Saturday, March 28, 2015

#279: Seven/Zed

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Friday, March 27, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#282: East Village Mosaic Trail

St. Mark's Place, East Village, NYC

It's roughly the size of a bottle cap, sits at shin level, and was almost lost amid the swirl of eye candy on a busy, mosaic-clad street pole, but somehow this 282 got my attention. I found it years ago while waiting on the traffic island close to the giant rotating Astor Place cube where all the disaffected youth mope, and I doubt I'd have noticed the tiny number it if it weren't for the traffic light holding me up. Traipsing up and down Manhattan's sequential grid is one sure-fire way to find numbers, but it's the unexpected catch like this one that keeps things fresh.

If you've ever taken a stroll through the East Village, then you're probably already familiar with the artwork of Jim "Mosaic Man" Power. Maybe you've stumbled upon one of these colorful lamp post mosaics, too, noticing a sudden patch of beauty in the middle of a harried, ugly commute. Power, a Vietnam veteran and much-loved figure in the Village, has been steadily beautifying his 'hood shard by shard for over twenty-five years. The bits of colored glass, plates, mesh, marbles, and whatnot are part of the neighborhood street furniture. He's decorated close to a hundred street poles with his vibrant mosaics along a two mile stretch. But the last few years have seen these pieces endangered.

With the proposed so-called sleek redesign of Astor Place that included the removal some of his poles, Power began dismantling some of his own artworks out of protest. But community efforts to save his work sprang up. It's a conservation effort well worth it. Shards of mirrors, chunks of ceramics, wild patterns, and colorful lettering: once you start noticing his pieces, they're impossible to miss. And it's impossible to imagine the East Village without them.

Photographer Lara Elmayan at Untapped Cities has done a noble job of documenting Powers' work in its entirety, and you can read more about Power and the mosaic trail here. But the best way to see his stuff? Take a walk.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

#284: Jewel in the Claw

Red Hook, Brooklyn
284 Van Brunt Street is not only home to today's catch, it's also home to the Red Hook Lobster Pound, a place I like to call the jewel in my neighborhood's claw. Temporarily closed, the Pound's shutters are expected to roll up on April 1st, and you'd better believe there'll be no April foolin' once they do. A bike ride, a lobster roll, and a good book on Valentino Pier is the surefire first sign of spring. I can taste it already.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

#285: Bespoked

Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn
Like yesterday's #286, this three-digit span belongs to a longer sequence of numbers, chopped off for the sake of convenience (and leaving me with the nagging feeling like I'm somehow cutting corners by, well, cutting corners). But the framing of the 285 inside of the bicycle wheel makes this one's charm pretty irresistible.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

#286: Portlandia

Portland, OR
This is an oldie but goodie from the collection, gathered on the road with Balthrop, Alabama a few summers ago. Of course, to make this true to its Portlandia title, I feel like I'd have to add something to this image, something that's . . . missing. I know! Put a bird on it!

Friday, March 20, 2015

#287: Dublin Numbers & Gorse No. 3

North Circular Road, Dublin
There's something very satisfying about tracing the long arc of the North Circular Road. Cycling along it, you can fall into a comforting rhythm, almost like you're following a massive Olympic track. Walking, I always feel more at a remove from my surroundings, though these numbers hand-painted onto the low walls give me a sense I'm making some sort of progress. In shape and size, the black numbers on white remind me quite a bit of the curbside numbering of my hometown streets growing up. The steady presence of these numbers provides a way of orienting myself to the street, and the small variations that come with each hand-painted marker lend each one its own personality.

Until I find a way to make wandering the streets of Dublin my full-time occupation -- and believe me, I'm working on it -- I've got to settle for these small projects: collecting numbers, drawing maps, and scribbling what I see. It's an obsession that's been with me for years, and I'm happy to say that an essay I wrote, "A Writer's Guide to the Dialectical Landscapes of Dublin," is going to be published this month in gorse journal, issue no. 3. You can read a very short excerpt of the essay now, and though the issue is officially being published on March 23rd, you can pre-order copies of the journal. It's as stunning a book as you could want: attractive, compact, and brimming with sharp, beautiful new writing from Ireland and outside: essays, fiction, poetry, and interviews. I'm honored to be included in the illustrious bunch.

Here's a sneak preview of the cover, designed by the talented Niall McCormack.

Thursday, March 19, 2015