||Consider the Humble Marquee...
by sandy feet (www.sandyfeet.com)
I'll admit it: I am a reader... totally addicted to the printed word. Books, magazines, cereal boxes, warning labels and - if the lighting is good enough and circumstances warrant it, fine print and technical manuals, too. And when I am tooling down Padre Blvd., I read marquees. This is not something I set out to do... it is something I cannot seem to stop myself from doing.
Is there any doubt that marquee writing is anything less than a fine art? The space is small and aimed at a moving target, so if those words are going to get read, they must grab hard and fast. Since the letters can be changed and rearranged with a minimum of fuss, the marquee is ideally suited for announcements, special sales, seasonal greetings, etc. If you drive up and down the same road on a regular basis and see a marquee that has not changed in months, you cannot help but wonder why the business owner is not using the sign to its full advantage. This business has no sales or specials? No friends with birthdays? Doesn't this business want me to have happy holidays? A static marquee is a paradox, an enigma... or maybe just an indication that someone is asleep at the wheel -- while an active marquee is the sign of a business that is actively seeking my attention.
I had not really given this marquee thing much thought until a couple of months ago -- when all of the sudden it seemed that any time I drove anywhere, I would invariably find myself humming "God Bless America" under my breath. It didn't take long for me to realize by what means that song was repeatedly being insinuated into my brain. It was the marquees! All those patriotic SPI businesses that posted "God Bless America" right after Sept. 11 were ensuring that the song would never, ever leave my head. It was a major relief for me when most of the GBA marquees were changed within a week or two.
Fact is, we have some truly inspired marquee writers on this island. If I see a sign I really like, I will frequently pull over, dig out the digital camera I usually keep stashed in the car and snap a quick shot. So now I have a growing collection of "great marquees I have seen" photographs. While I am not a big fan of the Biblical quotation marquees, I have discovered that such signs can lead to some interesting juxtapositions. For example, I got a pretty good shot of a guy doing repair work up high on top of a sign that says "He is Risen" -- right after that big Easter storm we had in '00. Another recent favorite was the one posted on Whataburger's marquee just before Thanksgiving - "Opening at 11, Nov. 21." From the right angle, you could get the water tower with the city's logo positioned right next to it. With a little creative cropping, I got a shot that looks like SPI planned to open exactly half an hour after the bridge did.
Tom and Jerry's is another local business that knows how to use their marquee to best advantage, and I always make sure to take a look when I pass by. It is sometimes informative (i.e. when there is a celebrity bartender event coming up), sometimes witty, ("Best buns on the island"), and sometimes just plain inexplicable (what was the thing about the lingerie. anyway?) A few weeks back it said something like "Oh my - can it be true" -- which turned out to be the first published reference to the Garth Brooks concert. That's some good marquee, there.
Still, I think everyone who spends any time on Padre Blvd. will have to agree with me that the best marquee being served up on the island these days is over at Krusty's. That is one sign that never fails to make me smile, and when it went blank for a few days last month, I was seriously bummed. The Krusty's marquee makes good use of color, using big black letters at the top to grab you -- then posting the "kicker" - the rewarding punchline, if you will - beneath in smaller, red text. DO YOU HAVE ISSUES? (in black) SHARE THEM WITH OUR BARTENDER (in red.) The postings are sly, clever and frequently topical, (as in the reference to "whispering winds" when that last cold front blew through) so it looks like this remarkable author just wakes up to inspiration.... very impressive. Kudos to Krustys!
As for those few remaining GBA marquee owners, I wonder if they are aware that "God Bless America" is starting to feel synonymous with "nobody's home" or maybe "we just can't think of what else to put on this empty space." As someone who feels compelled to churn out weekly columns for this fine publication, I can certainly sympathize with other sufferers of "blank page syndrome" but I would respectfully suggest it is time to move on , and for a (nominal) fee I might be willing to offer my services...
Perhaps I could interest you in a slightly over-used but still cheerful "Happy Holidays"...?