Hot pumpkins.

Well, that’ll teach me to procrastinate. There will be no photograph of the 125-pound pumpkin because, believe it or not, SOMEBODY STOLE IT.

For the record, I never thought the thing weighed 125 pounds. Alan could lift it without risking hernia and so could I, although it was near the end of my capacity; call it maybe 80-90 pounds. Still, it was a big mofo of a punkin. I bought it weekend before last at the farmers’ market, when it appeared for the second week running. Price: $10, down $2 from the weekend before. I passed, thinking Alan would complain about how-the-heck-are-we-going-to-throw-that-away, Nance.

I shouldn’t have worried. When I came home and said, “Wow, that was a big pumpkin.” Alan replied, “Well, why didn’t you buy it?” I squealed, raced back to the market, and did just that. We wrestled it out of the car and set it up in front of the house. I always wanted a huge pumpkin, and it was a beaut, if a little smashed on one side — a real neon orange. I gave myself a month to imagine whether and how we would carve it.

Then last night it disappeared, in the early evening, probably when we were eating dinner and the household security system was patrolling the kitchen table for falling ravioli.

Well, I hope whoever he was, he got a hernia.

I did my civic duty today. Got called for jury duty. Oh, how anticlimactic it was. I left work at 8:15, appeared on time, and sat forever after watching an orientation video that was informative, but not nearly as entertaining as an “L.A. Law” episode. At the end, the judge came down, thanked us for our civic-duty-doing, but the case in question was pleaded out just that morning.

“I have a rule that I never allow plea bargains on the day of the trial, because that’s not respectful of your time,” he said, a classic set-up for why, just this once, he was making an exception. Turned out it was a good one: The case was a child-molestation charge, and the star witness was six years old, and everyone thought it would be in her best interest not to have to testify. Can’t say I disagree.

I was back at my desk two hours later, and I’m out of the pool for three more years.

Of course I wouldn’t have minded serving, but I’ve done this before, and it’s pretty predictable: You go in, reveal yourself to be a journalist and become one of the peremptory challenges. One of my colleagues was called and questioned: “You’re a journalist? So you understand how the court system works?” As though this were a bad thing. He got the hook immediately.

Nonetheless, the waiting was good for 80 pages of book-reading. While changing position on my seat, I sneaked a look at what others were reading. “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” “The Purpose-Driven Life,” etc. And I wonder why I feel out of place here.


I have to confess, Christopher Reeve made me uncomfortable. Lots of reasons. I was an equestrian when he had his accident — that was a biggie. A lot of his I-will-walk-again statements were excruciating; I believe in optimism, but that seemed to be going way too far. His implication that a cure for paralysis is as close as a few more lines of stem cells was simpleminded. The way Hollywood liked to roll him out (literally) to clap and cry made me cringe. And that commercial? The one that showed him walking again, via CGI? That was the last word in tasteless.


He did seem like a truly nice person, and if nothing else, you had to give him credit for looking on the bright side, such as it was. He never shrank from discussing the ugly reality of quadriplegia — see this WashPost appreciation for the details of what it took for him to have a bowel movement — and it certainly helps you see why he fought so hard to be something more.

Anyway, I thought Richard Cohen’s column today captured the ambivalence of the situation just about perfectly.

Danger in your bathroom! Film at 11.

Peace out.

Posted at 6:21 pm in Uncategorized |

19 responses to “Hot pumpkins.”

  1. Linda said on October 12, 2004 at 6:44 pm

    Well, let’s hope that 125 pounder wasn’t/won’t be thrown off an overpass onto the windshield of some unsuspecting motorist. I lost my desire to decorate the old homestead with “punkins” (couldn’t resist that little Hoosier-ism) when I was a teenager. We didn’t even live in the city, we lived in the country, but every year someone would steal our pumpkins from the porch. Years later, my brother confessed that his friends were doing it so that they could smash the pumpkins on other people’s houses/porches/cars, etc., but it ruined the fun of carving/decorating for me. (geez, I seem to be the slash using queen today)

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  2. Linda said on October 12, 2004 at 6:53 pm

    People running or fighting with toothbrushes in their mouths… made me think of a stand-up comedian I heard once who ended every anecdote about some stupid person by saying “he oughta wear a sign….”

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  3. ashley said on October 12, 2004 at 8:10 pm

    Being about 1/2″ from a quadriplegic myself (broken C1 vertebra playind football), Christopher Reeve made me uncomfortable too. I think that a lot of that perceived uncomfort was intentional, as part of his activism. He didn’t want people to think it was easy being a quad. It isn’t.

    He was naive about stem cell research, but correct in his belief that W could be blockading years of foetal stem cell research through politics. Hey, we have some isolated nerve growth now, why not complete spinal cord repair soon?

    Still, that episode of “the Practice” he was in gave me the creeps.

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  4. Nance said on October 12, 2004 at 8:24 pm

    Stem cells offer a great deal of hope — particularly to Parkinson’s sufferers — but nothing close to a cure yet. But you’re right, it needs to go forward. Michael Berube wrote something cogent on the subject, here.

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  5. Colleen said on October 12, 2004 at 10:04 pm

    “soft palette”….is that like mauves and taupes and stuff?

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  6. Linda said on October 12, 2004 at 11:54 pm

    In re-reading your story on the big pumpkin, I just noticed this time that you used the word “punkin”. I said it in my comment because my mom and all the “old-timers” back home used to say that. Now I’m worried that you think I was poking fun at you for using it. Sorry about that, and I’m gonna blame my impending sore throat and flu.

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  7. Nance said on October 13, 2004 at 4:54 am

    I’m not nearly that perceptive — or sensitive. I wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out.

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  8. Mindy said on October 13, 2004 at 7:49 am

    Several years ago, I spent almost three hours cooling my heels with the other potential jurors while we waited to be culled from the herd. At long last the judge appeared and explained that the guy being tried pleaded guilty to this charge as well as two others. So three cases were neatly dismissed all at once, a very rare opportunity.

    Perhaps I’ll have the same luck next week when it’s again my turn to do my civic duty.

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  9. alex said on October 13, 2004 at 8:46 am

    Wowee! Lotsa fat to chew here!

    Well, first off, I saw the punkin in question on Sunday morning when I went to retrieve my car after Saturday’s saturnalia and I’d never seen anything quite like it. Putting it outside was begging for trouble, I’d say.

    Strange coincidence, but I was on Mackinac Island the day Christopher Reeve had his accident and the whole place went into mourning as if it were his hometown. He’d made a movie there some years before�never saw it�and I guess it was the biggest thing that ever happened to that place.

    And, yes�ask any lawyer. If you’re perceived as knowing anything about law they don’t want you on a jury. Both sides want the stupidest people they can find. Jury of your own peers? The constitution may guarantee it, but don’t bet on it. Or better still, don’t ever do anything to land your ass in court. I used to work for a legal publishing company followed by a stint with the bar association�two things that made me a no-starter when it came to jury selection, and despite the huge population in Chicago (where half the voters are dead) I was called to jury duty constantly. Which meant having to sit in a filthy waiting room all day with absolutely nothing to do.

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  10. Dave said on October 13, 2004 at 9:04 am

    My occupation is nothing spectacular but when I was called to jury duty and the case was a DWI, they wanted to know if safety was emphasized by my employer. When I replied yes, that was all for me. Safety and drunken driving doesn’t mix.

    Ended my pumpkin-stealing career when three of us were in my buddy’s grandmothers’ car, no less, and some farmer took exception to our removal of his pumpkins by shooting at us, putting a hole through the rear door. We couldn’t come up with a believable enough lie for that one so we had to tell the truth. Still makes me shudder to think he really was shooting at us, I don’t believe he was that good of a shot in the dark out in the country.

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  11. Marci said on October 13, 2004 at 11:53 am

    Oh ho! So perhaps that trial you were called to jury duty for was the same one the noob from MediaWatch was screaming about this week? The one where the child molester pleaded guilty and got probation only? Small world.

    And I’m waiting for my own pumpkin to disappear. It’s not nearly so big, but there are a ton of mischief-making kids about my neighborhood.

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  12. Marci said on October 13, 2004 at 11:55 am

    Oh ho! So perhaps that trial you were called to jury duty for was the same one the noob from MediaWatch was screaming about this week? The one where the child molester pleaded guilty and got probation only? Small world.

    And I’m waiting for my own pumpkin to disappear. It’s not nearly so big, but there are a ton of mischief-making kids about my neighborhood.

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  13. Marci said on October 13, 2004 at 11:55 am

    Oh ho! So perhaps that trial you were called to jury duty for was the same one the noob from MediaWatch was screaming about this week? The one where the child molester pleaded guilty and got probation only? Small world.

    And I’m waiting for my own pumpkin to disappear. It’s not nearly so big, but there are a ton of mischief-making kids about my neighborhood.

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  14. Marci said on October 13, 2004 at 11:57 am

    That’s what I get for hitting the BACK button. Twice. Sorry for the triple-posting.

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  15. Jim said on October 13, 2004 at 12:24 pm

    Weird. I, a devoted NNC reader, was also called for jury duty this week! Despite being a lawyer (albeit a non-practicing government bureaucrat), I’ve ended up on the jury. I’m devoting all week to this triple defendant case involving a burglary/robbery involving attempted murder and mayhem. So far, it’s mostly been us being herded in and out of the jury box while the lawyers fight over evidence.

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  16. deb said on October 13, 2004 at 1:34 pm

    i was called for jury duty last spring, but had the option of deferring it until summer, which i did, so my husband could take the week off just in case someone needed to be around to mind the kids. my “duty” consisted of calling in three times a day to check a recorded message to find out whether i needed to actually show up.

    the week passed without my presence being required, but the checking in was almost as big a pain as actually being there. sometimes the line was busy forever; sometimes you had to keep calling because nobody had bothered to update the message. and there was always the chance you’d find out at noon that you were needed within the hour.

    a friend who’d been through this already summed it up: “basically, the county owns you for a week, whether they need you or not. so don’t make any plans.”

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  17. Bob said on October 13, 2004 at 4:25 pm

    The discussion of pumpkins brought back a nearly-buried memory. Almost fifty years ago, two buddies and I found our way into a public building in another community via an unlocked window. We sent a few boosted pumpkins to an ugly demise in the stairwells, and touched nothing else. We locked the window where we had entered, and left via a door that locked behind us. Someone may have puzzled a bit over our visit.

    The building no longer exists, nor does one of the participants in the escapade. I ain’t telling where this was.

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  18. deb said on October 13, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    finally checked the “danger in your bathroom” link. deja vu all over again. i once edited a story about a wisconsin girl who swallowed her toothbrush. yep, swallowed it. you’d think the damn thing would lodge somewhere and choke her to death — how would it get past that bend in the throat, anyway? — but no. it ended up in her stomach and had to be surgically removed.

    so, next time you see your kid bouncing on the bed with a toothbrush in her mouth — well, you know what to do.

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  19. KCK said on October 13, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    I agree that one side or the other is not going to want an intelligent juror; actually the US Constitution �guarantees� an impartial jury, not a jury of one�s peers. Some state constitutions however do use the “jury of one�s peers” phraseology.

    “Sixth Amendment – Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions

    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence. �

    A section (�equal protection�) of the 14th Amendment that is generally cited in court challenges to jury composition.

    �No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws�

    More than you probably want to know can be found here:

    Impartial Jury

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