“So hi, my name is Persia.

I’ve kept these three 45’s of Elvis Presley to remind me of a special moment in time.

I’m from Memphis, Tennessee, born and raised. When I was 15 years old I started dating a boy in school who was a couple of years older than me and he managed the Memphian Theater, a movie house in Memphis. You Elvis-o-philes will know that when Elvis was in town, he rented the theater as he could not go to the movies in public without creating a scene.

He brought is crew in, you know, Red and George and Dr. Nick and Charlie and all the guys. Priscilla came many times and brought their dog, a big Harlequin Great Dane. They were not a quiet bunch. He would arrange for someone prior to get a truck, collect all the movies that were in town, and bring them to the theater. They would start around midnight and go until four, five or even seven o’clock in the morning. They would run the movies and if he didn’t like it, he just raised his hand and the projectionist just stopped that one and put in the next.

My story is about what happened December the 29th, 1970. It was Christmas break but also the night before my 16th birthday. My boyfriend snuck me into the theater. It was my first time there and I was kind of nervous and was tucked up against the back wall near the door. Elvis arrived through the back door and went to his usual choice seat among his crew in the middle of the seventh row.

When I saw him get up to go to the bathroom, I snuck out into the lobby so that I could catch a look at him. As I came out the door into the lobby, the clock struck twelve and now it was December 30th, which is my birthday.

Elvis’ nickname for everyone who knew him closely was E and Elvis’ nickname for my boyfriend was Buddy. My boyfriend was in the lobby and his friend Joe was with him. Joe yells to Elvis as he gets to the bathroom door: Hey E!! It’s Buddy’s little girlfriend’s birthday. She just turned 16 years old!!

I am mortified. I’m not even supposed to be there and now I’m getting caught in the lobby! I had my hands on my shoulders like I don’t even know how they got there and I am frozen. Elvis let’s go of the bathroom door and turns toward me. He starts walking across the lobby like he’s a cat doing those sexy gyrations he is so famous for. The boys are laughing like crazy and I am dying. I don’t even know what’s going to happen next and then he gets to me. With my arms still frozen over my chest he puts his hands underneath my elbows and pulls me up next to him. He’s quite a tall guy and still looked really good at that time. Then he kisses my top lip and kisses my bottom lip and then gives me this great big French Kiss, all in one thing!

He then puts me back down and makes a sound like he’s shivering and his body shudders all over. And all I could think to say was… oh, thank you! I mean what do you say? Then he does his catwalk back down the lobby, gives me one last look, shudders, and slips into the bathroom. The guys just die laughing and I’m like-shut up, shut up, this is the most important thing that’s ever going to happen to me in my whole life!!

That was my sixteenth birthday!

I’ve told everybody this story but my mother, bless her heart and rest her soul. When I got home that night, I went in and I sat on the edge of her bed and I said, mom, you’re never going to believe what happened to me tonight! And she said what is it honey? And I said Elvis kissed me. He found out it was my birthday and he kissed me. And she goes, oh, that is so sweet! And I’m thinking, yeah, sweet right?”

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“Hi I’m Lisa

The trash that I’ve brought today is from the beaches of Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth Rhode Island.

It shouldn’t be there so I pick it up.”

“This is also the area of the state in which I live. I became passionate about the trash when I became involved with the Surfrider Foundation and Clean Ocean Access in Rhode Island.”

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“My name is Nate.

In his will, my grandfather made a bequest to me of this boarhead and two rifles- one of which was used to kill the animal.

I cherish them because he specifically wanted me to have them.”

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“Hi, my name is Ana.

I brought my spoons. I may be the only professional chef fixated on this one particular cheap spoon. And to me they are just as important as my knives.

Usually people are like, what’s the big deal about the spoon? Well, it’s amazing what you can accomplish with a spoon when it doesn’t have a lip. You can cut, stir, and then because it’s flat you can take the mixture and spread it onto a plate. Then take another spoon, go to your hot sauté pan and use it as a spatula to flip up a scallop, pick up some juices from the pan, baste and also taste. Then grab another and move on.

These spoons were discovered by mistake about ten years ago. We kept stealing spoons meant for the dining room. So one day I asked my sous chef, “Can you just call and try to find the cheapest spoon so we can stop doing that? These are what happen to come in and now it’s come to the point where I don’t go anywhere to cook without them. Whether its New York or Europe, I bring tons of these spoons as part of my tool kit.

It’s now evolved into this spoon that is placed at every position in the kitchen. If it doesn’t have spoons it is not considered a set up station. In my restaurants all of us agree-once you start using these spoons, you can’t go back. We have hundreds of them and now, when we order new spoons from our supplier, we just ask for Oleana kitchen spoons.”

Ana Sortun is the owner of three restaurants, Oleana being the original. She won the prestigious James Beard award in 2005 for her excellence. She’s married to a farmer who provides all the organic produce that her restaurants need. Farm to table is a family affair.

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“Hi, my name is Nellie.

I come alive whenever I see this album. It brings me back to my teen years which were sheltered and happy. I first bought the album when I was 13 and collected photos up until the time I left Tanzania to come to America. The year was 1974 and I was eighteen.

I was young and laughter was always present, especially when most of these pictures were taken. My mother and fathers pictures are in there and my brothers and sisters. And my one niece at the time, I was her idol so where I went, she went. I had one best friend that I really, really miss. We lost touch when I moved to the States. She went to England and then became a doctor in New Guinea. And I just don’t know how to find her. I’ve tried but this album remains my only connection to her.

America is my home now but Tanzania is still my true home. There are things about Tanzania that I miss sometimes. The people are genuine and they’re honest and when they tell you something they mean it. They’re not fake and they follow through. But the US has given me the opportunities that I could never have in Tanzania because in the states I could reinvent myself to do whatever or become whomever I want to be. For me to be able to work with McCartney or whoever in Hollywood, it’s — it’s just an amazing thing that I would never have had in Tanzania. Like when I’m watching the Oscars and can point out how many people I know that I’ve touched. It was like, oh, I know him or oh, I know her, so yeah, that’s pretty amazing. So I love this country for giving me these chances for success.

I still get impressed by all of this. My friends say I’m still too innocent and even at my age right now I’m thinking, oh my God, yeah, they’re right. But it’s my childhood in Tanzania that has given me a spirit that those I work with are attracted to — it’s why John probably wanted me around, and McCartney, and why they turned me on to other people. It allowed me to succeed, absolutely, Yeah.

Other than this ebony necklace I am wearing, not many things are still with me from my childhood in Tanzania.  The beads have a healing quality and are thought to be protective and symbolic. The wood of the ebony tree is very beautiful and it never rots, it just doesn’t. It will always remain the same. Like the feeling I get seeing the people in this album each time I look.”

Nellie is a makeup artist based in San Francisco and has worked with many of Hollywood’s most notable actors and some of the world’s most iconic musicians. Where she mentions McCartney and John in the story, she is referring to her time spent with Paul McCartney and John Travolta respectively. These days she spends most of her time working on projects with Silicon Valley’s brightest innovators.

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“Hi my name is Janet.

My mother was a phenomenal seamstress. She sewed anything that could be constructed: dresses, snowsuits, bathing suits, and once, a pop-up camper. As a teenager, she dreamed of becoming a fashion designer, but no one from Maine has ever done that, so she became my mom instead. She bought me my first pair of serious scissors and told me that they should last a lifetime. I keep her old scissors with mine. Somehow, seeing them together reminds me of all the hours we spent sitting side by side at her old Singer. Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes has heard a story about my son, Crockett. A couple of months after his first birthday, I was diagnosed with cancer. I remember sitting in the dark, holding him long after he had fallen asleep and thinking that if I died now, he wouldn’t remember me. He wouldn’t even know that I loved him. Maybe it’s hormones, but when your children are new, you love them with a ferocity that is overwhelming. But I didn’t die, and now Crockett is 17 and on his way to becoming a fashion designer. I know that some people probably think that I am too involved in his life, but they weren’t sitting in the dark with me 17 years ago. I love him with the same intensity of that long ago night, and I know that every second I spend with him is one that might never have happened. Not so long ago, I bought him his own pair of scissors. They should last a lifetime.”

Three generations of scissors. Crockett’s appear on the right and someday they to will have the patina of his grandmother’s seen on the left.

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My name’s Alanka.

I have a huge obsession with Taokaka. She’s a cat/human character in an Anime based Japanese video fighting game called Blaze Blue. She’s the only thing I know how to draw really well.

Alanka’s lifelong interest in Anime has led her to pursue a degree in illustration at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She will be graduating high school in two years.

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Hi my name’s Robyn

I brought with me a snow globe today. I don’t exactly remember the first one but now I try to collect one from every place I visit.

This one depicting Beauty and the Beast was a gift and is meaningful because as a child I watched Disney movies every single day. If I fell asleep, I’d have to replay the various scenes to see what I missed even when I knew the entire thing from start to finish. After the movie Beauty and Beast was released I was hooked and collected every Disney film I could find. I watched them all the time. I still have them to this day and they still help me sleep. They’re awesome.

Before coming here today, I really couldn’t verbalize how special this one was to me, until I recalled a passage from a book that I read in High School, from start to finish, all in one day. It was “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold. In it there is a passage with a father and daughter looking at a snow globe. The daughter being very young was thinking about the people that lived inside and was worried for their safety saying they were trapped in there. And, you know, the father just says: don’t worry about it; they’re trapped in a perfect world, and it’s the absolute best way to describe a snow globe.

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Hi, My name’s Sam.

I brought my hair, which is no longer attached to me.

I started growing it because I was into the heavy metal scene. I mean, if you don’t commit to having the long hair, then you’re not like metal enough. I had it for about ten years and I cut it a couple of years ago. It was down to my waist. It wasn’t a particular day when I decided to cut it off, I thought about it for months.

I just remember the funniest reaction I got was from my childhood friend, John, who when he saw me for the first time with short hair, didn’t say a damn thing. And I was like, you’re not going to say anything? He’s like – “I don’t know, I knew you before you even had the long hair so this just looks normal to me. So no big surprise, buddy!”

I kept the cut hair because it’s important for me to remember that everybody identified me by the long hair for basically as long as I had it—and I did as well. But when I felt ready to grow into somebody new I was sort of held back by it. So, when I cut it, It felt like a burden off, both figuratively and literally. That much hair weighs a lot!

It freed me up to grow into the person that I am today, to meet my wife and head on out to start a new life in California.

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Bonjour, je m’appelle Anais.

I am 13 and I live in Paris. So, I make these creatures, I think just for fun and I have lots of them and they’re all different. From the point where I start thinking of a character, I kind of imagine it’s accessories. There is always something that will go with them. And generally, the accessory will define the creature’s character and body shape. I call this one Music. He’s an intelligent dragon. He likes rap, Eminem actually. Of course he likes to wiggle his tail and dance. I chose to make him orange, one of my most favorite colors. I will make art my whole life. I will work as an artist because I really don’t want to be in an office.

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My name is Alexis and I’m a photographer.

So my story with this turtle, I was at my best friend’s home in La Marsa, Tunisia. It’s a coastal town in northern Tunisia near the capital Tunis. We decided to visit the Souk, which is a large, well-known market in Tunis.

We were walking trough the vender stalls and went by a cage with some forty turtles piled on top of each other. I felt sorry for this one turtle and was so sad to see her there that I bought her- it was three, four Euros at the time, nothing.

For that week it was just funny to have her in his apartment but I decided I wanted to keep her. My friend was returning with me to France and he really wanted us to leave her in Tunisia, because he said it was forbidden to bring turtles into the country. I didn’t believe it was forbidden and even if it was I didn’t think the fines would be a lot so I decided to bring her back. I couldn’t abandon her over there.

On the day we left Tunisia I hid her in my camera bag and she went through the scanners. Even I saw her on the screen but at the exact same time my bag was going through the x-ray machine an alarm rang and the security officers became distracted and started shouting at everyone. The alarm was triggered because of a piece of luggage right before me, some guy had hidden a knife in his bag.The distracted officers never saw the turtle on the scanner.

So okay, but after getting through security my friend tells me again that the turtle on the plane, it’s very dangerous. And on the internet we read the fine can be forty thousand Euros if I get caught. So I’m like, oh shit but it’s too late, I can’t leave the turtle in the Tunisia airport. We boarded the plane with the turtle still in my bag. When we arrive in France I’m very afraid to smuggle in the turtle and ask my friend to take all the bags. I just wanted to go through immigration myself but I still didn’t know what I was has going to do with my turtle. I was really nervous about getting caught so just before I reached the control area I dropped the turtle into my trunks, looked down an told her be careful. But when I arrived at immigration, the stations were empty- there was nobody! I passed through and just started running with the turtle still in my pants. When I was about hundred 100 meters from the station the turtle was still in my trunks and I slowed to a walk. I looked back I see officers returning to theirs stations and they were talking to all the people that came from Tunisia.

My friend got out of the airport an hour later. The customs officers had searched him and all the luggage. I was very lucky.

And now, this turtle, her name is Spinoza, is alive and well and four years old.

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“Hi, my name is Nathan and I brought with me my Tivoli audio songbook.

I just don’t like talking to people. That’s why I think I like my radio…so I don’t have to talk.

I keep the radio on from the time I get up in the morning until the time I go to bed at night. It’s kind of like having another person around the house when I’m just doing my work. It’s not about the radio. It’s about having sound, whether music or talking.

But honestly, it’s not just white noise. I just love information. I love to read, I love any intake of information, and I just find this to be the most passive way to do it. It’s just coming into me while I work. My girlfriend thinks it’s really interesting- she’s never seen anything like it.

This radio has a kind of weird coating on it. It just loves dirt. It sits on my work bench and gets kinda crusty. But I don’t care, as long as it plays.

I wouldn’t hear a voice for days if it weren’t for this radio.”

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“My name is Jake.

This is the first knife I ever bought; its called a Santoku. I want to be a chef and own my own restaurant….someday. I love to see how my cooking can make people happy.

I found it in Tokyo last summer at the giant Tsukiji fish market. Getting it there was extra cool ’cause they engraved my name in Japanese right into the handle and promised me a new knife as a gift if I ever came back and was a professional chef. Of all the vendors, they were the nicest!”

Jake is only 14 years old but already has two mentors in his corner, Barbara Lynch and Ana Sorun, both renowned chefs in their own right.

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“I’m here today with a collection of cards that I’ve found over the last 20 years on the streets of different cities around the world. On a backpacking trip through Europe in 1995 is when I first realized that these cards generally appear around pivotal life moments, such as changes in career, relationships, breakthroughs etc.

I remember this one card I found in Spain vividly. That same day I had been dumped by my girlfriend at the time. It was a pivotal moment in my life because it opened my eyes to what was in front of me and all that was about to unfold.

I’ve always written the date and location on the cards to track where and when I find them. One day, a mathematician friend of mine recommended that we chart them to see if there were any patterns to be found. Sure enough there was. On several occasions I had found the same exact card on the same exact day years in a row, and in some cases, every other year.

That freaked me out in a cosmic kind of way, but made me realize that for me, this was more than just a random hoarder habit. I stopped charting them, but I do still collect the cards, and now it’s a nice surprise when I find them. It reminds me to slow down, evaluate the current state of my life, and take note of where things are at.” 

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“Hi I’m Rosanne,

Today I brought my collection of ravens. I find ravens to be completely magical. To me they represent mythology, poetry, dreams and I love to photograph them. I have created a lot of pictures all around the USA and Europe using these ravens.

It all started in the ’90’s when I purchased them for a poster I was creating for a theatrical production of Jane Eyre. I became fascinated with them and have been photographing them ever since.

I like the mysteriousness of them and find I connect with them in some way.

They are a little spooky, but I love them.”

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Brian and Shirley

My name’s Brian, and this is my wife, Shirley.

There’s something about it. I dunno, we surround ourselves with all the goods and trappings of life, and when you power your life down to living out of those little boxes on the side of the motor bike, and each other, that’s what life’s all about. You really find out about yourself and how you can cope.

I’ve been a motorcyclist all my life. I love that experience where all in one day, you can go from the hills in Peru, feeling the bite-ness in the air where its zero degrees at five kilometers high, and then you come down beautiful twisty roads to the Pacific Ocean, and it’s 30-plus degrees celsius.

And it’s great to be able to share that with your partner. Shirley does an amazing job sitting on the back of the bike, day in day out.

I’m Brian’s wife. I have no desire to ride myself, but, I’m a pillion in a million. Sat on the back of that motorcycle for 60-plus thousand kilometers on this trip. The motorcycle is our home, our transport, it carries our worldly possessions, and it carries trinkets from home, things that are important to us. We’re like little turtles.

Some days can be tough and hard whether it’s raining and cold…or dry and hot! People always say, “Oh, when it’s hot, that must be really good on the bike.” I heard someone use this analogy – “Stand in your bathroom, get your hair dryer out, turn it on your face and leave it there for about three hours. See how you like riding in the heat.”

But the motorcycle is a conduit to making really good friends. There’s a camaraderie about motorcycling, and there’s a fascination with the public that they like to know what we’re doing. When you ride into a gas station, people come up to you: “Oh, nice bike. Where have you been? Where are you going? Where have you come from? Oh, you’re Australian.” You don’t find that when you fuel up a car.

And that just develops a bond. It’s a bond that no one cares how old we are, what we’ve done in the past, what we’re gonna do in the future. It’s just the bond of travel and the bond of exploring new things.

The bike just breaks down all the barriers.

In 2011, after retiring from 36 years with the Victorian police, serving in the drug and homicide squads, Brian and Shirley packed up this bike and embarked on an 18 month journey. Starting in Santiago Chile, the southern most point in South America, they traveled to Deadhorse Alaska, the northernmost point in North America accessible by road. From there they continued to Europe and South Africa before making it back home to Australia. There’s more of their story here:

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“Hi my name is Shyno,

My object is the umbilical cord that connected me to my son and my son to me.

It was part of this little seed inside of me that grew into a beautiful young man. This was the initial connection, and now there is this huge emotional connection.

Though my children may travel and live far away, I’d like to have a little piece of them nearby.”

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Hi, my name’s Teddy

After a long day at school, the house phone rang and my mother answered. It’s Apple and they want to have a word with you, she said. I was 17 at the time, and had been hustling iPod parts around the world.

The voice at the other end of the line said “I’m not telling you this as one of Apples attorneys, but as say, an uncle figure: you need to stop what you’re doing.”

It all began a couple years earlier, when my iPod broke. With no funds to buy one new, I scoured eBay and purchased a logic board and read countless tutorials on how to crack them open and perform the surgery. The operation was a success. It lead me to realize that older iPods broke a lot and people rarely bothered to fix them due to warranty repairs being absurdly expensive. Word spread amongst my friends. I started accumulating a surplus of parts to fix friends’ iPods.

The hobby and good deed turned into an obsession that led me to buy bulk orders of broken iPods just to sell them for parts on eBay. By the time I was 17, a spare room in our house became an iPod graveyard. I had taken in more than $65,000 in revenue from the iPod and eBay ventures before I could even legally hold a Paypal account.

As the iPod progressed, components shrank and repairs became harder. The market for parts deteriorated. So I started to buy broken iPods, mail them back to Apple under warranty and receive brand new refurbished iPods for the cost of shipping.

This was the most lucrative venture of all, until it caught the attention of Apples legal department!

They let me off the hook but the lessons learned were invaluable. From customer service, to accounting, to shipping logistics. I differentiated myself by offering international shipping and received orders from numerous far flung regions.

The  power of e-commerce allowed a high school student to offer an affordable way for someone across the globe to repair their iPod. The power of the internet had won me over one iPod at a time.

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“Hi, my name is Chris,

This is my rat rod 1960 Lambretta Li 150 Series 2 Scooter.

Among a junk pile I found along the side of a road I saw this scooter laying in the dirt, basically a pile of parts. I stopped to ask the owner about it and discovered that the Board of Health was writing him up for having it there. So he offers to throw it in my truck if I’ll drag it away.

I got it home, put all these parts on saw horses and embarked upon this scooter project. Rat rod’s are amazingly modified vehicles that intentionally use a patchwork of parts from different vehicles.

The engine, transmission and forks are from a bike I “parted out” 15 years ago. I spent the next year and a half amassing parts from Argentina to Vietnam to Britain and the USA. The parts were original, used and beat-up. If the paint was more destroyed, it was more in line with my vision for this scooter.

The bike vibrates a lot and it’s not the most pleasant thing to sit on. And because it looks so bad it brings out different things in people.

My total investment is probably $4500. A friend rebuilt the engine but the ignition cost a lot. I bought this fancy one because I wanted it to always start.

Since it looks so bad, it has to run really good!

Lambretta was a line of motor scooters originally manufactured in Milan, Italy by Ferdinando Innocenti in 1942. There are clubs across the world, both national and local, devoted to the Lambretta scooter. A rat rod is a style of remake that, in most cases, imitates (or exaggerates) the original. Most rat rods appear “unfinished”, whether they actually are or not, with just the bare essentials to be driven. (Source: Wikipedia)

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“Hi my name is Julia,

I want be a princess when I grow up because princesses are pretty and I want to be pretty. They get to live in castles and wear princess shoes.

Julia’s first photo session had to be postponed due to the fact that she lost her princess privileges on our scheduled shoot day.

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“I’m Laura,

This is my chicken, Jennifer. We have eight chickens and one rooster named Radio. Since Sweet Pea, who was my favorite, passed away this year, Jennifer has taken her place. But she is the last of the originals so I’ll have to get more that I raise.

I am not a crazy lady. Eight years ago it started. I just brought three of them into our family, one for each kid, so that we had that life to experience because that’s what it’s all about. I wanted the kids to be around that new life and watch them grow up. It’s been a lot more interesting and fun and valuable than I can imagine. Lessons for everybody.

We purchased our chickens as babies. You start them in the house. They have to be warm so you have a heat lamp and people are always holding them. I’d be making dinner and holding a baby chicken. And they really do bond with you in that way.

They become part of the family. The dogs protect them, the kids protect them, we protect them. And they give us eggs, and entertainment!

I once gave Sweat Pea acupuncture after she got injured and was limping. Down the street from us is a veterinarian that has dabbled in acupuncture and had helped our arthritic dog. I asked her if she won’t mind trying it on Sweet Pea even though she had never done it before. She had no idea if it was going to work, but it totally worked. She was not limping after the treatment and I was a happy momma.

Sweet Pea passed away this year but she had a lovely life.”

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“Hi my name is Mehdi

It was February of 1981 in Tehran, Iran when my father had purchased a brand new car. On the morning of the 2nd anniversary of the Revolution he decides that he and I will go do some driving tests in the outskirts of the city on some empty roads near a military base. We switched seats so I can drive. Seven or eight minutes later I hear loud noises and realize that my dad has been shot. He opened the door, raised his hands and then fell to the ground and died. I was 14 years old.

We would eventually learn that he was shot by the members of the Basij, a paramilitary volunteer militia who had wrongly assumed our car belonged to the opposition group,  Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK Militia) , just because of the color alone. Eight people fired on our car. All the bullets went through the vehicle without hitting us except for one that hit my dad in his heart.

What transpired in the following year and a half would be a process of negotiations by my mother that ultimately paved a way out of Iran and into Germany and then the United States for my mother and me.

By Islamic law, the father of the victim gets to decide the fate of the convicted, i.e., it’s an eye for an eye.  My paternal grandfather chose to pardon the accused because “it was a mistake”. This led to an unspoken agreement, a deal with the government, that if he pardoned the soldiers it would help in allowing my mom and I to leave the country. My grandfather died about a year later and my mom continued to pressure the government to admit they had made a mistake and with the help of a lawyer was able to acquire a letter from the government that was an admission on their part. She wanted desperately to save what she had and this was our way out legally and with passport as tourists. Had I stayed, I would have been banned from leaving the country at the age of 16 and potentially eligible to become a soldier and fight in the Iraq/ Iran war.

I was thinking of making a stop-motion movie with a scale model car to illustrate what had happened on that day. I did a lot of searches on Ebay and finally found this exact replica of a Renault 5 and in the exact color. I have never shared this story with anyone and not even my wife knows the history of the car.”

Mehdi graduated from the University of Texas in 1991 and received his Doctoral from the University of Washington in 2000. He currently is employed at University of Washington/Fred Hutchinson Cancer research Center as an Oncology pharmacist. His mom lives a mile and half down the street from his family and is the best grandma ever.

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“Hi my name is LIz,

My object is a 1970’s New York Times cookbook. The reason I choose it is because in my family most things revolve around food. If we don’t remember something about a trip or we don’t remember what we did, we always remember the restaurants in which we ate and the food that we really liked and the food that we didn’t like.

When I turned twenty-one my mother gave me this cookbook. She learned to cook with this same book shortly after she married my father in 1975. It was helpful because it was not only a way for us to forge a relationship over something that was so important to the both of us but it was also saying something about independence. As you move on in your life and you graduate school, you should know how to take care of yourself, so you should know how to cook.

Someday no one will use cookbooks because so many recipes are online, but this book is my history, so I think I will use it forever. But I don’t think I will be as good a cook as she is!”

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“I’m Eric,

I like to say I paid cash for a Papa Bear Chair. If you buy one new it can put you back nineteen to twenty thousand. Buy one vintage, ten thousand. I was able to pay cash: $34.50.

My wife and I are mid-century furniture enthusiasts and this was a ‘coup de grace’, greatest chair known to man. It was designed in the early fifties by Hans Wegner and it’s an icon of that period in Danish design.

We found this in the most unlikely of places, St. Vincent De Paul, in the heart of blue collar Bremerton, WA. We’ve always been driven and moved by art, gardens and architecture but have mostly had very little money to fuel these obsessions. We got the idea that we could own and enjoy the material essence of beauty without having to pay too much for it – coining the phrase “shoestring abundance” to describe our life philosophy.

Our daily excursions to St. Vinny’s were brought about when my wife and I were providing care to her grandmother with dementia. It was only a few blocks from our house and was something we could easily do together. That’s when we really got into shopping for furniture and it just became our daily thing and they came to know us at St. Vinny’s. We had this mindset that we don’t have to be limited. That we can find anything even though interior design is so stratified by income level.

There have been all sorts of great marketing ideas. But for St. Vinny’s it’s about being completely honest. Everything is on a cement floor. It stands on it’s own and it is what it is. You pay the price marked, no dickering and that money you give to them immediately goes into the second half of the store which is a food bank. In this time of “Green” and “helping others”, I think it’s the best thing we got going.

The day I found the chair I was just going through the store and then decided I’d just kinda look in the secure area in the back and see if there’s something I wanted. There’s a woman there. A great lady but really prickly and kinda gruff and she would say, you know, “Get out’a here” or that day she just looked at me and said “what do you want?” And I just said, “That chair!” And she said, “Okay, $34.50” And so I tried to act like it was no big deal and said “okay, great!”. She said, “Don’t say I said you could have it. We’ll move it out and you just act cool.”

So they brought it out and I brought it home and showed my wife. It was all very exciting, except for one thing! It had been re-covered at some point in something we call Eddie Bauer plaid, which is ok on a jacket, terrible on a chair, kind of a taupe and green. I mean it just was really bad to look at even though it was in good condition and would have lasted a long time. But we couldn’t have it. We live in the land of Eddie Bauer but we just can’t have it on a chair. We were lucky enough to find an upholsterer right up the road that did a fantastic job.

Our first furniture purchase at St Vinny’s was a piece by the same designer, Hans Wegner. It was a ten foot long,teak,drop leaf table. We purchased it for $24.50. I drive up in my ’84 Volvo and it just slides right in like it’s made for it. I said, “you know its amazing, those Scandinavians. They build the car to fit the furniture.” And the guy said-“It is amazing. IKEA right?” And I said, yup, it’s IKEA, and so we drove off. That started our love affair with Danish furniture and we still got it going.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1833 to serve impoverished people living in the slums of Paris, France(source:Wikipedia). Eric and his wife are now working on a book called “Shoestring Abundance”, trying to encourage everyone to realize that you can find quality at thrift store prices. It’s all about knowing what to look for.

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“I’m Brett,

At age 11 I started to play field hockey, hoping to be as good as my two older sisters. What I didn’t realize at the time was just how much more this would mean for me. It took me out the classroom setting where my learning disablity often made me appear lazy or stupid.

My mom was the only person who seemed to know I was always trying my best. She would be at every game running up and down the sidelines with words of encouragement. When I entered the 9th grade I learned that after her 7 year battle with cancer, she was told it was terminal. As her health deteriorated, I would work harder and harder to improve my performance on field. Or at least that is what I told myself. Looking back I now realize it was the only way I knew how to deal with my mom being so sick and my fear of losing her.

She wasn’t able to be there when I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Nor did she get to see me play Division I Field Hockey and Division II Lacrosse, but one thing I know is that she would have been extremely proud of my success. Her endless stream of support will never be forgotten.

In the summer of 2011 Brett summited Mount Kilimanjaro and raised $13,000.00 in memory of her mom to fight breast cancer for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. It’s never too late to help such an admirable cause. Just follow the link:

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