Friday, September 30, 2011

#93: Ready for Its Close Up

Soho, NYC

There's some great examples of hand-lettering around Soho and the Lower East Side, so it's always a treat to do number hunting there. In fact, I liked this 93 so much when I first passed it that I practically wolf-whistled at it. Fortunately, it wasn't camera shy and posed very nicely for this shot.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

#94: Orange You Going

Grace Church, NYC

The two photos aren't related by geography, but they are united by one unusual aspect: orange doors on churches.

I'll confess, I'm sort of a sucker for the combination: that unmistakable hue favored by architect/design folks (yes, I do own about 21 magazine holders in this exact orange color from Bigso Box of Sweden) offset by the weathered stone of an old church. As for the Bruges picture, it makes me very happy as it reminds me of cycling down the narrow streets of the medieval city while Angelus bells rang out and the summer sun slowly set. Consider it my very modest contribution to the as-yet unrealized Bruges Cycle Chic website.

What's that you say? Bruges Cycle Chic has already been done? Ah well, I suppose I'll find my niche in Bruges Orange Door Churches Cycle Chic. So when it finally hits the big time, I can say that I got there first.

Bruges, Belgium

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#95: Disconnect

Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

#97: Straight and Arrow

Buda, Budapest

Once again, while everyone else was strolling the historic streets of Budapest in search of pretty postcard views and gazing out at the lovely Danube, I turned my camera's gimlet eye to the cryptic and forgotten municipal signs so lonesome and unnoticed I practically wanted to open a shelter for them. I've been told these arrow-and-number signs indicate underground sewer systems, but I like to believe there are mutant turtles down there, and that maybe this 97 helps them plot their super linear ninja attacks.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

#101: Stargazing, Temple Bar

Temple Bar, Dublin

A strange mural carved with names of constellations and shades of gray. Andromeda. Pegasus. Canis Minor. Deep crevices and odd dots. Curious ridges and swirls. Cryptic hieroglyphs and ancient Runic imagery. It's street art, which means you can touch it, pass it every day, trace your fingers over it.

This part-mystical, part-astronomical mural is one of my favorite things in the city -- whimsical yet grounded in grids and maps, a sort of a photographer's black hole. Start snapping pictures and you're stuck there for hours. I am absolutely in love with this mural and have been trying to track down the name of the artist who created it. Anyone on my Dublin street team know anything about this? If so, would you be kind enough to leave a comment and let me know? Thanks -- you're a star.

Yeah, I hear those voices too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#109: If 9 was g

Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

#110: Janis Jalopy

Arlington Heights, IL

Brought to you by the same artist that brought you the Natalie Portman bird-squirrel-teapot and the creepy three trees. That's one dapper-looking jalopy. And the old gal driving it, pedal to the metal, looks to have a bee in her bonnet.

Monday, September 12, 2011

#111: Mussolini in Soho

Soho, NYC

It's so hard to focus on shopping for cute shoes with Il Duce hanging around.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

#112: Beautiful Ruins


The photo is from Dublin, the words are from Auden.

September 1, 1939
W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

#113: From a Dublin Train

Dublin - Galway train

Intrepid shot-through-a-train-window pictures rarely turn out the way I think they will. Shot in a moment of fleeting interest, they are often blurry, unfocused, off-kilter, and yet utterly capture that weird excitement of spotting something -- anything -- through a scratched and foggy train window that will be gone in a matter of seconds. Sometimes I hardly know what I'm shooting, only that a shape or a sign or a flash of color has caught my attention and I feel the compulsion to grab it.

This number I happened to spot on the platform as the Dublin to Galway train was starting its slow chug out of one of the stations. The triangle makes a good frame and the stenciled numbers fit ever so snugly inside. And when I look at it now, far removed, I can still imagine the quiet rocking motion of the train. I can still see the wooden slats of the platform disappearing and the passing green landscape as the train travels westward.

And I can't dwell long on the weird solitary beauty of train travel without my thoughts drifting off to the lovely Robyn Hitchcock song, "I Often Dream of Trains." Ever feel like a song just crawled up into your subconscious and burrowed there and made it its home? This is one of those for me. I have loved it a very long time, almost as long as I've loved trains.

Friday, September 9, 2011

#114: Sentinels

Yorkville, NYC

If the question is, "How cool is it to stick free-standing numbers on top of a lonesome awning?" the answer is most definitely Very.

And I do believe that a friend of mine and sometime reader of this blog suggested that if I ever do a number line again, that this number be accompanied by two cans of Heinz beans or Paul Hardcastle holding a hexagon. I'm afraid to ask why, but it's a damn good mental image.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

#115: The Prettiest Water Retention System Cap in Town

Galway, Ireland

One of the first things I like to do in a foreign country -- after that initial rush of exchange rate hubris has passed and the cash machine has spit out my fresh stack of Monopoly money -- is take in the small details.

I get a lot of pleasure just noting he differences in everyday things: the shape of a faucet or the different melody when the subway doors close. I also like to learn how to ask for basic needs -- food, water, coffee, bookstore, and so on -- and can generally pick up the word for "water" quite easily, which I often learn from looking -- where else? Down. So I have pondered UISCE in Ireland and VODA in the Czech Republic and good old WATER in the U S of A.

Is it time for my annual fawning links to Manhole Covers, Etc. and Sewers of the World, Unite! yet? 'Cause I smell a golden opportunity.

Seriously, y'all. If you're not looking down at the manhole covers, sewer caps, and other distracting sidewalk shiny things of your city or the places you travel, you're missing out on something special. Consider this #115. The ornate and suggestively Celtic design on something as quotidian as a water retention system cap tells us something about how those Galwegians take pride in their city. It's sure as heck the prettiest retention system cap I've ever had the privilege to trip over while wondering if I'm supposed to LOOK RIGHT or LOOK LEFT when I'm crossing the street. And the fact that it goes unnoticed by most? That just adds to the charm. (Present company excluded, naturally.)

It's a common misconception that tourists only look up when walking through the cavernous streets of an unknown city. Oh no. When it comes to scouring a new metropolis, we sewer lovers of the world (who have never, as far as I know, willingly united in any place other than the internet) know the treasures are often hidden closer to street level. We will look down, around, under lampposts, and behind fences for treasure, crouching in alleys and kneeling in supplication before the asphalt gods for a closer look. We will annoy you as we block the crosswalks to take photographs of, what, our feet? A crushed Coke can in the gutter? We also will come for your children, but that's not till the zombie sequel film.

And whether you like to look up, down, sideways, or backwards, one thing remains clear: sometimes it's not such a bad thing to be a tourist in your own town.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

#116: Ampersand Seven: CSI

Exhibit A: Upper East Side, NYC

Exhibit B: Upper East Side, NYC

OK, so it's not exactly forensic science here, but I do have an interesting puzzle. Back in December, I came across the first #116 on a scaffold on the Upper East Side. I found it in the East 80's and it's pretty ornate for a Sharpie-and-spray-paint temporary address marking. I liked the splash of bright orange and the weird marker double outline, so I grabbed it.

Then just a few days ago, I was trawling the East 80's again, regretting very much the post-Met museum hot dog and ice cream lunch I'd ingested in my post-museum glaze, when I was stopped in my tracks by another unusual #116. This one was located above the door rather than at eye level, but as a hand-drawn number on a plank of wood, it reminded me very much of the first.

My armchair Holmes says the snakey sixes, unusual in their shape, resemble each other enough to be the work of the same hand. Plus, we don't do much of the serifs-on-top-of-the-ones action here in the States, so I'm suspicious of that similarity too. But I'm curious if you think there's as much similarity as I do. Same artist or pleasing coincidence? Any typographical detectives out there want to tackle this one?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

#117: Nuts!

Arlington Heights, IL

I'm fairly sure this shadow is meant to suggest a squirrel in profile, but how much more fun to treat it as a Rorschach blob and see what other images come to mind? A black swan, for instance, gliding off to the sunset, or a heart with a fist through it and a flappy ventricle attached to the side, or . . . or . . .

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

#119: Gone Today

Columbia Street, Brooklyn

Like many of the tattered doors, awnings, and shop fronts on Columbia Street (that's in "Zone A" for all you leftover hurricane trackers), this number has since been razed. What was once a serendipitous discovery at sunset -- I was hunting for a 119 the first time I ran the number line in 2009 and this was my last-minute find -- is now one more ruin preserved.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

#120: Well-Weathered

Galway, Ireland

It's too bad that hurricane -- excuse me, that tropical storm -- hit last weekend, since I need a good excuse this weekend for why I didn't get around to posting today's number till, oh, mid-afternoon. Clearly this infraction reeks of Post Procrastination Disorder, that rare condition that strikes one at holiday weekends when one's dutiful tapping away at one's keyboard seems a bit antiquated and lonely. Does anyone give a toss about blogs anymore? In any case, I'm happy with today's weathered offering from Galway and glad to see it up. What else? New York City has emptied out for the weekend, and I'm going to celebrate this fortuitous turn of events by curling up with this overdue stack of library books and a camera full of Iceland photos that need sorting. Happy holiday weekend, all.

Friday, September 2, 2011

#121: Bass Ackwards

Cambridge, MA

Not so much a case of a job well done as a job, well . . . done.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

#122: Live Poultry & Slaughter

Greenpoint, Brooklyn

It could be just another one of those standard Brooklyn graffiti-deckled doorways, forgettable and plain. Till you look up and see the huge Live Poultry & Slaughter sign hanging overhead (not pictured).

These poultry-pummeling places -- surprise -- give me the creeps beyond measure. There's a similar one just around the corner from where I live, and despite my best intentions I've witnessed horrible smells, nightmarish squawks, and the disconcerting sight of slaughterhouse employees laying out on manky mattresses on the sidewalk just outside for a mid-morning nap. Worst of all, this past year the poultry place replaced their tatty awning with a brand new one, sparkly and bright red -- which somehow makes it all the more squalid. Here, on Greenpoint Avenue, the fact that there's a cute number just below the slaughterhouse sign makes me feel all sorts of confused. I should look away, shouldn't I?

As neighborhoods go, Greenpoint has been good to me. I'm not there often, but I've strolled past this slaughterhouse a number of times, whether I'm headed to a raucous book reading at the lovely indie bookstore WORD or off to bind books at Booklyn, the book arts collective. For years I've been charmed by the crescent-moon twos on this red brick building. I finally caught it on camera this past June on my way to my reading at WORD, where I was reading an excerpt from my novel-in-progress. And then the lovely Annie, blogger and fugitive, who happened to be breezing through New York that weekend, caught me catching it with her camera. And now you can catch her catching me catch the number and . . . and . . . Well. You get the picture.

I don't want to think about what goes on inside this building. But on the outside, I'm all sorts of charmed.