Thursday, May 31, 2012

Baghdad Bob went into real estate.

BIG PICTURE blog has a list of dozens and dozens of major articles about how the housing market has bottomed and is ready to recover.

Starting in 2006.

Then in 2007.






And on and on.

Bless his skeptical little heart.

I think the local real estate blogs have been proclaiming it every couple of months. The Bulletin insists on having headlines that imply it.

Like I've tried to say since the beginning. My experience is that markets don't recover until you've given up expecting them to recover.

Complete capitulation.

Whatever happened to Baghdad Bob?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Failure to Thrive."

Picked up the Death Certificate for Dad from the funeral home yesterday.

Cause of death was listed as "Failure to Thrive."

What an odd way to put it....

I know, dumb.

This is probably obvious to everyone else, but it suddenly dawned on me yesterday.

You know those surveys that show the difference between the attitudes of different generations?

Like, for instance, I was reading one the other day that said that when a Baby Boomer says he's going to look something up, he says, "I'm going to Google that..." or "I'm going to Wiki that..." or "I'm going to go online and look that up."

Whereas a Millennial will simply say, "I'm going to look that up." Because, you know, where the hell else would you look something up?

Anyway, yesterday I was reading a really interesting poll (ECONOMIX) that asked how important money and how important a prestigious job was to different generations.

"Wealth" was important to Millennials, at 56%.

Whereas for Baby Boomers, we came in at a surprisingly low 16% range.

Exactly the same for "Prestigious Career."

"Wow!" I thought. "What could account for such a difference?"

Then it occurred to me. Age.

It's apples and oranges.

Sure we are different generations, but we are also different ages. Yeah, yeah. Utterly blindingly stupidly obvious. But we're comparing apples and oranges. We're also comparing apples that someday will turn into oranges.

You get to be my age, and a 'prestigious' job just doesn't seem as important. 'Money' doesn't seem as important. When Millennials get to my age, they'll probably feel the same way.

In other words, there isn't really a difference between generations, but a difference in age.

Which is both exactly the same thing and completely different. Well, duh.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Let's do some brutal math.

If this math is wrong, please let me know.

Let's say the Avengers is a billion dollar movie. (Actually, I think it will be much more than that, but to keep the math simple, let's say 1 billion.)

Let's say the average ticket price is 10.00. (Again, it's probably lower than that, but keeping the math simple.)

Let's say that the average Avengers comic sells 50 thousand per month. (High, but math=simple.)

By my estimate, if 100th of 1% of the people who bought a ticket to the Avengers had bought an Avengers comic that month, the sales on that comic would have tripled. (I believe I have been corrected: it would be 1/10th of 1% not 1/100 of 1% to get comics to triple. My mistake.)

Instead, as far as I can see -- they did nothing. Nothing at all.

I bought 30 Avengers related graphic novels in anticipation of the movie, to go along with the several hundred Avengers related books I already had.

I think I may have sold 10 of them, for a net loss.


No extra comics. A couple of back-issue sets, at half price.

My total sales from the Avengers movie was about 200.00. Total expenses? About 200.00 to 250.00. But hey, you gotta try.

The answer is simple, even if you don't like it.

Another brouhaha in the comments over a review of a book about comics at the Wall Street Journal.


Just makes me tired.

I'll say it now and say it every time it comes up.

Most people won't read comics. Period.

It's an unreasonable bias. They're wrong about the quality and intelligence of comics.

Doesn't matter. Nothing you say will make them pick up a comic.

All the talk of missing the boat, all the sturm and drang about how the comic industry is dropping the ball by not getting the movie goers to buy comics. All the accusations of fanboy inbredness, and lousy comic shops, and insular stories, and costs and barriers to entry. All of it is basically bullshit.

Just work in a comic shop for awhile. Talk to people about comics. See how far you get.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Star Wars vs. Lord of the Rings.

What's it gonna be, boy? What's it gonna be?

Huffington Post has a contest between Star Wars and Lord of the Rings as the best movie series ever.

I'm torn.

I absolutely loved the 3 Star Wars movies, but pretty much disliked the other 3 Star Wars movies. I don't have to tell you which ones.

On the other hand, I really liked all 3 Lord of the Rings movies.

Does subtracting the bad Star Wars movies from the overall total give LOTR's the edge?

If I search my heart, as much as I loved LOTR's, I was absolutely thrilled by SW.

So I decided to ignore the existence of Whiny-Anakin-Star Wars, and go with Han Solo's-Shoot-Greedo-First-Star Wars.

If I take those three movies against the LOTR's, I come down on the side of Star Wars.

LOTR's seems to be winning slightly, by the way. Fanboys will never forgive Lucas.

It's a nasty job, but someone has to do it.

I have to post every time I see the boosterism title like the following: "Our Region's Economy Improves." So says the Sunday Bulletin's headline.

Well, not by much:

"'s nothing particularly substantial." Tim Duy says, highlighted on the same page. The Bulletin is nothing if not a split personality.

Not much to say. I keep looking at the 90% decline in housing starts. Until that number gets better, I really don't see much improvement. That's new building, not selling the excess -- of which there is more than acknowledged.

I'm not sure it matters, actually.

We were a tourist town before the boom, and we're a tourist town after the boom and that's all right by me. That's our economy, and we seem to have enough infrastructure to support that.

We seem to be at 4th Quarter 2003 level; which ironically is when Linda and I started shopping for a house and when we started The Bookmark, and when business started to see an uptick. I just never bought into the uptick as anything other than a bubble.

One other thing. On the same page, they talk about "high-end" homes not selling. I very much remember people on the Bubble Blogs coming on and saying, "Oh, the crappy cheap houses will be killed by a burst bubble, but the really nice homes will keep selling because wealthy people want to live here."

Ummm. That would seem to be wrong.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I figure since I mentioned going to the eye doctor and the lawyer on Friday, that I owed you guys a version of the day.

Friday was how I imagine other people living. You know, everyday stuff that needs to be done. Which I gotta say, over the years, I've avoided as much as possible, both because of a touch of agoraphobia and because of a lack of money.

Need something? "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." That's been the mantra.

Something has changed since Dad died. I somehow feel compelled to get my house in order. For instance, having a real Will. So Linda and I went to a lawyer this morning.

First off, though, I went to the optometrist. It's been six years since I last went, and between having a heavy boardgame fall on my glasses, and then sitting on them a few weeks ago, I knew they were completely off-line.

Time for some new glasses. I picked some frames that were a little daring for me. Normally, I try to pick something that would be completely unnoticed. But I liked these frames, so I went for them. Makes me look very professorial.

My agoraphobia seems to be drying up. I'll probably never be quite reassured that it's gone, but...

I'm pretty sure that I not only don't seemed scared to people, but I probably don't even seem introverted. They took my blood pressure, and it was "slightly" high and I said that usually happens and the girl called it "white-coat" syndrome. I laughed and called it, "introvert" syndrome.

Seems like every time I go to the optometrist or the dentist, they have a bunch of new tools to play with.

They put me through a 'peripheral vision' test, with a clicker and flashing lights. "You got 100%!" she said. "Yeah," I answered. "I got all those ships."

She laughed and said, "The special effects are a little lacking...."

"Maybe for the kids. But for those of us who played Asteroids, it was right on." I didn't ask her if she had ever heard of Asteroids.

Then she flashed bright lights in my eyes. "Arrrgghhh!" I exclaimed. "You've blinded me!"

"I'm sorry!" she says.

"Just kidding. But you are sort of torturing my eyes."

"Yeah, we kinda are...."

Anyway, I'm showing what a card I am just to illustrate that I don't seemed cowed as much as I once was. It's great. There's always the suspicion something will go wrong and set me back, but really -- I seem totally unfazed.

They dilated my eyes, and I told Linda, "I'm going to stare at the lawyer with my beady little eyes...." but the lawyer didn't seem to notice, so I explained that I wasn't high on acid but had been to the eye doctor that morning.

The Will turned out to be relatively easy. She didn't seem to need the details of all the finances, just a general framework to put them in.

Then it was on to AAA, where we loaded up on maps and booklets. We're going to be doing some heavy traveling this summer, more than we've ever done, so we thought we'd plan our routes.

Then to Fred Meyer to buy some clothes. It was two and half years since I last bought anything. But -- hey, that's about half the interval I used to take. Clothes used to be falling completely apart before I'd replace them.

Anyway, between all the visits, I spent a huge chunk of money. I just fished out my credit card which I'd paid down to zero and it was painless.

It had to be done.

Writing and gardening just go together.

Linda spent the day finishing up her reading of my manuscript.

So I have 3 out of the four copies I gave out, back sitting on my desk. (Not sure what's happening with the 4th.....)

Anyway, I'm going to make another attempt to improve the book. I'm not going to say the "last" attempt anymore, because who knows? But a good solid attempt.

It may not be fixable, but I've got to try. Then on to the next book...that's all I can do, is try.

I may not start for about a month, because I have traveling to do in the meanwhile, but I'm willing and able to get going again.

Linda's comment was, "You write really well, but the story has problems."

It's funny. When I first started writing years ago, almost all the focus was on the writing -- that is, the stringing of words together, the choice and sequence of words. The story? That just seemed secondary.

Now -- I'm not as worried about the words, but much more concerned with the story. So much so, that I think I probably need to at least try to work out the story before I start, to some extent.

Problem is, I really do discover the story through the process. Which may mean that I'll always struggle with structure and background and plot.

But at least I'm back to writing.

I'm thinking that writing comes from the writer -- not from the response.

I'm self-identifying as a writer again, and I like it.


I may have mentioned this before, I can't remember. But gardening is a more expensive activity than you might think.

My garden looks rather sparse, despite spending a fair amount of money on plants. Of course, I'm measuring it against my Mom's fabulously lush garden, which is an impossible goal; I'll never have her green thumb, or her passion, or even the time she had to invest.

Still, for all the work, it seems pretty skimpy.

I used to be able to get plants from Mom, and always filled the much smaller gardens I had in the rentals I lived in. Never realized it was expensive. (Mom owned a nursery.)

I figure in another few years, it will look better. But right now, it's more like a "first-draft" version of a garden.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Look, I always knew it.

I'm confused.

Confused by why "struggling white voters" would support Romney, when he's advocating the same economic measures that got them "struggling" in the first place.

But that sinking feeling that white, middle aged white guys are being suckered is becoming the normal. When I talk to them, they seem thick as bricks.

What isn't normal is the way Democrats seem to have rallied around the idea of Bain-style capitalism.

This is probably the closest I've come to the idea of wishing there was a strong progressive third party.

I know it ain't going to happen. I know I'm going to vote for Obama, if for nothing else, for the sake of the Supreme Court nominations.

But never has it been so clear to me that almost all politicians, of either party, are bought and paid for by the large money.

Yeah, yeah. You told me so....

Friday, May 25, 2012

Busy day.

Busy day, nothing post.

Sat on my glasses on my last vacation, so I feel like they're all off balance, wrong sighted -- that and the fact that I have to remove my glasses completely to read anything. I don't like having to do this and picking new frames is always such a scary thing, but I'll be glad to have it out of the way.

Then probably lunch at Toomies with Linda, where a friend gave us a gift certificate for turning her on to a client.

Then a meeting with a lawyer to start drawing up a will.

Red tape, all of it. Out of the routine. I finally sat down a few days ago and polished off the various printed forms that had accumulated that needed to be filled out; took just a little while, and I should have done it sooner.

It's probably on old saw to everyone else, but I recently read that thing that said if you can get the task out of the way in 2 minutes, do it right this moment. I'd expand that to 5 minutes.

So...that's it. Everyday stuff, nothing too interesting, but there it is...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gee, thanks.

So the "exclusive" and "private" golf courses are willing to take my money because they suddenly have need of my money. When they didn't need my money, they wouldn't have anything to do with me.

What an attractive offer. Since I have zero self-esteem and am pathetically grateful that you finally accept me.


You accept my money. But me you just tolerate.

When you have enough money, will you be kicking me out?

Just wondering.


The one and only true answer.

At least once a day, and usually two or three times a day, I get asked what something is worth: books, toys, but especially sports cards and comics.

The answer is, "I don't know."

No really. I don't know. I'm not trying to be difficult. I quit selling product based on "collectible prices" over a decade ago. I can't even hazard a guess what things are selling for.

There are no current price guides for comics and game cards at all. (There is a yearly price guide for comics that I no longer get.) The sports card Beckett price guide to me was dubious even when cards were hot; I have no idea if they even approach reality.

So here's the one and only true answer I can give: -- something is worth what you can get when you put it up for bid online.


That's the only answer I can give.

O.K. Sometimes they're willing to give me that -- but then they ask, "Who else in town is doing it."

"No one."

Silence, speaking volumes. Again, they don't believe me.

I'm not kidding, there is no one else doing comics or cards in town.

Then they ask, "Can you appraise my stuff?"

Wait a minute, I just told you I don't know what things are worth. How can I possibly appraise anything?

Again, they don't believe me. I have some general knowledge, like -- if it's pre-seventies, it's more likely to be worth something, but it's no guarantee. That material of iconic characters, or iconic events, which are the exceptions, MIGHT be worth more than cover value.

My residual knowledge is suspect -- I can't be sure what I knew 10 or 20 years ago is even valid, so I'd prefer not to pass it along. Trouble is, when I try to explain the above, the conversation gets longer and more complicated, but usually the caller is not any more enlightened.

So that's just the way things go.

But here's the thing.

They don't like my answer. They don't believe me. They just think I'm being a butthead.

Surely, I must have a rough idea of something.

Well, yes. Without looking, I'm 95% certain that what you have isn't worth anything. And if it is worth something, I have no idea how much. So either way, you'll hate my answer.

But even if I did know what something was worth, they would STILL have to try to sell it online, and they would STILL only get what someone is willing to pay them. My opinion doesn't matter, price guides don't matter.

So put it up for bid, and then either accept the offer or don't. That's the only true answer I can give you.

What do you do when you give them the only answer you can give them, and it isn't good enough?

Telling me that you can't go online, or you don't know how to do it, well -- that isn't my fault. I sympathize, really. I don't know how nor do I like doing it either.

All I can do is try to keep is short and simple -- and do it in as gentle a way as possible. "I'm sorry, I really can't tell you what it's worth -- it's only worth what you can get online for it."

Sometimes, they get mad at me. Sometimes they just won't let it go. Sometimes I pull out the big guns. "I sell comics for reading; I honestly don't care what they're worth. I think people should collect sports cards as if they are bottle caps, with no expectation of value."

Again I repeat: " Collecting has moved online. Most stuff isn't worth much. Your Mad Magazines? Last time I bought any I paid .25 apiece."

Sometimes I have to go even further. "Most of this stuff isn't worth anything, except for the exceptions and the exceptions require a lot of homework and I don't do that any more. "

Or the biggest gun of all. "The card hobby is dead. The back-issue comic market is dead. The toy market is dead. I personally wouldn't buy them for ANY price."

Hopefully, they'll take my first answer.

The value of a collectable is what someone is willing to pay you online.

It's the truth.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'm not against the tech for the world, just myself.

I watched the first half of THE WEST AND THE REST on PBS, with Niall Ferguson.

I think I used to take these things in without much skepticism, but nowadays I try to figure out the political leanings of the writer. Niall Ferguson, as far as I can tell, falls more into the "we're deep in debt and deep in doo doo, we must cut budgets, austerity" camp.

Unexpectedly, it was a bit of a travelogue, actually, showing castles and edifices all over the world. (Which shows the definition bias of "Success" in his estimation....)

Anyway, at one point, he talks about the how Muslim world for centuries banned printed books because they felt the calligraphy was more pure.

Which immediately made me think of books versus digital.

I had the realization that, in some respects, I'm not against digital. I think the technology needs to move forward, and used in every way that is beneficial to the world.

My opposition is personal. I don't want to used digital, I don't want to carry digital. I want to be a Luddite in my own business.

But this doesn't mean that I would ban digital options if given the chance. I think this will all have to play out, fair and square, in the marketplace. I PREFER printed books, but don't expect everyone to follow my lead.

Just enough to keep me in business.

And of course, there is the little matter of how I intend to put my fiction out in digital form, and not try to get a publisher on board. It's two different things. One is my day to day workplace and what I prefer to sell. The other is my creative side, and how I can best use digital to sidestep the ugly process of getting published.

I'm very much in favor of technology. But I'm also in favor of hanging onto some things that are a little backward, but pleasant and reassuring.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday tings.

It may be a faulty memory, but back when Mount Bachelor had just been promoted from Bachelor Butte, it used to take a lot of effort to add any construction to the ski area. I remember them actually turning down some of the lifts to the top, and especially a lodge that could be seen from a distance.

Just saying.

Nowadays, they seem to build whatever they want, without much trouble.

Not coming down on either side of this, just wondering when the Forest Service changed their attitude.


Always amazing how bad apples just stay rotten. Tami Sawyer is spending so much time at her Mexican retreat, that she doesn't bother to show up for court dates. Doitchin Krastev, A.K.A. Jason Evers, files a civil rights complaint "demanding larger portions of vegetables to accommodate his Buddhist diet." Can't we get these people out of our hair?


Suddenly, I'm inundated with Red Tape. There are two government "surveys" I have to fill out, there is a change in employee taxes so that they have to be done automatic withdrawal once a month instead of sending a check off every three months, there is the financial issues surrounding Dad's estate, my comic orders are due, I need to organize the Inventory from the store which is a huge hassle every year, I had an appointment with a lawyer to draw up a will which I know is going to involve trusts and other complicated financial instruments, and so on and so forth.

Jeeeze....just leave me alone!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The dead and the never born.

"Central Oregon Resorts Struggle." Bulletin, 5/20/12.

Well, that's one way of putting it.

Really, if you think about it, there are only two kinds of destination resorts since 2002. Those that who died aborning and those that were never born.

Three resorts actually had some building, though only a small fraction of what they planned. Two of them, Tetherow and Pronghorn, have been foreclosed on. Brasada Ranch did a little construction, but has been sold off. If you'll notice the dates, these resorts had the fortune (good or bad?) of starting a year or two earlier than the following:

The Metolian, Ponderosa, Remington Ranch, Crossing Trails, Hidden Canyon, which never got off the ground.

It was nuts to think they could build this many resorts, this many fancy units. It was nuts for the local officials to believe the hotel units would ever be built. It was nuts to end up with 30 golf courses -- despite the fact that most of the golf courses for the above resorts weren't even built!

So what else is new?

Well, the reason I'm writing this post is that I vowed to never let comments like the following go unchallenged:

"Few could have guessed in the mid-2000s what sort of devastation the end of the decade would bring to the housing market, not just in Central Oregon but around the world."

I suppose it's an improvement that they say "Few could have guessed...." instead of "No one could have guessed..." but the sentiment is the same. In fact, the whole slant of the article is that the resorts were "victims" of negative "psychology."

I'll just keep pointing out, a bunch of us did actually see this coming. It wasn't bad luck which caused this collapse.

No, it was bad planning.

Notice that the Bulletin says the problem is the "housing market." Wait. I thought these were "destination resorts" not subdivisions?

But we all know that's exactly what they were....

By the way, nothing could have been better for my business than to have these resorts succeed. Being in downtown Bend, I can't tell you the number of times a customer has told me they are staying at Sunriver, Black Butte, or Eagle Crest. These are the prime type of customers for a downtown tourist zone.

So....maybe one more resort, maybe with the same numbers of completed units as the above 9 resorts -- that would have been great....

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The past can haunt if you let it.

They've got these nifty little "Classic Albums" documentaries on Netflix. They usually have all the band members involved, and I've even been watching a few about bands I didn't listen to at the time.

Anyway, the thing that really jumps out at me is that many of these rock and rollers are trying a little too hard to look young. Colored hair, wrap around hairdos, wild clothing.

Yesterday, Linda took a picture of me playing with the cat and I was shocked by how old I looked. The gray hair, the middle aged ponch, the big beard and so on.

The thing that was most noticeable about the old rockers -- the guys who went with natural color, but short hair and no beards looked the best.

But I can't quite see myself cutting my beard completely. A goatee perhaps. Keeping it shorter would be a big improvement. But, hey, it's what happens in the natural world.

There was also a documentary about the early 60's London "Underground" movement, which focuses on Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd. It's legendary how L.S.D. destroyed this guy, and Pink Floyd went on the future fame. But with the knowledge I now have, I think it sounds just as likely that he hit the age of Schizophrenia, and the drugs either just initiated the change or exacerbated it.

I had an episode of depression, for many of the same reasons, in my early 20's which I slowly dug my way out of. Again, I know depression runs in my family, but doing drugs didn't help.

It's scary, and it's something over years that I've not delved into much. I put that part of my life into the past and rarely revisit it.

But sure enough, had my usual scary dreams, of being crazy and ostracized. I wake up, and there is Linda, wonderful normal sweet Linda, and I breath a big sigh of relief. And, after getting up for an hour or so, I go back to sleep.

I usually avoid all reminders to that part of my life, which I think is a good strategy.

I recently had a high school friend want to get in touch, and while she wasn't an inner part of my troubles back then, it still would stir old feelings. (My friend, Wes, who I've had so much interaction over the years, those old feelings have softened.)

I've been married to Linda for 29 years, and she never saw me like that. I may have been slightly strange when she met me, but I was coming out of it, and it really was like night and day. She has the romanticized idea that she would have seen my qualities -- but it's a moot point, because it wouldn't have happened, I was so closed off.

My brother has apparently had some depressive episodes -- though I don't think he ever had extinction event level depression like mine where I couldn't get out of bed. But I was remarking how luck I was that I've not had a reoccurence of depression in the last 35 years or so.

"Oh, odds are it will happen," he says.

Oh, great. Thanks.

I've never been naive, I've always known the possibility exists, I've tried to monitor myself so that I'll know if it's coming on, and I've programmed myself in advance to seek help (medication) immediately.

Part of me thinks it's genetic, and part of me thinks it's environmental, and all of me thinks it's both. The optimistic side of me, thinks it's environmental and can be avoided if I take the right steps. The negative side of me thinks, yeah, sure, that's what you would think.

But I did sort of work my way out of it -- time helped, but so did some methods and some self-awareness. So I'm still thinking I can keep trying to avoid it by living a good and proper life.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The future is now.

Cameron got an acting gig this week, so I had to work Tuesday. Oh, my gosh. A whole nother day of work.

It was interesting, because I found that I was busy all day. I'm already really busy on the other days I work, because I'm not able to pace the work. It just sort of falls on my head, like a ton of bricks.

Which is actually O.K., because I like being busy when I'm at work.

Anyway, it showed me that there is still plenty to do. It was extra stuff, like cleaning and sorting and restocking. Rearranging. Taking some extra time on some orders.

Because Linda's 4.5 years older than me, we're looking at retirement issues sooner rather than later. Personally, I have no intention of quitting. I really enjoy the store these days, it is finally working the way I'd always hoped it would, it's bringing in an income, and I have enough time off to enjoy myself.

I think this model really works for me, even into an age that normally I might be looking to retire. I'm thinking I can have my cake and eat it too.

Of course, a lot can change in 5 years, but I feel like I will be able to adapt.

What I'm trying to say is -- I'm trying to relax. Not put everything off into the future. Keep the store's momentum, but try not to throw it into chaos. Quit worrying.

Linda has always had this capability, and I'm trying to learn.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Do more shops create more business, or does more business create more shops?

Hooray for Coffee!!!

If 3 cups give you a 10% mortality boost, I've got it made in the shade. (Knock wood.)


Slate has just posted a "poverty" map, which shows Deschutes County sitting prominently in the middle of Oregon with a big increase. At first it looks like the big black spot in the middle of Oregon is the only county in the state with an increase, until you look into the far southeast corner.

Malheur County has had a doubling of it's poverty rate.


I read a profile of hot IPO's a number of years ago which made if very clear that, for most of us, buying on opening day is a sucker play. The insiders have already bought a ton of the stock, and they're selling to you at a huge profit.

Thanks, but no thanks, Facebook.


If I'm reading the article on Pronghorn correctly, it seems to me that what this new "management company" (Bulletin, 5/18/12.) is doing is setting up time-shares with the other resorts it manages.

Seems like kind of a comedown.


I was preparing to start opening a few boxes of sports cards and put some fresh singles out.

Until yesterday.

I had a customer in, who I thought was questioning my integrity (not buying from an open box despite my assurances that no one was allowed to pick through them). Turns out, he wasn't buying because he felt the cards had "curled." (I assured him, that all cards made of that particular process did that over time, and that they flatten out nicely -- he didn't believe me.)

Anyway, I got really angry in a millisecond. It shows me I still harbor strong anger about sports cards that can come to the surface at any moment. We talked it out and there were no hard feelings, but showed I need to keep to the box and pack selling strategy I've had over the last decade or so, even if it means fewer sales.

Fewer sales, but more sanity.


PERSON OF INTEREST had a great episode for the season ending; it was almost like Matrix there at the end. This show just got progressively better as the season went along.

It seems to be running beneath the radar, at least I haven't talked to anyone else who watches it or seen any article about it.


I'm getting the sense that they are dragging out the Greek crisis until everyone is ready for the last shoe to drop.

It'll hurt, but everyone will be more prepared.

I don't know. It's pretty screwed up that my finances could in any way be infected by a crisis in Greece.


I had a traveler from Fort Collins, Co., who said there were 5 comic shops there.

I looked it up, and it's a smaller urban area than Bend.

Sure enough, when I Googled it, I saw there are at least four legit comic shops. (Plus, according to the customer, a new one opened by a friend of his...)

I'm not sure how these things happen. There are town all over America bigger than Fort Collins that have NO comic shops. I've never been able to get to more than about 65% of the way toward a living wage with comics, thus adding in cards, games, books, toys.

But just because 5 shops exist, that doesn't mean that 5 shops will continue to exist. I have to believe one is probably so new it doesn't know where it stands, another may be quietly on it's way out, another may be a 'hobby' shop supported by it's owner, another may be selling a majority of something else, or maybe they have all created some magical forcefield for comic shops.

There is a four year college there, so that would probably allow for 2 viable comic shops, and then - - maybe a third shop could exist from the synergistic forces involved in multiple shops.

It's sort of like the fluky numbers of card shops in Eugene -- again, it's inexplicable on the face of it.

LATER: Did some more research, and I think I was mixing apples and oranges. Fort Collins itself has a population of 145K, twice the size of Bend. I was comparing it to Bend's Metro numbers. The Wiki doesn't give the Metro numbers for Fort Collins, but it usually roughly doubles.

So by those numbers, two shops could be viable. Add a third shop because of the four year college. It's also on an interstate, and it's midway between Cheyenne and Denver, about an hour from each. Close enough to pull in some customers, I would think.

So, yeah, I can see three shops, though even that is unusual.

It's something I've always wondered -- do more shops create more business, or does more business create more shops?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Downtown Comings and Goings. 5/17/12.

I noticed there is a new furniture store on Bond. Natural Edge Furniture.

The Pottery Lounge is closed with a notice on the window.

Giddy Up is moving to Tres Jolie. By the rules of this blog, they no longer have a dedicated storefront, so they are put on the Goings list, like the Clutch and others who have moved into that space. Just to point out, they are still in business.

That's 99 Comings and 98 Goings, by my count. There have never been more Goings than Comings, in the 3.5 years I've been keeping this list, so this is the closest we've gotten.


Natural Edge Furniture, Bond St., 5/10/12
Hola!, Bond St., 3/3/12.
Amanda's, Franklin Ave., 2/24/12
Barrio, Minnesota Ave., 2/12/12.
Rescue Moderne, Harriman, 1/12/12.
Letzer's Deli, Franklin Ave. 2/12/12.
Navidi, Minnesota Ave., 2/9/12.
Mazza, Brooks St. , 2/9/12.
La Magie Bakery, Bond St., 1/6/12
Brother Jon's Ale House, Bond St., 12/10/11.
What Lola Wants, Wall St. , 12/2/11.
Jackalope Grill, 10/12/11.
Gypsy Soul, Wall St. 10/12/11.
Colour N' the City, Tin Pan Alley, 10/12/11.
Lotus Moon, Brooks St., 10/12/11.
The Lobby, Bond St. , 10/12/11.
Ruby, Minnesota Ave., 10, 12/11.
Kariella, Lava Road, 8/24, 11.
Plankers, Wall St., 7/11.
Faveur, Franklin, 7/11.
Dream Pebbles, Minnesota Ave., 6/15/11.
Bend Yogurt Factory, Franklin/Bond, 4/26/11.
High Desert Lotus, Bond St. , 4/4/11.
Tryst, Franklin Ave., 3/11/11. (Formerly Maryjanes, **Moved**).
D'Vine, Wall St. , 2/9/11.
Let it Ride!, Bond St., 1/29/11.
Gatsby's Brasserie Bar, Minnesota Ave., 1/8/11
Tres Jolie, Wall St., 12/20/10.
Caldera Grill, Bond St., 12/7/10
Bond Street Grill, 12/7/10.
Perspective(s), Minnesota Ave., 11/20/10
Toth Art Collective, Bond St. 11/20/10
Boken, Breezeway, 11/20/10
Dalia and Emilia, Wall St., 10/3/10.
Antiquarian Books, Bond St., 10/3/10.
Giddyup, Minnesota Ave., 10/3/10.
The Closet, Minnesota Ave., 8/11/10.
Showcase Hats, Oregon Ave., 8/11/10,
Red Chair Art Gallery, Oregon Ave. 7/13/10.
Earth Sense Herbs, Penny's Galleria, 7/12/10.
Mad Happy Lounge, Brooks St., 6/2910
Common Table, Oregon Ave. , 6/29/10.
Looney Bean Coffee, Brooks St. , 6/29/10.
Bourbon Street, Minnesota Ave., 6/22/10
Feather's Edge, Minnesota Ave., 6/22/10
The BLVD., Wall St. , 6/13/10.
Volt, Minnesota Ave. 6/1/10.
Tart, Minnesota Ave. , 5/13/10
Olivia Hunter, Wall St. 4/5/10.
Tres Chic, 4/5/10 (Moved to Minnesota Av.)
Blue Star Salon, Wall St. 4/1/10.
Lululemon, Bond St. 3/31/10.
Diana's Jewel Box, Minnesota Ave., 3/25/10.
Amalia's, Wall St. (Ciao Mambo space), 3/12/10
River Bend Fine Art, Bond St. (Kebanu space) 2/23/10
Federal Express, Oregon Ave. 2/1/10
***10 Below, Minnesota Ave. 1/10/10
Tew Boots Gallery, Bond St. 1/8/10.
Top Leaf Mate, 12/10/09
Laughing Girls Studio, Minnesota Ave. 12/7/09
Lemon Drop, 5 Minnesota Ave., 11/12/09
The Curiosity Shoppe, 25 N.W. Minnesota Ave, Suite #7. 11/5/09
Wabi Sabi 11/4/09 (**Moved, Wall St.**)
Frugal Boutique 11/4/09
5 Spice 10/22/09
Cowgirls Cash 10/17/09
***Haven Home 10/17/09
Dog Patch 10/17/09
The Good Drop 10/12/09
Lola's 9/23/09
**Volcano Wines 9/15/09
Singing Sparrow Flowers 8/16/09
Northwest Home Interiors 8/5/09
High Desert Frameworks 7/23/09 (*Moved to Oregon Ave. 4/5/10.)
Wall Street Gifts 7/--/09
Ina Louise 7/14/09
Bend Home Hardware (Homestyle Hardware?) 7/1/09
Altera Real Estate 6/9/09
Honey 6/7/09
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
c.c.McKenzie 6/1/09
Velvet 5/28/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
900 Wall
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Powell's Candy
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Game Domain
Subway Sandwiches
Bend Burger Company
Showcase Hats
Pita Pit
Happy Nails

(List begun, Fall, 2008.)


Giddy Up, Minnesota Ave., 5/10/12
Pottery Lounge, Oregon Ave., 5/17/12.
Boondocks, Newport Ave., 3/27/12
Game Domain, Oregon Ave., 3/27/12.
Toth Gallery, Bond St., 3/27/12.
Letzer's Deli, Franklin Ave., 3/22/12.
Clutch, Minnesota Ave., 3/22/12. (Moving to Tres Jolie).
High Desert Gallery, Minnesota Ave., 3/22/12.
Tart, Bond St., 3/3/12.
El Caporal West, Franklin Ave., 2/24/12
Bo Restobar, Franklin Ave., 2/9/12.
The Lobby, Bond St. , 2/9/12.
Arts Central, Brooks St., 2/7/12.
Typhoon!, Bond St., 2/5/12.
Gatsby's, Minnesota Ave., 2/5/12
The Dog Patch, Minnesota Av. 1/9/12.
Bend Mapping, Bond St., 1/9/12.
Lotus Moon, Brooks St. 1/9/12 (Moving into Tres Jolie)
Bond Street Grill, Bond St., 11/20/12.
Mad Happy Lounge, Brooks St., 10/11.
Azu, Wall St., 10/25/11.
Showcase Hats, Oregon Av., 10/11.
Bourbon St., Minnesota Ave. 10/12/11.
Curiosity Shop, Minnesota Ave., 7/11
Luluemon, Bond St., 8/26, 11.
Shear Illusions, Franklin Ave., 7/11.
Crepe Place, Wall St., 7/11.
Pita Pit, Brooks St. , 6/28/11
Smith and Wade Salon, Minnesota, Av. , 6/3/11.
Perspectives, Minnesota Av., 6/1/11
River Bend Art Gallery, Bond St., 5/5/11.
Donner's Flowers, Wall St. 3/11/11. (**Moved out of downtown**)
Maryjanes, Wall St. , 3/11/11. (new name, Tryst, moved to Franklin.).
Di Lusso, Franklin/Bond, 2/9/11.
Earth Sense Herbs, Penny's Galleria, 1/2/11
Marz Bistro, Minnesota Av., 12/20/10.
The Decoy, Bond St., 12/7/10.
Giuseppe's, Bond St., 12/1/10.
Ina Louise, Minnesota Ave., 11/3/10.
Laughing Girl Studios, 10/21/10
Dolce Vita, Bond St, 10/21/10
Diana's Jewell Box, Minnesota Ave., 10/15/10.
Lola's, Breezeway, 10/8/10.
Oxygen Tattoo, Bond St., 10/3/10.
Great Outdoor Clothing, Wall St., 10/3/10.
Volcano Vineyards, Minnesota Ave., 10/3/10.
Subway Sandwiches, Bond St. 9/2/10.
Old Bend Distillery, Brooks St., 6/19/10.
Staccato, Minnesota Ave. 6/18/10.
Showcase Hats, Minnesota Ave., 6/1/10 (Moved to Oregon Ave., 8/10/11.)
Cork, Oregon Ave., 5/27/10.
Wall Street Gifts, 5/26/10
Microsphere, Wall St. , 5/17/10.
Singing Sparrow, Franklin and Bond, 5/15/10
28, Minnesota Ave. and Bond, 5/13/10.
Glass Symphony, Wall St., 3/25/10
Bend Home Hardware, Minnesota Ave, 2/25/10
Ciao Mambo, Wall St. 2/4/10
***Angel Kisses 1/25/10 (Have moved to 'Honey.')
Ivy Rose Manor 8/20/09
***Downtowner 8/18/09 (moving into the Summit location)
Chocolate e Gateaux 8/16/09
Finders Keepers 8/15/09
Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
***Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
***Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09** Moved to Minnesota Ave.
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
***King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
***Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro

(List begun, Fall, 2008

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tapping into Watchmen nostalgia.

Lots of discussion over on the retail sites about whether BEFORE WATCHMEN is going to be a hit or a flop, or in-between.

I ended up ordering heavily.

I could have gone the other way, (The saying is, "No one ever went broke selling out.")but because the store is overall doing well, I decided to take a chance.

I've noticed with the bigger promotions,that they tend to have an umbrella effect on the rest of the titles. That is, the big title itself may not be a moneymaker, but it seems to help sell other things.

That's the thing about comic shops -- we order in advance, based on limited knowledge, and we don't get to return the unsold copies. In compensation, we get a higher mark-up than we do on other product that we theoretically could return; books, for instance, even though I never do.

The talk is whether WATCHMEN still has an appeal to modern readers. Or conversely, whether the creators behind the new titles are great enough to hold onto readers.

My calculation is, that WATCHMEN is indeed a perennial and probably always will be. It's taken on a mythic proportion by now, with or without the movie. What I'm saying is, Alan Moore created some great characters, and I'm going to assume that people will want to read more about these characters.

After all, the very best part of the movie was the opening credits which created a deep sense of nostalgia for an earlier time; a time that never really happened.

If these titles are written well, they will tap into that nostalgia and I'll be along for the ride.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I feel so guilty.

"Beat L.A.!"

You're not a true Oregonian until you can yell that.


My rhododendron is blooming for only the third time in 9 years.

Beautiful plant.


I didn't vote.

I feel so guilty.


Linda bequeathed me her old ipad and I haven't even picked it up.

I feel so guilty.


I've stopped reading the New York Times. I just don't have time.

I feel so guilty.


I'm reading HADRIAN, by Anthony Everitt, a biography of the Roman emperor.


I don't know. I should be reading something more useful like the stack of comics that I've fallen behind on.

I feel so guilty.


I haven't filled out the (legally required) Census form the feds sent me.

I feel so...., wait. The hell I do.

I seem to have gotten noticed by the feds, because suddenly I'm on a couple of these monitoring type reviews. Dammit. After being blissfully ignored for 28 years.


I found a company that will clean out Dad's room and give the fixtures and other things to charities for a fee.

The type of thing that the younger and broke-er me would have done myself to save money and then have probably had a garage sale to raise money.

But Time is Money.

I feel so guilty.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The top of my head is sunburned.

Got the backyard garden cleaned and weeded in two days. The front yard will probably take another day, including the side. There is still a stretch on the side that I've never really gotten to, which will probably be more work than everything else combined.

Like I said, maintenance is much easier than trying to clear the space for a garden in the first place.

I went online and googled the sprinkler system we have, which didn't seem to be reaching everywhere I wanted it to. Now, I am probably getting too much coverage, but I'd rather have that than the alternative.

I planted four boxwoods last year, in front of the back porch, and my sister commented on them when she was down last fall: "Wow. You are trying boxwood? Even Mom had difficulty with those." Uh, oh, I thought. Sure enough, two of the boxwood look like they are all but dead and two seem fine.

I'm not going to transplant anything until they reached full maturity, if then. I just want to see how everything does for year without interference.

It just goes to show, in both the store and in gardening, that new enterprises take ten times the effort that just keeping the ball rolling does.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Stuff" means nothing without the person.

Linda and I went to Dad's room yesterday to clear it of personal material. We're going to donate the fixtures to any thrift that wants to come and get them.

There wasn't a lot of nostalgia in the process -- most of the family stuff was taken care of years ago when we sold the family home and held an estate sale. In fact, in cleaning out Dad's room, I wonder if our family maybe should have retained a few more personal items for Dad.

But he never did much care about his surroundings. He continued to be a hoarder, but of very small things.

So there were some pictures and knickknacks and a few other personal items that we loaded up and took to our storage shed.

I went through Dad's clothes, and he had some classic Pendleton type shirts that fit me, and I took a few. It's funny, but his feet were bigger than mine, and his hands were smaller, and I don't tend to wear hats. I took a nice coat.

Really, there was very little. If I didn't know it already, this would have shown me that possessions basically mean nothing without the person there. The room was just sort of sad and forlorn.

I feel like I notice a sick smell in the rooms -- not that the place isn't kept very clean, but I think it just comes with the territory. Linda says she doesn't smell it, but not only do I smell it but it seems to linger long after I leave. I was O.K. with it when Dad was there, but the sickness smell without him there is just a sickness smell.

We all just have to go with the flow, I guess. Live with what we have and not get too acquisitive -- and above all enjoy the people.

It's the GODFATHER ramped up to 11.

One neat thing about Netflix is that it's allowing me to catch up with cult auteur Japanese directors. Last time, it was Miike, this time it was Beat Kitano's OUTRAGE.


This gangster film keeps introducing us to a vast cast of characters, high and low in the Yakuza. Doesn't matter if you keep track. One by one, they are offed, in very violent ways. It just keeps happening, new characters are introduced, while old characters find themselves in a dangerous situations.

Just when you think maybe they'll escape, they'll be murdered or mangled in a creative spurt of mayhem.

It's a veritable Bach fugue of violence, a metronomic ticking off of character after character. There is a kind of horrid dry humor in the way it just keeps happening. The fascination is in how and when the violence will erupt.

There is immense expertise in the way the characters are introduced, the situation escalates, and the technical precision of each scene. You get to know the characters just enough to realize they all deserve what happens to them and yet still be horrified by it. It's as if it was a Dirty Harry movie directed by Antonioni -- a beautiful constructed but cold piece of work.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Avengers assemble!

All right, all right already! I saw the movie!

It was terrific. Amazing, considering how much action was packed into the movie that any characterization was possible at all. Some very humorous moments.

I don't care for superhero knockdowns, (stupid misunderstandings), in the comics or the movies, but I can overlook that. Interestingly, the best selling current comic right now is exactly that, a punchfest between the X-Men and the Avengers.

Sidenote: I kept wondering who this Agent Hill was, and why was Joss Whedon lovingly showing her backside? Not just once, he has a scene where she is walking away from the camera in her skintight black leathers. Good looking woman.

Turns out, the actress's name is Cobie Smulders, and if I remember rightly, Whedon was planning to cast her in the role of Wonder Woman.

I wonder if the producers of Wonder Woman are kicking themselves right about now. Heh.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

I've always been very protective of my alone time. Even over the last 30 years of owning a store and being married, I've always found time to do nothing.

Events have conspired to shrink that time, even though I'm taking a lot of days off at work.

Linda and I are the family in town when it comes to dealing with Dad's stuff, so that has really taken a huge chunk of time out of our lives. At the same time, ironically, the actual scheduling of vacations seems to have shrunk time even more. There are things we have to do, places we have to go -- just so we can get to a time when we don't have things to do and places to go.

There are legal (wills and such), accounting, taxes and other everyday things that need to be handled, that were never a problem when we were flat broke.

Somehow I've avoided all this little annoyances over the years. Mostly, because I would just say no to most social activities -- but these are things I can't in good conscious neglect.

Anyway, was talking to a young writer in my store yesterday and we were commiserating about how hard it is to find time to write, and I just remembered how I used to have the luxury of having oodles of time to write, or just to think about writing.

Because I didn't know anyone, I was underemployed and broke, and I had no responsibilities.

I know the old Kristofferson line is a bit of a cliche, but it's still overwhelmingly true.

Smooth moves.

Have had Mike's mystery books piled up on my work table for weeks. I've been working around them, instead of packing them.

So today, I put my coffee in a crevice, and it slipped out, splashing everywhere.

All because I've been too lazy to get it done.

So now I'm packing, and it's freakin' hot in here. I could have done this in comfort weeks ago.

Smooth move.


I stopped carrying WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE because the dust cover kept getting damaged and I kept having to transfer it to the used book section.

Smooth move.


"Watch our for the bark dust," the Villa Court mover says to me.

Yeah, yeah. As a former semi-professional gardener, heh, I've worked in bark dust my whole life. Inconvenient, the occasional splinter, but manageable.

So I'm wearing shorts and sandals for the first time, and I walk over the bark dust. Ten minutes later, I realize I have splinters by the dozens.

"I hear they're using Fir bark now," Linda says. "That's much worse."

Smooth move.


Wearing shorts, without my belt, I don't do the usual transfer and the leather belt goes through the wash and comes up as curly spaghetti.

Smooth move.


I make spelling and grammar errors on this blog, but not as many as I do when I make comments, or do e-mails.

I just must check more often -- and it's easier to make editorial changes.

Comments and e-mails are as sloppy as everyday speech, I guess.

Smooth move.


Forgot to pay my rent on time.

Smooth move.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's not a crime!

I need to keep track of the number of people who have asked me what I thought of the Avengers movie.

NO! I haven't seen it!

Take that look of disbelief out of your eyes, dammit, it's only been a week!

Don't tell me all about it! Don't talk to each other about all the details!

Move on! Move on!

Questioning small success.

I constantly, obsessively, think about my failures in business.

On the other hand, I tend to let all the analysis slide when things are going well.

So I'm trying to apply this kind of critical thinking toward the current situation and see if there is anything I can learn from it.

I've already talked about the addition of new books and boardgames as seeming to be the thing that pushed us over the top. That's all me. I decided to do this just before the crash, and continued to add inventory for the first two or three years until I reached a threshold.

So that's not so hard to see.

Lately, I've been shoring up that parts of the store that took a backseat while this inventory building was going on. I never let up on comics and graphic novels, but just about everything else slid into auto-pilot.

So I've been incrementally improving the toys, the sports and non-sports cards, the manga and anime, and it's helping a little. Not dramatically, but improving.

The economy itself? I can't tell. I'll assume that it must be getting better if I'm seeing double digit growth. I do believe that we are seeing a healthy number of tourists, for which I've tried to design the store.

Anything else? Yeah. I think my employees have been doing a good job. They are at the age and interest that more corresponds with the age and interests of my customers. They are into mainstream comics, and conscious of all the pop trends. They are cheerful and helpful.

Because I'm working less, and because things are going well, I'm more cheerful and helpful too. That that must be having a small effect.

Maybe it's just the maturing of the store; after 28 years, with ups and downs, slip ups and failures, picking myself back up and trying again, I've finally assembled the elements of a solid store.

Or maybe this is just temporary and coincidental and I'm patting myself on the back for factors beyond my real control.

Only thing I can do is keep trying to make the store work, and monitor it, and be aware that so much of this is a mystery, of which I am only partially aware.

Can a promotion be too successful?

You guys are going to laugh at this. Look -- Duncan is panning a promotion because it's TOO successful? Heh.

This may seem ungrateful, but at least I'm consistent. I don't much like sales and promotions. I work hard to get the best material in the store I can get and pay my bills. What I want is everyday business that is sufficient to do that.

And I mostly stick to this plan. I say no to just about every promotion. For instance, when I made my jigsaw puzzle order, the guy offered me a 'space' on the Central Oregon map puzzle if I ordered enough. At a huge discount. He couldn't believe it when I wouldn't even pay this small amount, even though I qualified.

He lowered the rate even more, and I said yes. Hey, I ain't completely crazy.

"Sales" and "Promotions" often just muddy the waters. When you add up costs, and downsides, it seems to me that most of these things are negatives, not positives. (I count opportunity loses, extra costs, lower margins, time, space, energy ... everything.)

The only exception I make, is FCBD. I like it's simplicity.

Free comics. Really. That's all there is to it. Good comics, created for the day of the event, given away without strings.

Free Comic Book Day has probably been successively more successful every year since it's start. (8 years ago, or so?)

By successful, I mean people in the door. Last few years I've actually almost run out of comics before the day it out, even though I've been upping my orders.

At any rate, for the last couple of years, our sale totals for the day have been about double normal. That sounds like a lot, but the store will normally do this two or three times a month even without promotions.

I think the problem, ironically, is that there are TOO MANY people. The aisles get clogged, most people can't browse, and the lines get long.

Now activity is good, up to a point. But then it crosses over a busyness threshold.

Anyway, I spend quite a bit on FCBD. The comics aren't free for me, we buy them, albeit at much lower prices than normal. In other words, it isn't a money maker for me, even at twice the sales level. But I've decided it's a good will gesture and not to expect anything in return. I've been lucky in my business -- once a year I can be generous.

It certainly exposes the store to lots and lots of people. Do I see them the rest of the year? Hard to say. Doesn't matter, I like the giving aspect.

Indicative of the the event, I had some customers in on Thursday who asked me if we were having any 'Sales' on FCBD?

"Well, yeah," I said, without thinking, no irony. "We're giving comics away."

It was only after they left that I realized they wanted more.

I'm not complaining. I love seeing the interest and the fun. I like being in solidarity with the other comic shops.

But even this promotion, wildly successful as it appears to be, hasn't convinced me that promotions as a whole are beneficial to my business.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wednesday Wats.

I removed yesterday's post, "A Time to Reflect", because it just didn't seem respectful enough so soon after Dad's passing. Not very sentimental, and a little to much digging up things.

Maybe later, I'll post it again.

There was great quote that an anonymous poster posted from Bonfire of Vanities, about sons and fathers, which I would love if he would repost. So true.


Dad was once a bigger fish in a much smaller pond. When I was 12, he had a heart episode, and it hit the front page of the Bulletin. Chandler and him knew each other, clashed occasionally -- Chandler didn't much like doctors, if I remember rightly.

Anyway, all these years later, Dad is a little fish in a much bigger pond. Even most of the people at the hospital don't know who he was -- I'd mention he was the first pathologist in town, and most of the doctors and nurses would just shrug.

Like goes on. (Until it doesn't.)


Turns out I'm allergic to bottled Starbucks coffee. I spent two days of the trip tied to the cabin. (Read almost 4 books!) On the third day, I skipped the coffee and was fine. Very inconvenient on trips.


Actor Mathew Fox is a lucky guy. He won't have his mugshot plastered all over the internet because of his recent D.U.I. in Bend, because the camera at the station was broken. (Of course, his last mugshot was pretty wild, so they'll probably use that, instead.)

I have to say, he was in my store once and seemed like a perfectly nice guy.


I've given up buying remainder books with the word "zombie" in the title. There are just too many of them.

Also, the term "fantasy" has pretty much lost all meaning, since they now include all Twilight and/or romance novels with supernatural elements under that rubric.

We need some new terminology. I don't much like paranormal romance as a selling description, but it's pretty accurate. (Some women will read romance, but won't buy anything that is branded "romance." Yeah.)


Senator Lugar loses to Tea Party candidate.

Must be a terrible thing to sell your soul and still lose. The devil had a tricky clause in the contract, apparently. (Orrin Hatch, on the other hand, looks like he signed a much more complete contract with Him.)


Murder at the Kentucky Derby?

Just goes to show that LUCK was a very unlucky show. Think what they could've done with the publicity...


Alison Bechdel has written and drawn another graphic novel, ARE YOU MY MOTHER? to go with the book she did about her Dad, FUN HOME.

FUN HOME was the best book I read that year, bar none. The first and last time I've said that about a graphic novel. Amazing book.


Got a lot accomplished yesterday, gardening. Did half of the backyard. Another few days and I'll have the maintenance part caught up.

I'm going to give it another month or so, and then subdivide some of the surviving plants and fill the holes where the store bought plants didn't survive.

I really need to readjust the sprinklers and even though the installer showed me a couple of times how to do it, it's that mechanical stuff I just can't remember. I may trying Googling it.


Speaking of Google, I was going through some of my trivia sites, reddit, Flavorwire, etc. etc. and thinking how the internet refers to tons of things I'm don't know anything about. I mean, without the internet, most of this stuff I probably would have never known about.

Or missed.

Anyway, instead of just trying to guess what it all means, the internet has also provided Google, which means I can jump over and ask what "dubstep" means, or look up varieties of deep sea jellyfish to see what creature is on a video, or any number of things.

It's a rabbit hole.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A time to reflect.

I'm going to spend the day gardening and thinking about Dad. Thinking about life and family and time and money and sickness and health.

Dad's passing didn't come as a surprise -- emotionally, I've been preparing for it for months. Last few times I saw him, I knew that he had given up. It was hard in these last few years because we couldn't really talk, he was so deaf.

Then again, for most of my life, I couldn't really talk to Dad. He dominated the conversation, wasn't a great conversationalist. He was a great talker. I remember most our hunting and fishing trips, which I both loved and hated. Dad could be fun, and he could be demanding.

We bonded most, strangely, over his love of knowledge and trivial. He'd challenge me to identify an obscure actor and was always tickled if I knew. On the other hand, I hated the look in his face when I didn't know something he thought I should know.

Spurred me, I think, to gather knowledge and gather knowledge, though as I grew older I realized that I would never retain the amount of knowledge he had. He was just an incredibly smart man. A little frustrated, I think, even though he was an accomplished doctor -- I think he would have been a fantastic history professor.

He could tell some whoppers, and most of us McGeary's learned to parse his stories for what was real and what was exaggerated. Casual acquaintances didn't know how to do this -- they believed it all, because he was a hell of a good storyteller. Better than me. But when he'd start writing, he would lose his storytelling voice, somehow. I think he was impressed that I became a writer.

He was a dutiful father, but not an attentive one. I realized as I got older that I had opportunities at tons of activities that I would never have been able to do if he wasn't willing to back them up. But even though Dad made those possibilities available (or acquiesced on Mom's insistence) he was rarely involved in those activities. I didn't have the Field of Dreams experience with Dad. I never felt that kind of bonding, there was always a little distance.

At the same time, he had a hoarder's mentality and it did cause problems and took a long time for our family to realize that it was a syndrome and in some ways he just couldn't help it.

But when I suffered from depression just out of my teens, he was willing to support me, let me live at home, pay for college years beyond the normal, and gave me support I needed, even though I was being a real pill at the time. Very few families would have put it with my behavior 40 years ago. Without this help, I'd probably have ended up on the street.

He was proud of his family. We all were successful in our own ways, though none of us really followed the traditional routes to success -- which took him awhile to get used to, I think.

I see a lot of myself in my Dad. Many of the things he fell down on, I see in myself. I see where my love of knowledge (or, if you will, trivia) comes from. The love of reading. The independence and self-entertainment aspects of my personality, which are both a hindrance and a blessing.

I see him as man of his times, growing up in the depression, getting ready to go to war, doing the things his father expected of him, though I think in many ways he'd rather have done something else. He understood and appreciated my Mom, and he was proud of his kids. He was accomplished and from all accounts, liked and admired by his co-workers. (Especially for his stories and jokes and knowledge. He was a walking google.)

He was tenacious, even though much of what he loved most in life, Mom and traveling and especially reading, were taken from him. My brothers and sisters were impressively supportive of Dad in these last years. Linda seemed to really like him and enjoy his company, (Linda likes and enjoys most people). I'm glad we were able to be there for him, at the end, even if there was probably more we could have done.

I can feel the sadness, just under the surface, but I also feel the inevitability of it. It's a time to reflect.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Our Cabin in the Woods...and an unexpected ending.

Linda and I are headed for a three night, four day vacation at a cabin on the McKenzie river. Far enough away to be away, but not an onerous drive. It's the 29th anniversary of our first date.

I haven't decided yet whether it's going to be a reading and relaxing trip, or if I'm actually going to try to write. I'm going to try to talk Linda into turning off the internet and the T.V. for the whole trip, but not sure if I have the gumption myself.

Anyway, I can already feel myself relaxing, even though we haven't left town yet. I lifting of the spirits. A dropping of the burdens.

While waiting for Linda to come back from a supply run, I started gardening and it was very pleasant. I regret losing another weekend of gardening, but it does give the plants a good start. If I start too early, I might lose some seedlings.

Most the the forget-me-nots didn't survive the winter, but I'm finding little seedlings, so maybe I'll end up with enough plants to transplant into a border again.

Got to the cabin in late afternoon and it started raining. It rained all night. I told the renter that we'd want our money back if they didn't turn off the rain-machine.

The cabin is small but very cosy. We sat and listened to the river and read.

The cabin is right on the river, and the deck is right over the bank. The river is running high and wild, and there is a picture in the bathroom of the 1989 flood, where the waters actually lapped over the deck.

Not completely reassuring to go to bed with the flow running so high and it raining hard.

Woke up Saturday morning and the sun is shining! A few hours of drying off and I think we'll be able to sit on the deck. Meanwhile, it turns out we do have wifi, so I'm of course surfing the net.
We watched Grimm last night, and we'll watch Sherlock on Sunday, and hopefully that is all. (We have satellite, but none of the premium channels). Still did more reading than usually last night, and have already started reading another book this morning.

It cooled off again until late afternoon, when we went for a walk and sat on the deck. I've already finished two and half books since I got here, so I guess my question of reading versus writing is answered. I had an upset stomach yesterday, so didn't stray far from the cabin.

We're going exploring today -- we want to take a picture of the cabin from across the river. What I'd really like to do is take a picture of Linda on the deck from the other side, but first we need to see if that's possible. She's having great fun with her iphone, taking pictures of everything -- I do mean everything in sight.

Weirdly, there isn't another soul up here. There's a dozen cabins, but no people. I mean, I like that, but it's kinda strange since the weather isn't all that bad.

There are some kids having a lightsaber fight across the river -- I had to watch that movement through the trees for a few minutes before I figured out what it was...

It got warm enough for shorts and sandals, and we went driving up to Cougar Lake and up in the hills and walked around. I read three books on this trip.

So, here's where this post takes an odd turn.

We got a call from Bend Villa Court at 5:15 A.M. that Dad had died.

We knew he was declining, and hesitated to take the trip which we scheduled a month ago, but all the siblings said, "Go! Get out of town." And honestly, I didn't expect anything to happen. Dad had been hanging in there a long time.

Last three times Linda and I saw him, he was napping. As we headed out of town, we were told he was napping, so we kept going.

It's weird. I'm not sure if this was fast or slow. His stroke was many years ago, and his physical decline has been steady. Looking back on it, I think the break was losing his front teeth and refusing to do anything about it. And the stomach infection that sent him to the hospital.

We struggled with the decision as a family about moving him out of self-care, but almost immediately after moving, he was unable to move around much without falling. He was bewildered, I could tell. He wanted to go in his sleep, and think that's what happened. (We didn't ask any questions at the 5:15 phone call --not sure that was necessary, but a stupid thing to complain about.)

I'm glad he had 24 hour contact at the end. Linda said, "I knew if we left town this would happen." Apparently, Meghan, the nurse, has said she thought death was 'imminent.'

I was thinking he'd fight his way back, the way he usually did.

It's sad, but not unexpected. He was a good man. I'm still absorbing it.

I think my siblings will mostly take it from here.

A lot to ask, I know.

One things for sure. I underestimated how long it would take my critiquers to finish their reading of the manuscript.

Maybe they haven't started. Who knows?

I think it was a terribly unfair thing to ask of them, now that I remember. It's hard enough for me to do it, without asking others! So I've learned my lesson. I'd hate to lose friends and customers because of it.

Anyway, I've heard from all three, and they all say they are still working on it. I'm not sure if they want me to let them off the hook. I certainly offered, at least one of them.

So we'll give it until whenever they get around to it, and I'll just starting working on the second book again.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Daily paces.

I've decided to keep track of my daily paces.

The goal is to average 10,000 paces a day.

So far, it turns out that on a couch-potato day off, I don't get much past about 3500 steps. On a medium day of doing errands and such, I get to about 6000.

On Wednesday at work, with the new product arriving, I reached 10,000.

On Thursday, without new product, I reached 8000.

Does that mean I work 20% more on Wednesdays? I can tell you, it feels like that. I mean, on Thursday I did a bunch of cleaning and vacuuming and stocking, but I still came in at 2000 less paces.

I didn't sit down at all on Wednesday, and for a very short period of time on Thursday. I've purposely not put a chair that would allow me to sit at my computer, cause I think standing is good for me. So I stand all day, and my guess is that I'm making constant steps in small doses.

So my goal will be to look at the step count after dinner, and go for a walk to reach 10,000.

Pretty modest goal, actually. Inconvenient, but necessary.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Time for the annual FCBD.

This has really turned into a wonderful event. I've told my crew to just have fun with it.

We're starting out with 3 comics per person, which is a little less than in the past, but we've been wiped out the last two FCBD's. You might want to get there in the first few hours.

These are really good comics, created for just this event. Avengers, Star Wars, Batman....the best, plus lots of smaller publishers.

Come on in! We open at 11:00. Till 6:00.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bulletin fodder.

"Bend's Projects to Get a PR Push." Bulletin, 5/4/12.

Government hiring a public relations firm to sell the public on policy issues seems --- wrong.
If the policy has merit, it should stand on those merits. If it doesn't, trying to hustle the public into thinking it has merit is a bit of a con.

I really don't like them spending public funds on advertising.

It would seem to be the job of the government officials to convince us of the merits of their decisions. Not a P.R. firm.


"Commercial Land Sales Show Signs of Recovery." Bulletin, 5/4/12.

When commercial land sells for "50 to 75% lower" than during the boom, should that be termed a "recovery."?


"Tetherow Could Get Hotel." Bulletin, 5/4/12.

I'll believe it when I see it.

"No one knew that 2008 was coming," said Joe Weston..." (Tetherow developer.)

Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.

Lots of people saw it coming. I prepared for it in my business. I started blogging about it in 2006, (go ahead and check, it's in the public record, eh?), and I was far from the first.

I've decided that whenever anyone uses this excuse, they need to be called on it.



"A Judicial Trend in Lending." Bulletin, 5/4/12.

Look, I just don't buy it. Lots of stories online, especially on the local Bend Economy Bulletin Board, about the shrinkage of inventory, the decline of foreclosures, blah, blah, blah.

I'm not going to even try to marshal the evidence, because I know how much overhang we had, and I very much doubt it has been winnowed down much.

I think the whole situation is being manipulated by the banks to a fair thee well. (If I was trying to buy a house, I'd be pissed about the lack of choice in affordable housing.)

I think it will be obvious to everyone when a real recovery takes place, and that it's years down the road.

My personal Killer App.

It's not complex.

Before I went to Baker City last year for my writing trip, I casually mentioned to Linda that perhaps I should get a "cheap and simple" cellphone. I needed for my guys at the store to be able to get ahold of me, if I was going to take longer trips. Linda being the aspirational geek she is, bought me an iphone. Which was a bit of overkill.

She's been jealous for year.

To compensate, she bought herself an ipad.

She unilaterally decided I needed an ipad, too. What I think is really going on, is she wants the new ipad, so she can give me the 'old' ipad and get herself a new iphone at the same time.

So I can see some utility in an ipad, being able to carry it around in my backpack and all.

Meanwhile, I pretty much parked the iphone over the last year. Forgot to carry it mostly.

The recent problems with Dad, and the need to be available, finally impelled me to slip the phone into my pocket and carry it everywhere I go. So there's the killer app -- to make me available to people who need me. The only other thing I tend to use it for is to google stuff while watching T.V.

A lot of technical overkill.

Anyway, Linda technical ambitions overreach her technical skills, and she spent most of yesterday trying to transfer info, and programs, and passwords and all that other stuff, which drives me crazy. Which drives her crazy, and she comes to me for sympathy and, well, I have none.

"Well, you KNOW how I feel," I say, unsympathetically.

I have confidence she'll figure it out eventually. I'm sure I'll end up using the ipad to do some writing. Internet surfing. But, again. It's probably technical overkill.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jigsaw puzzles.

I've ordered 60 jigsaw puzzles to start with.

3/4th of them will go to Linda's store, and 1/4, mostly likely duplicates, will go into my store.

We're getting a roll-up mat for an ongoing puzzle (anyone welcome to contribute) to be displayed on Linda's table. We'll buy a piece of clear plastic to put on top when it isn't being worked on.

Why am I doing this?

I think I like the retro feel of it. Boardgames have proven to be really fun to carry, and who knew? I mean, you'd think electronic games would have completely doomed boardgames, right?

The same retro feel can be attributed to comics, of course. But also to books, and collector cards. All physical objects, none of them beep or flash or bit.

The second reason is that I can have a full product line for a relatively low investment. This is pretty rare in this day and age.

And third, the games are stack-able, and take up vertical rather than horizontal space. This is why I originally tried board games and why I continued to carry boxes of collector cards -- because they are stack-able.

I don't have trouble selling things. I don't have trouble affording them.

I have trouble finding space to show them. So product that is stack-able has an edge over other kinds of product I can carry.

I have to laugh at the suggestions I still get that I take up some horizontally challenging job like having "play space" or having a "coffee shop" or any other harebrained ideas that most bookstores seem to fall for.

It's all about the inventory, baby.

Avoiding the best-seller lists.

I've gone from avoiding the best-seller lists because I knew I couldn't afford them, and because I knew that the mass market had those bases covered to -- actively avoiding the best-seller lists because I'm continuing to see double digit increases in new book sales.

I'm convinced that's happening because, not in spite of, paying no attention to "best-sellers."

I was talking to a customer yesterday about why some products just keep on going, while other products die off.

I said, for a small retailer, the biggest danger isn't online, but the mass market.

I know this runs counter to the common wisdom, but let's look at some of the evidence.

First of all, if you asked me, as an independent book-seller, which would result in higher sales for me -- the disappearance of Amazon, or the disappearance of discounted books in Costco, Walmart and Barnes and Noble, I have zero doubt I would pick the mass market disappearance.

Secondly, of all the product I've had, the two product lines that I've retained the most customers are comics and magic.

Both of these are available online, easily and cheaply.

But both of these have a small presence in the mass market.

Which would seem to prove to me that the Mass Market entry into any of my product lines is what causes the disruptions, not the online. Online in some ways is just a more glorified version of what was always there -- mail order.

It's that "Extra Step" of ordering online and waiting, that allows me to continue to sell product in the here and now. Instead of driving 20 minutes and buying from another local store. (Frankly, they'd be better off buying online, saving the time and gas, but people are pretty unaware of all that, for some reason.)

What the hell. I can extend this reasoning to everything in the store. There are well-established online sites selling Euro boardgames, you can get every single carefully selected and curated offbeat or quirky book I carry online, you can get every toy I have online.

But you can find almost none of it in the local mass market. Therefore I can sell them.

It may be nonsensical, but there it is.

The same is not true the other way around. If you asked the mass market which they'd rather disappear, Small Retail or the Internet, you know which they'd pick. In fact, they'd laugh at the thought that Small Retail was any threat at all.

So I'm cheering for the big old bully Internet to thrash on the old big old bully, the mass market.

April results.

Our tenth straight month of year over year increases. Except for two months during this period that barely beat the previous year, all the rest have been double digit increases, indeed most of them over 20%. This month we were 25% over.

I attribute this mostly to being fully stocked. It's a virtuous cycle -- good sales allow me to carry the good material which result in good sales.

Traditionally, mid-April to mid-June are off season and slow, but there are some things happening that I'm hoping will overcome that this year.

COMICS: Comics are still seeing increases, in this case 21%, even though the New 52 continue to fall off, trending back to the median. But I think they gave the whole industry a boost that is still happening. The Avengers movies probably won't result in increased sales (though I sold some Avengers graphic novels yesterday) but combined with the Free Comic Book Day this weekend, I hope they'll spark some interest.

USED BOOKS: I just started separating these from overall book sales. Continue to surprise me in that they only account for 15% of books sales.

SPORTS CARDS: Down a little this month. A couple of box buyers can impact this category.

CARD GAMES: Up a tremendous amount. 2. 5 times over last year. But I think last year was an anomaly, being so low. Still, Magic continues to sell and we're getting a new wave on Friday, so again, I can hope for a good May.

GAMES: Down about 7%, but still very healthy. I took my focus off a little, but am starting May off with a huge order of product.

NEW BOOKS: Up by 37%. So far this year, we are up 25% overall.

TOYS: Way up, by about 2.5 times. I've made a real effort this year to revive my toys, sports and non-sports cards, anime and manga sales. I had been so focused on New Books and Boardgames, that I let them fall off a little. So far, the Toys have responded to the new attention the most...So far this year, we're up 30%.


I feel like the store is firing on all cylinders. Obviously, I'm delighted that New Book sales continue to increase, that Boardgames are strong, and that my focus on the smaller categories is starting to payoff.

This is exactly the sales level I've been shooting for -- before the boom, and after. During the boom we shot way over this level, but I knew at the time it was a bubble and didn't expect it to continue. To reach this level when the economy hasn't recovered yet is very encouraging.

I see my job right now as building strengths on the strengths, and shoring up the weaknesses.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Horrible and Terrible are the same thing," Tyrion says.

I had horrible, terrible dreams last night. End of the world dreams. Me as an old man chipping at arrowheads while my savage grandchildren play nearby -- type dreams.

I know where they came from: the 4 hour Frontline documentary about the financial meltdown.

It made it clear that nothing has really changed, Wall Street is back to its old (new) tricks, and that another disaster is inevitable. Greece is essentially bankrupt, so to is probably Italy, Portugal, Spain,

Obama blew it by making Geithner is Treasury Secretary. In a nutshell. Apparently, they bonded and thus lies the fate of empires.

Made me want to pull my money out of the stock-market; buy some shotgun shells, a year's worth of canned food, and seed stock.

But -- it also made it clear how extraordinary the lengths to which the government will go to keep the whole edifice intact. I'm thinking they've kicked the can down the road. I'm waiting for a clear sign before I do anything panicky.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Before Watchmen or not Before Watchmen.

A long discussion over on The Beat about the ethics of carrying Before Watchmen.

Alan Moore feels that he was screwed by DC with his original contract, and has been very vocal about DC using the characters that he invented to make money. Especially, The Watchmen. He had his name removed from the movie, for instance.

So there are a few comic shops that are actually refusing to carry the title.

There is also the long history of both DC and Marvel more or less leaving the creators of their money-making titles out of the financial loop. Jack Kirby, being the prime example -- a co-creator with Stan Lee on most of the major characters. (Especially pertinent right now, The Avengers.)

As a retailer, I have to make decisions all the time about what to carry and what not to carry. Certainly, if I believe a comic company has acted badly, it weighs into my decision.

But if were to try to cut every title where the creator was treated unfairly, I wouldn't have a store. Going all the way back the Siegel and Shuster, the creators of Superman, and then on to Jack Kirby, and then Alan Moore. But really, if you get right down to it, just about every company character ever created has made money for the corporations that was not shared with the creators. They signed work for hire contracts, but more to the point probably never expected that one day, a Billion Dollar Movie would be made of the Avengers. A lowly comic book.

I also feel an obligation to my customers. It isn't up to me to make the buying decisions for them. Sure, when I make choices of what to carry and what not to carry, I'm making that decision -- but in the case of a major title, something that will be sold just about everywhere and which will be in the media, it would be a pretty arbitrary decision for me not to carry the product.

I feel badly for Alan Moore, but don't feel that I can decide not to carry what might be one of the most significant events of the year.