The first time I ever went out to do graffiti proper was on July 1st, 1994. The record high that day was 88 degrees. The first official bomb. A legitimate attempt at executing a local mission or what I thought one should be. It didn’t go as planned, and maybe I didn’t get many ups that evening, I did, in fact, forge some friendships that have lasted almost thirty years now.
I know purists bitch about buying paint, I don’t care where or how other people obtain their paint, or what they do, but does it count if you stole the money you used for cans from your stepfather? Because I did. Then I took a bus to Main Street, Flushing and bought a few cans of Krylon spray paint from a Chinese hardware store that did not give a fuck about selling to minors. They would sell you a rocket launcher if you had the cash.
I didn’t have much in terms of rules, If there was a curfew I disobeyed it. I loaded up my Jansport and headed out of the house, linking up with a kid who had a cool tag, and a nice backstory as to why he chose it. I haven’t seen him since that summer. Wherever he might be I hope he’s doing well.
We walked around and on the corner of 149th and Willets Point an older kid spotted us on his trek and he knew immediately what we were up to. What you write? That was the universal question for anyone obviously partaking in this counter culture. What you write? What do you write? We divulged our unknown street monikers and he in turn proudly declared who he was. KWIK. I had seen him up. He asked if he could catch a tag with our paint and we were happy to oblige. He hooked himself up first and then both of us on a four foot retaining wall at the beginning of the park by the pay phone. We stood and gaped and he was on his way. I was hype whenever I walked by while it ran.
My first real tag on a wall in paint was not done by me and would not even be my tag in a month’s time.
We would run into Kwik shortly after we caught tags on the handball court. I’m certain whatever I did was incredibly wack and grateful there is no photographic documentation. We trudged onward, next stop was in between the schools. 26th avenue from 149th street down to 147th street was sandwiched between JHS 185 and PS 21, another location we all held down. We made the right turn on 26th and saw a mob of people. There was a celebration of sorts. The Memorial Park Boys were there, with all the Hell Raisers, the Thugs, Hoods, Kings and the rest of the subset clicks that were Usually By Memorial were out in full force.
It was intimidating and overwhelming for a little thirteen year old. It felt like I met a million people that night, I only knew a few, some I had seen at the park but never really spoken to, some I had only heard of and others I’d never seen before.
I learned that it was a welcome home party for RES. He had done a stint in jail and was released from Riker’s that day. RES, or RESA or my personal favorite variation, RESR, was immediately cool with me. My friendship with Res was instant, some bonds were like that and others developed over time. Res always included me, he treated me like an adult, and to a little dude trying to fit in, it meant the world. Many of the MPB guys showed me brotherly love and looked out for me, maybe not without a little hazing here or there.
I introduced myself to people by my name and not my tag. Almost never by my tag. No one would know who I was anyway. One guy I met offered me a proposition after hearing the cans rattling in my book bag. This stocky man with a big smile proposed that we could take a trip to the 109th precinct and he could turn me into the police, and that we would split the reward, which was 500 dollars. I said I didn’t think that was a good idea. He was kidding, partly. I was uneasy and awkward which I think he found funny.
His name was Pat Sullivan.
Patrick Sullivan was born on March 17 in 1975. Six years and a day before me. He wrote ATOM, which endearingly became PATOM amongst his closest friends. In a day and age where it takes very little to be called a legend, he was one when integrity mattered. Pat was the real deal, one bad ass motherfucker. A loose cannon. A wild dog and I mean that with the utmost respect. Every neighborhood, building or block has a Pat Sullivan and every crew hopes to have at least one. You need guys like him in your circle.
I am someone who admittedly loves nostalgia. I am a sucker for nineties shit. I want to hear the war stories of old crew brawls and roll ups and the detailed accounts of graffiti missions, especially when it is from my teammates, from those I idolized growing up. While they are not my stories and I don’t feel at liberty to speak on behalf of Pat, I will briefly touch on one instance that I thought was noteworthy. A crew rolled on Memorial Park, not an uncommon event for the older guys or my generation, and Pat set it on the unwelcome visitors by disarming one of them and beating the unfortunate young man with his own blunt object. Courage can be contagious and once he engaged the rivals everyone present followed suit and handled business accordingly. I love that, straight movie shit.
Pat was all heart. He was not someone to fuck with. Lucky for me, I only caught his ire once and he let me slide with a stern verbal warning, which was more than enough for this little trouble maker. He was a comrade that were you happy to have on your side. If he was there, he had your back and if some foul deed needed retribution he would stand up and get that for you. I wish I had gotten to know him better, like the way I know KWIK and RES and many of the older fellas, but I’m happy that I knew him at all and glad he always showed me love, which was reciprocated.
Pat passed away on August 3rd, 2012. He is firmly in our hearts and our memories with all the other brothers that we mourn. He is a piece of our collective history. A part of Whitestone legend, a bit of park lore and if this was the olden days there would be ballads written about him. On St. Patrick’s day raise a drink to Patom and the rest of the fallen and loudly sing their praises. They are missed and never forgotten. Sláinte.