Tuesday, June 3, 2014
His face was smooth
And cool as ice
And oh Louise!
Getting to Bismarck wasn't all fun and games. We set off a little after noon on Friday, driving my little Ford Focus. Glorious weather, just barely hot enough to warrant turning on the air. I drove a few hours, then Ellen drove a couple of hours, then I drove again - and somewhere on I-94, west of Fargo, the sky clouded over. An amazing light-colored cloud, very fat and not high off the ground, appeared across the highway ahead - a wall cloud, I think it's called. Ellen took a picture of it, see above - the photo doesn't do it justice, it was a terrifying sight. Beyond it, the sky opened. I've been in some heavy downpours, but this was about the worst. Couldn't see the road at all. A big SUV ahead of us turned on his flashers, for which I was grateful, because I could just about make out his lights and it kept us on the road. We slowed down to about twenty miles per hour - maybe slower - and the water gushed UP the windshield like an upside-down waterfall. The wipers on high couldn't handle it. We were afraid to pull over, since we couldn’t see, and we might have gone into a ditch, or not gotten far enough off the road and been struck from behind. After what seemed a very long time it slowed to a mere hard rain, then to barely a drizzle - then it started in again. The fields on either side of us were so drenched we didn't know if they were fields or small lakes or if they were encroaching on the highway. Then it slowed again and became an intermittent drizzle the rest of the way to Bismarck. We found out later the temperature in Fargo was close to 90, and in Bismarck it was not even seventy. There was lots of lightning at the start of the storm but I don’t remember much during it.
I had picked our motel for its price as well as quality (it was a Super 8, but it got three stars), and because I thought it was very close to the Civic Center. Well, it wasn’t far, but not close, either. A lot of the people staying there were in town for the Antiques Roadshow, it was fun talking and sharing dreams with them.
The Civic Center is new-ish, and big (but not monstrous), and there was a traveling carnival right across the street from it so we were concerned about parking. But we found a spot only a block away. There's a big mall down the street where we went for lunch (our tickets were for a two pm entry). We ate at Grizzly's, a restaurant/saloon. Ellen had a pint of a local brew called Fargo Stone's Throw which she really liked – micro breweries are getting better and better. There was a kiddie playground outside in the mall with jumping jack things - you put on a belt and the "bouncer" cranks you up on elastic bands and you jump on a tractor-tire-inner-tube trampoline and get tossed really high in the air. Some little kids were great at it, turning summersalts and doing back flips. Two late-teens boys nearly touched the ceiling on their leaps. We sat and watched until it was time to go to the Civic Center.
The Antiques Roadshow has been doing this for a long time – years – and so they were really well organized. We showed our tickets at the door, crossed a big empty room, and showed them again at the end of a hallway made by hanging blue curtains. In another big room were sets of tables furnished with very large boxes containing sets of “tickets” marked, for example, “Arms and Militaria,” or “Glass,” or “Native American.” We showed the volunteers manning the tables what we had brought (two items apiece were permitted), were given a ticket for each. Then through another opening into yet another big room.
The appraisers were seated at tables formed into a giant circle, each marked with a blue curtain and a banner with the name of their specialty designed to look like the tickets we were issued. There were at least two appraisers at each table. Bright, down-facing, full-spectrum lights and computers were on each table. Volunteers guided us to openings in the circle, which were further marked with tape and a word (“Pottery” or whatever), and we stood in line. There were lines within the circle leading to tables and when they got short enough, more of us were allowed through to join the ends of them. As we went in, more volunteers waited to punch our ticket in the appropriate line. It was exciting to see the faces of appraisers we’d gotten to know on the television show. There were a few “stations” in the center of the big circle where television cameras waited to tape people with really expensive or interesting items. For me, one of the best parts was talking with others in the same line and looking at their items.
I had the painted glass roundel I’d bought in London that dated to the 1800s. Painted in shades of brown, white and yellow, it depicted a young woman carrying a enormous sheaf of grain. It was valued, to my disappointment, at a hundred dollars. I also had the wavy-bladed kris my Dad brought home from Indonesia in 1964. The appraiser said it might well be that the blade was much older than the handle or the carved-wood sheath, but it was still worth only two hundred dollars. That was it, I was done – but I was wearing the silver and turquoise squash blossom necklace and earrings I’d bought in Austin, Texas, back in 1997. So I slipped back into the room where the tickets were, walked boldly up to a table and said that the lines weren’t very long and so could I please have another ticket for the jewelry? And the woman kindly said yes and gave me one for Native American artifacts. I was hoping the appraiser could identify the mark on the back of the earring and tell me who the maker was. He couldn’t, but said it was an extraordinarily fine set, ninety-six percent silver, worth between four and five hundred dollars! And he gave me the name of a woman who has literally “written the book” on Navajo silver, Margaret Wright, so I can try looking up the mark myself.
On my way out I stopped at the Feedback Booth and exclaimed joyously on that appraisal. We’ll have to wait till the 2015 season to see if my comment gets on the air.
I was instructed to go to St. George's Episcopal Church in Bismarck on Sunday. It’s a very beautiful little church, built in the late forties or early fifties but in an old-fashioned style with a hammerbeam ceiling. The windows are lancet in style, with gray and green diamond panes, the center of each set with an attribute of an apostle (St. Mark represented by a lion, for example). But in the blue edging of each window is a random piece of stained glass, fragments collected from the ruins of English cathedrals bombed during World War II, sweet-sad memorials of the link between the medieval church in England and this little church in the north-center of America.
I plan to submit my name again next year to be on another Roadshow. I want to bring an antique chair and that old brown-velvet hat from my collection.