Why I have continued to be the Chalk Bandit

(All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.)


I have re-posted this today because of the situation that came about yesterday.  I only want to be the GOOD in this world and share positive thoughts and feelings.  If someone asks me to create a chalk piece in front of a home they own, and it is tidy and temporary, isn't that okay?  It hurts my heart when someone else comes with water and their tennis shoe and smears it away in 3 minutes while the people who live in that building beg him to stop. 
In the 3 hours it took me to create that piece, at least 6 people stopped to thank me for Funism and encouraged me to continue. It took him 3 minutes to erase the message, but leave a mess. 

 


I believe this 4 minute movie by super filmmaker Robin Fenlon explains Funism completely. 

If you are worried about Chalk being a gateway to other graffiti, like the chalk destroyer above, read this

I was born at South Bay Hospital.  I grew up here.  The South Bay is an interesting place to grow up.  It’s a very small town- Every time I am out, I run into someone I know.  I like that small town feeling.  So many of us have gone to school here and send our kids to the same schools.  When my son is skating about town, there are people keeping an eye on him (It takes a village). The South bay is also a very big place- spread out (like the rest of Los Angeles) for miles.  Sometimes it doesn't seem like a community at all- Los Angeles is the city without a center and the South Bay is a community with many hearts.

I've lived in most of the cities that are included in the term “South Bay” but Hermosa has my heart because of its artist culture. Hermosa was the center for Jazz music, the center for Punk Rock. 35 years ago I saved my money to buy a pair of purple suede roller-skates from Wild Wheels- the skate shop on the strand. I bought my first pair of Doc Martins at Re-Style, I bought my first Bukowski book from Either-or-Bookstore.  I worked graveyard at Denny’s, worked a few days at Uncle Stavros, worked for years at Rocky Cola.

At 3:am when my shift was over at Rocky Cola, after serving drunks on one side of the restaurant, and “friends of Bills” on the other, I was often too wound up to head straight home to bed.  My friend and I started going down to the pier to draw with chalk.  We would bring coffee for the police and they would hang out and drink it while we drew murals with chalk. The next day we would go down to the strand and listen to the comments- “I wonder who did that?”  “I like what it says” “That’s pretty”  “It’s only chalk”.  I felt encouraged. 

My room-mate and I started to draw on the brick wall that blocked our front door from Inglewood Ave.  In the morning, cars would wait for the light to turn green on Artesia as they headed to the freeway. This was back in the day when no one was looking down at cell phones at every stop.  We drew flowers and hearts and stars and smiling faces.  We wrote messages like “Hootenanny is my magic word” or “Smile today” or my trademark saying “Wake Up and Frolic”.  In the years that we communicated with the increasing traffic, our chalk never caused anyone to lash out at us, or wash it off, or find our chalk a “Gateway to graffiti”.  In fact, when the messages faded and were no longer legible or attractive, we would wash it off ourselves, in order to have a new, clean canvas to work with.  My neighbors began to leave chalk on our doorstep, and I interpreted that as encouragement to continue. 


When my son was young, I started doing things like the “WaxLips Brigade” “Google Eyes” and “Toy tagging”.  The toy tagging evolved into leaving tiny plastic mermaids around. Once I started posting photos on Facebook, and others participated, it turned into an international game.  It is much bigger than me, and anyone can play.  It made the world a smaller place.  See: “GlobalMaids”. 

The Wax Lips Brigade, Toy Tagging, Mermaids.. All of these things (concepts? Projects? Movements?) can be filed under the heading “FUNism”. 

FUNism- the ideology of FUN, the Religion of FUN.

Playing with chalk is part of FUNism.  I've been doing it for over 20 years.  My chalk activity increased when my son was young. We left messages on friend’s driveways, on sidewalks, near elementary schools.  The messages were well received.  We made a difference in people’s days, helped to cheer people up and that made us feel good.  I was encouraged.  So I took my chalk back to the places where I spend the most time- primarily Hermosa Beach.

The first time someone passed by me and yelled “That’s graffiti” I was sad and a little shocked. I don’t want to upset anyone.  I never for a moment figured that anyone would be against CHALK.  The reason I was down on the strand with my chalk was because I wanted to give the world a gift.  I wanted to give back to the community that I love so much. 

I sat back and anonymously watched others viewing the chalk.  95% of the people who noticed would smile, or stop and take a photo, or comment about how much they love seeing these little surprises on the strand.  But I don’t even want to upset 5%, because those 5% have a right to peace and happiness as well.  So, I thought a compromise would be to come around regularly and wash off the chalk messages, as soon as they began to fade, or when they were there too long. 

At this point, the chalk thing has become such a big deal.  I have divided a community that I want to unite.  I was never trying to be subversive.  But in a strange way, I feel the chalk part of FUNism is almost “a calling.”   

On Thanksgiving of 2012 I was going for a walk with a dear friend of mine.  While she stopped to get a drink, I wrote on the face of the stairs that lead to the bathroom: “You don’t have to know where you are going, just take the first step.”  A dog came up to investigate and while I was petting him, his owners asked me if I was the person who leaves chalk messages on the strand.  I gave them the reply people more “mature” than I have advised me to give- “I cannot confirm or deny my involvement in that activity.” 

“Well, we just love it and want to say thank you.” She said to me. “You’re welcome! It is me”, I said.  “Happy Thanksgiving!”  My friend next to me told them about how I left chalk messages on her driveway every week while her husband was recovering from a hit and run car accident and unable to walk.  As soon as he was able, he sat at the computer and ordered a big box of chalk from her teacher’s supply catalog. That was Thanksgiving day 2011, exactly a year before.

“If you are not opposed, I would love to get your phone number and donate some chalk to you” the man said. 

“I can always use more chalk, that would be fantastic” I gave them my phone number and a hug.

Two days later I got a call, saying my chalk was ready to be picked up.  I got their address and took my son there after school.  Their home was one I recognized, because they live on the strand and I always liked a particular piece of art they have decorating their yard. I was gifted a big brown grocery bag full of chalk and told when I need more to give them a call. As we walked away my son said to me “Mom, you have a chalk sponsor” and we both thought that was exciting and cool.

I have had other interactions with people that I can only interpret as encouragement.  One time a lady came up to me and said “I have always wanted to catch you in the act, so I can thank you.  Your messages mean so much to me and have helped me in my darkest days.  One day I came down and read “Don’t stumble over something behind you”… she couldn't complete her sentence, tears welled up in her eyes.  I stopped chalking, stood up and hugged her.  “I am so glad you like it.  Thank you for telling me, YOU just made MY day brighter.”  Situations like that are more common than you know.  I hope to write about more of them in the future.

I believe this 4 minute movie by super filmmaker Robin Fenlon explains Funism completely. 



   

Suicide Prevention Month


September, National Suicide Prevention month, is personal to me because I have lost friends and family to suicide.  I ask myself often if there was anything I could have done to save them. 

 

And here is my big step out of the closet- This is personal to me because I have suffered from depression most of my life.  At least as far back as I can remember.

 

Before you start thinking that I am trying to “get attention” or “looking for sympathy”.   Know this: when I am in the deep dark hell of depression; I typically do not want ANY attention, or interaction with anyone.  

 

I lose a lot of friends when I am depressed.  They tire of hearing my tale of woe.  No one likes a Debbie Downer.  So, you know what I do?  I isolate.  I am tired of hearing myself be sad, and certainly don’t want to subject the people I love to…to me.  I feel like the best way to be a friend is to let them off the hook- remove their obligation to talk to me.  But depression thrives in isolation.  I know that too, logically, but depression isn’t logical.  You can’t necessarily critically think your way out of it.  

 

If I do risk interacting with people, they often think they can “cure” me by pointing out all the reasons I have to NOT be depressed.  Please believe me that this only makes things worse.  It’s basically like telling a person who is pregnant to suck in their tummy. 

 

How can a person who spends their time promoting “Funism” and “Random Acts of Kindness” be depressed?  I have said before that my Not-so-random-acts-of-Funism are purely selfish acts of survival.  When I can momentarily escape from the monster that is depression, I try to run to a place to help others- to spread happiness.  More than once I have written in chalk- “The best way to make you feel good is to make someone else feel better.”  I have faith in that.  Funism is my spiritual foundation.

 

I don’t have any easy answers for people who want to help someone who is depressed.  You can try to be there- but you may get pushed away.  You can invite them somewhere, but they may not be capable of leaving their house.  You can call them, but they may be sick of hearing their own voice. 

 

If you love them, try.  If they say no, try again in a while; an hour, a day, a week later.  Send a card, poke them on Facebook, do what you can.  Do it for yourself, in case they don’t survive, you can say “I did everything I could”.  In my heart, etched in scars, are the names of people I wish I had tried harder for. 

 

Again, this is not a “cry for help” I am on my way to chalk up the city- to leave a garden of painted skateboards for other people to find.  I may save someone’s life today.

A Short Film About Funism

A year ago I was contacted by an amazing artist/filmmaker named Robin Fenlon.  He said he was interested in making a movie about Funism. Normally, I would avoid any contact like that- but Robin sent along a clip of his work and I was impressed, he is an amazing artist. 

I think we became friends immediately. We have many common interests; extreme sports, making art, tying to make the world a better place, a deep love and devotion to Hermosa Beach.

A year later, I have a wonderful friend and this amazing four minute movie to show you-
a film by Robin Fenlon-
Funism, it's only chalk.


Funism, It's Only Chalk... from Robin Fenlon on Vimeo.

How I (may or may not) have become the Chalk Bandit.

(All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.)



I was born at South Bay Hospital.  I grew up here.  The South Bay is an interesting place to grow up.  It’s a very small town- Every time I am out I run into someone I know.  I like that small town feeling.  So many of us have gone to school here and send our kids to the same schools.  When my son is skating about town, there are people keeping an eye on him (It takes a village). The South bay is also a very big place- spread out (like the rest of Los Angeles) for miles.  Sometimes it doesn't seem like a community at all- Los Angeles is the city without a center and the South Bay is a community with many hearts.

I've lived in most of the cities that are included in the term “South Bay” but Hermosa has my heart because of its artist culture. Hermosa was the center for Jazz music, the center for Punk Rock. 35 years ago I saved my money to buy a pair of purple suede roller-skates from Wild Wheels- the skate shop on the strand. I bought my first pair of Doc Martins at Re-Style, I bought my first Bukowski book from Either-or-Bookstore.  I worked graveyard at Denny’s, worked a few days at Uncle Stavros, worked for years at Rocky Cola.

At 3:am when my shift was over at Rocky Cola, after serving drunks on one side of the restaurant, and “friends of Bills” on the other, I was often too wound up to head straight home to bed.  My friend and I started going down to the pier to draw with chalk.  We would bring coffee for the police and they would hang out and drink it while we drew murals with chalk. The next day we would go down to the strand and listen to the comments- “I wonder who did that?”  “I liked what it says” “That’s pretty”  “It’s only chalk”.  I felt encouraged. 

My room-mate and I started to draw on the brick wall that blocked our front door from Inglewood Ave.  In the morning, cars would wait for the light to turn green on Artesia as they headed to the freeway. This was back in the day when no one was looking down at cell phones at every stop.  We drew flowers and hearts and stars and smiling faces.  We wrote messages like “Hootenanny is my magic word” or “Smile today” or my trademark saying “Wake Up and Frolic”.  In the years that we communicated with the increasing traffic, our chalk never caused anyone to lash out at us, or wash it off, or find our chalk a “Gateway to graffiti”.  In fact, when the messages faded and were no longer legible or attractive, we would wash it off ourselves, in order to have a new, clean canvas to work with.  My neighbors began to leave chalk on our doorstep, and I interpreted that as encouragement to continue. 


When my son was young, I started doing things like the “WaxLips Brigade” “Google Eyes” and “Toy tagging”.  The toy tagging evolved into leaving tiny plastic mermaids around. Once I started posting photos on Facebook, and others participated, it turned into an international game.  It is much bigger than me, and anyone can play.  It made the world a smaller place.  See: “GlobalMaids”. 

The Wax Lips Brigade, Toy Tagging, Mermaids.. All of these things (concepts? Projects? Movements?) can be filed under the heading “FUNism”. 

FUNism- the ideology of FUN, the Religion of FUN.

Playing with chalk is part of FUNism.  I've been doing it for over 20 years.  My chalk activity increased when my son was young. We left messages on friend’s driveways, on sidewalks, near elementary schools.  The messages were well received.  We made a difference in people’s days, helped to cheer people up and that made us feel good.  I was encouraged.  So I took my chalk back to the places where I spend the most time- primarily Hermosa Beach.

The first time someone passed by me and yelled “That’s graffiti” I was sad and a little shocked. I don’t want to upset anyone.  I never for a moment figured that anyone would be against CHALK.  The reason I was down on the strand with my chalk was because I wanted to give the world a gift.  I wanted to give back to the community that I love so much. 

I sat back and anonymously watched others viewing the chalk.  95% of the people who noticed would smile, or stop and take a photo, or comment about how much they love seeing these little surprises on the strand.  But I don’t even want to upset 5%, because those 5% have a right to peace and happiness as well.  So, I thought a compromise would be to come around regularly and wash off the chalk messages, as soon as they began to fade, or when they were there too long. 

At this point, the chalk thing has become such a big deal.  I have divided a community that I want to unite.  I was never trying to be subversive.  But in a strange way, I feel the chalk part of FUNism is almost “a calling.”   

On Thanksgiving of 2012 I was going for a walk with a dear friend of mine.  While she stopped to get a drink, I wrote on the face of the stairs that lead to the bathroom: “You don’t have to know where you are going, just take the first step.”  A dog came up to investigate and while I was petting him, his owners asked me if I was the person who leaves chalk messages on the strand.  I gave them the reply people more “mature” than I have advised me to give- “I cannot confirm or deny my involvement in that activity.” 

“Well, we just love it and want to say thank you.” She said to me. “You’re welcome. It is me”, I said.  “Happy Thanksgiving!”  My friend next to me told them about how I left chalk messages on her driveway every week while her husband was recovering from a hit and run car accident and unable to walk.  As soon as he was able, he sat at the computer and ordered a big box of chalk from her teacher’s supply catalog. That was Thanksgiving day 2011, exactly a year before.

“If you are not opposed, I would love to get your phone number and donate some chalk to you” the man said. 

“I can always use more chalk, that would be fantastic” I gave them my phone number and a hug.

Two days later I got a call, saying my chalk was ready to be picked up.  I got their address and took my son there after school.  Their home was one I recognized, because they live on the strand and I always liked a particular piece of art they have decorating their yard. I was gifted a big brown grocery bag full of chalk and told when I need more to give them a call. As we walked away my son said to me “Mom, you have a chalk sponsor” and we both thought that was exciting and cool.

I have had other interactions with people that I can only interpret as encouragement.  One time a lady came up to me and said “I have always wanted to catch you in the act, so I can thank you.  Your messages mean so much to me and have helped me in my darkest days.  One day I came down and read “Don’t stumble over something behind you”… she couldn't complete her sentence, tears welled up in her eyes.  I stopped chalking, stood up and hugged her.  “I am so glad you like it.  Thank you for telling me, YOU just made MY day brighter.”  Situations like that are more common than you know.  I hope to write about more of them in the future.

 Mermaid in Rome

Some people believe artists suffer to bring meaning to their art.  I believe I make art to bring meaning to my suffering.

Art Can't Hurt You




There is a fair that happens in Hermosa beach every year over labor day weekend. It involves a lot of crowds and arts and crafts, kiddie rides like slides and things that spin, pink puffy cotton candy, giant sausages with grilled onions wrapped in aluminum foil. There is even a beer garden where you can see a Journey cover band that has their very own groupies- not Journey groupies, but Journey cover band groupies.

To make the weekend's festivities more exciting for me, I went down on the Thursday before to add a bit of my own happiness, my own FUNism to the masses. My mission was simple: on either side of the strand entrance, I would put a message of joy and happiness for the fair people to read, to give them a smile, to help them think happy thoughts.


I share my fluffy thoughts with crayola chalk, the stuff kids use to play hopscotch and draw daisy's and dinosaurs on their driveways. Harmless. Good clean fun. Yet somehow, every time I go out with my chalk, I get people telling me that what I am doing is wrong. They just mumble it as they walk by. No one ever tries to actually confront me or discuss my motives or rights to my face, they just mumble words like grafitti and vandalism as they pass me by. These same people would never consider asking a person to pick up garbage they saw some litterbug throw on the street or pick up a cigarette that was tossed out a car window. I wish these closet vigilantes would ask someone to scrape up gum they just spat out their mouth onto the street or sidewalk and leave me and my chalk alone.





Somehow, because I am on my knees and coloring with chalk, I look like the person they should stop, a criminal easy enough to apprehend. Until the police come and put the cuffs on my wrists all I have to say is "Hell no I won't go!" The world needs a few less Starbucks cups laying around next to the McDonald's burger wrappers and a few more chalk daisys and stick people. One more message from the grave of Dr. Seuss saying "Fun is Good" in crayola chalk isn't going to hurt anyone. Sometimes I just have the need to ask the world to smile with me, to say hello! Occasionally I go back later and observe, and most people do get a smile out of it. My soul begs me to share my art. My O.C. D. demands that I bring along handiwipes to keep the dust on my hands to a minimum.

But, this Thursday was different. This time a brave man came right up to me and started a dialog.



As I started to chalk on the strand wall, a restaurant owner came up and asked me what I was doing.
I explained I was playing with chalk.
"Why?" he asks.
"Because it makes me happy" was my reply as I smiled up at him. "Because it's FUN".
"Does it wash off?" he wants to know.
"Of course, it will fade within just a few days, its just sidewalk chalk, like children play with, haven’t you ever played with sidewalk chalk? I ask.
"NO" He says, almost offended that I would assume he could do such a thing.
"Well then, that's our problem!" I declare, as I offer him a piece of beautiful deep blue chalk. "Here-try it."
"NO!" he says loudly and recoils.
"Why?" I ask him.
"I am afraid" he replies.
"You are afraid of chalk?" I ask.
He starts to back away from me as he says in his best grown up voice; "Don't you need a permit to do this? This is city property!"
I smile at him sweetly and reply "I don't need a permit to play with chalk and if this is city property, then it belongs to me." I continued with my message of JOY and left him with his fear of it. He walked back into his restaurant and was left with this message when I walked away.


If you see someone without a smile
Give them one of yours.





More Funism here: The Fun Zone; The Center for the Study of Funism

Father's Day 2011

This Father's Day I made new happy memories hanging out in Carmel Valley with Duke, Chris, Dustin, Jessica and their Mom; Lisa.
Here is a video of the boys jamming out down by the river.


What a beautiful day, what a beautiful life indeed

Riding in L.A.

Nobody walks in LA. We all sit comfortable, or uncomfortable in our little metal and glass cells and strive to stay in our bubble untouched by others.

Today I felt deep concern for a stranger, then overwhelming sadness and loss followed by such joy and hope and levity- in the course of perhaps 25 seconds. It was an entire day of emotions squashed and intensified like the rest of L.A. living.


My morning started with breakfast with my Dad. We ate at a fairly well known place called Joes which is a family style restaurant- that means that we share a bench with other people who are having their own breakfast dates. Typical to all plans made in L.A. we had a date at 8am and so at 8:15 I had to use the cell phone to call to see where he was. "Oh I wish you would have called me" he said, "I had to move my cars- street sweeping" In L.A. cars take precedent over people. Parking tickets cost twice as much as breakfast dates so that just makes sense in numbers. I told my Dad I would wait and sat at that bench alone for 15 minutes. The waitress got my coffee order, but other than that, I had no human contact. There were people sitting next to me, on the same blue vinyl padded bench, an arms length away, I could smell their food and hear them chew, but we didn’t talk. It’s like we were all still in out cars.

When my dad showed up we were engaged in conversation, and I wasn't really aware of anyone around us. Towards the end of our meal, I dropped my purse on the ground and had to bend over to pick up my pen and wallet. I was at the very end of the bench, next to a window, my head below the table to retrieve my belongings. As I pulled myself and my purse back up above the table, a woman walked past the 8 other people sitting on the bench, slid a piece of paper onto my table top and walked away quickly. It was as if we were in Jr. High and she was passing a note, except that when I grabbed what she had left behind, it was simply a sticker sheet with all but 3 stickers missing. (2 of the stickers were Disney witches, and one a Disney warlock, but I am not even going to try to read into that). "Do you know her?" My dad asks. I look at the back of this lady’s head as she rushes out of the restaurant. "I can’t say I have ever seen her before in my life. Perhaps she thought I dropped this out of my purse? " I suggested. "She came over from the other side of the restaurant" My dad explained. I try to re-create the vague image I have of her in my mind- well-dressed, short hair- dyed a bright orange color that is obviously not natural but still socially acceptable in a work environment. "I have no idea who that woman is, or why she would leave this with me" I replied. My dad became frustrated, almost angry. "What the hell was that about? He demands, "Go ask her!" "Dad, I’m not going to chase her, I don’t really care. It doesn’t make any sense to me." My Dad surprised me when he dropped the issue. Letting go is not a family trait, so I suppose we both made great strides in our acceptance of whatever may be will be.
 
I meet my friend at the mall at 10 am. I need to buy a dress for a fancy semi formal function and I am not prepared. I wear combat boots, tights, mini skirts. Everything I own is black. I don’t wear heels. I don't own "Country club casual" but I did like the idea of the chance to get a bit dressed up. I had tried shopping by myself the day before with zero results.




The entire time I am shopping for a posh party frock for this event, I am reminded of shopping with my Mom for my first ever real "Work party" when I was a manager in a restaurant at the age of 21. This particular restaurant we got to wear "costumes" dress up as kitschy waitresses from the 1950"s. I was having the same feelings shopping for the dress today as I did then; I want to look pretty, I want to look dressed up. But I want to look like ME! I don’t want to look like I am wearing my Mother’s clothes. When I show up at the place where people make more than me, and people are older and more established than me, I want to feel confident. I don’t want to feel under dressed or in loaner clothes – I want these folks to look at me and think- "She likes the way she looks." Maybe they would never tattoo their arms and dye their hair pink, but I look beautiful and comfortable and my outfit is congruent with me. I want to feel like Maria in West Side Story when I get dressed for the party.

After trying all the stores that I know are cheaper, more practical, I finally go to the store I love, the store I can’t afford, and I find the dress. No I find TWO dresses that I love and would be pained to leave behind. They are so far out of my budget that I should have never even tried them on. For some reason, the sales person in there was helpful and nice, in spite of my budget clothes I arrive in. She smiled, she helped, and she earned her commission. I suppose these days it shouldn't be important to be these days that the sales competent at her job, in addition to taking my money but it is.

I left my friend and went home to see the dog, leave my 2 new pretty dresses and then go get my boy from school. I was exhausted and ready for a nap, but had a long drive ahead of me. My Mom was still heavy on my mind, but I had pushed her into my subconscious. I was really just aware of the good times, nothing sad or morose. I came to a stoplight that has a very dangerous crosswalk. There was an old woman crossing and something about her build, or her outfit or her pep in her step made me think that perhaps if my mom had lived longer she may have looked like that. I was concerned for her crossing the street and looked all around to make sure no cars were speeding towards her. I rarely do this anymore, but something compelled me to say out loud- "I love you Mom, I’ve been thinking a lot about you." I said it loud enough for the sound of my own voice to suddenly twist my face in pain and bring tears to my eyes, but certainly quiet enough that my stereo and closed windows kept anyone else from hearing what I said. My deep sadness shocked me, my voice shocked me and I wiped the tears from my eyes as quickly as they came. The old woman crossed the street safely and I felt glad for her safety.

Then I felt someone from the car next to me looking at me. It was a young boy- maybe 23 or so, handsome and boyish and full of sparkle in his eyes. He looked right at my twisted face, smiled the most genuine smile as if we were old friends and waved to me in the most cheerful hello. My smile was sudden, involuntary, unexpected and welcome. I smiled and waved back and he seemed satisfied, gave me a nod and turned his head forward again, kind of bopping and dancing to the music in his car. How did he feel me? How did he know I needed a friend? An L.A. friend; only passing in his bubble while I’m in mine.

We are so connected as people, no matter how we surround ourselves in glass and metal and unshared thoughts and grief. He touched my heart with that smile and took my grief from me. He gave me hope. In him I saw myself as a carefree girl before my Mom died. I saw an image of my son a few years from now, with his whole life in front of him and his security around him. In the 50 seconds or less that I was at that crosswalk, I felt concern for a stranger, I felt deep sadness for the loss of someone most dear, I felt gratitude and joy. This was not insignificant. This was not just some moment in time that washes over you. This left a mark deep inside me that has changed me. This moment has given me gratitude. This moment gave me something more. That smile changed the course of my day.




I imagine logically that he must have looked over at me, saw my face filled with grief and he just thought he’d try to say "Hey". But no one says "Hey" in LA. and honestly I don’t think he was looking at me that long. He was watching to see that the old lady got across the street safely also. I think he felt me. I believe he felt my pain and reached right out of his bubble. No one ventures out of their bubble, not even if you are sitting alone next to them for 15 minutes in a restaurant.

I wonder again about the lady at breakfast with the stickers. Did she need a smile? Did I miss the cue I was supposed to see? Did she see me as the person who needed more than I was getting from my own little bubble at that moment? Did I not even know it?


So I gather my emotions, and do the best I can to act like a stable person, a responsible person who can handle the most daunting task of raising a 12-year-old boy. I pick him up and he is excited about his day, excited about the drive we need to take 20 miles away to Hollywood. We talk for a while about school, homework, substitute teachers, what he had for lunch. After a while, when our talk had slowed down and I was off the freeway and on surface streets in Los Angeles, I do what I often do and put on my wax lips. Similar to the feeling I used to get when I was a smoker and would absent-mindedly smoke an entire cigarette and then feel like I never had one; I often forget that I even have them in my mouth.

I had my lips on in the car for a while, and my son had his head down looking at the phone or the ipod or his hands or any of the things that keep tween-aged boys head in a constant downward position. At I stoplight I heard laughing. Next to me were two tough looking dudes, riding low and deep back in the seats of their dark Honda. They looked tough, but they were looking at me with smirks on their face and when I turned my head to look at them they started laughing. I pulled a spare pair of lips from the center console of my car. I rolled down the window and the guy closest to me says, "I was hoping you’d look at me! I tossed him the package of wax lips- "Wear these and make other people smile" I told him.

Their faces changed. These 27 year-old tough guys looked like they were 8 and it was Christmas morning. That man grabbed that package of lips and ripped them open like he just got a new X-box. He put them in his mouth and his eyes were so bright and smiling, he gave me his tough guy pose- head cocked back and flashed me the peace sign, and drove off. I wish I could have caught up with them again and got a photo. I thought of all the other people that would be driving by them and seeing the wax lips and laugh, and then possibly pass me and see me wearing mine.
 
I don’t know why I have such a desperate need to connect with strangers- to try to bring a brief moment of joy. I wear wax lips in public; I make chalk murals in the street. I leave tiny plastic mermaids in unsuspecting places for people to find like treasures. It’s not art, it a movement. It’s FUNISM. Fun as a religion. It's my way of trying to lure the people I meet in to trying to be nice to one another.

We are all here alone in our bubbles. Why does that have to be?
Why are we not waving and smiling when we see some old 40 year old crying in the car next to us? I am so thankful for that young boy's smile today, he changed my mood. Because of him my mood changed quickly and I was able to be a better mother. Because my mood changed I felt inspired to put on my wax lips and then I changed the mood of 2 men that looked like they would have never went out and bought wax lips on their own. Who knows how many people smiled when they saw them with the lips on? Why can’t we all have a little more silliness in our lives? Isn’t it silly to pass thousands of people every day and NEVER make eye contact? Is it any less silly to want to see people smile at you?