David Wilcox
Forty thousand people a day.
Suburban car commuters.
They only see through the windshields of their cars.

David Wilcox
sat on a sleeping bag, stuffed in a surplus duffel bag, on a blue plastic crate, leaning against a street light pole on the corner of Villa La Jolla and La Jolla Village Drive. He saw me approaching and reached over his left shoulder, to push the walk button for me, as he and his sign were completely blocking public access to it.

Thanks. How’s it going? (He nods.) Good?
DW: Could you stand over there? (Motions to the grass on his left.) Your in the...
IS: Oh! sorry about that. I was kind of defeating the whole purpose of that. Do you repaint the same sign everyday? (He nods) Yea? Do you have certain things you know you want to put on there; or, do you usually make them up in the morning?
DW: I got a new sign I just thought about. What do you think of this sign? “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO CAN CUT THROUGH THE BULL.”
IS: That’s a good one.
DW: I try to think of a new one each day. Something to do with having a face, not being deceived, the neighbourhood watch, give in to us and just say no. There’s only one way you keep kids off drugs. You teach them to not fool them-selves. Make that a centre piece in their life. That’s the only way to know the lord. That’s the only way to have a sense of honour, to not be deceived. Its the only way to trust. Its the only path to safety.
IS: I agree with you. I think sometimes the way people try and teach kids to not be on drugs, or teach people about the lord, is to fool them in the first place.
DW: Trust is never just told. The lord that is worshiped, he wants us to not be fooled. He wants us to help the weak be strong. Its a very important concept, not being deceived first unto yourself. If the weak can grow strong from the leaf and not the root and if they can be told to not read then they are not going to understand the word. They are not going to have the flowering which is to understand it. I mean they can open a phone book and there’s 10,000 Jesus’s there. It doesn’t mean that’s the right book although there may be a lot of people just telling them that.
IS: That’s a good point. (He looks out at the sea of approaching cars.)

DW: They only see through the windshield of their cars, and television sets. (He takes me over to a grass area, behind where he sits, to show off the next days sign.)
IS: “THE WOLF ALSO ANSWERS YOUR CHILD-REN’S DOOR.” Wait this one... (I go back to read the one he has up.) “WHY DOES THE WOLF HERALD YOUR TRUMPETS?” So, you have the wolf theme going.
DW: Yea. Yea. I got another one I’m gonna put up next week that says, “MUTTON OR WOOL?”
IS: That’s good. I like those.
DW: Yea well, its good doing this. Its been ninety corners like this. In every town, a lot of my signs are about bullies.It wasn’t the police that kicked the doors in at the begin-ning of Nazi Germany. It was kids in black and brown shirts. (Hitler’s notorious SA storm troopers known commonly at the time as, “Brown Shirts.” ) They called them youth clubs then too.
IS: Yea. Yep, You’re right.
DW: For eight years I been on the road with this, six of those years I watched the neighbourhood watch vigilante. Funny how they change the wording around. Wife beating...domestic abuse. Drug use, alcoholism... substance abuse. Neighbor-hood watch... vigilante.
IS: Yea, I’ve been by a couple of days and seen your signs. I think they are interesting. Definitely.
DW: Forty thousand people a day drive by and see my signs.
IS: How do you know how many people go by?
DW: Cause I been on ninety corners. I’ve talked to a lot of city people and they’ll say, “Do you know how many people come by this corner?” and, they tell me. The corners got to be part of a commute. A place where they come by everyday. Then I earn their eye. Grab that blue book there. (Motions to a vinyl binder.) Kick back for a second.
IS: O.K.
DW: That’s a scrap book of the last ninety towns I been to.
IS: Oh, wow. (The scrap book contains photos of him at various intersections, newspaper articles about him and business cards from several police officers and a sheriff. Several of the newspaper articles are xeroxed into mul-tiple copies.)
DW: That’s gonna be Friday’s sign. (Points to the picture from a poorly xeroxed article.)
DW: I had that one up two days in a row. I added a little thing underneath it that said, “VIGILANTES NEVER APOLOGISE.” It wouldn’t work if I asked. (Gestures to another picture.) “SEE WITH YOUR EARS.” That means don’t be just told. Its a very important concept. If they allow a wolf to guard their neighbourhoods, the wolf goes, “Here comes one of their friends... ‘Its a drug addict’. Here comes a saviour, ‘He’s a thief in the night.’” They are supposed to keep thieves away. “‘Don’t listen to those trumpets!’ Here comes someone that wants em to answer their own doors, ‘He must be a child molester, a burglar.’” Take a look. (Gestures out over the sea of oncoming cars.) Look at their eyes.
IS: They’re all reading.
DW: They’re trying. Its an important responsibility. Its the only free speech allowed in this world. It can not be edited. I been arrested seventeen times for doing it but that just tells me I’m doing a good job.
IS: What grounds did they give for arresting you?
DW: Well I didn’t have the scrap book at the time. (The book legitimates his action. David knows this and calls the book, rather sarcastically his, “I.D. card.” For some reason, society has determined that the documentation of one’s own apparently irrational behaviour is a sign of rational thought. Existence of the scrap book places his action in one of any acceptable, yet artificially constructed, realms. Two categories that readily apply would be “art” or “religious mission/aestheticism.” Unfortunately, not everyone that participates in seemingly irrational, yet harmless, behaviour knows the value of having an, “I.D. card.” These are the people we lock away in a place called the “Nut House.”) Two days after I got here someone called the police and said I was running around in traffic with a gun.
IS: What!?
DW: Yea. Bullies never apologise. I am here to make people question their neighbourhood watch. Read this here. (He gestures to a clipped article in the scrap book about a speech he was invited to give at the Rotary Club. I start laughing.) Yea, I gave them a nice interesting speech.
IS: At the Rotary Club!?
DW: A lot of people came. They had seen my signs for a couple of months in the Anaheim Hills and that area of Yorba Linda. There was a great many people interested in me talking about neighbourhood watch and how they should not allow something that calls itself good to be so unquestioned. Something that guards their neighbourhood and kids. They shouldn’t find it so easy to ignore how much evil is behind the bad boys because in every town now they guard every neighbourhood. They give kids cloths they can’t see themselves in. They give kids a place to hide. Man, they don’t understand that the biggest red flag should go up when someone says the words, “NO FEAR.” The gates of hell don’t know fear.
IS: How long do you usually stay in one place? As long as necessary?
DW: Forty, fifty signs. Its a book on how to trust. Its a book on honour. It can not be taught at this school, (motions up the hill towards the University of California San Diego) or at any school. I put up signs about never trusting loyalty to a bully. You can’t put that in a book. Even this. (He indicates the scrap book,) It only keeps me from getting arrested. There are a million more corners like this.
IS: So you’ve probably been to quite a few cities.
DW: All over Southern California. Forty places in Orange County. This is a very car oriented area. I have shown my signs to three million people.
IS: They’re really well done... The signs.
DW: They’re for people that can’t read. The lettering has to be neat so they go, “That’s purdy har har har.” There is a new batch of bad boys for my signs to play with in each town.
IS: Do a lot of people come up and talk to you?
DW: For the first couple weeks they’re pretty scared of me, but after that, yea. I’ve talked to a least forty or fifty kids. It may be as simple as asking me what its about. I have to ask them if they can read; and, I’ll say don’t let anybody tell you not to read because they will always lie to you. Someone will drive up next to me and ask me, “What’s that sign mean?” Vrooom. (With his hands, David indicates a car stopping quickly then immediately speeding away.) A purple vet just a minute ago, “I don’t get it.” Vrooom. (Pretends to shout after a vanishing purple vet.) It means I want you to grow up big and strong. (We laugh at his joke.) So you see, the ones that can’t read, they don’t ask what does that sign say. They ask what it means. At least their curiosity is started. I feel sad that the evil one will slide up next to that type of person and tell them anything that they “need” to be “just told”. I had two little fourteen year old girls come to me day before yesterday, “We worship the devil nah nah nah nah naanaa.” So I said, “What? You want to hurt people?” They said no. One of them had a peace symbol on her neck, “You want peace in our life-times?” She said yes. “Do you want to do your worst to people who try their best?” They said no. I told them, “Oh! then I worship the devil too.” They stayed and talked with me. One of them told me that her father can’t keep his hands off her. My advice to her, in general, was stay close to the kind of people that don’t want you to be weak. Sex will only be good with people who want you to be strong and you not wanting anything less from them; and, that her father is a sick person he’s not a person to be ignored. Stay with people that remind you he is a criminal, and should probably be in jail, and is probably trying to make other people weak besides you. She must of listened to me because she ran home and brought back her two little sisters who are being molested too.
IS: Oh my God.
DW: They were just being told by their older sister to listen to me. Its funny, I’m here trying to help people learn that they can’t get anywhere by being “just told” to do something, or by just listening to someone. Well, those younger girls were on the corner just waving to all the bad boys driving by. There is a job to be done just to be able to answer questions to kids that aren’t being raised. Those are the kind that the bad boys grab hold of. I’m Irish. I’ll jump in the little guys fight every time. Bullies are wrong you know. Giving in to bullies. that’s something you don’t do. You don’t do it for yourself, you don’t do it for the little ones who are under their wing. By giving in to bullies you put them little ones under the wing of danger. Others who are standing up to the bully, It doesn’t help them. All those to come, it puts them in an increasing amount of danger. To give in to a bully is one of the worst transgressions you can do for your fellow man and of coarse that has to do with the Lord. Its not even cowardice, truly, to give in to a bully. To trust loyalty to a bully. It is a total lack of insight. It is out of a selfish interest for your own safety but its not safe. Give a bully enough rope and you hang first. Its just a total lack of insight. You know that don’t you?
IS: Yea. I Know that.

DW: Well the cold war is over, cold won. There is a lot of focus on the neighbourhood watch. Every neighbourhood is guarded by the vigilante. It gives kids a place to hide. “We gotta keep kids off drugs. Just say no.” Yea, well don’t say yes to, “just say no,” if it makes you fool yourself. They are giving kids a way to fool themselves by saying that, “just say no,” is going to keep them off drugs. See this sign over here. (Points to a sign, readable when approaching him from behind.)
DW: Yea. That’s a tribute to my mother. She said some-thing very wise to me when I was young. She said, “My son, do I need to tell you everything!? Take care of things for yourself!” (He sweeps his hand in the direction of cars, waiting for the light change, across the intersection.) They only see through the windshields of their cars... and when looking at their tv screens. It’s true.
IS: It is true. That’s when they are really paying attention.
DW: They are not going to read a book. There’s no book I could write. Even that is not important as far as the people I’m trying to reach are concerned.
IS: Yea. They wouldn’t read it.
DW: One sentence they can think about. A very simple sentence. I had a giant, “ENCOURAGE,” sign the other day. Giant letters. I’d look pretty scary if I was out here discouraging everybody wouldn’t I. I give everybody a real good look at how much evil is guarding their neighbourhoods then I go on to the next town. Can’t do anything more for them. Well, if you run across any house paint I could use some flat white exterior. It has to be flat white, no off-whites. Any other color tends to blend in to the background.
IS: O.K. well, I’ll look at my house and see what I got.
DW: Yea. I’m gonna be here another couple weeks at least.
IS: O.K. Thanks. Take it easy.

(David Wilcox studied graphic arts at San Diego State University.)