On a trip to the restroom at the Fainting Goat, a neighborhood bar at 846 Broadway, close to the former Westword office, I came across this choice piece of graffiti next to the urinal: "Punctuation is important."
That's a line any writer can appreciate.
Thank you, I thought. It's nice that somebody cares.
Whoever wrote that on the Goat's bathroom wall may have been responding to some other graffiti writer's terrible punctuation. But the most likely culprit had been covered by a sticker from the PBR-obsessed band Ballistic Biscuit. Maybe it was an "its" vs. "it's" mistake. Or misplaced quotation marks. The writer could have spliced a sentence with a comma, or committed an even worse sin.
Perhaps Ballistic Biscuit — an obscure Denver hardcore outfit with a song called "Billy's Willy" and a lead singer, Stefan Kligora, who wears a "Sucking Dick for Jesus" shirt in at least one Facebook photo — is composed of grammatical finger-waggers. But we may never know: After a quick back-and-forth, Kligora did not respond to my requests for an interview about the band's position on punctuation.
I could have torn down the Ballistic Biscuit sticker to see if the grammarian graffiti artist was criticizing someone else's tag, but doing so seemed rude when stickers cost as much as a dollar a pop. And Ballistic Biscuit doesn't seem like the kind of group that can pony up sticker money with ease. (Unless somebody tips well: Kligora used to work at the Fainting Goat, and the one thing he told me before going silent was that there is another Ballistic Biscuit sticker around the bar.)
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But wait: Maybe the language lover with a Sharpie wasn't scolding anybody. Maybe the message contains a self-referential gag; after all, "Punctuation is important" is missing a period. Could it be some Gen Xer's idea of humor, an ironic jab at the hypocrisy of punctuation purists?
Whether jokes or jabs, graffiti is often the medium of choice for people expressing forbidden thoughts — things too crass or political to even write on their social media walls these days. And caring about the rules of punctuation has become political. The president himself ignores them, and those who point out his errors are often accused of being socialists, snowflakes or elitist scolds.
Perhaps we've arrived at a historic moment when people have to illegally scrawl their defense of good punctuation on bathroom walls because it's just too scary to say "Punctuation Matters" to the powers-that-be — but not the powers that pee.
But maybe, like the graffiti writer, I'm just missing the point.