Thursday, December 31, 2009


#365, Chelsea, NYC

In the summer of 2006, while on a two-week holiday in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, I came up with an idea for a project. I've always been into projects -- it's why writing a novel will always be more satisfying to me than short stories -- because life's too damn vast without them and sometimes you just need some creative structure to keep you occupied from day to day. It was on my first day exploring the streets of Prague that I began to notice an assortment of beautiful and peculiar numbers on the buildings, walls, and streets of Mala Strana. I took a photograph of one, and then found another, and very quickly the idea came to me: I would try to photograph numbers 1-99 throughout the three cities I visited. I had no clear plan of what to do with the photos once I took them. That would come later. For now, I had a project -- an urban scavenger hunt -- and I hit the ground running.

The numbers cooled off for some time. (Yes, I got them all.) Then in the fall of 2007, I had an installation of my photographs at the Fall Café in Brooklyn: eleven panels of nine numbers each, stretched across one wall in a display of symmetry that made my order-craving heart unspeakably happy. After six weeks and many excited friends offering compliments, I took the photos down and propped them up against the wall in the hallway of my apartment where they remain to this day. That project was done, but there was only one problem. I kept paying attention to numbers. I saw cool numbers everywhere: in architecture, on apartments, painted on peeling walls. They wouldn't let me alone. So I kept collecting them. Again, I didn't know what to do with them. I was just a collector like any other. I gathered them because it gave me pleasure to do so.

Ampersand Seven -- the next stage of the project -- came about because I didn't just want to look at numbers. I wanted to write about them. I wanted to share them. Each number had a story, and the more places I visited, the more stories I gathered. Writing a novel is very rewarding, but mostly it's a lonely slog through the fields. You toil for months, then years without any feedback (I don't share my fiction till it's "ready," which usually means that I horde it). I was hungry to share some of my writing. I was tired of feeling like a mad scientist. ("What's Therese doing there behind her laptop?" "Oh, she says she's writing a novel." "A novel! How interesting! Does she ever share any of it?" "No, she just sits there looking concerned for hours and then begins cackling maniacally. Then she leaves after a few hours, comes back the next day, and does the same thing.") I was, in short, kind of losing my mind. A blog, with its freeform layout and chance for opening dialogue with readers, seemed like the perfect antidote.

On January 1st, 2009, I posted a photograph of a tiny #1 from Prague -- the city where the number collecting madness began. The next day, I posted a handsome Italian #2. And I kept posting. One picture a day. Every day. In sequential order, all the way up to the end. Sometimes with commentary, other times with none. Some days I geeked out on typography and others I rattled on about the pleasure of wandering in alleys or vision quests in Tucson . There were sad-luck dames and soul burgers in Memphis and poetry-writing security guards in Dublin. I had wonderful readers who shared their thoughts, either about the image or about the story that went along with it. Every day I looked forward to posting a new number and seeing what thoughts or reactions it prompted in my readers. Some days the comments were quiet and others we rattled on about David Lynch or waffles or fish or fonts. And today, after a fruitful year and many, many numbers, the "365 Numbers in 365 Days" experiment comes to its quiet conclusion.

It wouldn't be properly concluded if I didn't emphasize what enormous satisfaction I have gained from the feedback of my readers. Y'all have been what makes &7 what it is. Clicking on the comments was far more fun than I ever imagined it could be, and over time, I realized that the dialogue here has been what sustained me through the days when the number-a-day demands threatened to feel at all difficult or tiresome. It never really did get tiresome at all, thanks to you. I've found friends and other bloggers whose sites have become daily or weekly pit stops for me, and I will continue to make those pit stops. Thank you for making this so much fun.

As for what's next for Ampersand Seven, I can tell you this: yes, the number line is ending for this year, but the blog will most definitely go on. I'm going to take a much-needed break from the grueling pace, so it may be quiet here for awhile as I try to enjoy a little aftermath and let the dust settle. I'll be taking January off, but I plan to be back shortly thereafter with all the curious pictures, bursts of snark, and digressions you've come to know so well. In the meantime, I hope you will feel free to let me know what you've enjoyed or if there's anything you'd like to see in the new year. Thank you to everyone for the kind words and the inspiration, and I hope you'll continue to stop by to see what's new. And if you're pining for your daily number fix -- sorry, addicts -- the Random Number Generator on the sidebar is there to help tide you over.

Obsessively yours,


Radge said...

One of the only things about this hoor of a year that I'll miss. G'luck, Therese, see you (hopefully) in February.

GreensboroDailyPhoto said...

Do let us know when you start back up with a blog or if you are within a two hour drive of Greensboro playing with your band. Also, let us know when you get that book in print (perhaps you can send GDP an advanced copy to review).

I have this sneaky suspicion that you are headed off on Jimmy Sturr's 35th Anniversary Carribean Cruise this January. May we all ring in the new year polka style! Moya droga ya chie kokham (or something like that)! Here's to a great 2010!

Patrick said...

I've been dreading today to some degree. I couldn't shake the phrase, "your days are numbered," from the front of my thoughts. It's been a trip, in several senses of the word. Thank you. See you next year.

Jackie said...

I just got chills reading this. Congratulations on finishing this astounding project! I've loved checking in here each morning-- a cozy way to start my day with the words of a friend-- and-- of course-- an elegant or elusive or gaudy or strange(and the adjectives go on) number. I can't wait to see what comes next. Love & CHEERS!

Pierre said...

TAA DAA!! You did it. Congrats and all that. I've thoroughly enjoyed this project. Thanks much for your numbered creative insights. Happy New Year. I'll check back in February.

Therese Cox said...

Radge - Here's to a heck of a year next year. It's been great having a bit of Radgery over here to keep my morale up. There will be more to come, I promise.

GDP - Absolutely. With any luck, there will be plenty of polka-ing and publishing to celebrate in the new year.

Patrick - Aw heck, I knew there was something dread-inducing in that title. But thank you for following along. See you soon.

Jackie - Cheers, g-friend. And thanks for keeping me entertained with your musings and stories, too.

Pierre - Thanks for following along! As one of the first to stumble on &7, I hope you know you have a special place in the pantheon of followers. See you in February and keep drawing.

A very happy new year to you all.

Y'all rock.

Julie said...

May I add my belated appreciation to that of the others, Therese. Once I discovered you, I was addicted, sometimes reading 15-20 posts a day plus all the comments in my mad scramble to catch up before you reached 365. My mind was boggled from day one!

I thank you for your wit, your style, your knowledge and the joy with which you swirled it all around into a numbered post.

I will check in here regularly to see what you are up to.

It has been an adventure. May I wish you giddy good health as you journey into 2010. said...

January 1.
No numbers. :(
We knew it was coming, but it's still kinda sad.
Thanks for taking us on this great journey.
Enjoy the month (or two!).
We can't wait to see where you'll take us on the next trip.
Happy New Year!

Jim & Mitch

Therese Cox said...

Julie - I'm so glad you enjoyed the mad scramble. It's going to be fun to go back and revisit the numbers with your commentary. Thanks for reading and I hope to cook up something just as adventurous for this new year.

Jim & Mitch - Yeah, after two days now of no numbers, the realization is just sinking in for me, too. But it's great to know that you looked forward to the numbers each day. Hope you have a happy new year. See you after the winter sabbatical!

Adam H said...

Love this project. I wish I had stumbled onto your site one year earlier so I could have counted along. On the other hand, I hear 2010 has 365 days... I'll read #1, 2 & 3 today and count up with #4 tomorrow.

Adam (see my other comment on #364).

Adam said...

Congratulations on finishing the project. It was a fascinating and addictive place to visit each day. I'm glad you'll be keeping the blog running as you always have something interesting to say.

Hope 2010 is a good year for you - and your novel!

Ray Gunn said...

Congrats to you, my dearest friend, on reaching 365 and making it all so beautiful. You know that you are an inspiration to me. If you hadn't announced you were starting a blog, I probably wouldn't have one. I know that whatever's next will be worthy of the wait.

Much love and Happy New Year,

Therese Cox said...

Adam H - Thank you and welcome! There is indeed quite a backlog for you to check out. Good thing we're not entering a leap year or anything - think of the chaos! (See you again over at #364.)

Adam - Well, you've all given me more incentive to be fascinating and addictive again in the new year. In the meantime, I'll be visiting you in Paris. Well, virtual Paris anyway. Thanks for the good wishes.

And Ray - The inspiration's mutual. If I can even be one teeny bit responsible for the delightful blog of Ray Gunn, my year will not have been in vain. See you soon.

myletterstoemily said...

dear therese,

i just discovered julie's blog, loved it so much, that
her eloquent recommendation of your blog insure
my loving it too!

i can't wait to check in each day.

Therese Cox said...

Hi letterstoemily - Thanks for your kind words and welcome to the site! I'm on sabbatical right now, but I hope you'll come back to visit. There will be more...

Julie said...

Therese: I have just nominated &7 in a swathe of categories in the Bloggies.

Julie said...

Thank you for your visit.

It is interesting the number of comments from people about the manhole covers (aka valve covers!). Many of them are unable to bring themselves to post on such a geeky topic. They will though, they will.

It has sent me on a entirely new wild goose chase. But you know about WGCs ...

SP said...

Meant to post before, I've really enjoyed &7, keep me posted on your next project and enjoy the well-earned break...

Therese Cox said...

Hi SP - Good to hear from you, and thanks for following along. New stuff is on the way... hope to see you again soon, either here or there. (I've been playing catch-up with your blog - loads of great images!)

Therese Cox said...

And Julie - Thanks for the nominations. I've never heard of the Bloggies, but I sure hope Kanye West doesn't steal my trophy from me when I win.