Friday, December 31, 2010


North Philadelphia, PA

Another round of 365 numbers in 365 days begins at the bubbly pop of midnight tonight as the ball drops in snow-encrusted Times Square and one short-lived, enthusiastic countdown gives way to a much longer, though equally enthusiastic, one. Am I excited for the new year of Ampersand Seven? Heck yes. Apprehensive? A little. After all, it's a commitment, this virtual page-a-day catalogue of typographical treats, and the &7 arsenal is by no means fully stocked. But if I need any reminders of why I did it before and why I'm ready to do it again, it's this picture. Snapped furtively through the window of a hurtling Acela train from Washington, D.C. to New York earlier this year, this bewildering congregation of nines stands as my reminder that you can take the girl away from the number-hunting, but you can't take the number-hunting out of the girl.

This bizarre mural first winked at me on a train trip down to D.C., standing out like a sentinel amid the grim, swiftly passing run-down dregs of north Philadelphia. The bubbly turquoise background and pattern of repeating nines snagged my attention as I was looking up wistfully from the first paragraph of a short story I'd just begun. I knocked Alice Munro's Ontario clean out of my lap in my effort to capture this snippet of blighted post-industrial Philadelphia, but alas, I was not fast enough. I had to wait a full 24 hours before I could spend the entire Philly portion of the train trip back to New York gazing anxiously out the window, camera at the ready, for the weirdly bright vision to reveal itself on the landscape once again. When it did, I was ready. But this was 2010, my reasoning brain told me. Hadn't I given up the number line? And if so, why was I behaving like a demented kid on a safari, nearly breaking my neck for a picture of a bunch of nines painted on a couple of bright turquoise thought bubbles? No, it seemed that even in the new year, my attention continued to be drawn by numbers.

Some of the thrill is the hunt itself. But I've become a collector, and like most collectors, I imagine, I find great joy in sharing the highlights of my collection with anyone whose attention I can cajole long enough to say, "Hey! Would ya look at this crazy bunch of nines on the Cabrun Ink Products Corp. building?" And so after another year of collecting, I'm happy to be back, kicking off another year of linear-themed pictures with some decidedly non-linear digressions and impressions. And no, I won't be counting down from #999,999,999,999,999. Not yet anyway. But you never know. There's always next year.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Count

College Green, Dublin

Remember that thing? That thing called chronology? You know, that organizing principle on which this humble blog was built, a simple-to-grasp numerical structure that created a pleasant slog of a journey, number by number, through an entire year? Yeah, I remember it too. And while it pains my Helvetica postcard-making heart to go public with this confession, I must: I've been missing it.

There's something nice about chronology. Call me a lapsed Catholic, but over the course of &7's first year, I'd grown to think of the daily numbers here as a typographical Stations of the Cross, a place to pause and think for a few minutes and look more closely at things normally overlooked in day-to-day life. Some days I zipped past in a hurry and others I rambled on about Clearview, complicated drinks in tiki bars, and the joys of dressing up as W.B. Yeats. But I liked that there was the challenge of posting one number every single day. I found some excellent company along the way in my readers and commenters, and if you've been following in any sort of way over the past two years, I thank you. And I do hope you'll stay on board for the next stage of the journey.

While I make no apologies for the mish-mash of the past year's posts (after all, I'd have conked out if I didn't take a breather, and I really was dying to give that rotting Newmarket Potatoes sign a happy online home), I'm ready to move on. Or go back. Or a sort of "move on in a somewhat backward way." Which is why, on January 1st, I've decided to start the number line all over again. Starting from 365 and counting down to 1. A number a day, every day. That's how &7 was conceived, and it feels right to be going back to the original format. You see, blogs are kind of like Coca-Cola. If you've got a winning recipe, no need to go getting all "New Coke" on everyone's ass.

There will be ever-so-slight changes, mind. I'll be counting down this coming year instead of up. (A curious choice as I have a deathly, if irrational, fear of countdowns. We'll see how that particular psychodrama plays out.) I'll be collecting an entirely new batch of numbers for the new year. And I may throw in a few more entries with multiple photos if they go along with the day's number. But in 2011, there'll be one thing you can count on: the number line.