Another round of 365 numbers in 365 days begins at the bubbly pop of midnight tonight as the ball drops in snow-encrusted Times Square and one short-lived, enthusiastic countdown gives way to a much longer, though equally enthusiastic, one. Am I excited for the new year of Ampersand Seven? Heck yes. Apprehensive? A little. After all, it's a commitment, this virtual page-a-day catalogue of typographical treats, and the &7 arsenal is by no means fully stocked. But if I need any reminders of why I did it before and why I'm ready to do it again, it's this picture. Snapped furtively through the window of a hurtling Acela train from Washington, D.C. to New York earlier this year, this bewildering congregation of nines stands as my reminder that you can take the girl away from the number-hunting, but you can't take the number-hunting out of the girl.
This bizarre mural first winked at me on a train trip down to D.C., standing out like a sentinel amid the grim, swiftly passing run-down dregs of north Philadelphia. The bubbly turquoise background and pattern of repeating nines snagged my attention as I was looking up wistfully from the first paragraph of a short story I'd just begun. I knocked Alice Munro's Ontario clean out of my lap in my effort to capture this snippet of blighted post-industrial Philadelphia, but alas, I was not fast enough. I had to wait a full 24 hours before I could spend the entire Philly portion of the train trip back to New York gazing anxiously out the window, camera at the ready, for the weirdly bright vision to reveal itself on the landscape once again. When it did, I was ready. But this was 2010, my reasoning brain told me. Hadn't I given up the number line? And if so, why was I behaving like a demented kid on a safari, nearly breaking my neck for a picture of a bunch of nines painted on a couple of bright turquoise thought bubbles? No, it seemed that even in the new year, my attention continued to be drawn by numbers.
Some of the thrill is the hunt itself. But I've become a collector, and like most collectors, I imagine, I find great joy in sharing the highlights of my collection with anyone whose attention I can cajole long enough to say, "Hey! Would ya look at this crazy bunch of nines on the Cabrun Ink Products Corp. building?" And so after another year of collecting, I'm happy to be back, kicking off another year of linear-themed pictures with some decidedly non-linear digressions and impressions. And no, I won't be counting down from #999,999,999,999,999. Not yet anyway. But you never know. There's always next year.