People & Places

Best Foot Forward (Or Back) Los Angeles 2008 

Sign at Sunset Foot Clinic

Eels said it best with their song "Sad Foot Sign": "Sad foot sign, why you gotta/taunt me this way/the happy side is broken now/it's gonna be an awful day." Anyone traveling down Sunset Boulevard to or from Echo Park has seen it: the big rotating sign for the Sunset Foot Clinic, one side of which depicts a happy and healthy foot, the other side a foot in biological turmoil. The legend goes that if you see the happy foot first, you're going to have a good day — but if the jacked-up foot is what you see, cancel all your appointments and crawl down into a pit. The clinic's Vanessa tells me that the sign was installed by Dr. Gary Jamison around 1996. Vanessa has been there for more than five years now and doesn't really pay attention to which side of the sign she first sees, she says — apparently the curse does not affect her, protected from its metaphysical duality as only a true pragmatist can be. (Either that or it's part of her health plan.) The fact that both happy and sad foot are wearing shoes is, of course, something that isn't often pointed out, but each is a chilling example of the Droste effect: recursive images that reference themselves ad infinitum, like a little boy making rude faces between two mirrors that stretch into forever. (Other examples: Cracker Jack boxes, the Indian on the Land O'Lakes tub and Stephen Colbert's increasingly recursive mantelpiece self-portraits.) Should you feel an unlucky streak coming on when the sad foot hits you in the face, take heart: There could be happy feet in those shoes of his. You just never know.

—David Cotner

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