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My Wall of Things: Part 4

Jess Lahey
Jess Lahey
I’m looking out my office window on a frozen Vermont forest, and despite my flagging vitamin D levels and enthusiasm for snow, I’m feeling so very grateful.
I’ve had a busy week of writing, finishing some home renovation projects, and speaking to nearly one thousand people about The Addiction Inoculation and The Gift of Failure via virtual events. While many of my events are still virtual, next month I get to head back out on the road with my younger kid and travel across Colorado for a couple of speaking events and a Porter Robinson show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. I’ll include my tour schedule at the bottom of this newsletter in case you’d like to come on out.
In the meantime, back to my wall.
Where were we…ah. Item 66. To catch up, click here for part 1 here for part 2, and here for part 3.
Item 66: From my dad, “Chambered nautilus shell purchased for $8 in a seashell shop on Sanibel Island.” Hot glue fans beware: the outer layer flakes off and takes the gorgeous stripes with it when glued to a wall for years. Whoops.
Item 67: Also from my dad, “A pressed tin architectural rosette from the exterior of a 1860’s row building in Cincinnati. Demolition of the old residence was partially completed when I strolled by to survey the remaining wood and metal parts on the ground. This rosette, in "as found” condition, (in thick original coats of paint), was in a pile of debris. It’s been displayed on several walls, and a few offers to buy it have been rejected.“
Item 68: A cherry pie, obviously. I made it in Mrs. Levering’s art class in first or second grade, and it sat on our fireplace mantel my entire childhood.
Item 69: A Book Nerd pin from Out of Print. I also own a hat and a shirt with this logo. Guilty as charged.
Item 70: A little froggie. No idea where it came from save that my dad gave it to me.
Item 71: Okay, this item has a story and carries some emotional baggage. There’s a carousel in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard called the Flying Horses Carousel. It was built in 1876, and is the oldest continuously operating platform carousel. According to Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, ”…it was built by Charles W.F. Dare of Coney Island in 1876, and legend has it that it was transported to the Vineyard over the ice in the winter of 1884 in lieu of a debt.“ As you ride the hand carved horses, you can reach out to try to grab the brass ring. What you’d get more often than not, is a steel ring. My father kept this one a long, long time ago, and has felt guilty ever since. As he should:
All this ring grabbing comes with a price. Each year, between 10,000 and 11,000 silver rings disappear; people take them as souvenirs. To complicate matters, the last known ring manufacturer has gone out of business. What’s more, there are only 14 brass rings left; however, since people have to turn them in to get a free ride, that number remains fairly constant. Suffice it to say, the attendants keep very close track of the brass rings.
So, in summary: By all means, go for it – go for the brass ring. Just make sure you have a good lawyer. And if you get it, be sure to give it back.
I will be dealing with the curse of this item today and mailing the ring back to the this ring from my wall today and mailing it back to Mike "Panhead” Fuss, the mechanic in charge of maintaining the carousel.
Item 72: A key. My dad had tons of them, goodness knows where he got this one.
Item 73: Again, from my dad, “"POPS” metal on wood printing block. That’s why it’s reversed… so the printed image reads correctly. Earlier printing blocks were all wood, this is a metal ‘zinc line cut’ mounted on a wooden block. Later type blocks are all metal, referred to as “hot type” because they are molded with molten zinc. “POPS” refers to The Boston Pops, of course! Found this (you guessed it) in a box of junk at an antique shop in Lexington, MA. Because of the great type design and subject, it was pricey for a small printing block, at $3.00"
Item 74: A little book that came with a set my mother-in-law Kate gave me to go with my literary action figures so I could have more props for my New York Times column art (see items 32-35). You can see more of the books below, on the miniature table she also gave me.
Item 75: A little camel I adore but it also came from my dad and we have no idea where it came from.
Item 76: A promotional postcard for KJ Dell'Antonia’s book, How to Be a Happier Parent! I love this book and I love KJ, so of course it’s on my wall.
Item 77: Another key, another unknown provenance.
Item 78: The sticker from my first COVID vaccine. That was a big day.
Item 79: My name tag from my very first day of law school at UNC. Also a big day.
Item 80: My friend Wendi Aaron’s business card. It makes me giggle every time I look at it, which is a good thing as she’s a humor writer. It reads, “Wendi with an I. Like Gandhi.” You can find her work at McSweeney’s, the New Yorker and she has a book coming out this year, so watch out for it!
Item 81. The literal and figurative centerpiece of my wall. This is the Every Day Calendar by inventor Simone Giertz. Simone is probably best known for building shitty robots and turning her Tesla into a Truckla (see build video here). She built the Every Day Calendar to help her get in the habit of meditating every day and it became her first marketable product, first in the form of a Kickstarter and now, either through her website (sold out) or The MoMA Design Store (also sold out). I got mine for Christmas, thanks to my wonderful parents.
Here’s how I use it: every day, I set a goal. Could be exercise, could be word count, could be time with my family, could be progress on a home renovation project. If I achieve that goal, I get to light up the day. So far, my entire 2022 is lit up and a whole lot of home renovation projects are done. I love this calendar with all my heart, and Simone has become one of my aspirational role models. Someday I’ll share the others, as I have a list of around five or six. She once held up a copy of my book The Gift of Failure at the end of a video called “I made a robot to help you DEAL with it,” and it remains one of the high points of my existence.
Here’s the video Simone made to celebrate the birth of the Truckla, and if you want to watch her build it, go back up to the link in the paragraph above.
Love to all of you. I heard a rumor that spring really will be coming soon, so keep the faith.
Off to package up my carousel ring and search for something cool to put in its place on the wall.
TRUCKLA: The world's first Tesla pickup truck
TRUCKLA: The world's first Tesla pickup truck
As promised, here’s my tour schedule:
February 25: Sana at Stowe (private)
March 11-12 The Harvey Foundation, (2 events) Nantucket, MA
March 15: United Federation of Teachers (virtual)
March 16: Agnes Irwin School, Rosemont, PA (virtual)
March 19-20: Canyon Ranch, Lenox, MA (private)
March 25: Sana at Stowe (private)
March 28: Vail Mountain School, Vail, CO
March 29: Eagle Valley High School, Gypsum, CO
March 30: Hope Center, Aspen, CO
April 5: District 181 Foundation, IL (virtual)
April 6: Bridgeside Books with KJ Dell’Antonia, Waterbury, VT
April 7: Milton High School, Milton MA
April 8: Sana at Stowe (private)
April 12, Punahou School, HI (virtual)
April 22: Sana at Stowe (private)
April 25: Mom2.0 Summit, Los Angeles, CA (private)
April 27: Stowe High School, Stowe, VT
May 6: Sana at Stowe (private)
May 20: Sana at Stowe (private)
June 3: Sana at Stowe (private)
June 24-26: Bookstock, Woodstock VT
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Jess Lahey
Jess Lahey @jesslahey

I write about all kinds of stuff but if you are into the writing life, the woods of Vermont, life with dogs, or my work in child welfare and substance use prevention, then you are in the right place.

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