Graffiti along the Path to Paradise | Mark Lindsay

A bucolic path filled with the scent of jasmine—the old rail path is dotted with mothers and their strollers. A leaf blower in the distance says its time for the neighbors to keep up appearances and pick up debris. We wouldn't want to seem unseemly in this little spot of paradise. What would the neighbors think? It's another day in suburbia, the morning working its way into midday.

The pastoral stage lasts for only another moment. As I walk along the path I soon encounter and pass a middle-aged woman with her cell phone. "No, I TOLD him that today was the last day we could accept his offer!" she shouts into the blasted device. "No, no! Tell him not to do that." At that point I cease to hear the actual words emanating from her mouth. She starts to sound like the adults in Peanuts cartoons. She continues her monologue. "Blah, BLAH, blah." I walk faster but the echoes of her booming projections seem inescapable. I find myself a quarter mile ahead of her but can still hear her, her voice now coming and going with the breeze.

Finally I outsmart the continuing voice and turn right at the path's fork. "That should do it," I whisper aloud. And it does. I can no longer hear her. As I pass the high school I notice how green the baseball field's turf is. I can smell that its just been mowed. The scent of cut grass brings back memories of my own high school years. It meant that winter was over and a long, lazy summer was approaching. Smells do that to you. They bring you back in a heart beat.

After several more beats of my heart I stop in my tracks. Someone has tagged the entire outfield fence with graffiti. The noise of the cell-phone woman has been replaced by the blaring spray paint of angst. Angst in paradise.

The markings are indecipherable to me. Tags are their own language, known only to the select group that create them. Somehow these markings are important. They say something about territory and of belonging. In other countries the graffiti is more angry and often more clever. Here it of underground code understood only to a few. That is why I find it so intriguing. Compared to leaf blowers and cell-phone conversations, at least this has something to say. Even if I don't understand it.