Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

#338: Bad Moon Rising

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

#342: Whiteout

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Sunday, January 23, 2011

#343: Palidrome Zone

Upper West Side, NYC

Saturday, January 22, 2011

#344: Tallboy

West Village, NYC

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

#349: Upstanding Citizen

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

It's been a tad laconic over here in Ampersand Land as you may have noticed, and the bit-of-quiet may persist for a little while longer. My hibernation instincts of mid-January have lurched into frantic packing activities as I'll be off in Dublin for the next two weeks gathering more numbers and generally cavorting about. In the meantime, I hope the consistency of the images bring a little light to your screen. I'll be checking in and chiming in as time allows. Enjoy the journey.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

#350: Sweet Tooth Sunday

Hudson Street, NYC

If these bright, spirited numbers don't make you feel like a kid in a candy shop, then you need to get a move on inside, 'cause this is a candy shop. Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven, that is, the "visionary chocolate brand" of NYC. Need to get in touch with your inner Veruca Salt? This ought to cure you.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

#351: Carvalicious

Hell's Kitchen, NYC

Friday, January 14, 2011

#352: Bright's All Right

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

They like stuff bright and cute up in those colder climes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

#353: Poe-Faced

Edgar Allan Poe Street, NYC

Yes, there is an Edgar Allan Poe Street in New York City. The name was bestowed on the section of West 84th Street between Broadway and Riverside Drive, and while it took the city a couple tries to get the spelling right (they originally spelled it "Allen" instead of an "Allan" on one of the signs), it's now there for all to see. It commemorates the fact that old Poefellow penned his most well-known work, "The Raven" nearby, in what was then the Brennan farmhouse. The house was torn down in 1888, but 84th Street keeps its Poe street cred by not only having a cool name, but also having appropriately creepy numbers like this one to keep his spirit alive.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

#354: Away, Awful Awnings

Yorkville, NYC

Most awnings in this city, while serving a practical purpose, grate on my nerves like sandpaper. Little to no thought is put into design; it's like someone took a scissors to the Barnum & Bailey tent and ran off with it, sticking the flapping monstrosities into the cement with rickety poles that look like they belong on a campground rather than the sidewalks of Manhattan. Such affronts to innocent, historic buildings are many, and unfortunately with my number-spotting obsession, the awning eyesores are hard to ignore. But every now and then, I'll stop in my tracks to note a happy exception. This clean sans serif number, carved into galvanized steel and fixed to the sides of a cherry red awning, is one.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#355: Caret Gold

Venice, Italy

They like their numbers punctuated and framed in Venice, and who am I to argue with the experts? Consider today's number a companion piece to last week's #361, though here the caret has grown -- nay, mutated -- into two fine strapping young triangles.

Monday, January 10, 2011

#356: The Curious Incident of the Dog-Grooming Salon in the Daytime

Upper East Side, NYC

Apparently when you run an Upper East Side dog grooming salon, you can not only commit grievous crimes against the color wheel, but you can also throw some paw prints on the awning and call your establishment Doggy Stylez. And no one will complain.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

#357: Duck and Cover

Hell's Kitchen, NYC

I couldn't break out the Fallout Shelter sign without a nod to my favorite cartoon ever endorsed by the United States Federal Civil Defense Administration, Bert the Turtle. See, Bert knew what to do in case of a nasty old nuclear attack: simply put your head in a shell and wait till the earth has disintegrated into a flaming shell of itself, then pop out, dust yourself off, and proceed as normal. "Duck and Cover" was sort of the 1950's cold war version of today's "If you see something, say something" signs on the New York City subway: another snappy buzz phrase to keep handy so's not to panic when and if, as Kurt Vonnegut's narrator in Hocus Pocus might say, "the excrement hits the air-conditioning."

Bear in mind though, that if you do click through to watch the clip you may be humming "Duck and Cover" for days to come. You know, assuming there are days to come. And if you enjoy handling that brand of hot potato humor vs. straight-up horror, the 1982 documentary The Atomic Cafe (where I first encountered this bizarre cartoon) is a must-see.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

#358: Posh Putty

Upper East Side, NYC

These numbers appear to have been squeezed out of a tube like some bronze-fortified toothpaste. Still, you have to award points for originality. Posting will be light over the weekend as I help celebrate the wedding of a dear friend. Expect your numbers right on schedule and a return to the usual blather next week.

Friday, January 7, 2011

#359: Brokelyn

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

If it's broke, don't fix it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

#360: Trolley Trolley Clang Clang

Old Pueblo Trolley Company, Tucson, AZ

Every now and then when I'm in the &7 kitchen cooking up a nice piping hot slice of blog pie, I'll get super excited about my upcoming subject matter ("OMG," I think, looking at the next day's number, "I get to write about TROLLEYS tomorrow!") and immediately begin thinking of clever things I can say, peppering my thoughts with allusions and song titles I can work in, only to do a cursory search online and find that every clever turn of phrase I was going to use has already been beaten to death by journalists and prescient idea-thieves. For example? There I was at the helm of my computer, gazing gormlessly at this picture of a Tucson trolley, when suddenly I was seized with inspiration: "Gee whiz! How about I slip in that hokey old song, 'Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley'?" Which, I was soon to discover, is the hokey old reference nearly everyone with a pen or an internet connection and the word "trolley" on the brain reaches for first. It's one of those PBR ideas -- you don't drink it because you like it, you drink it because it's the first thing someone hands you when you say, "beer."

It's not a new feeling, this sad realization that in writing as in life, as Willie Shakes himself once lamented, there is "nothing new under the sun." (Though take that same idea, feed it into Samuel Beckett's brain, and what comes out of the machine is one of my favorite opening sentences of a novel ever, the memorable first line from Murphy: "The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.")

Along these lines, I remember feeling similar disappointment when, while a starving student at NYU, I sat in the abandoned carrells of stern Bobst Library and scribbled a review for one of my theatre classes on the show I'd just seen, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. My opening line? "Jacques Brel is alive and well and playing in Greenwich Village!" And subsequently, every single review I have read of the show since starts with some shudder-inducing variant: "Jacques Brel is alive and well and playing in (insert name of town, name of venue)!" Or "Jacques Brel may no longer be alive and well and living in Paris, but he lives on in this zany new production by Horksville's own Redundant Repertory Theatre!"

Ah, it makes me cringe to look at now, but there is nothing quite so deceptive and dangerous than a writer in the throes of so-called inspiration. That's why I'm much more trusting of the days when I write dutifully, angstily, and doubtfully, laboring over each turn of phrase, feeling more like a pack mule than a glittering weaver of ideas.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

#361: Serif-Spotting on the Spanish Steps

Piazza di Spagna, Rome, Italy

If you think this #361 looks good now, try looking at it from the Spanish Steps in Rome while eating a coconut and pistachio gelato, channeling Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Some covetous window-shopping at Salvatore Ferragamo on the Via Condotti afterward and an artery-boosting espresso at La Casa del Caffe Tazza d'Oro and I was officially ready to be swept up by the bliss police. If you're not won over by either glamorous context or a well-tempered serif (shame on you), that charming caret-shaped period at the end of the 1 ought to make you swoon. If not, check for pulse.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

#362: I'm Sticking With You

Greenwich Village, NYC

Band logos, billboards, and bumper stickers occupy a curious place in public space. Think of any surface -- a beer-stained sound booth, a lamppost at a crosswalk, a dive bar bathroom wall, the knife-scarred window of a toll booth -- and chances are, someone with an indie band or a turntable or bizarre political agenda has already been-there-done-that with a sticker. (My favorite bumper sticker ever, spotted on the back of a beat-up sedan? PRO-ACCORDION AND I VOTE. Steer clear of that loose cannon.)

While I haven't annexed whole rooms of brain space to the exercise, I do enjoy my occasional brushes with this transient trash. I walk around and wonder: Whatever happened to that unfortunately-named band on a wall in Tucson, Arizona? Is anyone actually going to go home and Google that Myspace address scrawled on the stairwell at the 14th Street subway after rushing to catch a transfer to the uptown 2/3 train? These names are fleeting and the city has its clean-up crews, so the life expectancy of these stickers is inevitably short. So be it. Most of them are poorly designed and pretty much a scourge. I'd even raise a rant against them myself -- if it wasn't for all that bloody pathos.

Yes, New York City is one big sticker book for everybody's broken dreams. But don't despair, sticker-makers and street teams. If there's a number attached to it and I happen to be strolling by with my camera, look out: you might just well be in for a 16th minute of so-called fame.

Monday, January 3, 2011

#363: Stencils in Venice

Venice, Italy

A dash of pleasing, well-tempered Venetian symmetry is definitely in order after yesterday's exercise in the skewed, the slapdash, and the unashamedly shoddy. Enjoy your tasteful Italian Monday palindrome before I plunge you back into the shambolic underbelly of New York City on Tuesday.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

#364: They'd Sell You the Brooklyn Bridge

Baltic Street, Brooklyn

What with my aversion to Facebook, I don't get a lot of space in the interwebs to flaunt the lurid details of my many leisure-time pursuits. Sure, I've carved a wee niche for myself in the picture-taking department, and I have been known in my spare time to partake in novel-scribbing, accordion-squeezing, university-professoring, and general mucking about.

But what a lot of people don't know about me is that I'm also an entrepreneur. Oh yes. Keeping an eye on the neighborhood's numbers is busy work, but I'm never too busy on these strolls to forget to size up the nooks and crannies of my 'hood and consider ways to capitalize on crap nobody else is interested in. Take this vacant lot at 364 Baltic Street. The poor scrap of land doesn't even have a broken-down brownstone to hang a number on. A vacant lot smack in the middle of the dashingly desirable borough of Brooklyn? Isn't that, like, the sixth deadly sin?

You hear a lot these days about the gentrification of Brooklyn. As one of the landed gentry myself, I try to avoid casting too many stones at my own glass houses, but as an armchair urbanist, gentrification is an issue that concerns me. Having lived in the same tenement building for seven and a half years now, I count myself lucky that I can stay put where I am. Were I just moving into Brooklyn in this enlightened year of 2011, I doubt I'd be able to afford the paint job on the fire escape.

I'm perfectly content to bloom where I'm planted, but sometimes I still get carried away by rakish fantasies of real estate. Who knows? Maybe if the price is right I could pool together some pennies with my starving artist friends and build a nice studio space on this very spot, or maybe commission a novelist's tree house, a modern nest built by Libeskind with northern exposure and lots of pointy detailing. It's a long shot, but rather than stand idly by and watch this ideal slice of property fall prey to the greedy land-grabbers, I decided to investigate. So I did what anyone seeking salient information does: I consulted the internet.

Braced for bad news, I'd been expecting the worst. You can imagine my shock, then, when I encountered these highly competitive going rates for a slab of land on Baltic Street:

Cost of Baltic: $60 (!)
Cost of houses and hotel: $50 per house, $50 plus four houses for hotel (not bad!)
Rent: $20 for one house, $60 for two houses, $180 for three and $320 for four, $450 for hotel
Location of property: Space #3, between Community Chest and Income Tax

Well, dear readers, I had a rude shock when, armed with this enticing information, I wandered into a nearby deli and asked where I could find the Community Chest. It was some time before I realized my mistake and saw I'd been consulting the wrong property listing all along. Ah well. If only I'd played more Monopoly over Christmas break and a little less Balderdash.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

#365: The Eye in the Door

Hell's Kitchen, NYC

For the record, posting a picture from midtown Manhattan on January 1st is as close as I'm ever getting to Times Square on New Year's Eve. This skull-like hand-drawn creature lives in, where else, Hell's Kitchen, tucked away inside a brick-lined corridor at #365 on a street in the west thirties that's seen better days.

Lest the dizzy layers of images behind the 365 wreak havoc with your post-champagne brain, if you look closely, you can also make out the reflected images of buildings; the number is pasted onto a glass door. I thought this hand-scrawled monster would make a suitable mascot for those of you who may be suffering through a less-than-clear head on this fine first day of the new year. Whatever your state of mind, I'd like to extend a very happy 2011 to friends both old and new. Now then. Let's get the real countdown started.