AT THE DEEP END OF THE JURY POOL

I’ve been called to jury duty often. Jury duty is the price you pay for voting because potential jurors are chosen from voter registrations lists. I’m sure they call us in alphabetical order.

Our last name begins with “A.” Garry and I were called up two or three times a year for more than a decade until one day I called and said “Hey, enough!” After that, they slowed down to every other year. I’m pretty sure there’s an outstanding jury summons for me somewhere that I never answered. I was in the hospital trying not to die. Oops. It’s just possible I’m a wanted criminal. I assume they’ll get back to me on that.

72-Statehouse-Beacon-Hill_126

They called Garry, but never let him serve. Reporters are like cops. They’ve seen too much. Garry knew the judges, the D.A., the lawyers. And the criminals.

They knew Garry, too and they knew he knew stuff they preferred he not know. So, no matter how many times they called him, he was in and out in an hour. Maximum two.

I was a better pick. No connection to law enforcement. No lawyers, law suits, or weird political opinions.  That I was a free lancer who was going to lose my shirt if I couldn’t work did not matter to anyone except me. I went in, sat around. No trial needed me, so I went home. Done, until next time.

72-Beacon-Hill-GA_028

Until one day, I got assigned to a trial. I had instant images of a long criminal trial. Being sequestered for weeks in some fleabag motel. Losing my clients. Losing my house. I was a less than enthusiastic juror, but when duty calls, you might as well go quietly. Unless you want to wind up on the other side of the courtroom. Besides, they have officers with guns stationed at the exits.

It was a minor civil case. One woman hit another at an intersection. Woman A claimed Woman B was jumping the light. Woman B said she had mistakenly thought it was a cross street.

There was no evidence. She said, she said. I thought both of them were lying. It was a matter of who you believed less. Eleven of my fellow jurors were ready to acquit. I thought we should at least talk about it. But, they wanted to go home and pointed out everyone knows the intersection isn’t a through street (I didn’t).

I caved. Because there was nothing except a small amount of money at stake. Peer pressure — eleven people who want to go home which you are preventing — gets intense and ugly quickly.

72-Beacon Hill Boston-GA_001

That was more than 20 years. Tonight, we watched “Twelve Angry Men.” That’s the movie (1957) in which Henry Fonda forces eleven of his peers to reconsider the evidence and fully grasp the concept of reasonable doubt. It’s a great movie which has aged well. Pretty much the way I remember the experience, except we had air-conditioning, sort of.

It did leave me wondering and not for the first time. How many verdicts are based on jurors who just want to go home? How many people are convicted — or acquitted — because the jury was bored to tears and couldn’t stand one more minute of evidence? How many jurors are bullied into a verdict with which they disagree because they are threatened — emotionally or physically?

72-Beacon Hill Boston-GA_033

There are no statistics on this and by definition, there won’t ever be any. No one, given the criminal liability and potential physical danger, is going to admit to it. But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Next time a jury comes in with some absurd (to you) verdict, consider the possibility that at least some of them didn’t freely agree.

I’m sure it happens. It happened to me.

ANTIQUE CHINESE CHICKEN PORCELAIN

It is not leftovers that have stayed too long in the refrigerator.

72-famille-rose_27

Typical famille rose design on an antique porcelain plate

You may know (or not) I have been a collector — in a small way — of antique Chinese porcelain and Asian art. As a collector, I love flea markets and yard sales. It’s part of the collecting mystique, that one day someone will be selling a great antique piece for a few dollars and I will be there to grab it.

It happened. Twice, to be exact. One pieces I got was a small, 200-year-old Qing dynasty pitcher. In pretty good shape. Got it for five dollars, sold it for $150. Ka-ching!

The other was a little dish which I’ve kept. It’s decorated with blue and yellow chickens. It’s a rice bowl, the sort of thing a working man might carry to work and use to eat his lunch. The piece fits loosely into the category of famille rose. Or famille verte. I haven’t decided if rose or green is the dominant color.

72-famille-rose_28

They are both a style rather than a dynasty, though the vast majority of piece in this category are between one and two hundred years old. Most of these pieces are elaborately decorated, but simple pieces were made for regular folks.

qing famille rose rice bowl

Chinese porcelain was secular. Art for art’s sake. Decorative. Non-collectors may assume Chinese porcelain was lavish. What I would call “imperial porcelain.” Certainly some very fine porcelain was made for the wealthiest members of society, but much of it was not. The Chinese were very egalitarian, believing that everyone needed art, the same way everyone needs food.

Food feeds the body. Art feeds the soul.

blue chicken on a qing dyn rice bowl antique porcelain

Art — dishes, figures, vases, ginger jars and so much more — was made for peasants, servants. Middle, and upper classes. Beauty was not a privilege of the few, but part of life for everyone.

The concept of art for everybody delights me. Too many people think art is a waste of money because it has no “function.” Merely being beautiful isn’t enough for them.

72-famille-rose_34

In this bowl indeed has a function, but it wasn’t painted to make it more functional. It would hold a man’s rice without hand-painted chickens. But me? I prefer it with chickens. In fact, I just love those chickens!

ONLY THE BEST WHILE I KEEP THE REST

toasted english muffin

I just learned — hot off the presses — we are sending a capsule into space. Deep space. The deep, dark outer reaches of our galaxy. For some peculiar reason, we think other, non-human intelligent life forms will be interested in our culture. They will want to see our artifacts, gadgets, widgets. The best examples of what makes us great. Imagine that.

72-Mobile and Regular Phones_07

What to show them?

You’d have to include the cell phone. Probably an iPhone, clearly the quintessential techno-gadget of our generation. Or maybe one of the new Android tablets that’s sort of also a telephone, or is it a telephone that’s sort of a tablet?

Kindle and iPad

What about a loaf of sliced bread? Everyone always says “It’s the best invention since sliced bread!” Thus sliced bread must, in some way, be a classic piece of intelligent design from the people who gave you the Edsel and the Bunny Hop. The open bar and happy hour. How to you package up those high points of culture?

Do you include a few drunks in the capsule? How about a box of White Castle sliders? How about at least one politician?

A toast!

I know I’m not thinking clearly. I’m missing so much. So many great things. Monumental achievements we could package in the guise of a small gadget by which any advanced civilization would be instantly recognized peers, equals, and perhaps, superiors. I just can’t think of them right this minute.

Don’t forget to include a cold six-pack of beer. It will be the intergalactic male bonding moment when they all chug it down together.

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #16 – SMALL TOWN SUMMER

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #16 – MID SUMMER IN A VERY SMALL TOWN

It’s Frisbee Wednesday again. How time flies! Last time I looked, it was barely spring. Then whoosh, summertime. Now, summer is beginning to wind down. The flowers that bloomed in the spring (tra la) are fading away, holding their collective virtual breath for the riot of color and energy that is Autumn.

72-Victorian-7-26-15_054

But not yet. The whole month of August remains which we must traverse. Then, a week and a bit of September will pass until we whirl into prime time and the trees show color.

HEART OF TOWN: THE PARKING LOT

72-Hannaford-Parking-7-26-15_06

Last night, we watched “The Quiet Man” on Turner Classic Movies. After the movie, Robert Osborne did a wrap up. He talked about the citizens of Cong (Ireland, County Mayo) where the movie was filmed. How the local folk were so excited to have a movie company in their midst, it was difficult to keep them off the set. They were always peeking out of windows, hiding behind buildings, trying to catch a glimpse of the stars. It was the biggest — only big — event to happen in Cong.

72-Hannaford-7-26-15_041

We visited Cong on our honeymoon in 1990. They were still reliving the grand days when John Ford came to town with his cameras and crew. Most important, he came with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Nothing else ever happened. Or ever will.

I said to Garry: “Nothing has ever happened in Uxbridge. Not a film, not an episode of a television show.”

72-Hannaford-7-26-15_057

“We had one pretty juicy murder,” he pointed out. Ever the reporter, Garry keeps a mental tally of murders in the commonwealth. Catalogued by town.

“Okay, other than that one murder. I don’t think anything has ever happened here more memorable than the day the bank card readers went down.”

“That was a traumatic day,” Garry agreed.

A fly photo-bombed my picture!

A fly photo-bombed my picture!

To further my point (or perhaps, beat it to death), we went to Hannaford today. It is our grocery store. It’s where it all happens. Where we gather to discuss upcoming weather events and the price of things. Garry wanted to pick up a newspaper and replace our depleted supply of kitchen cleanser.

I wanted to snap a few pictures.

We succeeded at both.

JUST SAY NO

Watching a rerun of The Virginian. The story? A young woman is visiting Shiloh while taking a hiatus on her relationship. It’s supposed to be a six-week separation during which she can discover if she really loves the guy. But he shows up and starts to pressure her to marry him right away. She’s reluctant. She promised her father to not see him. She’s disappointed in her beau for pushing her.

It’s a common story, one which I’ve lived personally and watched so many others go through, holding a hand while they agonized through their “apart” time.

One of the very few things my father told me that turned out to be true was whenever someone is pressuring you for an immediate answer, say no. Because when they are pressuring you, they’ve got an agenda. So, say no.

It simplifies stuff that might otherwise seem complicated.

You need my answer right now? Then I will have to say no.

The property won’t last if I think it over for a couple of days? No, thank you.

The price will go up before I have time to decide if I really want it? Hell no!

All those other candidates are waiting in the wings, so you need my answer right now? Uh uh. Nope.

I wish I’d followed this advice from a lot earlier in my life. For all the times I said yes and lived to regret it. Jobs I accepted because I was scared to keep looking. Relationships I got into — then had to get out of — because I was too insecure to stand my ground. Things I bought from high pressure salesmen — real estate, cars, and who remembers what else?

Saying no would have saved me years of misery … and a great deal of money. All I had to do was say no.

All you need to say, is NO.

THE BLACK STALLION

 

If I’m going to be in a movie, I say — bring on the horses!

I grew up yearning for a horse and devoured any book about them. My favorites books were the Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. I probably read the book so many times its cover fell apart.

Black_stallion_poster

All through my childhood, Walter Farley wrote a steady stream of new Black Stallion books  — and I read every one of them. About his colts and fillies. About Alec Ramsey, who grew from a teenage boy to a man in the course of the series. Of Henry Daily, the old horse trainer whose career is revived by his accidental encounter with Alec and The Black. Many stories, as the years went on, were about the racing stable Alex and Henry build in upstate New York for which The Black was the founding stud. To this day, I know more about horses and horse racing than most people … because Walter Farley told me all about it in book after book.

Throughout my young years, I wished they would make The Black Stallion into a movie. I wanted to see The Black, to see Alec ride him. To see him come from behind and become the greatest horse to ever run on a track. I was bewitched by horses and was convinced I would need nothing else in this life if I had a horse.

bucephalus

Oddly, the great Secretariat’s real accomplishments — winning the Triple Crown in 1973 — remarkably mirrored those of the fictional Black. Watching Secretariat’s career — in the real world — made up for never having seen The Black race.

I never got a horse. Gradually real life overtook my fantasy life. College, work, husband, baby, home, friends replaced dreams of riding bareback on the greatest stallion of them all.

But the magic wasn’t over me because in 1979, Francis Ford Coppola made the movie I’d yearned for since childhood. He based the movie, The Black Stallion, on the first of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books, the one he wrote in 1941. In making the movie, they changed the story some. This would have made me crazy as a kid, but by the time I saw the movie — in an old theater in Jerusalem, Israel — I was a 30-year-old mother living overseas and able to cope with relatively minor digressions from the original tale.

Last week, Turner Classic Movies showed “The Black Stallion.” So, of course, we watched it again. I’ve seen it many times. Each is seeing it for the first time.

I am swept away to a desert island for the adventure of a lifetime. Even if you aren’t a great horse lover, the score and the cinematography are so extraordinary, the movie is like a dream. They set the story in its original time period, the early 1940s which helps augment the dreamlike effect.

Black Stallion Beach.jpg

I want to be on that island with The Black. To ride him along the edge of the ocean, free from everything but the sun, the wind, the sand beneath my horse’s pounding hoofs. I would give a lot for just one day to live that dream.

“The Black Stallion” is a paean to horses, nature, and overcoming adversity. You don’t have to be a kid to love it. It also contains the least dialogue of any movie since the talkies took over Hollywood.

Director Carroll Ballard tells the story with luscious cinematography and a lovely soundtrack. Music fusing with images that wrench your heart.

COME AGAIN?

It happened again. Someone’s left a voicemail message, but all I can make out are a few words. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I recognize the voice. Maybe not.

roku and headphones

We used to leave messages on our answering machines telling folks to speak slowly and clearly, but most callers thought we were being funny. Leaving a coherent message was apparently a joke. These days, we get lots of incoherent messages. Usually, with caller ID (and now with a caption phone), we know who called and can retrieve the number, but not necessarily. If it’s garbled enough, the caption phone won’t get it either. It’ll just say “Incomprehensible” or “muffled” or something else that means “sorry, no idea what he/she said.”

72-Phones_02

“Garry, your brother called. No idea what he said. Call him, okay?”

“Hey, Jim called about something. Call him when you have a moment.”

“One of your cousins called. They left a message but I can’t make it out.”

My favorite: “Someone called. Maybe it was important. They left a number but I can’t understand it.  Guess it wasn’t important enough.” Note: If it really is important and we don’t call back? Pick up the phone and call again. Seriously. If it’s that important, make sure we got the message.

wires and blue sky

If you leave a message, speak up. Clearly. Repeat the phone number. Don’t forget to include your name — in case we don’t actually know you as well as you think we do or can’t recognize your voice.

Don’t mumble.

While we’re on the subject, how about those cell phones, eh? On which you can’t hear anything? From either end? I miss telephones on which you knew you had a connection that wouldn’t drop and on which you could hear what someone said to you — and know they could hear you.

No wonder texting is so popular. No one can understand what anyone else is saying.