Looking for a sign? Rollingwood quarantine project springs into citywide effort to 'bring some positivity into our lives'
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Late at night on April 23, under the cover of darkness, John and Marilee Eitel drove around Rollingwood on their golf cart, planting signs in their neighbors' yards.
They featured song lyrics from Willie Nelson ("I just can't wait to get back on the road again"), The Little Mermaid ("I want to be where the people are"), Talking Heads ("Home is where I want I want to be") and Bob Marley ("Everything's going to be alright"). One version included advice from Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey ("Just keep livin'").
"The next morning it was super fun to wake up and see the Instagram posts and Facebook messages and NextDoor messages with people saying, 'Have you seen the really cool signs?'" John said. "It started to get even more interesting because people are like, 'Look, there's more of them.' 'I found them over here.' It became kind of an Easter egg hunt, and no one knew who did it."
Rollingwood residents responded to John and Marilee's signs on social media. (John and Marilee Eitel)
John got the idea to make the signs a few weeks into the coronavirus quarantine, during which he got into the habit of walking along a four-mile loop in Rollingwood. "My wife and I started to see that as our outlet to the outside world and our chance to socialize and see neighbors," he said.
One night, on a whim, John broached the idea of making signs. He works for Canva, a company that makes graphic design software, and—after drumming up about a dozen different sign ideas—reached out to a coworker, who printed 50 and shipped them to the Eitels.
Since the signs made their debut, John has revealed his identity—and is now fielding requests from neighbors near and far. John placed a second order for 50 signs and then a third for 100 more. "It's been neat to see them popping up in lots of new neighborhoods," he said, citing appearances in Clarksville, Tarrytown and even on someone's boat dock.
(John and Marilee Eitel)
A Google form used to corral orders revealed crowd favorites, such as the Beatles' lyric, "All you need is love." John said he's enjoying the crowdsourcing nature of the project and making connections with Austin residents he might not have met otherwise, especially at a moment when our worlds feel smaller than usual.
On Wednesday, John is expecting his fourth shipment, which will bring the total number of signs to 400. When they arrive, he and his family will help prep the deliveries, with Marilee delineating orders with Post-It Notes and their children driving them to their new homes.
"I hope that my kids come away from this with a really positive memory," John said. "How we were able to make a small impact on people's lives and bring some positivity into our lives."
Longtime Austinite Carlos Garza has recently toggled between the local rental and housing markets. He sold his Southwest Austin home last October, after living there for around a decade. Within two days of listing the property, it had received multiple offers; he ended up accepting an offer slightly above asking price within the week. "We were very pleased with the process," he told Austonia.
Since selling, Garza has rented an apartment while he decides what he'd like in his next home. Although it was a bit of sticker shock compared to what he paid to rent 10 years ago, he knows that rent is "relatively low" compared to recent years.
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Citing a 77% decline in new COVID cases nationally since early January, Dr. Martin Makary, a surgical oncologist and professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, expects COVID-19 "will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life."
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