High-Profile Sculpture Replacement

When Sacramento's Downtown Plaza underwent a radical facelift in 1995, all of Sacramento watched. K street had stagnated...again, but a two-story outdoor mall with over 100 retail outlets was waiting to revitalize the look and feel of downtown. It did. One new display was a "Terrace Café" sign on the 2nd floor welcoming hungry mall-goers to such mall staples as Sbarro, Jasper's Giant hamburgers and Hot Dog on a Stick. The terrace café sign had wrought iron lettering and three icons at the bottom: a strawberry, a croissant and a coffee cup. Within 6 months, the gold strawberry was gone. I suspect that some drunk from the mall super-tavern America Live stole it late one night.
The missing icon went unrepaired for months. Three bolts stuck two inches out of the wall, ready to hold a new gold sculpture...a great gold sculpture. Over the summer I had learned how to carve blue Styrofoam, a tiny-celled cousin of white Styrofoam, great for sculptures and display. I had been working on County displays for the California State Fair with Richard Bay, a Professor at CSU Sacramento. I decided to replace the strawberry...with a golden turkey!
I quickly carved a new icon at home, primed and painted it gold. The next day after work, I folded a piece of cardboard in half and covered the turkey for its trip to the mall! In broad daylight I squished the foam bird onto the awaiting bolts. There were a few people in the mall, but they were ignoring me. I backed off 30 feet or so and took a picture.

I knew that no one was in charge of upkeep on this sign, or they would have fixed it months ago...if my turkey could last two days, it would stay forever. I left for a week to New York City.

It stayed.

I returned triumphantly. I told everyone I knew about it. I would get status reports at the café I worked at on a daily basis.

"Hey Rob! Your turkey is still up!" Kara would say. I would just nod knowingly.

It stayed up for eight months, but eventually it disappeared. I doubt mall management had anything to do with it but perhaps word got back to them that they a joke had been played on them. When I learned it was gone, I knew I had to replace it, but I didn't have access to any more blue Styrofoam.

Eventually I got my hands on a good-sized slab, through Richard Bay, and carved out a new icon.

The golden banana went up September 22nd, 1997 and it is still there. Once again I struck in broad daylight. As you can see, my carving abilities improved, but the color match is not any closer. I actually used the same can of bronze spray paint for both the turkey and the banana.
My original plan was to make the banana unmistakably phallic, but I chickened out in the planning stages. Working for hours on a sculpture that was taken down immediately would have been very disappointing, and I didn't want to risk it. In retrospect it is not nearly as nonsensical as the turkey. Perhaps I will replace it someday.


As of October 12, 1998, the Banana was gone! Unknown circumstances surround the disappearance, but I have struck again! The end was near for the banana, anyone could tell by looking at it's pitiful crippled crust.
That day, I found it was simply missing, so I called into action the stand-by lump of blue styrofoam I had squirrelled away for just such an occasion. I used a jigsaw for the rough cuts and an Xacto blade for the finer modelling.

After some sanding, I painted the fish with a red primer coat and then sprayed it with a new can of gold spray paint.

I waited until just after the new year and struck, once again, in broad daylight.

How long will the fish last? I have no idea. I hope it lasts at least a couple of months, because I am all out of blue Styrofoam.


I learned on Friday, February 19, 1999, the Gold fish is missing, and the bad news is, it has been replaced by an official new sculpture. The reign of sculpture-terror is over. Someone is paying attention. For two and a half years, my fine work was displayed, luring hungry mall-ites and state workers to the Terrace Café.
"Turkey?" the first one asked.
"Banana?" the next one beckoned.
"Stinky Fish?" the third one called.
Alas, someone at the mall finally took action. The fish caught their collective eye. Someone was being pro-active. Someone wanted to "think different". Someone was "taking it to the next level". Someone ruined my evil plans! 

Here is the lame-o new sculpture, a freaking strawberry. Oh boy, A strawberry. Like that is really going to make me hungry. I think I'll go check out Radio Shack...at Arden Fair Mall.

New picture

A friendly surfer from Seattle, SunLily, sent me the image I thought I would never see again, the ORIGINAL strawberry. She found it in a commercial design book. Isn't that great? Ask Jeeves what the odds of that are!

October 1999

New Banana appears!

At my Welcome Back/Cinco de Octoberfest party, On October 8, 1999, Kizzy told me that the Coffee cup at downtown plaza was missing! I went the next day to confirm it, and got this great picture:

I picked out a great design for the next golden icon, before I could get more blue styrofoam, I missed my chance! Last night, I was getting in line for a sneak preview of Fight Club at Downtown Plaza and I spot some guy carrying a gold banana. He isn't wearing a uniform or anything, he is blond, and I think he even had his kid with him. So I ask him, "What's that?!" and he says, "it's a banana". I can see where he is going with it, but I wanted to get in line and not draw too much attention to myself. Sure enough, when I get out of the theatre, a funny-looking banana is hanging on MY SPOT! I am in shock! Was it the original designer? Another renegade artist? I can't believe it! Who was that guy!?

I went back this morning and took another picture. 

February 2000

Icon Juggling, and the Quest for Foam

Sometime in December I was back at the mall and saw that the new banana was gone. I didn't want to miss my opportunity again, so I set the wheels in motion to get my hands on more foam. Unfortunately, I was stymied for weeks, but eventually got some from my sister Sue in Oakland.

On February 3rd, I was interviewed by Amy at the Sacramento News and Review regarding my website. The SN&R is a free weekly paper that is very popular in town, and I knew that I had to act before Amy's article hit the stands. The mall trickery was not going to benefit from my new local fame. I began carving the new icon, an old-style whiskey bottle. 

I regret to inform you of the latest development. On Sunday afternoon, I saw my opportunity slip away once again: The cup has been replaced.

Has this saga come to an end? I am not sure. Obviously someone is paying better attention to the icons than they were 3 years ago. It is probably time to move on..to move up. Opportunity is everywhere; the zoo, parks, light-rail stations. Maybe I'll try my hand at brick-laying.

I'll keep my eyes open, watching and waiting, because this big jug of whiskey needs a home.

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    | Last updated February 7, 2000