humor comes through in messages such as the one signed “Team Love” — an obvious dig at the group “Team Charity,” which earlier this summer sponsored a t-shirt graffiti event to raise money for “philanthropic young professionals” in Hoboken.
Taken as a whole, the “exhibit” exudes the spirit of an era a half-century past, before the “me” generation, corporate greed — and, yes, gentrification — paved the paradise of peace and love.
Then, like now, Americans are facing intense levels of social injustice that breed frustration, anger, and even danger. Still, the tagger hasn’t crossed the line yet into cynicism — otherwise, he or she would toss the can. The tagger even uses the peace symbol, affixed with a long tail. Love and artistic anarchy are clear signs that express hope.
For the most important message so far, the unknown tagger selected Hudson’s most visible area, the Hoboken waterfront. The message, in blue block letters, says: “HELP THE HOMELESS.”
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