Or whatever you call them. I’ve been hanging on to this small packet of ‘mystery’ objects since 1994, when I received it as a parting gift on the last day of classes at college. It was a painting class, and we were supposed to have a critique of our end-of-the-year projects. The teacher, being an artist, decided not to show up, leaving instructions that we were to critique each others’ work. He also left a box with a bunch of little brown paper packets, instructing each student to take one at random. Inside we were to find what was there and draw whatever conclusions we could from it. Say what you will, it was a memorable gesture.

Inside mine there were the following things:

  • a shark tooth
  • a New York City subway token (remember those?)
  • a dried leaf

IMG_0171.JPGIn the years that immediately followed, I  moved to New York City, dealt with a plethora of dangerous people and – yes – grew up. If I were of the mystical persuasion I’d probably think it was a real talisman. The truth is, I imagine any three objects could be imbued with narrative importance and adapted to any life, especially in the hands of a college art student with a yen for travel.

I’ve managed to keep this gift with me for twenty years, through innumerable addresses in various cities on two continents and assorted upheavals. I’ve never really consciously made a point of conserving it, but somehow there it is in my desk drawer, a quiet reminder of the streets I’ve walked.

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