Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Rambles

Well, we went from near 80's to wintry mix in the course of a week.  Welcome to Spring in Kentucky!  Forecast looks more typical for this time of year this week, which means showers at some point.  Still, better showers than more wintry mix.

Next week, I promise I'll lead with something other than a weather report.

Cold, windy weather didn't stop the yard sales from happening over the weekend, thankfully.  I'm still on limited buying mode right now, but I picked up a few things, including a basket of vintage flower frogs, some vintage Christmas stuff, and a stack of ValueTales books.  Not too shabby.

Sales were pretty awesome over the weekend, after a so-so week.  The analysis is going to be interesting this time around.  I've got lots of holes to fill when I go in to re-stock, which means that some of this overstock will be going away.  That's also a good thing.

As a part of the good weekend, by the way, the most expensive item I've ever had in the booth sold!

The trees all around town, including the one in front of our house, are blooming.  Thankfully, the colder weather doesn't seem to have affected them.

I do apologize for the lack of posts last week.  It might continue for the next couple of weeks.  I'm not sure.  I'm having a hard time getting a handle on the Part Time Gig this time around.  It's a good deal more challenging, which I'm enjoying because I'm getting to do some different things, but it's cutting into other time.  Maybe I can carve out a little time to get some posts scheduled.  If nothing else, I'll have a bit of a break next week, so I can get something done then.

I'll also have another round of cat-sitting that week (for the whole week), so poor Kosh will have a rough time of it.  Keith says that when I'm gone, Kosh seems to think that, if he's just sweet and loving enough, Keith will go get me and bring me home.  Poor guy.

One thing I need to do this week is get the bike out, check it out, and get it ready for riding.  It's been too long.

Oh dear.  I have no way to end this one, so I guess I'll just stop typing.  Rambles, indeed.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Rambles

March is such an unpredictable month.  Bright, sunshiny fifties one day and dismal damp mid-thirties the next.  Sigh!  We had a lot of rain early last week.  I'm so tired of rain.  I need to get out in my shed and organize the stock I have out there, but it's been just too damn damp.

I nearly sold out my limited stock of furniture last week--two of three pieces are gone.  I'm psyched to see one of them go.  It had been there nearly a year, and I was getting far too comfy using it as a display piece.  Thankfully, most of the items I was keeping on it sold a few days before it did,so not very much was displaced.  Good-bye outdoor bench!

The other wasn't really for sale, at least, not yet.  I bought a small bookshelf a few months ago for 2 bucks at a yard sale intending to use it to hold paperback books.  I was intending to keep it around for a long while, then sell it when I found something better to use.  Since it was kind of nice looking, I put a price tag on it to keep people from dismantling it trying to find a price.  I hate to mark things as not for sale in my booth, unless it's inconsequential (but necessary) thing like metal bookends and doll stands.

Since I didn't want it to sell, I priced it high enough that I thought no one would be willing to pay for it.  And it worked, until last weekend.  My first thought when I saw it sold was "I can't believe anyone would pay that price for that shelf."  My second was:  "Oh shit!  There are books all over the floor at the booth now!"

I'm having a bit of a moral booth dilemma right now, too.  I have a card table that I have designated as my "seasonal" table, so that I can include more timely bits of merch in a more prominent fashion.  For a few weeks now, it's been split in between  St Patrick's Day and Easter.  I'm going to be putting the St Pat's stuff away this week, so the whole table can be dedicated to Easter.  I sold a lot of Easter stuff in recent days, which leaves me some holes to fill and not a lot of stuff to do it with.

Up to now, it's been pretty much baskets and bunnies for my Easter section, but I got to wondering about some of the items I have on my religion wall.  I have, of course, a ton of crucifixes, a couple of Last Supper and Jesus in the Garden pictures, and a whole lot of Easter devotional and Way of the Cross booklets.  Is it appropriate to mix all that in with the bunnies and stuff?  I don't want to commit some kind of religious faux pas.  It seems like it's all right at Christmas to mix Santas and Nativity sets, but Easter has a different vibe to it.  What do you all think?

Sales are all over the freaking place right now and I have no clue what's going on.  The booth report this month will be interesting.

Went to the most disorganized, terrible estate sale this past weekend.  I got a few things, but left other ones, because I just did not want  to deal with the woman running the show.  Too many things were not priced.  Everything was cluttered and all over the place.  Drawers in furniture had not been cleaned out.  She was snapping at customers that they were taking too much of her time.  And she tried to get away with handing a friend of mine a bunch of artist sketch pads to get out of giving me four dollars in change.  It was a nightmare and I most certainly will not attend another of her sales in the future.

I may end up being a little quiet here this week.  The new round of the Part Time Gig starts Monday and most of my hours are evening this time.  That'll take a little bit to get used to.  Plus, I have a lot of new stuff to prepare for the PTG this time around, so that may eat my time up.  I have a lot of bones of posts laying around, but not much complete or near complete content.  Sorry, folks.  Just remember, it's not you.  It's me.

By the way:


Did you see the "Super Moon" over the weekend?  Do you know what I kept thinking every time I heard the term "Super Moon"?  This:

I'm such a dork.

Friday, March 18, 2011

And then there was the time Emmylou Harris sang an Irish folk song with a whole bunch a fabulous people

This really should have been my Saint Patrick's Day post, but I got hung up on the monkeys.  Sorry about that.  Anyway, the combination of Emmylou Harris, Dick Gaughan, The McGarrigle Sisters, and Rufus Wainwright on a classic Irish folk tune like "Wild Mountain Thyme" is pretty potent.  Check it out.

You'll be humming that all day now, I bet.  You can thank me for that later.  There are far, far worse things to have stuck in your head.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Let's All Do It!

Dancing Monkeys Do It!

Strange Wee Irish Men Do It!

I Wanna Do It Too!

I Wanna Wish You....


Let's All Do It!!

(I really am Irish, by the way.  Kissing line starts to the left.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Old Sold Dogs and Kitty Cats

This one was actually supposed to be a "Fun Finds."  I suppose technically it still is, but they've both sold.  Once they sell, it seems kind of irrelevant that they were a fun find.  I'd probably just let the matter drop and not even mention it, but I found the photos while I was looking for something else and it hit me that I had not written this one up.

Anyway, they were a part of my birthday thrift run.  I found them at a Salvation Army across the river.  They still had their original Woolworth price tags on them from way back when.  They were too cute to pass up, obviously a thought shared by some customers at my booth.  I'll spare you any more babble and just share the pics of a "Fun Funds" that might have been.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Art of Balance

One of the things I've had to learn as a vendor is the art of balance in pricing.  And this has been a long lesson for me to learn.  There's a dealer here in town who has his own shop.  It's a converted house, and it is just packed with stuff.  Seven or eight other vendors rent space from him, and you can find most anything you want there.  One of his rules for his vendors is that nothing is priced more than $9.99.  (He makes an exception for furniture and other large or particularly special items, but the bulk of the booth has to be ten bucks or less.)

He does a bang up business from this.  People buy more when they are there and tend to return more often because of the pricing.  When I opened my booth, I took him as a model.  Since I get my stuff primarily from yard sales, I don't pay more than a dollar or two for items, usually less than a buck.  That gives me plenty of wiggle room for things like rent and commission even with a lower price scale.  When you're dealing with flea market junk in an indoor setting, there is a limit to how much people will pay for stuff.  I was figuring that with more unusual and unique items and a more modest pricing scale, I'd make up volume and repeats what I might lose for lower prices.

Thing is, I took it too far to one extreme.  I spent most of my first year in business clustered around the low end of that scale.  The bulk of the booth was actually 1.99 or less, with a few items in the 1.99-2.99 range, and very few above that.  When I would price an item in the 3.99 or up range, I'd get nervous that it would never sell.  So, I never did that much.

What I got out of the deal was strong, steady sales that pretty much stayed at one level for me.  I was doing okay.  I'd get a check every month, and it would be a larger check than some others around me.  But, I pretty quickly hit a plateau.  What I didn't realize was that you could build a strong base of 2.99 or less item sales, but you can't really grow on that.

I made a couple of really cool buys and acquisitions last year of stuff that I really couldn't sell at that low end of the scale.  It wasn't a real conscious, planned thing.  It just kind of happened.  In my mind, I was kind of afraid that they would just collect dust because I had to price them higher, but I figured my other items could support them for a month or two.  To my surprise, they sold pretty steadily.  And, then I noticed what was happening to my sales.

The base was still there, but these mid-range items were building on it and causing sales to grow day by day and month by month.  Goals I thought I would never make got made and passed.  I finally had a fifty dollar day.  Then a hundred dollar day.  Then a five hundred dollar month.

I haven't abandoned my lower end base, by any means, but I've learned to supplement it.  By balancing pricing throughout the range I want, I'm achieving much more sales-wise than I thought I ever would.  It was this sales growth that gave me the push to expand last month.  Now, I've got more room to feed some higher-priced articles into the space.

I've even broken that 9.99 ceiling every now and then, although I have to admit, it still makes me really nervous to do that.  Right now, I have one of the most expensive items I have ever had in the booth.  I'll be on pins and needles until it sells.  Really.

But, I'll be doing the great big old happy dance when it does, for sure.  And the sales email for that day will show that one big sale resting on a base of 1.99 or less sales.  Exactly the way it should be.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Rambles

Presenting:  More unfocusedness for the first of the week!

I've come to realize that, as soon as I place something in the booth, I immediately want it gone.  It's like it's been there too long the second I take my hand off it.  That's a pretty severe form of instant gratification, isn't it? Are all retailers like that, I wonder?  I think it's a combination of knowing how much other stuff I have that I can put in that spot, once what's there now sells and a desire to free up the money I've got tied up in the item.

What I have noticed, though, is that, after a re-stock, for the rest of the week, I tend sell items that have been there for a while, but that I moved around to make room for newe items.  The new stuff usually doesn't start selling until the weekend.

I had an evening of panic last Monday caused by the lack of an email sales report.  One of the things I like about my mall is that I get an email every night detailing what I sold that day.  It's helpful for planning and lets me track sales data every day.  Not having one meant the possibility that I had no sales at all that day, which would be a setback on the monthly trek towards my goals.  I used to be able to afford a zero day every now and then, but with my new expenses, I really don't think I can.  It has been so long since I had a zero day that I was caught totally off guard.  I was literally in a funk for the rest of the night.

Thankfully, I got to the mall on Tuesday for re-stock day and found out that there had been a power outage the night before, which affected the email reports.  I did have sales on Monday.  I got a print out for my records, and the day was saved!

Still, sales were off all last week.  We had an unexpected cold day on Thursday and rain on Wednesday, but even the nice days were off.  I'm a little concerned, but not sure what  I can do about it.

I've started walking again, which is a good thing.  I'm trying to get in a short walk every day, now that the weather is getting nice.  My weight is out of control and pretty much has been ever since Mom got real sick.  I'm heavier than I have ever been.  I'm not in good enough shape to attempt any of the races I used to do, so I'm striking out on my own to try and walk at least 40 pounds off before the winter sets in again at the end of the year.  We'll see.

I've been writing a lot here lately, so expect a lapse into video mode any day now.  I'm feeling a need for a wee break.  I took my camera with me to the booth for re-stock day and took pics of the whole process.  It'll take me a while to pull it all together, and it will probably take about three posts, but you can look forward to a booth photo-documentary in the near future

Totally missed Shrove Tuesday last week.  I hate missing out on pancakes.  Darn!  (Yes, I just wrote about wanting pancakes after complaining about my weight.  Consistency was never my thing.)  Maybe now that we've passed into Lent, some of the Easter stuff at the booth will sell.  For the most part, it's just been sitting.  I probably had it out too early, but last year, I got it out late and had a bunch left over.  I'm trying to avoid that now.

I did another (unplanned) round of cat-sitting last week.  Poor Kosh!  I don't have reliable wifi over there, so sometimes I can't get online.  That's what happened to my posts for Friday and Sunday.  I wasn't totally done with them and planned to finish them while I was gone.  Since I couldn't, I'll just throw them back in rotation for another day.

Yard sales were a big, fat BUST this weekend.  I'm trying not to include too many individual sales in the round just yet.  With gas prices being what they are, I'm trying to steer for the "bang for the buck" sales and that means indoor sales, like church sales.  Nevertheless, there was a sale in our neighborhood (ie close) that sounded good.

It was a total madhouse.  We have pretty tiny front yards in this part of town, and this one was packed with people making piles of items they wanted to buy.  I got a few things, but overall I thought the stuff was a little too quirky for my booth.  Never thought I say that!  She was selling a lot of original artwork, and I just couldn't get my head around how well it would do for me.  The crowd didn't help me in that regard.  It was impossible to get any space to sort through things and make decisions.

After that, we hit a church sale that's usually one of me favorites for the year.  And it was a BUST.  Usually the place is overflowing with stuff all day long, so you don't have to worry about getting there at the beginning to get the good stuff.  This yea, it was a picked over mess by the time we got there.  I could not believe it.

And the day never got any better.  Another church sale stop was worse than the first one.  Even a stop at one of my favorite thrifts turned up nothing.  Honestly, when the most exciting thing you find is an Archie graphic novel, it's time to go home.  So we did.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fun Finds: Sequence Game

This is another find from last weekend, an old Milton-Bradley Sequence Cards game.  The game consists of 80 cards, which break down into 20 sets of four cards each.

Each four card set depicts a certain action or storyline.  The object of the game is to put the stories in order.  It's a really versatile game.  Younger kinds can pick out a set and put it in order and learn about sequencing and actions and after-effects and all kinds of neat things.  Older kids can put them in order and make up a story to go with the cards while they're doing it.  And, the graphics are so neat!

Since I'm an older kid, here's my story to go with my favorite set of cards.

"I'm tired of this boring, trendy, choppy on top hair style," thought Joe one morning as he looked in the mirror.  "I really need something new."

"Maybe if I try some of this goopy hair product, I can make something out of this mess."
"Maybe I should comb it all spiky in front?  No. A tired trendy style is still trendy.  I want something different!  I know..."

"I'll go with this cool, rockin' pompadour!  Now I'm ready for the rockabilly show tonight!"

There's just no limit to the fun you can have with yard sale finds, is there?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fun Finds: Urinal!

Yes, you read that right.  No, this isn't turning into one of those sites.  (Although after Sunday's post, I don't blame you for thinking that way.)

We hit some indoor sales on Saturday and I found this at one of them.

See?  That's all.  Perfectly innocent and all that.

It was marked 3 bucks and I offered two and they took it.  It's enamelware and in really good shape.  There are a couple of chips in the enamel, and the handle is worn down to the metal, but the inside looks great.  It's the kind of buy that makes you and makes you think juvenile thoughts all at the same time.

Want to attract stares at a church sale?  Carry around a vintage portable urinal while you shop!  That'll do it every time.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Book Report: Feb 2011

I'm trying to encourage myself to read more this year.  I love books.  I've got a ton of them.  I need to read more of them.  Thankfully, since the booth came along, I do much less buying for myself, even when it comes to books.

I'm always telling Keith that I'm so glad I know how to read.  It's brought me great pleasure over the years.  I just wish I had more time to do it.

Here's what I read in February and what I thought about it.  I'm hoping that tracking them this way will encourage me to both read and blog more.  We'll see.  By the way, I totally stole this idea from ottermom.

Berlin: City of Smoke by Jason Lutes:  An old favorite.  I picked up this volume a couple of years ago when it first came out, but only got around to reading it just now.  Lutes' evolving story of the last days of the Weimar Republic in Germany remains as engrossing as ever.  His storytelling style is one of the most cinematic in modern comics.  After you read a page for content, you almost have to go back and reread it to study his technique.  Amazing.  I've got my doubts whether this one will finish or not--there are supposed to be nine volumes, but it's taken a decade or more to get the first two out--but I'll be there to enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts.

Age of Bronze: Betrayal by Eric Shanower:  Another volume from a favorite series that had been sitting on my shelves for too long.  Shanower's art is packed with exquisite detail and his re-telling of the TrojanWar saga is compelling reading.  There are seven volumes projected in the series.  After a decade of publishing, three are out, so I'm hopeful this one might finish.  The individual comics seem to come out a couple of times a year.

The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez:  "Intellectual" thriller and murder mystery that lays everything out in plain sight, but twists the reader's perceptions of events so that the finale comes as a complete surprise.  I loved this one.

Spider-Girl:  Avenging Allies by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz:  I thought the art was weak--too many distorted faces and distended torsos for my taste, but greatly enjoyed the story.  I had long since passed out of super-hero comics when this one came along, so I really didn't know the character, only the trials and tribulations of the book's publishing history.  But, this was fun!  Real fun!  Like reading comics used to be.  I'll be keeping an eye out for other volumes of this one that I can snag cheap.

The Authority Vol 1:  Relentless by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch:  The Authority has been around a while now, but this was my first exposure to them.  I like Ellis' work, but this book shows up one of his primary weaknesses--his inability to edit himself.  I know from being on his mailing list a while back that he's constantly coming up with one or two sentence ideas for story elements, then filing them away for future use.  This book reads like he just dumped hi idea drawer out and threw in whatever he could find, but didn't quite develop anything beyond his first thoughts.  Not to mention the repetition of certain plot elements between the stories in the book.  Did we really need to see the team fight off two back to back invasions of Los Angeles?

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by MC Beaton:  Most disappointing book I read in February.  I love Beaton's Hamish McBeth mysteries, so I had high hopes for this.  Agatha Raisin is spoiled and obnoxious and leves me cold.  Worse yet, the murder was pretty much incidental to the whole book.  I was kind of getting drawn into Agatha's issues with her ex-fiance by the end of the book, but I'm on the fence about whether or not I'll read anything else in this series.

The Book of Lost Souls by J Micheal Stracynski and Colleen Doran:  This one reads like a rejected submission for a SyFy original series.  Doran's moody art is nice, but the stories are flat and predictable.

Yotsuba&! vols 1 and 2 by Kiyohiko Azuma:  Quirky little book that was a big hit with the manga readers a while ago.  I can see why.  The book is genuinely funny, with a main character that is in turn annoying and endearing.  Imagine a Bart Simpson or Crayon Shin Chan, but as an innocent.  I thought the second volume was better than the first because the comedic timing was sharper.  I'll be looking for more of this one.

Le Portrait de Petite Cossette vols 1 and 2 by Asuka Katsura and Cossette House Aniplex:  Two volume manga series about a man who becomes obsessed with an antique portrait of a young girl and is eventually led to his demise by her spirit.  Creepy and disturbing.

It really astounds me that the majority of my reading for February was graphic novels.  I've been laying off of comics for so long now, that it's almost like I was never a comics fan at all.  I just kind of drifted away from them.  What's even more surprising to me was how much I enjoyed reading them.  It's like comics were fun again like they used to be before I got involved in comics fandom.  I'm starting to think that it was fandom I was burning out on, not comics.  We'll see how this trend holds up for next month, although I sure thought I read more books without pictures last month.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Booth Report: Feb 2011

This one is an important one, as far as booth reports go.  It's the first one since I expanded, so I'm hoping it will give me some indication whether I bit off more than I can chew or made a smart decision.  Unfortunately, the signals are a little mixed.  It's probably going to be two or three months before I can really tell if the increased space is really making a difference for me.

Saleswise, I was up about a hundred dollars over January.  Being up is good, but that's not that much of an increase.  Still, the extra money on my check is nice.  However, I'm wanting this expansion to move me from the high 3 digit sales into the 4 digit range, and I've still got a bit if a ways to go before that happens.

My daily average for the month was 31.28, which is about six bucks higher than January.  That's a nice amount of growth, which I hope to be able to maintain,  I'd like to raise my target average up from its current 25 dollars.  A couple more months like this will help me do that with some confidence.

As far as the charts go:

The big hunk of sales still happened on the weekend, but not as big a hunk as January.  I'm not so comfortable with 75% of my sales coming from weekends.  It just feels out of whack to me.  Too many of my eggs in one basket, I guess.  This is a lot more realistic arrangement, as far as I'm concerned.  
Mondays slipped back a little in the picture, too.  I guess that last month was a fluke and Monday really is a slow day after all.  Sure would like to be able to change that, but don't quite know how.  It's a bummer to come off a good weekend into a less-than-spectacular Monday.

Now, I was really pleased with this breakdown.  I had no days with less than five bucks in sales.  That's great.  Very low dollar days drag everything down, including my mood.  Their effect on the daily average is enormous.  It can take 3-4 really strong days to bring the average back up after a very low day.  Unfortunately, I had those 5-10 and 10-20 days, which didn't make me really happy.  Most of the 10-20's were on the high end (19-ish), so I can live with that.  But those 5-10's can mess you up as much as the under five's do.  What's a real bummer about February, is that most of those low end days hit at the end of the month.  There was no time to overcome them with higher days on down the line, because there was o down the line.  I hate short months.
I was really psyched that I had fifteen days over my daily average target!  That was nearly twice what I had in January.  I hope to keep pushing that number up and some of those low numbers down.  We'll see.

Another thing I added to my sheet was a calculation to tell me when the rent gets made.  That's an important thing to know, because that's when I stop selling for the mall and start selling for me.  Even with the increased rent, I made my rent a week earlier in February than I did in January.

So, anyway, I'm pleased with everything, just not as pleased as I'd hoped to be.  I've still got  a lotta work to do to get where I wanna be.  The indicators are pretty positive that I am on the right track, though. 

Monday, March 07, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Just another bunch of randomness...

So I go to my booth last week for my regular stock and clean, just like I usually do.  I always start out walking through all the spaces and collecting items that don't belong to me.  When I go to my wall of religious items, I found that someone had turned all of my crucifixes upside down.  All of them.  Now we know.  Satanists like to look for bargains at flea markets too.

(Sorry no pic. I have got to start taking my camera with me.)

I took a hammer and nails with me, so I hung most of the crucifixes and religious plaques up on the wall around the shelves.  It makes that space stand out a little more and will probably keep the Satanists and vampires at bay for now.

I'm planning on having an actual written (non-video entry) written for every day this week.  I'm working on the booth report right now.  Did expanding make me rich or cost me my shirt?  Find out tomorrow!  I'm also going to start doing a monthly recap of the books I read the previous month.  You can find out what a well-educated, well-read kind of guy I am!  Or not, as the case maybe.  Mostly not.  I've got a couple of three things atarted for each of the other days, but haven't decided which way I'm going to lean yet, so you'll just have to wait and see.

Speaking of video entries, there was some kind of snag on a couple of my entries from last week and the videos didn't show.  I think it's fixed now.  So, if you really wanted to see Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice doing "Love Hurts" or Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris doing "Dublin Blues" now is your chance!

I went cat-sitting for a couple of days last week, which put my dear buddy Kosh over the edge while I was gone.  Since we lost Bennie, he doesn't deal well with changes in the household at all, particularly when it involves me.  If I just start getting stuff ready to take to the booth, he starts wandering the house with his worried look.  Poor guy!  When I got home, he was GLUED to my lap!

The weather is warming and staying warm, during the day at least.  It's still cold enough in the morning for a coat, but it all means Spring is one the way.  Yay!  It also means lots of rain around here too.  It rained a lot on Saturday, but fortunately, there were a lot of indoor sales to go to.

I guess that's enough on the babble front.  Before I go, I do want to send out good flea market vibes to Mari-Jo, who just opened her own booth.  Good luck with it and I hope you have fun!

Oh, yeah, and a great big Happy Birthday to my buddy Roger Green!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

And now for your enjoyment and edification!

A chimp peeing!

I know the vid title says he's an ape, but he looks more like a chimp to me.  Regular posting, less vids and no chimp piss, resumes tomorrow!

Friday, March 04, 2011

This is my favorite Guy Clark song

I've got some long posts planned for next week, plus church sales (!) this weekend, so I need a little writing space.  Enjoy one of the classics--one of the finest songs ever written, in fact.  That line about Doc Watson makes me go weak in the knees every time I hear it.  The addition of Emmylou Harris, a long time friend of Clark's, is such an added bonus.  The other musicians are also pretty cool, as well.  That's longtime Clark stage partner Verlon Thompson on guitar and Shawn Camp, who's written a number of songs with Clark, on fiddle.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Jenny Lewis

For those of you who don't like that short of thing, there are lots of videos coming up.  Overkill, maybe, but the music is excellent.

Jenny Lewis is one of my favorites for a lot of reasons.  I like her songwriting a lot.  It's biting at times, but it always has a sense of humor at the same time.  It's also never too cloying or self-aware.  She stands at the intersection of contemporary folk and alt-country as a solo artist and manages to pull the best of both worlds together.  (And, I'm a total sucker for a female singer-songwriter with a strummy acoustic guitar thing going.)  But she can totally change gears with the band Rilo Kiley and do some of the best indy pop around.  It's like a total package thing or something, one I can listen to again and again.  Check out these examples.

First, with the Watson Twins, who are damn fine songwriters and performers in their own right.  They're alos from Louisville.  They were featured on her first solo album.

"You are what you love"

"Run Devil Run/Big Guns"

I love the way the opening tune here evokes more traditional, almost spiritual singing.

Now, on her own:

"Black Sand"

You see more of her pop-ish side on this haunting tune.  

Next with Johnathan Rice (who's quite a cutie):


Not sure what the puppet is all about here, but I love this song.

And finally, with Rilo Kiley, a totally awesome group of musicians.

"Portions for Foxes"

Probably a predictable choice to include here, but it's an awesome song and an indy-pop classic, at least in my mind.  She trades in that acoustic guitar for a more souped up model.  I'll have this one stuck in my head all day now.  That's not a bad thing.

"Breakin' Up"

Gotta love the post-break up dance in this vid!

And, finally, back to Johnathan Rice for their take on a true classic.  I don't care who else has done this one, this is how it was meant to be done--a simple, heartfelt duet.

I like that their version evokes the original without copying it.  It's a nice homage to the trail-blazing duo who probably in part made it possible for a musical chameleon like Jenny Lewis to have a shot in the music business today.  And if you don't know who that duo is, you've not been around this blog for long.  I'll put a hint in the labels for you, if you'll promise to check both  them and Jenny Lewis out.  Okay?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Of Rascals and Raccoons!

Remember this guy?

You might not recognize him without his jaunty, festive headgear.

I tried to always have a hat for him, but couldn't find enough hats.  They kept selling.  He was wearing a coonskin cap for a while, but most customers in my mall don't have much of a sense of irony.

Anyway, last week, when I got to the booth for my regular restock/revive/renew session with the space, I found him sitting in the floor.  That in itself is not unusual.  People take things off shelves all the time and never put them back.  Tidying up after customers is an important part of the weekly visit, just as important as the restock in my opinion.  Too many weeks go by without a clean-up, and customers aren't able to walk in your space, much less shop there.

Finding him the floor is a lot easier than finding him gone.  He's made dozens of trips outside of the booth, sometimes for a day or two, but always seemed to make his way back.  This is not unusual, either.  People are used to shopping in stores where they can leave something they decide they don't want just anywhere and someone will come along and put it back where it belongs. 

In a flea market mall, however, it doesn't work that way.  It's up to us as vendors to keep our booth spaces clear of items that are not ours.  Some vendors are better at this than others.  This means that in order to get an item back you either have to wait for it to be returned, or else walk the mall looking for it.  I try to do a walk through at least once a month, but it takes time.   I've actually had items sell before they ever return to the booth! 

The first couple of times the raccoon wasn't in the booth, I got excited that he had sold.  However, an item ain't sold until it shows up on your sales report.  So, eventually, I'd come in, find him gone, sigh a little, and wait for him to come home.  It's a part of the life of a junker.

So, finding him in the floor the other day, really wasn't that much of a surprise.  What was surprising was that he wasn't alone.  I wish I had a pic, but I didn't have my camera.  I need to start taking it to the booth with me more often, I guess.  Anyway, he was sitting in the floor with an almost identical raccoon.  That is, if by "almost identical", you mean "a little smaller and a little lighter in color, but definitely of higher quality."  They actually looked so cute sitting side by side. 

At that point, I was guessing that someone had picked up the newcomer from another booth, then saw mine and was comparing them to see which one to buy, but for some reason had changed their mind.  Either that, or a couple of kids had been playing around.  Either one of those scenarios was plausible, because they both happen all the time.

I picked up the friend and put him the the cart I had grabbed to use to collect returns from my booth.  Then, I picked up my guy and got ready to put him on the shelf.  At the point, I noticed that his price tag, which is tied around his neck, was pulled up over his nose in the front.  It looked exactly like someone was trying to take it off! I picked the other guy up out of the cart and checked him over closely.  He had no tag that I could find.  That confirmed it.  Someone was trying to pull a tag switch!

Imagine!  My cute, big old dude was being used as an accessory to a crime!  I would have gotten credit for the sale, and someone would have walked off with a more expensive raccoon, paying only my price for it.  My poor little guy!  I looked at him again and realized that he was truly traumatized by the event.  It was in his eyes.  They weren't all happy and frisky like they usually are.  They seemed cold and distant, somehow.  I made a note to look up a support group for stuffed raccoons who have been forced into lives of crime, readjusted his tag, and put him back on the shelf. 

I looked all over the booth, but never found the other tag.  So I took the other guy to the return counter, told the manager what happened and went back to work.  There really wasn't anything else anyone could do.  The sad part is that without a tag, the other raccoon will go into the untagged room.  Lots of vendors don't bother to check for their untagged stuff (I do), so it's possible that someone has lost a nice piece of merch, even without the shoplifting.

So why did the scheme not work?  Well, there's no way to know, but most likely, either the perpetrator got interrupted making the switch, or else getting my tag off proved to be harder than they thought.  Either way, it's a moot point now.  My guy showed up on my sales report over the weekend, which means he's gone.  At least, I think he's gone now.

I hope his new owners don't try to force him into a life of crime.  Poor guy.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Fry Guys!

In addition to things I purchase for the booth, a good deal of my merch comes from our house.  I originally started the booth because I desperately needed to declutter and really didn't want to do ebay or anything similar.  Even though I do purchase a lot of stuff to keep the merch momentum up, I'm still digging through closets, thinning collections and the like.

The other day I was on one of those decluttering missions when I found something really special:


I had forgotten all about them. Honestly, I was surprised I still had them, after all these years.  I think there used to be a few more of them, but these six are all I have now.

I've been trying to research them online, but all I keep getting are links to the Happy Meal toys that came out in the late 80's.  I can't seem to find anything about these particular guys, so I'm throwing this up here, in hopes someone else might be able to chime in with more info.

Here's what I remember:

They came into my life during my senior year of high school (1982).  I'm pretty sure they weren't a Happy Meal thing, because neither my brother nor I were the right age for Happy Meals.  I'm thinking it must have been some other kind of promo thing.  We had to have gotten them out of town, because our little burg didn't have a McD's at that time.

What I remember about them was the fun we had with them.  As best I can recall, I'm the one who started it.  I hid them somewhere my mom would find them, her purse.  The change section of her pocketbook to be exact.  She came home laughing at me and mock fussing about pouring them all over the counter at the grocery store.

Soon, they turned up in one of my socks, when I was hurriedly trying to get dressed for school.

From then on, it was on.  They started turning up everywhere--pots and pans, drawers, pockets, you name it.  They hopped all over the place, from her to me and back, for  several weeks.  And then, it just kind of tapered off.

I graduated and went off to college.  During my first day or so there, I ran across this odd wad of paper in one of my suitcases.  I opened it up and there they were!  With a note that said:  "We skool too!"  I sat down and laughed and laughed.  It was totally what I needed just then to get over my homesickness and adjust to my new surroundings!

The first time I went home, I stashed them in the bathroom.  And they seemed to lay low for several weeks.

Until I came home for Christmas.  Guess who was all wrapped up under the tree waiting for me?  Yep.  (Mom had also wrapped up a bottle of shampoo and a pair of socks that I left at Thanksgiving.  She made me open all these "special" gifts first that year.  I thought I wasn't going to get any real gifts!)

After that, I kept them with me.  I'd stick them in a drawer with my pens and pencils, so I'd find them a lot and think of Mom and home and laughter.

Over the years, with moves and such, they ended up in a box, waiting to be found.  And finally, over eight months after her death, I found them.  Still waiting for me.  Still making me think about her.  God, we used to laugh together so much!

They're not going to be decluttered away.  I'm going to be holding on to them.  I stuck them in my sock and underwear drawer.  It seems appropriate.  I'll see them every day and I'll smile.

Here's the Wikipedia link to the story of the McDonalds mascots.  It's interesting reading.  Did you know they're downplaying the Fry Guys (actually now the Fry Kids) in these days of heathier lifestyles?