Our Happy Foot/Sad Foot Sign

Mrs. Homegrown here:

Nothing about growing or making today–sorry to go off topic (Erik is wincing a bit as I post this), but I want to talk about our Foot.  It’s a very local sort of story, but isn’t localism what it’s all about?

The podiatrist’s sign above marks the entrance to our neighborhood. It charmed us the first time we saw it: It’s a foot–with feet!  And we immediately named it the Happy Foot/Sad Foot sign. Soon we learned that other people called it The Happy Foot/Sad Foot Sign as well. The name seemed predestined and universally applied, and it was recognizable enough that we could pinpoint our location off of Sunset Blvd. by saying, “You know the Happy Foot/Sad Foot sign?”

The Foot rotates slowly, unless it’s broken, which it often is of late. But when it’s rotating, you are always tempted to check out which side is facing you when you first come into sight of it.  A happy, smiling foot is portends a good day, or at least a general thumbs up from the universe. We’ve always thought so, and come to find out, many other people also practice this form of primitive divination.

It’s even immortalized in fiction. Our friend, Anne, resident of this same ‘hood, tipped us off that The Foot is featured in You Don’t Love Me Yet  by Jonathan Lethem (2008):

Lucinda’s view took in a three quarter’s slice of the sign as it turned in its vigil over Sunset Boulevard: happy foot and sad foot suspended in dialog forever. The two images presented not so much a one-or-the-other choice as an eternal marriage of opposites, the emblem of some ancient foot-based philosophical system. This was Lucinda’s oracle: once glance to pick out the sad or happy foot, and a coin was flipped, to legislate any decision she’d delegated to the foot god.

A quick Google search shows the Foot is acknowledged (it shows up in Flickr sets and odd comments here and there) but not famous, outside this locale. However, I was delighted to find an animation called Happy Foot vs. Sad Foot. Instead of seeing the Foot as a marriage of opposites, as Lethem does, the animator portrays the Feet as two characters engaged in an endless, existential binary feud. For Sad Foot, life will always suck, while Happy Foot will always gets his way. (Note in the comments for this animation that someone steps forward claiming to be the designer of the sign’s graphics.)

Lately we’ve been hearing that our neighborhood has been dubbed “HaFo SaFo” in tribute to The Foot. This isn’t as strange as it sounds, because our neighborhood is wedged between the villages of Silver Lake and Echo Park, but technically it belongs to neither. It’s real name is Edendale, but no one knows it by that name, even though Edendale was the home of the first motion picture studios. If we claim we live in Edendale, we get blank looks, so we’re forced to either assert our property value by claiming we live in Silver Lake, or our cool quotient, by claiming Echo Park. Usually we just mumble instead. Anyway, we predict that this HaFo SaFo business is going to stick, because it is so very silly and insidery.  I can’t find any HaFo SaFo mentions on Google yet, so you heard it first right here.

Do you all have special, beloved signs or divination systems local to the place you live? Share them!

ETA: One of out commenters points out there’s an Eels song dedicated to this sign, too, called Sad Foot Sign: Sad foot sign/Why you gotta taunt me this way?/The happy side is broken now/It’s gonna be an awful day

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16 Comments

  1. In Frederick, MD there was a very well know mom and pop ice cream place called Freeze King. Their sign was a giant ice cream cone that was about 15 feet in the air and pointed towards a pretty busy street. I lived a block from there for a few years and it was very easy to tell people that I was a block from the Freeze King sign. Even if they had never been to eat ice cream, everyone knew the sign.

  2. Not a sign really, but my husband and I refer to the local grocery store as the MOC (pronounced ‘mock’) because Market of Choice is just stupid.

  3. I live in Waco, Texas, and until very recently we had a curious sign in front of an old motel-hotel combo (there were both interior “hotel” rooms inside the large buildings, and a wing of “motel” rooms with exterior doors). The sign was shaped like the letter “Y,” with “MO” on one arm of the Y, “HO” on the other, and “TEL” vertically down the base.You can see a picture here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/puppiesofpurgatory/2479343090/ When the hotel portion of the building (long condemned) was finally demolished a few years ago, the sign went with it, and we all felt we had lost a landmark.

  4. Hello Mrs. Homegrown! I’m the animator of the Happy Foot vs. Sad Foot animation. Well, it’s actually an animatic (storyboard w/ motion). I was drawn to the sign when I moved to Los Angeles and drew a comic book featuring the characters that I later turned into this animatic. I still have hopes that one day I’ll be able to find the time to animate the short/music video. Well thanks for the 15 minutes of fame. If anyone would like to watch any of my other cartoons check out my youtube channel…

    youtube.com/chipCHIPLEY

    P.S. If I ever did Animate the short I wanted to move forward with the permission of “Russymussy.” If you track him down send him my way.
    [email protected]

  5. Ahh, you really make me miss LA. There are so many signs and buildings and people there that become part of the fabric of LA and of the lives of Los Angelenos. There is something very comforting about the regularity of a sign like that when everything else changes so quickly there.

  6. I think you got it Kitchen Mama. It’s the familiarity that brings comfort. And there’s a connection because everyone knows about the sign.

  7. @Alissa: This got cross-posted on Boing Boing, and one of the commenters there made a costume!!! It’s fantastic: http://gallery.me.com/pundog#100291

    @Kitchen Mama and Julie: Yes, it’s good to have something to gather around in a big city like this, even if it is a poditrist’s sign.

    In the old days it might have been a statue or the village oak or something. The only problem, of course, is that now our icons are privately owned, and can vanish overnight. We worry about The Foot.

  8. Hooray! Edendale rules! I was chatting with a fellow last night who helped get Garvanza its official designation. He asked where I live — I never feel right saying Silver Lake or Echo Park — so I’ve taken to saying Edendale (I live a few blocks west of the Edendale PO). He explained how he went about getting Garvanza recognized. And then to come upon this posting today. Let the revolution begin! Time for Edendale to get its identity back.

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