If you’ve spent any time in Pinecrest, it’s hard not to notice Alan Pasternak. The 75-year old loves to stand outside in traffic and play with bubbles. That is, of course, if the weather is nice and his wife lets him out of the house.
For twenty years, Alan has had more than just a passing fascination with bubbles. It all started when he was in Seattle many years ago and his wife insisted on buying a similar device for her grandkids. As Alan recounts, “I probably ended up getting more joy from that purchase than the kids.”
Shortly after returning from Seattle, Alan decided to make his own improved bubble wand and share his bubble-making joy with young and old alike. “I watch people’s faces when they see and chase after my bubbles. It’s a wonderful feeling.” Given Alan’s prior 40-year career as an IRS employee, I’m glad he’s found his passion.
In 1995, while still working with the Internal Revenue Service, he took his creation to the Beaux Arts Festival and sold a ‘whole bunch’ just by making bubbles near the gate. He recalls, “I was so excited, I came home thinking I could quit my job and just make bubble wands.” But, after trying to sell his creations at a few more fairs proved less fruitful, he realized, “Some places are just more fun and conducive to what I do, I guess.”
The fun and personal connections Pasternak made with his bubbles blowing was just too intoxicating. By 1999, Pasternak had refined his wand design and retired from his IRS career. Now, he could head outside to the park or to a venue and blow bubbles any day of the week.
Pasternak quickly became a fixture at Evelyn Greer Park, IHOP and the Suniland Shopping Center. At each place, he just set his bucket on the ground, dropped his wand into the soap and effortlessly painted long bubblescapes into his happy world.
Today, Pasternak continues to demonstrate and sell his handmade $7 Magic Bubble Wand, a device of PVC and fabric that makes bubbles and smiles fast and easy. As for product quality? “They’re guaranteed for life,” Pasternak says with a grin, “...that’s my lifetime!”
If he’s not outside selling his wands, he’s reading a book, playing bridge or making more wands. “I do them in batches. I cut the PVC, cut the acetate gimp, cut the PVC slide and then sit down to assemble. When concentrating, I can make 30 an hour.”
Known as the Bubbleman, after talking with Pasternak for a while you realize he more like the Bubba Gump of Bubbles. If it’s bubbles or bubble-related, he’s a fan. Exactly what makes the best soap mix? Alan says P&G soaps only. Perfect length of fabric wand? He’s got it down cold. “It needs to make the right size bubbles, not tangle easily and be short enough that kids don’t have it drag on the ground when they use it.” Alan has perfected his device over the years and it is clear that without this pastime, his life (and ours) would be a lot less fulfilling.
He’s a student of human interaction and gentle in his demeanor. “Sometimes a car goes by and a bubble bursts on their windshield. They get mad and ask me to leave. I just smile and oblige. I want to make them happy and I’ll come back to the same spot again later. No problem.”
When Alan sees someone unhappy, he’s the first to see what he can do. He really thrives on the joy, not the $7. And although he’s not raking it in, selling 1500 wands a year is a pretty good accomplishment.
If you want to support Pasternak’s passion, he sells on eBay and at his website. Of course, the best place to buy is direct from the man himself at a street corner in Pinecrest near you.