After my old hockey coach died while immersed in virtual reality, he left each of his favourite players something in his will. I received the rights to the story of Hat Man V. Rat Man, which he had purchased in 1989 at an auction famous for selling the original recipe for Duct Tape.
With the rights set to expire on Halloween of this October, I decided I’d better do something with the story and since my screenplay hasn’t been laminated yet I can’t legally produce a film. Here’s a brief telling of the tale that will hopefully go viral enough for me to make t-shirts.
Hat Man V. Rat Man
The graffiti wars of the 1980s were well-documented but specifics are scant due to the artists’ unwritten rule that “Players aren’t Sprayers (we are sprayers in that we spray paint but we don’t talk about spraying (paint))”. Upon further research we learned that the rules were in fact written on the side of a low wall in Central Park:
These famous lines were painted by a Bronx-born, sewer-educated street artist named Lance “Hat Man” Thipthin. In 1987 it’d be hard to find a wall without his signature tag splotched on it like Peter Criss’ autograph on the thick thigh of a Kentucky housewife:
For about a year, Hat Man was New York’s reigning king of spray paint spray painting until one unusually lukewarm July lunch hour when he spotted a tag near one of his own:
Some say Kavid “Rat Man” Hice gained his artistic wizardry after being bitten by a radioactive Chinese man who bred Gremlins in the back of his junk store. In reality, the Newark-native learned his trade while visiting Manhattan on weekends to visit a friendly police dog famous for sniffing out true talent and people who love to stab things.
As he walked the streets he took in the art that had exploded all over the big city streets. He would practice back home in Jersey using nothing more than a can of whipped cream and a piece of cardboard that his father ate because he thought it was a cake. Eventually, Rat Man brought his New Jersey street style to the New York streets whose street style was the style of the street, and the Rat was loose.
The pair actually painted the same walls for several years but never noticed each other’s tags due to each man’s stubbornness when it came to perspective.
“I only painted vertical walls and I never looked up because around here, on my streets, looking up leaves you open to someone pulling down your fly and filling it with with chocolate eggs. You get Easter’d in my neighbourhood you never get respected again,” said Hat Man in a rare interview.
Rat Man had a very different attitude:
“I decided to paint up high because in New Jersey you gotta keep your eyes to the skies unless you want them seagulls gaining a strategic advantage over you,” explained Rat Man in a New Jersey tourism guide from 1991.
Another problem was how similar some of their tags looked while in close proximity to each other. Outsiders who weren’t from the Bronx OR New Jersey and who weren’t afraid to enjoy a full view of the world were confused by the apparent redundancy in the pair’s work.
Once Hat Man saw what was going on that fateful July day, he knew he had to take action.
“I saw his shit when I accidentally looked up to check out a cloud that some guy said looked like a laundry machine. I was shocked and looked up at some more of my famous spots to find RAT MAN all over my territory. I switched my name to ‘Rat Man’ to show him what was up but he saw mine and did the same thing so for a couple weeks ‘Hat Man’ was ‘Rat Man’ and ‘Rat Man’ was ‘Hat Man’, which really pissed off Cat Man who got that man (Hat Man, formerly Rat Man) and me together for a truce,” Hat Man mentioned in a foreword to a cookbook penned by Cat Man, a respected graffiti elder in NYC.
The trio met in an alleyway where Cat Man had set up a complex system of mirrors so that both men could look each other in the eye without having to adjust their preferred perspective. There was some confusion over nods and head-shakes but eventually the two masterminds realized they were cousins and had played together as children.*
*In my script they try to kill each other then you learn that the narrator of the story is their mutual uncle named Fat Man, but it got too confusing.
And that’s the story of one of the great rivalries in graffiti history, which might be more well-known were it not for the story of CHUBBSTER V. NIMBST!, a tale that was loosely adapted into Jingle All The Way starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad as two feuding fathers.
Oh wait, sorry, my hockey coach is alive and well. Turns out we were both in the VR chamber and this whole story rights will thing was part of a new simulation. Phew. Too scary for me though, I think I’ll go back to an old favourite.
COMPUTER, please load c//steel_dreams.exe