Monday, May 14, 2012

Mexican Restaurant Menu Star Trek

This posting begins a long series of digital transcriptions of work I did for a Mexican restaurant in 1979-1980. The name of the restaurant was "Paco's Tacos" and it occupied an underground space close to Harvard  Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The restaurant was founded by a family who had lived in Mexico and who thought that Mexican street food would be popular in Cambridge. 

I ate there so many times that I decided I might as well apply to work there, which I did in the latter half of 1979. It quickly became apparent that I was no good as an assembly cook making tacos and burritos, so they assigned me the front counter where I was responsible for taking orders and payments. There was a menu chalkboard there with some colored chalks, and soon I was artistically decorating the board every day that I worked there. I used all sorts of fanciful and popular themes, often suggested by my friends or the customers at the restaurant. After all, I was still a full time artist, attempting to become a commercial illustrator. I had done sign work at other restaurants before this one.

The boss family loved my work and after a while they suggested that I put my menu designs on poster board with markers. They even paid for me to get a couple of sets of advertising layout markers to do the work, thus initiating my lifelong obsession with MORE MARKERS. In those days the markers (still available as "AD Markers") were fueled with xylene and exuded an, uh, intoxicating fragrance, which in an unventilated room could cause dizziness. I experienced this on some occasions.

This is one of the first boards I did for Paco's Tacos. "Star Trek" was a natural choice in the atmosphere of Harvard Square. The Enterprise is in the upper left, and a Romulan (?) Warbird is at the lower right. The menu features a "Chalupa." I was always asked, "What's a chalupa?" It's a kind of Mexican mini-pizza, with cheese and salsa laid out on a tortilla and baked until it melts together. It was messy but good.

If this tale of food and markers sounds familiar, it certainly is, because this is more or less what I do at Trader Joe's now, but on a much larger scale and with only Trader Joe's copyright material.

"Star Trek Lunch Special" is markers on white poster board, 21" x 13", winter 1979.

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