The Way We Play

The Way We Play
Night Bandits of Graffiti

Russ Pitts | 1 Jan 2008 18:57
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Walking around San Francisco's Mission District, you may notice a peculiar sight. If you aren't in awe of the grandeur of the regal city, the incredible Mission architecture or even the mild Northern California weather, you may cast your eyes downward, to the pavement beneath your feet. If you do, you'll see "She Loves the Moon."

Stenciled onto the sidewalks of the Mission over the summer, "She Loves the Moon" tells the story of a lonely man and a lonely woman who meet by chance and must decide if they will risk falling in love. Whether or not they do depends largely on you, and how you choose to follow the story. There's a problem, however: The lonely woman is already in love - with the moon.

The stencils, all 43 of them, are scattered throughout San Francisco's Mission District, and each one has an arrow pointing the way to the next part of the story. At several points, readers are given a choice of direction, and which path they choose will impact how the story will unfold. There are four possible endings: one happy, one sad and two "dead ends," the results of choosing a bad path.

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One of the creators of "She Loves the Moon," who calls himself Stranger One (his partner is Stranger Two) said the story is "not phenomenal. It's not a great American literary work. The story is based on similarly odd resonant experiences [of the creators]." He says he wanted to describe how people can become conflicted, unable or unwilling to move forward with their lives. "The moon is a metaphor," he says. "The moon is sort of intangible. I can't have a real relationship with the moon," but it's strangely alluring and its very intangibility makes it, in some ways, the perfect companion. The moon may never love you, but it will never leave you, and that is what makes it so hard to let go and risk real hurt with someone new.

Stranger One describes himself as a writer, his partner, Stranger Two, as a well known member of the artistic community. The Escapist spoke with the Strangers, who took great pains to remain anonymous, in the fall. The email address provided was a mysterious, generic account, and they called us, refusing to provide a number where we could call them. When we attempted a return call, the person answering the phone sounded confused, as if their phone had been used without permission. It was like we'd stumbled on some vast conspiracy, and the Strangers, like characters from a spy novel, were using signals and tells to pass us information that wasn't entirely safe to hear.

And there's a reason for that: Their art is illegal. San Francisco (like most other cities) has strict laws prohibiting defacement of public property, no matter how artistic the result. In fact, many of the stencils have been erased or covered over by well-meaning public workers since their installation. An attempt to follow the story in July ultimately ended in failure, since large portions had already been erased. The Strangers weren't surprised, although it does upset them that the work is being destroyed.

"We'd never done graffiti before," said Stranger One. He says he and Stranger Two have both worked on numerous projects, but got together one day and asked themselves what would happen if they tried something "interactive."

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