The Pranksters Behind ‘I like Eureka’: An Exclusive Interview with the Westside Sanguine Society
Like many great ideas, this one started in a bar. Determined to preserve anonymity, the creators of the “I like Eureka” stickers won’t name which bar lest it provide too great a clue, but they did divulge some other details during a recent interview. In addition to the genial campaign’s origin story, they shared how they’ve funneled the stickers into the world, expanded on the recent kerfuffle over Neighborhood Watch’s co-opting of their design, cited particular aspects of Eureka most liked and provided a sliver of background.
Let’s start there.
They (we shall refer to the Westside Sanguine Society as a single plurality) arrived in our Victorian Seaport about a decade ago after living all over the United States: the Midwest, East Coast, South, Northeast… They quickly found Eureka to be “the most livable area we’ve ever lived in.” Sure, the city has its problems, some of which are unique to the county – call it the “Humboldt factor – but mostly, any city has the same issues. And, as they pointed out, most cities lack Eureka’s charm and rapidly improving trail system.
Fondness for Eureka firmly rooted, our protagonists were dismayed when the rise of social media resulted in disproportionate bashing of their adopted city. From Craigslist “rants and raves” to comments on Lost Coast Outpost to various Facebook pages, “We were tired of seeing negative messages,” they said. Especially insulting criticism was of their neighborhood. “People would say things like, ‘I wouldn’t let my kids walk there,’ this constant barrage about ‘tweakers’… and ignoring all the good.
So about three years ago, they decided to change the conversation. “It started out as an understated, tongue-in-cheek pirate project,” they said. The prankster element permeated from the beginning. “We wanted to have fun and to give fun.” Part of that stems from being anonymous, they explained. “We’re kind of nobodies,” they said. “We’re not hiding because we have something to hide – there’s a lot of fun in the not knowing.”
At first, members of the Society placed stickers in public locations (including on the gate at the Samoa Beach parking lot, where yours truly first delighted upon one), but concerned about angering people – or being accused of committing acts of vandalism – they returned to social media as a tool to spread the good word. Anyone who “gave a good voice to Eureka” or otherwise said something nice about the city would receive stickers via the postal service, as long as an address could be found. To date, the Westside Sanguine Society has distributed about 2,000 stickers.
They’ve been surprised by the momentum. “We see different people on Facebook and Instagram… businesses and individuals” rocking “I like Eureka.” There’s a hashtag. And, as noted in a recent North Coast Journal story, the stickers even adorn police cars these days.
Which brings us to the current impetus for the Society speaking out: Consternation over the co-opting of their “I like Eureka” design by Eureka’s Neighborhood Watch Group. Initially, the groups were working, if not in tandem, at least not in opposition. In fact, the Society had been thrilled – “tickled pink” – when stickers and buttons bearing the phrase popped up at a Neighborhood Watch Block Party. Those featured a green-and-white design by local graphic guy Joel Mielke and were, as reported in the NCJ, based on a 1970s-era logo.
And all throughout this interview, the members of the Westside Sanguine Society emphasized, “We were happy they bought into the slogan!” and “We have no axe to grind.”
Still, once the Neighborhood Watch Group jettisoned the Mielke design and started selling merchandise bearing an exact imitation of the Society’s, the resulting disappointment – and sense of ownership – eventually spurred the Sanguists into action.
“We agonized for a while,” they said. “The letter that went out was the third or fourth draft… We didn’t want to sound too angry.”
They’d hoped for a response via social media from the Neighborhood Watch Group, but so far, nothing. (Neither has my phone call nor ones from the North Coast Journal been returned.) They also offered a suggestion for resolution: Neighborhood Watch could hold a contest for a new logo, then utilize that logo on merchandise while giving away the other as promotional items. All the Sanguists ask is for Neighborhood Watch to change the font and color – “It would be a classy move.”
Despite the controversy, enthusiasm for the city remains high. When asked what exactly they most liked about Eureka, the Sanguists didn’t hesitate.
“The waterfront is fantastic!”
“It’s so bikeable! There’s nowhere in town we can’t ride bikes to in 20 minutes!” (Note: The “I bike Eureka” stickers? That’s them, too.)
“All the outdoor activities!”
“It’s a little bit like an island, a little bit separate.”
“It’s a good life!”
But what about the problems? As noted at the beginning of the conversation, Eureka – like most cities – has some. Sure, they admitted, homelessness is an enormous issue and one with no easy answer. They see community outreach, studying what’s worked elsewhere and involving local homeless people in the process as critical steps in finding a solution. “It’s a big concern, but it’s a big concern in other communities as well,” they said.
And they like Eureka more than ever, thanks to the support and reception the stickers have received. The Society plans to continue sending “I like Eureka” out into the world as long as demand exists. For free. “It’s my birthday present to myself,” one of the Sanguists explained when asked about the costs associated with production and mailing. They were equally cagey about upcoming projects but hinted there may be more to come. “We’ve got some ideas,” they laughed.
In the meantime, a kind word about Eureka on social media – and an easily accessible address – might result in your very own stickers arriving the old-fashioned way.