LOST OBJECTS (26)
October 3, 2019
One in an ongoing series of nonfiction stories about lost objects. In 2017, Project:Object’s Josh Glenn and Rob Walker asked 25 writers to tell us about a significant object they’d lost (or thrown away, or destroyed), then assigned these stories to 25 illustrators. The first Lost Objects series was such a hit with readers, and so fun for us to publish, that we’ve decided it deserves a sequel.
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Many years ago, my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Morocco, where we spent several hours at one of the public markets in Marrakech. A man there was selling small copper amulets called taweez: beautiful, engraved pieces of talismanic jewelry that, in this particular case, were shaped not unlike small bullets. It seemed both magical and strangely right: a blessed armament I could use to slay forces of malignancy in the world around me. I couldn’t resist.
The amulet, I saw, featured a small copper loop on one end that let you attach it to a cord and wear as a necklace or even hook it onto a keychain. The amulet was also hollow. I watched as the man packed its tiny interior with a prayer written on a piece of paper — and I will confess that, in my youthful, ignorant, touristic way, I was too timid to ask the man specifically what it prayed for — followed by colorful pieces of saffron that had been sitting on the ground beside him. These sorts of amulets, I’d later learn, are often concerned with things like the Evil Eye and even with possession by jinn (or demons), and they are not universally accepted as righteous among practicing Muslims; indeed, they’re a kind of tolerated vernacular holdover, a residual folklore in jewelry form.
Either way, I was enrapt. I purchased the amulet and we walked away.
Fast-forward half a decade, and my wife and I were in Los Angeles. We were in town for a design festival hosted by the magazine where I worked at the time and we had been put up at the Standard Hotel. There, you are either required or strongly encouraged to let a valet park your car. For nearly ten years, I had traveled with my Moroccan amulet — this beautiful, bullet-shaped copper object stuffed full of saffron and unknown prayers — attached to my keychain. It was both hermetic and omnipresent, there in my hand when I unlocked doors and crossed new thresholds.
Just before we checked out of the hotel, a valet parker must have decided it should be his — or hers, I never knew — and they took it. I can understand the temptation. It was gracefully etched with hand-carved lines and looked like some kind of bullet from a science-fiction film. So, when our car arrived from the garages below, we drove just a few miles out of town before I saw that it was gone; it had been deliberately removed, my keychain now deconsecrated, just secular bits of metal emptily clanging against the steering column.
I often wonder if a valet still has it, secretly attached to his or her own keys.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: See sidebar.
ABOUT THE ARTIST: Portuguese illustrator Mariana Pita lives in Lisboa.
LOST OBJECTS 2: INTRODUCTION | Geoff Manaugh on MOROCCAN TRINKET (ill. Mariana Pita) | Joe Yonan on MACRAMÉ ART (ill. Theo Ellsworth) | Laura Lippman on LABYRINTH GAME (ill. Laura Didyk) | Ben Katchor on LUCITE CARRYING CASE | Neil LaBute on PICKLED OCTOPUS (ill. Disa Wallander) | Miranda Mellis on SEQUINED SCARF (ill. Adam Goldberg) | Chris Piascik on GENERAL HUSTLER BMX | Jenny Kroik on MISSING TOY PIECES | Anita Kunz on FLOWER NECKLACE | Debbie Millman on GLASS POODLE | Heather Kapplow on CERAMIC ARTWORK (ill. Matt Wuerker) | Lydia Millet on ROCKY HORROR NOVEL (ill. Berta Valló) | Ben Greenman on WARHOL CAN (ill. Clara Selina Bach) | Leah Hennessey on BATMAN RING (ill. Dean Haspiel) | Kathryn Davis on PRAYER CARD (ill. Dina Noto) | Mikita Brottman on PINK ELEPHANTS (ill. Sarah Williamson) | Nathaniel Rich on AUTOGRAPHED BASEBALL (ill. Ellen Rose) | Charles Glaubitz on TRACK SHOES | Seth on ENTERPRISE MODEL | Becky Stern on SKELETON SWEATER (ill. Monica Garwood) | Mark Dery on GRANDFATHER PHOTO (ill. Kelli Anderson) | Paola Antonelli on VINYL SKIRT (ill. Guillermo Meraz) | Sara Ryan on FINGER PUPPET (ill. Steve Lieber) | Alex Gerasev on KARMA PARKA | Margaret Wertheim on ECCENTRIC BOOK (ill. Armando Veve).
FETISHES: INTRODUCTION | Josh Foer on DEATH MASK | Beth Lisick on MURDERED-OUT KFC BUCKET | Christina Couch on LEECH ACTION FIGURE | Kenneth Goldsmith on THEWLIS SOCK | Abby Rapoport on MAGNATILES | & 20 MORE.
FOSSILS: INTRODUCTION | Allegra Huston on SKATAWAY JACKET | Kevin Obsatz on HOMEMADE NUNCHUKS | Ian Bogost on DESKTOP TELEPHONE | Jeff Lewonczyk on CHA-CHA JACKET SCRAP | Kelly Horan on VOLVO KEY | & 20 MORE.
FLAIR: INTRODUCTION | Cliff Kuang on ROLEX DATEJUST | Ethan Zuckerman on LAPTOP STICKERS | Ann Shoket on LEATHER JACKET | Kembrew McLeod on KEMBREW MERCH | Paola Antonelli on MERMAID TEARS | & 20 MORE.
LOST OBJECTS (vol. 1): INTRODUCTION | Kate Bernheimer on MULLET WIG (ill. Amy Evans) | Dan Piepenbring on COLOGNE (ill. Josh Neufeld) | Doug Dorst on STRATOCASTER (ill. John Holbo) | Paul Lukas on VANILLA BEAN (ill. Alison Bamcat) | Mimi Lipson on DODGE DART (ill. Mister Reusch) | & 20 MORE.
ILLICIT OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Kio Stark on PEEPSHOW TOKEN | Sari Wilson on TOMBSTONE PARTS | Annalee Newitz on CAR-BOMB REMNANT | Tito Bottitta on MOONINITE DEVICE | Eric Bennett on DIRTY MAGAZINE | & 20 MORE.
TALISMANIC OBJECTS: 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 | & 20 MORE.
POLITICAL OBJECTS: 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) | FETISHES series (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 series (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS series (2Q2020). 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.