Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Report

Selling in an Antique Mall:  A Beginner's Guide
by Inis Lovely and Sue LaLumia

A Book Report/Review by Michael Edward Mitchell, age 46

In this time of economic uncertainty, many folks are turning to less traditional means to pick up some extra money and even make a living.  Selling secondhand, be it in a mall or flea market or online, is a popular choice.  Unfortunately, while some people will succeed at this venture, many of them will not. Most of the failures will happen because people didn't think things through beyond piling a bunch of stuff in a room somewhere.  This work was conceived, in part, to help people plan to succeed.  I think it does an excellent job of this.

In the freshvintage review of the book, they make the point that this is a book that would be useful for resellers who don't sell in an antique mall as well, and I second that recommendation.  Heck, I'm a low-rent junk dealer with a couple of piddly booths in a flea market, and I found a lot of good information in the book!

So what did I think?  Well, first off, I have to disclaim and pronounce that I've had a semi-regular correspondence for a few weeks with one of the authors, Sue, who is a mutual fan of old religious items.  I don't think it colors my perceptions of the work any, but thought it might need to be mentioned.

So...on to the good stuff:

The publication looks incredible!  The layout is clean and easy to follow.  The photos are just gorgeous and support the text well.  I had a wee bit of a problem getting used to onscreen reading, but that's mainly because I'm not a big e-reading person.  This is a well-designed, carefully thought out, highly professional looking publication.  Good job, folks!  I think it has a look which lends credence to its contents, so you should be congratulated on that.

Another high point is the extensive use of stories and anecdotes from other vendors, complete with links to blogs and sites.  It's nice publicity for some folks who have a lot of good experiences to share and stories to tell.

Since I don't deal in a higher-end setting, I learned an awful lot about that world from the book.  Vendor's meetings?  Malls that require vendors to work?  I had no idea!  I found the discussion about crafts to be especially interesting.  The limits on merch at my mall are no porn or fire arms.  I had no idea that hand-crafted items could be a source of such debate.  Kind of makes you think twice about Granny's quilts.

One practical point that the authors keep coming back to, is the dilemma of storage.  Stuff doesn't make you money if it can't get on your sales floor. And if it's not in your booth, then it has to go somewhere.  And that "somewhere" can quickly turn into your living space, and just as quickly take it over.  This may be one of the most important lessons in the book, so I'm glad they emphasized it over and over.  It's also one I wish I had been better prepared to deal with.  (He said, looking at a dozen tubs of merchandise in his living room.)

Another good point they make right from the start is the amount of work involved if you're going to do this right.  You can't just grab Mama's hope chest and china cabinet, throw them in a space somewhere, and then sit back and wait for the bucks to roll in.  If that's what you're thinking, you definitely need to read this book.  There's so much more involved, particularly if you want to make money.

The section on auctions is really good, so are the sections on estate sales, storage, and cleaning items.  Lots of detail broken down into digestible chunks make these sections the highlight of the book.  The information on auction terms and processing is worth the price of admission alone.

The information about choosing a mall is also good, but there is a surprising omission.  (More on that later.)  I loved the sidebar that accompanies that part.  It was so good, in fact, that I was a little disappointed that they didn't carry the sidebar technique throughout the book.  It would have enhanced the other chapters quite a bit.

Since I seem to be moving that way, maybe it's time to go ahead and delve into the "not quite as good" bits.  I can't call them the "bad" parts, because there really is no "bad" to this book.  It's just that the high points are so well-done, that it makes some other places, which are still quite good, stand out a little to me.

It's really surprising to me that, since the point of this endeavor is to make money, that no mention is made about sales reports, especially when it comes to choosing a mall.  How a mall records and provides sales information is something I think is very important for a potential vendor to consider.  Is the check out system computerized, so that you can get an itemized report easily?  How often do they provide reports?  Do they scribble everything in a notebook?  Do you have to ask staff for reports?  How often can you do this?  You can't always walk into your booth and assume that something has sold just because it's not there.  Regular reports can also help you know how much stuff to bring in and what kind of items to stock up on.  Some places limit the number of reports you can request/receive per month.  It's definitely something to consider.

Another thing that stood out to me was the attitude towards technology, which I found a little ironic in an e-book.  In fact, technology really gets no mention, other a dismissive "no need to invest in complicated software" in the section on accounting.  There's no mention of tech at all in the inventory record-keeping section or, as noted above, in the section about choosing a mall.  It feels oddly unbalanced in a work that otherwise gives a pretty even-handed look at different ways of doing things, especially when there are low-cost and even free resources that can help in these areas. There are, after all, some pretty distinct advantages to a computerized approach.  It would have been nice to see those explored and their impact on the business explored as thoroughly as, say, the layout of the mall.  It's a pretty noticeable omission in an otherwise complete and thorough work.

Overall, though, these are minor quibbles compared to the overall quality and depth of the work.  What I hope is that this might be the start of a much larger project, where the book gets revised/updated every couple of years, so that info can be added and things fleshed further out.  A guide like this is needed and can be really helpful for someone starting out.  It would be so cool if its successful enough that Sue and Inis can make it an ongoing thing.

Hey, a junker can dream, can't he?

You can find more information about the book at the blog they set up for it., including all the ordering options.  And, if you hurry, there's still a little time to enter their contest.

If you are at all curious about what it's like to try your hand at this sort of business, it's a book well worth checking out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2010: A Year of Loss Part II: Bennie

On the one hand, we knew she was seventeen, which is old for a cat.  On the other hand, we never saw it coming.  One day there was a Bennie in our lives, and the next there wasn't.  The cancers that move so quick in humans, like they did with Mom, are even faster in felines, who are much smaller.

It just seemed like all of a sudden, she wasn't acting right.  It happened over a weekend.  Like most older kitties, she spent most of her time sleeping, moving between whatever lap she could find and the bed.  Keith had gone camping, and I started noticing that, while she was sleeping in the bed, something wasn't right.  She was all the way at the far edge, where she never laid before, like she was trying to move away from everyone else.  When a cat starts isolating herself like that, it's a sign of trouble.

She would still respond to me if I laid with her and petted her, making those big loud purrs she always did, so I wasn't totally sure, but it didn't feel right.  Then I realized she wasn't eating.  That took a bit longer to catch, since she never liked to eat with the boys, but eventually I realized that she wasn't getting out of bed at all.  I took her a few cat treats and she ate them, so I still wasn't sure.  Then on Sunday, I got a whiff of her breath.  Foul doesn't begin to describe it.

I told Keith what I was fearing when I got home, and on Monday, we got her an appointment for the next day.  When I picked her up to put her in her cage on Tuesday, the side of her face had swollen up.  It had not been like that when we had left that morning, but by the afternoon, she looked like a case of kitty mumps.  That actually made me feel a little better.  I started thinking that maybe it was a bad tooth, which would explain everything--the bad smell, the not eating, everything.  She had had dental problems before, so I knew this would be treatable.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.  We had forgotten to schedule her annual appointment in the spring because of the time needed to deal with Mom.  We kept talking about it all summer, but never did anything about it.  I will kick myself for the rest of my life for that.

The vet pointed out that she had lost half her body weight, which meant that something had been wrong for a while.  We were shocked.  We knew she had been eating--we'd seen her--we had no idea she'd been eating less and less.  They took a sample from the lump to do a biopsy, and gave us some canned food, pain meds, and an appetite stimulant to try.  While they were pretty sure it was cancer, they wanted to confirm so that we could discuss options.

We took her home.  She was really groggy from the shot they gave her before they took the sample, but she fell on that plate of soft food.  She ate and ate and ate.  I put more out a couple of times and only stopped because I didn't want her to eat so much she threw up.  So much for the appetite stimulant.  To think, I'd been prepared to force feed her.  She fell asleep right by the plate.

The next morning, she had moved to the bedroom, but was turned so she wasn't facing anyone.  She didn't want to be touched and it was obvious that she was suffering terribly.  She wouldn't even look at the same food she had devoured the night before.  I gave her the pain meds, helped her get as settled as possible, told her I loved her and that as soon as I got back from work, I was going to talk to Keith about putting her down.  It was unbearable to leave her like that, but I had no one to take over my class, so I had to go.  Before Keith could get home from work, she had passed away.

I'm glad she got to go at home, but I hate that she died alone.  As long as I live, I'll never know if we handled that one right.  There are way too many "what if's" and "if only's."

One of the worst parts about the whole ordeal was fighting the urge to pick up the phone and call Mom and let her know.  I inherited the cat lady gene from her, and we talked each other through lots of pet loss over the years.  She loved Bennie.  (How could she not?)   I knew she'd want to know.

There was no Bennie and no Mom to call and tell about it.  So all of a sudden, I can't just grieve my sweet little kitty.   I've got yet another reason to grieve my mother.  2010 was a year of more tears than I ever thought I would shed.

Yet as hard as it's been on me, it's been worse on Keith.  Bennie and her sister Basil were our first kitties.  We got them right after we moved in together.  Two kitties.  Two people.  It was kind of predestined that one of them would bond with each of us.  Basil was "my" kitty.  Bennie was "his." Basil acted like I had given birth to her.  Bennie just seemed to always want to be with Keith.  She would sit on his feet, his lap, his legs, his shoulder, anywhere she could get.

One of the thoughts I had when we lost Basil was that I wished so bad I could spare him from having that same pain whenever it was Bennie's turn.  I tried, but I know I failed.  I can see that look on his face when we suddenly remember something she used to do or think we've caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of an eye.  Seventeen years is a long time to share with a cat.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2010: A Year of Loss Part I: Mom

In March 2009, I had a chance to have a quick visit with Mom.  I was at a work conference not far from her place, so I called her and she came over for a little while.  She wasn't feeling very well.  She looked tired and run down and said she had a sinus infection.

I didn't think anything of it at the time.  It was right after the big ice storm that hit her county so hard, it actually made CNN.  She went without power for a while, and I think we both thought she must have gotten sick then.  Mom was always prone to colds and sinus infections, which always seemed to hit her hard and last longer than they did in other people.  Seeing Mom sick after a hard winter just did not seem to be that unusual.  In retrospect, though, this was something entirely new.  I'm now pretty sure that this was the first manifestations of her cancer, but none of us were thinking in that way yet.

In the summer, she called me and told me she was going into the hospital.  She still wasn't over her illness, so she was going in for an anti-biotic treatment.  They were going to give her some high strength anti-biotics by IV during the day and release her at night to go home.  She'd been scheduled for surgery on her sinuses, and the hope was that the treatment would knock the infection out so they could operate.

Right after this, she called again.   During some testing that they did during the hospital stay, they discovered a grapefruit sized "mass" in her lung.  There wasn't going to be any sinus surgery.  Instead she'd be going for scans and biopsies and such.

In September, I went with her to an oncologist here in Louisville.  She had all her scan results with her and they were going to give her a diagnosis and discuss treatment options.

It wasn't good.  The mass was cancer, but it had grown to the point that surgery wasn't an option.  It had also spread, primarily into her liver.  She was given a prognosis of 4 to 6 months without treatment and 6 to 8 months with treatment.  The initial plan was for her to start a course of radiation and chemotherapy within the next few weeks.  She was going to do the radiation at a hospital closer to her and the chemo in Louisville.

My mother was one of those people that seem to be hyper-sensitive to medication.  All of her life, if there was a side effect from something she was taking, she'd have it, sometimes pretty severely.  The thought of her doing radiation and chemo scared me.  It's rough under the best of conditions.  I was afraid it would be murder on her. 

And it was.  In November, my uncle Larry passed away unexpectedly.  She had started the radiation at that time, and the day of the funeral, she was too weak to attend.  None of us, including her, ever saw that one coming.  I remember sitting in the funeral home, surrounded by family, and realizing that we'd be doing this all again.

By Thanksgiving, she'd been hospitalized.  Between the radiation and the loss of appetite, she'd developed anemia and an infection.  We had planned a family gathering, but that turned into my brother and I bringing her home.  My brother, his wife and I did spend some time cleaning her house and stocking her up on things.  She had been so weak for so long, she was leaving her trash bags on the porch, because she couldn't get across the yard.    My brother and I took 300 pounds of trash to the dump.

She was supposed to be starting the chemo around that time, but the decision was made to finish the radiation and then start the chemo after the holidays to give her a chance to rest.  It was a good decision.  Radiation had taken a toll on her, but chemo would be even worse.

I never could figure out the effects on her appetite in a way that made sense to me.  If she was with me and my brother, she would eat and talk about how good the food was and how much she was eating at one sitting.  If she was at home, she wouldn't eat.

By the end of the chemo, she was emaciated and bald.  She had one lock of hair in the front that didn't fall out.  It was only a few hairs, but she'd always comb them forward so that they would show under whatever hat she was wearing.  She'd always been proud of her hair--managing to create a somewhat civilized, stylized version of a femullet that she rocked right into her late 60's.  When got to the point that I was signing admitting papers and such for her, I'd show them her id so they'd know what she looked like before she got sick.

Unfortunately, for all the nasty effects on her, the chemo didn't seem to faze the cancer.  At the end of the course, the tumors in her lungs were shrinking, but the ones in her liver were not.  Some of them were even growing.  She was too weak at that point to start a stronger chemo, so they were going to give her an oral chemo for her lungs and send her home in the hope that she might be stronger in several weeks.  Privately, the doctor told my brother that she wasn't going to get any stronger and would most likely enter a rapid decline within six weeks.

In May, that decline hit.  We were all working toward getting her moved off the farm and into town during the next to last week in May.  My brother and his wife were to help with the move that week.  Keith and I were going in the weekend before to pack things up.  I was taking off the Thursday and Friday before Memorial Day and staying through the holiday to get them settled.  At least that was the plan.  The reality was a whirlwind of hospital admissions and releases, hospice involvement, and ultimately, her death. It was so fast, none of us knew what was happening until we were in the middle of it.

Keith and I made a surprise visit on Mother's Day, something I am so glad that we did.  She was alert and coherent and able to sit up and visit with us for a bit.  It would be the last time.  Hours after we left, she was rushed to the hospital.  Even though we weren't supposed to come back for two weeks, we decided to go down the next weekend, since there was a lot of packing to do.  It didn't get done.  We had to rush back to the hospital with her.  Her pain and weakness were growing so intense that she couldn't bear them.  She'd go to the hospital, get rehydrated and get new pain meds, stay a couple of days to stabilize and then be released home until the next time.

At was also at this time that she started to become more and more incoherent.  She'd been saying for a while that the morphine was making it hard for her to understand things. When we arrived, she was in a panic about a bill that needed to be paid, but she couldn't remember how to write the check or how to record it in her check register.  I helped her through that, but I was so stunned to be doing that for the woman that taught me how to do a check register when I was sixteen.  Later, when I was looking back through her stuff, I realized that just three or four days earlier she had written a bunch of checks to pay some bills and had done everything perfectly.  Rapid decline, indeed.

My brother spent as much time taking her to the hospital as he did moving her when the time came.  At the end of that week, she was released to her new place, and we were to start making arrangements for hospice.  That all fell through over the weekend.  We weren't able to arrange for any kind of in home care for her, so hospice wouldn't admit her.  Her pain was growing worse and worse, so she was admitted back to the hospital.

Sometime around this point, she snapped back to lucidity for a few hours, but it was a paranoid lucidity.  One of the side effects of morphine is acute paranoia.  The nurses were trying to kill her.  The clock was spying on her.  The last conversations we ever had with her where she wasn't either semi-conscious or mumbling through her pain, and they didn't make any sense.  My brother stayed over night with her and said it never got any better.

During her last hospital stay we got her doctor to approve her release to a nursing home, instead of going back home.  Hospice would step back in with her in the nursing home, because they would be assured of her round the clock care.  By Thursday of that week, she had started her final decline.  The nursing home called me and I started making calls to the family.  I stayed over night with her in the nursing home Thursday night and Friday night.  At about 3 or 4 in the morning, the nurse who came to check up on her and give her meds woke me up to tell me her feet were getting cold.  A few hours later she was gone.  I had been sitting with her and she passed so quietly, I hadn't even noticed.

All of a sudden my brother and I were orphans.  All I could feel at that moment was relief.  She wasn't in pain any more and didn't have to go through that any more.  It was over.  The time for dealing with loss would come later, but at that moment, Mom wasn't stuck in the middle of all that any more.

One of the things I learned from working with AIDS organizations in the 90's is that the disease strikes at one person, but it usually manages to wound a larger group of people--the family and friends of the infected person.  I've never fully experienced that until this roller coaster ride through cancer hell. 

I'm not totally sure that this is that I set out to write when I decided to finally say something about Mom's passing.  I think I really wanted to talk about memories and things.  But this whole experience has been bottled up for so long, that it was starting to all run together in my mind.  I really needed to get the story out first.  I'm not through with this topic, for sure.  I have a feeling that I'll be coming back to it for some time.

But, when I think of 2010, this is what I think of. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rolling and Rambling

And junking, of course.

Headed to Unique on Monday for the half off sale.  I was expecting a day of long lines, overly ambitious prices--even at 50% off, the eternal struggle for the ever elusive shopping cart, buying lots of bagged sets, and--just maybe--one super fabulous score.  I was pretty much wrong on all counts, or at least misguided.

At the Portland store, I managed to make due without a cart. I found a large, cheap bag on one of the racks and used it instead.  I did find one item that wouldn't fit, but I managed that by checking out when the bag was full and then going back for it.   It was a little awkward, and my on my second trip I got stuck in line for a while, but it worked out and I avoided the dread shopping cart vulture line.

The large item was a really cool M&M store display rack.  M&M stuff sells pretty well for me, so I have hopes for this one.  They actually had two of them, but the other one was too banged up for me.

The crowd was light, which was a real blessing. The aisles in Portland are so narrow that navigating them when the store is crowded can be nerve-wracking.  My first trip through the check out line was quick ans smooth.  I had a little bit of a time trying to get the check out person to understand that I didn't need a bag because I already had one. 

I didn't find that super score in Portland, but I did get a Louisville Stoneware "Cookies for Santa" plate that will be a sure seller come Christmastime.  Louisville Stoneware is popular here, but hard to find at prices that allow for resale, so this was a nice surprise. 

Image taken from Louisville Stoneware site.

At the Preston store, I couldn't find a decent bag on the racks, and I did find a few things that I really couldn't carry easily, which meant I had to do the cart vulture thing.  Honestly, the Preston store is much larger than the Portland store, so I don't understand why they don't have more carts. 

For those of you who have never done it, this is the Unique Thrift shopping cart vulture routine:

1. Find someone waiting in line to check out.
2. Ask them if you can have their cart when they're done.
3. Stand there with them as they wait to check out.  This is a key step. If you don't guard your promised cart, then someone else will get it.
4. Take cart and go on your merry way.

It is extremely awkward, but it is an acceptable part of the social contract at Unique.  So is bringing your own cart, which is something I need to start doing.

Anyway, the Preston store was extremely crowded, so it took a long time to get through.  No real scores, but I did get a Bybee bowl.  They're another awesome local pottery I like to carry when I can find it at a good enough price to resell.  "Always, always, always get local stuff when you can," is one of my primary rules.  It doesn't matter whether it's local crafts or vintage memorabilia, local sells.

As always, one of the most interesting things is the people watching.  In Portland, there was a guy standing in the middle of one of the narrow aisles with a stuffed musical frog.  He was pressing the button to make it play music over and over and over, like it was favorite song or something.  Or else, he'd maybe somehow avoided seeing stuffed animals that play music all of his life until that moment and was extremely fascinated and bewildered by this new phenomenon.

Either way, he was blocking the damn aisle.  After about three rounds of frog music, I finally said "Excuse me," and tried to ease past him.  Would you believe he glared at me like I was interrupting some kind of private, intimate moment?  Dude, buy the damn frog and get a room.  But, first, get the hell out of my way.

One of the real surprises for me was the pricing.  Unique tends to be on the high side, so the only time I can really use them as a source is during the half-off days.  I noticed on Monday, though, that they're starting to swing down a little bit.  I didn't have to rely quite so much on cheap bagged sets to find bargains.  (Which is a good thin, since there weren't that many good bagged sets this time around.)

All in all, it was a fun day.  I got enough stuff to make the trip worthwhile.  Some of it will go in the booth this week.  Some of it will be held for the future.  I got some Valentine's items, which I desperately need, and I've started the stockpiling for Christmas 2011.  It's a never ending cycle.

The title of this post is an allusion to one of my favorite songs, Robin and Linda Williams' tribute to the late. great Hank Williams, "Rolling and Rambling." It's been on my mind a bit, since we just paseed the anniversary of his death.  (If you don't know, he died on New Year's Day.)   So to close out, here's Emmylou's version.  (I tried to find one by Robin and Linda, but couldn't turn up a good video of the two of them doing it.  Just some concert shaky cam jobs.)

Yes, I just turned a post about junking into one about Emmylou.  Anything can be turned into an Emmylou post, especially around here.  You're surprised?

And since one good video queen deserves another, check out Sue's video debut over at her blog.  I'm sorry she didn't make the cut.  I'd rather watch her than those Picker doofuses or that annoying Cash and Cari woman.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

This is my favorite Iris Dement song

I do love me some Iris!  She's got one of those unique voices that either draws you in or repels you, but I can't get enough of it.  She's a ball to see live.  She's got a really dry sense of humor that I just love.  Her songwriting is simple, but vivid; the imagery in this song is a good example.  It's just so sweet and endearing.

I can't believe it's been seven years since her last album.  I need me some new Iris!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Looking Forward and Looking Back

It's probably no surprise that I approach the idea of a new year a little differently than the world at large.  It seems like the pattern is supposed to be something like this:

1.  Enter December.
2. Spend most of the month hung up on Christmas
3. Shop, eat, party, repeat
4. Around December 27, notice that the year is almost over
5. Spend a few days looking back over the year that's ending
6. Stay up late to eat and party some more on December 31
7. Dash off a couple of resolutions you have no intention of keeping
8. Carry on as normal

It's like our looking back has to be all wrapped up well before the ball starts dropping and our looking forward is an insincere little ritual.  The reality is, though, that time doesn't settle into little compartments.  The years flow into one another, and the only distinction between them are the arbitrary page breaks on our calendars.  The events from the past year keep on rolling and reverberating into the current one for sometime to come.  We may only want to spend a few days looking back, but life is a continual process of retrospection in order to renew and move forward.  I don't think our little quickie end of the year procedures do it justice.

I'll freely admit that, for me, some of this comes from the fact that I never seem to have my shit together at the end of the year enough to do my processing when everyone else does.  But, I also seem to need more time to really sort through things than other folks do.  Not sure why that is, but I do have a tendency to over-think things to death.  Given that, it takes me a little longer to transition from one year to the next, especially after a year like this last one.

The month of January is named for Janus, the Roman god of doorways.  When you pass through a doorway, you move into a new room, but can still see and access the room you left.  For this reason, Janus is depicted as having two faces, one looking forward and the other looking back.  It's an image that is actually pretty meaningful for me.

If Janus is the symbol for the month, then--to me, at least--the whole month ought to be about looking forward and looking back.  Or, at least, more than just a day or two.  Not that everyone ought to sit around and navel-gaze for four weeks, but somehow, in between the blither and blather of daily life, we ought to spend more time thinking about where we want to go over the next 300-plus days than the few minutes it takes to babble out a standard resolution about losing weight or stopping smoking.

When I journaled, it was usually somewhere around the fifteenth or the twentieth of January before I felt ready to approach the topic of the new year, particularly when it came to goals and ambitions.  I've not really dealt with the topic much in the blog, because by the time I'm ready to do it, everyone else has moved on to other things.

But the 2010-2011 transfer is different for me.  I've never had a year like this last one and it's still echoing through my life.  I need to bring some sort of closure to it--no matter how limited--for my own sake.  I also need to throw out ll these dreams and ideas I have for the upcoming months, just to get them out of my head.  If I don't write them down somewhere, then I don't have any way of checking back later to see how well I did with them.

So, next week is going to be about finally starting to lay the ghosts of 2010 to rest.  I think there'll be about three or four posts worth of stuff for that.  After that, I'm going to finish inviting the new spirits of 2011 in with another couple of posts about my hopes for this year.

C'mon Janus, let's get this party started.  Happy 2011, y'all.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Things Only Dolly Parton Can Do

Turn "House of the Rising Sun" into a raging campfest without totally ruining the song:

(First in a series)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

And this is the first Emmylou post of 2001!

Just in case you haven't been paying attention, this is my favorite Emmylou Harris song:

I always love seeing her perform when she twirls and dances with her guitar! Thanks to the wonders of the YouTube, I've probably watched dozens of Emmylou videos, and it seems to me that she always seems so happy when she's performing with the Nash Ramblers, the band in this video. I know she's the kind of performer who gives it all every time she comes out on stage, but the energy with this particular combo always strikes me as kind of special.

Check out this video for another example of what I'm talking about. And dig her cowgirl hat while you're at it! I guess it's easy to be upbeat with a great band and a great song, not to mention Sam Bush rocking back and forth with his mandolin. Although I am a little worried that he could put out an eye when he swings his fiddle bow around like he does in the "Louisiana" vid!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This is the First Go-Go's Post of 2011!

Just in case anyone was wondering, this is my favorite Go-Go's song:

It's off their Vacation lp.  The album version had a fun sax solo in place of the guitar solo. When I first came out, I did what a lot of young newly emancipated gay men did and fell madly in love with the first man I went out with.  I used to play this song for hours and daydream.  I was totally puppy-loved out.

The relationship didn't work out, of course.  He was too hung up on an ex to even be aware of how I was feeling.  It took me a while to figure it out, but by the end of the year, we were pretty much over.  Still, every time I hear this song, I think of being young and goofy, in that way that only someone totally hung up on the wrong person can be.

I also remember what a huge thing it was for me to have a crush on another guy and be honest with myself about it.  There's an indescribable feeling that comes when you finally say "This is who I am and it's okay."  The whole world seems different--sometimes better, sometimes scarier--but definitely new.  Learning not to be afraid of yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

It's twenty-plus years on now.  I don't think the young giddy me could ever imagine being in a long-term relationship, having a mortgage, being so settled.  The old, settled me sometimes has a hard time believing that other me ever existed.  But this one song takes me right back every time.  And I realize that if it weren't for young, gay, foolish, falling for the wrong guy Eddie, then there wouldn't be long-term, settled Eddie.  What a long, strange trip it's been.

Another reason I like this one so much is because it's one of the few Go-Go's songs that takes advantage of Jane as more than a back-up singer.  I always wished they had capitalized on her singing more as part of the band.  This song, I think, shows what a missed opportunity it was.

Isn't Belinda so cute in the video?  I love that dress and her beauty mark phase!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One Ass Thoroughly Kicked!

Well, so much for good intentions, I guess.

Last week got eaten by the booth.  In a good way, mind you, but it didn't leave any time for anything else.  What I thought would be a two day job turned into three and a half, but it was worth the work.  The place looks great!  The Christmas stuff is gone away to storage until next year, except for a few vintage items, which will stay in the booth.  Vintage Christmas sells year-round, so I like to have a few things out at all times.  It might be the thing that draws someone into the booth.

All the shelves are cleaned and dusted, not to mention totally restocked.  I had good months in November and December, selling lots of holiday items and a bunch of other stuff as well.  Once the holiday stuff was stowed away, the shelves were almost bare!  It was shocking.  Now the booth is probably 3/4 "new" stuff.  I'm already getting deep into my winter stock, which is a good thing.  Stuff is leaving the house and heading to the booth where it should be.

I rearranged my main booth, shifting a table and shelf unit to make better use of my peg board wall.  I shifted all my religious items to my wall space to draw attention to them.  I'm wanting to phase out of glass stuff, or at least cut back on it, so it went on the shelf unit that used to have the religious stuff.

I shifted a couple of small pieces of furniture out to make them more visible.  I've gotten too comfortable using them to display items instead of trying to display them so they'll sell.  Now they're a bit more prominent and don't look like just a part of the booth furniture. 

I bought a couple of new shelf units from another dealer.  They're old store displays and really sturdy.  By shifting thing around in my main and my media booths, I was able to fit them in without making it look cluttered.  In fact, there is actually more floor space in both booths now.

Finally, I created two clearance areas.  In the main booth, when an item was a slow-seller, I would it to a bottom shelf.  This would free up the "prime" real estate for newer items, but still leave the other items accessible.  Every week, one or two things off the bottom shelves would sell, so I think it was worth keeping them around.  Still, those shelves were getting pretty crowded.

I've dedicated one whole shelf unit to clearance now, with items marked down to move out.  A few bottom shelf items got worked back into the regular stock, just to give them another chance.

Last summer, I made a great bulk buy of computer books and Spanish instructional tapes from the school systems adult education department.  They've been steady sellers.  I've made my money back three times over on them.  But despite selling tons of them, there's still a lot left and I'm kind of tired of looking at them.  I made a clearance table for them as well, and they are flying out the door!

It was a lot of work, but a new year calls for a new booth, right?  It jump-started my sales right out of their post-holiday lull, which is a good thing.  Winter weather can wreak havoc with sales, so every little boost I can create is a good one.  They're calling for three inches of snow today.  I'm hoping it won't derail the sales train too badly.

Or at least not as badly as the booth derailed the blog last week.

Monday, January 03, 2011

First Post of 2011!

I'm baaaaaaack!  Didja miss me?

This damn cold is finally going away and I'm starting to feel kind of normal again, so it's time to get going.  After all, it's a new year!

I've spent most of the last few days in bed, but did manage to get out to the New Year's Flea Market Spectacular.  There are a couple of regular dealers there where I get supplies for my booth, and I needed a few things. Beyond that, I've been going to the Flea Market since I was in college, especially the New Year's show.  I had a couple of moments where I thought I wasn't going to make it all the way through, which would have been a historical second.*  I was pretty wiped at the end of the day, though.

It wasn't too bad as flea markets go.  It seems that there are fewer dudes selling socks and seen on TV items these days and more selling second-hand items at decent prices these days.  Maybe it's the economy.  Anyway, I did find some good stuff, and didn't spend too much at all.  In fact, my booth supplies actually cost more than the other items I got.

Prize of the day was most likely a couple of packets of vintage religious pamphlets and pics.  They were selling for 50 cents an item, but I asked about a bulk price for both packets.  Kind of freaked out the guy selling them, so he had to get his wife.  They always have to get their wives.  I think most of the guys are just along for the ride or something.

Anyway, she counted everything out, then came up with a total based on 25 cents per item, instead of 50.  Then, she knocked four bucks off that, so I got both packets for eight bucks.  Pretty good, since her count came up about 10 or 15 less than mine to begin with.  (Sorry no pics.  I cannot for the life of me find my camera right now.)

I was a little disappointed in the antique wing this time around.  They only have the antique wing a couple times a year any more, and I always look forward to it.  If nothing else, it's a good chance to do some research (also known as drooling over cool shit). 

The past few times, though, there were a lot of dealers with really good stuff (not junk) selling everything for a buck an item.  I figure it was probably a sign of the economy, especially since antiques are luxury items.  For whatever reason, it was a good source for affordable quality merchandise, even if it only came around twice a year.

Well, I guess the economy really is turning around, because a lot of those dealers are easing out of the dollar table business.  It's the same stuff, mind you, but now they're charging regular antique retail for it.  There were still a couple of the bargain folks there, so I did get a few items, but it wasn't nearly the picking field it had been.

Oh well, it was good while it lasted.

I'm moving into my slow down phase as far as acquiring stuff for the booth goes.  It's winter, and there are fewer buying opportunities, so I stockpiled stuff through the summer to prepare for the lean months.  Now it's time to work through the stockpile.  I probably held back a bit too much, because the house is sort of over-run with tubs of merch!  It's time to get the stuff hauled out and sold.

It's probably going to be a two-day booth run this week.  One day to get all the Christmas packed up, things rearranged, and a bunch of stuff marked for clearance, and the second day to cram it full of new stuff.  I set a record in December, and want to keep building on it.

As far as the blog goes, I think I'm going to spend this week looking back on 2010 one last time.  It wasn't pretty, but I survived.  Then, we'll look ahead into what I hope 2011 will be.  After that, I want to look at some of the junking TV shows that are sprouting up like weeds, and then review the latest bestseller.  Who knows?  There might even be a video or two along the way.

Welcome aboard!  2011 is just getting started.

*When I was in college, my father and I went to the New Year's Flea Market one year when I had the flu.  I lasted about two aisles and had to throw in the towel.  My dad talked about it for months.  In fact, the whole family talked about it for months.  Apparently, my leaving a flea market early for an reason was considered unthinkable to that point.