Tuesday, July 31, 2012
"Did you do this?" I asked our cat, Panga, who was following us around.
She clammed up. 'You can't prove nuthin', her body language said. 'But you best not mess with me....'
I wonder if my neighbors poisoned the critter. Our far corner is a four corners, and I'm sure all of us were being victimized by the little rodent.
Still, I could help but feel sorry for it.
We were walking around, trying the envision the paths, and the gardening islands between, that we wanted to create. I've been sort of working on it, little by little, but it will probably never really be finished unless I hire some help.
I might do that. Get a couple of dump truck loads of dirt, and create the paths. Start creating the gardening sections.
I've made one decision, for sure. The "wild" half is going to consist of "native" plants, only.
Meanwhile, the following was written a couple days before:
I've discovered I'm not the gardener my Mom was.
Well, of course not. Not even close.
But I'm beginning to wonder if I inherited any of her green thumb at all.
I basically want to install the plants and be done. But you really need to do followup. Certain plants just never do well for me, even plants that everyone else seems to be able to do. Phlox and lupines always crap out on me.
Anyway, I had decided to not do a lot of moving around or subdividing of plants this year. I wanted to let all of them establish themselves, and then see which ones do the best and in what areas of the garden, and then subdivide.
I weeded the entire garden today, in which I usually also turn up all the soil while I'm at it. I finally got around to actually fertilizing the plants (may be why I don't have a green thumb, eh?) I'm going to put some time release pellets around the plants tomorrow, since we still have a couple months of growing season left.
I was driving by a neighbor and asked her if I could dig up a couple of her plants, assuring her that she wouldn't notice the gap. She agreed, so I went by this afternoon and did the deed.
I wonder if people ever steal plants from other gardens. I'm not normally a thief, but I do covet some of the luscious spreads I see. Surely, they wouldn't miss one little itty bitty plant?
Monday, July 30, 2012
They certainly didn't skimp on the production qualities. It's impressive, no matter what else you might think about the movie.
Was talking to employee Matt, who said he was the only person he knew that didn't like the movie. I haven't asked why yet, because I didn't want any spoilers.
I liked it. The second movie, with Heath Ledger's Joker, will probably always be the highwater mark of this series. But still a monumental trilogy.
Finally hit my low weight again, after a week of hovering above it. I've mentioned that it's always been easy for me to lose weight, once I decide to do it.
Well, apparently not this time. I'll be doing a second month, just like the first month. But I may have to do yet another month after that, at this pace.
H.Bruce was saying it was my Calvinist tendencies that makes me say "I've been good" about dieting. That it has nothing to do with being "good."
Well, it sorta does.
But I was talking to Linda about "parental tapes" that run through my head. The biggest, I think, is my Mother's voice: "Get out and do something! Don't sit around reading (watching T.V. , daydreaming, etc. etc.) all day!"
"I don't think I have any "parental tapes," Linda says. "Except, I remember my Mother saying, 'Be Nice.' But I never had any trouble with that."
"No, you never have, have you."
The biggest 'tape' I got from my Dad was: "If you don't know something, you need to learn it."
This was not so much, learning How to do something (which would have been useful), but knowing About something. Which is more like Trivia, and doesn't seem to be as useful in the Google age.
Speaking of which -- I've stayed away from Reddit for almost a week. Not because I don't like it, but because for someone like me, who likes to collect information, it is a Ginormous, Endless Time-Suck!!!!!!!
This just in.
Peter Jackson is going to make a 3rd Hobbit movie.
I actually believe there is enough material in the appendices to do this: But I really wonder how he is going to craft it all into a narrative.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Bear with me now.
For some reason, neither Linda or I had ever seen the sublimely silly Death Race 2000, starring David Carradine. We intended to watch the first five minutes but got caught by it.
Anyway, about a third of the way through Linda turns to me and says, "I know this sounds ridiculous, but you know what this reminds me of?"
"Hunger Games," I said, immediately. I'd had the exact same thought a few minutes before.
The biggest similarity is the blowsy blond mouthpiece for the totalitarian regime, a "close personal friend," of all the competitors. She dresses kind of flamboyantly, and her make up
makes her look a bit like a Kewpie doll.
But the more I watched it and thought about it, the more similarities there were. The futuristic populous dresses colorfully (you know, the year 2000. It was made in 1974.) The thugs from the government wear purple suits and purple ties.
There is a distant and pompous dictatorial 'president' who uses the races as a way to the distract the populous. Breads and circuses.
The competitors are wined and dined luxuriously while the games are going on. (In Hunger Games, it's just before the games start.) The crowds are taking sides, like football teams. (As an aside, I'd forgotten how much nudity there was in mid-70's movies. More than today.)
There are the weasel commentators who play up the drama, and play down the rebellion. (One of them does a really bad imitation of Howard Cosell...)
There is an underground discontent and rebellion. To the point where they rise up to support the winning competitor. While the discontent is rising, there is an attempt by the government to blame other factors. (Hilariously, in Tea Party fashion, they blame the dastardly "French.")
The main competitor has a secret agenda to bring down the government.
The race itself seems to have arbitrary rules, with rulings that help some and hinder others, but is mostly used to hide what's really going on.
I'm sure there are some other corresponding features.
I know you all probably think I'm just trying to be clever, but really, the similarities are there.
You have to watch it, to believe it.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Linda has mentioned that she'd like the watch the ice skating, but since neither of us are paying attention, that may not happen.
Still stuck at my weight. Despite being good. The Fates are Bitches, I should've said.
By the way, it's calories in, calories out. That's it. All the rest is magical thinking.
My wife let slip a spoiler in Dances With Dragons (Game of Thrones 5th book), and then tried to cover it up with evasions.
But had a customer in a couple of days ago, who confirmed the spoiler.
I howled. His face turned red.
Come on, people! Not everyone reads a book right away!
Meanwhile, I've been fending off spoilers about the Batman movie. Our schedule keeps putting off the viewing another day, but we'll probably see it this weekend.
I'm trying something new this second half of the year. Trying to stick to budget.
By this, I don't mean playing around with when I order something, or when I pay for something.
It's very easy to pretend I'm making a profit by not ordering evergreens, but the evergreens will eventually be ordered, so that's an illusion.
It's very easy to hold off paying a bill for a week or two, but that bill will eventually be paid, so that's also an illusion.
As a result, my savings aren't currently spectacular as they have been in summers past but they are more Real.
By the way, I'm assuming that a lot of corporate reports of results do exactly those two things, so always take them with a grain of salt. They wait for the moment to dump all the negatives -- some excuse -- and meanwhile extend and pretend whenever possible. Just saying.
I can't believe all the talk about school starting up I'm hearing already. It isn't even August yet! Come on, let me enjoy the summer business a little longer!
Found a phrase I came up with a few years ago about the "real estate market turning the corner." I think it's original, and I kind of like it.
"The real estate market has more corners than a M.C. Escher drawing."
Of course, someone probably has probably used it, already. There really seems to be nothing new under the Google sun.
I was watching a documentary last night, and the narrator talked about a "crownless king" and I said to Linda, "That would make a great title to a book."
Googled it. Someone has already used it. Doh.
Not a scintillating series of observations. Hey, it's dog days of summer....
Friday, July 27, 2012
It's a trick!
I haven't made any progress in six days on my diet, even though for the last three days I quit rounding off my calorie estimates and stuck strictly to known quantities. Meanwhile, even though I haven't gone off the rails on my budget, the store savings don't seem to be getting very far either, despite having a very good month in sales.
They're trying to lull me!
Well, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I knew it was going to take time. A couple months for the diet, and probably a couple of quarters for the business.
It's a test!
I ramp up my motivation level before I start these sporadic episodes, which usually carries me through the first few roadblocks that get me to some success which motivates me to continue. I'm still feeling pretty firm about my plans, so I just have to keep on trudging ahead.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
I decide I'm going to make my store work and that's what I set out to do, even if it takes 20 years. So writing to me is the same. I just keep at it.
Woke up yesterday morning, and realized I hadn't made my monthly orders yet and they were due -- in a matter of hours. Was working at the store all day and didn't even try to to do them while the summer business was coming at me.
So came home and slammed through them in one evening. I was all over it, like a momma lion on a crocodile...(Have you seen those pictures? Google it. Amazing.)
These orders used to take me two days to do. But I'm much more comfortable making reorders these days, which helps to align inventory with actual day to day results.
I just hope I didn't make too many mistakes.
This has never happened before. I've gone five days without losing a pound. Hell, it looks like I might have gained one. But I haven't fallen down on the job. I've kept my calorie count under 1500 and my paces at around 10K.
"You're older," Linda ventures.
"Maybe you're building muscle."
"Yeah. .... Sure."
I just need to stay relentless.
Somebody added up (subtracted?) all the failed businesses over the last few years, state by state.
I can't find the story now, but what I remember was that, in Oregon, the communities on the coast were hit the hardest, followed by Central Oregon.
"Local Defaults Dry Up Under New State Law." Bulletin, 7/26/12.
Not sure what to make of this. What I suspect is, the pain is still there, just hidden under all the entanglements. It just fuzzes up the real situation. Pretend and extend.
Pretend and extend can be a legit strategy, but only if you think a recovery is coming. If there isn't a real recovery coming, you can only pretend and extend for so long.
It's been five years, by my reckoning, since the collapse. I figured before going in, that it would be a 5 to 7 year process. (I'm not sure I ever came to a conclusion about whether that 7 years was from top to bottom to top, or just top to bottom to the beginning of a rise.)
Anyway, since we never really did seem to deal with the underlying housing problem, but did work-arounds in every direction, I'm thinking 7 years was too optimistic.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
But how do I go about it? What have I learned?
One: I'm more fertile when I write at random. Just write scenes, ideas, characters, plot points. So I'm going to do that, and figure I can assemble the book at the end of the day.
Two: Think of it as more "assembling" than writing. I can write. I can write all day long. So that isn't the worry. But I think I need to be able to both explore the process of epic writing and also do the actual writing, and also make it my research.
Three: If I run true to form, I'll have multiple story lines, beginnings, endings, tangents. That's O.K. because it will give me options.
Four: I need options because it's too easy to fall into predictable plot paths. Lord of the Rings was such a strong template that it is nearly impossible to break away from. Then again, quest fantasy or epic fantasy has elements that you really can't break away from without becoming something else.
I've noticed that so many authors are either totally, boringly predictable, and/or try to do something unusual, which in the end doesn't work. So many fantasies I read actually seem to shrink over time, instead of expand. Or they spin out of control. Or they just somehow don't ring true, or fizzle out.
I think, ultimately, the reason for this is that they really don't have enough background to sustain the story. Tolkien's LOTR's was actually a kind of superficial top layer gleaning of the huge mythology he constructed. For so many fantasy authors, they're straining just to fill in the story they're writing, and ultimately, either they fail, or they fall back on predictable tropes.
I too fall into predictable grooves. My working process is such that I discover the story by writing it, so I sometimes feel like I can't avoid that. So what I want to do, is go ahead and write, discover where the story is going, write again, see where it goes elsewhere, and then chose among all the different elements of the mythology background, where I want to go that but fulfills the promise of epic fantasy, and at the same time avoids too much predictability.
In other words, I want it to be both traditional and fresh.
The common denominator I've noticed in fantasy books I've liked recently; Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMasters Bujold; Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss; is that they are not ongoing endless stories.
So I'm going to try to keep it to a trilogy. If it was good enough for Tolkien, it's good enough for me.
The other common denominator of the recent fantasy books I've liked: Um. They are really well written.
I've got to work on that.
All of this may or may not happen. I can only start the process. I'm talking years, here. Daydreaming, and first drafts, have always been the most enjoyable part of writing for me.
Meanwhile, I'll keep writing this other stuff, and actually try to finish it. (Actually finishing a book is pretty enjoyable too.)
So, a lot of writing ahead of me, hopefully.
I had just bought a whole new wardrobe at my "letting myself go" weight, thinking I was O.K. with it. But like I said, I can only get so heavy before it bugs me and then I go and lose the weight. I don't lose the weight in the face at all, and my body shape doesn't really change all that much, so only me and Linda can usually tell.
Anyway, the 20 pounds I'm going to lose (I'm halfway there) won't be so much that I can't wear the new clothing -- but it will mean I can wear some of my merely large t-shirts, instead of my extra-large t-shirts. It doubles the selection!
Our cat, Panga, has become much more social in her old age. She seeks us out, nowadays, often meowing loudly. (Talking is also something she is doing much more of.)
It occurred to me that I've become more convivial in my old age, too. Though I always talked a lot.
Don't get me wrong, I still prefer to go off on my own, just like my cat.
I read the third chapter of my little space adventure last night in writer's group, and it went over well.
I seem to be all over the place in writing. I was thinking yesterday about all the projects I've started and not finished. But I've decided there is actually nothing wrong with that -- as long as I follow through in the end. For now, it's practice.
Every time I write something, I learn something new. Do I like first person or third person? Is fantasy my natural format? How does a modern day story contrast with a completely fantasy story? And so on.
I'm also learning a lot about my writing process. Is it best to write out the whole story without revising first? Revise as I go along? When or if it is best to expose the material to other people? Do I write it sequentially, or out of order as it occurs to me? How much mapping out should I do first? And so on.
I have a kind of master plan in mind, if I can just keep this up. My "epic" fantasy I want to someday try to write.
I've had fun exploring Reddit. The mind of 17 year guys everywhere.
It certainly got me to notice memes long before they show up everywhere else.
But I always feel like I've wasted my time somehow. (The problem of the internet, compounded.) So...time to back off.
I gave up on Twitter a while back, and haven't regretted it. I really want to get back to paper and pencil, if you will. Even if just symbolically.
I've been diving into Stoic philosophy again, lately. For some reason, I really relate to it. I think I was given some version of this from my parents, especially my Mom who always talked about being a "Stoic" and from my Unitarian teachings. It also grooves quite nicely with the "Reality Therapy" that I found so useful when I was trying to get over my depression 30 years ago.
Having the store, and being behind the counter, is constant practice for me of Stoic teachings.
Epictetus's "A Manual for Living" is what I'm working on. A short book. Normally I'd be resistant to self-help recipes, but that isn't what I think this is -- though it's certainly dressed that way.
Anyway, I'm taking each chapter and trying to absorb it's meaning as I go along, and memorizing the catchphrase. So far, I've gotten down -- (these are really koan's that I'll never completely get down, more of a process really) -- from memory:
1. Know what you can control, and what you can't control.
2. Stick to your own business.
3. Try to see appearances for what they are.
All really valuable in the way I approach my customers. I've got a long way to go before I get them right.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
This year, for the first time, my rates didn't go up significantly. (For a few years, especially RIGHT before Obamacare took effect, they were jacking them up significantly. Suspicious, eh?)
I also have the knowledge that they can't drop me. That they can't find a excuse not to cover anything they might consider a pre-existing condition. That they can't limit my coverage.
And today I got back a 418.00 return, because of the new law that says they have to spend no more than 20% on overhead.
Tell me again why I'm supposed to hate Obamacare? Because from my perspective, it's been nothing but good.
I don't even consider this a political statement. It's just flat true. I've had private insurance before Obamacare and I've had it after, and it's only been positive.
That's a fact.
Monday, July 23, 2012
When did that become a big problem? I can't remember the last time I saw a biker on the sidewalk. Yes, I saw the picture on the front page of the Bulletin, but that just sort of reminded me that -- no, I don't see that very often.
Now, skateboarders, that's another story. But then those bad boys (and girls) know they're not supposed to be doing that and they don't care. Put up all the signs and stickers you want.
But really, I can think of dozens of things about downtown that the 10K would be more useful for.
We could always go back to the Downtowners former plan to put cameras on every corner. Big brother is watching.
We seem to over-react to small problems, from graffiti to parking to bikers. Most of these things are either unavoidable and/or will go away on their own, or just aren't that big a deal. Not saying they don't have to be addressed, but sometimes making it a big deal just makes it a big deal.
Like I said, I don't see bikers as even a small problem.
You get the feeling that some mid-level bureaucrat somewhere heard a complaint and decided to launch a big study that resulted in a grant to Downtowns. Meanwhile, the city is going, Oh? You want to give us 10K to play with, and some cool stickers? Well, sure!
I hope they'll use about 10% of that money on some funky stickers, and use the rest to enforce the traffic laws -- drivers going too fast, not stopping for pedestrians, talking on their cell phones, stuff like that.
That would actually be useful.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
We get, I don't know, double? the number of walk-ins? Not only walk-ins, but tourists who are in the mood to spend money! Lovely.
Over the last two days, (Friday and Saturday) we did about two and a half times the normal business (yeah, yeah, it was a street closure. So sue me.) But when I examined what I would actually need to replace, it came in about 20% of what sold.
That's what I'm looking for.
I get the full profit margin from something that I don't have to replace. Whereas, anything I have to re-buy, is much less helpful. During the slow months, I'd say probably 80% of what sells needs to be replaced.
So how does this happen? And why doesn't it happen the rest of the year?
Because almost all those extra customers are new to the store. Everything in the store is new to them. Including stuff I've had around for years, including stuff I can't reorder even if I wanted to, including stuff that is dated. It's bonus. They get what they want, and I get to clear out some room.
Ironically, I tend to sell the "usual suspects" during the slow months. The steady, evergreen product that sells slowly but surely, and simply must be replaced as soon as possible. So not only are sales less, but so are the profits.
I'm pretty sure downtown Bend wouldn't be a viable place if it wasn't for summer and Christmas.
I can take those profits and pay off debts, firm up the inventory, and save for the slow months.
It took me years to realize that I could actually order less material in the busy months, instead of more. It's very counter-intuitive. I then tend to order more material in the slow months. It just works better.
There have been years when I ordered hardly anything in July and August, but then would be forced to order so much stuff in September, that it would wipe out the fall. So this year, I'm trying to replace the evergreens as they sell, so I don't face the big chunk at the end of summer.
If I had any advice for new businesses downtown, it would be to watch out for this pattern. Don't think the summer business is normal, and the rest of the year abnormal, unless you want to be constantly frustrated...
Having one of my binge comic reading weekends.
BEFORE WATCHMEN: SILK SPECTRE, MINUTEMEN, COMEDIAN, OZYMANDIAS, NITE OWL. #1's.
There has been a fair amount of controversy over these comics. The original author of WATCHMEN, Alan Moore, didn't want it to be done. But I looked at the talent involved, asked myself if I would like to read more stories about characters like the Comedian and Silk Spectre, and thought, hell yeah.
But I wasn't sure how they'd turn out.
I ordered a ton of these, and have been getting a lot of cancellations from the shelves I put them on, and I was worried
Hey, you know what? They're terrific! I really like them, they're very entertaining, they capture some of the essence of the Watchmen, but also add something new. So now I'm puzzled why so many readers have dropped them. I sometimes wonder if my liking something is the kiss of death.
Then again, I remember selling very few of the original Watchmen series too. It was only after it was deemed a "classic" that the books started to sell and sell...and sell.
THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #1-4.
Yes, that's plural projects, as in the Bomb was only one and maybe the least interesting of the projects that were developed. The cast is made up of real historical characters: Joseph Oppenheimer, who is multiple personality serial killer on the side; Einstein who drinks and grumbles; Harry Daghlian who as in real life irradiates himself but in this case he survives as a glowing head; Enrico Fermi, who is in reality an Alien; F.D.R. who is downloaded into a computer after his stroke.
And so on.
Lots of fun playing with history. Truman is dragged out of a Masonic ritual to be sworn in as President, finds out about the Bomb, orders it NOT to be dropped, but Leslie Groves "mishears" him and drops it anyway.
The innocent point of view character is Richard Feynman. How can you go wrong with a cast like that?
SAGA. #1 - 5.
I'm liking this O.K. It's probably one of the biggest independent hits in a long time, and it's written by Brian K. Vaughan who did Y-THE LAST MAN. But I'm not quite feeling the love.
It's a bit hard to explain, but it's sort of a Romeo and Juliet in space. Very well drawn, interesting story, but a little too 'cute' somehow.
THE SECRET: #1-2.
I feel like I've already written these reviews. No matter. I'm further along reading them, so this is my up to date opinion.
Lots of interesting industrial spying going on in this comic. At least I think so. It's so complicated, I don't have a clue as to what's going on. Too many grim faced men, who look too much alike.
I'm absolutely sure I'd like it if I understood it, though.
THE MASSIVE: #1-2.
Environmental cataclysm. An peaceful, non-violent conservation vessel crew is forced to change its ways in the face of pirates and mystery.
It's fun. But a pretty slender story. I thought it was going to be slightly more involved, longer.
PROPHET: #21- 25.
During the comic boom, there was a comic called PROPHET. I never read it, and when they announced #21 all these years later, I kind of ignored it. But it's sold well, been part of the resurgence (along with some of the above titles) of Image Comics.
So the story here is, super-agent wakes up in a super weird future world. Clunky story telling, but interesting enough ideas and art to keep me reading.
Did I say the world was weird? Everything in the future has changed, and his mission is to revive the "Earth Empire."
It's hard to do ''alien worlds" in a convincing way, that hasn't been done many times before. So, much of this is familiar space opera. Maybe that's what I like about it. It's kind of a John Carter of Mars kind of story....
Reading more issues, I see that there are many John Prophets, (clones of the original baddass) who work for a vast and timely Earth Empire. So pretty much anything goes.
THE ACTIVITY. #1-5.
Special ops team, and how they get along, and their bureaucratic infighting and their missions. Well done, but I'm not sure there is anything new here.
THE SECRET SERVICE #1 -3.
A dashing agent retrieves his no-good nephew from the London pits and sets him up in secret agent school.
Meanwhile, there is a dastardly plot to kidnap the actors from Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Battlestar Galactica. Opening scene, double oh six, if you will, tries to save Mark Hamil but the parachute malfunctions when they go off a cliff. Goodbye Luke.
By the author of Kick-Ass, Mark Millar, and it's fun and ironical and clever.
THIEF OF THIEVES. #1-6.
At first comes across as just another master thief heist. But it turns into more of character development of a thief wanting to stop, and wanting to protect his son. Written very well, by Robert Kirkman, of Walking Dead. As well, I guess, as being picked up for a possible T.V. show.
Supernatural mystery, at the center of which is a never-aging Fem Fatale. Enjoyable, but I actually think I enjoy Ed Brubaker's CRIMINAL series, which is straight crime, a little better.
And, as I've mentioned before, I really like the essays in back about early pulp stories.
Smuggler crash lands on a planet, which seems to attract all the space debris in the universe, and is one vast junkheap. Some interesting tech art, and the writing is pretty good for such a simple story.
SAUCER COUNTRY: #1-3.
On the eve of announcing her run for presidency, the Hispanic, female governor of New Mexico is ...abducted by aliens. She starts having strange dreams.
They use the term Exopolitico in the comic, which I've never heard before. Is that a thing?
One of those comics that is lively and interesting, but just flat confusing. I hate dialect in books or comics if I can't Understand what they're saying without puzzling out ever single sentence. Annoying, as well as unnecessary. Hint at the strangeness, we'll get it.
That's it for Saturday reading. I'm going to try to read an equal number today.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Kids read comics.
Well, unfortunately very few do. I'm not exaggerating for effect. It's really true.
Well, explanations run from the standard "It's video games" to my own explanation, which is that we lost an entire generation during the comics bubble of the '90's and were never able to pick that thread up again.
Some people blame the cost, which sounds simple but from my experience probably isn't true. For one thing, kids are entirely willing to spend money on things they really want. And secondly, there are lots of cheap comics available, if they want them. Same with sports cards. Cheap brands are constantly offered, and kids turn their noses up at them.
Or, perhaps, comics got too adult for kids. But that is a chicken and the egg argument. My own experience is that comics got adult because kids stopped reading them, and the only option for survival was to continue to appeal to actual readings. And again, there are plenty of kids comics out there if you are willing to look.
Another reason people talk about, is lack of access. You can't find comics in a spin rack at the local grocery store, usually. You pretty much have to go to a specialty store, which can be inconvenient and intimidating for the newbie.
I think there might be yet another reason though.
There is a front page article on Salon: "UNLEASH OUR KIDS: Crime is at a 40 Year Low, but Nervous Parents are Limiting Their Kids Freedom to Roam -- and it Hurts Urban Life."
I'm pretty sure kids were a big segment of my business in my first decade of business, in both comics and cards. (By 'kids", I'm talking from young, say 5 years old, all the way through high school.)
I didn't bother to keep track, because I had no idea that things would change. Why would I think thing would change?
There was a time I was ordered by the city to install a bike rack in front of my store, because we had some many kids just throwing their bikes down on the sidewalk.
Today? Not so much a problem. In fact, it just never happens.
I can point the child abduction media frenzy (mid-90's? earlier?) as the moment we stopped seeing kids wander in the store. It took a while, but it was like someone was squeezing the hose, and the flow just stopped.
It got kind of ridiculous. There was a 10 or 12 year boy in my store once, and I greeted him, and he turned away. Later, I thought he probably had a question, and again, he turned away. The parent came over and informed me that he had been told not to "talk to strangers."
Hey, you came in my store! What were you planning to do, use hand language?
So, there was that.
This kind of ties into the "access" reason above. Kids not wandering around are less likely to buy comics.
But more importantly, kids with parents are less likely to buy comics -- or they'll be forced to only buy comics that mommy and daddy like, and try to get a 12 year old to agree to that!
I had one parent ask; "Is Mad Magazine something a parent would approve of?"
"Mad Magazine is something a parent isn't supposed to approve of! That's the whole point!"
Well, "approve of" wink, wink, if you know what I mean. Because Mad is actually pretty tame, but it gives you the impression of 'rebellion.' I think comics used to be the same. Mom and Dad would sigh at their kids reading comics, maybe mildly disapprove, and that was probably catnip for the kids.
So what we got now are kids coming in with parents, and that is a whole nother ballgame. One that doesn't work out so well for kids buying comics.
Too bad. I think the kids are missing something. If nothing else, they are missing a little bit of early independence.
Not sure what the consequences to society are, from that.
Friday, July 20, 2012
So...those victims could have been any of us. Not just nerds, either.
Anyway, I don't think -- no matter what information emerges from now on -- that you can attribute this to anything but craziness.
A crazy person.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
The store is both something outside myself, and something that I am in full charge of.
How much am I responsible for the success or failure of the business? Both all of it, and -- well, only some of it.
Yet I find the best policy is to take full responsibility for the failures, but not for the successes. Best not to try to escape the consequences, but also not pat myself on the back when things go well.
This is more mental posturing than reality.
Linda says that sometimes I'm stuck with an arrogant mood. (I always have a vision of a big hand slapping me in the face, making me snarl.)
It is easy to take credit for forces outside your control. It's also way too easy to blame failure for forces outside your control.
So as a general rule of thumb, I try to look for reasons for success in outside forces, and look for reasons for failure in myself. Because, my natural tendency it to do exactly the opposite.
Of course, sometimes it's very clear that a decision I made was a bad one. Sometimes it's very clear that something selling really well is something I had little or nothing to do with. And sometimes, miracle of miracles, I make a big decision that pans out. (Hey, I get those decisions right too often to be completely an accident. SLAP.) So, I try to get that straight.
But in most cases I find it's beneficial to say "we" got it right. And "I" got it wrong.
Still: at the end of the day, "We're" still in business, and even thriving.
And "I'm" proud of that.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
But it's maybe, probably the most important thing I do.
Anyway, I've noticed in the past that budgeting and dieting go together.
I swear I don't plan it that way.
Somehow the same impulse to get my personal life in order is reflected in the impulse to get my working life in order.
I wanted to see -- at long last-- whether I could truly, once and for all, stick to budget for just one six month period. I mean, truly stick to budget.
I've only managed to do that in the past for a month or two.
Never six months.
Well, not only am I undisciplined, but the timing has often been wrong. I'd decide on a budgeting program, and then a bookstore near me would go out of business and I'd have the chance to bring in books, and ....boom, goes the budget.
Or a gamestore near me would go out of business, and I'd have a chance to bring in games, and...boom, goes the budget.
Or...the U.S.A. (and world economy) would go bust, and I'd have to scramble to keep sales up, and...boom, goes the budget. The same impulse that makes me want to consolidate and firm up the business seems to come at the end of a cycle, usually. So watch out everyone!
For the first time in years, none of those things have happened recently. For the first time in years, I have a stable inventory.
Meanwhile, my two weeks of looking at myself in motel mirrors on our trip (way too many mirrors in motels....) shamed me into losing weight.
I'm about 8 pounds down since July 1. I've gone on long walks every day but 3 over the same period. I'm about a third of the way to my goal. (Since I wrote this, another 5 days have gone by without a single pound lost...)
Meanwhile, I assembled a couple of enticing but unnecessary orders that I was planning to order mid-month.
This morning, I deleted them. Which is really hard to do. I still have some large orders coming in, but they are part of the budget.
Anyway, one discipline seems to reinforce the other, so that's all good. As I told Linda (who simply doesn't go about things this way) if I'm going to inflict pain on myself, I'd rather do it all at once and at the same time.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Which is a good thing, right?
So, we've had a deli (Pastrami Old World Deli) take the place of a deli (Letzers), a pottery place (Earth*Fire*Art) take the place of a pottery place (Pottery Lounge). Hope springs eternal.
Which is a good thing, right?
An art gallery (Bend Your Imagination) has taken the Giddyup space. (This building across from my store seems to have a huge turnover. I've mentioned before, it's tough to pay Wall Street rents when you are on Minnesota and Oregon...)
Another art gallery (Paul Scott Gallery) has opened on Brooks Street.
(I'm using the press release by the Downtowners for the dates of "opening." )
NEW BUSINESSES DOWNTOWN
Earth*Fire*Art, Oregon Av., 7/10/12.
Pastrami Deli, Franklin Av., 7/10/12.
Bend Your Imagination, Minnesota Av., 7/10/12.
Paul Scott Gallery), Brooks St., 7/10/12
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
**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
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Bend Burger Company
(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
***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
***Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09** Moved to Minnesota Ave.
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
***King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Pella Doors and Windows
***Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
(List begun, Fall, 2008
Monday, July 16, 2012
Well, fuck that.
Anyway, we actually had a pretty good weekend, about what I would've expected without the Summer Pest.
I think there was a reason for that: we didn't have a big blocky stage right in front of our store. But we did have all the booze!
Anyway, I'm not backing off my wish that we stop closing the streets downtown. There are some who are going to benefit, and some who are going to lose, and I'm sort of philosophically opposed to any process that picks winners over losers, if something more neutral can be arranged. Do no harm.
I wasn't going to comment on Seth Stevenson's uninformed, patronizing and superficial opinions about comics in Slate. My biggest reaction was: Sigh. What else is new?
But then the Bulletin had to go and print a abridged version of the story in the Sunday paper.
Maybe every insider has this reaction to an outsider making judgments about which something they know nothing about.
The really disheartening thing to me, are the comments, many of which can be distilled down to: comic readers are immature and stupid.
I can't be bothered to defend myself against uninformed bias.
The last presidential election, I had Bendbubble 2 blog to visit to go and express my political opinions, keeping my own blog free.
Oh, and I have opinions.
But...I'm not going to express them here.
I'll just have to find some other place to vent.
Funny. Four years ago I was accused of talking the Democratic "talking points" and I didn't know what the hell they were talking about. They really were my own opinions, based on reading the Bulletin and watching mainstream media...but mostly on what I'd like to think was my own reasoning.
This time around, I'm fully aware of MSNBC and Slate and Salon and Huffington Post.
But reading all the comments there, just make me feel like it's pretty useless. The center has split -- there is no center -- there are only the extremes.
Man, today's entries are just one big sigh, aren't they.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
I've constantly mentioned some of them: asking proper prices (not being afraid of a mark-up that makes sense), not getting too carried away with promotions and advertising (I'm swimming against the tide on this, since most advice I hear is the opposite), working the store yourself, and otherwise keeping the overhead low (the article touches on this, but I'm just re-enforcing the idea.) Keeping the store well stocked and diversified.
But there are two major elements that need to be talked about.
1.) Over-expansion (or over-extension).
Most of the businesses mentioned in the article were content to run their small businesses, but I know from experience that the temptation to get bigger is nearly irresistible in this country.
Someone told me early on that too much success was nearly as dangerous as too much failure. Which didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, at first.
But actually, my business suffered from this problem. Having 4 or 5 years of nearly exponential growth was one of the toughest things I ever had to handle.
Think about it. If you are growing double every year, you have to bring in TWICE as much product as you did before. If you are earning 40% margins, you are actually spending MORE money than you are making. And each year, this problem is compounded.
I ended up opening 4 stores (Sisters, Redmond, Mountain View Mall, as well as my downtown store) trying to service this explosive growth.
Then it all collapsed, while I was still in the red. My sales had grown hugely, but I was still deep in debt. I'd churned through a whole lotta cash but nothing had stuck.
2.) Having no other option.
So I just hunkered down and spent the next 7 years working every day, (except Christmas and Thanksgiving, and a couple days on average per year that my wife relieved me) getting by on as little inventory as possible, trying to get better margins, keeping my overhead down to as little as possible. (As an example, we combined our home and business garbage into one can, we cut every single service we had that we didn't need, I brown-bagged it every day, "Make it do, or do without; Use it up, or wear it out.")
All because I perceived that I didn't have any better options. Who knows? If I'd had money to fall back on, or a different job waiting, I might have made a different decision.
Economically, it probably would have made more sense for me to go bankrupt in the mid-90's. But, according to my accountant, there was no legitimate way for me to keep my business if I made that decision. (Yes, I see other businesses survive bankruptcy, but I'll be damned if I know how they do it...)
At the same time, I felt the store actually was solid -- without the debt. I'd wracked up my 10K hours of experience and more, and knew what I would be able to do if I could just get out of debt.
And, after those horrendous years, I think I was proven right. The store is pretty solid these days, and I'm so glad I hung in there.
I made the decision to stick with it, and did what I had to do to make it work.
CAN MOM-AND-POP SHOPS SURVIVE EXTREME GENTRIFICATION? By Adam Davidson.
The basic premise of the article is to ask how some small shops have survived in New York City. What secrets did they hold?
"As an economics geek, I ... wonder how in the world they survived. How have they innovated? How were they shrewd enough to overcome the rising rents and profit off a new, wealthy clientele?"
He comes to a surprising conclusion, but one that doesn't much surprise me. I'm one of those types of businesses....actually. They survive because they want to survive.
One owner says: He ..."didn’t have any savvy business secrets. When I asked how business had changed since the ’80s, Wong shrugged. “It’s about the same,” he said."
'What a minute!' says the writer. 'Your entire neighborhood has changed around you!'
Yes, the owner admits, much has changed:
The writer goes on to another store, who says pretty much the same thing:
I asked Walker why the store still looks so threadbare. It made sense 20 years ago, but didn’t Imperial want to entice its richer customers? He waved me off. “You make it yuppie, nobody will want to come,” Walker said, improbably. “They like the old-fashioned way.”
The only thing surprising to me about this article is that the writer actually has the flexibility to change his mind:
"That’s when I realized that my hypothesis was precisely wrong. Perhaps these small business survivors weren’t the smartest or fittest. They were run by unusually risk-averse businesspeople who sold a product whose value just happened to grow in lock step with the neighborhood."
Yet another example of a survivor:
"He’s surviving, he said, because he’s not an especially ambitious businessman. Stewart’s sales have risen over the past few years, but he takes home less money than he used to. He pays three times as much in rent as he did on his first lease, in 1995. Food costs more, too. “If I just cared about the money,” he said, “I’d have closed a long time ago.” Instead, he’ll remain open “as long as the place is covering the costs.”
And finally, the writer's conclusion. See if you can pick out the 'word' I'm going to object to:
"I wondered why Bowman, like her fellow proprietors, was disavowing economic theory and not trying to maximize her profits.
"A vast majority"..."are what economists call lifestyle businesses. They are owned by people whose goal is to do what they like and to cover their nut. These surviving proprietors hadn’t merely been lucky. They loved their businesses so much that they found a way to hold on to them, even if it meant making bad business decisions. It’s a remarkable accomplishment in its own right."
The writer twice uses the questionable word "bad" business decisions on the part of these small businesses, because they choose not to "maximize" their profits. (Begging the question, how do they do that? The real decision is, either stay in business with modest goals, or get out...)
But, yes. I think the reason small businesses in downtown Bend survive, mostly, is the same. Modest goals. Tenaciousness on the part of the owner. "Loving their business so much that they find a way to hold onto them."
What I've noticed in downtown Bend is that it is the more down-to-earth models that seem to survive year after year. Owners who are actually living off their businesses, and make sensible decisions about how to survive. It isn't the fanciest, most overhead heavy businesses that make it. It's not the ones who make the biggest splash.
My inventory has changed as the years go by, but all that has really done is made it possible to make about the same level of sales I've always made, proportionally to my overhead. I'm making a bit more profit now, but mostly because of my experience.
I'm not sure about the "risk-adverse" premise: owning a business is pretty risky in itself. But being careful, not going overboard and slowly adapting is usually a better response than completely changing your business in unexpected directions. You just constantly adjust to "...the price of beans."
I also agree with the idea of not spending too much money to get fancy -- because I think people really do look for an authentic experience, and they can sense whether you are doing your business because you love it, or it's some kind of tax write-off.
I used to worry about the threadbare carpet, the 'yellowed' toys, but hey, they are a real-world consequence of my position in business. Yes, I try to keep up as best I can, and improve as much as the budget allows -- but it's a real response to a real problem. Not just throwing money at it.
So the trick to surviving in business in downtown Bend is to have modest goals, keep on doing what you're doing as best you can, and just survive.
I can't see that as "bad."
Saturday, July 14, 2012
The next three weeks are taken up with street closures. Funny how that happens. Supposedly these events are "limited" yet somehow they take up the three weekends that, outside of Christmas, I would expect to be our busiest weekends of the year.
It's sort of like closing down the interstate for repairs during rush hour. It makes little to no sense for downtowners to do this.
I know to some people this just makes me a big party pooper poopey head.
I was told quite sternly by one ordinarily friendly commenter that downtown was a "Public Space." Well, I don't agree with that. The streets are public in the sense that they are meant for traffic. That's why they are there. But they are lined by private retail, who pay the rent and the taxes. It isn't the same thing as a park.
Not that anything will ever change.
So, dude. Relax. I can't take away your fun.
The interesting thing about the people who are the biggest supporters of these things is, well, they don't strike me as terribly outgoing people.
So I guess that's misleading. I suppose if you just met me in the store, you'd think I was extremely outgoing.
We'll see how business goes: I've had to back off a little bit over the last few years, as I don't quite get as hammered by the hordes as I used to be. So, I'll hold out the hope that I'm all wet.
In comparison, I had an extremely strong Wednesday, a strong Thursday right up to 4:00 (start of Munch and Music), and a decent Friday until about 4:00 when they put up the yellow crime tape. (Nobody parks, cause yellow tape cries "Murder!")
Meanwhile, since it can't be helped: Go ahead, have some fun.
Friday, July 13, 2012
I have no idea where they got this. I suspect they totally made it up.
But they told me so early and so often, I came to believe it.
I still do. Should be a great day!
I've been informed that "grass" is so "60's" and "hopelessly out of date."
"No one calls it that anymore," Paul said. "Call it Weed, or..." (I've already forgotten the other terms he used.)
"If you can't call it anything else, call it marijuana."
Hey, it was grass when I was a kid and it will always be grass...
I am so unhip.
Another B.S. callout.
The business section has a front page article entitled: "Signs of Life in Subdivisions."
I guess. Like looking for life in the universe, you can always finds signs and portents. "More earthlike planets discovered!" "Water is more common in the universe than we expected!"
I know this. The industry is absolutely relentless in their boosterism. It's very Terminator like. They never stop, they never get sidetracked, they stay on their killer mission. Housing is good. Housing is Better. Housing is wonderful!!
Meanwhile, the article in the back of the section is: "Number of Foreclosure Proceedings Rose in June."
"Banks are increasingly placing homes with unpaid mortgages on a countdown that could deliver a swell of new foreclosed properties onto the market by early next year, potentially weighing further on home values.
"June provided the latest evidence of this trend, as the number of U.S. homes entering the foreclosure process for the first time increased on an annual basis for the second month in a row..."
My own feeling is that the problems are a vast reservoir which is still being filled, and the occasional seasonal runoff is being mistaken for a true drawdown. I think the Great Recession is too big to be counteracted by 'positive' vibes.
"What does it say about me that I don't understand anything in this store?" a woman with kids says.
"It says that you are terribly unhip."
"Or that I am a huge nerd."
"Probably says both," she says. "I was a cheerleader in high school, but as I've gotten older I've come to recognize that the nerds got it right."
"Hey, we could always write a comic, Nerds versus Cheerleaders."
"With deadly pom poms!" she says.
I whip off my glasses. "And razor sharp eyeglasses!"
Ha, ha. We both say uncomfortably. A little detente in our older years.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Summer fest. Excuse me while I shoot myself in the foot. Ouch.
Well -- everyone have fun.
For some reason, I'm not the slightest bit interested in the Spider-man movie reboot. Feel like I've seen that movie already, (plus read a couple dozen reboots in the comics over the years.) I really don't understand the point.
Everyone else I talk to seems to feel different, and the people who have seen it seem to like it.
But I'll save my time and money for something else.
The Batman movie, on the other hand, looks awesome.
My comments about legalizing marijuana has successfully smoked out all the dopers.
Anonymously, at least!
Sold a jigsaw puzzle at my store, yesterday. (I carry about 10, versus Linda carrying 60 or so.)
"We're a puzzling family," the dad said.
"You can say that again," I answered, raising my eyebrows. Apparently they went to Linda's store and worked on our display puzzle for awhile, but sadly didn't buy another puzzle.
The puzzles have sold, a little. Nothing spectacular, but not a disaster either.
Again, I feel like it has very little to do with what I do, despite the perceptions.
I have to look at all these things -- comic-con, internet comic sites, big movies -- as all lending my business a certain legitimacy that we didn't have a couple decades ago. The old, balding fat guy who lives in his parents basement stereotype is still around, but there is at least an awareness that other types of people are also involved these days...
I have the same reaction every year.
If only business was like this all year around! The things I could do!
My old saying, "I make money four months out of the year, I lose money four months out of the year, I break even four months out of the year," pretty much still holds, however.
Having a nice philosophical discussion with a customer, and we go off on some strange tangents, as will happen when you're talking about books by Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick.
"I read the Illuminati, and I'm still sane!" I proclaimed.
"Well," the guy says. "After talking to you, I'm not so sure...."
Anyway, I have a store full of people, but they're all milling around and another customer, a well-dressed, nice looking woman, started talking to the guy, and I went off toward the bathroom while I had the chance.
I'm just closing the door, when the guy's voice raises and he says, "I'm basically homeless."
It was funny how there was a moment of silence and everyone turned their head. Then, it was quickly back to normal and everyone ignored it. To her credit, the lady (who turned out to be a real estate agent, I wonder if she asked him if was looking for a house?) continued to have a nice discussion with him.
After she left, I said to him, "That's a real showstopper when you say it that way."
He just sort of shrugged.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
I felt drugs, including grass, had contributed to my descent into deep depression in my late teens and early 20's. At least, they had kicked the whole episode off -- perhaps I was genetically inclined, it seems to run in my family -- but messing with drugs when I was 17 years old turned out to be a pretty bad idea for me.
Even though it was a very short period of time, a summer really, I really went overboard for those few months.
I've mellowed over the years. I've seen that it doesn't affect everyone the same way. It's been 40 years since I last did it.
I never really even got along with grass, and after I had a few bad trips, all experiences turned bad. There are a few good memories of some early trips, and some lazy afternoons on the couch. Even nicer, some mind expanding times out in the woods or by the river.
But mostly, me and drugs just didn't get along.
The first time I heard it proposed that we legalized drugs, I thought it was ridiculous. I felt all exposure was bad and would only lead to worse.
But, I've come around to thinking that the "war" on drugs has failed. If it's easier to get drugs today, and they're cheaper, and stronger, then something has gone very very wrong.
I do happen to believe that grass is a "gateway" drug. But why? Because it's a conduit to your friendly neighborhood dealers and drug houses and a milieu that is infested with harder drugs.
Perhaps a safe clean place to buy grass wouldn't be such a bad idea.
More money for treatment and less for incarceration would also seem a no brainer.
They'll have to deal with age issues, and driving while impaired -- but that already happening.
Like I said, I never thought I'd come around to this solution, but I think the evidence is in.
So reluctantly and with trepidation, I'm venturing the opinion:
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Would writing itself be enough? If I thought no one would ever read my scribblings, would it still be satisfying to create?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes. To a point.
Because, even though I'm not actively looking for ways to print up or expose my writing, that is still kind of a hazy goal in the future.
I got back three of the revisions to my manuscript, and they are sitting on my table. But vacation time came, and then summer, and I've more or less decided not to tackle it until Fall. The last two books -- the one I wrote before my long hiatus, and the one I wrote after -- are lumps of coal. I know there is a diamond in there somewhere, but I'm not sure how to extract it.
So, meanwhile, I've started a little space fantasy for myself. I'm writing it more the way I write my blog. Easy, cheesy. Not struggling over it, just sort of spinning it out.
The fun and satisfaction is in writing that first draft, the discovery, the flexing of the creative muscles. I'm going with that, for now.
Because in the end, no matter that actually producing something in a readable form is the ultimate goal, nothing is possible without the original material. So the fact that it's piling up a tad doesn't really bother me.
I'm hoping for inspiration on SOMETIMES A DRAGON and on I'M ONLY HUMAN that will unlock their potential.
Meanwhile, it's on to writing the next thing. CLOUDSHIPS. Here I come.
Monday, July 9, 2012
Anyway, I thought it was interestingly handled, as a response to stress that can be dealt with properly. That the character is an effective worker, who occasionally has a problem.
And the Xanax.
I always carry a pill with me, just in case. I haven't had to resort to it very often. I suspect, actually, I don't resort to the pills often enough. I'm conscious that it could become an issue.
But just having them available has been a huge help. It seems to short-circuit the beginnings of the problem to know that I have a solution to the problem. A placebo effect without even taking the placebo.
I've mentioned before I suffered from depression in my 20's. It's been about 35 years since I went off the major medication.
But there was one holdover, and that was my agoraphobia. I fought through it. Just going into Pegasus Books the first time and meeting the owner was a real challenge. Going to writer's group. Both activities have led to both a personal life (I met Linda at writer's group) and my working life (hired to work at Pegasus and 4 years later, buying the place.)
Here's the thing I'll always remember though. I just thought I was generally crazy until:
I read an article.
Yes, in all my voluminous and almost addictive reading, I stumbled across an article about agoraphobia and realized what I had. An, 'ah hah!' moment. This was at least 10 years after I suffered my first panic attack.
Neither of the shrinks who treated me for depression ever diagnosed it: I'm sure it was all tangled up in my other neuroses...heh.
Just knowing what it was, was a huge huge relief. I read up on the condition, and started treating myself. Not aggressively, by any means. But slowly, very very slowly, I attempted more and more social interaction, venturing out of my safe zone ONLY when I felt I wouldn't have a panic attack.
The theory being, the more marketplace interactions I had without a panic attack the more credit I accrued in my emotional bank.
But I had a safe platform from which to venture. I owned my own store, I had a very supportive wife and family. I did it extremely slowly -- you might even say, over a 20 to 30 year period of saying NO to most things, and occasionally saying YES.
It was about a decade ago, that I asked my general practitioner about Xanax, which I had read was a "magic" pill for the condition. I was all ready to argue that "I didn't care what caused it" and "I didn't want to see a shrink" and so on, but he readily agreed.
It's been a huge help, and I'm almost at a stage of believing that the actual phobia is gone -- that what I've got is just your everyday social anxiety, which Xanax smooths over.
My latest Doctor actually did start to ask about "what caused it" and I rather harshly said, "It doesn't matter -- it has to do with depression and drugs from 30 years ago, and I've been all through that -- the pills WORK and that's that." She, maybe a little reluctantly, let it drop. I suspect, at this point in my life, I probably know more about the condition than she does...That it's situational, and that I don't need Freudian analysis to figure out what's going on.
Anyway, it was nice to see a non-pejorative, non-judgmental depiction of the condition.
Now, about NEWSROOM.
It's red meat for liberals. I cheer every scene.
The first episode was great, the second episode was cringe-worthingly bad, and the third episode was pretty good. I don't much like the flibbertigibbet female characters in their relations to the men.
Other than that, I'm eating it up.
Sunday, July 8, 2012
Answer is: I don't know.
I'm guessing, however, that they do indeed get a lot more foot traffic. Linda and I walked around downtown this afternoon, and the flow was definitely heavier on Wall.
They also don't seem to have as much turnover as the rest of downtown.
My assumption is; the rents are at their peak on Wall Street, but so are the returns. Let's say 100%.
Go off the beaten track just a little, say Oregon and Minnesota streets, and maybe the rents drop slightly (if at all) but the return is probably more like 85%. So we're paying very close to full peak rent, say 95% but getting 85% the return. Go even further out, and the rents only drop a little more, say to 90%, while the return probably drops to more like 75% and so on.
In other words, in my opinion, the rents are a little off kilter. Landlords want the going rate, and the going rate is Wall Street or slightly below. But the returns aren't equal.
Which is why, I think, you see slightly more turnover the further away from Wall Street.
Like I said, I can't really prove any of this, it's just a sense I get.
So, yes, if I was starting a business from scratch, and there was a likely looking location on Wall Street, I'd take it.
It wouldn't make much sense for me to do it now. I've been in the same location for so long, and the store is so packed, that any improvement (the above 10% improvement) would be more than offset over the short and medium time-frame by the customers I'd lose and the costs of moving. Plus paying a higher rate right off the bat while I'm trying to re-establish myself.
Besides -- from my long-term perspective -- the amount of foot-traffic I'm now getting is a bit of a miracle -- considering for most of my career we didn't get much of any. So it's a vast improvement, from my perspective.
Ironically, Wall Street can seem almost too busy. The traffic is kind of heavy. But that smacks of the old Yogi Berra saying, "No one goes there anymore...it's too busy."
I'm sure they are slow plenty of times. If it was too busy, I'm sure I'd get over it by counting my money in the register at the end of the day.
Saturday, July 7, 2012
I'm starting to feel like the guys in the Hatch in Lost who have to push a button every 108 minutes or the world ends.
So here it is, and in 4 months it will be six years of pushing the hatch button.
(Yes, I know I can quit at any time, but usually it's easy...)
Friday, July 6, 2012
Reading two weeks of Bulletin just really shows how conservative their editorial pages are. It's so strange, because I disagree with almost everything the editorials, letters and columns say.
How did I find myself here?
I was down to one day of working at the store this week, and it just wasn't enough time. I'll have to go back today to finish up.
The holiday falling on Wednesday was interesting; Monday and Tuesday were slower than I expected, but yesterday was busy.
Looking ahead, we have an early Thanksgiving (the 22nd) and Christmas and New Years falling on Tuesday. Reading the tea leaves, I think that's a good day to maximize sales.
But who knows?
I put the shipment of jigsaw puzzles out for sale at Linda's store. About 60 of them. They stack very nicely, not taking up too much room. Started a puzzle on the table.
I'll be interested to see if they sell.
It was a momentary madness on my part, but I don't think it will be a disaster.
All the unavoidable mirrors in the motel rooms inspired me to go on a diet.
For some reason, this isn't that hard for me. (Well, it isn't easy, but I can do it.) I set a goal and just do it. I'm thinking about 15 pounds, and so far I'm down 5 pounds. Also, walking. I was going to do 10K steps, but decided on 7000 minimum per day as a more reachable goal.
Turns out, I do about that many steps on a busy day at the store. Yesterday, for instance, I didn't sit down once.
I haven't been able to do any writing, if you're wondering.
Even when I was writing full time, I found summer and holidays a difficult time to get anything done. The fall (memories of school?) and the depths of winter are the best time to concentrate and not be distracted by family and events.
I'm keeping my hand in -- writing a little space fantasy for my own amusement.
So -- I liked Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
I guess I'm easily amused. The major criticism the reviewers had was the lack of humor.
Hey, vampires are a serious business! At least in my book.
Have I mentioned I usually hate campiness?
Thursday, July 5, 2012
It will be interesting to see if we can now start to beat the previous increases. It might be hard to do in July, because we had a pretty big month last year.
Every category saw at least a double digit increase this month, which I think is the first time that has happened.
Comics: +24%. Comics continue to do well.
Sports Cards: +10%. Reinvesting in these, and getting a bit of a boost, but probably not much more than I'm putting in. Trying to get these going again, especially after seeing card shops on my trip who seemed to be making headway.
CCG's: +10%. Considering that I have one less competitor than before, not a major increase but I'll take it.
Games: +27%. Very gratifying that these continue to do well.
New and Used Books: +24%. Also very gratifying. Books have just continued to grow.
Toys: +35%. A big increase in a smaller category, but nice to see since I've been reinvesting in this category this year.
Graphic Novels: +15%. I feel with the quality of the selection I've brought in, this category should actually be doing better. But I certainly see it as solid.
I also did an analysis of the first six months compared to last year, with very similar results.
+22% increase overall.
Sports cards: +10.
Graphic Novels: +15%.
So, not just close to the same as June, but almost exactly the same. (The numbers don't seen to quite add up, but I'm getting ready for work. I'll try to figure out how the individual increases didn't add up to a larger overall increase later...)(O.K. I think it's just a 'rounding' error. No biggie.)
At any rate, it would seem that the growth in all categories is real and solid.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Totally frustrating not to really be able to watch anything, browse the internet, read a book, or much of anything else.
Also, I'm worried. Why did I get a flare up? Do I have a new allergy? The only thing that has ever hit me this hard before was when I got a cinder of sage in my eye from a fire. Have there been fires around Bend that contained sage? Why does it strike hard at 9:00 every night?
Around 9:00 I laid down and closed my eyes for about an hour, and when I got up again, the eyes were not getting worse. Got up again this morning with really puffy eyes, and got my guys to cover the store today. (Yes, we're open; 11:00 to 4:00).
I'm going to wash my hands every hour or so and keep them away from my eyes and mow the lawn no matter what and otherwise try to stay busy until the fireworks tonight. Sorry, not much else going on.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
A few minutes later, my eyes exploded. Painful, watering, just awful.
Got in the shower and tried to rinse my eyes. Was up until 3:00 in the morning before the pain subsided enough to get some sleep. Almost went to the emergency room. Just about the worst thing about it, is my sinus just starts flowing when my eyes water, and I used up a couple boxes of tissue.
Woke up this morning with my eyes glued shut. I pried them them open gingerly with my fingers, but there wasn't any pain.
However, I look like a gargoyle. Fortunately, I don't have to work today, though I was planning to work tomorrow.
Gardening is dangerous.
Monday, July 2, 2012
I'm not judging the merits of mass transit, only whether it was ever going to be workable in Bend.
O.K. Those who want proof, can stop reading now.
This is more a sense of Bend that I have, a sense that we really are different.
When I visited all these other towns on our trip, I started to get a little uneasy. There were more comic shops, more card shops, more game stores, per capita, than in Bend. Bookstores were less predictable, with towns bigger than Bend having none, and towns smaller having more. But really, when you look at Bend from an objective standpoint, there should be more independent hobby shops than there are.
But Bend really only has one independent bookstore, one game store, one comic store. None of them have had it easy.
It's something ab0ut the demographics, is my sense, but I don't know.
My sense was that the bus system in Bend simply wouldn't be used enough. That the layout of Bend, or the attitude toward driving, or -- well, I couldn't prove it. But I was pretty sure this is one of those things that Bend -- because of it's size and relative importance to the region -- should have, because everyone else has them, but which would prove to be elusive.
We've had this idea in Bend for awhile now, that we should have everything a "city" should have. But some of these things -- that our size should allow -- simply don't work.
We are a tourist town, isolated for much of the year, rolling in visitors other times of year. That seems to be different model of economy that most towns our size.
At least that's my sense of it.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
I'm not sure how many people remember the Trailways Bus company; or the depot that used to be on the corner of Greenwood and Bond. I was still taking those buses to college back in the early 70's.
And I'm not sure how many people remember (or care) that Trailways was based in Bend, founded by a fellow named William Niskanen, who fought a legal fight to have Greyhound declared in fault of anti-trust so that his company might exist.
William Niskanen's son (also named William Niskanen) went off to Harvard and became a well-known libertarian economist, eventually landing at the conservative think-tank, the Cato Institute. He died in 2011.
The reason I bring him up is, that his death apparently put the Cato Institute in play. The Koch brothers swooped in and tried to take control of the place. It was recently resolved with the head guy stepping down, but with the Koch brothers backing off.
I find two things about this story to be ironic.
1.) William Niskanen's father resorted to asking the federal government to intervene against a monopolistic enterprise, (Greyhound.)
2.) That the Cato Institute almost got swallowed whole by big money.
In both cases, it seems to me a true libertarian would be saying, yeah, go for it. Money deserves whatever it can buy. The big bad government can butt out.
I wonder. Do these guys ever have second thoughts?