BUBBLEGUM ALLEY: A Gooey Germaphobes Nightmare

733.5 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

The infamous Bubblegum Alley--which should never be called anything else, because it's exactly that-- has been dividing the great city of San Louis Obispo for decades. 

While some consider it a wonderful tourist attraction, giving an upscale town something to uniquely hang their cap on, others have argued it's a disgusting eyesore which sticks (no pun intended) out amongst the quaint shops and restaurants of the area.

I obviously fall into the "preserve this forever and please replicate in every town!" camp, but also understand how those with little/no sense of humor could be bugged out by this sticky piece of outsider art. The reality is: you're trapped in a narrow alleyway with walls covered in used chewing gum. That's right, USED gum; gum no different from the stuff you step in on the street and curse at, gum no different than the shit you stuck underneath your desk in grade school, gum like this. But don't fret- I assure you it isn't as gross and terrible as one might think.

Just look at this beauty! Thousands upon thousands of stringy, gooey, colorful and (at one point) tasty gum goblets strewn about. The walls are basically covered in their entirety, and any spot that remains unscathed will certainly be patched up in no time.

It's both hypnotic and a little revolting, but all the colors blend to make something warm and wonderful. It's like admiring the sky on a clear night, but instead of seeing millions of flashy stars, you see used chewing gum.

Michaelangelo had the Sistine Chapel and SLO has bubblegum alley.

And even the weak-willed can handle this if you follow two simple rules: don't touch it and don't chew it. The weather has hardened everything, so the gum has lost its gross factor and falls into "looks almost like harmless paint splotches" territory. Trust me, this is a good thing.

Also, the alley doesn't smell at all, which is a huge plus in my book. You'd guess that the scorching temperatures of the Central valley would toast the place into an oozing pile of bug-infested goo, but all seems well on a normal day.

And the alley itself goes back pretty far, giving eager artists a fairly large canvas to harness their skills on. Therefore, I encourage folks to bring their own pack, chew hard and be part of the fun. I've done it several times over the years, and still consider it to be the crowning achievement in my short-lived DIY art career.

And kudos to the alley's loyal neighbors. The store next door supplies contraband (gum) while the pub supposedly gets the place steam cleaned each month. You're both doing the lord's work



There are varying accounts regarding the origin of bubblegum alley. Some belive the tradition of sticking gum on the wall started after WWII as a SLO High School class event, while others say it started in the 1950s as some type of "who's dick is bigger" rivalry between the high school and nearby Cal Poly. 

Either way, by the 1970s the alley was indeed filled with gum, which led to the controversies you still see today. However, like gum itself, bubblegum alley is resilient and has already survived two attempts to fully clean the place out. She now holds the title as one of SLO's "special attractions" and has been immortalized by artists, television shows and "Weird Al" Yankovic. Win!