What’s the story behind Berkeley’s inspirational Post-its?

Postette: "Did you know how amazing it is simply to be alive right now?" Photo: Emilie Raguso

“Did you know how amazing it is simply to be alive right now?” Photo: Emilie Raguso

Listen up, readers, right off the bat we need to issue a disclaimer: We don’t know the full answer to the question posed in the headline. But we’re hopeful that, by putting out what we do know, perhaps more will come in from the community about the mysterious local resident whose notes inspire, entertain and have been known on many occasions to brighten people’s days. 

Earlier this year, we had a question from reader Karen Stevenson asking if we could find out who was responsible for hanging “Post-it’s with sweet and thought-provoking little messages on street crossing buttons in Berkeley. I’m told they are all over the 49 bus route and on the bus itself.”

"Look for me. —Beauty." Photo: Karen Stevenson

Look for me. —Beauty. Photo: Karen Stevenson

Stevenson continued: “I first noticed them some months ago outside Star Market on Claremont. One I particularly liked read ‘Look for me — Beauty.’ I thought someone at Star made them, but I was told they don’t know who does it.”

As we are wont to do, we posted a question on our Facebook page asking if anyone knew the story behind the Post-its.

One reader said she had seen them along Dwight Way in Berkeley attached to poles and elsewhere.

Chimed in Suzanne Yada: “I saw one that said ‘Embrace me.’ —Change.”

Another reader, Jessica Kuo, said she thought it might be the work of Ariel Bierbaum, a Cal PhD student in the Department of City and Regional Planning.

"Let me go." —The Past.

Let me go. —The Past. Photo: Ariel Bierbaum

Bierbaum has a blog on Tumblr called Bus Stop Angel where she has, in the past, often posted photographs of the Post-its at bus stops around town.

We reached out to determine if she was responsible for the notes.

“While I WISH I was the sticky-note angel, alas, I am not,” wrote Bierbaum. “I titled my tumblr ‘Bus Stop Angel‘ because these sticky notes have brought me such joy waiting for the bus, and inspired me in my urban travels such that I feel like he/she is my little guardian angel. (A bit cheesy, yes, but….)”

Bierbaum posted her first Post-it capture last October. It read “I am the enemy of regret. —forgiveness.” Other notes included “Let me go. —Inhibitions“; “I am a state of mind. —Happiness“; and “I won’t come over night. —Success.”

Others also reported finding joy in the little notes. Reader John Mee said he and his friends “began collecting these whenever we saw them over the summer. They were usually on bus stops along College Avenue.”

Post-it collection. Photo: John Mee

Post-it collection. Photo: John Mee

One day after our original post on Facebook, reader Niall Kirrane chimed in with the answer, at least in part: “You can follow his work on @Postette on Instagram/Twitter/Tumblr.” (For what it’s worth, Postette is also on Facebook.)

We tried to write Postette several times on Tumblr to see if we could learn more about the person behind the phenomenon, to no avail.

We gleaned from Postette’s social media pages that he or she began posting the little notes around town, or at least began documenting the efforts online, in June 2012, with a note on a crosswalk sign in Thousand Oaks. Beneath the words “Push Button,” which were printed on the walk signal, Postette attached an orange note that said “And win!”

"Where the Hell are you?! —The love of your life"

“Where the Hell are you?! —The love of your life”

The next note found its home on a parking meter: “You may be free. But parking isn’t.” Parking meters, of the credit card-receiving variety, became home to a range of other notes.

Also posted online that day was a passionate question, on a pink Post-it no less, that read: “Where the hell are you?! —The love of your life.” The note garnered several responses, on what also appeared to be written on Post-it notes: “I’m lost for you to find,” wrote one person, who seems — by our admittedly inexpert handwriting analysis — to have added a second note as well: “I’ve been here your whole life. You’re my beloved.”

Tacked beneath those three notes, on a blue or green Post-it, another community member added, “Nick ‘likes’ your comment,” in a nod to Facebook’s popular approval feature.

The rest, as they say, is history. Since then, Postette has racked up nearly 100 documented Post-it bombs, and built up a following of more than 1,600 on Instagram.

We had hoped at some point to hear back from Postette to learn more, but at a certain point could no longer wait to share Postette’s work with those who had wondered about the sweet, funny signs around town. (One possible clue to Postette’s identity is the sign-off “Nicky” on several Post-its, but some degree of ambiguity remains.)

This story has, sorry to say, been on our “Ask Berkeleyside” list for some months, bumped as it was by more pressing news stories — despite frequent helpful reminders and photos from reader Stevenson, who kept up her documentation with patience and grace — so we decided to check in on Postette’s activity while preparing this little discourse.

It’s no exaggeration to report that, upon visiting Postette’s Tumblr blog and seeing that the most recent item was from eight months ago, in March, there was a decided sinking feeling.

What happened to Postette? Had he or she moved? Or just moved on? Perhaps a student who had graduated?

The same post, from March 15, was also the most recent item on Facebook. On Twitter, as well. The prognosis appeared grim. Particularly due to the nature of the last item posted: “I have the blues. —The sky,” it said, in bubble letters.

In a last ditch effort to find out more, we tried Instagram and found — miracle of miracles — six new posts from Postette. One was from April, but the others were from September and October of this year. And several of them included the tag “Berkeley,” indicating that one of our favorite neighborhood inspirations remains alive and well, and still active around town.

So how ’bout it, Postette? Will you get in touch and tell us more? We’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, scroll down for just a few of our favorites from Postette’s extensive archives. Follow Postette on Instagram for more.

"Come find me. —Adventure." Photo: Postette

“Come find me. —Adventure.” Photo: Postette

"I ruin everything. —Expectations." Photo: Postette

“I ruin everything. —Expectations.” Photo: Postette

Wall of Post-its. Photo: Postette

Wall of Post-its. Photo: Postette

"I will come. —Peace." Photo: Postette

“I will come. —Peace.” Photo: Postette

"Braiiinnsss. —Zombie." Photo: Postette

“Braiiinnsss!! —Zombie.” Photo: Postette

New directions in Post-its. Photo: Postette

New directions in Post-its. Photo: Postette

Related:
What’s happening with the Gilman Street Interchange? (02.22.13)
Has it gotten harder to be homeless in Berkeley? (01.02.13)
New waste bin pick-up plans: Impossible in Berkeley? (11.30.12)
What’s the rationale behind Berkeley walk signal sounds? (11.26.12)
Election email overload: What gives? (11.08.12)
Why do some absentee voters get free postage? (11.06.12)
Do police enforce parking rules on skinny hill streets? (10.29.12)
On walk signal, are two buttons better than one? (10.18.12.)

If something around town has you mystified, write to Berkeleyside at tips@berkeleyside.com (subject line: “Ask Berkeleyside”) and we’ll do our best to track down an answer.

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  • serkes

    I read this with a goofy smile on my face.

    I’m still smiling!

    Thank you!

  • COPLANFAMILY

    I hate it when OTHERS take them down for their own pleasure ELIMINATING the possibility that MANY OTHERS would benefit from reading them, too. Self-centered bastards, I tell you . . .

  • Chris

    Wonderful!

  • Guest

    Slow news week, huh?

  • lincoln

    I’m assuming that if the instagram posts ended in May and reoccurred again in Sept.. it is a college student who went home for the summer and then came back for fall term

  • Batman

    I’m actually kind of glad you weren’t able to uncover his / her identity. There’s something magical in the mystery of it. You couldn’t imagine them coming from a guardian angel if you know the person responsible. Thanks Postette, keep up the good work.

  • 3l3y

    Me and two of my friends did the exact same thing at our school the same year Without knowing about this. Hm.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Tracey Taylor

    That’s right, guest. Because as you can see we’ve had no other news on the site this week :)

  • Godot

    it was Estragon… did it..

  • oceanview neighbor

    Hey, what’s up with you, can’t stand a story that is uplifting? I’m very curious why you would even bother commenting on a news like this.

  • Fran Haselsteiner

    One morning, we find this on our windshield (the only one on the block): “Life is too short to be grumpy. Lighten up.” We were utterly baffled by this–the equivalent of some passive-aggressive stranger on BART telling me to “smile.” Which, by the way, is a sure-fire way to ruin my day. It was especially weird because here’s my husband with stage-four cancer trying to stay alive. We didn’t think it was any of our neighbors (but we wondered). Was this a welcome message? No, it was not.

  • Kirsty Maurits

    If there was ever a time I needed to be uplifted by a post-it, it would be while I was on or waiting for the 51B.

  • Local Yokel

    Niall Kirrane = Nickey ? possibly?

  • Allison Landa

    I found one that said: “I don’t happen overnight. – Success.” I had it up in my car until the sticky ran out and the Post-It disappeared forever.

  • Guest

    Who cares who is writing these, lets just enjoy them. We don’t need to KNOW everything all the time.

  • Elmwood_Neighbor

    Several have been left on my car window. One morning I happened to be looking out the window as it happened…

  • tanya grove

    So you saw the person who left the note??

  • tanya grove

    I love this story for so many reasons. I wonder if it will inspire copycatter postettes…

  • Elmwood_Neighbor

    I did.

  • Catalyst

    I think the notes are part of the 1Love Gratitude Graffiti project.
    http://www.bobmarley1love.org/1love-gratitude-graffiti-project-2

  • emraguso