But What I Really Want pg126

Colorful companion to my memoir The Incompetent Psychic

Boneyard of Las Vegas Signs 2020


Come spring the interest-rate skyrocket crisis shut down all new construction and upgrades. A lot of people were laid off, me included. After some months of searching, I was hired as a designer for Ad Art — one of the big-three sign companies that helped make the city as visually loud as it was. Signage was another industry for which there were few regulations. But budgeting was now a criteria, so I learned to design within stricter parameters.

Elderly gents who had designed the look of the city during the golden years taught me to create renderings to scale with patience and humor. They made me feel welcome in their room full of tilted tables, illustration boards, blueprints, scale rulers and electric pencil sharpeners. — From Chapter 6

The vagaries of fate and an inability to commit resulted in many moves and employers throughout my 20s. Although this job lasted all of six months, it gave me a foundation for a much more practical way to support myself than simply painting pretty pictures and hoping for income. Someone somewhere always needs a sign.

There are no surviving images of my work at Ad Art. I was a 20-something neophyte female in a room of 50–60 year old men, which meant I was told to create a sign for, say, apartments in Boulder City instead of the spectacular Glitter Gulch marquee. Yesterday I noticed this void in my archives and searched the history of Ad Art Sign Company. Lo and behold, there is now a museum in Las Vegas dedicated to what once were the trash heaps of retired neon displays that littered the desert behind the big sign companies. Wandering through the Ad Art boneyard of huge metal letters and burned-out bulbs during breaks from rendering sign proposals was fascinating and educational. And wow… some brilliant entrepreneur built a themed museum from this spectacular garbage.

I was supposed to shovel more snow off my driveway yesterday, but I fired up the pellet stove and drew the The Neon Boneyard Park instead… mostly to see if I could still whip out a sign rendering, sketched freehand in colored pencil without a ruler or Photoshop. This skill is now as pertinent as manuscript illumination or communicating in semaphore, which means I belong in the boneyard. I had no plan to ever go back to Las Vegas, but this is now a bucket-list museum.

A signed copy of Mernie’s memoir is available at www.etsy.com/listing/839838936

Unsigned copies can be ordered wherever books are sold.