The bubbles of Bushwick are majestic. I’ve seen bubbles sailing off rooftops, I’ve seen bubbles swirling around my feet while standing in line for Roberta’s Pizza, and I’ve seen bubbles fly out of the Morgan Avenue subway station. Bubbles everywhere, and everyone seems to love them.
Last Saturday, as I sat watching the bubbles, it occurred to me that making bubbles must be the cheapest and quickest way to make just about anyone happy.
Whereas most things in life demand a certain amount of energy and investment, the bubbles just are. They don’t force a perspective or agenda. There’s no competition, no judgment. And as soon as you look too hard, or try to touch one…
It’s amazing how much joy people get from such a simple, temporary thing.
The man responsible for putting the blue bucket on the street is local artist Alexis Rondeau – also known by the community as Dr. Bubbles. With his bucket of Dawn and a little bit of magic powder, he’s encouraged hundreds of passersby to take a break and make street art. The only thing he asks is that participants give themselves an artist name. (“There’s been Bubble Trouble, DJ. Suds, and Bubblicious,” Rondeau tells me.)
Rondeau is a 30-something inventor / artist, and like many New York City residents he carries multiple business cards. I asked him what gave him the bubble idea and he credited the work of Brian Eno for the inspiration:
“You know how airports spend billions of dollars on architecture, and then they flood the place with the lamest music? Eno was passionate about bringing art to improve those environments. He used this concept of ‘furniture music’ to make art that blended into the atmosphere of the room, rather than to be focused on. Ultimately: art that doesn’t demand your attention, yet improves your experience. I asked myself, ‘What would Brian Eno do?’ and wanted to bring that kind of art to Bushwick. Bubbles seemed like a fun and positive medium to play with.”
On one hand, I believe Rondeau is selling the art form short by saying that his Bushwick bubbles don’t demand any attention. They’re quite enchanting: I’ve seen the huge, 10-foot wide bubbles slow club kids to a whisper, and the smaller bubbles lead both children and adults in energetic pursuit. Yet, I can understand the comparison to Eno’s art; shortly after the bubbles leave the wand they are absorbed into the background, gradually and then all at once. They become part of the landscape. The fenced-off Boar’s Head distribution center never looked so colorful. The Wonton Food Inc. building never so soft. The McKibbin Lofts so serene.
One of the most wonderful things about the bubbles is that they bring people together. Rondeau tells me, “I’ve met almost all my neighbors and some new friends as well.”
“Who’s the last person you met that really stood out to you?” I asked him, and he shared this story:
“Last Saturday we were on the street when a 6-foot tall bearded man on a skateboard came riding by. He was wearing a torn blue dress. And as he passed through the bubbles he graciously shouted to me, ‘Thank you for the bubbles!’ That guy made my night.”
Make bubbles and you are making people happy. And the happiness that comes out if it is disproportionately higher than the effort that goes into it. If you put in 100%, what you get back is 1000% percent.
How to Make Big Bubbles
Since writing this piece, Alexis has relocated to Berlin. Which means the Bushwick sky this summer will be less majestic than in years past. Unless we do something about it! It’s up to you to keep the magic afloat. The recipe is simple:
Ingredients for the Bubble Solution
- 1 Big Plastic Bucket
- 1 Bottle 24 fl oz Blue Dawn Ultra Dish Soap (~$6)
- 1 Tbsp J-Lube Polyethylene Polymer (Buy on Amazon ~$30, lasts for 50+ buckets)
- 3 Gallons of Water
Ingredients for Bubble Wands
Step-by-step your first time making bubbles:
- Cut off a long piece of rope 3x the length of one dowel
- Cut rope into 2 pieces: 1x length of dowel, 2x length of dowel
- If your rope has a nylon core, pull it out inch by inch
- Knot ropes
- Attach knotted edges to dowels
- Soak Bubble Wand Ropes in solution for at least 20 minutes
- Dip the wands in bubble mix
- Cover the world in bubbles!
Tips & Tricks: Bubbles are sensitive so avoid hot sun. Dry air and too much wind will make ‘em pop too quickly, too.
Bushwick is a feeling. Now spread that feeling. Bubble safely!
*Bubble recipe courtesy of Dr. Bubbles himself.