The Anti-Borf is eyeing his next target.
He noticed the box at 14th and Q Streets NW the week before. Ever since, the damn thing has been taunting him every day as he bikes from his Rosslyn home to his Logan Circle office.
It’s a freezing cold February afternoon, and the Anti-Borf is on his lunch break.
“Here they are,” he says, circling the box and finding two of the ubiquitous tags. Armed with a small yellow can of Goof Off: The Ultimate Remover! and a rag, he goes to work, scrubbing away.
The white Borf graffito doesn’t budge.
“Oh, no, this must be latex-based paint,” he says, scrubbing harder. “This stuff really works better with oil-based.”
He gives up, throwing in the towel—into a small plastic baggie where he keeps his graffiti cleanup supplies. He vows to return the next day, armed with flat gray base paint, cans of which he keeps both at home and at work.
“Something that doesn’t catch your eye,” he says.
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.”
Dig deeper, though, and Goodchild’s crusade is fueled by more than the 12 points of the Scout Law. His bicycle is his primary mode of transportation, and all of that bike time has put him face-to-face with more Borf art than he can tolerate.
“It makes me grind my teeth and cuss,” he says. “I drink too much coffee. I’m too high-strung.”
The obsession is obvious upon entrance to Goodchild’s basement office at a court-reporting and transcription firm. He’s taped articles about Borf to the inside of the door, including a quote from a blogger published in the Express after the arrest of John Tsombikos for the Borf taggings: “It figures…he probably is some 18 year old…who lives in a million dollar plus house in Great Falls and does this for fun.”
Goodchild’s co-workers say they are kept well-apprised of his efforts. “We can’t help but know about it,” fellow court reporter Jim Urano says. “We get daily reports.”
The crusade has hit some rough patches. Goodchild’s most difficult target was on the bridge that carries M Street NW over Rock Creek Park. Too afraid to scale the edge of the bridge to cover up a tag, he attached a paint brush to the end of a broom handle with rubber bands and painted safely from the sidewalk.
“The reaction from passers-by has been nothing other than thumbs-up signals, smiles, nods of approval,” he says.
Goodchild has chosen to curtail his activity lately, however. Despite a two-decade-plus age difference, he is worried that someone might mistake him for Tsombikos performing some of his 80 hours of court-ordered graffiti cleanup.
Tsombikos has been held at the D.C. Jail since Feb. 9. He says he realizes that someone has been erasing and painting over his tags with gray paint, though he will neither confirm nor deny that he has retaliated against Goodchild.
Evidence suggests that he might have: A week after Goodchild painted over a Borf tag on the Key Bridge in Georgetown last year, the phrase “This means war!” appeared underneath the gray splotch.
The city’s Department of Public Works (DPW), which is in charge of graffiti removal, is glad to share work with Goodchild.
“We are happy for the help,” DPW spokesperson Mary Myers says. “This guy is certainly doing his part.”
DPW crews use a power washer called the Graffiti Blaster and cloths treated with chemicals. When those means fail, they resort to simply painting over the tag, much as Goodchild does.
Myers admits that her graffiti-removal teams work with a limited palette for painting over tags, but she suggests that Goodchild contact the Citywide Call Center to report the 14th Street site rather than paint over a green mailbox with gray paint.
“The feds might have some feeling about that if it’s one of [their boxes],” she says.CP