Saturday, January 31, 2015

Closing Day

Let's have one more round for Dixie!
Diet Doctor Pepper
Mountain Dew

Let's sit around the cashier's desk
on that red leather loveseat and swap
stories about
crazy customers
crazy vendors
our crazy lives

Let's remember the place where
everyone knew your name
and we all celebrated good sales
good times
good news
each other

Let's remember the times when we could not
because we were sad
and we helped each other out instead

Let's have one more round for Dixie!
Then order lunch
one last time
(Taco Bell again!)

Let's toast the memories of a store that would not quit
no matter what anyone else said about it

Let's drink to each other
to friends
to family

Let's have one more round for Dixie!
Diet Doctor Pepper
Mountain Dew

Michael Edward Mitchell
January 31, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Final Countdown

For the Peddlers Mall.  Not for anything else.  (I feel like I have to be so careful what I say now, since I don't want anyone to worry about me unnecessarily.)

Today and tomorrow are the last two days that the Dixie Peddlers Mall will be in existence.  I am sad beyond belief over this.  Out of all the stores I have been in, this is the one that feels like home.  This is the one where I learned how to do this.  This is the one where I learned how much I loved doing this.  I have made really good friends here.  I'll be seeing a lot of them around in other PM's and other stores, but it's never going to be the same again. I feel like the old gang is breaking up.

But life goes on, I guess.  I still have boxes to pack and move.  I've taken several loads out, but still have lots more to go.  Even though the time is much shorter now, I'm still planning to move most of my stuff after the store is closed.  It makes more sense to me to give stuff the most chances to sell.  With no rent coming out of this check, I want it to be as big as I can make it. 

Saturday, we'll get the last of the big and small furniture out, except for the shelves that are in use right now holding stuff.  They'll probably be the last to go.  Sunday and Monday, I'll pack up stuff on the floor and in my storage.  Thankfully, most of my stuff in the storage is still boxed up. 

I have a few items that I am leaving for the clean up crew, but not many.  I've already made arrangements for someone to take care of my one wall.  It's not going with me.  I have a shelf and a chair that I am not keen on taking with me.  I'm slashing them way on down today to try and get them re-homed.  If not, they'll be gifts for the cleaning up dudes. 

I've been taking advantage of other folks' leaving sales and such to score everything I can.  I've had a lot given to me.  I've also made offers on several items--mostly furniture and shelving.  I am going to be able to completely re-do the look of my spaces with new shelving.  I have a lot of plastic utility shelves that I no longer want to use for the booths.  They're coming home to the shed to organize my merch storage there.  I've picked up enough (much) nicer looking shelves to give my new spaces a look that better reflects my identity as a re-seller.  I'm excited about the possibilities.

I didn't really have much of an identity when  I started doing this.  I was one of countless others who wanted to sell crap.  Now I am much more knowledgeable, much more secure in who I am and what I sell.  I have a regular customer base.  I have good sales.  I've found something that I love doing and am somewhat good at.

It's all thanks to the Dixie Peddlers Mall.  I'm going to miss the hell out of this place.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Can You Hold Please?

To misappropriate Charles Dickens:  These are not the best of times, nor are they the worst of times.  These are simply, well, times.

On the one hand, the tumor in my spleen is a little bigger.  About 10% bigger.

On the other hand, the one in my liver appears to be benign.

(We have to pretend that we're aliens or octopi for this one, because we need a few more hands.)

On the next other hand, Yeravoy, the drug I just finished, does some of its work after the treatments are done, so we don't have a full picture yet.

On the other hand after that, we could just not wait for the full picture and start the next treatment.

On the newest other hand, the docs want to wait two months, do a re-scan, and then decide next steps.

On the other hand sitting over there in the corner, I won't have to do any treatments or belly shots (BLAM!) during those two months.  Just wait.

On the other hand that's in grandma's trunk in the attic, waiting is hard.

On the other hand that's in the dirty clothes basket because it's got ketchup all over it, waiting gives us the most accurate picture about what's actually going on with Tumie, as I have now named him.  I am all for making the best, most informed decisions.

So, we're waiting for two months.  I hope that's the right decision.  I told Keith I just have to choose a course of action and then let it go.  I cannot start second-guessing myself right now or I'll go crazy.  But still…

And then they called tonight to tell us that we only have until the 5th of February to be out of the Peddlers Mall, not the 10th as originally promised.  Supposedly, there was a misunderstanding.  Supposedly.  Given the way the property owners have been acting over the last six months, I have my doubts.

Anyone wanna trade lives?  I'll throw in the extra hands, if you need them.  After I get through packing up, of course.  In fact, I'm searching right now for my set of spares.  And calling my cousin Sid the Squid.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Rambles

Actual conversation we had the other day:

Me:  I miss the days when I could poop in the mornings.

Keith:  I miss the days when we didn't have to talk about your poop all the time.

I know I said that this was not going to become a regular topic here, but that was too funny not to mention.

I did have a bad swing the other way (if you know what I mean) a few nights ago.  I was up for quite a while and it was rough.  A lot rougher than anything I've ever been through.  It felt like someone was yanking my innards out with a fork!  (Ewww!) I thought I was going to pass out.  Seriously.  I don't know for sure that it was treatment related, since it hasn't happened again.  I am so glad for that.  An extended run like that is  not something I want to go through.  It left me wiped out the next day!

Most of the small furniture is out of my closing booth and moved over to the other store.  All of my books (except for the religious ones) have been moved.  I do have a few large furniture pieces left and a couple of end tables, chairs and desks.  Most of them have been way marked down, as I don't plan on taking them with me.  If I can't sell them, there's a clean up guy who has made arrangements to take care of anything that gets left.  He's a big time vendor, so I know what he's going to do.  I'll be leaving him a few "presents."

If I have to go that route, it will be karmic payback for the benefits I've reaped from other vendors as they've been moving.  I've gotten several gifts of mirrors, dish sets, chairs, books, etc over the last few weeks.  Many of them I've been turning around and flipping quickly at bargain prices, adding to my bottom line for the last month.  I have just about made my sales goal for the month, so I'm looking to go way over it.  Not having any rent come out in the last month will sure help this be a big check.

I still have tons of smalls to wrap, box, and move.  I love my smalls, but I am so dreading this.  I am up to my neck in empty boxes, totes, and tubs at the house and at the store, but I know it's still not nearly enough.

I'm taking a load of smalls to the new store this afternoon, after I get done with my scan.  I'm in my pre-scan fast period, counting the minutes until I go in.  In other words, I AM STARVING!!!!  Oh well.  The price we pay for scientific inquiry.

I'll get the results tomorrow, along with treatment options, if any are needed. Of course, I'll be updating here as soon as I know anything.

Not too much else in the way of happenings here right now.  Sorry about that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lowering the boom....

It all started with one very badly written letter.

Kind of an inauspicious way to announce the end of an era, huh?  I still cringe* when I look at it.

I'll have a somewhat lengthy reminiscing post a little closer to the last day.  After all, I have a lot of memories in this place.  I'll miss it terribly.

This wasn't an entirely unexpected turn of events.  We all knew that the store's lease was up in June and not likely to be renewed.  I've written before about the massive construction on the building that has been screwing with sales for months.  That made it pretty obvious how the property owners felt about us.**

There was a period in the spring/summer when I kept vaguely talking about a stressful situation that was bringing me down, but said that I really couldn't say any more about it at the time, largely because things were so uncertain and indefinite.  The store came very close to closing at that time.  That's the real reason I took the space in the second store, in order to have a place to land when/if the boom dropped.  It's also the reason I have hung on there, even though I wasn't doing as well as I wanted.  Space there is so much in demand that I was afraid to give it up in case I needed it.

I did decide at that time that, no matter what happened, I was staying at the store until the very end, no matter what.  Lots of vendors were bailing based on rumors, and that just didn't seem like a good business decision to me.  I started having the best sales of my tenure right around that time, so it seemed foolish to just walk away.  Besides, I am an intensely loyal person.  This store, its staff, and management have been very good to me.  I intend to return the favor as long as I am able.

For me, it became business as usual--buy stuff, price stuff, sell stuff.  After all, I'm still going to need merch, no matter what store I'm in.

When the summer passed, along with the danger of closure, I kind of breathed a little easier.  When I got rediagnosed with the cancer, I was incredibly relieved that I wasn't having to deal with closing/moving the booths at the same time I was starting treatment again.

At least I wasn't until I got the letter and, all of a sudden, I was.  That's life, I guess.  It is what it is.  That's business.  And a whole bunch of equally philosophical (and only mildly comforting) aphorisms.  Of course, it's my kind of luck, that the news breaks right when I am looking at a storage room stuffed with goodies that I just bought.

And now you know why I was not very active on the blog for the first couple weeks of 2015.  I would work at the store until I just couldn't any more and come home and collapse.  I had no energy for you all.  Sorry.  I did think happy thoughts about you, if that's any consolation.  I'm good at happy thoughts.

I started moving stuff over to the other store this last weekend.  As soon as the news broke, I called over there and picked up two more spaces.  I'm still going from eight space, plus a storage, down to four, but it will help.  I've been kind of carefully planning my move, trying to keep my sales momentum up and conserve my energy for the big push at the end.  A lot of the work for me will happen in those first ten days of February, when the store will be open for us to move our stuff out.

There are a lot of lemons to be made out of this lemonade, if you look for them.  Sales are through the roof right now as customers get the word and come looking for bargains.  Lots of vendors are doing huge markdowns, which is what the people are hunting for.  I'm not going to do a booth-wide sale, but I am picking up a lot of extra sales anyway.  My goal for the month is a minimum 16-1800 buck check.  I'm closing in on that every day by leaps and bounds.

Vendors having markdowns also means lots of cheap merch out there for me as well.  I've been doing my own share of shopping as I go along.  Much of that shopping has comprised my restocking for the other store, allowing me to leave what I have in storage packed up for move out.  There's also the giveaways.  I've usually got open arms for stuff people don't want to move out, either before or after it hits the dumpster.

I'm not going nuts by any means, but trying to carefully plan ahead for the summer.  The possibility that I may end up laid up due to my treatments is never far from my mind.  I'm trying to assemble a nice stash of stuff that I've pre-priced, so that all I (or someone else) have to do is grab a tote and put the stuff out.  Even if I'm not laid up, I'll lessen the need to go out every weekend during the summer.  Hopefully, I can target the proven, time-tested good sales and have a little more "us" time this summer.

I'm going through a massive grieving process over this closure.  I will have much more to write about it over the next few weeks.  I'm just trying to muddle through and look for the bright sides to the situation.  Having more time to work the other store will definitely be to my benefit. I'm looking forward to finally growing it to its full potential.

Honestly, it's not the way I wanted to start the new year.  There's not a helluva lot I can do about that now.  It seems like I'm always rolling with the punches.  This is just a new twist on that.

*Mainly from how terribly it's written.  For goodness' sake, if you're going to dump me, at least have the decency to get a proofreader!

**All opinions expressed in this and future posts are purely my own and do not reflect or represent the thoughts of Peddlers Mall, its staff, or management in any way, shape or form.  I should also add that all of my opinions have been formed solely by my own observation of the situation.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I do crazy things sometimes...

What is the most insane thing you can think of that someone undergoing cancer treatment that keeps him tired all the time and exhausted at least part of the time can do?  Enter a marathon?  Take up weightlifting?  Become an Avenger of the Night?  Start tap dancing?

Well maybe for other people in cancer treatment, but this Melanoma Boy (Hmmmm.....that's kinda catchy.  *Makes note to start on a costume.*)  seems to make major booth moves during treatments.  Last time, on my first trip out after surgery, I rented a new booth, which required completely redoing my set up and moving everything.  I had to do it.  The timing sucked, but it was an opportunity that I knew would pay off.  To make it work, I sat on a sofa and told Keith where to move the big stuff and then sat on a stool to put the small things in.

This time was even more major.  I know that's pretty hard to top, but I managed.  Not that I set out to deliberately do something crazy, but it was another opportunity I could not pass up, one which doesn't come along all the time.  Another one that I knew would pay off.

I bought a storage unit.

Not like this, mind you.

It wasn't even actually a unit, per se.  It was a room at the Peddlers Mall being used for storage by a vendor that had been evicted for non-payment of rent.  When that happens, the vendor forfeits any merchandise that may be left in the mall.  The mall resells it to try and recover the amount owed.  A lot of times, there isn't much for the mall to work with.  The vendor usually never had a good booth or sellable stuff to begin with and what had been there has dwindled down to the detritus, because the vendor hasn't been in for weeks to work the booth.

This time was different.  There were five booths, plus the storage unit, all with a reasonable amount of stuff left in them.  The little storage room was jammed full of stuff!  It was way too much for the store staff to deal with.  They would have been pricing items for days!  So, the manager decided to take sealed bids on the spaces.  Three other dealers and I were invited to bid, based both the interest we had shown in the stuff and on our ability to deal with it all.  All of us have multiple spaces and do fairly well.  Track records and communication pay off.

I thought about it a long time and talked it over with Keith.  I decided to go for it for several reasons:

1.  It was a chance to get a lot of stuff at a good price
2. Winter is here and there are no sales
3. Building a good stock now can carry me if later on in the year, I am not able to get out as much as I need to.
4.  Two stores = need more stuff all the time
5. I can take this at my own pace.  There was no deadline to have everything cleared out.  In fact, I bought the room right before we left for Chicago, but did not start to work on it until after we got back.

I did have some misgivings.  After all, I was swooping in to take advantage of someone else's failure.  I had moments of feeling oddly like a vulture.  But this is a business.  Everyone signs a contract that spells out what we have to do to sell in the mall.  This vendor had not responded to repeated requests to come and settle up.  Those requests clearly spelled out the consequences.  Plus, I had watched this vendor since he came in the mall.  He made a lot of mistakes.  Walking away without any contact was only one of them.  I may write more about that later.

When I got the room, this is what it looked like:

Scary, huh?  I did the only reasonable thing I could do.  I pulled out a cart load of easily reachable stuff.

Then I boarded up the room and got married.  Priorities, you know?

When I started to work on it...whooo boy!  What a colossal mess!  For real.  It took over a week to get the room cleaned out and sorted.  I hauled eight or nine cartloads and three flatbed loads of trash out to the store dumpster.  This vendor was in the habit of going to auctions and buying anything and everything in sight without any regard to what it was or whether it was sellable.  Then he would get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff he had, dump a lot of it in his booths without prices, and shove the rest in this little room.  He eventually got himself up to 14 booths (two that were being used as storage), plus two storage spaces.  He over-reached badly and in the end it got him.  I always tell people who are interested in trying a booth to start out small to see if they like it, then grow out from there if they are doing well.

But I found some wonderful things:

That doesn't even scratch the surface.  A short list of things I did not take a pic of includes:  2 computers, 2 printers (one new in box), two air conditioners, a vintage vanity (no mirror), three TV's (one big screen), boxes and boxes of toys (as yet unsorted), a smidge of vintage Christmas, several sets of dishes, more glassware than you can shake a stick at, and so on and so on and so on.  It was truly a sight to see.

I donated about a jillion bags of clothes to Goodwill as well.  And put a whole lot of stuff in a cart labeled "Free Stuff" and watched customers swarm it like vultures.

This is without a doubt, the largest buy I have ever made.  Certainly, it's the one I've spent the most time working on.  I made my initial money back within a few days.  A few days after that, I doubled my investment.  And stuff keeps selling every day.  From that point of view, it's been worth it.

There are a few vendors in the mall that primarily sell stuff from storage units they've bought at auction.  In fact, two of them were also involved in the bidding for these booths.  I've always wondered why they do things the way they do, particularly their pricing, which is always quite low.  In fact, I shop from them a lot, frequently making a lot of money from reselling their stuff.  Once I was confronted with a room full of stuff I totally understood.  When you have that much volume of merch, with a limited amount of booth space, you have to sell it cheap.  Otherwise, you're going to be totally backed up the next time you buy a unit.  And you can still make good money selling stuff cheaply.  It comes from the volume of sales.  It's the old "quick nickels" vs "slow dimes" thing.

I've also learned that I could never flip units full of stuff on a regular basis.  I am simply too slow to get a unit cleaned out in a set amount of time.  I have to go through every box and look at every single piece.  The speed at which these guys have to move amazes me!

In short, I'll probably never do something this crazy again, but it was a wonderful learning experience.  I don't regret doing it at all.

Of course, right after I bought this room, we got a horrible shock.  More on that in a day or two.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Wedding of the Century!

Move over Charles and Diana!  Watch out William and Kate!  This is the true wedding of the century!  The ages in fact!  An event 25 years in the making! Presenting.....


And if you've seen this shot, well, you've seen most of them.  Seriously.
That's my jacket piled on a chair in the corner.  Classy.

To be honest, civil marriages conducted at the courthouse don't have a lot of pageantry or glamour.  Our photographer was Keith's camera on a tripod set to snap every five seconds, so there's not a lot of movement or drama.  The biggest change from shot to shot seems to be my facial expressions, which get frownier the more I'm trying to keep from crying.  And the frownier I get, the more I look like my mother.  Creepy.  Keith told me to delete any pic I didn't like, but I left them all in.  I told him that I started to take out all the pics where I looked fat, had a goofy expression on my face, or looked too much like my mother, but then I realized we'd have no pics whatsoever.  I guess if you're gonna make goofy faces at your wedding, you gotta live with the results.

I started tearing up the moment we entered the judge's chambers and was on the verge of losing it the whole time.  I'm going to write more about this later, but it boils down to this:  after being together half my life, we finally achieved something that other couples have taken for granted for years.  Our relationship finally has some recognized validity under the law which entitles it to certain rights and protections.  It's an overwhelming, powerful moment.  Don't ever take it for granted.  I know I won't.

It was an experience to remember, for sure.  There were moments of pure sweetness, moments that seem to come out of a bad movie and moments that were purely Keith and Eddie.

We got to Chicago on Monday (Dec 22) evening, then got lost trying to find one of the suburban offices where we could get a license.  We ended up getting there about fifteen minutes too late.  Between some ridiculous road construction hold ups, the rainy weather, and getting lost, we didn't stand a chance.  That was kind of okay with me, because I really wanted to do it all downtown anyway, so we could look at all the cool architecture.

The next day (Dec 23), we headed out bright and early to get the license.  We ended up in the County Clerk's office, in the basement of the Richard Daley building.  I was kind of surprised that there was no line at all.  I always thought the Christmas Eve was one of those "romantic" times to get married and all.  We ended up with kind of nasally, slightly brusque, totally stereotypically bureaucratic licensing clerk who took our information.  Seriously, it was all "Name", typey-typey-typey, "Address" typey-typey-typey, very mechanical kind of thing.  It was kind of funny.

The other thing that cracked me up was some of the questioning.  I mean do they really have to know where my mother is buried?  They actually asked that!

And then there were the answers.  I told Keith that I sounded like quite a colorful person compared to him.

Robot Woman:  Place of Birth?
Keith:  Arkansas
Me:  West Germany

RW: Mother's Place of Birth?
Him: Arkansas
Me: Kentucky

RW: Father's Place of Birth?
Him:  Arkansas
Me: Pennsylvania

I halfway expected her to look at me and tell me to stop making things up.

I wanted her to put my whole name on the license, but she said she had to go with what was on my ID.  Then I got to wondering how Keith got his whole name on his, when they wouldn't let me put my whole name on mine.  They actually told me that they couldn't do it.  I'm going to have to check on that again at the next renewal.  We both use our middle names and I really wanted out license to say "Keith and Eddie" or at least "Keith and Edward" or "Ronald Keith and Michael Edward" (ooo classy!) instead of "Ronald Keith" and "Michael E."  It feels kind of incomplete to me.  When I introduced myself to the judge,  I was kind of afraid that she might object because I said "Eddie" so I quickly explained, but she was cool with it.

After getting the license, the Robot Woman wished us congratulations in the most heartfelt way she could muster, which I thought was kind of sweet.  We went out in the hall and took the first of many pics of the license.

Since we had a day to kill before we could get married, we got some coffee, then went thrifting!  (Well, he asked what I wanted to do.)  It was pretty disappointing overall.  We got lost a couple of times.  Most of the prices were way, way high.  I did find a few things though.  Forgot to get pics. Sorry.

The next day (Dec 24) we got up bright and early to head to the Marriage Court.  We hadbeen told that they might close in the early afternoon, so we didn't take any chances.  The clerk there filled in the rest of the license, except for the judge's signature, and verified our ID's.  The judge called us right away.

I've done a lot of public service jobs over the years.  I know how hard it is to deal with person after person on issues that are important to them, but not necessarily to you, and maintain an air of courtesy and concern without turning into Robot Woman or into Total Phony.  I was very impressed with how warm, welcoming and sincere our judge was.  Even though the ceremony was very brief, she let us take the time to set up Keith's cameras (one video, one still), then take them down at the end.  She never rushed us and seemed genuinely excited to be there on Christmas Eve to be part of what she called our "special day."  She even thanked us for "allowing her to be a part of" it.

Keith told her that she had the neatest job and she smiled and said:  "Yeah, I do."  She even asked him for photography advice.  It was such a remarkable experience.  It may have been a dull, bland bureaucratic room, but she helped make it our wedding chapel.

And then, we're standing in front of her--me desperately trying not to cry--making our pledge to each other.  I kept thinking about how very right it all was.  Christmas Eve had always been a special date for us because we moved into the house on Christmas Eve 2001.  This is the man I have made my life with.  Even more astounding, this is the man who chose to make his life with me.  I still marvel at that--our little messy house, all of the kitties that have passed through, all the wrecked cars, lost jobs, crazy junking ventures, dying parents, this stupid fucking cancer--and he's been there through all of it.  He's the only one that could have gotten me through it all in one piece.  He's my rock, my constant.  The one person who always manages to make my life and--by extension--me better each and every day.  I cannot imagine life without him.  I am the luckiest man in the world because he is my husband and I love him.

And I'm still trying not to cry while I'm typing this.

Finally, she pronounces us "spouses for life" (YES!) and then comes the moment you've all been waiting for:


Then more pics of the license, which is now signed.  (Which reminds me.  We still need to send for the certified copy.)

We got papers now!

This is the point where I finally lose the battle to hold it all in.  And find that there is no tissue in the room!  (Really?  People do cry at weddings.)

I cry at soap opera weddings.  I'm going to remain dry-eyed at mine?

On the way out of the offices, the lines that I had been expecting had started to form.  There was a rush to get married on Christmas Eve.  We just barely managed to miss it.  In the crowd were these two Latino guys who must have been in their twenties.  As we passed  them, one said to the other:  "Estas listo, amor?" (Are you ready, my love?)  My heart melted.  I can't say what our lives would have been like if we had been able to so that when we were that age.  I can say that we both know that this was a moment to be treasured forever.

At the top of the escalator going down to the Marriage Court, we got one more pic:

Not crying here!

We hailed a cab back to our hotel.  When we go in the driver asked how we were doing.  We said we were great because we just got married.  When we got to the hotel, she wouldn't let us pay.  She said it was a wedding gift.  More heart melting.  My dad was a cab driver for years.  I know what it means to give up a fare.

And now we are married.  And still waking around with goofy grins any time someone brings it up.  One of the clinical trial nurses at the cancer center is planning on getting married at the courthouse in Chicago in the summer, so she wanted all the details.  One of the other nurses came in to start talking about the treatment and such, and the first nurse said:  "How can you talk business?  They just got married!"

I have a couple more posts planned about being married and what it means.  Those will be up in a few days.  I can say this.  We've been together just a few days short of forever.  We honestly thought that things would not feel any different.  We were wrong about that.  I didn't think it was possible, but we're even happier than before.  And closer.  I have a husband.  I never knew I wanted one, but I'm never going to let this one go.

Let's have one more look at that license:

And that kiss:


The video was wildly out of synch, so Keith edited the audio into a slide show using the still photos.  I'm going to put it up on YouTube in a bit.  I'll embed it here after that.

Thanks to everyone for all the well wishes and supports and such.  One of these days we might do another ceremony here in Kentucky, so that family and friends can attend.  I'll make sure that you all get word.  I want to wait until it's legal in Kentucky to do that.  The only bummer to the whole experience is to come back to one of the handful of states where we're not recognized.  That time will come.  I hope it's soon.