Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Handicapping Method of Movie Going.

Was getting ready to leave the store yesterday: "When I've done this, I'm finished."

"What you should do when you say that," Cameron says, "Is say it in Daniel Day Lewis's voice; 'I'm finished.'

"I've never seen THERE WILL BE BLOOD," I said, instinctively realizing that was what he was referring to.


Anyway, I started to explain my Handicapping Method of Movie Going.

You take the baseline Rotten Tomatoes score: 60% positive, makes it a fresh movie.

O.K. Bear with me.

You automatically add 10 points for any horror, science fiction and fantasy movie.

+10 points for action movies.

+10 points for any End of World and/or zombie, vampire, werewolf or other supernatural critters.

So, for instance, Linda and I had just come back from ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER.

Original Rotten Tomatoes score: 35.

So we add +10 points for horror, and +10 points for vampires. That get's us to 55. So we add, say, another +10 for any movie with Lincoln in it, and there we are! (So, I made the Lincoln addition at the last moment, but it's MY handicap.)

Meanwhile, I didn't have to dock -10 points because it was Campy. I hate campy when it comes to most S.F. movies, and dislike it in horror.

-10 for drama.

-10 for romantic comedy.

-10 for sappy.

"Wait a minute," Cameron says. "That means you're saying that any drama is automatically 20 points worse than any horror movie, no matter how bad! There are a lot of bad vampire movies!"

"Yes, but we work from the baseline of the original Rotten Tomatoes score, remember."

"Still, not watching a movie like THERE WILL BE BLOOD is crazy."

"Well, I should have seen that movie, no excuses, it actually fit well into my handicapping # even with the automatic -10. can also add and subtract points for actors, for instance:

Daniel Day Lewis. +10.

Sean Connery. +10

Tom Cruise. -10.

and so on."

Cameron looks skeptical, so I go for the kill. "You could add +10 points for Bruce Campbell, for instance."

"Oh, he's a +30!"

"See! It works for you!"

Anyway, I haven't worked out all the kinks. I know there is a movie coming up that I'm pretty sure I'm going to see, the Abraham Lincoln biopic. It's loaded with points.

Daniel Day Lewis +10.

Steven Spielberg +10.

Abraham Lincoln +10.

Vampires +10.

....well, it's part of the historical record, right?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Beet's 9th floors me every time.

There's a ten thousand person chorus to Beethoven's 9th, choral last movement, over on Naked Capitalism links.

This music never fails to send shivers up and down my spine, my head tingles, my eyes water, I'm totally mesmerized. Every time.

There's a name for this reaction, but I can't remember it. They had a long thread over on Reddit, but I can never find threads there.

Anyway, any time I want to be emotionally moved, all I have to do is put this music on.

"Don't tell anyone, but...."

The store was in pretty good shape when I got back. The last two days haven't been as difficult as I expected, after being away for so long. So, the guys did a pretty good job.

It is a little more disheveled than I like, but pleasantly so. In fact, I think I can allow a small amount of chaos in the store. But that disorder has to come from an original state of order, not from other chaos. Which means, that I have to put it in order.

Fight The Entropy!

I don't believe anyone really understands the "half-inch" rule: which is how I describe the little bits of disorder adding up to an impression of messiness.

Just between you and me, the impression that things are in order is as important as the things actually being in order. Squaring everything away makes people feel like someone is in charge. Just don't tell anyone, O.K.?

Anyway, most all the stores we visited, including the corporate ones, had more things out of place that I would like. Sometimes that just seemed to fit the personality of the workers -- sometimes it was O.K. But that can so easily spin out of control.

So what did I take away from all my visits?

Most of these stores were ordering way more "extra" copies that I do. My guess is that my variety of titles is considerable more extensive than theirs, per foot.

On the other hand, having multiple copies of the same book highlighted can make them look very appealing. So I'm going to try to find a way to do this in my store more often.

I've just ordered a ton of copies of the classic Batman graphic novels: The Long Halloween, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, and others. Going to create a big display near the register, see how that goes.

I've read all these books, and all of them are at the top of the comic field. It's a great time to read them. (I know, I know...I keep saying movies have no effect, but I'm ever hopeful...)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I fear the homogeneity of the bland.

O.K. So yesterday's post may have been a little harsh. But my gentle nudges don't seem to get anywhere.

I've always liked Chuck, and I think the Downtowners mean well, but I simply don't understand their mindset. I'm an outsider, and it gives me an ability to be somewhat critical without fear of consequences that other merchants probably don't have.

Nevertheless, the substance of what I said yesterday still stands.

Thing is, the city already has the power to regulate the displays. Indeed, for 20 years they wouldn't allow anyone to put anything on the sidewalks without a ticket.

I fear that will be the end result of this brouhaha.

Yes, someone having a "garage sale" in front of their store is tacky. But I prefer a downtown that keeps a little of the funk; that has variety, and yes that even includes different levels of status.
I don't want downtown to become all slick and heterogeneous like, for instance, The Old Mill.

Obviously, there are lots of people who prefer that kind of superficial sophistication, but I think it loses some of its humanity.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What are the downtowners thinking?

Wait a minute. The city will insist on walling off access to my business on a regular basis, and closing the streets around my store? But they want to charge me for putting a table of books onto the sidewalk? Or worse, maybe decide my display doesn't meet their standards?

My first thought was, who's complaining? Turns out, it wasn't any customers, it was a downtown store owner that who didn't like the looks of her neighbor's displays.

Hey, if you don't like the looks of your neighbor's display (tires?) go tell them. I'll bet you they'll conform. Don't be a weasel and go to the city council to have the city bureaucracy get involved. Bad idea. Really bad idea.

And make everyone pay. Because of your stupid complaint, we all end up paying an extra 200.00? And the Downtowners are in favor of this? Who's side are they on?

I tell you, when the neighbor can decided what your store looks like, we are no longer a confederation of independent businesses, we are a mall. Suppose someone doesn't think a comic store fits among all the jewelry stores and art galleries? Could they start deciding that?

The worst of it, the freaking Downtowners are in support of this measure, that would cost me 200.00 a year to put a table of books in front of my store.

That's it.

This organization has metastasized into a interfering, blundering mess of dopey merchants. It seems to always take the side of the most prosperous of downtown businesses -- and to ignore everyone else. In all the years since I was roped into being a downtowner against my will (I hereby resign) they have never once even mentioned my business in their newsletter.

Some examples of their overreach: wanting paid parking. Wanting to put camera's on every corner. The endless festivals and closed streets. And now this.

What are the downtowners thinking?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mister Know-it-all.

Well, I may not know it all, but I know something.

I used to be leery of giving advice, not because I didn't think the advice was any good, but because my own business has mostly struggled to make money. What right did I have to give advice? Not that it might not be spot-on advice, because you learn from failure, more than you do from success.

Success can hide things that aren't working. Failure pretty much highlights them. I've done a ton of things wrong, and I've stumbled on a few things right.

The last 8 years or so, we finally became a going concern. Both stores are doing well, especially considering how awful the economy has been for the last 5 or 6 years.... I feel like I know what I'm doing.

(There are things wrong with my store, and I'm aware of some of them and not aware of others; but space has limited my options. The trade-off is: Long-term presence in a vibrant downtown, but limited space. Or a leap into the unknown, leaving the above for more space. I've chosen the former because of where I am in my career. So, yeah. There are lots of things that can be improved in my own store....)

Anyway, on our travels, we visited a bunch of shops. We'd always introduce ourselves as "two bookstore owners."

The lack of curiosity on the part of the 95% of the people was astounding. To me, utterly inexplicable.

Here's the thing: If you walked into my store and told me you owned a store of any kind, I'd immediately start picking your brain, asking you questions.

Most of these people didn't even respond. Not so much as a "where are you from?"

I can tell you that it only took a minute or two to see what most of what these guys were doing right and doing wrong.

"In YOUR opinion, Mister K.I.A."

No, really. Obvious stuff they were doing wrong. Either they had lived with it for so long, they didn't see it. Or they just didn't know it. Or -- in the worst cases -- it was obvious they didn't care any longer to improve.

There was one store that I told Linda after we left: "Give me $200.00 for two days work, and I'd completely transform that store into a nice place -- I'm make it look fresh and vibrant. Give me $50.00 for a couple of hours, and I could improve it tremendously...."

It was mostly ergonomics -- the efficient use of space. But it was also marketing -- what to display, and where, and how much. And so on. Just a little jiggling, a little tightening, a little freshening up.

When I walked into the store, I thought it was dying. I thought it was old and tired. But I looked around for a few minutes, and the store actually had a lot of good inventory. The basic setup wasn't that bad. It just "felt" old. All the basic ingredients were there for a good store, but they'd set up a store that gave the opposite message.

Ah, well. Like I said, most of these folk didn't even want to chat, much less be open to advice from a stranger. In every place, there were at least 1 or 2 things I could have told them that would have helped their operations. I'm sure of it.

What a shame.

I have to remind myself that if anyone comes in the door and looks like they know what they're doing and are willing to give advice, that I should be open and receptive.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Where have all the truckers gone....

The lead story on U.S.A. Today is that there is a shortage of truckers.

Which is pretty synchronic to my two week road trip. You couldn't help but notice truck after truck with "Drivers Wanted" signs on the back.

"You'd think with the unemployment rate, that people would be clamoring for those jobs..." I said.

But I'd read somewhere that some employers were finding it hard to find people who didn't have criminal records and/or could pass the drug test and/or fill out the minimal employment applications and/or pass a credit check.

It also turns out it also costs like 6K to go to driver's school and you have to be 21.

But the biggest reason, according to the article, seems to be -- it's too much work and you have to be away from home too long.

Another job for immigrants?

Some like it cold.

For Pete's Sake, there is no right or wrong answer to where one lives. (For H. Bruce's Sake?) It's all pretty subjective.

I've been watching Househunters for a number of years, and not once when they go back to revisit the house do the owners say, "Damn. I should've bought House #1." Nope, they're always delighted with the choice.

--- The choice --- they --- already --- made ---.

So we rationalize, at least those of us who have a choice.

I think H. Bruce's mistake is that he decided to leave Bend, but then -- for whatever reason -- stayed in Bend, and once the rationalization was stripped away all he could do was find fault.

Meanwhile, traveling.

I think where one travels and how long is also a choice where there is neither right or wrong. There are people who will tell you have to travel, just like there are people who will tell you how to eat, how to dress, how to drink wine.

But -- not-- traveling is also an option. Non-adventurous travel is an option.

I was thinking the other day about how I've sort of eased into the normal. I've always loved routine. I'm a pretty steady guy. (Witness the blog I've written everyday for 5.5 years; the wife I've had for 29 years, the business I've owned for 28 years, the hometown I came back to.)

Why is that acceptable to me? To "ease into the normal?" Because if you've ever spent a significant amount of your life feeling like the "other" the "outcast" it's a nice place to be. I feel like I could go off-center pretty quickly, go off the rails. I'm protective of myself.

But I think this gives me a platform to be adventurous in the creative parts of my life. To take business risks (this is the part of me that has always been more thrill-seeking) , to garden, and after a number of years trying to create my stable platform, to continually write.

Meanwhile, I have a stack of Bulletin newspapers 8 inches high to catch up to...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hey guy! Quit waving that beer arou....oh, damn.

Because it's expected of me, I'm going to do my yearly lament about street closures. Certainly not a "tirade" these days, because I've given up any hope that things will ever change. I make sure I have other people working at my store on these days, and accept them like I would accept a hailstorm or something.

Still, I'll keep pointing out the emperor has no clothes, because -- well, the emperor is butt naked.

These street closures don't help business. Certainly not on the days they are held, and I've seen absolutely no evidence they help on the days they aren't being held. And it isn't just me.

I know it doesn't stand to reason. But there are lots of things in business that don't stand to reason, and yet there they are. If you examine the evidence -- it just ain't true.

For example: The massive success of the superhero movies must mean I'm doing really well selling comics...right? Actually, they have zero effect. This was a surprise at first, but since we've gone through year after year of blockbusters with the same limp effect, well -- there you have it.

Evidence -- Pshah!

It's a harmless illusion mostly. It probably doesn't hurt that people think that. It might hurt someone who is inspired to open a comic shop, I suppose. Or a new shop who over orders comics in anticipation, but the knowledge is pretty much out there among the comic community, so fair warning.

Anyway, I've detailed all the reasons I don't think street closures help business. Every spring for the last 6 years -- look it up. (I don't think it is just my business --but I can only prove my own business.) Admittedly, they don't hurt quite as much as they used to, because I've tried hard to mainstream my inventory, so I suspect it these street closures now hurt me more like they hurt other downtown business, instead of the extreme effect they used to have...

I've asked around a lot, and my opinion that these events don't help business is widely held, but rarely talked about. No one wants to rock the boat.

So, anyway, I got the sales total for Saturday, and it was mediocre. Less than almost every other day this week (and we're talking weekdays versus weekend.)

Then it occurs to me! They are holding the Bite of Bend every *other* year, alternating with the Old Mill district.

So I look up the same Saturday as last year's Bite of Bend, and we did ---nearly twice as well last year without the street closure. (I usually find the same kind of differential when I compare street-closure summer weekends with weekends before or after, very similar results.)

Evidence -- whateeeeeever, right?

Because you see, when summer comes, the streets are full of shoppers. Normally.

Unless you distract them. Unless you put a beer in their hand and fill the street with revelers. Then they tend to, you know, revel.

Today, the street was full of revelers and nibblers, bless their bloated little tummies.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Candide's return.

By the time we got to Cheyenne, we were ready to get home. We didn't really explore at all, though it looked like they had a grand old railroad station.

Stopped in Rawlins, Wy. for lunch, and there were antelope grazing in the middle of town. Had some grand old Victorian style houses. Supposedly, there was a bookstore called Off The Beaten Track, but when we stopped and asked, the antique lady just shook her head: "They've been gone for 15 years! How did you know about them?" They're listed on the internet. "They need to fix that internet..."

We got gas in Rock Springs, and I have to say, it was by far the ugliest town we'd seen on our entire trip. We drove through a very rundown downtown, were I was astonished to find a "comic" shop filled from top to bottom with action figures; old comics and sports cards, and a ton of other pop culture stuff; I felt like I had stepped into a store from 15 years ago.

We were told there was a bookstore in Green River, so we stopped there at the tourist center and contemplated going through the Flaming Gorge area, but it would've added 3 hours to the trip.

(We were constantly tempted by sights that would have added 2 to 3 hours, but if we'd planned just a tad better, some of them would've been achievable. Next time.)

It was a very nice town, though we went on a wild goose chase trying to find their bookstore.

Here's the thing I've learned on this trip; locals are useless when it comes to knowing about their own towns. Distances and populations are far beyond them. They can't give simple instructions. But worse -- they don't seem to know whether bookstores or comic shops even exists.

Drove on to Ogden. (which I proceeded to call Provo the whole time we were there...)

Nice little town. About the size of Bend, but has Weber State and an interstate. Had two comic and game stores, but only one small paperback exchange type used bookstore. There was a Hastings, and I went in to see their comic section, which was actually pretty extensive. No independent bookstore....we could find. (Again, this is after asking around... see above about locals cluelessness.)

I could see living there.

Drove into Boise, and after stumbling around for awhile, found the 'riverwalk' which was very pleasant. We were right next to Boise State, so there were some nice sights to see. I think maybe Bend would look very similar (minus the co-eds) on a summer day; lots of people walking the paths by the river; but then again, we live here. I tend to try to find quieter spots. Boise is nice.

I could see living there.

Drove on into Ontario, and it was like we were home. It just felt different somehow. The people are nicer, the signage is better, the sights are familiar. (Sorry, Bruce. I know this is provincialism, but it's the way I feel.)

For our entire two week trip, I don't think the mid-day temperatures ever dropped much below 90 degrees. I remember getting out of the car in Albuquerque and feeling like I stepped into a blast furnace.

It was near 100 degrees most of the time we were Oklahoma. (Hotter than usual for this time of year.)

So, ironically, the only time we saw cloud cover and or lower temps or rain was -- yesterday, when we were met with a deluge just east of Bend.

It was refreshing.

It feels so good to be home. Our cat couldn't decide if she was out of her mind happy to see us, or angry at us. The garden has bloomed in our absence.

Traveling makes you appreciate what you got. I can't really imagine it as a lifestyle, like all the turtle people we saw on the road. There were times when I looked into a hotel lobby and saw nothing but old couples -- obviously they're the folk that have the money and the inclination and the time to do it. But, even though I joke about joining the "old folk tribe" I don't feel much like them.

I've decided that I don't like the weight I'm at. When I'm home, I'm either in a big fluffy bathrobe or dressed. But in those motel rooms, I saw a different sides of myself. So I'm going to drop the 15 or 20 pounds I "let" myself gain. Also get in some walking exercise for sure.

There is no doubt whatsoever that flying is actually a cheaper option. But then, the trip itself was pretty much the point this time.

I found that Linda indulges my whims maybe a little too much. I'd find myself thinking out loud and or making a suggestion, and she'd take it as a command. Hard thing to correct, because then you get into -------

Sorry. You say you're sorry too much. Sorry. Quit saying you're sorry! I'm sorry that you think I say sorry too much.

----- type territory. We were pretty good about most things, and only lost our tempers a few times when we were lost in finding our motels.

Even though we pretty much only touched the surface along the way, even that much gives some perspective on Bend. As I mentioned before, I'm not in a hurry to want an Interstate in Bend anymore, because they're ugly. I also wasn't terribly impressed with some of the industrial areas we saw. Bend is a tourist area -- so maybe it's cross purposes to wish for industrial growth.

There are a number of towns I could see living in -- if I had to. But why would I? I'm already living in the best town in the best state in the best country in the whole world!

Friday, June 22, 2012

I don't think I want to know...

Getting my coffee outside the motel office, and there is a conclave of maids.

"How are you feeling today?" One them asks another.


"Well, I know you weren't feeling too well yesterday. Don't worry, we're going to have someone else do THAT ROOM today."

"Oh. Good."

"Just remember to flush the toilet before you do anything else...."

"Yeah, but that doesn't always work. You'd think they've had heard there is such a thing as indoor plumbing."

"Wellllll....let's do it."

So I'm following the maids down the long hallway. They're marching like the hero team in an action movie.

"That was an interesting conversation..." I venture.

They all turn and look at me. When they see I'm just curious, they start to smile.

"Is it really that bad?" I ask.

"Oh, I could tell you stories..." the ringleader says. "People are disgusting."

"I don't think I want to know," I says. "But....can't you just refuse service?"

She throws out her arms. "Nope."

"Boises's Only Condom Shop!"

The sign reads "O!Zone! Boise's Only Condom Shop!"

"Wait...wait!" I say, as we drive by.


"I want to go in!"


"I want to ask them: "Are there any more condom shops around here?"

Linda keeps driving. I look them up when I get the motel; they used to be called, "Rainbow Rubbers." Heh.

Is this a thing? Am I being provincial?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tricks of the road.

(NOTE: these are delayed entries, about a trip we have taken.)

A short one, because we're on the road home.

Lessons learned. Get coffee the night before, and warm it up in the morning.

Less clothes -- all these places have laundry.

Don't sweat the noisy kids and dogs in motels -- they'll settle down by the time you go to bed.

When give a choice between a 100.00 room or an 80.00 room, get the 100.00 room. Or a 80.00 room versus 60.00 or a 120.00 room versus a 100.00. This ratio seems to hold true, and the extra 20.00 is worth it.

Get directions to the motel BEFORE you enter the town.

Linda and my timelines are different. She gets up 2 hours before me, and goes to bed 2 hours before me.

Do more planning, next time, but also leave more room to change. I'm thinking we might risk not making reservations, except for weekends and holidays.

Bring a swimsuit.

Take just ONE book -- especially since a feature of our travels is that we stop at bookstores. I started with 4 books, and am coming home with 16 books.

Any others? This is just the surface.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bend does not SUX redux.

This traveling around has reaffirmed my appreciation for Bend.

With one important caveat. It helps to have money. You need to either bring it here, or have a job already in place, or be able to truly finance a business.

Fortune Magazine has just named Bend the "best" mountain town retirement location in the U.S.A.

Well, sure. If you have the money to move here and enjoy it. (Fortune thinks Bend is "affordable" but that's a relative term and I think means affordable to people who can afford that kind of thing. See the below paragraph about rents in Hastings, Ne. Now THAT's affordable.)

That still makes us a retirement and tourism center, and that still means most of the jobs around here will be in the minimum wage range.

Just so's you understand that.

At the same time, I still have to call B.S. on the KTVZ story on how Northwest Crossing is leading a recovery in housing. An increase of 11 more houses built last month in Bend isn't very significant to me. The article is basically an anecdotal story promoted by local real estate interests.

Those guys are wearing me down with their remorseless boosterism. But I'm still going to call B.S. until I see some real change in the statistics.

There was a used bookstore and a new bookstore in Hastings, which at 25K pop. is like the fifth largest town in Nebraska. On main street is Prairie Books (great name). They've been in business for 37 years, though they've moved a number of times. (They were in a mall that has become a 'dead' mall.) It was a cozy place, with a store parrot named Dickens.

Thing is -- the owner said, nothing much has changed since he started. They didn't see a boom or a bust. The unemployment rate is nil, and the agribusiness is doing well. The other thing, is his rent is exactly what I paid in Bend-- 30 years ago. His space is the same as Linda's store, but he is paying 1/4th as much. I am paying 6 times what he's paying per foot.

Sure, I probably get more foot traffic, but not THAT much more foot traffic. Rents in Bend are too damn high!

We're currently in Cheyenne, Wy. , the state capital and the biggest 'city' in the state, with 60K pop. They also are an intersection of not one, but two interstates. (The trucks moving around all night make that pretty clear.)

I've always try to point out in this blog that business would be better for me if we had both a interstate and a four-year college. But it always sounded a little lame, especially the lack of interstate part.

This trip has shown me that, if anything, I was underestimating the impact of the interstate business. There are a TON of people on these roads -- and even if they are just popping into town to fill up with gas and goodies, it must represent an tremendous amount of outside cash.

These 60K towns like Flagstaff and Cheyenne seem to have way more road infrastructure and enclaves of business than 80K Bend. (Then again, that may be one of the reasons Bend is so attractive.)

Finally, even if the "green" part of Oregon is mostly on the other side of the mountains, we do have our green forests and mountains; and it just feels way more verdant than these mega-miles of flat and dry and hot countrysides. (Or spread out and frankly pretty unattractive miles and miles of houses and strip malls in Oklahoma City.)

Flagstaff and Santa Fe are attractive locations, but Bend feels cleaner, more vibrant, without the snob appeal of Santa Fe, or the industrial feel of Cheyenne or Flagstaff. In other words, I still think Bend has it over all the places we have visited.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Next time I'm flying.

We planned our trip back to Bend on Interstates, most of the way. We'll get home one day sooner, overall, and most of the days will be at least a third less time on the road. Still a long trip, but...

Those detours into the the Grand Canyon and Zion and Santa Fe and so on were very time-consuming, but that's the way you have to do it, I guess.

We headed north from Oklahoma City, into Kansas and then into Nebraska.

When they talk about the cornfields of Nebraska, they ain't kidding. Miles and miles and miles of them. There are occasional farmhouses and barns, but I figure they're not the real farmers here, because every small town seems totally corporate -- hell, the signs and logo's alone signal that there is some major agribusiness behind all those fields of corn.

It has its own beauty.

I think I've changed my mind about the Interstates -- up to now, I thought the side roads and highways were more interesting, but there's something really great about putting your car into an 80 mile an hour cruise control and eating up the miles. (Toll roads -- what's with that?)

Gobbling up the gas, too. Which is mostly in the 3.50 range. These drivers seem more likely to stick to the speed limit, but don't signal.

We'll be well into Wyoming tomorrow, so should start seeing some mountains. Unless we're too far south.

This is a big freaking country, and traveling 8 or 10 hours a day really drives that home. A jaunt to Portland or Eugene ain't nothing. Even a trip to Seattle or San Francisco doesn't seem as daunting.

I'm pretty tired -- last night I slept the sleep of the dead. I think leaving Toby and Lisa deflated both of us a bit. I can always see the excitement in Linda when she's going to see her boys -- sometimes weeks in advance, and I can also see the letdown when we're headed the other direction. Based on last night, the same thing must happen to me a bit.

It was a good thing to do. But next time I'm flying.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Checking out the comic/book stores.

I've visited a number of comic, book, and game stores in OKC.

Some of them are semi-corporate, and I have nothing to say about them.

The others are all different from each other; indeed, I'm amazed by the variety of approaches.

But before I go any further, I think it's a shame how little knowledge each of these stores have of each other. The information isn't meant to be misleading, I'm sure, but is so off the mark that it might as well be. Don't they care to know?

So one guy tells me, no one is really doing graphic novels, when I've just visited two stores that were doing a pretty good job of them, and another store says that no one is doing boardgames and the next store I find is doing boardgames pretty well, and so on.

I guess my advice is -- check for yourself. Don't take the other guy's word for it. (I think online reviews are even more useless -- not only is there the usual misinformation, but there is also a good chance that there might be intentional misinformation...)

I wonder if OKC just has a different attitude. For instance, there were several card shops along the way, which amazes me. The shop we saw here was talking about all the "valuable" cards they were getting -- which is just not a language feel comfortable using these days. It had stacks and stacks of Yugi Oh boxes, also. (I might sell through one a year, or something.)

The game stores look pretty normal. Tables out for people to play. The snacks and guys hanging around. Again, not my thing. I'm really not the right age for this, frankly. Just one of those things.

Almost all these stores had extra room, by my standards. Unused space. Most of them were untidy, and had entire sections that were complete messes. They seem more casual than my store. There is a certain appeal to that, I suppose. The rents have to be pretty cheap for them to waste that much space, that's all I can figure.

Came across a bookstore that was transitioning to a comic shop -- (kind of going in the opposite direction as me) -- said they used to be 70% books, and now they are 70% comics.

All the stores were full of material that I've not seen before. Here I am, thinking I have most of the significant stuff, and yet here are stores filled with new titles. Which shows, I guess, just how many good books there are in the world. Good titles -- things I'd like to have.

To me, these store don't seem -- I can't describe it exactly -- but something like "efficient" use. They have many copies of the same titles -- both comics and graphic novels. I tend to keep one or two copies around of everything, and then try to keep on top of them, reordering immediately.

But some of these stores had half a dozen copies of many titles, 10 or 15 extra comic issues (I tend to only 4 or 5.) It makes those books all the more noticeable. But it feels loose, sloppy, to me. They have way more face-out titles.

Maybe I'm doing it wrong. Because it does look pretty good when there are stacks of books, face out. Instead of one of everything, spine out.

But I'm not sure I have any real choice. The space I have is the space I have.

I can't second guess myself too much, since we're doing pretty well. I chose to carry five or six full product lines, instead of one or two like most of the stores I'm visiting, and I do like the variety of chances it gives me to sell something. Again, I'm located where I'm located and that dictates what I sell.

But there is a sense of prosperity to having those stacks of the same book. I'll have to think about maybe going heavy on a few titles every month, especially ones I know I'm going to end up selling anyway. Try harder to find face-out spaces. Not sure how I can accomplish that, though, without removing a product line or two.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Every couple should have to travel a week or two before they get married. You really find out the different ways of dealing with stress.

What's interesting about Linda and me is -- when we first got together, if we visited a large city, I would get crazy stressed if we got lost. Our solution, eventually, was to let Linda drive in the cities, and for me to try to navigate. Linda used to have the attitude that, if we get lost, we'll we just get to see another part of the city.

Things appear to have completely switched in the last 28 years. Now I'm completely calm if we get lost, and Linda freaks out. She trusts maps, I trust my general directional sense. Better than both is a program on her ipad that gives us specific instructions from wherever we currently are at. We were using my iphone for that (me being the navigator) but that stops working if the radius of the map is too big. The ipad gives us a much bigger, more readable map, so we'll be sure to use that from now on. But I'll be the driver now, and Linda the co-pilot...

My wife hadn't much liked the look of Oklahoma City, so I was pleasantly surprised. It was greener than I expected.

At little detour here -- almost every state we've gone through had nice decorative features in their overpasses and bridges. Art work, or nice colors, or designs. Why doesn't Oregon do this?

So we drove straight from Amarillo to OKC. (Lisa says they call it OKC.) Checked in, and Lisa came by an hour or so later and took us to Toby's new restaurant where he is Executive Chef. It is in the old downtown which is in the midst of being gentrified. It was also just a couple of blocks from where the Thunder were playing, but Toby had a private parking space, heh.

The restaurant looks a long way from being finished, but the soft opening is in a couple of weeks. They were having a tasting later in the evening, and to watch the game, but Linda and I decided we couldn't stay up that late. We wandered around the construction site, and I admit it was pretty damn expensive looking. Garish almost.

Lisa assured us, that it was more or less the "Dallas" look. Subtle it was not. Bright and shiny and golds and silvers and neon and -- pretty over the top, but apparently not for a splashy nightclub.

To our great surprise, the owners let Toby loose for most of Friday (apparently, the restaurant part of the operation is the only part that is on schedule). Toby tends to let his employers work him to death, so finds it hard to get away. We went to see PROMETHEUS, and then later Toby grilled us some steaks at his house. They have four freakin' dogs running around, (2 hounds that are theirs, and two they were babysitting.) Watched the first episode of ROME at their house, by which time Toby was nodding off.

Today, Lisa is going to take us around to the bookstores and comic shops she knows about, which is something Linda and I do on these trips. Toby says he's getting most of Sunday off, too, so we'll see what we do that day.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Texas truckstops have cool stuff.

Checked out downtown Sante Fe. Which was every bit as tourist trappy as I thought. We asked one jeweler how many jewelry stores there were, and he said, "I think a dozen." My mouth dropped, but before I could object two ladies in the store looked astonished, but said mildly, "I think there are MORE than that." Hell, there are that many on every street!

Anyway, it was actually very nice and scenic, and we managed to get there about an hour before the hordes of tourists showed up. Linda bought a small piece of jewelry from a gypsy. (Well, he acted and talked like a gypsy -- the store next door had Native American clerks. The massive amounts of jewelry -- I'd think you need to really know what you were doing before you splurged.) Again, the nicely turned out and beautiful young women, next to tons of old and fat tourists, and young families and what looked like left-over hippies.

I thought it might be snobby, but it was all right. Besides, we just seem to blend in with the old people tribe. My brother wants to move here after retirement, which I can sort of understand. Because of all the new construction and because of the angle of the interstate coming in from the West, we drove right by the town at first. We joked they didn't want to be found.

Never ask young locals where anything is, they simply don't know. Asked a barrista at the first bookstore we went to, if there were any "used bookstores" and he said, "No." We then found and visited four, just in the general vicinity. They were all the same -- in small houses with bookfilled rooms, mostly hardcover, mostly rare or literary, mostly non-genre, mostly seemingly barely hanging on. (I can't understand not having at least a shelf or two of paperback mysteries and S.F.)

Last couple of days haven't been as long. (Strange, when 6 and 7 hours road trips seem short.)
We passed through Gallup N.M., which was all Native American from all appearance and the downtown was full of Indian jewelry shops, pawn shops, and pay day loan places. By the way, I never realized that Az. and N.M. played up the Native American angle quite so much, at least on the main highways...

Headed toward Amarillo, straight flat shot. Stopped at a truckstop that was full of touristy junk. Cheap junk, as opposed to all the expensive junk we were finding downtown. And fireworks. It appealed to my 12 year old self, and I bought some really cheap -- well -- junk.

I hadn't really thought about the time-differences. It's two hours ahead, which means that I have to check out of the motels at about the time I would usually just get going. I'm testing the waters a little by going to bed early, which is always dangerous because I tend to wake up way, way too early.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kevin Durant should be a Blazer.

We checked out downtown Flagstaff, which again struck me as very Bend like, with a Southwest flavor of course. A bit more new-agey, maybe. Also checked out Bookman's, which I had actually heard of. My comment to my wife was "This is an indy store that has gotten out of control!"

Then we were on our way.

So we check into our motel room in Santa Fe, and there is all kinds of hootin' and hollerin' in the room next door.

I poke my head out the door, thinking teenagers and there are two rooms with open doors with a bunch of middle-aged people being loud and boisterous. It's 8:30, but I'm thinking, "Maybe they're just getting started..."

So I go down to the desk and ask if there is another room available if we have to move, and the clerk says there is one in another part of the motel, but why?

"Can't you hear that?" I ask in disbelief? "Come out into the hallway..."

So we go out into the hallway and there are some older ladies drifting toward us and I'm saying, "Is it bothering you too?"

They say, "What?" and immediately I know I've stepped in it. "Are you talking about the hollering?"


"We were supposed to get the conference room. We're Oklahomans and we're watching the basketball game..."

"Ohhhhhh!" I say. "So you'll be done, midnight?"

"Oh, come join us! We got pizza and we're just cheering our team."

By now, I'm feeling guilty I ever complained..."Well if the Blazers hadn't drafted Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant, we wouldn't have this problem..."

She just looks at me blankly.

"It's O.K., " I say. "I just didn't know what was going on. We're just really tired and we're just taking it easy."

Anyway, I haven't heard any rebel yells for awhile, so ... maybe they've settled down.

Or, the Thunder are losing...

(Turns out, they got the conference room...)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Zion and Grand Canyon day trip.

On the way out of Sunnydale, we dropped by the bookstore, then drove through the main road of Zion Nat. Park. I think we were early enough in the morning to miss the worst of the crowds, and it was a Monday, but it was still packed with people. I don't go to the wilderness to see people.

But we weren't in the wilderness, we were on the main road. There was a ghost moon over the cliffs and we tried our best to get pictures of it, and pointed it out to other people (who just looked at us strange.) So many types of people and languages.

The cliffs were magnificent. Thing is, the landscapes outside the park are pretty fabulous too, but they are like the minor leagues compared to the major leagues. But you know what? We stopped at a little hollow on the way out of the park, and it was beautiful and quiet and peaceful. A flowering shrub with a butterfly, a dry wash with liquid rocks, lizards playing peekaboo. Much more satisfying in some ways than the massive cliffs.

We hit the junction between Bryce and the Grand Canyon, decided we could fit in both and turned toward Bryce. Realized we were almost out of gas, and turned back to the intersection. In that short mile, I had second thoughts, and we decided on doing just the Grand Canyon.

Thank goodness. We wouldn't have gotten to our motel until midnight, if we'd tried. We got to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. My memory is a little vague, but the North Rim seems more spectacular than the South Rim, and by all accounts it's less crowded.

I walked the path out to the giant pinnacle that hangs over the canyon. Amazing. A little scary. I'm so impressed that they don't put guardrails everywhere. I guess they figure if you're crazy enough to go off the path, a pox on your head. I didn't have the courage to climb the rocks to the very top, but stuck to the path.

Then we drove on out.

Found out, because Linda is over 62, that we can buy a single 10.00 pass for life. They sure are nice to us old folks. (Too nice -- we get all the goodies.) Also -- when did I join the Old Persons Tribe? Really. Falling into conversations about "where you from" and "where you headed" and "which kids are you visiting."

Anyway, after yesterday's feel of a rush, I asked Linda if we could get going later today, maybe even the check-out time at 11:00 so I could decompress.

Flagstaff is a nice town, what I've seen of it. A bit like Bend, I think. (Cinder buttes and pines.) It's actually smaller, which surprised me -- I think because the interstate makes it look more developed. As soon as we check out, we're going to look for bookstores, then a drive to Santa Fe.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

No pressure, babe.

Learning some traveling tips the hard way.

For one, you never know what kind of motel you're going to get until you get there. Pictures are useless, online descriptions are vague. And each motel has it's own quirks.

We stay at the Comfort/Quality Inn chain, which isn't the cheapest, but not the fanciest. We get about every third night free, on average. One common denominator is that I try to avoid the big cities, instead booking in the smaller town just outside...

First night, the motel in Fernly was a good half hour past Reno, which was all right by me. Our room was the closest to the train tracks. It was fine, but I didn't sleep very well. Thankfully, I was well rested before we left.

Second night, in Boulder City, was the one night we shared a king-sized bed. There was a bar next door blaring mariachi music late, but once the fan in the room got turned on, it was fine. A step-down in Quality from the other motels. I slept fine, but woke to find Linda sleeping on the floor. She was worried her jerking leg would wake me up. (Anyone who thinks 'restless leg syndrome' isn't real, doesn't have it...) I told her, I would've informed her if it was bothering me, but she gets paranoid about it.

Third night, we show up in Springdale, right outside Zion park, and find that it's like Sisters, only more so. Very high end but touristy shops. But the place we stay at is also a camping/RV place and I'm thinking, "oh, oh." But it was good-- very nice, new room and very quiet.

In planning the trip, I dropped a thread. I had intended to stay at least two nights in the general vicinity of Zion, the Grand Canyon and Bryce. But somehow got distracted by Linda's sudden strong desire to go over Wolf's Creek Pass -- she was told about it by a friend and had never heard the song about the runaway truck with the chickens and was tickled by it. Anyway, I ended up booking a room in Durango, Co. the night after Springdale, but last night I started adding up the driving hours and it came to at least 11 hours -- not counting any time we might want to actually look at Zion or the Grand Canyon.

I tried to cancel, but the online wouldn't let me. Linda told me to ask at the desk, and they called the other motel for me and got my reservation canceled, no penalty. Phew. Booked a room in Flagstaff, instead, which is more like 6 hours, which gives us a few hours to actually look at the sights.

Still hooked into going on to Santa Fe the next night, however. So I basically dropped an entire day in the planning. (No Wolf's Creek Pass, sorry Linda.)

How do you drop a day? Well, planning the trip is kind of stressful for me and Linda, so I think we just want to get the basics out of the way and never go back and revisit our plans. Plus national maps make the distances look achievable, whereas if you google the distances they are extreme. I'm torn by a desire to plan everything, but the fear that we'll get someplace and not find a nice place to stay.

Meanwhile, another little tip I've decided on: shower every morning. Sometimes it feels a little inconvenient, strange shower controls and all -- but it really starts the day fresh. And stock a little coffee the night before -- just warm it up in the micro. I'm sure as we keep going, I'll learn more tricks.

I drive Linda crazy because I'm so slow in the mornings -- I never seem to really get going until 10:00 or 11:00 and she's raring to go at 8:00. But she realizes that I'm a mess if she doesn't let me acclimate.

At the same time, I'm up reading for a couple hours after she crashes. At home, it doesn't seem all the noticeable, but on trips... So here it is, 9:30 in the morning, but there is a time shift and my body tells me it's 8:30, which is coffee sipping newspaper reading time, and Linda is literally waiting in the car outside listening to a tape! No pressure!

Anyway, the trip itself: We got out of Boulder City and went to the Hoover Dam. Thing is, the dam isn't all that impressive when you're actually on it. You have to climb up to the bridge that hangs over it to get the full picture. So we drudged on up, and it was interesting to me again to see all the different sizes and shapes and colors and cloths and hats of all the Americans. We are a diverse culture, folks.

Then we took the "scenic route" through Lake Mead National Recreation area, and ended up spending most of the day there. Very impressive -- the hills and colors. But it meant we didn't get the Springdale until late. Just as well, turns out Zion costs 25.00 to get into, and we would've had to go in and come back again and then go through again.

So that trip is for today, along with a jaunt to the North Rim of the Canyon. An hour, probably, at each place -- because, really, once you're actually there and soak in the sight, you don't really need much more than that unless you have some activity planned. The irony is that we probably spent 2 or 3 hours in the lesser sights of Lake Mead, but we don't regret it.

Tonight, Flagstaff, Az.

All right, Linda. I'm coming, I'm coming! Hold your horses!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Big time gambler.

NOTE: The events of this trip are already passed, but I'm posting them in the same sequence...)

If anything, the trip from Reno to Las Vegas was longer than the previous day. I take it back about all Great Basin Roads looking the same; this leg was all desert, real true desert. Started seeing what I assume was Joshua Trees about halfway there, and they looked like a crowd of zombies coming down the hill.

Before we left Fernly, I found a little mini-casino inside a grocery store, so with the bemused help of a clerk, I activated one of the slot machines ("where's the one's with the arms?" Linda asks. "Those haven't be around for a long time.") Played a random game that I actually kept winning quarters on, so got maybe 15 plays out of my dollar. The other slot, a poker machine, I lost 4 straight. Was in a Subway in a small town on the way out, and talking to an old guy, and he said, "As long as you're spending money in Nevada..." "I did!" I said without irony. "I blew 2.00!"

All along the roads there are large deciduous trees of a type I couldn't identify. We asked an old guy in a Subway, and he identified them as cottonwoods. I just don't believe we have a whole lot of those in Central Oregon. All kinds of small towns that I had never heard of. At first, I keep seeing these population signs that seemed to be saying there were 4000 people or so, but I couldn't see it. I assumed the rest of the town was over the hill, or something.

Then I finally realized that all the city signs in Nevada give the the elevation, not the population, so that became a joke the rest of the day. "Hey, look! This town has 4000 people, too!"

We are glad we took such big chunks out of our trip in the first two days. It will give us more time to linger in the national parks, Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon. But it turns out there were plenty of things to see along the way if we'd wanted to. The Modoc National Lava Beds, for instance. We came within just a few miles of Death Valley. (The temperature in the first part of the day was low sixties, but was 96 degrees at 6:00 at night be time time we dropped a few thousand feet.)

We got to Las Vegas around 7:00, on our way to Boulder City and decided we couldn't pass through without looking at some of the bigger casinos.

So we drove through the old part, with the Nugget and Binions, and slowly made our way toward Wynn's and the others -- we didn't see them all, but enough to get the overwhelming flavor.
Where does one start? It's pretty overwhelming. So dozens of young ladies wearing next to nothing on the street, and I finally figured that there was some kind of pirate 'booty' contest going on or something. Either that, or styles have gone a lot farther than I was aware of.

About halfway through, I threw pride out and just start out and out gawking. Richness and utter down and out poverty, all colors and shapes of people, it's hard for an introvert to even make sense of.

So, it's getting dark and we turn around to get back on the highway. And we're stuck for over an hour, creeping along, and by now it's nearly 9:00 on a Saturday night in early summer in Las Vegas. Great planning.

Still, I'm glad we did it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer shows are arriving, winter shows are ending.

Was asked in comments if I've seen Prometheus.

Not yet, but I really want to see it.

I've avoided all reviews and trailers, so don't tell me anything!

I won't be going to 3-D Imax here in Bend though. Not worth it. The Imax effect seems minimal for paying 16.00 per ticket.

I've heard stories that some theaters aren't using bright enough lights, and it just seems unfocused and not very sharp.

Anyone else feeling that?

Meanwhile, did it seem to anyone else that True Blood has jumped the shark? I mean for a jumped-shark-in-the-first place kind of show.

No story development, new and random characters, gratuitous nudity and violence, (not that I'm complaining), abrupt story shifts, inexplicable character motivations?

Meanwhile, The Killing, has been driving me crazy with the way it's drawing out the conclusion. Gave us a clear indication of the guilty party in the penultimate episode -- which is why I don't think it is probably him.


He's the fixer, so he's probably there to clean up the mess?

I do kind of like they've followed the grieving parents for two years -- (three or four weeks in the show). But, it's the mystery that brings you back.

Unless they change that next year -- like resolve a mystery in every few episodes, I'm done.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Oh, mighty traveler.

I've mentioned before, I suck as a traveler. No stamina, no flexibility.

The motel here in Fernly is perfectly nice. Cool, comfortable beds. There are train tracks right outside the door, but that didn't prove to be too bad.

Still, I just couldn't sleep. After driving for 9 hours, I felt too achy, and if anything, too tired to sleep.

Too tired to sleep.

The pillow was too long. See what I mean? Not a terribly flexible traveler. Slept, MAYBE, 3 hours.

Anyway, on the way here, we blew right through Reno, which was way bigger than I thought it would be. Neither Linda and I are much interested in gambling, or drinking, or the crowds.

I told Linda I want to plunk a dollar in a slot machine before we leave the borders.

I think our decision to blow on through to Las Vegas and beyond (2 long days, 8 hours or more) before we slow to catch the sights is the right on. For most of the trip, we could just as easily been in Harney county. You see one great basin highway, you've seen them all.

Not that there aren't probably lots of cool things to see, but that wasn't the purpose of this trip. We want to see Toby and Lisa, first, and the great national parks second: Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon.

There was a very long stretch of nearly nothing from Klamath Falls to Reno. Finally stopped at an old country store, which was kind of cool old-fashioned general store. I noticed the sign "For Sale" outside.

"How long you been in business?" I ask.

"Going on 65 years," he says.

"Whow...I've been in business for 28 years, and that usually impresses the hell out of people. But I noticed your For Sale sign."

"Been for sale for 15 years, back when there was actually a chance someone would buy it..."

"Babe! Did you hear that? They've been in business for 65 years!"

"Babe?" he laughs. "You must be newlyweds."

"No...." I shrug. "I just still love her," I say apologetically.

"Me too," he says. "Babe!" he calls out.

My wife answers from the front of the store, but there is silence from the back.

He laughs. "Well, she looked up at least."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fun and games at the bug station.

The "bug station" at the California border always catches me by surprise. I feel a moment of panic -- "Oh, my god! What are we smuggling?"

Last time, I waved my hand at the nice lady and said, "These are not the fruit you are looking for...."

She just blinked, and said, "Oh! All right then!" and waved us along.

This time, I turned to Linda. "Anything?"

"Just personal fruit."

I pull up and the guy asks and I say, "We just have personal fruit."

The guy sort of freezes, looks sideways for as second, "What does that mean?"

I turn to Linda, "What do you mean by "personal" fruit?"

"An apple and a pear."

He looks at us puzzled, and then waves on on. "Move along. Move along." (Actually he doesn't say that, but going with the S.W. theme....)

Both times Linda and I burst out laughing before we've moved more than a few feet.

It's probably only funny to us.

Friday, June 8, 2012

New peepers.

So important and so unimportant. New glasses -- they feel like goggles to me. They seem to be shouting off my face, even though I know that most people won't even notice.

I went for something a little more bold than usual. The girls (ladies) at the optometrist assured me they looked great. (What else can they say?) They told me it was stylish and the "latest thing." (I said, "You can't imagine how important that is to me...)

I think they make me look like a professor. Kinda "brainy" as my friend Aaron said, after he asked me if I had been wearing contacts before...

My previous glasses were not terribly noticeable -- thin, wire rim. These are dark brown, thick -- about the same shape, though.

I think they make me look like a 1930's nuclear physicist -- or Freud. Yeah, that's it. They're my "Freud" glasses.

Like I said, it's so unimportant in the scheme of things, but yet seems as important as the nose on my face, on the other hand. Hopefully, I'll get used to them. So far, I'm shocked every time I pass a mirror. I'm not sure if they make me look old and stuffy, Mad Men style; or young and hipster....(Well, nothing could probably make me look the latter...)

Meanwhile, it seems like everything IS RIGHT IN FRONT of my face!

I'll give them some time, but reserve the right to go back and get the same kind of thin, wire rims I had before.

I hate being self-conscious. (Even when I know no one really gives a shit.)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Damn those side boob headlines!

Everyone talks about how much trouble the print media is in.

But what I'm noticing is that the web media seems to be increasing desperate to catch my attention. They are using increasingly intrusive ways to interrupt the flow. Flashier, trashier, stupider.

I mean, if they keep going this way, I'll just turn them off, renew my New York Times subscription and pray they survive.

Seriously, I like the short little snippets of information in the aggregate sites, but not enough to wade through all the pop-ups and flashing lights and absconding of message and misleading headlines and hijacking of threads.

I mean, it's gotten so much worse just in the last six months or so.

Salon's revamp is horrible, Slate throws freakin' video and sound at me without asking, Huffington Post has more and more "sideboob" and "wardrobe malfunction" entries (I'm a male, I can't help it...).

So, here's the thing. Yeah, the web is laying waste to the print media, but I have to wonder if they are thriving themselves? In fact, I have to wonder if what's replacing print media is really making anyone money? Except in the most speculative way, of selling it off to some desperate print media outlet?

A, I mean, restful vacation.

I'm of two minds about traveling vacations. (About vacations, I have no doubt -- they're great.)

Linda and I are planning on doing some traveling this summer.

On one hand, I like getting out of town. I like seeing new things.

On the other hand, it sometimes seems like more of a hassle than it's worth. I'd love to just jump in the car and go, and trust in the gods to find a route and a safe haven at the end of each day.
But since we're going at what are some peak tourist seasons, that would seem dubious.

It's all about logistics, logistics, logistics. Especially if you own a business. I've made great progress as delegating responsibilities, but I'm far from being able to just walk away for any extended length of time. (One of the main reasons I haven't expanded, moved, or duplicated lately, is that I learned my weakness in this area.) So I have to set all that up; schedule the employees, figures out expenses in advance, pay all the bills, make sure I have inventory coming in on a regular basis.

Since at least one of our trips is going to be significantly longer than ever before, I decided I needed to have backups and emergency numbers. That I needed people to watch the house, and take care of the cat, etc. etc.

Then there all the things we need to do before we go. Mow the lawns, do the dishes, the laundry, blah, blah, blah...

Is this really worth it?

Hopefully, it will be easier the next time. We got our legal matters finally in place (wills and such). Hopefully, we'll do this often enough that we'll learn how to make it easier.

I know my Mom got tired of all the travel and just wanted to take care of her garden, but Dad just kept going.

I long ago decided that I didn't want to be encumbered with motorhomes and such. I don't want to have to worry about maintenance and parking and all the rest. I figured that we could afford a whole lot of 100.00 a night stays in moderately comfortable motels, for the cost of any kind of turtle home I could want that I could afford.

Besides, wouldn't be too useful if Linda and I ever manage to get over the oceans.

I got to say ,though. I think we've spent at least as much time preparing for our trip as the trip is going to last. Which is sort of weird. Wasn't this supposed to be relaxing?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jack Vance still lives!

Supposedly, John Adams on his deathbed proclaimed, "Thomas Jefferson still lives!" unaware that his friend had died only hours earlier.

Anyway, with Ray Bradbury passing, we are nearing the end of the Golden Age of science fiction authors. Our Forefathers, if you will, our Founding Fathers. I looked up the list under "Golden Age" in Wiki, and only two are left: Jack Vance and Fred Pohl.

I like both of these authors, but I think Vance is a genius, whose fame is likely to grow like Philip K. Dick, after he's gone. Or maybe not. His books can be challenging. But I love them.

Was talking to employee, Matt, who mentioned that he'll be pissed if he doesn't meet Stan Lee before he dies. Comics Golden Age ranges just a little behind the science-fiction era, the writers and artists were probably just a little younger -- but, yeah, the end of that generation is fast approaching. Steve Ditko still lives, too. Jack Kirby is gone.

(Update -- I'm wrong. These are Silver Age comics guys, who came into prominence in the 60's... The Golden Age guys (Siegel and Shuster) are long gone. What was I thinking?)

What's interesting to me is that -- in my opinion -- the templates they created are still going strong, while the actual writing and art -- in my opinion -- of today's authors and artists is much more sophisticated and polished. Could today's authors have created the same templates if they had had the chance? Interesting question. Like the 60's rock and rollers. Like the novel writers of the 20's and 30's.

The fact that there are so many more books, movies, comics and music being created means that no template can really take hold, except once in a blue moon. A Harry Potter spawns a million stories, a Gone with the Wind, a Lord of the Rings. But it's as if the template has been established, and everyone who tries to break away just seems -- gimmicky, somehow.

Were they geniuses? Or just first? What are the odds that they were both?

I've never quite understood how that happens.

Rockchuck buffet.

Well, that was fun. Bend lovers and haters -- actually, remove the hyperbole and there really wasn't that much room between them.

Bend's got its problems, but it's still a pretty nice place to live.


My garden is finally starting to show a few blooms. My plants really do seem to come in a month later than anywhere else.

For awhile there, I wasn't sure I was going to get to mow the lawn again before it got out of control. Aprils showers SUX, especially when they come in June.

Meanwhile, between bunnies and rockchucks, a goodly percentage of my backyard plants are retarded by nibbles. Thank god the deer can't get back there.


"City Sees a Rise in Building Activity."

It's a nasty job, but here goes:

Yes, the percentages look impressive until you realize that the smaller the number, the easier it is to have impressive increases. 1 + 1 is a 100% increase, after all.

Just saying.


Talking about numbers being misleading.

There are some articles about how the New 52 DC comics have fallen back to previous DC levels and how it's a failure.

Well, I can tell you from my perspective and from the perspective of most retailers I read, it was a success. No, I take that back. It was...a HUGE success.

It shook up the industry just when we needed it. Maybe the DC numbers have fallen back (my own DC sales are still considerably higher than before the events...) but comics overall are seeing a large increase.

It's one of those cases where the bean-counters are likely to miss the whole picture. Sometimes there isn't a one to one relationship between sales of a specific title and it's effect on the overall sales in the store.

Can't explain it more than that.


That's it. I'm going to read Dances with Dragons on vacation.

Linda let loose a Spoiler, which she tried to cover up as "well, I thought YOU told me that..." but which I suspect is true.

I'm a guy who actually walks out of the theater when a Hobbit or Prometheus promo comes on, walks the hallway with my fingers in my ears because the freakin' promo seems to be following me on screens in hallway and speakers in the bathroom.

Anyway, I'd better read D with D before someone else tells me who died.

Because with Martin, I'm pretty sure someone dies.

Well, thousands die, but you know, someone major.


If you're going to try to kill the King you had better succeed.

(I'm talking national politics here, not George R.R. Martin.)

That's all I'll say.


All stocked for summer.

Large toy order. More sports cards than ever, even more manga and anime.

Magic fully stocked. Lots and lots of graphic novels.

A huge new book order, filling in all the holes. A very large boardgame order, as well.

Let it rip!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bend does not SUX.

H. Bruce's disgruntlement with Bend is kind of a mystery to me.

I chose to come back to Bend after college. There weren't any jobs here for me, but there didn't seem to be any jobs for me anywhere else either. I got some gardening clients through my Mom's reputation, and earned just enough to be able to write.

I was still trying to be a full time writer, and for that I could live anywhere I wanted. It was cheaper to live here then, cheaper to be a Bohemian. Almost immediately, I started filling in at Pegasus Books when the owner needed to get away, and of course, working in a comic book store was kind of fun also.

I was poor but happy. Met Linda at Farewell Bend Writer's Group, and that too was good. The store moved downtown and I bought it a year or so later and we struggled for a decade just to get a few sales everyday...But it was O.K. because we were all in it together. We were all Bohemians then.

Anyway, to me Bend has always had an atmosphere, an ambiance, a smell and a touch, I can't explain it, that feels good. A vibrancy, and a life. To me, the cities on the other side of the mountains feel kind of dark and weed-infested and somewhat polluted. The towns east of Bend seem somewhat forlorn and abandoned.

Bend was JUST RIGHT. (I'll get nailed to the wall by H. Bruce for that one...)

I admit, the town has changed. I'm not enamored by the big chain stores, and the "cultural" snobbery I sometimes see. I don't care about the fancy restaurants and clothiers and art galleries and jewelry stores.

But I just let my eyes glaze over them, and the outlines of "old" Bend are still here. There are still your salt-of-the-earth residents. The gated community people had conveniently walled themselves out of my sight, thank you very much. Golf courses could be on Mars for all I care.

Weather? Hell, weather happens. What god giveth on one hand he taketh away with the other.

I know that as much as Linda likes Bend, she could just as easily move to Portland to be nearer her kids. Bend is all right by her, but no more so than a thousand other places.

But I love seeing the mountains every clear day, (yeah, yeah, Bruce...) driving out to the high desert and being alone, sitting by the river or creeks. I don't hunt or fish, like my Dad did. Too much trouble. To me hunting and fishing was just an excuse to get out into nature and I don't need no excuse.

I wish I did more of it, but I'm trying. I'm comfortable with the gardening allowed to me (again, I think that, despite here Central Oregon gardening prowess, my Mom would have rather been in the valley for the opportunities it would have given her.)

Looking back, I think that being in a depressive state through most of my 20's just gave me a very modest goal of a decent life. Just a normal life. Somewhere where I DIDN'T stand out in a crowd as weird. (Didn't quite pull that one off...) Bend was and is comforting to me.

I think some people get disappointed by Bend. It promises too much, and delivers too little. Growing up here, I instinctively knew that. It's a modest tourist town. I can live with that.

I'm not saying Bend is the greatest place in the world, but it don't SUX.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Yet another Bend Madoff.

I almost let this pass. After all, fraud takes place everywhere.

But the similarities to the Sawyers are just too blatant.

Guy is accused of bilking an elderly man. From KTVZ:

"The initial reports claimed Larry Allan McCright, 56, had stolen over $180,000 over a six-month period, including using bank cards belonging to the victim without the victim’s permission as well as stealing several personal items and selling them for money..."

"Detectives learned McCright had been using some of the allegedly stolen money to support his company, Diamond Point Ventures Development..."

So I go check his website, and it's awful. Like a trumped up resume (Vice-President of a landscaping company? Really?) combined with insane self-esteem and crazy feel-good reasons for doing business. I think reading such B.S. should immediately warn anyone off.

Plus, the guy starts his construction company in 2007! Nice timing.

Actually, though, I'm not sure if it's a construction company, an investment company, a promotions company, a landscaping company or all the above. Which, again, would seem to be a common characteristic of people who are so muddled in their business practices that they are inclined to mix and co-mingle their finances.

Anyway, I suppose all these people just think they need this money to tide themselves over -- but such a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation means they are doomed to fail.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Good enough?

Early on, I heard someone say, "If you aren't moving forward, you're dying."

I pretty much accepted that as a business principle. It seemed to be true. Every time I would try to curtail my building inventory, it would seem like sales would fall. So I just took it as a basic necessity that I constantly build my store.

If you've seen my store lately, you know I didn't skimp on the inventory. Over the last few years, I've tried to find clever ways to fit more inventory into the store. I looked for product that would pay for itself in the space allocated. If the product could be adequately displayed in a smaller space, it got precedent over product that took up more space.

Carrying new books has been a learning experience. In some ways, it's been great that I have a choice of only the best books. Because of my limited space, I didn't even try to carry the wide range of new releases. Instead, I would cherry pick the entire history of books. Classics, books with cult followings, books I loved, books people I knew loved, books that caught my attention for one reason or another.

Truth is, even just cherry picking, there are more good books available than I can possibly carry.
This has also become true of the graphic novels. It is no longer possible to carry every good graphic novel, much less every graphic novel.

Since I have reached a kind of space limit, I'm now constantly trying to improve the mix. If I have 100 books, and 50% are great, and 25% are pretty good, and 25% are decent -- my goal is to slowly turn all 100 books into the "great" category.

Same with all my other product.

But this is more of a incremental process -- a learning process about what sells, what is a great read, what's new , and so on.

It has been a process of learning which products mix well together, which products have a decent profit margin, which can be displayed, which turn over, which I like having around and talking about.

This process probably won't change. But for the first time, I don't have any BIG changes in the planning stages.

Just the incremental improvements of what I have.

Kind of leaves me with a different feeling, like somehow I'm not doing enough. It was kind of funny to read the two comments I got yesterday.

"Up 20% for 11 months straight is a dead cat bounce? You're a tough man to please." ANON.

Yeah, I can see how that looks. But I simply can't say anything aloud that would possibly make me think things are safe. Things are never safe, I can never take increases for granted, I can't hardly see them as increases at all. That way lies madness.

The other comment was from H.Bruce:

"Trouble with having nothing I have to do, is I don't do anything." (Me.)

H. Bruce: "Why is that a problem?

"I loaf and invite my soul / I lean and loaf at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass." -- Walt Whitman

It isn't a sin to do nothing once in a while. In fact it's good for you. You need to shake off that bullshit Calvinist/Puritan ethic."

Yeah, well. I blame my Mum. It can't be a nice day outside with me sitting on the couch reading without hearing in me head. "You should go outside. DO something!" I don't know if I'll ever escape that.

Like I said, I don't think you can ever say to yourself, "Good Enough." Beyond that, though, you have to pick a level of effort that makes sense, emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, and mentally. And that is going to be an ongoing process.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

May results.

We had another big increase from last year, a 25% improvement.

That makes 11 months in a row that I have beaten the same month last year. The overall increase for the last 11 months is nearly 20% overall.

As I keep saying, I'm only going to be impressed when I beat a previous increase. So far, this all falls under the category of dead cat bounce.

Comics have had a revival of sorts. The New 52 had the most effect, followed by the media coverage of comic things which has been extensive and on-going. (But wait, I hear you say, you don't believe in promotions. No...but I believe in publicity, which as far as I'm concerned is a different thing.) I think have young guys as employees who are very into comics themselves has helped, too.

Over the last 30 years, there have been times when I wondered if comics were reaching the end of the road, only to have them revive for awhile. We saw a 35% increase in comics from last year, which is tremendous. I don't quite trust that it isn't going to slowly decline, though, but I can use the current strength to try to strengthen the category, and the store overall.

COMICS: +35%



GAMES: +20%

BOOKS: +32%

TOYS: +18%


Obviously, I'm pleased with the continued strength of books and games. Hard to imagine my store without them, which would have been the case if I hadn't added them just around the time the Great Recession was starting. (I'd started some time before, but really got serious then.)

Toys are seeing a slight boost since I started paying attention to them.

I've backed off on my efforts with sports cards, because I still harbor a residual resentment about them which can surface unexpectedly, so I've decided to keep them at the level they are at -- just sell some packs and boxes and get no more involved than that.

I like the overall spread of the store, and I'm concentrating at slowly improving the mix. I'd love to find a way to carry more new books, if I can figure something out. Otherwise, we're pretty packed, so my job is to have the best books possible. Same with games.

Friday, June 1, 2012

"There are brave men knocking at our door..."

"...let's go kill them!" Tyrion Lannister.

Just thought it deserved to be repeated.

Friday fuds.

BUSINESS INSIDER has a list of the "most unemployed city in every state." I clicked through, pretty sure what I'd find if they defined "city" the way I would define city.

Yep, there we are, BEND, OREGON.


While we're all focusing on the effects of digital on publishing, it was interesting to read an article (ICv2) about how Games Workshop is concerned about the advent of 3-D printers.

In other words, the digital becomes physical. (They make elaborate, coolly sculpted figures for war gaming. But expensive.)

All those episodes of Star Trek and I never wondered about the effect of Captain Picard making Earl Grey tea would have on tea shops. I mean, he's in space, but I'm betting he has the same machine at home...

Who needs restaurants? Who needs stores? Just have it made!


You know the phrase, "Let yourself go?"

That's a real thing. One day you decide, "Screw it, I'm letting myself go...."

Then, later, old friends and family say, "Wow. You've really let yourself go!"

And you think, "Yeah. "


Driving to work today, there was a pickup near the post office that was so long, I had to move a foot or so into the other lane to get around it. Why? Why do you need a truck like that? Why is it sparkling clean without a dent?

Then I pull into a garage and another enormous pickup (sparkling clean without a dent) taking up two spots. Start to see red, then see the green envelope of a traffic ticket.



Am I being positive or negative to believe that most people try their best -- and fail miserably?


Trouble with having nothing I have to do, is I don't do anything.


There's a rumor (I repeat, a rumor) that Voodoo Donuts might be coming in where Giddy Up was.


Please. NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

(See above statement about "Letting yourself Go.")


You know, I've stopped reading reviews. I've stopped watching trailers.

I want movies to surprise me.

I still look at the overall ratings on Rotten Tomatoes-- so I get a general sense of whether I want to go or not. I might see a thriller or a sci-fi or a horror film even if it's as low as 50% ratings, but probably not a romcom or comedy or drama unless it's more than 80%.

I say I don't read reviews. If I really like a movie, I'll read reviews afterwords -- you know, to see how I really feel about it....heh.


Had one of those "Lucky or Unlucky?" moments.

Our carpet in the living room started getting wet. We called a plumber, but it was Memorial Day.

Anyway, we had our Wizard friend Aaron coming over to help us with our tech. (We periodically hit bottlenecks in our tech adaptions -- and he effortlessly fixes them)

So he walks in, immediately diagnoses a leak in the ice maker in the fridge, turns it off, loans us some floor fans to dry it out. Our carpet is stained, but we may have caught it early enough to not have permanent damage.

So, Lucky or Unlucky?