By: Susannah Breslin
January 3, 2019

One in a 2018–2019 series of posts reprinting stories originally written — by 12 HILOBROW contributors and friends — for Josh Glenn and Rob Walker’s 2009–2010 anthropological-literary experiment SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS. See below for more info about this ongoing project.


I reached my hand into the drawer, withdrew it, and looked at what lay in my palm. “ALL AMERICAN OFFICIAL NECKING TEAM,” the pin read. It was hard to reconcile the words with my father. At this point, he had been dead for nearly 15 years. After he had passed away, my mother and I had stood over the dining room table upon which sat a large box that contained what was left of him. Cremains, the man had called them. My father, I had longed to correct him. Thankfully, my mother had been willing to share what remained of him with me, his only son. My father was a skyscraper of a man — six-foot-five, Ozymandias hands, a brooding forehead — a great man, really — and so, he had left a great deal of himself behind. I dipped a teaspoon into the mound of his ashes and placed three or so tiny shovelfuls into a plastic bag. I fastened the bag with a twist-tie. I put the bag in a small wooden box that smelled faintly of the peach tea it had once held. Later, my mother handed me a bag of his things, which, to be perfectly honest, I had forgotten about — until today, when I spotted it in the back of the drawer, behind my wife’s underwear, and reached into the leather case and pulled the pin from it.

I imagined my father had won his place on the All-American Necking Team sometime during 1953, his senior year at Brooklyn Preparatory. I knew what he looked like back then from photographs: a young man with deep-set eyes undershadowed by dark circles, his long form gangly with the awkwardness of his youth, a thin tie knotted at the base of his bird-like neck. Once, my mother had told me about his penchant for drinking Zombies, about the time in the middle of a party, he had proclaimed, “I’m a tree,” and then fallen flat to the floor, how she had stolen him from another woman older than her, who had a child — and in the remembering, my mother had smiled. But that summer, his father, my grandfather, a frustrated CPA with a roaring temper fueled by an abiding love of Four Roses and the failures of the Brooklyn Dodgers, had fallen dead of a heart attack while taking the IRT subway to work one day, and my father’s life had changed forever. Instead of trundling off to some Ivy League college, he had stayed in Flatbush, enrolled at Brooklyn College, and dutifully taken care of his mother, a woman I’d never met, whose name was Rose.

Looking down at the pin staring up at me like a Cyclops, looking through this portal into a time wherein I was nothing but a flickering flash in one of my father’s constellation of neurons, I wondered who this all-star necker was: my father, a young man not unlike myself, or something else altogether — a man beyond my understanding now relegated to a past that lay on the other side of a bridge where the land was so dark that I could no longer see him.


ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE: Ben Greenman on SMILING MUG | Dean Haspiel on KENTUCKY DISH | Doug Dorst on RUSSIAN FIGURE | Kurt Andersen on SANTA NUTCRACKER | Matt Brown on CRUMPTER | Chris Adrian on KANGAMOUSE | Nicholson Baker on MEAT THERMOMETER | Rachel Axler on FORTUNE-TELLING DEVICE | Sean Howe on PABST BOTTLE OPENER | Susannah Breslin on NECKING TEAM BUTTON | Tim Carvell on ROUND BOX | Susanna Daniel on SHARK AND SEAL PENS

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.

CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators