“I’m Susie,

I started writing in journals in order to confide in something that wouldn’t speak back to me. It allowed me to express myself in any way I felt like, with complete freedom. They contain travel, adventures and impressions, or to-do lists, but mostly they are the front story that people may know about and the back story that are my own thoughts. It’s a legacy to myself.

Sometimes I write in my journal and sometimes I don’t. If I have an empty journal lying around and I feel like having an emotional puke, then, you know, it ends up on the page. And it’s great in that way. It’s awesome!

The words in the journal are personal. They are about the inside and the truth. They are the thread that pull the truth onto the page.

That is my object, and that is the object.”

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I’m Daren.

I wear this necklace because it’s supposed to make me lucky.

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“Hi my name is Song,

I brought Hank, my Frenchie.

He’s the love of my life, my baby in a fur coat. His birthday is actually tattooed on my arm along with his name.

Hank never judges.

He just loves everyone.”

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“I’m Norma,

I brought my insulin pump because I’ve been a Type I diabetic since I was 14, and I don’t need it any more. I took part in a medical trial at MGH last year. The diabetes had destroyed my islet cells so I couldn’t produce my own insulin. Without the constant drip of insulin from my pump, my body had no way of regulating my blood sugar levels. In October, I got the call that they had a match. The following day, over 600,000 strong, healthy islet cells were transplanted into my liver. I was told they would settle in, then begin to produce insulin. I wouldn’t have to balance my insulin with exercise and food intake. It would all happen naturally again, without the pump.

I have had a love/hate relationship with this pump. Yes, it kept me alive, but it was also a constant reminder that I was different. Convenient, but also something that was always annoyingly there, beeping and alerting, attached to me, and part of every outfit I’ve worn for the last 6 years. That’s why it was such a thrill to watch my pump inject fewer and fewer units of insulin into my body after the transplant. I was told to cut my insulin by half, then by three-quarters. Then, to remove the pump completely.

I have to admit that I was pretty nervous about doing that. It’s strange to think that after all these years my body is now producing insulin completely on its own, like it never skipped a beat. I’m comfortable with the fact that I won’t have to inject insulin any more, but the truth is, I am still getting used to the idea that I am no longer a diabetic.

Now, I see the pump in my drawer, and it doesn’t bother me at all that it looks a little dusty and lonely. I’m happy that it is no longer part of who I am.”

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“My name is Don. I’m from Cambridge.

If you want your dad to stop smoking than getting him this pipe is probably not a good idea. I just use it now to chew on sometimes.”

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“Hi my name is Marcello.

This is my monkey Chester, Chester O’Chimp to be precise.

He scared the shit out of me until I was about five, when I finally realized Chester wasn’t real. After that I hated it because it was Irish and I was the only Italian kid in a mostly Irish neighborhood who got teased and called guinea all the time. I’d take my anger out on poor old Chester.

When you pull it’s string, it’s mouth moves. He says about a dozen different things with an Irish brogue like “I’m Chester O’Chimp, diddly doodly diddly dum” or “I’ll be a monkeys uncle, Oh I am” or ” Lets go to the zoo and see the wild children”.

I’ve had him since I was 1 years old. It was given to me by my aunt, or some guy named Mr Anderson-I’m not sure. He’d been AWOL since I had moved out at 19 but has recently re-emerged.

I consider him one of my most prized possessions, I’ve always said that if there was a fire in the house, Chester would be the first thing I grabbed.

I think it just reminds me of my childhood and my bedroom and growing up in Boston.”

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“So I am Abby,

Let me describe a bad week.

Show up for a week long rowing camp, immediately produce enormous blisters all over the palms of your hands and for a little icing on the cake, break your shoulder bone. Then spend the rest of the week telling your coaches “No, I Really Can’t Do That” and as a swan song, receive the coveted “I Hate Spring Camp 2010″ award made from a discarded horseshoe crab. Now that is what I call an awesome April vacation from high school.”

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“My name is Kai,

I bring dinosaurs.  They say Grrrrrrrrrr.”

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“Hi, my name is Doug and I want to talk about something and someone that changed my life.

My wife and I met in ninth grade. I was a troubled kid. It was back in the late ‘60’s and at the time I was hanging around with a bad crowd. I was 14 years old, selling drugs and the outlook for us at that time was pretty poor.

My girlfriend’s mother, who turned out to be my mother-in-law, and has since passed away, took me under her wing and showed me a different way of approaching life. We hear how people around you can influence the way and direction of your life. She did that. She just always took the time. It changed the way that I thought about myself and turned things into a positive light.

For me, this needlepoint captures the essence of basically who she was and the quality of time that she put into things.

In retrospect I see where my life has gone, taking me from someone who basically would have been a real loser in life to someone who can say, I’m proud of myself. I have accomplished a lot of things. I’m still married to her daughter and her father is still with us. We have a nice family.

All of this, pretty much, because of my mother-in-law who did this needlepoint.”

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“Hi my name is Layla,

I brought my childhood blanket. My mom got it for me when I was born and I have had ever since. Well not exactly. The first blanket was mistaken for a rag and used to clean my friend’s floors after I forgot to bring it home one day. Needless to say I was not very happy, it was my number one possession. What are the chances you are going to be able to find the exact same blanket in the exact same store four years after purchasing it? Well that’s what happened and with that little piece of luck my mother skirted a major meltdown that only a four year old can produce and I got my blanket back.”

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“My name is Bobby

A friend came over to my my house for dinner one time, left his tie on my sofa and it was a 1940’s palm tree tie. I tried to call him for the next two, three weeks trying to give it back, never got back to him and then I just kept collecting from there. By the time I was finished I had 70 different palm tree ties.

Grey suits, brown suits, navy blue suits were what was happening in the post war years of the 1940’s and ’50’s. Then these great flash ties appeared on the scene with bright colors and pictures and patterns. That is why I like them so much.

They’re bold and they’re bright in a world that was pretty drab!”

Most days Bobby can be found at his vintage clothing store, Bobby From Boston located just off Harrison Ave in Boston’s South End. He said that his love for vintage clothing probably came from his mother and father. “She was an interior designer and a clothes horse and he was a dandy”. Bobby has been in the clothing business for more than 38 years and has an international following. His clientele range from the random kid off the street to buyers of vintage at Ralph Lauren.

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“Hi, I’m Jim

I say, and this is the dead honest truth, I’m glad I had that accident, because of that accident they started detoxing me. It put an end to a destructive path my life has been on since coming back from Vietnam a heroin addict. For the last 16 years, I’d been either living on the streets or in and out of halfway homes.

In June of 2005 I blacked out at the Ruggles Subway Station in Boston, Ma and fell onto the tracks and the electrified third rail.

I can’t recall anything about that day except that I just wanted to get really high. I had received my prescribed dose of methadone from the clinic at the V.A. that morning, which I got everyday for probably 30 years. I then got Klonopin on the street and took 60 of those. People who do heroin are always searching for that first high, that feeling you get from that first high by taking larger and larger doses of drugs, but it doesn’t work. On the night of the accident, I was rushed to the ER at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. They weren’t sure they could keep me alive, but they did. Almost a year and a half had passed before I was brought out of a medically induced coma after going through many operations. When I woke someone told me “You don’t have a nose.” A bandage was covering me so I didn’t believe them. The third degree burns caused by the high voltage third rail had resulted in the loss of my nose, cheeks, teeth and the roof of my mouth. Also I had damaged one of my eyes and severely burned my arms and hands. The injuries were so bad that even with all the operations, I was still extremely disfigured.

It was lucky for me that a doctor named Pomahac was on call the night I was brought in. He took over my case and performed all the surgeries. A couple of years after the accident there was new hope for me. Dr Pomahac said I could be helped by a transplant. In 2009 he performed the surgery. I became the second person in the United States to have a partial face transplant.

When I saw my face 4 days after the 17 hr operation, I told Pomahac, “I can’t believe you made me look so close to what I used to look like”

I’m 62 now. I’m looking good for 62!

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac was a junior plastic surgeon the night they brought Jim in and had never seen such severe facial injuries in his career. Ever since performing Jim’s operation and with the support of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he has led a team of doctors into the forefront of advances in transplant surgery and is now Director of Plastic Surgery Transplantation. Dr. Pomahac has gone on to perform the first full facial transplant in the U.S., a rare double hand transplant and other additional first of their kind transplant surgeries.

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“Hi, I’m Kevin

This is the first purchase that myself and my wife made as a couple.

When we got married we loaded up the Subaru with camping equipment and had a ride through the American Southwest. About a week into the trip we came across this skull at one of these traditional Southwestern outdoor markets in Santa Fe, NM. Mexico is written on the back of it so it was probably killed in Mexico and brought across the boarder illegally, but, you know–who knows? I wish I could say that I killed it myself, but I didn’t.

The other option was to buy a necklace for my wife.

I really like this, honey, I’m going to get this dead cow head instead of a necklace. Yeah, the dead cow head-Yeah, definitely!”

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“My name is Dan.

I brought a stone that my grandfather, Morris Jacob Wentworth pretty much carried in his pocket for most of his life. Or at least that’s what I was told. He owned an auto parts store in Syracuse, New York and was also a justice in the town. My grandmother told me he called it his worry stone. She said he would keep it in his pocket and whenever he had something that he was deliberating he would rub the stone and it would put him at ease.

So I think it’s a really interesting object, you know given the fact that he carried it his whole life. He must have derived a lot of inner power from this stone, which acted as a calming mechanism at times of difficult decisions.”

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“I am Rosanne,

When I was very young, my uncle owned the largest night club in Philadelphia and helped to start the careers of legends such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Martin and Lewis, and Tony Bennett.  They would always come to my aunt and uncle’s home for dinner, bounce me on their laps and sing me lullabies. I really didn’t know that they were not the norm!

Frank was so special . . . even then.

I brought a very favorite photograph as it represents one of my most exceptional experiences.  It was taken during the last thirty seconds of Mr. Sinatra’s brilliant and only concert at Boston’s Symphony Hall, 1987.

Frank, for years, had declined many invitations to entertain at Symphony Hall from each conductor.  Some thought it was because Serge Koussevitzky, the Boston Symphony conductor from 1924 to 1949, rejected Sinatra in the early part of his career.

One of the most exciting memories of my PR career was when he enthusiastically accepted our offer to exclusively perform for an important benefit concert, which we were producing, which I believe was one of the great concerts in history.  The evening and Frank were absolute perfection!”

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“My name is Coco.

My Daddy’s name is “Daddy!”

I like lipstick.”

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“My name is Marilyn, as in Marilyn Monroe.

I have this wonderful round bag with spikes. Not many people would wear it, but I love everything odd.

It will perk up any black outfit!”

Marilynn is 82 years old and a staple in the Boston society circles. The bag was given to her from a student she helped at Mass College of Art who eventually went onto the the tv series Project Runway.

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“My name is Dexter and I am from South Africa.

I hate stereotypes and I hate fitting the norm, so I’m always looking for ways to kind of break that and one of those ways is through my sneakers.

These are my favorite because they kind of speak to me and they’re really out there and that’s the type of person I think I am.

Buying sneakers is kind of my indulgence.

I paid $90 for them, cash.
It was a good purchase, I think.”

Dexter currently is in his second year at Amherst College in western Massachusetts studying dance, theater and creative writing. Purple is the school’s principle color.

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“The name is Maximilian.

My object is a Louisville slugger, actually half of a Louisville slugger.

I was shooting reference images for a new painting and needed to have a bunch of boys destroy a chair with some bats. We went to IKEA to pick up the cheapest piece of shit that we could just decimate because after years of college we realized that all IKEA furniture is excellent at exploding- If you EVEN breathe on it!

I chose a plain white chair at the lowest price possible- I think I paid 14 dollars for three of them, and I picked the one invincible mother fucking thing at IKEA. This chair broke a Louisville in half when we were trying to destroy it.”

Max is an artist and painter by profession. Asked what will become of the bat:”Out of thanks to a good friend of mine for many years of showing up and doing whatever crazy shit I can come up with, we’re gonna put this half of a bat into a shadow box and make him some art.”

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“Hi – my name is Scott.

The item I brought today is a stuffed Ernie doll from my childhood. It was one of the first items that I
possessed, given to me by my parents of course, as an infant.

I have had it with me since I left home, through college and I still have it next to my bed today.

Have I ever washed Ernie? Oh Yeah! -He goes in a pillow case. He’s about to fall apart so he doesn’t get
washed anymore.”

Ernie is getting on in life, he will be 32 years old this year. Scott would consider surgery on Ernie.

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“My name is Christian.

I grew up watching movies. With my parents off to work I would just stick inside the house and watch everything I could. Then I got into collecting and now it’s an obsession.

One girlfriend was afraid the money I’d spend on collecting wouldn’t leave us enough to feed the kids we might have.

We don’t date anymore.”

Christian’s current career path is as a writer. He is exploring making short films and writing a feature film script.

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“My name is JD. I’m obsessed with hats, I absolutely am!

And not just any hats. Not caps, but actual hats- the Fedoras, the Homburgs, the Panama’s. These are the hats that I’m really drawn to. I can tell you that my grandfather is definitely the biggest influence in my obsession.

At an early age my grandparents would drive over from a little town in west Texas to my parents house. As soon as my grandfather walked through the door he would kneel down to give me a big hug. I’d come running up to him and every time the brim of his fedora would crash into my cheek.

I always stood back and looked up at him and he looked like such a movie star, such a gentlemen in his chocolate brown Fedora. And this guy, he was a blue collar manual laborer, a bricklayer.

But he was also the most gentlemanly, the most reserved and articulate man that I have ever been influenced by.

For me a big part of his identity was that hat. I think back to when they were leaving our house every Sunday, driving away in their old Chevy Impala, into the texas horizon, I could always see, peeking over the window, the Fedora.

Now that I’m a young man, these hats are definitely central to my style. Most of my friends don’t recognize me when I’m not wearing a big brimmed hat.

I feel most complete and I feel most at ease and I feel most like a gentlemen when I’m wearing my hats. What else can I say?”

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“My name is Michael. I’m an artist.

I am working on a project as part of the post peace process in Ireland and as part of that I hope to engage thirty thousand people or 1 in 10 who live in the border region. I’ve sent out a series of prompts asking people to respond with what is basically an “I Am” poem so things like “I am”, “I regret”, “I need”, “I see” and “I hear”.

Their responses will be engraved onto stones, a couple of which are with me today.

One of them “I need to leave the countryside”, is a common, very common, response to people living in rural areas there. And you get the flip side of that from people in the cities who “need to leave this country” so people feel really at home and disconnected from home. They long to stay in a place they need to leave. I’m just thinking of this installation as a way of creating some dialog around how we locate ourselves in this concept that we call home and how we can all be in the same place and be ok with it.

Another response I was really struck by, came from a young woman who said in hers “I see through my big brown eyes-I am an Irish girl”.

I think the second stone I brought goes right to the core of the whole project, “I hear best when I listen”. For me as an artist, sort of listening to or taking the pulse of what’s going on in the community is the source for my work so that one has some meaning to me, personally as well.”

The following is from a press release about Michael’s project. It might be helpful to fully understand the scope of the installation. When completed it will be three years in the making:

This project is titled “The Tonnes: A Meeting of the Waters.” It is a cross-border peace-building public art project in the troubled boundary area between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The project will facilitate a creative dialogue among communities along the River Foyle in the Northwest border region of Ireland. There are three phases:

“In Phase One we will invite communities to make handmade books and participate in writing workshops in order to create a communal archive and an anonymous epic poem about their private recollections, experiences, and prayers during and after “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland.

In Phase Two, stones engraved with these writings from Phase I will become cairns all along the riverbank.

In Phase Three the cairns and books will be gathered from the communities and loaded onto a floating installation of copper and reflected water which will journey from the town of Strabane in the border region to the Atlantic. The stones will be dropped overboard at the mouth of the river in a gesture of reconciliation among diverse communities.”

Michael is the founder of Medicine Wheel Productions.

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“My name is Alley and today I brought M’Lady.

I made her just after the Haitian earthquake. I couldn’t stop thinking about the Haitian women there. They have endured such repetitive hardship & injustice.

I literally refer to the necklace as M’Lady. For me she definitely is a reminder of the humility, inspiration, and self-expression of these women.

I like to think of, and use, jewelry as a form of sculpture that can be more accessible.  I see it as a way to embody the primitive and abstract roots that allow us to connect to each other and the world we live in.

So that’s was the thought behind the piece. But yeah, I love it. I love her!

Coincidentally, right after I made her, I read this incredible poem by Adrienne Rich, called Stepping Backward, that speaks a bit to some of these ideas.”

Ally is currently attending Yale Medical School where she is pursuing a Masters and PHD in Pathology. Her research is focused on the estrogen receptor and it’s roll in breast cancer. If all goes well she hopes to defend her research next spring and graduate. For now, art has to take a second seat to her academic studies.

The poem by Adrienne Rich can be found here on page 36.

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“Hi, my name is Wendy.

Today I brought my awesome vintage green lamp.

My mom got it for me probably twelve or so years ago. I have had it ever since I lived in my own apartments. I think it is really awesome!

I have a lot of vintage stuff but this one always stands out to me. I think that somehow, I have sort of developed my aesthetic around it as I always kind of decorate my living room around this lamp. It also makes really cool patterns on the wall because of the little cut outs on top. But I don’t plug it in very much because I’m afraid it will catch on fire.”

When asked where her mom got the lamp Wendy replied: “My mom found the lamp at some random auction in Pennsylvania. My parents are these crazy,crazy,crazy,crazy vintage antique collectors. Their house is a scene!”

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