Saturday, October 27, 2012

King of the World for Five Minutes

I don't recall participating in many overt acts of vandalism when I was young. I could say I thought it wasn't right to purposely destroy or damage other people's property. But that wasn't true. Actually, I was just always afraid of getting caught.

There was the time we found a shopping cart in the neighborhood that belonged to the local market. We decided to be good Boy Scouts and return it, so naturally we connected it to the trailer hitch of my buddy Stitch's car and dragged it all over the place before finding our way to the market. Then, to make sure the owner knew we'd brought it back, we hung it from the handle of his front door. A while later, we passed by and noticed two police cars there—apparently we'd set off the alarm. We weren't purposely trying to vandalize anything, but I'm not sure how well the cart worked after that. Or the door.

The Great Water Tower
One time, though, Stitch and I decided to pursue the ultimate act—spraying our names on the top of the water tower. I'm pretty sure this tower is still there, and it's not just a little structure that anyone can climb up. It's a giant round ball supported on massive legs, and for some reason, is checkered red and white. It looks like a soccer ball on stilts and it's huge. I think it was built during World War Two when soldiers were stationed nearby. On the fence at the bottom, a sign used to read "Property of US Navy." We were about seven hundred miles from the nearest ocean, so I'm not sure how that worked out.

We staked out the tower one day to plan our assault. A razor wire fence surrounded it. Easy enough to cross. A ladder ran up one of the tower legs, but the bottom of the ladder was at least twenty feet in the air. My dad's extension ladder would reach that high. A cage covered the bottom of the tower ladder, but it looked like it was just latched shut. Having done our due reconnaissance, we figured it was possible.

And we were going to be the first humans ever to climb up and spray our victory message on the top.

So a few days later, we returned to conquer. One of us had to stay down to hide the extension ladder and move the car away, so I was chosen to climb up. After extending the ladder to its full length, it barely reached to a few feet below the cage. I carefully climbed up to the top rung of my dad's ladder and discovered the cage was locked. Now what? The only way past was to climb on the outside of the cage, which was made of fine mesh. I could fit my fingers in it, but not my feet. I'd need to climb up several yards using only my hands. Actually, only my fingers.

But I was a skinny kid and a champion at pull-ups—I could easily pump off forty or more on the bar in my bedroom door. So I managed to scramble up the cage, nearly cutting my fingers off on the mesh. I made it to the main ladder and began my ascent. It took a very long time to climb all the way up. I'd never realized how tall that thing really was.

Finally, I reached the top, where a catwalk surrounded the giant ball that held the water. I looked down at all the small people below me. I was king of the world. No one had ever accomplished such a feat before. My spray-painted name would go down in history. I'd be remembered forever as the Edmund Hillary of the Tower.

After surveying my kingdom, I retrieved the can of paint from my back pocket and started searching for the best place to spray. And there I saw it, just above the catwalk, a message in black spray paint: "Ha! We were here first." Followed by names and a date from a year earlier.

Someone had beat me to it. Worse yet, I recognized one of the names as a kid from rival Cypress High.

So I covered their names with paint, sprayed mine and Stitch's in their place, and descended back to the mortal world. Despite not being first to conquer the tower, it was still quite a feat, though one of the more dangerous things I've ever done. Several years later I stopped by to see if our names were still there. Unfortunately, it had all been painted over. Probably by the US Navy.


  1. Whenever I visit home I look out to that tower and my mind goes right back to that day and I wonder if the only act of graffiti I ever participated in still exists. I might also add that only master criminals exhibit such strokes of genious as to label the crime scene with their actual names or derivitives thereof.
    If I remember correctly we tagged our territory for our "Dead Fish Gang." A name we gave ourselves based off another act of vandalism we enjoyed which was the act of strategically placing bait minnows inside a person's locker. We would first look over the unsuspecting victims shoulder while they opened their locker to obtain their combo. Once we had secured the code to their only bastion of privacy that a high school hallway can offer, we could then return at our leisure and do our dastardly deed.
    Through careful plotting we had found a spot inside the locker where the bait fish could be hidden. Within a short time the fish would begin to reek which was exactly what we had hoped for.
    Only a truly hardened suburban gangster could have the stomach for a caper that despicable and we were just the hooligans for the job. And since a gang needs a name "Dead Fish" was ours.

  2. I'd forgotten about the Dead Fish. Hopefully we've been forgiven. I also recall filling peoples' lockers up with thousands of plastic forks.

    No wonder I barely graduated.