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David Foster Wallace Cements Happy/Sad Foot Sign as Icon, Oracle

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Tattoos via The dose of fun

Updated 5/5/11 10:23 am: The Happy Foot/Sad Foot sign on the border between Silver Lake and Echo Park is heading for icon status now that a fictional version has shown up in David Foster Wallace's posthumously-published novel "The Pale King," Laura Miller writes in Salon. (Wallace spent the last several years of his life in Pomona Claremont.) In "The PK," the podiatrist's sign spins in Chicagoland, and has clinic info on one side and "a huge colored outline of a human foot" on the other. The college students who can see the sign from their dorm window use it as an excuse to ditch studying: "If it stopped with the foot facing our windows, we would take it as a 'sign' (with the incredibly obvious double-entendre) and immediately blow off any homework or supposed responsibility we had."

The Happy Foot/Sad Foot has been hobbling toward greatness for several years now. In 2004, musician Beck told Anthem magazine that he and friends were occasionally influenced by the sign when they were living in a house on Benton Way: "we would walk out to the front porch and if it was a sad foot...it was probably best to stay in. We just took it as a sign."

In 2007, writer Jonathan Lethem (incidentally, Wallace's successor as the Roy E. Disney Professor of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Pomona College) put the sign in his novel "You Don't Love Me Yet," in which the protagonist, who can see it from her apartment window, uses it "to legislate any decision she'd delegated to the foot god." Lethem calls the feet "a non-Internet meme" in Salon.

In 2008, the Eels released the mopey song "Sad Foot Sign" (lamenting a broken sign), and in December 2010 the blog Homegrown Evolution popularized the name HaFo SaFo for the surrounding neighborhood.

We bet that one day soon the sign will have its own Secret-style belief system, and kids in Iowa will dream of coming to LA for fame, fortune, and a view of the feet.
· How a podiatrist sign became a literary icon [Salon]