Unspun

Rather than scrap the Crazy Eights sign, Gerry O'Birne decided to adapt it to advertise his new Irish bar. "I like neon," he says. Besides, he adds, "it's a major piece of advertising for the next 20 years."

Economics drove his decision to save the three-story neon sign outside his bar. Removing the sign and replacing it with a non-neon version of the same size would have cost $70,000, O'Birne says. To rehab the neon sign was, in comparison, cheap -- an estimated $12,000 to $15,000, maintenance included.

By luck, the name of his new bar -- Kate O'Briens -- fit nicely into the old Crazy Eights sign. A "Kate"-bedecked shamrock slipped nicely into the circles the eight balls had once occupied. "O'Briens" neatly replaced the "Crazy" along the curved, ribbon section of the main face.

O'Birne has only one regret. He had hoped to save the old Crazy Eights neon letters and install them in his upstairs lounge. However, on the day the sign was being dismantled he went off on an errand. By the time he returned, the last glass tubes were being tossed into a bin. He flings an imaginary glass tube into a metal dumpster, the glass shattering to imaginary bits.

Neon's like that. Ephemeral.

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