How mad do you need to get? How many lies do you have delivered straight to your face by this administration? How long do you just sit there and take it?
I’ll be honest with you, if it wasn’t for a bizarre set of circumstances I’d never have started doing this. And if someone else had I’d think it was a great idea. I’d cheer them on, but I wouldn’t start doing it myself. Why? I don’t know. Same reasons most of you don’t I suppose: it’s too dangerous, I’d probably get caught, it’s just something I don’t do.
What would actually get me going? Probably the security of numbers. If I knew that thousands of other people were doing it I’d be right there with them. It doesn’t matter how cheap, easy, fun or necessary it is — so long as nobody else is doing it, I’m not either. It’s one of our most primal fears: the fear of looking foolish.
And here’s the ironic part — you don’t actually look foolish: you’re not even there at all. After the few seconds it takes to put up the sign, you just walk away. The relationship is over. (Okay, technically unless you wear gloves your fingerprints will be all over the thing, but if that mattered I wouldn’t be here writing this.)
My favorite non-musician, Brian Eno once said “Cooking is just another way of listening to music.” That’s what sign painting is: just another way of keeping your eyes and hands occupied while you daydream and listen to music. I used to make the lettering with a laptop, printer and transparencies using an overhead projector. Now I’ve got a projector that beams straight from my laptop. It’s a bit pricey, but the overheads are not — and once you’ve made the initial investment it works forever. If you’re an artist maybe you can do a decent job freehand, but if you’re not, tracing and painting with a projector is easy and fun and produces a nearly perfect product.
Artist or not, here’s the thing: Make it Big, Use Cardboard, and post on the INSIDE of the fencing. The sign above was large, barely readable and somehow hung on the outside of the fencing. I don’t know quite how they did it, either with climbing equipment or a system of weights and wires that allowed them to secure the top, throw it over and then reel in the bottom corners, but either way, it’s suspended directly over traffic and therefore a menace. Here’s my sign on an identical overpass two miles or so to the north:
My sign was simply dropped between the handrail and fencing — like dropping toast into a toaster. Cardboard, painted white, is the perfect medium for signmaking. It’s stiff, free, amazingly durable and available everywhere. Bike shops and furniture stores are great for the really large pieces, and with white duct tape and a boxcutter you can make canvases of just about any size and shape.
With cardboard, all it takes to attach to fencing is bungee cords and a bit of tape. For larger signs I tape wire coathangars to the top to help support the weight, like so:
I love my job. It doesn’t pay anything, but I get a lot of credit for what I do. Way more than I deserve. Because what I do boils down to this: I paint signs, drive around and go for short walks. You can too. Next time you’re on a freeway, take a look at all the fencing. Any place you can see a fence is a place you can put a sign and it’ll be read. The harder it is to reach, the longer it’ll stay up.
And here’s the best part of all. Because this is America, when it comes to political speech, you can say damn near anything you want. When in doubt, stick an American flag next to it. It’s a fine looking flag, and after September 11th, when the overpasses were full of them, it opened the way for all political speech on overpasses. (See Brown vs. California Dept. of Transportation) After a bit of legal back and forth, it was settled that no flags or banners could be placed over or near freeways, but the punishment was simply that the flags or banners would be taken down. Fine by me.
So here’s where we’re at: A profoundly disturbed man is in charge of our country, put there largely by the stupidity and xenophobia of our right-wing brethren and, apparently, Vladimir Putin. We need to do whatever it takes to get rid of the guy, and probably the dominionist zealot that’s next in line. Free political speech is the greatest tool we’ve been given, even better than the vote, so let’s use it to its fullest potential. With cardboard.
Here’s How to make signs. Here’s a hundred (more) reasons why.
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