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What's in my desk? — Lee Ellman


What's in my ... ?

June 2 · Issue #105 · View online

Each week, one interesting person shares four favorite things in their bag or in their desk or fridge or closet or wherever they keep things.

I am an urban planner working to make the city of Yonkers, NY a better place. — Lee Ellman

My desk was inherited from my first boss and mentor and is at least 60 years old — a metal desk from “Y & E” Manufacturing — the same model that you will see on the sets of TV shows about older New York City police stations. A little battered but essentially indestructible, it is so much better than the pressed wood desks that would replace it. Called “tanker desks,” a number of furniture companies made these sheet steel desks from 1946 until the 1970’s. They were most often found in institutional settings, like schools and government offices. Based upon the large number that are available on-line at retro furniture sites mine is not the only one to have survived in good shape after years of hard use.
Like all things Oxo it works perfectly. I make a liter sized pot of good whole leaf tea, usually Pu Ehr, every day — twice a day when I am at an evening board meeting.
Eating lunch while working leads to drips on my shirts. Hit the spot with stain stick and the stain doesn’t set and the shirt is saved. I am embarrassed to say that it is a part of my place setting at lunch.
Bag Balm ($11)
Bag Balm is meant for cow udders, smells like raw wool because of all of the lanolin in it, has been on the market since 1899 and it is the best for dry and chapped skin. Not fancy, very old time Vermont — unpretentious and just works. The green metal can is distinctive and has a great graphic of a cow surrounded in red clover on the cover. 
Page Points ($19)
Page Points (now called Copper Page Nibs at Levenger.Com) are thin metal tabs that mount on a page in a book to semi-permanently mark a location. Like a metal post-it note but more permanent and far more satisfying, they lay flat to the page, don’t damage delicate paper, don’t stick out beyond the edge of the book or fray the way a paper sticky note does. Planners refer to our city zoning ordinance all day, every day, and I use these to highlight the sections that I most often need to find. 
What's in your ...?
We want to hear about unusual and unusually useful items that you have in your desk, bag, closet, fridge or where ever you keep things. It can be anything really: work bag, pantry shelf, beauty drawer, toolbox, etc. Start by sending an email to with a photo of the things in your chosen space (you can use your phone). If you get a reply from us, fill out the form. We’ll pay you $50 if we run your submission in our What’s in my …? newsletter and blog.
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