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Six Dreams Of The Antiques Roadshow

By Max Burbank
May 15, 2001

I am sitting at a table showing a set of three china egg cups to Christopher Hartop. The lights are uncomfortably hot and I am sweating. I never thought while watching the show how hot the lights would be. I tug at my collar which is too tight and chafes me. He asks where I got the cups. I tell him they were the only possessions my grandfather brought over from the shtedtl. How in steerage he cradled them in his arms like children to protect them. Hartop asks me if I even know what the word 'shtedtl' means. Casting my eyes down, I tell him no and add that I'm not even certain that's the right word. I see he does not believe my story and I realize I myself have no idea if it is family legend or if I have made it up on the spot. Hartop asks if there isn't a fourth cup and I say no. He asks if I am sure, if perhaps at some point there might not have been a fourth and I say no, no, there were always only the three. He sighs deeply. This is a set of four, he tells me. With a fourth egg cup in similar condition the set would be worth a Quarter of a Million Dollars. As a set of three it could bring $17.95 at auction, on a good day. I am overwhelmed with shame.

I am a very old man. At my wife's insistence and at great effort I have manhandled our chifforobe down to the truck from our third floor walk up, loaded it into our pick-up and driven it here to the civic auditorium. Something feels drastically wrong with my spine and my mouth is filled with the taste of old pennies. I scrub my dentures with my tongue, but the taste only gets worse. A vivid swirl of violet and black checkerboard swims in and out of focus before my left eye. As if from a distance, I hear Wendell Garrett, Senior VP of Americana for Sotheby's explaining to my wife that by having the Chifforobe refinished, she has reduced it's value by $20,000.00 I told her again and again not to do it. I told her refinishing cost too damn much and I wouldn't have it. Then while I was at Kiwanis she had a man take it away to be dipped. Angles begin to sing in my left ear and I know I will kill her, but she is so far away. Garrett is saying something I can't make out, except for the word 'patina' which he seems to be saying over and over. My head is actually swelling with rage. I can feel the skin tightening. I am falling, falling.

I am trying to show Warren Christopher an Item I have brought in a bag. In the dream I do not recognize him as Warren Christopher, he is a man from Christy's who's specialty is Pre-Columbian artifacts. Looking into the bag he tells me no, no, there is no point taping something that will never be on the show. At a table near us three cameras record man with an H.R. Puff n' Stuff Pez dispenser. His interviewer (who I now realize was Howard Baker) is fawning all over him, almost weeping in saccharin gratitude, actually touching his face. Baker begins licking the Pez dispenser, it's the only way he can experience something this magnificent directly enough. I beg Warren Christopher to examine my item again. Sighing, he reaches into the bag and pulls out a black and white photograph of me as a four year old going potty for the first time. I am grinning like there's no tomorrow. Everyone laughs. The sound is overwhelming. Why did I bring this picture with me, why did I want him to see it so much? What was I thinking?

I work for an auction house called Kresky's. I am a very junior employee and this is our company's first time on the show. A lot is riding on my performance. Though there are thousands of people milling around the auditorium, no one comes to my table. I put my head in my hands, and when I look up, a shirtless Senior with graying chest hair and pendulous male breasts stands silently before me. He tilts his head back, displaying a massive goiter. Is this my area of expertise? I'm not sure. I don't think I know anything at all about this sort of thing. trembling, I ask the old man does he have any idea how much this Goiter might be worth at auction.

I am sitting at a table. Leigh and Leslie Keno are circling me. There's no word for what they are doing but prowling. They say nothing, just look at me, their eyes burning, tiny inscrutable smiles on their faces. I have never been so uncomfortable in my entire life. I feel as if I could actually squirm out of my skin. I can't recall what I have brought for their appraisal and am terrified it isn't worthy of their time, but when at last I look, I see an exquisite Ivory broche that belonged to my Great Grandmother. Leigh (or perhaps it's Leslie) is standing behind me, his hands on my shoulders, asking how much I think it's worth. Brazenly I tell him twenty to thirty thousand dollars, and his fingers tighten. Leslie (or perhaps it's Leigh) takes out a car key and scratches the broche. How about now, he asks. Without transition we are shirtless, rolling around in a huge pile of LaLique baubles. It is a demonstration of how rich they are, how powerful. that they have so much LaLique, that they don't care about rolling around on it shirtless. The twins are laughing, laughing, but are they amused? I don't know what it's right to do or what I want.

It's the middle of the night. I am sitting at my computer in my undershorts, looking at the Antiques Roadshow Website. I am reading an intriguing article about a chifforobe. There are multiple thumbprints of pictures that take forever to download. I want to see all the pictures with a need that is not unlike arousal. They are really great Chifforobe pictures and I wish they would download faster. I'm ashamed of how much I'm liking them, the way I'm liking them. I'll stop after one more picture I tell myself, but then what if the next one is even better? I hear footsteps in the hallway. It's my wife, I have to shut this down, but the next picture is downloading and it's going to be so good. It's too late now, I'm going to be discovered, but the chifforobe is coming in, line by line, it's spellbinding, not seeing it isn't an option. I can't stop now. I must not stop.

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