Photos by Brian Addison.
“The bubbles spread happiness, you know… They have a brain of their own, a personality of their own and people see and feel that,” Victoria Renyafarje said, standing on the Pine Avenue Pier as she dipped her pair of giant sticks tied together with circles of mini-ropes into a bucket of soapy water.
Then, gently lifting the handmade contraption, she masterfully moves them through the air. Victoria calls this “aligning the brains,” because according to her philosophy, bubbles have brains that can read her like we read one another.
“I can’t be out here when I’m sad,” she said. “The bubbles are my employees and if I come to the office not wanting to work, they don’t want to work either. Sometimes, the bubbles are the boss… No, no, the bubbles are always the boss.”
Victoria is The Bubble Lady, known throughout DTLB by locals and visitors alike as someone that brings enjoyment out of the simplest of things while also turning it into an art form. Victoria’s creations—images in and of themselves—create new images of Shoreline Village and the Pike, as bubbles float into an environment they were never intended to be in.
The Peruvian native has created a ritual for her art—a ritual that as spiritual as it is simple: when the morning comes where she decides to invade Shoreline Village with her elastic, shapeshifting creations, Victoria first creates her liquid formula. Soap, water, and love are combined as she creates test bubbles in her backyard before packing up, checking the weather, and heading to DTLB.
Upon arrival on the shore, she prays.
“I ask God to put me in a good mood because my mood affects everything,” she said, shortly before crossing her facade in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
After that, she leaves it to the power she respects—that of God and the bubbles. Wind affects everything: too much and she is unable to create even little bubbles let alone the biggies she obsesses over; too little wind and the same lack of bubbles deflates moods and hopes.
But should the wind—and of course, the bubbles—be of choice standards, wondrous creations flow out of Victoria’s contraptions.
“The big ones are the best,” she said, “but today, the wind… It doesn’t like us at the moment but I remember every big bubble because it it was mine. I created it. And you can never forget your creations.”
Neither do her onlookers: children and adults alike stop and stand, almost catatonically, staring in wonder at the ephemeral bubble passing by. Adults become so enraptured, they pay Victoria in dollars while children, if they haven’t spent their precious quarters, drop whatever change they have to honor the magic of bubbles. Weekdays, she can score upwards of $50 and on busy weekends? Hundreds of dollars.
“I don’t do it for the money,” Victoria said. “That’s an extra benefit but I don’t do it for the money; I do it to make myself happy, to make people happy.”
Make no mistake, Long Beach: The Bubble Lady doesn’t just make us happy—she outright understands life better than we could have imagined.