Tuesday, September 23, 2008

One Day One Trial

Last week I spent an interesting three days in the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia. That's right, jury duty! After a long day of two jury selection processes, I was chosen for a criminal trial at 4:59pm. We met again at 9:30 the next morning, never mind that we never entered the jury box until nearly 11am. We were an interesting group... more than a few masters degrees, a phd in biology, a retired psychiatrist who did some work in prisons (we made him foreman in a matter of seconds). Generally, an over-educated jury... mostly due to the fact that many in the jury pool admitted that they believed that a police officer would never lie and jeopardize their job. None of them made it to the actual jury. All of the witnesses were law enforcement... two beat cops, a CSU cop, and a detective.

To make a long, two-day trial short, the defendant was guilty on three charges having to do with gun possession. And, as no criminal trial is without life lessons, here are the ones I picked up on:

  1. If you are a cop who shot the defendant because you say he had a gun, but no one else was there, AND, you've also discharged your weapon three additional times in a year and a half... wear your uniform to court. Don't show up in a silk-screened button up shirt, unbuttoned to your chest with a gold chain around your neck.
  2. If you are an ADA and this is your second jury trial, try not to take minutes long pauses that even make the judge stare at you and wonder where your head is. Not helping the cause.
  3. If you are a defendant in a gun possession trial and you have a prior conviction for armed robbery, don't take the stand. Just don't do it. Because when you take the stand, your prior record will be told to the jury and you will be charged with an additional gun possession charge.
  4. If you do decide, against everyone's best advice, to take the stand as a defendant with a prior armed robbery charge, at least make your story more credible. Seriously. You've had at least a day to hear what the other witnesses have said, so maybe you shouldn't make up additional details about the scene that can't be backed up by anyone.
  5. If you live in North Philly or Northeast Philly and your girlfriend lives in Southwest Philly, and you have to take the bus a great distance to see her, and you're not sure if she's your girlfriend or your fiance, so instead you stop in Strawberry Mansion to buy drugs, she's probably not really your girlfriend or your fiance... or at the very least, she won't be there when you get out of jail. She wasn't even in the courtroom during your two-day trial.
  6. If you have jury duty in Philadelphia and they ask you if you want lunch from Chili's or that other place, go with that other place. 'Cause your never going to eat lunch when the judge says you will and you'll be forced to smell your fries from the other room knowing they'll be cold and soggy by the time closing arguments finish.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Roadshow Recap

I'm back from Grand Rapids and the Antiques Roadshow... everyone is so curious to hear what it was like and I find I am spending a lot time explaining because it really was so interesting to see how it works! The picture above is from The Grand Rapids Press, front page from Sunday's paper. That's me in the striped shirt, holding a box, and my mom to the left, holding a canvas bag. We were waiting in line for the silver appraiser... but I'll get to that in a minute.

We left my mom's house in Goshen just before 5:30 on Saturday morning, both working on less than four hours sleep. I did the driving, hoping it would wake me up. It took us under 2 hours to get to the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids or Gd Rapids as the signs said (which made for some delusional giggling as my mom recalled her mother using GD in place of god damn, and we proceeded to repeat GD Rapids! and GD Haven! all weekend) and found a parking spot at the parking "ramp" across the street. Apparently, and Kelly thinks I'm making this up, GD Rapids has parking lots and parking ramps. Parking ramps, I figured out ahead of time, meant parking garages.

At 7:15AM there was already a line of people and stuff outside of the convention-type center. Just as we got to the end of the line, it started to move! We hustled inside to the first large room that was mostly empty but all roped off, (like an amusement park that just opened, rollercoaster lines empty, but anticipating hundreds) fully prepared to snake people through the room throughout the day. Since we had 8AM tickets, we were able to go all the way through to the end of the room. This is about the point that we, and everyone else, realized that they were so excited to get here that they hadn't used the restroom after driving for hours. Or eaten breakfast. We were all adrenaline and caffeine fueled. I had talked to Kelly in the parking ramp, they were still on there way down from the northern burbs, but there was no sense throwing away the opportunity to be closer to the front of the line.

At this point there are signs, "turn off cell phones" "remove your items from their packaging" etc. A couple of volunteers are taking tickets. People in front of us start to awkwardly talk to us. Luckily my mom is really good at talking to random people. I try to learn from her. We make it to the front of the line and are directed to a "triage" table. A volunteer looks at our stuff and together we figure out, 3 silver, 1 porcelain. We are given four tickets to correspond to our stuff and proceed to the pink tape line on the floor. My mom and I are greeted there by an army of overzealous volunteers that look like they are about to explode forward over the pink line to assist us. One lucky lady takes us to the filming area.

The filming area. This is the part you see on TV. You'd think it filled an entire room, but really it was a small circle within a much larger and emptier room. It's a set, really, more than the flea market look that you get on TV. The camera sits in the middle, with four blue carpets on the floor around it. On each carpet is a place to film an appraisal segment. Surrounding the carpets are volunteers that are supposed to keep you off the blue carpets. Beyond those folks are the lines and tables with the appraisers. The lines go from the tables, off camera behind the circle.

Our first stop is the Silver table where we meet Sebastian. He came off with a bit of an attitude, but warmed up after a minute or two. I don't know if he's naturally that snarky and sarcastic or if it was the British accent or, as he said, it was "too early for appraisers" but he was clearly settling in for a long day of looking at people's crap. He told us about three of the four pieces we brought that day. One was a silver serving dish and platter that can be traced to my great-grandfather's late-in-life ladyfriend, Dorothy Crockett. The piece is unmarked and Sebastian said it was probably part of a larger set of hotel silver (plated), but was a lovely piece. Probably 1920s, and if he saw it in an antiques store it would probably be marked $250-$300. The second was a sugar-creamer set, also silver plated, marked. He also said 1920s, which is what we thought from the design, but I wondered if it wasn't midcentury or later designed to look older, he said no, the company had changed their name by then. This pair came from Connecticut, like much of the silver and watches from the late 19th and early 20th century. Only $30 for the pair. But, you know, lovely. The third item was a few pieces from a set of silverware of unknown origin. We call them the "devil forks." He said that between the "satan masks" and the grapes (I thought they were thistles), it was likely a baccanalia (sp?) themed set of china made by a small, independent silversmith and that they are actually made of coin silver. So, late 19th century, coin silver, $15-$20 a piece. We don't have a complete set, probably 20 pieces.

After the silver table we moved on to the porcelain table. My mom had a pair of birds that came from her other grandfather's house. Although, she didn't know how he acquired them. At first, the appraiser couldn't identify the mark, then, you know, she just rotated the piece and saw it right side up. She was slightly embarrased by this d'oh moment. Ah, she said, Goebel. Goebel is the German company that makes Hummel figurines. These, she said, were earlier and more... and she stopped. "More interesting than Hummels," I said. "You said it, not me!!" she replied. "Yeah," I said, "have fun spending the day appraising Hummel figurines!!" Even with the damaged tails, $200-300 for the pair. They got a resounding "beautiful" from the other porcelain appraisers.

That was it, we were done. It was 8:15am and we'd already made it through the whole process and made our way to the door. On the way out (in addition to finally making it to the ladies room), we stopped at the "feedback tent" to record our bit about having fun at the roadshow. They give you a lot of advice. It's "AntiqueS Roadshow" not "Antique Roadshow." You have two minutes to talk about your experience. Etc. I asked the camera guy, what do most people do, like 45 seconds? He said, yeah. So, my mom and I rehearsed our bit and I played up the fact that it was my birthday and the camera guy was impressed. Maybe we'll get a five second spot at the end of one of the episodes. Just enough camera time for me!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

On the road.... show.

This coming weekend I will be spending my birthday on the road. That is, I'll be traveling to Grand Rapids, Michigan (via the South Bend airport, and my mom's honda civic).
Destination: Antiques Roadshow.
Seriously. I couldn't make this stuff up.
This adventure was the brainchild of my good friend, Kelly, and will be paired with a soiree to celebrate her pending adventure into the world of motherhood.
My mom and I are plotting what to bring. I can tell that she, like me, is thinking only in terms of what would someone else other than our family find interesting. Not that I really want to be on camera. I think I'd be okay if I just ended up on that end segment where people say they had fun and learned that their grandmother's prized ceramic cat was from woolworths and worth about $1.75. I really kind of worry that I'll be stuck in line somewhere, half behind an armoir that they'll film for the show and everyone will wonder why I chose to wear *those* pants to go to the roadshow.

I think this relates to my serious fear of the "jumbotron." At any sporting event with said jumbotron, my goal is always to do absolutely nothing that would draw attention to myself and therefore attract the jumbotron cameras. Nothing. I get stressed when small children are dancing to the music between innings... Cool it kid, no one gets on the jumbotron and no one gets hurt. I even warned Josh early on, propose on the jumbotron and it's a definite, NO. It's not that I am some kind of wallflower, I don't know where this paranoia stems from. So, you say, maybe I'd actually be fine if I appeared on the jumbotron, I'd find out that it's not as bad as I think it is. Wrong. Greek Festival, Pittsburgh, 1998. That's right, a greek festival with a jumbotron. In between sets of Greek dancing, some camera operator thought it would be entertaining to put crowd shots on the screen over the stage. So I sat staring, uncomfortable, embarrassed, angry, with my back to the screens as my friends laughed and neighboring tables pointed. It was bad and the only thing that saved me was that the mayor of Pittsburgh walked in and distracted everyone, including the camera guy. Whew.

So, Antiques Roadshow. I'm hoping for that silver dish I love that belonged to my great-grandfather's late-in-life ladyfriend to reveal its story and be worth a bundle... but not so much that we start to attract attention to ourselves.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Over the past week, we've been making our way through season one of The Wire. Okay, I get it now, it's a remarkable show. Two more episodes to go until we can swap season one for season two with a friend of ours. I suggested that J wrap the DVDs in a paper bag and drop them from our third story apartment for M to catch below. Overkill, perhaps. But, after watching 1, 2, or even 3 episodes in one sitting, it's hard to get it out of your brain.

This is making my bus ride all the more interesting. Or scary. Depending on how many episodes I watched the night before. I spend the trip through Camden carefully watching out the window... is that kid the lookout? I bet they're keeping the stash in that boarded up house.

But the worst was today when I was waiting for the elevator up to my office after lunch. Two cops walked out of the restaurant on the ground floor of our building. I nearly yelled, FIVE-OH!

Weekend Round-up

It was a banner weekend all around.

My good friend Hil completed her first triathlon. She's amazing.

I made six gorgeous caramelized banana tartlets with an orange-hazelnut crust.

What can I say, we can't all be triathletes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Analysis Paralysis

I had nearly resigned myself to buying a car. Did hours of research, listened to hours of unsolicited advice from friends and friends of friends and my hairdresser, checked my credit report and FICO score (Suze Orman would be so proud of me), even walked into a dealership with the intention of a test drive (now I have a nice young man, Paul, who calls me every day to tell me that the car I'm interested in has arrived). Now I'm mentally fatigued from the whole process and still riding the bus.

Here are my bus issues:

1. Motion Sickness. I am a person who can even manage to make myself a little nauseated when I'm the one driving. Bus, subway, car, rollarcoaster, you name it, it will make me ill. I hoped it would be something I grew out of... but it seems to be getting worse. So, if I'm feeling particularly ill on the bus, my options are to either get out on some sketchy block of the South Waterfront in Camden or try to hold it together until I at least get close enough to work that I could call a co-worker for a ride.

2. Smells. Another issue that seems to be getting worse. If there's something rotting within five blocks, I can smell it. I really wish I could parlay this into some cool job like sommelier or other smell-dependent career, but instead it seems to mean that I end up in awkward situations like how do you tell the director of HR that her perfume is overwhelming and headache inducing from five cubicles away. On the bus it becomes a problem when someone who chain smokes cheap cigarettes, then tosses that last one right before getting on the bus, and then sits right behind me, may result in me gagging uncontrollably, trying to breathe through my shirt fabric until the smell dissapates.

3. Other. I could make a long list of issues, but really numbers 1 and 2 are the big ones. The others are things like TIME, it takes three times as long to take the bus versus driving; PEOPLE talking to me, asking for change, asking to use my cell phone; and, SCHEDULE, as in why have one if you're not going to follow it at the critical moment that I need to get back into the city.

There are some pros... it's certainly cheaper to take the bus and I don't have to worry about parking in my neighborhood. And, uh... I'm an authority on public transit to my South Jersey clients. That's all I got.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Really old, you know, 1984

Riding the bus: June 19, 2008

Female Camden Creative Arts HS Student to a classmate: "We watched this old movie, from like 1984, it was called Breakin' 2... you know like Mr. [So and So] told us about Break Dancing? It was called Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo AND Ice-T was in it! He was rapping in it. He was so skinny! It was crazy."

I fought the urge to blurt out, "I love that movie! And, then when they save the community center..." Because the end of this story didn't need the anecdote about the crazy white woman who rides the bus with them adding to their conversation. But, really? REALLY? They learn about break dancing in school now?

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Thursday, May 29, 2008


We are a tablecloth away from extrodinary dinner parties.

Finally accepting that we will never fit another piece of furniture in our house (that can't fold up Jetsons-style), but not giving up our hope that we could invite our friends over for dinner and not make them awkwardly eat off the coffee table, we compromised on a folding table and chairs. The Target circular in the paper two Sundays ago called to us. Think of a slightly classed-up version of a six-foot chuch basement folding table with metal legs and that's what we got. We went with the budget table since all that needs to sit on that is the food, and splurged on better-than-your-average folding chairs.

The chairs only required two trips to Ikea... on the first trip, we found the perfect chair and then found them to be out of stock, likely permanently. They had them in white, but only two of them, and I was so in love with the Arvinn chair in "antique" that I couldn't see the worth in white. However, Ikea dude did mention that more were arriving the next day in white. Wouldn't you know that two days later (after an exhaustive online search for something equivalent) we were backing up the car share prius to that very same Ikea. Four white chairs later, we're oh-so-close to a meal.

As a result of the wedding loot, we have fabulous white china, two kinds of real fabric napkins, great flatware, and fancy stemware. So, really, we just need a tablecloth. Shouldn't be that hard, right? J says, "can't you sew one?" Well, not if we want one this year. The ones at Ikea were crap. The ones at Williams Sonoma are freaking expensive for something that we're inevitably going to spill food and wine on.

I know, I've already spent too much time obsessing... but I'm sure the right tablecloth is out there. I will find it.

Oh, and if you know our apartment, you're probably wondering where we're going to keep a six-foot folding table and four folding chairs. Yeah, we are too.