One photo accumulation I started but lost track of involved sightings of my magic number, 181. PO Box 181 has been my mailing address since 1991, when I presented myself with a decision between getting a PO Box or a safe deposit box. I went with the former.

I had in mind using the PO Box as something like a storage chamber, which is probably illegal or at least against USPS policies. I think my plan was to mail myself something like a spare set of keys, or a pile of emergency cash, and keep the envelope in the box until I needed it. I never did any of that.

I ended up keeping the 181 as a public address for people who find this website and prefer to connect via postal mail.

181 has appeared in numerous places since 1991. One of the most memorable appearances was when a friend with whom I corresponded moved to California and rented a PO Box. Without her saying anything or requesting it they gave her 181. It was some kind of magical message.

I owned the domain name for a year before letting it go. It now contains a site with no content but that looks like it is intended to be a blog about 181st Street, which is in Washington Heights, where I used to live, not on 181st Street, but close enough to include it in my long list of 181 encounters.

It’s not an obsession, just a fun little thing to keep my ever-active mind engaged, and paying attention. The hand-written ones are the handiwork of postal workers. The green one is from when I used to host a Scrabble site, and I beat someone with a score of 181.

I’m yet to figure out why, in areas like Midtown and the Upper East Side, so many building numbers get skipped. In some cases it seems obvious enough that a large building replaced a bunch of smaller ones, but it’s not always so. In my search for 181s it’s been uncanny how often it gets skipped over on a street where it seemed like it should have appeared, like when there’s a 177, then a 179, then a 183, but no evidence or reason to believe the 183 building replaced the 181. The magic number just got skipped, like it was harbinger of bad luck.

In a similar spirit I’ve found all kinds of vagaries and mistakes in the Queens street grid, but don’t even get me started on that. It’s a mess.

Here are a few 181s. The rest are over in the photo dumps section. This is also my first use of the Gallery post format in the Extra Theme.