Thursday, January 31, 2013

#335: Terra Cotta & Mocha

Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
If J Crew needs someone to come up with sweater color names for their next catalog, I'm available. Just saying.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

#336: Riverside in Winter

Upper West Side, NYC
I happened upon these well-mannered, ornamental numbers on a late afternoon stroll down Riverside Drive, and though it was a cold winter day, you can just barely catch a glimpse of warm January sunlight in the upper left hand corner.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#337: Wings!

Upper West Side, NYC
Somebody had fun designing this one.

Monday, January 28, 2013

#338: Serifs to Serifs, Rust to Rust

East Village, NYC
With a hard right angle serif on top and a softer curlicue underneath, these 3's are unusual, both noble and whimsical. Combine those with a proper upright infinity 8 -- not to mention a touch of rust -- and it's a mighty fine look.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

#339: Disappointed Bridge

Pittsburgh, PA
Early in the day on June 16th, 1904 in James Joyce's Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus is giving a history lesson to an academically lackluster pack of spoiled rich kids. The lesson is not going over well, sort of the early 20th century Irish equivalent of the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off deadpanning, "Bueller? . . . Bueller?" But it does lead Stephen to muse, when no one can answer a simple inquiry about what a pier is, that a pier is "a disappointed bridge."

The tendency to render to inanimate objects human feelings and qualities is something very near and dear to me, and it happens a lot when I contemplate a new set of numbers each week, trying to imagine what these mute images are trying to say to me. And when I look at these numbers, what I see are two 3's and a 9 all striving, with their loopy serifs, to be 8's. Disappointed bridges.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

#340: Service & Delivery

Upper West Side, NYC
A hand-drawn ampersand AND a weird amorphous finger pointing the way to an otherwise forgettable service & delivery entrance? Like it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

#341: All Chalked Up

Venice, Italy
Venice's typographical palimpsests are pretty fascinating. You can find all sorts of examples of buildings that have been re-numbered where you can see two opposing numbers side by side: one old address beside a new. But this one's a curious relic: a quickly scrawled, chalked-up 341 elbowing its way in beside a perfectly serviceable permanent one. I'm not sure what the reason is behind this -- rogue chalk artist? Italian kid practicing penmanship? some sort of typographical Goofus and Gallant? -- but the sight has surely faded from view by now.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

#342: Endangered: East Village Quirk

East Village, NYC
And these, my friends, these are the numbers I love to hate. Crass colors, ham-fisted paint jobs, and a palette so appalling it makes an LSD trip look like an Ansel Adams. And yet. There's that word again: character. I'm starting to think of it more, particularly as I watch the boutique-ification of the Lower East Side start to spread its glass enclaved dynasty into the rough-around-the-edges East Village. I was all right with it till y'all took away Mama's, home of the giant platters heaped high with mashed potatoes and the garage sale portraits of cross-eyed housewives lining the walls. But now? It's war.

If the all-time diviest dive Mars Bar -- known far and wide for its ability to transmit infectious diseases by simply looking at a photograph of it -- can be converted into a sanitized TD Bank, as was recently announced, then it seems most anything can happen to EVil, including the eradication of these little character pieces. In fact, for all I know, these numbers have already been converted into a Trader Joe's. Is it time we chained ourselves to every last purple, yellow, and green residence, crying for preservation? Probably not. But it's nice to retain a photo of the atrocity, just in case.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

#344: Red in Venice

Venice, Italy
Ever since watching the epically freaky film "Don't Look Now," I can never see the color red in Venice in the same way again.

Monday, January 21, 2013

#345: DUMBO Darling

DUMBO, Brooklyn
It doesn't matter how many times I wander through DUMBO, I always manage to find some new cool stencil lurking on an unsuspecting wall to make me grin. This delicious 345 has all the hallmarks of an &7 darling: stark paint, hint of decay, well-crafted numbers (I'm a sucker for a sharpie 3), and a quirky touch with the dots between the numbers. A+.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

#346: Brownstoned

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

#348: Vintage

Upper East Side, NYC
This one is vintage, by which I mean I already posted it in a previous collection. That was 2009, this is now. I like to think it's aging well, like a person who's run out of numbers fine wine.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

#349: Sweetgum, Columbia Street, 3:49PM

Columbia Street, Brooklyn
A couple of weeks ago, I was walking with my garbage-picked wooden hockey stick -- lovingly wrapped in yellowed masking tape and just the right height -- over to the tennis courts on Columbia Street. My idea was to get in a little stick-handling practice to let off some steam. Writing novels is stressful, and hockey helps me deal. There's nothing the matter with this particular stretch of Columbia Street, but let's say its rugged beauty is best known to those who've never had to stand there waiting for the B61 bus. (It's also home to the famous salt pile menace, which has since been covered.)

It was a cold, sunny day, and as I was walking along, tossing my bright blue hockey ball in the air, I looked down and noticed a tree on the sidewalk. It was the shadow of a tree, to be specific, traced into the pavement. Just to the left of it stood the tree itself. A sweetgum tree, I thought to myself, because pretty much the only way most people in Brooklyn can identify a tree -- unless you're Francie from A Tree Grows a Brooklyn, who loved that Tree of Heaven that grew outside her window (alas, Francie, I shared such a love once) -- is to stick a label on it.

"Huh," I thought. "That's awesome. And a 349 on it, too." I made a resolution to come back and photograph the sweetgum on another sunny day, hoping that if I came around 3:49 PM, I might get the shadow of the tree lined up with the groove on the sidewalk. I did a few armchair astronomer's calculations -- about as foolproof as my knowledge of Brooklyn's indigenous trees -- and figured that the winter solstice almost split the difference between the date on the pavement (late November) and a mid-January afternoon pretty closely. In the meantime, I did some Google-sleuthing and learned the beautiful installation is part of a series by artist Nobuho Nagasawa called Timecast. There's a whole line of them! The trees were planted in anticipation for the project about eight years ago, and the unveiling was last May. I've been working on my novel for seven, which perspective gave me some comfort.

Life gets in the way, though, and the sample size of sunny January days where I was home around 3:49 PM dwindled. Enter today: a dreary, miserable sludge of an afternoon with drizzle trickling down the window all day as I worked on the Great Unfinished American Irish novel. I had only one opportunity left to capture the great photograph of the sweetgum tree for today's blog, and this was it. The rain dampened my spirits, and my plans to get in a bit of neighborhood stick-handling along with my number-hunting expedition looked bleak.

I resolved to still go at 3:49, even though there was no sun and therefore no shadow. I vowed to go at 3:49, even though the time function on my camera is wrong, so even if I timed it perfectly, no one would ever see the match. And I even brought my hockey stick with me, figuring that there's nothing like a crappy day of rain-snow forecast to scare away other people from the tennis courts. So I hurried down Columbia Street, thinking what an eejit I looked, carrying a camera and a hockey stick wearing nothing but sweatpants and a hoodie in the frigid weather. I snapped the sweetgum at the appointed time and put my camera away, thinking how this blog has indeed led me on strange expeditions, and how I wished I was still inside my warm apartment, sipping coffee and working on my book -- my real writing, I told myself.

And what should happen as I was strolling along that inhospitable stretch of Columbia Street at 3:51 PM but an old friend -- dressed more sensibly in a parka, warm hat, and gloves -- waved hello. Her name is Pamela. I hadn't seen her in over seven years. What was she doing in my neighborhood? Visiting a friend, who was about to move to Portland. It was probably the last time she'd make that stroll down Columbia Street. We had a lovely catch-up, exchanged emails, and I went off to have a decent run-around the wet tennis court, watching the city skyline mist in and out of view. And if I hadn't gone down that stretch to photograph a sweetgum at 3:49 PM, I would have missed it all.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

#350: Under Arching

Upper West Side, NYC

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

#352: Leaflet

Upper East Side, NYC

Sunday, January 13, 2013

#353: Riverside Drive

Riverside Drive, NYC

Saturday, January 12, 2013

#354: To the Left

San Francisco, CA
Sure it's a bit left of center, but I wouldn't expect anything less from San Francisco.

Friday, January 11, 2013

#355: Southwest Style

Tucson, AZ
I loved some of the hand-painted signs in Tucson, and it was one of the only things that kept me sane in the 103 degree heat and playing rock shows in tiki bars. Some other highlights from the Tucson typography collection: the sparkly, the öddly-ümlauted, and the skull-bedeckled.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

#356: Sharpie Makeover

Upper West Side
Now maybe I'm just casting aspersions here, but I strongly suspect that might have been what happened once that No. 5 split.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

#358: On Atlantic Ave

Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn
Ordinary numbers, cool light fixture. A little secret on Atlantic Avenue that you might catch if you remember to look up.

Monday, January 7, 2013

#359: Chelsea Lineup

Chelsea, NYC
Stylish, sharp, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder: Chelsea numbers that reflect the Chelsea architecture. And, for my riff that has nothing to do with aesthetics whatsoever and everything to do with the eleventh-hour announcement that the NHL lockout is over, some Chelsea Dagger. It's a Chicago hockey thing, and right now, it's music to my ears.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

#360: Lunenburg Lament

Lunenburg,Nova Scotia
I do love a visit to a good old-fashioned port town. When one like Lunenburg, Nova Scotia comes along and offers me its breathtaking charm, romantic harbor views, maritime adventures, delicious seafood dinners, and riveting tales of historic insurrections, I'm the dork who comes back from holiday with a bunch of pictures of numbers floating in some polyresin solvent. Welcome to my photo album.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

#361: Sharp Objects

Pittsburgh, PA
I love the asymmetrical slant to this one, which might be whimsical but isn't thanks to the sharply cut edges, no-nonsense stencil work, and sober-colored brick anchoring the whole image. Another shot captured while on tour with Balthrop, Alabama. I missed going out on the road with the band this year because I was busy with readin', 'ritin', and 'rithmetic. But it's good to go back and 'reminisce.

Friday, January 4, 2013

#362: World's Best!

Greenwich Village, NYC
This reminds me of those "World's Greatest Dad" mugs or "#1 Brother" pencils I used to buy at my elementary school's annual pre-Christmas fair ("Santa's Secret Shop" I believe the bustling lunchroom was called for one capitalistic day), that mind-boggling array of hunks of crap  useless garbage trinkets and do-dads we'd proudly purchase with money inevitably "borrowed" from said World's Greatest Mom or Dad. My mom still has one of these mirrors I gave her, a surprisingly hardy red plastic affair that she still carries in her purse, though that was a more modest one that just said "MOM." I'm sure she received her share of fawning "Awesomest Coolest Mom, Like, Ever" knick-knacks from four kids and countless seasons of Santa's Secret Shop gift-giving, but looks like the simple approach fared best in the long run.

Now I don't know how my other 362s would feel about this tendentious "World's Best" boast, but to avoid any hurt feelings, let's just say -- if anyone asks -- they're all the greatest, too.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

#363: Replete With Tree & Garden Gnome

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
In keeping with the holiday season, I thought I'd post another cheery neighborhood wreath pic. The harsh winter light on a sunny January afternoon makes a walk through Carroll Gardens all the more beautiful, one of many reasons I have no problem bragging about this neighborhood I almost live in. (This "almost live in" has nothing to do with me being nomadic. Technically, I'm on the border of about three neighborhoods, so it always feels disingenuous to lay claim to only one.)

You know who else has no problem bragging about this neighborhood? Realtors! And just because I'm curious, I sometimes do a quick scan online of some of the buildings I pass by to see if I can learn anything about the apartments whose souls I ignominiously snatch with my camera.

Because I can't afford to do anything with a Brooklyn apartment apart from, say, replacing my mailbox key, I sometimes get caught up with other aspects of real estate, like marveling at the hyperbolic writing and strange verbal contortions found on realtor's websites. Call me a simpleton, but I liked this building from a quick gander at the cool red door and brickwork, but did you know that this place boasts "a rec room large enough to house a california king"? Or that there's an "intimate front yard, replete with tree and garden gnome"?

Now whether you think "intimate" is the adjective you want duct-taped to your "yard" is a personal matter. But imagine my sadness when I learned that this co-op with its "most valued vestage of American Living: YOUR OWN HUGE GARAGE" was already sold, thereby banishing me to the cruel sidewalks once again. Oh Brooklyn I love you, but you're bringing me down.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

#364: Numberspotting in New England

Pittsfield, MA
Not much beats driving around Massachusetts on a snow-covered, sunny afternoon, but spotting a large, photogenic 364 out the window of your rental car when you really, really need it sure comes close.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

#365: Wreath Havoc

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
For someone who likes counting down, I really loathe countdowns, so I thought I'd slip back into the stream of things with minimal fanfare and absolutely zero suspense. But since you're here -- and hello there, nice to see you again -- you've probably noted I'm up to my old tricks again. That's right, lest the Ampersand Seven number line go too long untended, 2013 will see the return of the beloved number-a-day as I trot out the new collection from 365 on January 1st all the way to 1 on December 31st next. It seems I just can't resist an odd numbered year.

It's been an eventful stretch for me in the meantime, as I'm sure it's been for you. I've been novel-wrangling (revising is no longer the proper word for what I do at my desk, though it's what I say in polite company), number-collecting (old habits die hard), debt-gathering (chasing after a Master's in English/Comparative Literature at Columbia University), ice hockey-playing (a reckless, ill-conceived, and simply awesome new pursuit I've been blogging about over here, in case you missed it), and more. But I miss sharing my numbers, and I'd love to hear from you if any of the posts call to mind any of your own stories or thoughts, so do chime in if you feel the inkling.

My challenge for the year will be to post a run of brand new numbers for 2013 featuring the usual riffs and rambles, but seeing as I've run out of ends on which to burn my candle, I may from time to time go quiet or call upon the ghosts of number lines past to fill the space. If I do, I'll be sure to wring my hands and make it quite public, but I figured a little cheating here and there beats the threat of another year-long blackout. In the new year, you can expect a new visual treat each day and some possible tweaks as I do my winter cleaning, thinking, and updating. But it's nice to be back, and how could I resist when I had this holiday-themed 365 just waiting in the wings? Wishing you all a very happy new year, and see you soon.