In 2001, Delfin Vigil was walking the streets of San Francisco and ran across the name “Nikko” carved into the concrete sidewalk. After seeing Nikko once, Delfin began to see the name everywhere. One block after another, there he was again and again: Nikko. The carvings numbered in the hundreds seemed to go back decades, and Delfin Vigil became obsessed with finding San Francisco’s mysterious “concrete commando.”
Vigil’s story about the hunt for Nikko is beautifully written and illustrated (by Paul Madonna) in his self-published chapbook available at The Rumpus. It’s outstanding. You can read the whole story there online, but if I were you, I’d order a hard copy to hold in your hands or give as a gift. That’s how I roll. I’m old school.
The original, audio version of this story was produced by my future employer Stephanie Foo for the smokin’ hot, new public radio program Snap Judgment. You may remember Stephanie from 99% Episode #9 about the POPOS. She rocks.
I inconveniently listened to this episode after visiting San Francisco. Wish I had done so before so I could have been on the look out for Nikko carvings. Albeit I did notice a stencil of a girl holding balloons on a curb. It was a rather impressive eight inch stencil with the little girl in black and white, and several balloons in magenta, green, blue, and yellow in her hands. I am a distance runner and when I visit a new place I enjoy mapping it out on foot. The first time I saw it, I only gave it a thought for a moment, but when I saw it again I began to pay attention. It showed six or seven times while I was there for three days. I distinctly remember one along the Great Highway as it goes by the west end of Golden Gate Park. They may have been done in the past two years. The colors are still vibrant and I did some perusing of Street View from 2011 and couldn’t find one. I wish I had seen one while I had a camera. It is a little message of sorts. Positive in color and childish in nature.
Thank you. Very well constructed and executed. I live in Berkeley, but have worked in SF for years (and lived years ago), and on lunch time walks started noticing – everywhere in the main zone. Today is 1/2/2022, and while walking around today with my kid, in the main zone, I had him looking. ‘Compulsive’ is hard to make out now – saw that this morning on Mason. Found a simple one today: Nikko ’74. I recall ‘Artist in Concrete.’ Up around 469 Filbert (telegraph hill) nice to see today a very clear and deep NIKKO a few inches from the building. Anyway, came home and listened to this excellent story. I also recall a nice one where he inverted the second K. On our next tromp around the area, I will visit ‘I found NIKKO’.