Happy Foot/Sad Foot: A History

May 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm in East Side, History

Happy foot/Sad Foot SignSalon has a great piece today about the urban lore behind the rotating Happy Foot/Sad Foot sign on Sunset in Echo Park.  For future reference, if you’re driving the street and see the happy foot side, you’re in for a great day; if you see the sad foot side, you should stay in bed.  The sign has inspired several writers, including Jonathan Lethem and David Foster Wallace, to incorporate this symbol of chance and fate into their novels:

The Happy Foot/Sad Foot sign became better known to readers outside the Los Angeles area when it appeared in Jonathan Lethem’s 2007 novel, “You Don’t Love Me Yet.” In that book, the main character, a musician named Lucinda, can see the sign from the window of her apartment: “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: one 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.”

The article tracks down a few other pop culture references, which I found fascinating.  You probably don’t want to let a sign play footsies with your fate (ha ha), but it is a fun thing to watch out for when you’re headed down Sunset.

Photo courtesy rachelkramerbussel and used under a Creative Commons license.

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