UNITED STATES—Wherever you turn in the City of Angels, there are words to turn things around, bright words, trite, words, wise words. They may effervesce for only a moment, but they serve us to get to the next moment. There, the inspiring words are embossed on coffee cups, on bumper stickers, or held in place by souvenir magnets.
This is a chronicle of my top-10 favorite inspirational fortune cookies culled from the streets and alleys of Los Angeles.
There a long slow curve on the Hollywood Freeway where traffic invariably bogs down; it’s usually after the Santa Monica exit, heading toward downtown. I had taken about a quarter mile of it, one afternoon, and was properly beset by that default blah feeling produced by driving fatigue and the commute. Off to the right side on big long wall by Delancy Street’s offices, somebody had painted in crude, wildly raw, wildly uneven spraypaint: Are you Enjoying this Moment? A grin instantly broke out on my face, made haggard by commute glumness, and I was immediately aware of being of service to my fellow drivers, stewing and sweating. A smile is a lot easier to take that, a scowl when one is surrounded by other drivers in the automotive caravan, all feeling stuck.
I was so sad that the spraypainted message had been rollered over by the next week. You can see the outlines of a slightly darker tan latex covering Are you Enjoying this Moment? I’m willing to cut the artist-philosopher some slack. I felt a real loss for all the other irate drivers who will be deprived of having their state turned around like mine was, one tedious afternoon, creeping in traffic.
Among the lost and lamented graffiti there stands out, “AGNES Moorehead is God,” that adorned the retaining wall of a parking lot on Vine near Hollywood Blvd. in the 80s. Granted, it is not overtly inspirational, but it is the kind of thing to strike you in such a way, it’s difficult ponder at the same time as being anguished. After seeing some of Ms. Moorehead’s work in “Magnificent Ambersons” and “The Twilight Zone,” I am almost inclined to agree with the divine status. Anyhow, the wall is gone and so is the parking lot.
One choice graffiti that makes me feel so good, I had it as wallpaper on my old phone. It’s short and sweet: “Love with all your heart” scrawled via a jagged, vibrant black spraypaint on a weathered olive drab mail storage bin in staid Beverly Hills. Chalk up one for simple lasting sentiment in a harsh world. You know, I often judge a neighborhood by the faces of the drivers, and to judge by some of those faces, Beverly Hills is no bed of roses.
Maybe they could use a dose of cheer from another standby favorite, that showed up under my feet one day as I trod around the Lexington and Cole. “Relax, it’s only life.” This thought stenciled in black spraypaint has spawned another bon mot in my collection: “Relax, it’s only money.” That retort is good for many on occasion including family squabbles and being accused of embezzlement.
By the corner of Fountain and Wilcox is a bright-hued mural that says, “Wake up and smell the sunshine.” I love that. But when I think about how much depends on the sun coming up every morning, I go into panic mode. I need to scurry down Fountain and look at the trove of uplifting signs posted outside housing built for Charlie Chaplin studio actors. To run into it and be told, “You are lucky and you are in Hollywood and it’s a good day” makes me feel real good. One line says “Call your Mom.” I did, after seeing this sign, the other day. She’s doing OK. She tends to speak more briefly on the phone these days. Instead of taking me hostage as she used to on the phone, the tables are turned.
When I hang up I know we’re here and we’re on the right side of the daisies.
Graydon Miller is the author of “Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood.”