ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Gary King climbs onto a milk crate and hammers a small colorful sign onto a tree along Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg.
“This is number 81!” King says with a smile.
The sign says “HAPPINESS.”
It is a simple message 74-year-old King believes is helping him heal from a lifetime of struggling with PTSD.
“This is great therapy,” King says.
King travels the world speaking about positive thought. He also wrote a book, “The Happiness Formula: The Ultimate Life Makeover.”
But it’s his aluminum and Fiberglass signs that made him a local hero.
“You’re the sign guy!” a jogger says with a smile as King puts up a sign by the waterfront in Vinoy Park.
“Yep, I’m the Happiness Guy!” King replies.
King has had a turbulent life. He suffered emotional abuse as a child. His son took his own life, sending King into an emotional tailspin.
“Everything you take in creates an emotion,” King says. “The whole idea is to create emotions that make you healthy physically and healthy emotionally.”
King wanted to try his own self-therapy. He embarked on an experiment using the science of subliminal messaging, coupled with inspiration from a “HAPPINESS” sign he had in his own home.
That is how “The Happiness Guy” and his 81 signs across St. Pete were born in November 2019.
“Just a word can change the way people feel,” King says.
For the first time in a long time, “the Happiness Guy” is truly happy.
Little kids approach him about the project and restaurants requested his signs.
So far no one asked King to remove his work. Maybe that is because we can all use some joy in our lives these days.