June 29, 2017
This story is published as an adjunct to PROJECT:OBJECT’s 25-part series of nonfiction stories about objects of talismanic significance.
I was in Indianapolis for a convention I didn’t want to go to, for a job I didn’t like. The university I worked for, an art school, was looking to join the NCAA and I was supposed to go and “make connections,” which implied the need to talk to people I did not know about things I did not know about. The only consolation was that I had a free hotel room, four days, and could expense all my meals, minus alcohol.
So I wandered the downtown, hitting up museum after museum. The Eiteljorg, filled with Native American artifacts and paintings depicting the American West. The Indiana State Museum, which featured a who’s who of Hoosier celebrities like David Letterman and Axl Rose, Michael Jackson and James Dean. I went to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library and sat in a replica of his writing den, admired the low coffee table inscribed with a quote from Thoreau: Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes. I avoided the panel discussions and social mixers.
The last night before I left, I walked down to the minor league ballpark — a beautiful riverfront stadium auspiciously named Victory Field — and asked the woman at the ticket window for the best seat in the house. For $7.50 I got a spot behind home plate and watched the Indianapolis Indians take on the Durham Bulls. I never played Little League and I’ve only ever been to a handful of games, but I’ve always liked the idea of baseball, the pace and precision, the way chance and statistics collide.
Sometime in the fifth inning, just after finishing a non-reimbursable beer and thinking about how to leave the stable job I didn’t like for the uncertainty of one I might, there was a pop-up foul ball. Everyone around me scrambled – gloves ready, eager to snag it midair – but it sailed past all the outstretched arms and landed right next to me, wedged into the empty seat to my right. I picked it up and held it in front of me, this good thing I didn’t expect or know I wanted until it was mine.
I quit the job; I took my chances. So far, so good. Now the ball sits on my desk to remind me you never know what’s coming. You put yourself in position. You swing. You wait and see.
In April and May 2017, we ran a Talisman Story Contest. The stories were judged by PROJECT:OBJECT’s Rob Walker and Josh Glenn, and by the legendary Annie Nocenti. Alex’s FOUL BALL story was one of three runners-up.
CONTEST-WINNING FICTION: 1. TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN: Charles Pappas’s “The Law” | 2. CATASTROPHE: Timothy Raymond’s “Hem and the Flood” | 3. TELEPATHY: Rachel Ellis Adams’s “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | 4. OIL SPILL: A.E. Smith’s “Sound Thinking” | 5. LITTLE NEMO CAPTION: Joe Lyons’s “Necronomicon” | 6. SPOOKY-KOOKY: Tucker Cummings’s “Well Marbled” | 7. PULP HERO: TG Gibbon’s “The Firefly” | 8. FANFICTION: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”
TALISMANIC OBJECTS series: INTRODUCTION | Veda Hille on CROCHET SHEEP | Gary Panter on DINOSAUR BONES | Jami Attenberg on SELENITE CRYSTAL | Annie Nocenti on MINIATURE DICE | Wayne Curtis on CLOCK WINDING KEY | Judith Zissman on SPINDLE WHORL | Amy Fusselman on BOX OF PENCILS | Josh Glenn on MONKEY WHIMSEY | Mike Watt on DASHBOARD TOTEMS | Gordon Dahlquist on CLAY FOX | Mark Kingwell on ZIPPO | Jennifer Schuessler on BEER-CAN CHAIR | Anne Gisleson on WISDOM TEETH | Ben Ehrenreich on CHROME LUMP | Matthew De Abaitua on HATCHET | Ty Burr on INFLATABLE KING KONG | Jacob Covey on ARGUS COIN | Jessica Helfand on PILL BOTTLE | Shelley Jackson on IMPUNITY JANE | Jennifer Krasinski on LEO’S LIGHTER | Molly Heintz on EVIL EYE | Mark Frauenfelder on MARTIAN FINK RING | Amanda Fortini on PRAYER CARD | Ed Skoog on MAMMOTH IVORY | CONTEST-WINNING STORY: Seth on PEANUTS PAPERBACK.
POLITICAL OBJECTS series: INTRODUCTION | Luc Sante on CAMPAIGN PAMPHLETS | Lydia Millet on PVC POLAR BEAR | Ben Greenman on MATCHBOX CAR | Rob Baedeker on PRESIDENTS PLACEMAT | L.A. Kauffman on WHEATPASTE POSTER | & 20 MORE.
SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018). 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE . ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.