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...

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