“Why don’t you just flash these things?” Nicky said. “You could just scan it in and adjust the colour levels.”
The bearded man laughed, a glimpse of tattooed teeth. Andre came back and handed a can to him, popped the cap off his own. “Hey Andre, she wants to know why we don’t just flash these things.”
Andre snorted through his nose. Nicky felt her face begin to burn.
The bearded man held his hands up, as if he detected her growing annoyance. “OK, so there were these graffiti artists. In the eighties, nineties. They used the city as a canvas. Made these murals, sometimes with permission of the wall owners, sometimes without.”
“Usually without,” Andre interjected between his can’s hissing.
“Yeah well, some of them decided that it wasn’t fair to keep all this talent and art in the city — so they snuck into the train yards at night.” He thumbed back to the painting. “And did up some freight trains.”
Nicky waited for the point. “Uh huh.”
“Well, I mean, they did up ones that were active. And the people who drove the trains didn’t have the time to paint over them — they couldn’t just flash them blank like nowadays. So imagine this. You’re on your way to, I don’t know, your grain silo, you’re in your truck in the middle of Saskatchewan. You come to the train tracks and you stop cause there’s a train coming.”
“And these boxcars are on it?” Nicky guessed.
“Exactly!” the bearded guy said, slapping his hands together. “So this guy’s sitting there, getting a surprise art show. So these graffiti artists basically exported urban culture to the countryside.”
Andre looked at him, his even white teeth showing in a slight smile. “Exporting urban culture. Exporting ego, more like.”
“I’m serious!” the bearded guy said. With his eyes bright like that, Nicky saw that he wasn’t as old as he had seemed at first. She wasn’t used to seeing young guys with beards. “I know it was ego too, and they didn’t think of it like that, exactly — but that’s the beautiful thing about it. It was all accidental, kinda. And to get to your question, the traditional graf scene died out with the flashing technology. ’Cause it was super hard to get paint, and even if you did get a piece up it’d be flashed off in a second. There were a few writers who got into flash pieces—”
Andre shook his head. “Not the same. Not the same.”