If you watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS, you know you are a fool to throw anything away.
Those comic books you put in a box four decades ago are now worth a fortune. Restore Aunt Tilly’s rusty Depression era potato ricer to mint condition, and you can trade it for an Ivy League education. That wooden key you cut out of a piece of knotty pine on a jig saw in shop class when you were twelve is now a priceless example of mid-twentieth century folk art. If it has a chip in it, that will severely cut into its value for insurance purposes, but heck, half of a fortune is still a lot for an old piece of knotty pine.
Of course if you have something appraised on the Roadshow, you are duty bound to pretend you have no plans to actually sell the darn thing. You must claim you are going to leave it to the children in your will. It’s obvious what would happen after that. The kids would get into huge fights over who inherits what, and you’d never get to see the grandkids again.
Which leads me to Mixtli, the guy in the photo. Mixtli is the Aztec god of dark clouds and he may or may not be responsible for California’s current drought. We think our Mixtli could be pre-Columbian, and he certainly looks ancient. He’s part of a trove of half a dozen small clay and stone carvings that have been sitting in a small box in my desk drawer for the past forty years. For the last ten of those years, I have been absolutely certain I could take Mixtli and his pals to the Antiques Roadshow where they would be declared priceless. That, in turn, would set off no end of squabbling among my heirs, and it’d be goodbye grandkids.
So to preserve peace in the family, I came up with a brilliant alternative. Why not just give the old Aztecs away? And who better to give them to than the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana?
We’ve been patrons of the Bowers for decades and love going to their exhibits. Besides, they already have a collection of 4,000 old pieces of stuff from Central and South America, so Mixtli and the boys would feel right at home.
So I called them. Didn’t ask for anything in exchange. A straight forward donation. Turns out, I couldn’t give Mixtli away. The Bowers didn’t really say why, but they didn’t even want to meet old clay head before saying no.
Let’s hope it’s not some ancient curse. Could be because they already have hundreds of old Aztecs laying around they don’t need half a dozen more. But next time you’re watching Antiques Roadshow and their expert says something is priceless, they could simply mean you can’t even give it away for free.
Mixtli and I are planning to smoke a little peyote this weekend and do a rain dance to end the drought. If it doesn’t work, blame the curators at the Bowers.