Neon signs are fading from American streets. As parts of a neon go dark, owners are increasing letting them go until only the painted backdrop is left. Americans also want "authentic" cuisine and shun the pretend exotic Chinese dishes grandma and grandpa enjoyed. Are these the last days for this neon sign?
Hong Kong Neon Signs
Just as I've been lamenting the demise of the Balboa Theater and the loss of another neon sign, I snapped a photo at a Chinese restaurant of a neon sign. Somehow it would seem that Chinese characters would be difficult to render in neon, but somehow it renders well. The fluidity of the brush doesn't seem to be lost. Perhaps the master craftsman shaping the fluid quality of the hot neon glass has a kindred spirit with the calligrapher.
Although neon signs may be getting scare in this country, they still seem to be thriving in Hong Kong and another Asian cities where commercial streets are still filled with neon signs - each one a veritable Broadway of lights.
The Clay Theater at 2261 Fillmore Street still has its neon sign shining. It's almost impossible for me to think of a movie theater without thinking of neon sign above a marquee and lighted sign that announces the current offerings. Built in 1910, it seems to threaten to close every few years. I hope not as it certainly perks up Fillmore Street with it presence. Walking distance from Pine Street, I hope it stays open for a long time more.
San Francisco Chinatown is not what it seems. Its ersatz exotica is built over a layer of beaux arts style buildings from the post 1906 earthquake era. Look up above the tacked on pagoda eaves and you will see classic western detailing.
The Buddha Lounge at 901 Grant Avenue has one of my favorite neon signs, its red neon beckoning for a drink and a transcendent experience on a dark lonely night. They say enlightenment can be found all around you even in a cup of tea. I first learned about Zen Buddhism from reading D. T. Suzuki, the author most credited with bringing zen philosophy and practice to the US. He might agree that indeed enlightenment could be found here in the neon sign -- or perhaps Dean Moriarty would be inside seeking enlightenment in a shot of whiskey. After all, City Lights Books is just a stones throw away.