While there is the occasional request for directions, or someone striking up a conversation (possibly about their aching back but equally likely it will be the weather) at random to “pass the time of day,” as one might have said in a less frenetic time, Alvarez contents herself for the most part with her lifelong fascination and “the proper study of mankind” as a famous anthropologist once said, and that is “man.” “It has happened more than once,” Alvarez concedes, “that some guy will shout out from his car, you know, like, ‘Move that thing!’ or ‘Shake it!’ ” One of her favorites is, “ ‘You do any tricks with that thing?’ ”
Music, for her, is indispensable, but she leaves any fancy footwork to those in the profession stationed at less windy corners. “With my luck,” she says, “the sign would end up flying across the street and into someone’s driver’s-side window.” She does, during her four- or five-hour weekend shifts, find herself listening to much “acoustic/indie–type folk music.” Damien Rice being one example. The answers to questions: “Do you get bored out there?” or “What do you think about out there?” are answered with a gesture to her portable CD player and headphones.
“Extra money” is her prime motivation, and saving, possibly for an education in law. She is not married and enjoys clubbing with her friends. “I like bars.” Reading is another interest: currently the novels of Janet Evanovitch and her stories about Stephanie Plum, the bounty hunter. “I don’t really have a set genre that I read,” she explains. “But I’m one of those people that will go into the library and come out with an armload, maybe 14 books.”
She has no burning compulsion to write herself, she says. “I wouldn’t know how to get into it.
“I think this job is actually more for people who like people,” she says. Where does she see herself in five years? “I don’t really know, but it will be doing something with people.”
Human Directionals “Sign Spinners” NEEDED!!!! (Cypress)
Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 2008-05-31, 8:04AM CDT
Fun & Easy Weekend Job!!!
I am searching for Energetic & Enthusiastic people who would like to earn $10.00 per hour by twirling and flipping an advertising arrow to attract attention for our client. Your main purpose as a Human Directional is to direct traffic to the project/property/
client you are representing at your corner location.
Must be 16 years or older! (Teens & Adults Welcome!)
Can legally work in the United States!
Must have reliable transportation!
Hours: Saturday & Sunday 12 pm–5pm
If you are interested in an interview, email me at email@example.com. Please state if you are located near the Cypress area! Be prepared to meet for an interview to apply for the position starting next weekend!!!
SERIOUS APPLICANTS ONLY!!!
Please put a contact number in your email so that I may contact you ASAP to set up an interview!
Above is an ad from craigslist for a sign-spinning job elsewhere in the country, not San Diego. It is typical of dozens more like it on that site. Not the only way to get this sort of work, but a significant resource nationwide. In San Diego, two major advertising agencies put sign-spinners or sign-jugglers to work on our streets. They are Arrow Advertising and Masar-Johnston Advertising & Design (MJAD). Thirty-two-year-old Efren Acuna, a Mexican-American artist from Sonora, Mexico, via Chicago, Illinois, was hired in 2004 by MJAD Directionals in Mission Valley to spin an open-house sign for the Essex apartments/condominiums building on Park Boulevard near University Avenue. The Essex is behind the local landmark building the Egyptian. Previously, Acuna had been working for Why Not Productions out of Chicago as part of a crew on a mobile flight-simulation truck (one of the flights simulated was to the moon); an interesting enough sort of job, one would think, but one Acuna felt he could improve upon, while also exercising his artistic nature more fully, by spinning signs in San Diego.
“When they [MJAD] started the sign-spinning, that was when I started working for them,” Acuna tells me. He is a tall man and handsome, with short-cropped hair. We are sitting outdoors at the Urban Grind, a popular coffeehouse on Park Boulevard across from the Egyptian. “I was an instructor for all the guys. Some guys from Arrow saw me working, and they gave me their card — they’re from out of La Jolla — to come work for them. They are very professional. I had already gone to their office and gave them my CD.” Acuna is referring to his DVD, in fact, a demo video with four scenes of him executing impressive juggling techniques with a MOVE IN TODAY sign. Considering Arrow Advertising the more professional of the advertising agencies he has worked for, he tells me that Arrow has used the music of 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg in their ads that include signs. “The Essex,” he adds, “does not use sign-spinners anymore. They are sold out now.”
I ask him if this is because of the effectiveness of sign-spinning advertising, and he allows, “I think so.
“Two years ago, there were a lot more spinners on the street than you see now.” I ask him why and he tells me, “The real estate market. Properties are not selling as they were two years ago.” Acuna taught himself to manipulate signs in an eye-catching manner and has a repertoire of original, now much-imitated tricks such as “the Spiderman” and “the Helicopter.” These are demonstrated on the impressive video. Some of his tricks (though not on the video) consist of smoking a cigarette as he spins and sending the sign through patterns of smoke. “Sometimes I will eat a snack while I am spinning and use the snack like a prop. In this, of course, I am spinning with only one hand.”
Acuna’s childhood ambition was to perform in the circus as an acrobat (or juggler, though he does not juggle in the conventional sense). He absolutely considers the job a kind of performance art, even more so than Pavle Ikonic. “The idea of ‘circus’ was the reason I got into sign-spinning,” he says. While studying art and English at City College, an art teacher encouraged Acuna to create a performance-art installation consisting of a visual art piece painted or drawn by Acuna, one meant to be spun, displayed in motion in a manner consistent with the style and content of the rendered work. His instructor suggested he teach these tandem disciplines as well. To date, he has done several copies of works by Picasso, as well as his own conceptions, usually, he tells me, in black and white, pen and ink. I ask him if he is any good as a visual artist in the traditional sense, and he answers, “Yes,” in a way that is immediately convincing. He makes few distinctions as to the validity of sign-spinning and art in terms of satisfying a need to express himself. Most often, he tells me, “I think about the circus while I am spinning a sign.”