"Fuzz one. A Bronx childhood" by Vincent Fedorchak-Testify Books. 2005
Therelies a magnificent screenplay between the hardback covers of this oral history by the graffiti artist Vincent Fedorchak, aka ‘Fuzz One’, aka ‘Vin’, aka‘Lord’. Here,the adventures of life lived in a bankrupt New york in the early 70s is vividly laid out by one of the original Bronx bombers. Jack kerouac with his head full of doomed french poetry and dexidrine may have typed ‘On the Road’ on a continuous roll of paper for a previous slice of Americana,but he never included a stash of saturated out of focus photographs in the finished manuscript.This touch by the author is essential in projecting the journey of a Bronx childhood. Fuzz ones invocative personal shots hug the books narrative like a rhythmic scratch on a looped funk break complementing the pace of the writing which is as edgy as his tales of tagging and running the streets.
The undoubted originality of this vernacular history is an important focus point. Not withstanding academic works and a clutch of films one rarely encounters precise accounts from this grittily remembered period. In a never stopping for breath stream of recollections Fuzz One doggedly documents his familys situation, his self directed artistic career and the unique psychogeography of the Bronx in the years 69-79. The fuzzy subtext also accommodates the interracial formation and peak (in 74) of a modern urban artform within a the power structures of the gangs on the Block who controlled its canvas.
The recollections are minute. For Graff fans there are specific details on spray paint schematics,spray caps, ink dripping magic markers and of course their acquisition and modification eg hit the paint store, rack em up your sleeve and change the nozzle later.For the rest of us trainspotters there's enough social details to allow a reimagining of everything that was previously visualised about the definitive 70s City from books, album covers,Tv serials and of course Film.These kids of course almost lived In a beat up screen play. For instance, after realising the two trench coats following him are not child molesting ‘chicken hawks’ but transit police aware of his artistic calling and work rate, Fuzz quickly adopts some ‘shake off’ moves he spotted in the classic NY flick ‘The French Connection’.Unfortunately he realises that ’cops go to the cinema too’ and this necessitates the invention of some new moves which generates plenty of cop cussing in his wake. Another relevant flick is of course The Warriors which is every B-boys favorite nightmarish Ny tale of territory and honour codes.We remember in this drama that the gang,s dash through the burnt out tagged environment is conceptually visualised as a journey through a twisted concrete jungle.The breathless New York tribes are condemned in a lost continent defined and mapped by the transit rail systems. Fuzz supplies the real details hinted at in the Warriors, i.e the rawness and the heightened tension lurking in dark blocks that breathe on you as realise it’s a long trip back to a safe block.Details upon details are compounded with intense urban stories,usually nail biting escapades with some tales seriously darker than others. Here,with the everpresent paint fumes hanging in the night, Inhale tales of The Bronx Zombies, an army of solvent abusers multiplying by the day. Shiver on a boat trip to an Island of Devil worshippers and run in terror from the racist vigilantes giving black youths a baseball bat bulletin by the train yards.Oh! and lets not forget our hero's nemesis and his inevitable showdown with ….Cuve 170!, the golf club wielding graff writer beaterupper.
Professor Ivor miller of the US North west University once wrote a piece on the links between 70s Aerosol Art and the creolising processes of Afro-catholic religons which emphasised the process of ‘synthesising existing fragments together for a seemless whole’, and ‘this often required that the cultural producers be receptive and spontaneous with new ideas’.Miller was drawing attention here to the graffiti bush telegraph that drew the city together as one organic piece but also to the associated parallels within the constructive social rituals in other ‘nature’ based cultures.I thought of this link between religion and creativity at a couple of points in the story particularly when the narrative had our protagonist illuminated by voodoo candlelight or flaming torch, ditching his spray paints and getting mad creative on his feet after straying into ‘some more satanic shit’!
Fuzz is a white kid, yet a respected member of a Black gang. Night after night he left the care of his mother to hit the streets and risk his life for something that was and ultimately became bigger than him.Its a serious job,and to emphsise this he is as detailed in recounting the food he packs for his breaks as he is in describing a thermal winter outfit for seasonally surviving painting at Christmas. Hes a pro ked sneaker wearing pro kid. However,on occasion,there just might be the odd day off which lets him strut some daytime style
Just before I left the house, I sprayed on a little jovan musk oil from Genovese.I used to love that stuff. It left you smelling like a pimp all day long.Im sure every guy on the planet had his little area some where in his house where he would have all his heroes taped up on his mirror on his wall. For me, it was Al Pachino John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone. I allways used to bless myself when I left my mirror. So many brushes, dozens of cans of hairspray,colognes and powers, I was a freak for that shit.’
This was Fuzz describing himself at the age of 12. His reputation to this day as an original New York City Graffiti writer was established when he was 10 years old.
An expected lament for friends and times lost concludes this tale before a beautiful visual coda of Graff pieces ends the book with a map of the Bronx. Holding this fine hard back in your hands you know are in the presence of a original Master writer not only in graff but also storytelling. At present, there is no finer riposte to the ‘virtual graffiti’ thats buffed up and ‘street-ed’ in car ads and the like as you can hope to find in this immaculate B-boy document.
(A bronx childhood is available from All city records 4 crowe st Temple bar Dublin, as is every spray can known to man.)