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Gumshoes are on the case
July 15, 2013 7:32 PM   Subscribe

Someone is cleaning up part of the Gum Wall, a 100-foot (ish) stretch of Post Alley (between Pike St. and Union St.) beneath the Seattle's Pike Place Market. (wikipedia) Begun in 1993 around the entrance to the Market Theater, the city's most unhygienic visitor attraction is a brick alley covered on both sides, from toe to a considerable heights, with wads of chewed gum.

TripAdvisor listed it, in 2009, as the second "Germiest" Tourist Attraction on the planet, with the Blarney Stone taking the blue ribbon. It's a marvel to behold, (as well as smell) concrete evidence of an estimated hundreds of thousands of people who trod through an alley while chewing gum, a small percentage of the all the masses who passed through. The Theater cleaned it twice before realizing, in 1999, its bizarre status as an crowd-generated artwork made almost entirely from mandible labor. This may have been due to the existence of a sibling Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, California.

Unfortunately, the beautiful, multicolored gum has lost its flavor for ...an unknown party, either the city or a property owner, as some 40 feet of wall was today powerwashed clean of the chewed chicle. The core of the wall/work remains, and the gum can continue until it encroaches significantly on free passage through the alley.
posted by Sunburnt (54 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good. My high school looked like that and it was nasty.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:40 PM on July 15, 2013


Yeah, there's a line between quirky and gross and that line was crossed some time in the last four years.
posted by Mizu at 7:42 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Clean it with bright, shiny fire.
posted by jquinby at 7:44 PM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, my plans for a Grunge Jurassic Park are over.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:53 PM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Blecch. Those photos make me want to toss salad and scrambled eggs.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:01 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


It looks like they're steam cleaning the gum off and not doing too good a job. They need to put a huge ice cube against the wall so it hardens and then chip it off!
posted by vespabelle at 8:01 PM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Don't like it? Don't look at it. It's not your art. It's... everyone else's, I guess.
posted by blue t-shirt at 8:01 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another reason Chicago is better:

We don't have a disgusting spit, gum, or booger wall.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:03 PM on July 15, 2013


Someone needs to buy the wall and hang it up in a gallery. In Singapore.
posted by Jimbob at 8:06 PM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I once wandered up Post Alley and not realizing where I was going ended up at the gum wall.

It was upsetting.
posted by gc at 8:06 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


And just a week ago I was mourning the loss of the Secret Swing. Proof that Toronto does alleys much, much better than Seattle.
posted by maudlin at 8:11 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is a very gross thing. I sort of hurry by it, as if it might reach out and infect me.
posted by Artw at 8:17 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but you have the Chicago River, which is way bigger.
posted by wotsac at 8:20 PM on July 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


What! This is super sad. I don't understand the distaste. It's interesting and special and deserves to be there.

I guess for me I see the same logic behind any attempt to "clean up' a neighborhood -- "oh, we're 'making it better' by removing these eyesores". The eventual endpoint of this mentality becomes this bland, flavorless urban fabric. The eventual endpoint of the mentality that says "I don't like the gum wall, but by all means, keep it!" would result in a city full of nooks, crannies, interesting secrets, people working on their projects, creative works, posters, etc. etc.

I much prefer the latter over the former.
posted by suedehead at 8:23 PM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


But isn't the eventual endpoint of continuing this "Gum Wall" tradition a Seattle covered in gum? I mean, doesn't Seattle have plenty of non-bland features? There's that Space-Needle thingy, right?
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:26 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just saw bubblegum alley last weekend, and it made me shudder slightly. Mostly because some of the gum inevitably winds up underfoot and sticks ever so slightly to your shoes.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:26 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think they're removing it entirely; I got the impression that they're leaving plenty of gum - just sort of cleaning up where it's spilled over past its traditional bounds. I would be sad if it was entirely gone. But that alley doesn't need to grow or anything.
posted by Mizu at 8:28 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Eeecccchhh, thank god, that thing is nauseating. I have been by it twice and almost barfed both times. How can people stand to be near that??
posted by tristeza at 8:40 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those bastards!!
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:46 PM on July 15, 2013


suedehead: What! This is super sad. I don't understand the distaste. It's interesting and special and deserves to be there.

It still is there -- on the part of wall it's supposed to be on. It was spreading too far, so they're cleaning off the excess. They're not removing the entire thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:47 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: [...] They're not removing the entire thing.
posted by passerby at 8:49 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huh, they have a raw video too.
posted by unliteral at 8:50 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


i used to perform at that theater. wikipedia is correct: there was not a gum wall before 1999 because the pike place market authorities demanded that the theater clean it. the gum would collect from (typically youngish) people waiting in line for the weekend late night improv shows. the market would send letters demading the gum to be cleaned and our staff would have to go out and scrape all the gunk off.

then the letters stopped coming. we asked the market about it and someone said "we're gonna see if it can be an attraction". and the rest is history.
posted by bruceo at 8:56 PM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I for one am actually pretty surprised at the availability of gum-related puns to stick into this post.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:00 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


As crowdsourced art, the gum wall isn't going anywhere - I guarantee you it will return as soon as it's cleared out. I always shuddered at it, but it's enough of a Seattle fixture it'll be back. (It's not really *that* unhygienic - the gum dries out pretty quickly after it's out of your mouth, and most bacteria need moisture to survive, which is why sneezing into handkerchieves and tissues works to reduce the spread of disease. And most people wouldn't actually touch the wall if you paid them.)
posted by gingerest at 9:06 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It may become sentient and escape. I think we need giant robots with flamethrowers stationed at each end of the alley just in case.
posted by Artw at 9:09 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sort of like a giant adenoid or something.
posted by skyscraper at 9:15 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Artw: "It may become sentient and escape. I think we need giant robots with flamethrowers stationed at each end of the alley just in case."

Throw in a rocket punch and some awkwardly, quasi random named super energy weapon that takes too long to charge in a too flashy fashion, and you have yourself a pilot.
posted by Samizdata at 9:15 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Plasma cannon.
posted by Artw at 9:16 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please, Seattle, you need to stop. No more gum wall. It isn't art. It is just gross.
posted by humanfont at 9:18 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


SEE ALSO:

* CONDOM WALL
* THE CIG BUTT CAIRNS
* THE FAMOUS "SPACE" NEEDLES
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:24 PM on July 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


"GRUNGE" DISPOSAL DITCH
posted by Artw at 9:25 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It requres work, but a concerted removal campaign that didn't allow any appreciable build-up would make this disgusting "attraction" vanish.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:30 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


When you're done with the Gum Wall, be sure to check out the renowned Fremont Troll Nose Goblins.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:31 PM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


They need to put a huge ice cube against the wall so it hardens and then chip it off!

Na, just rub peanut butter on it and use a comb.


With the temps at 108 this afternoon, the idea of touring the wall is...unappealing.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:12 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


My experience with losing good men at sea says "be kind" but my experience in airport sales says make the people stuck in gum work in dangerous conditions forever.
posted by passerby at 10:14 PM on July 15, 2013


I kind of like the zenlike aspect that, while there will probably always be a gum wall, there probably won't always be this particular gum wall.

Whoa, now I'm trancing out thinking about things being greater than the sum of their parts.
posted by Sara C. at 10:26 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


How did they clean off their gums? With waterpiks? How hygienic.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:29 PM on July 15, 2013


How did they clean off their gums?

The short answer is they simply didn't and have filthy gums. The long answer is that they became stuck in a wall of gum and now have honest seawork forever. I have a handout that you can load up right in Adobe Acrobat.
posted by passerby at 10:44 PM on July 15, 2013


Sorry I forgot the link: http://get.adobe.com/reader/ >_<
posted by passerby at 10:47 PM on July 15, 2013


I'm pretty sure the SLO gum wall was first. I remember seeing that in '91 and when I moved to Seattle in '98, the gum wall here was new. Like everything else downtown/Pike market, it's something lame brought here from somewhere else that the city tries to pass off as Seattle Quirky Originality. If they could drive the Ducks down Post Alley, they would. The person removing this is probably an *actual artist* from Georgetown or White Center trying to create buzz for their next show.

In summary, Seattle Gum Wall: It used to be way cooler somewhere else. Now get off my lawn.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:55 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


If they could drive the Ducks down Post Alley, they would.

Two horrors - combined!
posted by Artw at 11:01 PM on July 15, 2013


With the temps at 108 this afternoon, the idea of touring the wall is...unappealing.

You're not saying it was 108 today in Seattle, are you?
posted by gingerest at 11:09 PM on July 15, 2013


It sure wasn't 108 up in the U today. Somewhere in the 60s/70s. If it had been 108 I would NOT have been sitting out in Ravenna Park drawing, I would have been hiding in the Sureshot enjoying their AC at full blast.
posted by egypturnash at 11:30 PM on July 15, 2013


Went through Post Alley today by accident and it was full of kids plastering more gum on the wall, moms and dads snapping pics non-stop. Always get scared I'm going to fall against that wall when it's been freshly plastered. When I'm freshly plastered.
posted by artof.mulata at 12:45 AM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


It was about time we had a feisty gum control thread.
posted by dhartung at 1:01 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of my housemates had a classmate who made a movie for a class there. It ended with him breaking the disgusting barrier (even typing it or thinking about it makes me retch).

I met him once. Only immense self control let me not throw up on him.

Gah.
posted by mephron at 2:41 AM on July 16, 2013


If I were king, the penalty for being such a disgusting reprobate as to stick your chewing gum to things instead of just goddamn swallowing it, would be that we put you in stocks in the middle of town for 24 hours, and we'll see how you like it.
posted by rifflesby at 4:38 AM on July 16, 2013


Here's San Luis Obispo's Bubblegum Alley, which was apparently last cleaned up in the 1970s.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:18 AM on July 16, 2013


Cookiebastard and others, while writing this post, I began to picture the distant future of the gum wall, as the gum grows thicker and thick, and the alley becomes more and more narrow until only a sweet-smelling tunnel remains, with the gum dripping down from the ceiling on warm days, and a weirdly flavored rain trickles through the mass of gum through the winter.

I'm okay with the gum wall as it is now, but if it ever gets that bad, we'll have to nuke it from space.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:48 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


This set of senior pictures comes up in the Google Image search for 'Seattle gum wall' - this girl is making some major body contact with it. Blecchhh. Artsy colorful pics are nice, leaning against lots of strangers' gum.. No thanks.
posted by Fig at 10:34 AM on July 16, 2013


though no evidence exists on the internet, if you talk to any resident of Colorado from the 80s and 90s and they can tell you about the gum tree at Elitch Gardens - an amusement park that was bought out by Six Flags in the mid 90s. the gum tree existed at the original location (before the park's big move to downtown in the 90s) next to a log ride called The Splinter.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 11:18 AM on July 16, 2013


We've all gotten a little phobic and squeamish havent we? Ever since aids or bird flu or something. Seems like this wouldnt have seemed so gross about 1980. Its kinda like oversharing. Used to be strangers would freely offer up personal information amongst themselves. Now anything from an unknown source is suspect and icky. Its a trend just like friending on Facebook is way way down.
posted by Colonel Panic at 7:34 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


How does it get to be 40 feet beyond where it should have been?
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 9:32 PM on July 20, 2013


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