Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#123: Sidewalk Noir

Clinton Street, Brooklyn

Sometimes I have to go searching, sometimes the numbers find me first.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#124: Along the Strand Road, Dublin

Sandymount, Dublin

Looking at this photo is like holding a conch shell up to my ear: it's so close to the water I swear I can hear the ocean. And it makes me homesick for a place that is not, strictly speaking, my home.

Monday, August 29, 2011

#125: Treasure Chest

Lunenberg, Nova Scotia

Sunday, August 28, 2011

#126: Spot On

Galway, Ireland

This rather large #126 -- painted on the shuttered gate of a Galway art gallery -- actually made me gasp when I turned the corner and spied it. Hunting for numbers, you get used to squinting at far-off mailboxes, zooming in on obscure awnings, and crouching over manhole covers for glimpses of miniscule numbers that when the streets hand you something like this, you feel like someone's handed you a giant lollipop.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

#128: Intrepid Wheelie Bin Series: Gowanus Edition

Gowanus, Brooklyn

Sure, we call 'em trash cans or Dumpsters here in Brooklyn, but I so liked the phrase "intrepid wheelie bins" when I first coined it that I shan't go changing horses in midstream.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

#129: Ad Nauseum

East Village, NYC

One of the many things I loved about being in Iceland for a week was the refreshing lack of ads and billboards. The roads were beautifully unobstructed. The glaciers were vast and litter-free. Even Reykjavik, that pulsing urban center governed by a friendly anarcho-surrealist mayor, seemed to get on just fine without sticking up signs every few yards telling me what to buy and why I should buy it. Sure, there were a few tasteful ads in Keflavik airport for the clothing line 66 Degrees North, the models looking all ruddy and healthy in their fur-lined hoods and wind-proof jackets, but that was about it. When I stepped off the plane and realized I was no longer being ambushed with ads and bombarded by shouty visual clutter, I could feel my rods and cones actually start to unclench. Ten minutes on the road and I was in a prehistoric daydream. Even as a writer, it felt wonderful for a few days to escape from so much type.

Naturally, this unsullied condition is harder to replicate in America, where the billboard is king and crap is OK as long as it is keeps the wheels of capitalism greased. New York is so over-saturated with visual data as it is that I hardly even notice the billboards anymore. At every turn there are window displays, awnings, t-shirts, bumper stickers, flyers, menus, all vying for my attention. When I'm on my font-hunting expeditions, I naturally try to avoid the ads, treating them as one does the screaming subway preacher, going on my quiet way as if nothing at all were amiss. It takes some training. But it's possible.

That said, I must confess I cadged this #129 from a Sunkist ad, though I think it's been weathered beyond recognition. (Thanks, East Village! Keep up the good work.) So! We continue the number line both ad- and guilt-free. Now if only I could figure out why I'm feeling so thirsty...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

#131: Spider!

West Village, NYC

It happens to be missing some of the requisite eight legs, but I'm fairly sure my spidey-sense is correct in identifying this one. It could be artistic license, this leaving out of the limbs. Then again, maybe the poor thing is after auditioning for that ill-fated Broadway play. Ah, forgive me. I really should "turn off the snark."

Monday, August 22, 2011

#132: Hellcab to Drumcondra

Drumcondra, Dublin

Having just shaken the dirt off my hiking boots after a trek to Iceland -- yes, that is Iceland this time and not Ireland -- I've been reminded how much fun it is to keep travel journals. For someone who loves to sketch, I sure don't do much of it at home. Seems the only time I remember to scribble pictures is when I've got a new Moleskine in my hand and my eyes and ears are roaming some faraway city, taking in its skyscrapers and streets and citizens. At the moment, I'm hard at work glue-sticking bits and bobs into my new Iceland book, but here's one from the archives I thought I'd share since I drew it the same day I snatched this #132.

It was cold January of last year, and I was in the back seat of a taxicab, being whisked up to Drumcondra to meet the writer of several books I admire. It was absolute misery outside and as the car drove north through the slantwise rain, I found myself the captive audience -- emphasis here on captive -- of a typically garrulous Dub who was regaling me with a mini-lesson in criminology. His story involved a psychological study about the motives of some woman's murder, and while it was probably lifted straight from drivetime radio, he reported it with such chilling and loving detail that it was a tad unnerving. I found myself transfixed by the man's tale, though equally eager when the cab pulled up to the Skylon Hotel to pay my fare and tiptoe out with one wary eye over my shoulder.

He knew an awful lot about murderers, did this driver.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

#136: Brooklyn Inn

Bergen and Hoyt Streets, Brooklyn

I made this one a little off center because that's usually how I feel after a few good pints at the Brooklyn Inn, where this number was taken. The Brooklyn Inn is a classic old neighborhood bar, over a century old. It's one of those places so dusty and authentic where you can almost believe you've taken a time machine to get there -- and if you've taken the G train to nearby Hoyt-Schermerhorn, you most certainly will feel like you've done some time travel to get there, and not the recreational kind. But it's worth the trek. The atmosphere is welcoming and a more beautiful interior would be hard to find. The carved wooden bar came from Germany around 1870 and the ceilings are achingly high. On a weekday late afternoon or early evening, it almost feels like a cathedral, though much friendlier and with a better jukebox.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

#137: Accidental Streetscape

Garment District, NYC

Not too shabby for a temporary scaffold.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#138: In Your Cities Numbers Will Rot

Boerum Hill, NYC

This one's been festering in the collection for awhile, and I'm glad to see it's held together long enough for me to post it. The scenic decay of today's #138 makes me pretty psyched to check out this Anselm Kiefer documentary that's finally come to New York after I read a glowing review in the Guardian last year that taunted my appetite. The film is called "Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow" and it was directed by Sophie Fiennes. What you really need to know about my relationship to Anselm Kiefer is I'm so obsessed with his strange and beautiful work that I once went to Montreal for a weekend in the middle of February so I could see an exhibition of his. Never been colder, and seldom happier.

Monday, August 15, 2011

#139: Dapper Dan's

Chelsea, NYC

About two years ago, they ripped off a chintzy awning on 14th Street to reveal this marvelously old-skool sign for a clothing shop called Dapper Dan's. Dan kind of has a large fan club among NYC picture-snappers, and I was just pleased to have a 139 in there so I could join the mutual admiration society.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

#140: Dumpster Diving in Chelsea

Chelsea, NYC

Technically, it's not Dumpster diving unless you dive into the Dumpster, but once you're running out into traffic on 14th Street to snap a grotty 140 on the side of one, it's a pretty slippery slope.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

#141: Santa Cruzin'

Santa Cruz, CA

We never did make it to the famed Santa Cruz Mystery Spot, but we had plenty of mysterious things to keep us busy on our stopover in Santa Cruz. We camped on a hill near an old hippie bus, sang songs around the campfire, and had temporary visions of living on our own commune till our need for wi-fi and bar fights took over and we hi-tailed it out of there on our motorcycles. Just kidding. We'd never get that excited about wi-fi. Today's number was taken from our gracious host Nick's mailbox, which was painted up real purty.

Friday, August 12, 2011

#142: Letters to Santa Monica

Los Angeles, CA

The only Santa I grew up knowing in the Midwest was the guy in the red fatsuit. California swiftly took care of these gaps in my awareness. I'm a cold-weather gal with more east coast than west in me -- not to mention a complexion more ghost than most -- so imagine my shock when I went to L.A. on tour with Balthrop, Alabama and it turned out to be, like, totally cool.

We took some time out of our west coast tour two summers ago to hit the Santa Monica beach, and fortunately for posterity, Miss Georgiana Starlington was on hand with her omnipresent video camera to capture our impressions of L.A. in her famous "What's Your Favorite Thing About..." series. Well, famous in our van, anyway. The wind was blowing sand in our faces and into the camera microphone that day, but I think the overdubs were really tastefully done.

The title of today's post comes from an über-catchy song composed by our banjo player, Cotton Tyler Guin, also known as Andrew Vladeck. We recorded it in DUMBO's own Saltlands studio this summer and one of these days y'all will get to snap your fingers and sing along to it. Along with that cool new album we've been threatening about for awhile.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

#143: D8 is GR8

Thomas Street, Dublin

There's an inexplicably large soft spot in my heart for the grittiness of Dublin 8, and it's smothered in splinters, spray paint, and street art. I do quite like the stencil, but I haven't yet put my finger on the identity of the man in the moon. Any guesses?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

#144: Rats!

Chelsea, NYC

New Yorkers are a notoriously hard to shock bunch. We ignore the Naked Cowboy in Times Square, snooze through subway preachers' monologues of fire and brimstone, and only bat an eyelash at the breakdancing kids on the A train if one happens to sock us in the eye with an overstuffed Air Jordan. The best and worst of humanity seethe past us every day, all day, from every conceivable angle, and the only way to deal with it all without going crazy is to assume the attitude of the nonplussed. But there is one thing that I have found that universally penetrates the steely armor of the New Yorker, one bit of stimulus that will make us sit up and pay attention, and it scuttles about on decidedly un-human legs.

Rats. Mice. Roaches. Bedbugs. Pigeons. But especially rats. Forget the weirdos: these are the real enemies of the city-dweller. I have watched grown humans shriek in fear and sprint to the other side of the subway platform at the sight of a wayward rodent snuffling about the tracks. Mad taxis, gangs of thugs, and just about any other disturbance of the peace is nothing against the looming threat of Rattus norvegicus. So while I may flinch at their tactics, I have to hand it those pest control companies who really know what they're doing when they round up all the ickiest creatures great and small, then plaster their likenesses on their billboards. I don't care what I have to do, I don't care how much it costs, just make it . . . go . . . away.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

#150: Snow in Summer

Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

An snow-flecked picture -- in keeping with my summer-resistant, ice-craving, wishful thinking.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

#152: The Full Vermonty

Montpelier, Vermont

The Vermont pictures really started to stack up last summer on tour with Balthrop, Alabama. We hadn't really planned to stay in Montpelier -- I don't even think we were planning on passing through Montpelier -- but then again, we hadn't really planned to get marching orders from the Canadian border patrol. That's part of the deal with road trips: where you think you're going, you're often not, and where you don't think you're going, you often are, and where you were once wasn't there when you weren't there -- Um, this is getting confusing. Does anybody have GPS?

What can you do in Montpelier, Vermont? Plenty, apparently. Our first needs were basic: eat, wash our clothes, and sleep. After parking our suddenly non-Canada-bound van in a pothole-ridden lot, we ran with our duffel bags through pouring rain into a laundromat and spent our first disappointed hours chugging quarters into washing machines, mixing our clothes all together because that's what bands on the road do.

Somewhere in between folding sweatpants at Launderama and checking into the Econolodge, we happened upon a pizzeria that offered killer artichokes and something called "Vermont pizza": apples, maple syrup, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. Not for the faint of tongue. The weather report looked grim. Pascal checked his iPhone and delivered the verdict with a sigh: "It's only raining where we are."

But in the morning, our Balthrop street team was out in full force and it looked like our luck might be starting to change. Before I could even stumble to the counter to grumble for my morning coffee, we were booked for a show that night at the lovely Langdon Street Café (which, I was saddened to learn upon writing this, closed its doors in May) and Lauren was busy making flyers from Michael's artwork. We had the afternoon free. We lolled about on Lake Elmore and I lay on a striped beach towel in the grass, reading a Bill Bryson book. The sky was blue as could be. No rain in sight. Tour was working its strange magic again.

Montpelier was also home to this puzzling sign, placed prominently in the lobby of the pizzeria where we stopped our first night. Eager to make a good impression in this new town, we wanted to make sure we were law-abiding, but this sign left us wondering if that was wise.

We'd been told Vermont was liberal, but . . .

Monday, August 1, 2011