Tuesday, September 29, 2009
My grandparents had a weekend retreat in West Virginia that we always called Sleepy Creek, for the brushy rivulet that ran nearby. My grandfather used to periodically drive up there from Washington, D.C., to go hunting. Or so he said -- the family joke was that he seldom shot anything, and mostly stomped around the mountainside and sat inside the old farmhouse in the evening, reading cheap paperback mysteries.
After he died in 1977, my family went up to Sleepy Creek several times. On one of those trips in the 1980s I retrieved Grandfather's stash of Erle Stanley Gardner paperbacks. Gardner is best known as the creator of Perry Mason, surely the most famous lawyer on TV in the 1950s.
I read a lot of the novels, but I don't remember any of them. Grandfather didn't either -- he used to scrawl "read" on the title page so he'd be sure not to start the same one twice.
I kept the books in my own bookcase until I went to college, when I bequeathed them to my brother. Now they're stacked up at Mom's, on a shelf in the spare bedroom. Most of them are in pretty good condition, and many have "read" written inside them in my Grandfather's hand, and mine as well. (My mother wrote her first name when she read them, so sometimes she's there, too.)
My favorite thing about the books is their mid-century cover art. This morning I scanned them all and put them up on Flickr. You can view a gallery of them here.
As for the West Virginia property, my family still owns it, but none of us have been there for years. We have caretakers keeping an eye on the place, so presumably the house, with its outhouse, wood stove and general lack of modern conveniences, is still standing. What we'll do with it is anyone's guess -- I suppose that depends on how we sort out ownership, which is now shared by my mom and my uncle, and will eventually pass to me, my brother and my three cousins. (We all hope it's not a family feud in the making!)
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Still here in Jacksonville, hanging out with the family. This photo shows a firebush in my brother's back yard -- it supposedly attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, though so far all I've seen in it is a Carolina Wren. My brother said it's full of green anoles, too.
I wound up not reading my book at all yesterday. Instead, we had lunch together and then, when my brother turned on the University of South Florida football game, I went for a walk. (I make it a policy to avoid football games, even when they involve my alma mater.) USF did win the game, though, against Florida State -- a huge victory. So the mood was buoyant around the house for the rest of the day.
During my walk I visited an antique store up the road from my brother, and found a birthday present for a friend I'm going to see Wednesday -- an amazing hand-blown glass vase. I am SO tempted to keep this vase -- but no, I'm going to give it to her. The fact that I want it just shows that it's a good present!
Last night I took everyone out for a barbecue dinner. Messy, but I love barbecue sauce, so I was into it! (And fortunately, they served chicken!) I also had sweet tea, which reminded me of my childhood baby sitter, who always kept syrupy sweet tea in her refrigerator. I used to drink it while watching Marlo Thomas in "That Girl" and dreaming of New York!
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Yesterday we drove up to Jacksonville to hang out with my brother and his wife and daughter. I am now living in home-improvement-project heaven! My brother loves working on his house and yard, and he has a roster of activities planned for the day. My activities mostly involve lying in a hammock and reading a book, unless it rains -- in which case I will move to the couch.
Last night we went to a restaurant called European Street, a sort of exotic deli, and I finally had a Chimay beer, which Dave told me about months ago but I never had an opportunity to try. I had to text him immediately and tell him I found it in Jacksonville!
We walked back to the car along the St. John's River, where I snapped the photo above.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I went to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa yesterday with my mom. She'd never been, and I hadn't been for more than 10 years, so we thought we'd check it out. I spent some time watching these two elephants -- the baby walked up to the adult and nudged her, and they spent several minutes wrapping their trunks around each other and nuzzling. It was really amazing -- probably the closest thing I've ever seen to a hug in the animal kingdom!
The zoo is nice -- much better than it was when I was a child going there on field trips from elementary school. Back then, the animals were in small cages and displays weren't nearly as "natural" in appearance as they are now.
Most of the animals seemed pretty content -- sound asleep in the afternoon heat. But of course, who knows. Maybe they all have inner dreams of being off in the wild somewhere.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The skies in Florida are so dramatic. They're the first thing I notice when I arrive, with clouds piled up like mountains, sidelit and towering. I always forget how amazing they are, and how puny and flat our northern skies can seem by comparison.
Yesterday evening I went for a walk with my mom, and both of us kept marveling at the clouds. It was an especially dramatic evening, as you can see.
I feel like a New Yorker through and through, having lived there now for almost ten years. I have no intention of leaving, and no plans to permanently return to Florida, the land of my birth. Culturally, I don't fit in Florida at all -- at least, not in the area where I grew up, north of Tampa. But these clouds remind me how much I still love the natural environment of the Sunshine State.
Nature in Florida appeals to me. I love the excitement and deco glamor of Miami, and the languorous tropical lushness of Key West. But I grew up in a woodsy area, and more than either of those places, I love the birds and bugs and reptiles, the armadillos and gopher tortoises, the humidity and palmettos and pines. That's where Florida's true beauty lies, and it still speaks to me, even though my life is no longer here.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
“The design of any country’s health care system involves political, medical and economic decisions. But the primary issue for any health-care system is, as President Obama made clear last week, a moral question: should a rich society provide health care to everyone who needs it? If a nation answers yes to that moral question, it will build a health-care system like the ones in Britain, Germany, Canada, France and Japan, where everybody is covered. If a nation doesn’t decide to provide universal coverage, then you’re likely to end up with a system where some people get the finest medical care on earth in the finest hospitals, and tens of thousands of others are left to die for lack of care. Without the moral commitment, in other words, you end up with a system like America’s.”
-- T. R. Reid, Newsweek, Sept. 21, 2009
(Photo: Bushwick, Brooklyn, Sept. 2009)
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I’m on vacation this week and next! Woo hoo! I’m spending the first few days here in New York, but tomorrow I’ll be on a plane back to Florida, so I can spend more time with the family. I’ve been down there quite a bit recently -- but that’s because I have an unusually large amount of vacation time this year, due to our company furloughs, and a complete lack of anywhere else to go. (Dave can’t travel because he’s in the middle of the fall band crunch -- so wherever I go, it’s just me!)
Fortunately I actually like my family. Most of the time.
I do have a weekend trip to Washington D.C. scheduled for mid-October, so that will give me a fun excursion. And of course I just came back from my convention in Montreal, which really seemed like a vacation, so I can’t complain!
I went to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, yesterday and found some interesting graffiti to keep me occupied in the afternoon.
Then last night I watched “Red Dawn,” which somehow I’d never seen, even though it’s supposedly a cultural touchstone for people from my generation, with all its Reagan-era paranoia about communists. The image of Russian paratroopers descending on a Colorado high school (and shooting the teacher) is so laughable that I can’t quite get past it. All the actors look so young -- Charlie Sheen, Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson. “Red Dawn” came out in 1984, the year I graduated from high school. I guess that really was a long time ago...
(Photo: Midtown Manhattan, Sept. 2009)
Monday, September 21, 2009
There's been a lot of hubbub in the news lately about Acorn, an organization that helps poor people pursue social justice through voting and other means. It's got me thinking about what constitutes news.
An undercover filmmaker with right-wing connections and a partner recently visited Acorn offices in numerous cities while posing as a prostitute and her pimp. They asked Acorn staffers how to set up a prostitution business, in at least one case involving underage girls. In some cases, the Acorn folks blithely gave advice; in others, they turned the pair away.
Many conservatives have hated Acorn since at least last summer, when they accused the organization of shenanigans involving voter registration. (Indeed there were some shenanigans, so the suspicion is not entirely misplaced.) Acorn voters, after all, are largely minority and largely poor, and stand to vote heavily Democratic.
The story of the filmmakers has been trumpeted primarily by right-wing TV and radio talk show hosts. Most of the mainstream press, though, has been slow to grab onto the story.
Why is that?
Well, depends on who you ask. The Right will say it's because the "liberal media" is trying to cover something up.
Some mainstream editors, on the other hand, have said it's just not much of a story. Here are my personal hunches about why that might be true, based on nothing but my own intuition.
First of all, the filmmaker and his partner were undercover. While some TV journalism is conducted that way, it's generally accepted - especially in print circles -- that reporters should identify themselves as such and get their story without hiding behind fakery.
Secondly, these "journalists" clearly had an agenda. This was not journalism in pursuit of truth; it was journalism in pursuit of ideology. The right-wing media can operate from that point of view pretty comfortably, but the mainstream will be squeamish about a story so clearly driven by partisan goals.
But most of all, the behavior of the Acorn employees seems indicative of nothing more than badly trained (or perhaps arduously open-minded) individuals working in a few Acorn offices. It's faulty reasoning to assume that Acorn or most of its employees support the actions of the "prostitute" -- indeed, the employees who appeared supportive were ultimately fired by the organization.
So where's the news here? Is it news that some workers at a non-profit give bad advice? Not so much.
Perhaps the real story is that some of these Acorn workers have had rough lives, and may not view prostitution through the same lens as the middle-class white guys who host talk radio. The conservatives may be quick to judge -- and, indeed, to scoff at my moral relativism -- but the Acorn folks did not judge their clients. Maybe there's even something commendable in that.
(Photo: SoHo, Sept. 2009)
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Dave and I spent yesterday at Cheesequake State Park, just a few miles from his apartment in New Jersey. Its name apparently derives from a Lenape Indian word meaning "place where people make cheese during earthquakes."
Oh, sorry -- it actually comes from Cheseh-oh-ke, which really IS a Lenape word meaning "upland" or "upland village." At least, according to Wikipedia, which as we all know is never wrong.
Anyway, it's a beautiful park, filled with woodlands, low-lying swamps, a lake and lots of hills and trails. We brought the dogs with us to give them a day outside, and since they're getting up in years, we chose the shortest possible trail to hike. Even that nearly wiped them out.
As you can see above, the leaves along some parts of the trail -- especially in the low-lying swamps -- were already beginning to change.
We went to Wegman's first and packed a picnic lunch with a baguette, some interesting cheeses (an Italian one called Bel Paese and an English cheese similar to Stilton, but more orange -- can't remember the name), some pickled onions, some garlic-stuffed olives, some edamame hummus and clementines for dessert. We thought about trying to bring some wine, but they don't allow alcohol in the park. Oh well.
We stopped by the park office for a map and saw a sign saying someone had stolen a turtle from the park's interpretive center. Bizarre! I speculated it was the act of a misguided animal rights activist, but Dave suspected it was the act of a hungry person. At any rate, I hope the turtle returns.
All in all, a good day!
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Last night was a bit of a blogging landmark here in New York, as we were graced with a visit by Pod of the recently expired blog "The Bad Photographer." Pod, you may or may not know, is from the Land Down Under, and for that reason some of us North American bloggers suspected we might never meet him in person. To do so was an unexpected pleasure.
Reya of "After the Gold Puppy" came up from DC, and the three of us went out to one of my favorite bars, Temple Bar on Lafayette Street, and then to dinner at a nearby vegetarian restaurant. We had a great time talking about the blogosphere and sharing stories.
One of the major themes was the energy of New York City -- the electricity, as Reya put it, that moves through everything here. It's what gives New York that sense of expectation, the feeling that anything could happen.
Perhaps the best manifestation of that feeling came after Pod left us at the subway and Reya and I boarded our train. We stepped into a car dominated by a huge, stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh, apparently being hauled homeward by a nondescript banker-type guy in a suit.
You just never know what you're going to see in New York!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
When I was down in Florida a couple of months ago, I bought two Starbucks mugs - one for me, one for Dave - featuring the skyline of Tampa, my hometown.
Beneath the skyline are words alleged to be the city's slogan: "America's Next Greatest City."
Problem is, that's not the city's slogan. It's never been the city's slogan.
Back in the 1980s, Tampa adopted the slogan "America's Next Great City." It was widely mocked at the time, but it more or less stuck and was used for several years. Eventually, Tampa drifted away from that phrase, though - yesterday I checked both the city's Web site and that of the Chamber of Commerce, and could find no mention of it.
Somehow, in designing its Tampa mug, Starbucks turned "Great" into "Greatest," which makes the phrase seem even more flaccid than usual. "America's Next Greatest City" makes it sound like the runner-up. As in, not the greatest, but the next-greatest.
Mind you, I am not ridiculing Tampa here. I love Tampa and still think of it as home, despite the fact that I haven't lived there since 1992. I just think it's humorous that Starbucks bollixed the slogan - which probably illustrates why it wasn't such a great slogan in the first place.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Last night I was walking home from work on Broadway when I noticed a crowd of people and a fusillade of flashbulbs going off in front of Macy’s. I wandered over to see what was going on.
A squad of photographers and TV cameras was set up in front of the store windows, aimed at a walkway from the curb to the store’s entrance. Every once in a while, someone (evidently famous or important) would emerge from a car and navigate the gauntlet of cameras.
I didn’t immediately recognize any of them. One guy looked familiar, and I finally identified him as the actor David Arquette. But I had to think about it a while.
Turns out this event must have been a launch for Macy’s “Come Together” campaign (beware the potentially annoying Flash-animated Web site). The campaign urges people to host dinner parties where guests donate to Feeding America, a hunger relief charity.
It was funny to stand among the onlookers. There were dozens, if not hundreds, of people clustered around the front of the store, cameras whirring. The guy beside me, for example, was taking his own photos when a woman stopped and asked him what was going on.
“I have no idea,” he said.
She asked who was being interviewed at that moment.
“To be honest, I don’t know,” he said.
Isn’t it funny how people react to celebrities, or even people they don’t know but perceive to be celebrities? None of us knew who all these folks were, but we were still a little dazzled -- if not by the glitter, then by the absurdity of our own interest. I probably stood there for 15 minutes before continuing on my way.
(Photo: Rue Prince Arthur, Montreal, Sept. 2009)
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
I’m writing this post on the train -- a new experience for me! I could get used to traveling with my computer. It’s been so convenient to upload pictures and write posts from the road.
Bill and I drove back from Montreal yesterday. Our trip was uneventful -- a little rainier than the drive up, but still scenic and borderline autumnal. In fact, the lowland maples seemed a bit redder than they were just a few days before, but maybe that was my imagination.
Food on the road is so horrible. I ate breakfast at McDonald’s in Plattsburgh, N.Y., where I saw a column in the local paper devoted entirely -- I am not making this up -- to the mallard duck. (It was called “Critter Corner,” or something like that.) I had lunch at a Roy Rogers. I feel like my bloodstream is full of emulsifiers.
I got back to Dave’s in mid-afternoon, but Dave wasn’t there yet, because he spent the weekend in South Carolina with his family. I did my laundry and watched “Midnight Express” with Brad Davis on DVD. I saw that movie on TV when I was a kid, in 1980 or so, and it made a huge impression -- it’s seriously homoerotic. Brad Davis stands around half the time in his briefs, and there’s even a men-kissing scene. How did that ever air on television without an outcry? (Or maybe there was an outcry, and I don’t remember it?)
Dave came home last night and we caught up on our weeks over Chinese takeout. Then we watched last week’s episode of “Hoarders,” which featured a young guy suicidal over the state of disorder in his life, and a woman who had 75 living and dead cats in her house. As much as I love that show, I do feel squeamish about watching such a spectacle, when those involved are so obviously miserable and mentally ill.
I’m going back to my apartment this morning and then zipping to work. A friend has been caring for Armenia, who will no doubt feign indifference at my return.
(Photo: Chinese lanterns in the Botanical Garden, Montreal, Sept. 2009)
Sunday, September 13, 2009
It's about 1:30 in the morning, which is an insane time for me to be posting to my blog, but I just got in from a night out in Montreal and I'm catching up on some stuff before I go to sleep. I leave tomorrow to go back to New Jersey. I can't wait to see Dave again tomorrow night. It feels like it's been forever.
The convention has been fun, and I found plenty of time to continue enjoying the city as well. Tonight I went out with a group of friends to dinner at a place called Cuisine et Dependance, which is by far the best restaurant I experienced in Montreal. I had a salad with miraculous heirloom tomatoes and rayfish in a beurre blanc sauce. I was beginning to think Montreal wasn't much of a food town, as unlikely as that seems given its French heritage -- but I guess I've just been going to all the wrong places! I never did try poutine, though. Oh well -- just another thing to come back for!
Friday, September 11, 2009
Yesterday I went walking in Old Montreal with my friends Bill and Jay. We stumbled across a store specializing in Christmas ornaments, a place I would normally avoid like the plague -- I am not a fan of Too Much Christmas. But Jay wanted to go in, so we checked it out. And I was glad we did, because where else have I ever seen hunky mermen dressed like the Village People?
The older part of town was interesting -- there's an archaeological museum that takes visitors down several meters below the ground's surface, where the foundations of the old city are still visible. There's a movie on the history of the area that clarified some things for me (for example, the street outside our hotel is called Rue Jeanne-Mance -- it turns out Jeanne-Mance was a founder of Montreal). I was always fuzzy on the French & Indian Wars, and it covered those, too. And there were lots of interesting artifacts on display.
You gotta love this jar for ointment that cures "scrofula," whatever that is. There was also this interesting whistle:
We had lunch in the historic area (fish & chips for me) and then, in the evening, the convention kicked off. This is the annual gathering of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which I attend every few years. Last night was primarily social -- today we begin the real programming, including professional development sessions and panel discussions about issues as diverse as gay marriage and HIV coverage. Should be interesting!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Yesterday my friend Bill and I went sightseeing. We took the subway to the Olympic Park where the summer games were held in 1976. I'm not much of a sports fan, so I wasn't hugely interested in seeing the stadium, the swimming facilities and all that stuff, but the complex is interesting architecturally. There's a huge slanted tower extending over the stadium, and it holds up the canvas roof via a system of cables. Pretty inventive!
You can take a cable car up the tower for a spectacular view of Montreal and the surrounding countryside.
Afterwards I took a walk around the outside of the stadium and wandered over to the botanical garden and the "insectarium," which is exactly what it sounds like. Bugs galore, including scorpions -- aack! The gardens were shady and restful -- there's some kind of lantern festival going on in the Chinese section, so there are colorful lanterns suspended everywhere. The Japanese section, as you might expect, was restrained and minimal.
Today, more sightseeing, and then the journalism conference begins this evening.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
So here I am in Montreal, where my very rudimentary French is being put to the test. Of course I could speak English, but I feel like I ought to make an effort -- so I'm doling out the "bonjours" like I know what I'm talking about. Fun!
I drove up yesterday with my friend Bill, through the piney Adirondack mountains of New York. The weather was spectacular, and as we drove north the deciduous trees began to take on a bit of color -- a yellowish tone here and there, or, in the case of the sumac, bright red lower leaves. Fall is coming!
Around Plattsburgh the mountains flattened out into a plain, and we passed farm after farm with acres of corn. I didn't realize the land in this part of Canada would be so flat -- that was a surprise!
After we checked into the hotel, we went walking on St. Catherine Street, which is right outside our door. It seems to be one of the main drags in downtown, and happily it leads right to the gay neighborhood, which -- go figure -- is called "Le Village." We had dinner there and visited a local bar before coming back to the hotel and crashing.
Today we're off to do some sightseeing.
I like traveling with my computer, which was a new experiment for me on this trip. It's pretty awesome to be able to blog and upload photos from the road!
(Photo: You gotta love a "Canada" t-shirt with a faux leopard maple leaf! St. Catherine Street, Montreal)
Monday, September 7, 2009
My visiting family members are heading back to Florida today, after their whirlwind weekend in New York. Yesterday we went to Coney Island where we ate the obligatory Nathan's hot dog (even me, the sort-of-vegetarian) and walked on the boardwalk. We tried to go to the New York Aquarium but the lines were insane, and my nephew didn't indicate much interest, so we abandoned that idea.
I went walking alone yesterday morning in the East Village, taking some photos. It's the first opportunity I've had to just wander in several weeks, and I realized how much I miss it. I went down to Tompkins Square Park and got a cup of coffee at Cafe Pick Me Up, one of my favorite coffee spots, and then sat out on a bench enjoying the morning. (It was the same bench where Dave and I sat during our first date, in April!) Then I wandered down to the Lower East Side. It was fabulous. I have to schedule more wandering time into my life.
Tomorrow I'm leaving for Montreal, where I'll be at a convention for a week. I'm psyched to spend some time in a place that's so culturally different, and I've never been to eastern Canada, so this will be a new experience. Are there blackflies there? Is it cold this time of year? So much I don't know..
I'm going to try to blog from there -- I'm taking my computer -- so we'll see how that goes.
(Photo: Kips Bay, Sept. 2009)
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I am exhausted! Hosting family always wears me out -- even though they’re not staying with me, I wind up playing tour guide and doing things like getting them into cabs, going in the right direction. Whew!
We’ve done some fun stuff, though. On Friday we went down to Greenwich Village and walked around a bit. My stepmother, stepsister and nephew are visiting, and I showed them the site of the Stonewall riots of the ‘60s, as well as the neighborhoods around Christopher and Grove streets. Lots of quaint little houses and shops, although I forgot about the highly sexualized displays in some of those store windows -- my nephew is 11 -- oops!
Yesterday we went to a museum exhibit of relics from the Titanic, which was interesting. When you enter the show, you get a “boarding pass” and take on the identity of one of the passengers, and at the end you find out whether you lived or died. I was “Julius van der Planke” of Belgium, and I died, along with my wife, brother, sister-in-law and a family friend. The relics were fascinating -- money from the ship, paper documents, clothing -- it’s amazing what the cold, dark ocean preserves at that depth.
Last night we went to see “Hair,” and Dave joined us. It wasn’t quite as fun inside as it was outside in Central Park, but of course it’s still a great show. My stepsister and nephew left at intermission -- she’d seen the show before but I guess she forgot how mature some of the content was, and she felt like my nephew probably shouldn’t see it. I figure, what the heck -- if he hasn’t learned it from his classmates already he will soon enough!
Oh, and Dave didn't seem to hate it -- at least, not as much as I thought he might.
(Photo: E. 29th Street, Sept. 2009)
Friday, September 4, 2009
What are your Labor Day plans? I'll be hanging around the city -- I have family visiting and we have a few activities lined up, including seeing "Hair" on Broadway. You may remember I saw "Hair" in Central Park last summer, so I'll be interested to see how it compares on an indoor stage. It's had rave reviews. I'm going with my stepmother, stepsister, nephew and Dave. I think Dave, who's not crazy about musical theater, is going to hate it.
Last night I went to see the first performance of Dave's band. For having worked just two weeks, they did a great job -- this is a challenging show for them and they're learning both music and field movements, so I was impressed! I took the photo above before the show -- I loved the way the stadium lights looked against the sunset.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
-- I just finished a terrific book: “The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University,” by Kevin Roose. A student at Brown University, Roose spent a semester at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, in an attempt to better understand Evangelical Christians and their culture. He went undercover, and took classes just like any other Liberty student. It’s a fascinating book, and Roose writes really well (especially for a 19-year-old). It’s a page-turner!
-- Went to the grocery store last night (cashier’s name: Latorsha) and was once again appalled at the prices. Raisin bran is $6.69 per box; Progresso soup, $3.19 per can. Ah, Manhattan!
-- I tried to watch Derek Jarman’s movie “The Angelic Conversation” last night. I usually like films with an artistic bent, but I only got 18 minutes into this before I turned it off. There was no dialogue (only Judi Dench reading Shakespeare in stentorian tones) and lots of repetitive, annoyingly herky-jerky images that did not seem to say much. It’s possible to be too avant-garde, you know? I want that 18 minutes of my life back!
-- I switched to the very commercial “He’s Just Not That Into You,” which was OK, if somewhat depressing. I hope it wasn’t truthful about the straight dating scene. If so, people are vicious.
(Photo: Abandoned door outside a factory in Edison, N.J. Dave thought this door might make a good photo; I handed him the camera and said, “Take it!” So he did.)
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Here's some of the graffiti I shot with Dave on Sunday. A lot of people ask what I look for when I shoot graffiti -- what distinguishes a good piece from a bad piece?
This is admittedly somewhat subjective, but generally I look for cleanliness of design, depth and color, and inventiveness. These pieces are a little short on color, but they're very clean and the shading and outlines are great. I like the fizzy spots in the Joce piece above.
Good Morning to you, Gaw!
Cola, as you can see, made his lettering a bit more complex, which is always cool. Some artists are so complex you can't read their work.
My guess is those two middle guys painted the wall in a single night -- which is why they both used grey, black and white paint. It's probably what they had on hand. In fact, all of this could have been done in one night -- it's hard to tell. Some of these could even be the same person, because sometimes a single artist uses different names.
Who knows? I just take the pictures!