CityPaper offers two sides to the bOrf story

This week’s edition of the CityPaper includes features on John Tsombikos, better known as Borf and his nemisis, Trevor Goodchild. Tsombikos is less than contrite about his crimes:

Tsombikos could have lightened his sanctions with a courtroom plea for mercy, but he couldn’t play the role of contrite convict. “I have no fucking remorse,” he says. “That’s why I wouldn’t apologize in court to Lynn Leibovitz, that piece-of-shit judge.”

Yet this remorseless tagger is disavowing future spray-painting on D.C.’s public furniture. Instead of hitting the streets upon his mid-March release, Tsombikos will try to get his message out via legal means, including art shows, though he hates the word “art,” calling it a “passive and innocuous” concept. He creates vandalism, he says.

On the other side is Goodchild, who began a one man crusade to remove Borf’s vandalism:

The Anti-Borf is Trevor Goodchild, a 46-year-old office assistant for a court-reporting company. Over the 2004 winter holiday, he complained to his brother and sister about how Borf had taken over the city. By New Year’s Day, Goodchild had resolved to start a one-man crusade against the vandal who’s defaced street signs, mailboxes, and newspaper vending boxes in D.C. and across the country.

According to his count, Goodchild has since eliminated 103 Borf tags.

“I’m an Eagle Boy Scout,” he says. “I’m just doing my good deed for the community.”

So, who do you think is making the District a better place?

8 Comments so far

  1. DC Dude (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 9:25 am

    You honestly have to ask who is doing better for his community? Are you insane?


  2. jen m. (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 10:59 am

    i say neither is making the city a better place.

    if goodchild is painting over green USPS mailboxes with grey paint without permission, he’s just as much of a vandal as someone who “tags” the mailbox, and his vandalism is probably a lot less interesting to look at than the work he covered.

    on the other hand, although i do think that graffiti potentially has artistic value, i think borf is a moron.

    mostly, i just find it incredibly depressing that someone would be so personally invested in looking at a grey blotch rather than tolerate a little messiness. it sounds like something out of communist russia.


  3. darpino (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

    Is that guy’s name really Trevor Goodchild? Like the nemisis on that Aeon Flux cartoon?


  4. Don (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 2:54 pm

    Jen, there’s a lot of evidence to support the idea that graffiti artists are discouraged from working in a certain area if their work doesn’t stay up long. Many neighborhoods have had success in discouraging taggers if they paint over everything the same day; the miscreants move on to areas where their work will stay up for others to see.

    I imagine that anyone going over graffiti with dull gray paint is expecting that a more permanent and attractive solution will be in the works from the much slower-working government bureaucracy.


  5. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

    I’m with Don, I think discouraging them by making their tags ephemeral at best is a good, if imperfect solution, especially in a town with a slow-moving bureaucracy.


  6. jen m. (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

    so, if i think the dc bureacracy is moving too slowly in towing repeated parking offenders, should i buy myself a tow truck and take that into my own hands too?

    discouraging graffiti is not a valid reason to break the law. i think it’s awful that property owners would rather look at a mismatched blank blotch on their wall than art, but that’s their right as property owners. goodchild has no right to be defacing others’ property. he’s just as much of a vandal as borf, and just as much of a hypocrite too. i pay my federal taxes — i have as much of a property interest in that mailbox as goodchild does, and i am as opposed to his grey blotch as he is to borf’s tag. (perhaps i should take things into my own hands just as he has done and remediate his ugly blotch vandalism by painting a nice design over it. some might say it’s my civic duty to do so.)

    i disagree that all grafitti artists are “miscreants” — much graffiti has social and artistic value. just not borf’s.


  7. Don (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 3:51 pm

    I don’t think your tow truck analogy is valid. Once a car is towed, it’s towed. Painting over graffiti only adds another layer onto what’s going to be painted over anyway at a later day. It likely doesn’t create more work for the municipality nor does it deny anyone due process like they’d get from being towed by a city approved agency.

    I agree a gray blob is not real pleasant to look at, but it’s meant to be a temporary measure before real repainting is done and the thought behind it is that you put up with it for a while till taggers get discouraged and you don’t have to do it anymore.


  8. Stacey (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 6:02 pm

    Because the concepts and terms “art” and “attractive” are subjective, we can’t determine what either is and it be a normative statement. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks either looks like, they are both breaking the law. If we think it’s okay to break the law for one or the other, then that’s another argument.



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