Uncle Ricky paints the town pink

Yesterday, as I was scurrying across campus with my tie flapping in the wind, I slipped and banged my noggin on the ice that NIU calls a sidewalk. When I regained consciousness, my immediate thought was—I must pretend to be hurt and sue the school for millions of dollars—it’s a rule. But, as my eyes focused, I noticed something that made me forget my lawyer’s phone number—the words “Free Manson” written on a wall.

My entire existence centered on those two words for a few seconds and soon I was thinking about my Uncle Ricky, who had the perfect plan to rid the world of graffiti until his arrest last year.

“All this writing on the walls makes me sick,” Uncle Ricky used to say to me as we strolled through my neighborhood alleys. “But I know how to get rid of it. If only I were an alderman …” And then there was a faraway gleam in his eyes.

We only get to speak once a week now, over the phone.

“I still think it’s a good idea,” he told me the last time we spoke.

“How can it be a good idea?” I asked. “I mean, you got arrested for it.”

“But think about it. It’s perfect,” he said. “It just needs support. Maybe you can help.

“What do you say? Write about it. Maybe some politician will read it and make the idea a reality.”

Well, how could I refuse a plea like that from my own uncle? Uncle Ricky thought the best way to make gangbangers and graffiti artists stop writing stuff on public and private places was by making them unattractive.

“Painting over graffiti doesn’t work,” he’d say. “Those morons always return and paint more gibberish on my garage door. I wouldn’t care if those guys made beautiful paintings or wrote poetry of protest on my property, but I can’t even read what they write. It’s garbage.”

So, what Uncle Ricky ended up doing was painting his doors and walls pink. “Yeah, all those macho dummies turn chicken when they have to write on pink,” he then said.

His philosophy was this—guys in gangs, like most people in society, are pretty homophobic. The color pink is associated with femininity. So, if everything is painted pink, big homophobic guys will be too afraid to write on it. “They’ll think they’re gay if they do,” Uncle Ricky has said more than once.

If everything was painted pink, it would all end up looking pretty. “There would be no graffiti, and anyway, pink is such a nice color,” Uncle Ricky would say.

His plan was not without problems, however. First of all, he couldn’t sell the idea to anyone. Then, he tried taking things into his own hands.

One night, he left the house with several gallons of pink paint. “I’m going to paint the town pink,” he said as he left. We found out later that he’d been arrested for defacing public property. He was busted painting a mailbox pink. Oh yeah, and all those outstanding warrants for his arrest didn’t help any.