A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“what if it doesn’t want to be called hot sauce? What if it wants to be called beautiful sauce?” (1/19)
“Why didn’t people want to go to the German restaurant?"/"It was always too krauted.” (1/19)
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Entry from May 28, 2005
“Going all city” (graffiti slang)
"Going all city" means putting your graffiti on trains in every borough. Two movies -- Style Wars (1983) and Bomb the System (2005) -- have profiled "graffiti artists" or "taggers" or "writers." "Go all city" has been cited in print since at least 1984.


Subway Art
by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston
1984
Pg. 50:
A crew, according to T-Kid, "is a unit of dudes who work together to achieve a goal: to get up and to go all city."

20 January 1998, Village Voice, "Generation Graf" by Richard Goldstein, pg. 59:
For this activist, graffiti -- or graf, as it's called today -- has always been about the imposition of a specifically Latino style on alien public surfaces.
(...)
These days, they travel with glass-cutting implements - grindstones and dentists' drills - instead of paint. The crude result, called "scratchees," is an apt reflection of the escalation of hostilities.

Zero tolerance has produced mass scratching, in the quest to hit trains in every borough, a feat known as going "all-city."
(...)
If you can't afford the logo -- or even if you can -- there is always "racking," a key concept in graf, as it was in the '70s, when stealing spray paint was known as "inventing." To actually buy the paint you used would mark you as a toy. And even today, asking a writer from the Bronx to characterize his peers from Queens will get the following response: "They buy their paint."

But racking has been ratcheted up. These days, it means going into a discount store with a big bookbag and walking out with stuff to sell on the street. The money goes for "shining," or looking good. "The most important thing about graf is, there ain't no buying," says AteBall. "It's against the rules."

27 April 2003, New York Post, "Graffiti Artistes," pg. 48:
The writers talk about "getting up" (making a big splash) and going "all-city" (having their tags seen in all five boroughs).

9 May 2003, New York Sun, "Going All-City in the 1980s" by Martin Edlund:
"Style Wars" (unrated, 71 mins.), Tony Silver's documentary of early 1980s graffiti culture in New York City, opens with a shot of a train slinking towards us. It winks its lights off and on. As it draws nearer, a streetlamp reveals graffiti scars all along its sides. Next, we see the trains in daylight: Big, colorful whole-car pieces, called "burners," shout the names of the artists responsible for them. In the background, the Sugarhill Gang sings, "I am somebody."

Mr. Silver means for us to be seduced, both by the art and the artists, and before long we are. Graffiti has a danger to it, a magnetism. The "writers" -= as the graffiti artists call themselves -= are well-meaning thieves, urban Robin Hoods with quivers of aerosol cans. They rob paint, elude cops, and brave the train yards at night, all in order to transform public transportation into public art.
(...)
"It's a matter of getting a tag on each line, each division," he says. "It's called 'going all-city.'" His mother laughs aloud: "I don't think he knows how silly he sounds. 'Goin' all-city,' to what end?" The question nags us too, and is never satisfactorily answered.
(...)
He is a kind of graffiti anarchist who does "throw-ups" -- simple two-color bubble-letter signatures -- over the top of more elaborate pieces.

4 August 2003, New Zealand Herald:
Taki 183 was the New York City kid who started signing his stylised signature on subway cars and trains back in the late 70s. He lived in Washington Heights and his aim, as with many other NYC graffiti writers, was to go "all city". It means to have your name on trains going all over town, so you could go down to any subway and see your name flashing by.

9 May 2004, New York Times, City, section 14, pg. 3:
I went all throughout the boroughs. They call it ''going all city.'' I did train lines and walls -- I left my mark on everything.

27 May 2005, New York Sun, "Rampant Tagging & Broken Windows" by Martin Edlund, pg. 17:
Bomb the System," a new feature film by Adam Bhala Lough about a crew of graffiti writers, is a love letter to New York City. But while it's set in the present, the New York City it romanticizes is the grittier, more freewheeling one of 20 years ago.

For the graffiti subculture, those were the halcyon days - a time when maverick writers tagged the subway system with (near) impunity and dreamed of "going all city" (getting their murals up on all the subway lines simultaneously). It was a time, before real estate brokers ruled the Lower East Side and Disney ruled Times Square, during which the sight of whole car "burns" symbolized (depending upon your perspective) either the freedom or lawlessness of New York City.

27 May 2005, New York Times, section E part 1, pg. 14:
The James Dean character, 19-year-old Anthony (Mark Webber), is an ambitious young artist who dreams of ''bombing'' the city of New York -- that is, covering its every available surface with his and friends' graffiti signatures.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • Saturday, May 28, 2005 • Permalink