Hello Latin Kings!
It’s me again, your friendly neighborhood resident. You may remember from my earlier letter, which I hope you had time to read between your probation hearings. The weather is finally warm again, and you and I both know what that means — you don’t have to wear a parka over your colors, and you don’t have to take off your gloves to do all of your pop-capping. Yes, it’s Gang Season in Chicago again, my favorite time of the year. There’s so many great rituals: your moms on TV crying about how you were a good boy, Mayor Rahm looking like a chump, invisible turf wars, and a bunch of fools with bad haircuts standing around on the street doing pale imitations of tough guys. We should make commemorative shirts or something.
I hope you won’t mind my asking for a favor; something you can do for me in the next few months before you get shot or go to prison. No, I’m not suggesting marksmanship classes again, though I really think you should reconsider. If not that, have you considered archery? Since your aim is for crap, at least you could do your murdering with style. Have you seen the Hunger Games? It’s kids killing kids, just like you do, but with the flair – the panache – of bows and arrows. Plus, you’re the Latin Kings. It suits you. Maybe you could hold a tournament or something, like in Robin Hood.
Ok, I can understand that you’re not keen on marksmanship or archery. So can I ask for something easy? Could you stop with the tagging? Sometime soon, you’re going to be gone, and I’m going to have to look at all of your tags throughout my neighborhood. Some of my neighbors call it “graffiti,” but I’m not going to use a fancy Italian word to describe it. There are people in the world called “graffiti artists” who are actually involved in some sort of artistic expression – do you know Banksy? Your stuff is just vandalism. Look at the picture at left. What is that? A bunch of scribbles, what appears to be a crown, and…a sword? It also looks kind of like a ring pop. You’re not even trying! Where’s the colorful cartoon letters like in the opening of the Fresh Prince? I have an advanced degree, and I look on the walls you’ve tagged and I have no idea what the artist is trying to say. My five year old creates more evocative drawings. I find no sense of scale or balance, and it’s really not much to look at. Maybe you should practice at home on a pad before you go out next time.
I know that spray paint is hard to get in the city these days, but do you have to work in black all the time? Sometimes I think the tags are just done with a big Sharpie. Why risk arrest and fines if you’re not going to make a serious effort at expressing yourself? Frankly, the stuff I’ve seen lately is super repetitive. Just crowns and stars, and what I guess could be charitably called stylized letters. Are the Latin Kings just frustrated calligraphers? It’s nothing to get violent about. Sometimes, I think you worry that no one will know that the crowns mean Latin Kings, so you also put “LK” next to them. You may not be much of an artist, but at least have confidence in your work. You didn’t see Picasso write “this is a baboon” next to that statue in Daley Plaza, did you? Take the opportunity to say something about the Latin Kings – do something that shows some individualism. If you’ve got to write, why not come up with a slogan slogan or motto to go with the crown? How about “Life is Short. Make it Shorter” or “Speak Poorly and Carry a Dime Bag?” You can thank me later.
You know who was really good at writing on walls? The Egyptians. Have you been to the Valley of the Kings? It’s really incredible. You should go sometime when you have some money and get off parole. Oh. Never mind. Anyway, think about it: the Egyptians didn’t have modern tools, much less Sharpies and spray paint and they made much better stuff than the Latin Kings have ever come up with. Also, they didn’t just stick to one medium. You guys seem relatively well organized, and there’s apparently thousands of you. Why don’t you build a pyramid or a sphinx or something? Do you think anyone is going to be studying your civilization in a couple of millennia? All those dead Latin King leaders, and not a single giant temple or golden sarcophagus. It’s kind of a pity. The Egyptians made carvings of Gods with the heads of dogs and birds, and you’ve got a ‘95 Civic with mismatched body panels and an ill-fitting spoiler. Hardly the stuff of a good museum collection.
I feel bad for the Latin Kings. Gangs used to be romantic, like in West Side Story or even cool in a menacing kind of way, like in Colors. Now you guys are just boring and predictable. I mean, the weather gets warm, and you get all shooty. You hardly control the market in drugs and guns anymore. Crack is over, and pot will be legal everywhere pretty soon. Any Yosemite Sam can buy an AR-15 or put a Glock 9 under their shirt and walk into Starbucks legally. As near as I can tell, the Latin Kings business is turf wars and score settling. Where’s the upside on that? Worse, where’s the style?