#146, Houston Street, NYC
Another perk to living in Brooklyn - apart from harboring crushes on local street artists - is that you also get to spot your favorite typographers out walking their dogs. And when you spend as much time as I do collecting type, this is a really neat occurrence, to witness your niche enthusiasms dovetailing neatly with another's, entirely without the other's knowledge that you are somehow accomplices in the same game. It's a little disconcerting, too, because although someone might be flattered to be steamrolled with your "OMG, I totally saw you in Helvetica!" greeting, he might also prefer to have a nice morning stroll to himself without being accosted by a fellow font freak.
Mr. Tobias Frere-Jones, the typographer in question, has been at the number-collecting game far longer than yours truly. I saw Frere-Jones speak about two years ago at a design blogging event called Postopolis and was fascinated by his description and slideshow of pictures of typeface on the buildings of New York. At the time of Postopolis two years ago, he'd basically - armed with a camera - combed over every single city block from the tip of lower Manhattan up to 14th Street, snapping examples of unusual and vernacular type. The very immensity of this project makes me swoon. It also makes me perfectly happy to feel no obligation to be any more completist than I already am, seeing as my Shackleton-like dash to the South Pole has already been conquested by a far more prepared Amundsen.
If you happened to see the outtakes at the end of the documentary Helvetica (I wrote about the film in more detail here), you would have glimpsed this very 146 on the screen of Frere-Jones's Mac. I like knowing there are others out there, other number paparazzi who can appreciate the tiny jewels in New York's bling-infested crown. And this 146 is a good one. Part functional-modernist decoration, part mod bathroom tile, it's eye catching on the sometimes tiresome artery of West Houston Street. And while there's nothing quite like the thrill of discovery, there's comfort in knowing there are others out there who enjoy the hunt every bit as much.