Outside of the exhibition hall being used for Antiques Roadshow. Host Mark Walberg and appraisers LaGina Austin, James N. Baggett, and Noel Barrett hang around a car in the parking lot. They share a flask.

And I said, ‘and what do we have here today?’
When it was clearly a porcelain box covered in human teeth.
I said, ‘what do we have here today?’
And she said, ‘it was my grandmother’s’
And I said, ‘well it’s certainly stunning.’
And she said, ‘we like to say jaw-dropping
And I was like, ‘Ha. Yes.’

Someone brought in their Build-a-Bear.
And I said, oh wow interesting, this is an antique?
And they said, yes it was given to me by my cousin, it’s an antique teddy bear. Do you know where ‘teddy bear’ comes from?
And I’m like, I do this for a living, Shannon.
Anyway I can clearly see the Build-a-Bear tag and I’m turning this thing over and I realize it’s playing a recording.
So I take out my phone to Shazam it and Shazam says it’s human screams.

And she said, ‘my grandmother got it from her grandmother
‘The teeth were gifts from her maids.’


And I was like, ‘Gifts? From her maids?’
And she said, ‘Yes, I heard it was a common token back then.’
And I said, ‘Oh. Huh.’ 

Everywhere we travel we must see the slave memorabilia. The remnants of genocide that, pieced together, form this unholy nation. And everywhere we travel, people ask for my autograph and say, ‘I loved you in Boogie Nights.’

Have you seen James’ house lately?

What happened to your house, James?

It’s empty.
I got rid of everything. Antique violins, all of my records, my TV and radio. Paintings, photographs, wife, children, dogs, fish. All but two pairs of shoes, all craft supplies, books, old journals, nonessential furniture. Now there’s just a bed, some clothing, toiletries, kitchen supplies, and a view of the sea.

How is that?

Cripplingly lonely.

Do you ever just want to drop things?


Just hold a porcelain sugar bowl in your hand and drop it and it hits the thick carpet and you look at the person like, ‘whoops, at least it didn’t shatter,’ then you move forward to pick it up but you step on it instead and there’s a fulfilling crunching noise, and you look at them and say nothing.

I think about that literally every day.

I like telling people their things are haunted.
I’ll hold up a piccolo and say, this was a Dutch East India Company piccolo and its trade is responsible for the death of hundreds.
And they’ll say, ‘hundreds?’
And I’ll say, ‘you’re right it’s more like tens of thousands. The little boy that owned this piccolo played it at funerals for the unclaimed; the heaping of bodies in a potter’s field. Do you ever hear it play a tune, when you’re in your house at night?’
And they’ll say no and I’ll say, ‘you should listen more closely.’
And then they’ll ask, ‘James, how much is it worth?’
And I’ll say, ‘You want to know how much it’s worth?’
And they’ll say, ‘Yes that’s why I drove the four hours here.’
And I’ll say, ‘really, what is anything worth in this world?’
And they’ll say what
And I’ll say, ‘It could take 500 to 600 dollars at auction, and around 400 in a retail setting.’ Then the information will flash at the bottom of the screen and the camera will move on and I weep.

Elise Wien