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Pipe Talk and Graffiti in Budapest

Pipe Talk and Graffiti in Budapest“Do you know Bairro Alto?” he asked me, “Everybody hates it [graffiti] there. But to me it is a newspaper on the walls. Most of the people hate that bullshit. ‘That graffiti, that graffiti’ [they say] . . . To me it is a newspaper. I am reading right now [...]

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Pipe Talk and Graffiti in Budapest

“Do you know Bairro Alto?” he asked me, “Everybody hates it [graffiti] there. But to me it is a newspaper on the walls. Most of the people hate that bullshit. ‘That graffiti, that graffiti’ [they say] . . . To me it is a newspaper. I am reading right now who is in the town, who is more up, who is down. . .if I go to drink some beer in Bairro Alto, people there are talking about football or soccer or something on the TV and I am reading . . .you can tell who is more patient, who is more crazy, it is like a newspaper.”
-Odeith, Portuguese graffiti artist

Graffiti in Portugal

“Whoever loves, go to hell. I want to break Venus’s ribs
with a club and deform her hips.
If she can break my tender heart
why can’t I hit her over the head?”

-Graffiti message preserved on an ancient Roman wall

“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish… but that’s only if it’s done properly.”

Pato met up with an English graffiti artist and Lofty Cliff at a hostel in Budapest. The three of them sat around the kitchen table late into the night diving deep into the immature, unclean, yet humorous realms of pipe talk.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Budapest, Hungary- August 1, 2008
Travelogue Travel Photos

In all appearances, pipe talk is the male equivalent of the female gossip circle, and consists of smoking pipes, drinking beer, and talking about boners. Pipe talk is the verbal go-around of male bonding that cuts through the grotesquely thick outer walls that men carry in the presence of women. Pipe talk breeds unto manliness which breeds unto manliness and somehow becomes something that is almost feminine and giddy.

Excessive yang becomes yin.

Graffiti in Budapest.

Photo of graffiti in Budapest.

As Stubbs once put it in a Kunming coffee house, “There is no closer friendship than that between two men.”

Yes, put three men in a room, give them wine, and invariably they will start talking about erections, balls, mutilations, women, women’s parts, infibulation, ejaculation, masturbation, and outrageous copulation.

Or maybe this is just what Pato talks about.

Either way, Lofty Cliff, the Pom graffiti artist, and Pato were having pipe talk well into the night. Kaitie – Cliff’s girlfriend – would occasionally invent some excuse to repeatedly come into their company (to hear what pipe talk she could hear). It is my impression that pipe talk is the arch rival of the girlfriend. For they instinctively know that pipe talk is nothing if not homoerotic.

Well this pipe talk soon came to an end when Kaitie had enough. She walked out into the kitchen feigning the need to wash a single coffee mug in the middle of the night and flashed Lofty Cliff a glance that all the men assembled knew too well. Pipe talk soon came to an end.

Pato understood.

So the graffiti Pom and Pato sat there looking at each other dejectedly for a moment or two before they began talking a little about the art of graffiti.

Last autumn I had researched and written a magazine article about graffiti in Portugal, and had gotten to know the insides of the practice fairly well. But the artists whom I got to know there mostly did hall of fame style graffiti – painting large murals in claimed, low risk places, or with land owner permission. These artists were good, and their work was well appreciated in the communities that they painted. They were not vandals, but artistic representatives of their neighborhoods, and they were well respected by young and old alike. But this graffiti Pom was a bomber – an illegal tagger – and his work was not impressive, quickly scrawled, and regarded in every way as vandalism.

“Lets go out so I can watch you work,” Pato proposed.

The Pom then scooped up his gear bag and smiled. “You really want to?” he asked excitedly.

Pato did, and they strove off drunkenly into the Budapest night. They escaped the Loft and turned up on Szabad-sajto Road, as the Pom began dropping bombs. “Amps,” “Amps,” “Amps,” “Amps,” “Amps,” “Amps,” followed them wherever we went. That was his tag – “Amps.”

“How did you get the name, Amps?” Pato asked, being curious about how bombers receive or come up with the names that have the power to make stone streets speak. This question provoked the Pom him into a tale of his youth and drugs. Pato heard a tale about one of his friends who a friend did heroin and one day passed out in a Burger King bathroom, wrapped around a toilet with a syringe plunger hanging out of his vein. When the graffiti Pom found his friend passed out, he tried to bring him to, and was only successful enough to get him to say “ampoules,” as other bathroom goers peed around them. The graffiti Pom thought that this scenario was so funny that he decided that he would take this as his tag. Though “Ampoules” proved to be a little long to bomb properly, as the time it takes for a writer to put up their tag often means the difference between going to jail and getting away, and was subsequently shrunk to “Ampoule” which was again shrunk to just plain “Amps.”

This name he wrote as Pato stood on the sidewalk near the street watching him as well as the roads for the police. Amps used a super charged marker rather than paint on this occasion, which Pato felt was less glamorous but vastly more efficient. Graffiti carries stiff penalties, and both men were on the look out and prepared to run. But Amps was good, and he threw his tag up on walls, doors, power boxes, building pillars, and just about anything else with a smooth writing surface with quick and fluid strokes. He sometimes did not even stop walking before applying his mark. This part of Budapest was virtually covered with graffiti, and Amps nimbly proclaimed his identity around, between, over, and under the handiworks of other writers.

“Why do you write graffiti,” Pato asked, “What drives you to go out into the streets in the middle of the night, to risk arrest and incarceration, to at your voice to a city?”

“I do graffiti because I lack self worth . . . . and because I have a small penis,” Amps jested.

Pato continued to walk on through the night watching Amps work. They laughed and joked the whole time through. I think they may still have been little drunk from the pipe talk wine. At one point Pato asked him if he could look at his pen, as it was a special graffiti marker and had the potential to be a sort of novelty. Amps handed his tool over with a taunting jab.

“You gonna try it?”

Pato had not previously thought of doing so, but now that it was on the table he boastfully replied in the affirmative. Amps then gave his companion strict orders of how to use the pen:

“Don’t push down too hard or you will ruin it,” he pleaded. “Make sure you don’t write on a rough surface or you will ruin it. Don’t use too much ink or you will ruin it.”

It was clear that the Pom was a little concerned about his marker being ruined.

“Don’t worry,” Pato reassured him, “I have done this before.”

He had; in the black clad days when the A and Bakunin and Prince Peter fueled his waking dreams of tomorrow. Pato had not yet learned the power of dreaming solely for today, but he did learn a few tactics of the night. And graffiti was one of them.

Fat drunk man rolling on floor of bar.
Pato took the marker in hand, which was probably five inches long and three in circumference, and looked like a pumped-up paint pen crossed with a sharpie, and approached his target. The steps leading up to a building would soon scream the voice of Pato’s ginger tagging hand. He then looked both ways to see if he was being spotted, stooped down, and quickly scrawled the first thing that came to his mind.

When he caught back up to the Pom, he was asked what it was that he wrote.

“Vag,” replied Pato.

“Sweet,” said the Pom.

They soon made a good round graffiti through Budapest and then tried to go into a bar for a victory drink. Both men were taken aback when the bartender told them that she was closing for the night. Pato and Amps then looked around them to find that the residents of the bar looked to be on their last legs of the night. An enormously fat man was rolling on the floor, bumping up against the feet of a group of too-drunk college students. It was far later than Pato and Amps had thought. At seeing their surprised face, the bartender exclaimed, “It is four in the F’ing morning.”

The boys had lost track of time in their reverie. The boys had added a piece of themselves to a city that they passed a brief portion of their lives in, to the streets that they had trod, and now it was time to go home.

The streets of Budapest have a voice which screams out in mono-syllables. It is not a refined voice, nor is it one that particularly blends in with the archaic stone landscape of the city, but it is a voice that is honest, raw, and true: it is the voice for today. Graffiti is the underbelly of urban living. Graffiti is what a city really is as soon as the covers of municipality, triteness, and tourism are scoured and stripped away. Graffiti is the identity of faceless and nameless, though breathing and feeling people. Graffiti spans the open walls of a city’s facade, providing a brief glimpse of what lays behind its closed doors.

Graffiti is what a city real is.

Graffiti in Budapest
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Filed under: Drink Drank Drunk, Eastern Europe, Europe, Hungary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3687 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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