When I first arrived in Los Angeles it seemed to me that neon was everywhere. Somehow you feel safe walking at night when there’s neon around, glowing above your head. I’m not sure that you are, but it feels that way.
One Sunday afternoon, in those early LA days, I even visited the Museum of Neon Art which at that point was in a bleak stretch of downtown, on a block where I was the only walker. The museum closed down not long thereafter.
I tend to think of neon signs being especially used by bars, restaurants and motels, and maybe the auto trade, but the image below shows there was a time when it could be used for just about anything.
Anyway, I settled down in L.A., and then I stopped noticing the neon. Did it go into decline, or did I just become immured to it? Both, I think. But lately I seem to see an increasing amount of neon.
And now the Museum of Neon Art has reopend in shiny new premises in Glendale (so not really LA, if we’re being pedantic). I’d been meaning to go for a while but finally got there at the weekend.
It wasn’t so very long since I last went to Glendale but boy, it’s changed. Even a few years back much of Brand Boulevard was a reasonable approximation of a classic main street:
But now it’s rapidly turning into one giant corporate mall. Arguably this could be said to have made the place more “pedestrian-friendly,” though personally I found it about as friendly as a pit full of komodo dragons. The fact that the temperature in Glendale is generally five to ten degrees F hotter than Los Angeles is no great encouragement to walkers either.
Well the Museum of Neon Art is great, which is to say that the neon exhibits there are great: classic, nostalgic, witty, well-crafted, smart, optimistic. Here are a few of them:
Of course I wanted more, and there is room for the exhibition space to expand, but I wanted much, much more, I wanted to be able to walk among thousands of exhibits arranged over hundreds of acres. Of course I wanted too much, but it was the museum that put the idea into my head.
I also came out of there with an urge for a drink and some economy meat, although that may not have been entirely because of the neon.
In fact there’s a newish, hipsterish bar that’s opened in my neighbourhood, The Know Where, well within walking distance. I’d probably have gone there in any case, but it was definitely that neon sign that first drew me in.