An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
by Jim Tobin

The Preshow Drama

This was the year of the Tucson show that almost was not for me. I was on call for jury duty the week of January 8. In Los Angles County that means every evening starting on the previous Sunday you can dial a special phone line and give your ID number and find out if you are to report the next day. I called Monday and was told not to report. Same for Tuesday and Wednesday, but did have to report on Thursday. So I got up and was at the courthouse at 8 am and found a seat in the jury assembly room. I was confident that I could either not be selected at random or that if selected I would be excused as unacceptable or the trial would be only a few days if I actually got on a jury panel. Well, they had the normal introduction program and explained the system to the new people and we settled down for hopefully a boring day of reading and watching TV. Ten minutes into that they called names for a jury and mine was the third name called. I made my way up to the third floor to the courtroom. Soon I realized I had a problem. Let me add at this point that it is crap shoot. You make a decision at some moment in this process that you will not ask for a postponement of service and then after that you have to serve if called. I had made my decision to go ahead and do my one day or one trial now. But, as I waited outside the courtroom and more and more prospective jurors appeared I knew this was going to be a long trial and that Tucson was at risk.

The clerk finally appeared and led us into the courtroom where we took seats in the back. The clerk said “all rise” we all stood up. The judge came in, he sat down and we sat down, as I had flash backs of Alice’s Restaurant.

He proceeded to tell us the story of the upcoming trial. It would run through February 18th. I was in trouble and wasn‘t going to get to see the half a ton of meteorites in Tucson.

The judge asked who would have a problem with serving on that long a trial and my hand flew up, along with about twenty-five others of the seventy or so that had been sent to the room. So we sat there on the benches and one by one over the course of the rest of the day, individually met with the judge and attorneys in chambers to plead to be excused from the trial.

Now I have done jury duty many times. I usually read something brought from home during the day. I had picked up the latest copy of Meteorite Magazine to take but had read it completely sometime earlier when it arrived. So I put it down and chose another issue from last year with the story of 2006 Tucson in it. There was a picture of me and Paul in it. You remember Paul he usually goes to Tucson with me but could not this year. As it would turn out that was exactly what I needed. When it came time to talk to the judge he reminded me that everyone needs to serve and asked why I needed to be excused. So in almost Arlo like words I proceeded to tell him the story of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show with the buying stock for next year and the already booked rooms and plane tickets part thrown in. Showed him the magazine with the pictures and ads and the text talking about me. He asked me “Kid, what is a meteorite?”

So I proceeded to tell him the story of rocks that fall from space and how I would have none to sell next year if I did not go to the show. I talked for four or five minutes and the hardest part the very hardest part of all was how to spell dimethyl glyoxime for the court reporter. The judge looked at me and said “Kid that is the most unique and creative excuse for not being able to do jury duty I have ever heard and you are excused.”

And the only reason I am telling you this story now is because you may know somebody facing jury duty the first week of February or you may be facing jury duty the first week of February and if your facing jury duty the first week of February there is only one thing you can do. Walk up the clerk in the jury assembly room where every you are and say “Clerk, I want a postponement of service.”

My apologies to Arlo Guthrie for the almost plagiaristic phraseology of the previous section. Now for a more normal report of the show itself.

The Tucson Show

I worked till closing on Wednesday night so I was flying into Tucson on about 3-4 hours sleep. But, had chosen an early flight so I could have as much of Thursday as possible to look around town for stones. I made my way to the Inn Suites first and had 3 hours to look there until I needed to go and check in at my hotel. I made the rounds saying hello to everyone and trying not to spend a lot of money the first few hours I was there. I found a beautiful Glorieta Mountain in one of Eric Olson’s cases that I wanted. It was tucked close behind the description label so you could only see it a little. But it was the one I wanted. Only a little later did I find out it was one shown in the recent TV program. That was a nice start to the trip.

I made my way along to the other side of the hotel stopping only briefly at Bruno and Carine’s room, La Memoire de la Terre. They had a full room of visitors already. I would be back later to survey their great selection of exotic types. Alain Carion and the Killgores were in essentially the same area as normal. Had longer visits with them. Marvin Killgore was running back and forth from the facility there in town where he works giving tours. He had brought a lot of great material this year and some new fun things as well. They immediately put the CD with the soon to be famous “Meteorite Song” into the player and I got to heard it for the first time. I would later buy two copies. Had to get one for Paul of course. We talked about my nearly completed book on Meteor Crater and other things. Their room got busy and I headed around the corner and up the outside of the hotel toward Edwin Thompson’s room to see the books and pamphlets he had said he was bringing. His room was pretty full of people too so I hovered around a minute and headed to Impactica & Friends room of Anne Black and several other dealers. I always see things I would love to have in her room. I found a nice fragment of Alfianello there, but it would be later in the weekend that I would breakdown and buy a specimen that I have wanted for some time.

Since I was on the top floor of suites I made my way to Chladni’s Heirs. I had corresponded with Martin Altmann several years ago when he had some questions about cutting and finishing meteorites. I was looking forward to saying hello in person. As it turned out their room was a treasure chest of very nice historic and more recent falls. I found a nice slice of Crumlin an L5 witnessed fall from Northern Ireland over a hundred years ago. There was also a small slice of Barwell an L6 witnessed fall. This was turning into a trip of meteorites from the British Isles. The Heirs had something else of great interest to me. I have seen shocked belemnites before. Alain Carion has had them for years. I have bought one or two in the past from him. Chladni’s Heirs had a small side table devoted just to them. I found two very nice ones at a wonderful low price. They are collected it seems by a man in Germany that is making it one of his specialties.

It was getting near when I had to head to my hotel. So I left the Inns Suites and on a lark decided to stop at the Best Western on the corner with the circle around nightmare intersection. I said to myself “I’ll just go through the tents like last year and see if there are any good NWA’s here.” I needed to walk only a hundred feet from the car to find the nicest and best priced meteorites from Morocco that I would see all weekend. I got four nice stones with fresh fusion crust. One a great example of primary and secondary fusion crust. The four stone totaled about a half a kilogram with the largest weighing in at 280.6 grams.

So often over the last years the tent dealers have not had a scale and have to go to a neighbor to get things weighed that I decided this year I would carry a scale of my own. I have one I got at a technology swap meet that is tiny, very cute, and very accurate for just $20. It also goes to 500 grams and has modes for grains, carats, ounces in addition to grams. It came in pretty handy this year.

So with four beautiful stones in my camera bag I was off to check in and get some late lunch. I grabbed some fast food after finishing the formalities at the hotel. I was staying on Ina in the very north of Tucson so it was just hop and skip over to see Robert Haag and Al Lang. Being by myself this year had some distinct advantages. I got to have a great conversation with Al out on the patio of his room without worrying about being somewhere else. Continuing the British theme it was time for something from a former colony, I found a very nice complete Wiluna stone with a Perth Museum number in Al‘s room. Robert Haag was not around at the time so I would stop back later to see him.

It was still early but I was running on no sleep so I made an early day of it and returned to the hotel to relax. Friday morning would arrive soon enough and I had big plans for the next day.

My hotel had a complementary breakfast but it was nothing to write home about. I did like the orange juice and had several glasses of that. It was off to The Ramada to see Blaine Reed’s room and check out the tents there. The tents open up earlier so I made my way through them. I found the Moroccan dealers a little more aggressive this year with their pleading to “come I will make you great deal, what do you look for”. I barely got out of one tent with my arm still attached. No meteorites that I liked there, but some great huge pieces of tektite glass were in another tent. I got four of those.

Blaine had a nice room again it was full of visitors and I did not stay too long. Next door almost to him was Seymchen headquarters of the world. But, the slices were scary because of the way they had been prepared. They looked like they had been thrown into nitric acid and just left there till done like french fries. The etch was so deep and the surface so rough that I worried they would just continue to be eaten up during the next weeks and months. But the price was very good and there was no shortage of material. I would see more that was well prepared and very beautiful throughout the trip.

Next stop the Days Inn and the mile of hotels beyond. I made a stop at Cosmic Cutlery and said hello to Buddy and his wife. I always stop and catch up on their adventures. Their big display is now at the wholesale show over at the Holidome. I would be there on Sunday to buy presents for my lovely wife.

Behind all the hotels that line the street in this part of Tucson are set up tents and tables of rock and minerals, rugs and artifacts. In fact you can find almost anything. Usually, we walk to the Pueblo Inn or whatever it is called that year, and then return to the parking lot. This year being by myself I continued down the street to the numerous hotel on down further. While minding my own business out of the crowd I hear someone calling “Jim“. I looked around thinking that it was for someone else. I saw no one I knew and continued on. Then I heard “Jim” again. Looked around once more and saw no one. The third time I finally saw Stephanie one of our friends from Direct Line Resources. But, she was at the Holidome not here in the tents. She was there to see a dealer friend of their and had seen me walk by the suite outside. I always see them on Sunday so this was nice treat to see her earlier.

I did find one nice meteorite at a good price in all the wanderings further down the street. Picked up four more very small stones from the vendor nearest my car when I returned to the parking area.

I had some business to do during the weekend too and it was time to take care of that. I headed off to the Clarion Hotel to see some Russians. I took a long time sorting out specimens and the quality and availability of Sikhote Alins was really different this year. The small beautiful specimens are all but gone. I got what I could and looked around the rest of the hotel.

It was early afternoon and time to make my way back to the center of the meteorite world the, Inn Suites. I walked around a couple hours and ended up at Marvin and Kitty’s room again. We got to talking and arranged for a tour of the Phoenix building for the following morning at 11. Kitty had let me know that Marvin needed to be gotten to the birthday party bash of Geoff Notkin and Steve Arnold. He was receiving a Harvey Award. As it turned out I ended up going to the party with the Killgores and got to see the beautiful home they have in Tucson.

The birthday party is always the best. Everyone turns out for it and you can always meet some new people and connect again with old friends. The entertainment portion of the content is always good for some laughs. These year was no exception with a roast of one of the more notorious members of the meteorite community who was not in attendance at Tucson. One sad note was hearing about the serious traffic accident Dr. Walter Branch and his daughter were in. Maria Haas as she often does began doing work in the room to assist the Branchs by taking donations. And our community as always showed itself to be made of the best stuff.

This year the occupancy standards for the room were closely monitored and attendees had to wait outside till enough persons had left. This was disheartening for them but what can I say our group keeps growing.

Saturday, morning came slowly as I got a restless night’s sleep. I had the appointment with Marvin at 11am and that gave me a little time to look around. I found myself in Anne Blacks room once more and my eye fell on a small slice of Wold Cottage. It was in a gem jar in a riker box with a very nice copy of the original British Museum mineral department label. It had been on my list for many years and this one was so nicely displayed that I said this is the one. So one more British meteorite was added to Tucson 07’s acquisitions.

Marvin took me on the grand tour of the facilities. Paul and I had been there before, but now the display cases were finished and the equipment was in the testing labs. Command Center for the Phoenix mission is coming together. I had the opportunity to work with his petrographic microscope. I even took a couple pictures with my camera held up to the eyepiece of the slide I had examined. It was a new meteorite under classification. Very exciting stuff. There was so much I saw there at the Southwest Meteorite Center that I might do a complete article on it some time in the future.

We did not finish up here at the facility until about one thirty and it was time to get to Al Lang’s auction.

What can I say, the Langheinrich auction this year was simply out of this world. I could not believe some of what I saw happen. I expected that some of the pieces would command high prices but I was frankly shocked. I guess for me it was the Sylacauga core slice that I was most interested in seeing sold. I knew there would be much interest in it. And it was no disappointment. The price in the room was $1525 and I heard later that it was settled among absentees for much more. It is after all the only meteorites well documented to have hit a person. But, there were many wonderful meteorites sold in the auction and most went for a little over the high estimated price.

Now it was time to get several things done before the evening got too late. I needed to eat. I had nothing all day since the poor breakfast at the hotel. I returned with Marvin to the Inn Suites and looked for someone to have dinner with. As fortune would have it, meet up with Bob and Beth Verish friends from California. We decided on a plan for dinner. We would go to the Michael Blood Auction room; they would do their business conserning LA002, we would all get low number bidder cards and then go to dinner. They would drop me off after dinner and I would run down to FedEX Kinko’s to get my boarding pass for my flight Sunday night. It all worked out great and I still got back to the Michael Blood Auction a few minutes before the first item was offered up.

The Michael Blood auction ran long into the evening as always but was enjoyable for most I think. Those who bid and won specimen with high bidder numbers did have to wait a long time to check out again. This is almost enough of a problem to discourage bidding. Perhaps he will remedy this by next year.

Sunday morning and time to pack everything in my now much heavier bag. I checked out and headed to the Inn Suites for the last time of this trip. I had about three hours available to spend before heading to the wholesale show. I survived the two auctions with money left so I made my way to Anne Black’s room to settle up on one piece I owed her money for. A last visit with Marvin and a nice visit with ET, a purchase of a slice of EL3 from Marcin, and a stop to say goodbye to Jim Strope and Mike Farmer used up that three hours pretty well. There was a beautiful oriented stone in their room. Mike said it was an H5 but did not know the weight. It was actually the first picture I took at the show, but I will show it here near the end of my story.

I found some beautiful pieces of jewelry for my wife at the wholesale show and had some time to look around still before getting the rental car filled with gas and turning it in. I ran into three meteorite friends at the airport Rob Wesel, Jason Philips, and Tom Toffoli. We were all heading different directions, but had some time to talk.

From start to finish the Tucson 2007 was a great show and a fun time, I did not get much rest but there is always time for that later.