I’d read my fellow Golden Dreams writer Matt Lickona’s funny July 3rd account of the “Before I die I want to…” chalkboard outside The Alibi bar, in Uptown at University and Richmond.
I happened by it myself, a few weeks later. Started scanning the day’s new dreams, and some of the funny old ones. “Have my husband get along with my boyfriend.” “See Whirled Peas.” “Finally catch my tail!” “See Yellowstone (be Faithful).”
Then I spot these three kids, each scrawling something in spaces on the filled-up board. “Meet Misha Collins,” writes one guy. James.
“Uh, Misha…?” I say.
James looks at me like you’d look at someone who says he hasn’t heard of Donald Trump. “He’s just the most famous angel in the world. Castiel? Supernatural?”
James is 18, studying movie-making at Grossmont. Wants to be a director.
A younger guy has just written “Love myself.” Kendall, 15. Or was it the “Be accepted?” Or “Be happy w/myself?”
“‘Love myself,’” says Kendall. You can see he’s a bright, sensitive, 15-year-old kid. He wants to be a librarian. Hangs out with James and Kai, who’s just finishing something in purple chalk. “I’m into DBT,” she says.
“Dialectical Behavior Therapy,” she says. She’s 18. “It’s a cognitive behavioral treatment. I want to be a therapist.”
“So what did you write on the board?”
“I wrote ‘See him face deeper consequences.’ I was sexually attacked by this guy. He never paid the price.”
“It always fills up, every day,” says Billy the barman inside The Alibi. “We wipe it off, every morning. Make room for more thoughts.”
“It’s like sharing, or getting something off your chest without having to confront people,” says this gal Jan.
“A guy who was a British DJ here had the idea five years ago,” says Billy. “He said he picked it up in the UK.”
Five years sounds about right, because that’s when a lot of people were picking up on it. An artist named Candy Chang had the original thought of setting up a “Before I Die…” chalkboard on the wall of an abandoned house in her hometown of New Orleans. And by 2013 the idea had rocketed around the world. “Before I Die…” walls sprouted in 62 countries in 26 languages, an incredible testament to the hunger to share. Speaking to a TED audience, Chang quotes some of her favorites, like “Before I die, I want to be tried for piracy.” “Before I die, I want to straddle the International Dateline.” “Before I die, I want to hold her one more time.”
But as I leave the Alibi, I’m thinking of Kai’s purple-chalk cri de coeur: “I want to see him face deeper consequences.”