Thank You For Honking

by journojames on January 11, 2012

Originally published Aug. 29, 2010

He’s part messenger. He’s part showman. And he’s all about the car horn.

Sharp Messenger of Love, Photo by JournoJames

Stephen Sharp, 62, a claim training instructor for Farmers Insurance during the working week, has two simple messages for the people of Los Angeles: “celebrate peace” and “spread love.” His messages are boldly written on a large homemade sign made out of aluminum, cardboard and bound with tape. When he takes his old, beat-up sign out into the L.A. streets, he only wants one thing: a simple honk of a car horn in support of his messages.

Every Friday evening at 5 PM at the bustling intersection where Sunset, Hollywood, Hillhurst, and Virgil Streets converge, this family man puts on his gloves and takes over the sidewalk on the northeast corner near the Vista Theater. This becomes his workspace. For the next two hours, he performs like a great musical conductor, attempting to create a symphony from the horns of cars he hopes to hear.

“Somebody! C’mon, baby! Yeah, you!” Sharp enthusiastically exclaims. His chatter is non-stop and high speed. He targets and points to a silver Toyota sedan making a turn onto Hillhurst, about to pass him. “Yeah, you! C’mon, baby!” he continues, encouraging the driver. The driver finally honks. “Yeah! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” shouts Sharp, genuinely giddy. The joy he gets from this one interaction can be clearly seen on his face. This is how he gets his high.

Many honk. Many don’t. There are short beeps. There are long beeps. Sometimes he gets the peace sign. Sometimes he gets a different kind of hand sign.

Sharp accepts, endures, and celebrates all the different sounds, looks and reactions the people of L.A. give him for those two hours. “I’m extremely positive. I’m looking at this like I’m a tiny spot in the fabric of the universe and I’m just trying to shine some light,” he explains with a smile. He then quickly turns his attention back to the streets and begins to serenade the drivers with a rendition of “Hello, Dolly” as he wipes the sweat from his brow. It’s an exhausting workout. He continuously chats, hoots and hollers with drivers while moving like a prizefighter as he changes his focus from one side of traffic to the other.

Sign of Love, Photo by JournoJames

This “light” he shines started eight years ago. He volunteered at a booth for a grassroots movement called “Neighbors for Peace and Justice” at the Sunset Junction Street Fair in 2002. The organization was started a year earlier by a group of women who became fearful of where America was headed shortly after the 9/11 attacks. “We started having meetings every week,” recalled Sharp. “Then, we decided to gather here with our signs to raise awareness and protest, in an attempt to forestall the invasion of Iraq. We had a hundred people strong at this intersection eight years ago. Six months later, after the invasion started, the numbers started to dwindle; it turned to 50, then 20, then 12.” He explained that the group then splintered. He said that some moved to Echo Park and others went to the Valley. Sharp, however, is the last man who stands at the spot where it all started. His focus shifted from the war in Iraq to the simple message of peace as he became the sole survivor. How long he will continue is unclear.

“I don’t consider myself an activist, per se,” insists Sharp. “People are still in Iraq. People are still in Afghanistan. People are still fighting in Africa. And I’m a man of habit.”

Sharp’s dedication to his unique one-man crusade to share the universal messages of love and peace is admirable, but, what is more inspiring is his willingness to reach out and share himself with strangers so that he can become a part of a community in his own special way.

“There are some wonderful things I’ve seen out here,” said Sharp. “I wish that I could have a video log of the entire street when I’m here because there’s always four or five precious moments, like people blowing you kisses and shouting out they love you, or children turning and looking back at you, half a block down, and still waving. That’s what’s great. It’s the connection.”

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