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Everyone Becomes a Local on MONA's Neon Cruise

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Monday, June 16, 2008, at 03:53PM
the megaphone Ed Fuentes

BULL FROM HORN: Eric Lynxwiler takes neon fans on a tour of L.A.'s lights. The popular tour begins and ends in Downtown Los Angeles.

For those who want to call themselves an Angeleno, it should be mandatory that they take the Museum of Neon Art's Neon Cruise.

It's an appreciation tour of the city that uses neon lights as way-finders. While ducking tree branches, Eric Lynxwiler peppers the trip with a local perspective of the city's architecture and history. He's stationed top, front and center in an early 1960's open-topped London double decker bus -- the kind usually reserved for tourists -- wearing a blinking tie and changing shirts to suit the neighborhood.

Lynxwiler's face is often covered by a bullhorn as he offers fearless narration and back story on the city's electric landscape and its art deco details. The urban anthropologist and Arts District resident also goes off-script and improvises conversation with the Saturday night street life of Downtown, Skid Row, Chinatown, Hollywood, and Fairfax neighborhoods.

As the tour passed by the Fed's Downtown Metropolitan Detention Center, Lynxwiler shouted hellos to incarnated residents, who then shouted right back with a few satirical words of their own.

It could have been a tough crowd on the bus as well. Many riders scored points for knowing about the Neon Cruise and the Musuem of Neon Art, a testament of an actual affection for L.A. Saturday's huddled masses included LA Observed's Kevin Roderick, a silent partner in the tour. Also riding were Kim Cooper and Richard Schave of Estouric and the recent Art Walk "Hippodrome" Shuttle. They arrived just after their own afternoon operated tour. Also joining was Sha in LA's Shannon could very well archive every joke from her close friend Lynxwiler.

With natural and naughty wit, Lynxwiler gripped his passengers with the same attention some of us held our coffee, mixing fact with satire as he pointed out the neon lights from a previous L.A. "You have to see the happy blue Buddha . . . it’s fabulous!" he said before the first break in Chinatown.

Lynxwiler's now notorious presentation was as expected, but something unforeseen for me was the reaction of people on the street. On Ord street, a Chinatown resident was on the phone and looked through the curtain of her small second story apartment window to see a bus-load of people a few feet away; she laughed and waved. Latino homeboys-with-tats drove cars with Lakers flags and honked their horns as a welcome. On Sunset Blvd, female night clubbers wearing baby doll dresses and high heels took our picture and smiled, while in West Hollywood male night clubbers in even higher heels posed so we could take their picture.

They thought we were out of town tourists, and thanks to Eric's ability to find new tidbits of information on a roadtrip that he’s been leading for nine years, even the most experienced neon fan learned something new.

After a pastry pick break at Canter's Deli, the bus headed toward the final stretch, in-between the Wilshire Boulevard art deco canyons and back toward Downtown. Richard wrapped his coated arm around Kim to ward off the cold and she placed her head on his shoulder.

For some of us, watching the light pass by with a host who knows the town, you felt more affection for the things you already felt close to.

PREVIOUSLY: Diving Into the Neon Buzz of Downtown

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