Hansen: Zombie boy defines traffic in Laguna

There are some things in life that stare at us in plain sight, yet we do not notice until a child points them out.

In this case, like Edvard Munch's "The Scream," Laguna Beach has zombie boy yelling, "WTH is up with the traffic?!"

If you have not seen it, there is a partially painted mural at 2133 Laguna Canyon Road. It is being created by Laguna College of Art & Design students, but they stopped recently for their summer break and will not return until the fall.

The problem is they left an eerie outline of a boy looking very much like a distressed zombie.

"He looks like he could eat the woman," said Josh Levezow, who makes high-end candles at his Makana Studios, directly across from the mural.

The cannibalistic zombie boy is missing one arm and holding the hand of a girl, his mouth freakishly agape.

After careful research, I have determined that the boy is simply reflecting what he sees: hellish traffic.

We are, after all, hitting our summer traffic nightmare. The tourists have arrived; the trolleys are starting to roll, and the festivals are primed for tour buses.

"The traffic is terrible, especially now that it's summer," Levezow said. "Any time I have to make deliveries downtown I hate it."

It is no secret that the traffic in Laguna has not gotten any better. Laguna Canyon is still Laguna Canyon, which did not improve after the touted but ineffective widening of the El Toro interchange. All that did was create a short-lived passing lane on the right for spirited drivers.

The true spirit of Laguna traffic, however, remains etched in the shell-shocked expression of a not-so-boyish face.

Ironically, the purpose of the mural is to promote a one-word theme, "wonder," which is appropriate for drivers in gridlock, wondering when they will move.

While they are waiting — all summer long — they can share company with zombie boy, staring at them from vacant eyes, his blue shirt showing a digital-like pixelation, as if it's already part of some horror animation film.

"It's like a shadow of what could be," said Levezow, staring at zombie boy and shaking his head.

We stare at the image some more, waiting for it to move or scream or somehow come to life.

To be fair, the mural's caretaker, LCAD teacher and artist Mia Tavonatti, clearly did not plan for a ghoulish image. It was unintended but that's what makes good irony.

"It's a collaboration with the community and local artists to create a monumental work of art to remind them about [what] the vision for their community is," she said in an earlier Coastline Pilot story.

Now, however, it's impolite to talk about eyes and vision.

Levezow and I are still staring at zombie boy.

"It seems like they could have corralled the students and had them stay for a couple weeks longer to finish," he said.

Yes, that would have seemed reasonable. But then there would not be karma.

Laguna traffic would not have a mascot.

Tourists would have nothing to talk about when they are stuck in traffic, bewildered by the horror.

Now, they have zombie boy — one more inexplicable character in the only city that is Laguna Beach.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

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