Thursday, April 30, 2009

Airport thrown under bus.

Did anyone else notice the irony of the city diverting funds from " previously earmarked for an airport road construction project..." to save the bus system?

It appears to me that there is an inherent contradiction in their planning process.

I mean, on the same front page, they have two articles.

1.) Bend to keep weekend bus service.

2.) Area aviation officials say they'll survive Cessna's departure.

As I said before, I so pleased for them. But apparently they'll survive with roads that have big potholes. (I know, it was road improvements, but you know what I mean.)

So they would rather have mostly empty buses running on weekends, than support infrastructure involving the airport.

You almost have to wonder if they got together and said, "Well. We don't have to please those Cessna people anymore. And traffic is going down, down. So let's take that money and save the buses....again.

How did the BAT become a sacred cow?


Just found out that downtown Bend is losing it's full time police patrol. To which I have one response:

We had a police patrol?

Boy, I tell you, with all those panhandlers and skateboarders and graphitti, it's the Wild West down there. It's enough to give me boils.

Fortunately, I know this young doctor who works out of his home really cheap. I was on my way, trying to get a hold of him on my cell phone, (he wasn't answering, for some reason) when -- O.K., I admit it I took my eyes off the road for a minute.

Slammed into the back of the KTVZ van. Why were they sitting in the middle of the road, dammit! What were they doing, taking pictures? Just what I need. Publicity.

After I was released from the hospital, (they held me for observation -- they wanted to observe whether I actually had any money and made me sign my house and car over to them if I didn't pay.)

Fortunately, I have credit cards. Sure, they have instituted new terms -- if I take out card from my wallet and look at it, they charge me a fee. If I actually touch the card, they charge me another fee. Actually using the card will mean automatic deposit of my paycheck into their account.

Fortunately, I read the fine print and avoided the "Your First Child Belongs to Us," clause. They wanted a pound of flesh, but fortunately were willing to accept a couple pints of blood.

Well, they can have my car, since it was totaled.

Fortunately, since I'm without transportation for awhile, they have decided to keep the bus system running for the weekends. Apparently, they found out if they sell all the seats in the bus, they can keep them running. Very smart. I've heard the next step is to fire all the drivers and have a volunteer driver from the passengers....which ought to work since it will be the only seat on the bus.

I'd be really depressed, but:

Fortunately, I picked up the paper and read these reassuring headlines: "...worst could be behind us...."

One of our biggest real employers is leaving down, but "officials" say "they'll" survive Cessna's departure. I'm glad "they'll" survive, and I do hope that the officials continue to survive. Can't do without them "officials".

I suppose if everything goes wrong, I'll just go and get another degree. I figure by the time I pay back my student loan, I'll be dead.

Fortunately, 550 people showed up to try to save the local OSU campus. You got to figure -- you know, at least about 10 of them actually go to school up there. Still, lots of people like the 'idea' of a four year college, and that's what counts right?

Fortunately, there is the beautiful spring weather.


If you aren't reading the local paper the Bulletin everyday, the above post might not make much sense....suffice to say, I did not actually have an accident with the KTVZ van....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

good news, bad news

The good news is, there is parking on the street in front of my store.

The bad news is, why the hell is that?


The good news is, my estimates two years ago of where the economy would be weren't all that far off.

The bad news is, you guessed it, my estmates weren't all that far off.


The good news is, tourists don't know how crazy Bend got. They just think we're like everywhere else.

The bad news is, they still aren't spending much.


Good news, people are roaming around looking for bargains.

Bad news, I don't much want my carcass picked clean by vultures.


Good news, my wholesalers have lots of bargains right now.

Bad news, things aren't selling fast enough for me to make room for all them.


Good news, I'm getting huge shipments of product in.

Bad news, my UPS driver hates me.


Good news, I've got my Point of Sale system in.

The bad news is, it's sitting in six unopened boxes for the near future.


Good news, rents have moderated downtown.

Bad news, they haven't moderated enough to match the proportions of down.


Good news, new restaurants opening downtown.

Bad news, many rumors of stores on the way out...


Good news, I was 12% above my estimates this month.

Bad news, I went and spent the extra.


Good news, a bunch of cool pop-culture movies are opening!

Bad news, they have almost zero effect on sales.


The good news, I'm the best stocked I've ever been in my entire career, with the fewest spot shortages.

The bad news, Just why is that?


Good news, I've blogged every day for almost 2.5 years.

Bad news, I have enough time on my hands to blog every day.

American Idolness

I watched my first and hopefully last American Idol last night. After all, it's pretty clear who's going to win. Want me to tell you?

Sue told me she didn't want to read about this in the blog. Tough. You made me break a vow, girl.

My sister Tina came home from the hospital yesterday, so we all congregated at her house to chat, until my sister Sue announced that she simply had to watch American Idol.

So I stuck around with Linda and brother Mike to watch.

I amused myself by being the annoying brat brother. (The role came back so easily.)

"Is that Susan Boyle?"

"So when is Susan Boyle coming on?"

"Did Susan Boyle color her hair red?"

"I want Susan Boyle!"

To borrow from Simon Cowell, it was pretty 'wet.' But I can see how it can be addicting to watch.

But really, is there any doubt who's Teacher's Pet?

I don't know anything about what's gone on before, but as an outside observer, it was like watching a pro among amateurs. He's got a whole "Gay Elvis" vibe going. I just had to laugh when he sashayed down those steps.

Our society is doomed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How we were thinking in 2005.

Today's Bulletin Business Section: "Bank Files Lawsuit against developers," for 8.6 million.

For what?

"The 500 Bond project was envisioned to include a 199-unit, five building development at the mostly vacant corner of Southwest Wilson Avenue, with a four-to five-star hotel-condo capped with a top-story restaurant."

Um....sure. Right.

By the way, what happened to the 8.6 million?


Woke up this morning and this white stuff was floating down from the sky. Anyone know what that stuff is? It being nearly May, I figure it's got be floating dandelion seeds or something....


My sister Sue flew in from Delaware last week, with no more than a sweater. She had to go shopping for something warmer Sunday. She grew up in Bend. How quickly they forget.


Swine flu, because we don't have enough to worry about.


Steady as she goes at the store. I think sometimes, the temptation is to cut back too much on product when it's slow, which just compounds the problem. On the other hand, there is an equal temptation to spend too much on product, hoping to buy your way out of it being slow. The latter is more of a danger for me.

But I think part of my longevity is that I have always attempted to keep a good supply of material in the store, even when it required gambling. Kept me in thrall to the store, but kept my store alive.


I am invoking the "I've been in business for "30 years" all the time, nowadays -- followed by "That's 150 years in Bend years." It seems to me that customers need reassurance that you're viable.

On the other hand, people seem to be angling for discounts more often. I wonder if they think the retailers need their business so bad they can get price breaks?

Trouble is, if they need business that bad, cutting prices is sometimes the last thing they should do.

It's a fine line in both issues -- stocking and pricing, between being too careful and too stubborn; and being too careless and too easy.


As I mentioned, I'm about 12% over my estimates this month. But I almost gave some of it back yesterday, because it was so slow. At the end of the day, I had a couple of big sales which saved the day. Not sure what that was about. The weather? The end of the month? Swine flu? The economy getting worser?

The month of May has lots of events and product releases, so I'm hoping that will spark some sales. If not...summer is coming. May not be a big summer, but the threat of actually going DOWN from current levels is less.

On the other hand, it does appear to me the economy in Bend in worsening.


Last -- some more grandiose 2005 thinking.

When Cascade Bank was flying high back then, some of us wondered if they weren't maybe a bit overextended. From this mornings article:

"Moss admitted the bank made some loans it has since regretted but affirmed the bank's philosophy of investing in real estate and small businesses as sound business practices...."

Well, all right then. As long as the "Philosophy" is sound. I love philosophy.


Linda and I drove to Yarrow in Madras a year or two ago, just as things were cracking, and were surprised by how big it was -- and how empty.

I mentioned a few months ago, when Yarrow announced it's new pricing that they were essentially selling two lots for half the price of one.

This morning, they were using the "Twice the land, half the price" as their actual slogan.

I suppose they don't have all that many people pissed off that they bought at regular price....


Oh, 2005. We could do anything back then! 5 star restaurants, water slides the size of a skyscraper, a world class 4 year college, ....all was possible.

Or......maybe not.

Oh, 2005. You Vixen. You took all our money and disappeared.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mystery Authors I like, and T.V. Shows I don't...

Spent the day both at work and at home doing the monthly orders. Usually it's a two day process, mostly because about halfway through it, about 5 hours, my brain becomes fried.

But I've had family in town, and it fell to the last day.

I pushed on through, this time, taking a couple hours break in between sessions.

But by 9:00 I was ready to press SAVE and I had just enough energy to throw myself at the T.V.

Nothing on.

COLD CASE. Started watching, purely awful.

Stumbled across what I thought was an old episode of L & O: Criminal Intent, which is the only L & O I can still stand to watch. (Linda will watch any of them at any time even if she's seen them before.) They've become so stylized lately, so formula, that it's like Kabuki Theater. SVU, especially, is like the Miami CSI of L & O; mannerisms and posturing and message pushing.

Anyway, it turned out to be the first Jeff Goldblum episode of Criminal Intent.

God, I hope they can keep up that quality of writing. Terrific. Had me laughing, exchanging delighted glances with Linda, which is when we know we've found a winner. Goldblum had just the right amount of quirk.

Sure it's the same formula; ultra talented guy, with understanding but exasperated female partner (seems like that they could turn that around), but done so very well.

I've got to remember it's on the USA Channel on Sundays....


I read a new comic from Warren Ellis, Ignition City, which I enjoyed. Set in the last space port in an alternate earth where space flight was already in full bloom during WWII, and has faded into a broken down collection of misfits.

The Avatar titles are interesting to me; they get the top writing talent, adequate artists, and over-the-top storytelling. Can't help shake the feeling that it's second tier stuff, though.

Also tried Viking, which is a new oversized comic (an experiment, I guess. Usually people prefer their comics standard sized.)

It's a pretty package, and I really wanted to like it. But couldn't quite get into it. I may try again later, because I think it would be an easy sell if it was any good.

Can't anyone write a good Viking story?


After taking over a month to read my last book, The Terror, Dan Simmons, I'm back to my mysteries. I'm reading a Jame Lee Burke book. I have about 20 or 30 mysteries writers I consider to be 'reliables', and I've read everything they've done and just wait for the next book.

Micheal Connelly/James Lee Burke/Elmore Leonard/T.Jefferson Parker/Lee Child/James Crumley/George Pellecanos/Robert Crais/Daniel Silva/John Stanford/Thomas Perry/James Ellroy/Lawrence Block/James Swain/Walter Mosley/Thomas H. Cook/Carl Hiasson/John LaCarre/Dennis Lehane/Stephen Hunter/Nevada Barr/Joe Lansdale/ and so on.

I have a whole bunch of secondary authors I'll read if I can't find any of my A list.

Robert Ferrigno/Greg Rucka/Harlan Coben/John Dunning/Jon. Kellerman/Max Allen Collins/Diana Stablenow/Paul Levine/Aaron Elkins/Steve Hamilton/Frederick Forsyth/James Hall/David Morrell/Stephen Greenleaf/and so on.

If I'm really hurting, I always know there are Koonz and King books I haven't read.

There are others I admire, but just never seem to really want to read. Anne Perry/Marcia Muller/Elizabeth George/and many others.

Obviously, I like my mysteries hard-boiled.

There are a whole bunch of well-known mystery writers that I've tried one or two book and just didn't care for them, for a variety of reasons:

Obvious ones, like Robert Parker/Janet Evanovich/Sue Grafton/Ed McBain/Elizabeth Peters/J.A.Jance/Ridley Pearson/Stuart Woods/James Patterson/Patricia Cornwell (I did like the early ones)/and so on. If it's a really well-known author, I usually try at least one book, sometimes two before I give up.

Others, I've read all their books and they're gone and no more are coming. Many of these: John D. McDonald/Dick Francis/Tony Hillerman/Robert Campbell/Micheal Crichton/and of course Raymond Chandler/Agatha Christie/Dashiell Hammett/ and so on.

Someday soon, I'll have to try to do this with my S.F. and Fantasy authors.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More Tweaking.

Really, Bulletin, I love you man.

I honestly believe you do a good job (fellow bubble bloggers may excoriate me for this), but you do have a few quirks. You do all the hard work, and I just poke holes from the sideline. Without you, I would be short of fodder material.

I especially hate to bug you about using the words "Glimmer of Hope" when they were originally spoken by Obama, who I'm really liking, these days. (Was talking to Jim from the Nugget, and he's taking a 'wait to see' attitude toward Obama, whereas I'm taking a 'like him until I don't' attitude.)

But really...

Glimmer of Hope? In Bend?

There's a blog over on the Bend Economy Bulletin board that has been posted under the heading, LIFE ON THE TITANIC, by Mike Whitney (Smirking Chimp) which has a contrary view.

As a writing experiment, I'm going to alternate paragraphs between the Bulletin story and this blog. Bulletin in Bold, blog in italics.

WARNING: It's really long, so move on if this doesn't interest you. I know they are comparing apples and oranges, but I'm more going for the dramatically different tones and perspectives.

BULLETIN: There's no way to know how long the national recession will continue its grip on Central Oregon's construction industry, but at least there were a few positive signs in March.

TITANIC: Why is the media misleading the public about housing?

BULLETIN: Some builders while not by any means seeing this as a return to the boom years of 2004-06, see demand for new homes returning at a time of low interest rates and dropping prices. They say there exist homebuyers who would rather buy new homes at relatively the same cost as foreclosed homes or ones bought through short sales that require approval.

TITANIC: The housing market is crashing. There are no "green shoots" or "glimmers of hope"; the market is worn to a stump, it's kaput. Still, whenever new housing figures are released, they're crunched and tweaked and spin-dried until they tell a totally different story; a hopeful story about an elusive "light in the tunnel". But there is no light in the tunnel; it's a myth. The truth is, there's no sign of a turnaround or a "bottom" in housing at all; not yet, at least. The real estate market is freefalling and it looks like its got a long way to go. So why is the media still peddling the same "rose-colored" claptrap that put the country in this pickle to begin with? Here's an example of media spin which appeared in Bloomberg News on Wednesday:

"US home prices rose 0.7 percent in February from the month before, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said in Washington today, a sign that low interest rates may be moderating declines in real estate values....Housing market data indicates prices are starting to “stabilize,” and households’ available cash should improve through each quarter of 2009 and into 2010." (Bloomberg)

BULLETIN: There were 24 building permits issued in March in Bend, up from seven in February and 13 in March 2008, according to the Central Oregon Housing Market Letter, a monthly housing-related report. Of those permits, 16 were taken out by two builders: Hayden Homes and Pahlisch Homes...

TITANIC: This report is complete gibberish. The only way to get a fix on what's really happening with housing is to compare prices year over year (yoy) not month to month. Clearly, the journalist decided to spin the story from this angle because it offered the one flimsy sign of hope in a sector that's been reduced to rubble. But, don't be fooled, housing isn't staging a comeback. Not by a long shot.

This is from Marketwatch:

"The Case-Shiller index of 20 major cities fell 2.8% in January, the fastest decline on record. The Case-Shiller index rose more than the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) index did during the bubble, and it's fallen faster since the bubble burst....The index was down 19% year-over-year in January."

BULLETIN: "If it hadn't been for them, it would have been the same as the month before," said Don Patton, publisher of the report. "For now, it seems to have been somewhat stabilized. But who knows where it is going to go?"

There were 16 permits issued in Central Oregon communities outside Bend: three in Redmond, 11 in Deschutes County and two in Jefferson County, all down from March 2008.

TITANIC: So, the only reason that housing prices rebounded (slightly) in February was because, one month earlier, they were "declining at the fastest pace on record." That's not a sign of "green shoots" like the Pollyannas say. It's a sign of a ferocious ongoing contraction.

BULLETIN: Even with Bend's uptick, the number of permits taken out in Central Oregon was still down 35 percent from March 2008. Through March, the number of permits was down 58% percent from the first quarter of 2008. And last year, the number of permits fell 63 percent from 2007.

TITANIC: "We are now in uncharted territory — new home starts have never fallen to these levels for as long as the Commerce Department has been tracking this data (since 1959). Note also the magnitude of the drop — it is unprecedented, having easily surpassed the 1982 collapse, the present circumstances have now become slightly worse than the 1973-75 fall."

BULLETIN: Still, the fact that two companies were pulling permits last month could be a sign that the market may have hit bottom, Patton said.

Bend-based Pahlisch Homes, which had not pulled a building permit since August, pulled nine permits in March and plans to file for 16 additional permits in the next few months...

TITANIC: Housing will continue to deteriorate no matter what the Fed does; the downward momentum is too great to resist. And although the refi-business is booming, new home sales are still flat. Buyers are just too scared or too broke to take advantage of the ultra-low interest rates. (4.80% 30-year fixed) And now that Obama's foreclosure moratorium is over, delinquencies are stacking up faster than ever before auguring another wave of foreclosures. This is from DataQuick: "Golden State Mortgage Defaults jump to record High":

"Lenders filed a record number of mortgage default notices against California homeowners during the first three months of this year, the result of the recession and of lenders playing catch-up after a temporary lull in foreclosure activity ...

A total of 135,431 default notices were sent out during the January- to-March period. That was up 80.0 percent from 75,230 for the prior quarter and up 19.0 percent from 113,809 in first quarter 2008, according to MDA DataQuick.

BULLETIN: Pahlisch pointed to favorable loan terms ranging between 3.875 and 4.5 percent as a reason construction is starting again.

"These lenders are intelligent enough to know to keep things moving," Pahlisch said. "They have got to offer good rates."

TITANIC: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage delinquencies among the most creditworthy homeowners rose 50 percent in a month as borrowers said drops in income or too much debt caused them to fall behind, according to data from federal regulators.

The number of so-called prime borrowers at least 60 days behind on mortgages owned or guaranteed by the companies rose to 743,686 in January, from 497,131 in December, and is almost double the total for October, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said in a report to Congress today." (Bloomberg)

BULLETIN: The profit margins are not what they were three years ago, but home prices starting at $185,000 are enough to maintain cash flow, move existing product and keep people employed, Pahlisch said.

Pahlisch feels confident that while heavy job losses have taken their toll in Bend -- Deschutes County's unemployment rate stood at almost 15 percent last month, the highest among Oregon metropolitan areas -- people who still have their jobs see this as opportunity to buy.

TITANIC: So, even top-of-the-line prime borrowers are having trouble making their payments. The debt-virus has now spread to all loan categories. But what about Obama's mortgage relief program; won't that help keep people in their homes?

In the last two months, roughly 9,000 mortgage modifications have been worked out under Obama's Streamlined Modification Program. At the same time delinquencies have increased by roughly 195,000 per month. That means there are 186,000 more delinquencies than modifications per month. Obama's program is like a re-staging of grunting Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill; utter futility.

BULLETIN: Sellers of new homes are competing with a glut of foreclosed and short-sale properties, which have driven Bend's median sales prices down 44 percent from their peak in May 2007, according to the latest data from the Bratton Appraisal Group.

TITANIC: The problem with housing goes far beyond the supply/demand imbalance. True, buyers are staying away because they know that prices could fall another 15 to 20 percent, but there's more to it than just that. The housing crisis has been a shock to the psyche. The dream of home ownership--which is so closely linked to the so-called American dream--has turned into a nightmare. The trauma of watching one's life savings and retirement vanish in a matter of months is devastating. It's not an experience that's easily forgotten. Naturally, people will be more skeptical in the future about seductive interest rates and other faux-inducements. Keep in mind, that after investors were burned for $7 trillion in the swindle, tech stocks swooned and the NASDAQ plunged 80 percent over the next year and a half. Housing is headed down that same bumpy path. There probably won't be an uptick in housing until the market is flat on its back and given up for dead.


Enough. You get the idea.

Pick your poison.

Oh, Bulletin....

Oh, Bulletin....

I have to tweak you again, just when you were being so nice to me.

There is a story in the 'Local' section of former associates suing Jay Audia's estate, alleging that he diverted funds from mutually owned development companies to "buy a race car, pay for his gambling habit, and have his home remodeled."

The third paragraph. "Jay Audia died in July 2008 at the age of 48. His obituary did not list cause of death."

Oh, for grief's sake.

We all know by now. Who are you protecting? You're publishing an article alleging that he gambled, diverted funds for his racing, and had his home remodeled on the company dime, but you can't say the word 'suicide?'

I mean, how can you publish the defense by his brother of " he took some advances, and he expected to pay them back"...."In this case, he borrowed some money, and he just died before he could pay it back."

..."he just died..."...

Pretty much loses the context, doesn't it. "...he just died..."

"My brother, any time he borrowed a penny from anyone, he always paid it back."

Well, no. He didn't. He chose a different solution.

Where's the context?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Budgeting again, and the breaking thereof...

My budget plans for May and June are either really smart, or just very sophisticated rationalizations. Or both. (Smart moves sometimes results in bad results; dumb moves can result in good results....)

What's happened is, I've consistently done about 10% better than I planned for. Don't get me wrong, this is still down from last year, and considerably down from two years ago, but I budgeted for even worse.

I've decided to test the upper limits of sales by using that 10% to fully stock the store.

If it doesn't result in higher sales, but I stay at current sales levels, it will be a wash, with more inventory. If I have slower sales, entirely possible since there is never a strictly one on one relationship to stock to sales, then I'll have July and August to make up the difference. If I have higher sales, then I'll be able to continue to put a little aside in profits AND keep the store stocked at higher sales levels.

Overall, I'm just really pleased with how the store is performing. The diversity level seems just right. Comics have stabilized, and graphic novels and books are performing well.

Card games sales have dropped since competition opened in town, but I'm patient.

Toys are doing about the same as ever, sports cards actually had a really good month.

Manga and anime are quiet.

Oh, and boardgames continue to be solid. I'm able to continue to improve the stock and selection.

But everyday, people come in, people I know, people I don't know, they wander around, and a surprising number pick up a surprising choice and bring it to the counter.

The economy may still get worse, but the threads of buying are promising. I mean, you get an instinct for what people are willing to spend, and it seems like it will be enough.

Friday, April 24, 2009

You can't kill Libby's Garden...

Just heard something that tickled me.

A friend of mine was looking at houses, and came across my parent's old house.

You've all heard me talk of my mother, Libby McGeary, who was a kind of master's gardener to master gardeners. When she died, we all knew that no one would possibly be able to maintain her garden. We tried to give 'Libby's' plants to friends and family to remember her by, but the vast majority was plowed under by the new owners.

They built three houses on the same property. Cut down the trees.

I've only been up there once, because it's a bit dispiriting. But I felt that once we sold the property, it wasn't ours anymore. The new owners could do anything they wanted. That's just the way it is.

Anyway, my friend was talking to the current owner, who said:

"It's the strangest thing. Every year these exotic plants pop up all over the property...

"I root them out every year, and the next year another batch pops up."

Ah, ha! You can't kill Libby's garden!

She planted for 40 years up there, layer after layer, row upon row, bulbs and roots and seeds and shoots and god knows what. She'd move them, and replant them, and take cuttings, and then add another layer of compost and soil and another layer of plants.

They were the healthiest plants you ever saw.

The soil must be absolutely permeated with seeds. Springing to life.

The soil is so lush, that any seed that landed would think it found heaven.

It's just is so damned apt.....karma, nature reasserting itself. Libby's personality can't be so easily bulldozed.

Too bad they can't let the plants be.

Personal notes.

Linda takes our fat cat, Panga, to work with her. The fangface is really cute; she waits until Linda opens the car door after packing everything in, and then jumps out of the car and trots into the store.

When we get home, we open the car door and wait. And wait....we leave the door open for her to get out.

For hours.

She just sits on the car seat and yawns at us when we try to coax her into the house.

But she really likes the car, I guess.


Seems like I'm seeing less Hummers around.

I have a viscerally negative reaction to Hummers, always have.

But I saw one parked across from the store the other day, and it was absolutely covered in mud, an inch thick around the wheel wells, splattered up the side of the car, all the way to the roof.

I felt like putting a note on the windshield; Thank you for using the Hummer for the purposes intended.

Then again, I wonder if he tore up the landscape.



Was standing at the refrigerator door with Linda the other day, and looking down at how short she was, and said, "Gee, I wonder what this all looks like from your height." I crouched down, and realized that I was looking UP at the top shelf of the fridge.

Very weird feeling.

Short people, got no reason....


We were at the hospital the other day, got in the elevator with 5 nurses and techs, (3 male, 2 female) One of the nurses was short, about Linda's height. She said, "Short people in front."

So I told the above story about the fridge, and they all just sort of looked at me.

Didn't go over.

Linda laughed after they left the elevator, at least.

My sister, Tina, who we were visiting in the hospital is an amazing verbal storyteller, like my Dad, full of the blarney. Me...not so much.


My sister, Tina, is very ill. Once again, I'm amazed how my family, which is spread to the four winds, rallies around an ill member of the family. And I'm reminded, by not only my parents but by my siblings how short life is, and how quickly things can change.


My reading has slowed to a crawl. It took me over a month to read The Terror, by Dan Simmons. It was an arctic survival (?) story of the Franklin expedition. At first, you think it's the 'supernatural' element that causes their problems, and then you realize it's the expedition members themselves who really cause the chaos.

Great book, a narrative told in a way that details every slow yard of the boat dragging across the ice, every calorie disappearing from the diet. Inexorable. Fascinating. Slow reading.

But the real problem is my working everyday, coming home too tired to do much but turn on the T.V.

Time for one of my periodic paring down of T.V. shows. The networks did about half the work themselves, by eliminating Life, Terminator, and Dollhouse. Battlestar Galactica.

Heroes really isn't worth the effort anymore, and I'm afraid William Pederson was much more important to the dynamics and chemistry of C.S.I than I would've thought.

I've also had it with the political and news shows, again. The left wing trying to get Obama hooked into divisive issues annoy me nearly as much as the right wing on Fox. (Well, maybe one/tenth as much, but still annoyed by idealogical single mindedness.)

Anyway, I've got to find a couple of nights a week to do nothing but read.


Which brings me to the problem of working everyday. Actually, I've enjoyed it. I like being in total control, knowing everything that happens. I'm both a control freak and a workaholic. The only reason I would hire someone is that I know that I probably should -- like taking vitamins, or something.

But I really only want someone one day a week, maybe with the ability to work two or three when I ask. Someone much older, maybe even retired. But someone who at least has a passing acquaintance with the material. Someone who both wants to work, but doesn't need the money and is flexible. Someone who is good with people, and honest.

Someone like Kent. Who works for Linda. I need another Kent. I'm jealous.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Locals stay put....?

The Bulletin has an article about local movers noticing a "drop in business." They come to the conclusion that people are staying put.

Boy, this sure doesn't jibe with what I'm hearing from my customers.

The same way that a few years ago, I'd get the excited comment, "We're moving to Bend!" nowadays I hear a much more subdued, "We're leaving Bend."

So much so, that I've dusted off the "Getting out of Dodge, huh?" phrase.

Anecdotal evidence, to be sure, but pretty heavily weighted to outflow.

My guess, people are

1.) Moving themselves.

2.) Waiting for the school year to end.


Nice little Requiem essay in the Source from the owner of Santee Alley.

But really, there are a couple of things in it that I take issue with. I don't want to add to her low (bitter-sweet) spirits, but I have a couple of questions.

The first third of the essay is complaining about parking costs, (7.00 per day) and even talking about avoiding the parking guy.

I'm sorry. Go to the base of the parking garage, Minnesota Ave., find the Diamond Parking office, buy a monthly parking tag for the garage for 45.00. Don't try to dodge the parking tickets, go to work five minutes early, park in the garage and walk the three or four blocks to your store.

At least you make it clear you 'brown bag' your lunches, but the parking thing really threw me.

Secondly, her statement that rent should be around six percent and never more than ten percent had me breaking out my calculator.

I paid 12.5% last year; if I remove the Triple Net part, it came to 10%. But I include my location as advertising, which makes it a bit more affordable. Still, asking for 6% in Bend isn't going to happen for any reasonable location.

We ARE overpriced on Rent, I'll give you that.

Finally, her comment. " keep your clients coming in the door you've lowered prices forty, sixty, or higher...."

Well, not if you want to stay in business. This is the equivalent of eating your foot to avoid starving. I've done this in the past (call me PEG-LEG), but I've tried very hard to avoid it this time.

I don't want to add to her misery, but just wanted to point out that equations are not set in stone; I've accommodated the higher rent as part of my overhead -- though is really is the explanation why I'm sole worker right now, and don't advertise but depend on downtown foot-traffic.

She catches the up and down momentum of business well, how a few really good days can revive your spirit, and a few really bad days can throw you back down into the dumps.

It can be very hard to read the future -- 'Summer is coming, I had a good weekend, maybe things will work out.'...sort of feeling. But my rent is already due....

Finally, I have to like that she mentions Libby's Garden that she passes on her way to work, because it was named after my master gardener Mom, Libby McGeary. I'm glad to know that is still noticed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shop Local.

"Yes we are -- shopping locally." Local campaign mentioned in the Bulletin.

Hey, what's to argue?

First the good news, and then the not so great news.

I, personally, try to shop locally. But I'm not much of a consumer, so I'm not sure I'm a big help. (Makes me wonder if the same people who are socially conscious enough to shop locally, are also the same people who are socially conscious enough not to over-consume? Hmmmm.....probably not. People love to shop.)

I've always thought of shopping locally as a small local tax. It's relatively painless, that quarter or fifty cents you spent extra to buy aspirin from a local druggist instead of Wal-mart, doesn't seem like it could kill anyone.

When it starts getting to half-price, though, it's pretty hard to argue that one should spend twice as much...

Except, of course, I would maintain that if you got it for half, there is a hidden cost somewhere.

Just talking to my UPS driver about this very thing. He bought a couple of doodad's he needed for his Direct T.V. for 25.00 each from them, after checking around town and finding that they coast 150.00 everywhere else.

"Are you a subscriber to Direct T.V,?" I asked. "How much does it cost per month? See, they want you to buy those doodads so that you'll continue to buy their service and they make x amount per month by having hooked you in."

That's not to say it isn't a good deal, and you would be crazy not to take it. Just that there is always an explanation, always a hidden cost somewhere.

I won't go into the political ramifications of using cheap foreign labor, or paying your American workers as little as possible (benefits? What's that?) Or that the materials going into the 'cheap' stuff may not be quite as good as it should be. Or...well, you could go on and on...

But I always say, if you dig dirt out of one end of the field, it doesn't disappear, but it piles up somewhere else.

Over the last few weeks, I've gotten an extraordinary number of calls and visits from people trying to sell their baseball card collections. I usually just say, No. I usually point them to E-Bay. If they insist, I usually say, "If you find anyone who's buying, let me know...."

End of conversation.

What I don't say is -- how did you expect to be giving your money to the big chain stores for the last 15 years of so, and then expect to come to little old me and get cash?

With what? Where's the money? It isn't in my pocket.

Nothing is for free. You don't get something for nothing. You get what you pay for.

I'd bet that there are a million such examples of hidden costs, disappearing service, shrinking selection, and lousy convenience.

I'd also have to say, that being able to buy more cheaper stuff doesn't necessarily add to your lifestyle. Two pieces of crap instead of one, just means you have twice as much crap.

Imagine if you will a town where everyone bought locally. Instead of Walmart's (smaller) cents on the dollar sticking around, you'd have about 40% of it sticking around. Being spent locally, enriching local merchants, who can refurbish their storefronts, higher more employees or give them bigger paychecks and benefits, who could buy more and different product, maybe even eventually lowering their prices because of their volume.


So here's the not so great news. Such a thing happening is extremely unlikely, to say the least.

If you have to explain why it's in their long-term best interest, that they really are going to end up getting more service and quality product by buying locally, it's not going to work.

One, they won't believe you.

Two, they won't listen to the end of your explanation.

Three, they aren't paying attention. They want what they want when they want at the price they want.

Cheap is cheap. Explanations are blah, blah, blah.

I think people often mean well.

But again imagine that you are an independent bookstore, and Barnes and Nobles is coming to town. What are you going to do about that freight train bearing down on you?

Usual answers are, service, service, hometown feel, service, incentives, convenience, service, quick and free ordering, and so on.

Great. Let's say you maintain 80% of your customer base, despite B & N being 20 times bigger, selling 20 times the number of books, having a large percentage with huge discounts, and having exclusives and mysteriously always getting the books sooner, and always having it in stock when it's sold out at the distributor and so on.

Let's say, though, that you succeed in keeping 80% of your customers. That would have to be considered a huge success.

But you STILL took a 20% hit on your earnings.

How many of you can handle a 20% cut on your earnings?

(I have to say, though, that 80% is wildly optimistic....)

I don't think "Shop locally" campaigns are very effective, but they can't hurt. Maybe you can push that loyalty level to 85% instead, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Anything that might get people thinking about consequences and ramifications may be a good thing.

But if you are a local store, make your peace with the big boys, because pleading with your customers probably won't work too well. Find a way to accommodate the disappearing customers; make them come back because you got something they want, and they're willing to pay for it.

But, yeah, whenever possible, shop locally.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Everything you need to know about Spinach.

Finally won a game of Settlers of Catan, last night. I tried the same strategy next game, and failed. I love how the setup is never the same.


Blew my budget all to hell, yesterday. Started ordering off the lists, and it seemed like I was close to getting everything I needed. Big order of games, big order of books, huge order of graphic novels.

At the end of the day, I'd pretty much spent my entire budget.

A budget where you spend the entire amount in the first two weeks is really no budget at all.

But, wow is my store stocked.


Can Star Trek and Star Wars co-exist, side by side? I'm breaking out the Star Trek novels and making room on the Star Wars racks....


Unadjusted unemployment rate, is 17%. As I always say, I think it's particularly worse than than that in Bend because of the peculiar demographics....


Nice article in the Bulletin today, on Spinach.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Uh, oh.

*Today's Bulletin Online.


* At home with ... bookstore owner and blogger Duncan McGeary

Uh, oh. I'm in trouble now, boys.

I've decided I'm 'probably' not going to comment on the article tomorrow. When we got interviewed, I thought maybe I could direct them in certain direction, but we talked and talked and they took pictures, and they have 20 times the material they need for an article.

It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, they found newsworthy about the way Linda and I live. I think Linda and I live pretty simply.

So, I'm already kind of wincing, even though I haven't read the article and have no idea what's in it. I also didn't want to step on the article that Penny wrote, but since it's coming out tomorrow....

Despite this blog and despite appearances. I don't really like poking my head out of the ground to get whacked all that much.

And yet, I thought maybe my Dad in his assisted care center and other family and friends might get a kick out of it.

Besides, I should probably never turn down free publicity.

But I've had my usual 'ostracism' dreams over the last few nights, which is my subconscious telling me to shut up and lie low. "Don't get cocky, kid!" Hans Solo.

O.K. I have an ego. But I always get in trouble when I let it get away from me.

I also think these article are the type of thing that people -- including me -- can be rather judgmental about. "What dopes."

Let the backlash begin!

Tim told me he thought it was funny the way I agonize over these things, but ... it's constantly in the back of my mind that I'd be better off shutting up.

But....what fun would that be?

Linda's comment: this is like saying, there is an article coming out tomorrow. Read it!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Not meant as a sneer, but as a "What the Hell?"

HBM thinks I was sneering at the Procession of the Species Parade.

Which means I wrote poorly, because that was not my intent.

I ended the entry with a "Heh," which is not meant as a Hah, Hah, but as a "Heh -- how curious."

He's right, though, that I was in my store so my view was limited. Maybe more was going on than I could see.

He's also right in that I don't like the streets closed, except maybe for the 4th of July and Christmas Parades (Hey, I'm not a complete Grinch!), but the impact of the parade yesterday seemed minimal. In fact, only one customer actually mentioned they had come down for the parade. Most were bemused.

And, I'd much, much rather see a big turnout for Earth Day, than Tea Baggers, by the way. Yelled at a long term customer/friend, yesterday, for blaming the economy on Obama. (He's only been in office for three months!) In my defense, I tried to change the subject a couple of times....

It just seemed to me that the parade got a poor turnout. Maybe I'm wrong. The Bulletin didn't mention anything, either.

Funny thing about crowds, even small ones, when you're in the middle of them, they can seem pretty, well, crowded. Outside? Maybe not so much.

Recovery yet? Not even close...

I feel like I need to comment on today's Bulletin Business Section article "Recovery Yet?"

I won't go into how lame the "good" news is compared to the "bad news" (plenty more of that not mentioned); or into the fact that Bend is going to be very different than the rest of the country.


But as someone who has seen bubbles pop before, and who was in business in the 80's in downtown Bend, I have to say, quit watching for a recovery.

When there is an economic recovery, it will pull YOU up.

You will NOT pull up the economy into recovery.

See what I'm saying?


It will happen so slowly, you will hardly notice it. It will have probably been recovery for some time before you're willing to admit it.

You will, in fact, have given up on the whole concept of recovery by the time recovery is noticeable.

It isn't going to be like Bear Stearns crashing.

It will be a little bit here, and a little bit there. Incremental.


I always think, if I plan for the best and it doesn't happen, it will probably put me in a hole that is even harder get out of. However, if I plan for the worst, and it's gets better --BONUS, BABY!!

Like I said, all you can do is deal with what's in front of you, and wishing for a 'recovery' will only mislead you and dissuade you from living fully in the moment and making the hard decisions.


Recovery, when it happens, won't look like it did before. It'll be different, which is one of the reasons it's hard to recognize. Who would have thought, for instance, in early 80's that downtown would thrive and the malls would falter?


If I had to guess -- what with the increasing unemployment, the likelihood of more ARM's and NOD's and falling housing prices, and consumer resistance to spending, I think Bend is looking at a couple of years before you can start looking for signs of 'recovery.'

Another way to put it, A Watched Pot Never Boils. Recovery will happen when you're not looking. Taking a daily, or weekly, or monthly temperature isn't going to help it happen.

Not that that will stop me and everyone else from doing it....

We sell not book, but books.

What I mean by "We sell not book, but books," is that most of our sales seem to come from people who are readers of books, not people who come in looking for one book title. (If they ask for a particular book, and then stick around to browse, that's different.)

I would've thought going into it, that many of our sales would come from these 'looking for...' type customers.

But that's before I realized the full extent of the number of books in the world.


Let me explain.

Last night I went to Linda's store to help her file books. There was a stack of books on the floor, all of them good books, all of them books that conceivably sold in Barnes and Nobles just a year or two ago.

And yet, for the majority, I'd never seen them before.

Night after night, this happens.

There are entire subjects and authors and especially titles that hardly ever come in the door.

Don't get me wrong. There are many titles and authors that come in nearly everyday. But once you get even the slightest bit off the worn path, it seems like perfectly good books are fairly rare.

Not rare as a total; that is, we well get rare and wonderful books everyday, but not a particular book maybe for a long, long time.

It get's so that if someone requests a book that is slightly off the beaten track, we may or may not have it, but it is mostly incidental to the actual sales level of the store.

I think this may be getting confusing. Let me see if I can narrow it down.

1.) We sell more often to those people who want good books, but not so much to people who want one particular book.

2.) Any particular unusual book is fairly rare.

3.) Particular unusual books as a type aren't rare at all.

Does that make any sense?

The person who comes in, and looks around, and even if they have a particular author or title in mind is still open to the possibilities, who wants to find the kinds of books he or she likes -- well, THAT person is our customer.

In hindsight, this makes sense, since that is the type of customer I am, and I read a bunch of books.

It's also the type of customer I get downtown. I have good books, but I don't have enough space to be a library kind of store. This is why my strategy of carrying 'great' or 'classic' or 'cult' or 'favorite' books works so well in my store.

I suspect my new book strategy would work in my wife's store, too, but she has determined that it is best to stick to one thing -- used books -- and do a good job.

With the results she's achieved, it's hard to argue the point.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Star Trek self-loathing.

I started wondering if I'm the only one who notices that Star Trek is a hard sell, because the fans are so rabid.

So I googled "Star Trek Movie Flops", and got the following.

This is just the first page of listings, folks. It goes into the hundreds, perhaps the thousands. Star Trek people love their franchise so much, they'd rather kill it than have it be something less than perfect.


"Many say that this is Star Trek's last hope to be revived and if this movie flops, all of Star Trek goes with it."

"And, God forbid if the movie flops, please keep this as just a Star Trek forum or something."

"Sure, the GEN and FC roughly made a revenue of triple their budget, INS double and NEM only little more.
But this might not be merely caused by INS itself but also by 'too much Trek', a factor which kicked in after GEN."

"A bunch of Star Trek fans who showed up for a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan in Austin, Texas were cruelly tricked into watching the new J.J, Abrams-directed reboot instead." (I think the 'cruelly tricked' is a joke, but still shows the mindset.)

"I'd be quite happy to see this movie flop and Trek go in hibernation for a few years in the hope that sometime in the future they can come up with a way to revitalize the franchise that doesn't rely on jumping on the 'reboot' bandwagon."

"I’ll laugh so hard if the movie flops after they’ve decided to move forward. ...."

"I for one am hoping that the new Trek movie flops badly. ..."

"I seriously hope this movie is a total flop."

"I hope this movie flops and never again will star trek return. They ****ed up the franchise by not letting TNG getting a better send off. ..."

What if they gave a parade and nobody came...?

They just did.

You know those fainting goats? We just had a fainting goat of a parade. It went by so fast, I didn't notice. I look out the window and see a vast sea of empty parking spots -- and no people.

I suppose everyone who liked the parade, was IN the parade.


"Could be taken wrong...."

I think I'll put out a few of my "could be misinterpreted" entries.

For instance.

I want everyone to know what I say in the following post isn't meant to slam the customer. It's just human nature. I try not to take it personal. It's just business.

I've always hated the question, "Is this all you got?" Especially in my first few years in business. It was like a dagger in the heart. I'd hurry and order whatever was asked for and didn't have, and then hope the person came back.

Finally, I realized I could have a city block, hell, the whole downtown full of stuff, and I'd still occasionally get that question.

Here's what I've finally realized happens, though.

People ask for stuff. Sometimes I have it, sometimes I don't.

Sometimes I have a pretty good selection of stuff, if not everything in that category.

What happens is, if the person asks for a 'type' of thing, and I show him an assortment, and he walks away because I didn't have exactly what he wants; my impulse used to be to order more of it until I got what he said he wanted...

On the other hand, sometimes a person comes in and I have very limited quantities of it, and yet they still buy. They want it. It's very clear they want more of it.

Which of those two things do I support?

I support what sells. And if that sells, I get more, and if that sells, then I get more and so on....

Whereas the guy who won't buy from my assortment; sometimes having double or triple or quadruple the amount won't satisfy them.

(I want to make an important distinction here: sometimes you don't have something and the customer makes it very clear what they want and that they will buy it. I'm talking about the person who says he has an interest in something, turns up their nose at your selection, won't be more specific about what they want (implying that I should somehow know) and won't promise to come back if you order it....)

It really turns into a standoff. The customer is saying, carry more of this before I buy. I'm saying, I will not be carrying more of this, until you buy something.

Thing is, in the end, I'm making the choice to support what sells. There is no real standoff. There is only that customer walking away (probably to buy online, that is if he actually buys anything at all.)

And there is me selling what sells.

So I always want to say, "You want me to carry that? Buy something"

Or..."Gee, you say you want this stuff, but you're walking away...."

So here's what happens in the end.

It's a self-correcting problem. As a mature business, I have a pretty good record of what's selling and what isn't.

At the same time, I have a budget.

So I go down the list of things I KNOW will sell, because they keep SELLING, and then the next thing on the list and then the next.

Until the budget is depleted.

It's a self-perpetuating thing.

Sometimes I even have money left over. Now I could use that money to build up the section of stuff that people are always asking for but never buying.

Or I can try something else.

I usually try something else, until I find another thing that people actually buy (Not ask for, but actually BUY) and I start using my budget for that.

So after awhile, you get more and more people in the door (after all, by buying what sells you have a store full of stuff that sells) but -- ironically --you also get more and more people asking for what you don't have.

So the standoff continues. And as long as the customer can find it online or in the mass market, they just think you aren't doing a very good job. Until they can't find it anymore. Then they come to the store again, and the whole process starts over, and I'm looking at my clipboard and wishing I had enough money to get everything I just sold, and some guy I haven't seen in three years is bugging me to get him something he wouldn't buy before....

And I always want to say, "Buy it and I'll get more. Don't buy it, and I won't get more."

I don't say that, of course.

But it's the de facto result. It doesn't, in the end, matter what doesn't sell.

It matters what does sell.

(Take everything I said above, and multiply it for monopolies....If I'm the only guy selling a product, I generally get lots and lots, and carry the full line, and give a good price, and all the accoutrement....

Of course, this never lasts. As sales drop, I drop each little extra, and stay with the main product, and raise the price to full retail, or drop it completely.

No other choice.

The opposite of what everyone thinks. More choice just dilutes the power of the almighty buck.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Feeling chipper, myself. How are you guys?

Thing I'm having a hard time understanding is how people could be opening new businesses, reopening closed businesses, moving and or expanding.

To me, this is time to consolidate and minimize and keep a steady hand on the tiller.

Sales at my store have been unexpectedly good so far this month. But it's all pretty flukey. Not something I can count on continuing. My base business, what I've been doing over the last five years, is down. All my periphery business is doing very well. So I'm patting myself on the back for seeing the need for the periphery business.

There's a great map over on SLATE that shows job gains and job losses over the last two years. Turns from blue to a horrid red, from coast to coast. Deschutes had gained something like 3500 jobs as the maps starts, and loses something like 5500 jobs by the end.

At the same time as a populous county like Washington County, loses a total of 7000 jobs.

We haven't gotten the local unemployment stats, have we? We know Oregon is the highest in the nation,(correction, 2nd highest behind Michigan) and Deschutes has to be the highest actually populated county (Crook and Harney and such may be higher) in the state. So we're looking at -- what? 15% unemployment?

And I do believe Bend has a much higher proportion of contract workers, like real estate agents and sub-contractors, who aren't included. And underemployed. And people who have just flat given up.

People are leaving town.

Commercial real estate is in for a reckoning. And yet, I noticed that they're still trying to get 2.00 a foot for the parking garage retail spaces. I don't think the landlords are quite there yet.

Home construction falls 10.8% in March, from February. But again, the statistic that counts is the 48.4 drop from last year.

So, even though my store seems to be weathering the storm well, I can still look out over the horizon and see lots of ARM's, and NOD's and Short Sales and job losses and business failures yet to come.

We're not over this yet. Probably not this year. And probably not next year, either.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Superficial reactions.

I admit it. Knee jerk reactions, here.

I hate revving engines. Like fingernails on chalkboards. You would have to hold a gun to my head to get me to go to a Monster Truck rally, or anything entailing gasoline engines. Car racing is hamsters in a circular maze.

I don't get it.

So, during yesterday's CRANK FEST downtown, I felt like my shop was surrounded by Harley Davidson's, who were cranking up to shake down my building. So proud of their testosterone noise.

Oh, and I hate the fact that the popular culture would support Watchmen to the tune of 40 million the first weekend, and 75 million for Fast and Furious. Cars going fast. How exciting. Yawn.

If I can borrow from Howard the Duck; Lost in World I Never Made!

And while I'm bitching about unimportant things. All my favorite shows were cancelled -- again.

Nielson's doesn't need to wire up so many homes, they can just ask me.

If I like it, it's doomed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Still hunkering down.

Hunkering down.

Not as much fun as expanding, or trying new product lines. It can be very satisfying in it's own way. Making money when it seems impossible to make money, making use of everything I know. I have the advantage of having been through similar drops many times before.

I have enough money to make an IRA contribution today, but I've decided to keep it in cash. Having cash is a great stress reducer.

I was thinking about relative stress loads. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most stress, I'd have to say I'm hovering around a 3, maybe a 4.

If I had to arrive at an overall average for the full 25 years I've been making the decisions, I'd have to say a 6. With plenty of times at 8 and 9 and more than once all the way up to 10.

So...this is relatively easy.

As usual, I'm intensely interested in how others are doing. As usual, I have no way of knowing.

I have my 'Blink' reactions, which -- in the long run -- are very accurate. But no proof.

Right now, it's about sticking to a budget. I finally proved to myself last year that I can turn a true profit, and I've done an even better job this year.

What's been happening is that my 'worst case' scenarios have proved out. I held my breath, hoping sales would stay above a certain level, hoping that my budget would adequately address my needs and the store's needs, and it proved out exactly the way I planned it. Having 10 product lines is proving more beneficial than having 8 product lines which is more beneficial than having 6 product lines, and so on.

Some of those product lines are totally dysfunctional -- but that's the point. The question isn't how I do if all the arrows are going up, the question is -- can I pay my bills if all the arrows are down. This month, for instance, I had a huge boost in sports card sales, out of nowhere. Covered the shortfall in everything else.

I did have one nagging question; did I do the right thing buying new books and boardgames over the last two years, instead of hunkering down sooner and saving money? But it's very clear that new books and boardgames are keeping me above the minimum level I was shooting for, and that without them, whatever money I could have saved by hunkering down earlier would have been quickly used up.

So...right move. Gutsy move, if I do say so myself.

But part of the planning also includes the possibility that more shocks are on the way, and that no amount of planning will necessarily get you through a complete disaster.

Meanwhile, it's steady as she goes.

Stick to budget.

Don't blow a fuse.'s just a little magazine....


They thought they had a box bomb at the Deschutes County Library, but it was only a box full of Cascades East. Just a.....


Cascades East?

Oh, my God.

Back away slowly.

Whatever you don't touch it. NO!

You opened it!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

At home with....

I closed Pegasus for Easter, only the second time this year (after that other religious holiday, Super Bowl Sunday.)

Linda volunteered to work for me on Monday, so I had two days off in a row!

So what did I do with my day off?


Might be a hint I need a rest.


A year or two ago, the Bulletin did a feature on DeeDee Keith "At Home" in her loft above Mountain Comfort.

Today, it was announced that Mountain Comfort is closing.

Yesterday, the Bulletin came by our house to do an "At Home" feature on Linda and me.
I told them I thought they had the wrong couple. A couple of sample questions:

Do you cook? No.

Do you do handyman stuff around the house. No

What do you eat for breakfast. Breakfast? Is that a word?

What would we find in your refrigerator? Mold.

Where do you eat out? Not operative.

And so on. (I'm kidding...sort of.....)

Still, we seemed to find a lot to talk about. It'll be interesting to see what they glean from our rather simple life-style.

But then -- in this day and age -- simple might be just the right message.

Next Tuesday, apparently.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"'s a different mentality here in Bend...."

From the Bulletin story on Stars. "The fact of the matter is, whether you accept it or not, there is a different mentality here in Bend," (Stars owner) Randy Kaiser said. "It's a different culture, and I can't explain it."



I could say, "Finally! Someone gets it!!"

What I've always said about Bend, it has a thin veneer of civilization, overlaying a redneck town.

Not that there's anything wrong with it.

I had a discussion with a relative newcomer, (hey, anyone here less than 20 years...) and I said, "You'd think that Bend being such a small (13,000), blue collar town back then could be hard on those who are different, that there might be small town judgment and gossip, but that's not what I remember.

"What I remember was a kind of "live and let live" mentality. A kind of surprising acceptance of people's differences. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was very racially accepting -- I don't think it was. But if you were a resident of Bend, there was a wide acceptance."

I should add, as long as you didn't push it. You wouldn't want to sashay past some of the bars on Bond at 2:00 in the morning....

What I remember from most of the bars back then was country and or rock music. Lots of drinking, and probably a whole lot of scuffles and driving around drunk. (It was a different world back then.)

I remember how different it felt to come back to downtown Bend after living in Eugene for college, and seeing how everyone dressed down. No one lived ostentatiously, it seems to me.

It wasn't cool.

Anyway, that's what I remember, for what it's worth. I can't totally vouch for it's accuracy. It's from a kid's perspective.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hey, kids let's turn this big box into a playpen!

I've been concerned since the beginning of this blog, that there is a Commercial Real Estate (CRE) bubble in Bend equal to exceeding the residential bubble. Because it takes a couple of years longer to play out, up until now we've seen building still going on.

An example of the disconnect between real economic conditions and CRE would be the sad spectacle of Gottshalks opening a new store -- with a surrounding complex -- and closing almost immediately.

Downtown, the Oxford Hotel is nearing completion, as is the completion of the outside of the parking garage. All those flaggers and hardhats I see every day on the way to work are going to be looking for something else to do.

The Bulletin article this morning, Empty Stores, points out that we're probably lucky that we didn't have a Circuit City in town, and -- despite the stated desire on the part of one of the commercial leasing agents quoted in the article -- we're lucky that we don't have a Borders. (I just don't believe Borders is going to last the year.)

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I've been calling for one of the news agencies in this town to do the research on retail square footage in Bend. I've tried with my limited web-fu skills to ascertain that figure, but haven't found it.

One of the brokers quoted in the article, Stephen Toomey, of Compass Commercial, says, "You would have to think that Bend is over retailed, but how much I don't know. The market will tell."

This seems disingenuous to me. He should be able at least to compare per capita square footage with other towns in Oregon. With the added caveat that towns like Eugene, for instance, are located on an interstate, have a four-year college (ditto Medford, Corvallis); Salem with it's state capital; and so on, almost every comparable town has more going for it than Bend, and much larger populations within a short distance.

In other words, even per capita wouldn't tell the real story -- because of Bend's isolation.

Still, it would be a start.

My guess is, this information can only be accessed by the CRE industry themselves -- and they have no incentive to tell us.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Out of touch already?

Barney Lerten of KTVZ asks if Blogging is Endangered....

I’m not blogging as much because I’m Facebooking and Twittering more, and there’s only so many hours in the day.

Blogging is a somewhat lonely enterprise. Facebook and Twitter are far more social - you are amongst friends, among followers, listening as well as talking, laughing and not just trying to make some “important point.”

No, blogging won’t go away. (Neither will journalism, though boy is it going through some rough times). But I feel I’ve neglected this little corner of cyberspace. As I have Newsvine, which I do enjoy but get tired of the yahoo factor at.

What? I went from cutting edge cool to 'Old Skool' in a New York minute!

Juliejulie helped set me up in Twitter early on, but frankly, I find it uninteresting. It's like being at a cocktail party with a bunch of people you barely know just catching snippets of conversation.

Facebook seems like High School, with cliqs and popularity and social lubrication.

"...far more social..." indeed, which I'm not.

Blogging is about making "important points..." Ouch. Probably true, though I'd never be so egotistic as to think I succeed very often. Probably impossible, but I've tried to keep my ego out as much as possible. Despite Tim's skepticism, for instance, I've never checked my site meter readings again after flirting with them for a few months last year. I found they swayed my content too much.

This is as much about thinking aloud, and keeping a daily record, as it is about communicating. Though I like to see how well I can write (or not.)

"I feel like I've neglected this little corner of cyberspace..."

Well, exactly. You aren't blogging, Barney, so it's lost importance. You are Twittering, so it's gained importance.

I don't know if that quite equates with Blogging being endangered. If it is, so be it. I've never quite gone along with the crowd, anyway.

On a fairly constant basis, I have people who come in who say, "I USED TO buy comics (cards, games, etc.) and I didn't know they were still coming out."

To which I always answer, "Yes. Can you believe it? They went on without you!"

Friday, April 10, 2009

You must be doing really well...


There seems to be a common perception that Bend's growth has been good for my business. It would seem to make sense -- especially for a store like mine which is one of the few places you can get comics, games, cards, and funky toys. If I'm the only guy selling comics, and the population quadruples, it stands to reason that my sales would go up, right?

I've also always maintained that you need a minimum population base for your product, otherwise you quickly hit a glass ceiling. I've envied the 2 million population of the Portland area, compared to about 200k in within the same distance in Central Oregon. So again, Bend actually growing into a town big enough to be called a Metro Area, has to be good for business, right?

And yet, if you take the cost of doing business, the sales levels and the opportunity for profit, I wonder if I'm all that much better off than I was ten or twenty years ago. I mean, I am better off, but I attribute that more to longevity and experience and finally getting the right mix of product.


I'd love to hear a business like the Pine Tavern's take on this: they've been in business for even longer than me. But it feels to me as though there is a kind equilibrium that is maintained; you get short bursts ahead and you get sudden whacks to the side of the head, but overall you seem to stay mostly in place.


I really can't judge this, because my business is so subject to 'fads' and 'trends'. Comics sales are down, certainly, overall. Just staying even has been an accomplishment. But that has more to do with changing demographics and tastes. Same with cards and games.

Toys and books are probably a little more steady, but this is also were I see increased competition.


The big box stores rule the landscape. I'm just the little rodent running around trying not to get stomped on. I think of all the retail that existed in 1990 and visualize a big basket. Then I ask myself how many of the same sized baskets I'd have to have to fill all the retail in Bend today.

And I can't come up with less than 8 to 10 times. While the population quadrupled, the retail competition went up at least twice that.


Meanwhile, my rent has also quadrupled. My overhead today is a minimum of twice what it was ten years ago. I haven't added a single fixed expense in that time. The only reason this doesn't hurt even more, is because I've dumped all the debt that made up more than the difference.

But sales haven't quadrupled. You know, not even close. It approached double at the height of the boom, but it's quickly falling back to previous levels.

But the Big Boxes are still there, and MOST of them are unlikely to go away. (Joes and Linens and Things and Gottshalks are a drop in the mass market bucket.)


So, I ask you, was I better off in 1990 with a 20k population, but not a single Big Box store that hadn't arrived more than a decade before? Or am I better off today?

When the big debate of the Southern Crossing Bridge took place years ago, there were some studies that seemed to show that building more roads and more infrastructure just creates more traffic, which quickly reproduces the problem, just as a higher level.

I've wondered if the constant search for the retail buck doesn't just result in the same dynamics. More people, more stores, less to go around.


Another study I read once was, that money doesn't buy happiness -- once you have enough. In other words, there is a minimum amount of money to get to a point where happiness is possible, but piling more on top of that doesn't add to happiness.

So, when Linda and I took our little 3 days trips over the last couple of years, and we visited small downtowns all over the N.W., it was obvious that most were struggling to reach that minimum level.

Bend doesn't want to go back to that, I suppose. But it seems to me, Bend went way past the level of growth that enhanced our life-styles; that Trader Joes and Gottshalks and Kohl's represent overkill.

I suppose retail nature will take it's course, but I'm afraid Bend is stuck with way more retail stores than it needs -- along with houses and grandiose dreams.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I've had some really flukey business this month. I'm nearly 20% above our average, and yet it's been slower than the dickens. I've sold 1000.00 worth of cards and comics out of the basement, for instance, which usually doesn't come into play at all. (An indicator, really, of how slow it is that I'm both aware and willing to let that part of the store be opened.)

It's as if I have a store full of gleaming, new material, and in the corners I have some old, faded, dusty product that's been sitting there forever. And suddenly it starts selling.

The other reason this is happening, I think, is that there is a bit more of a scavenging mentality in play here.

The thing I know, though, is that I can't count on 'flukey' business on a day to day basis.

But like I said, it has been very very slow in activity. An hour or two at a time with no one coming in.

My little parking indicator. We have exactly 12 parking spots on our block. Over the last five years of so, there was rarely more than one spot open. Lately, it seems that every time I count the spots, there are 4 or more.

Or that it takes 10 minutes to get to work now, not 20 minutes.

Up until now, I've sort of had the feeling that people were holding off spending; waiting, trying to save.


They got no money.

Different feeling altogether....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We're still monkeys...

*If a toy has a "Try Me!" button, no one, but no one ever pushes just once. They push again, and again, and again....until I scream, "STOP! For the LOVE OF GOD stop!" And then I tape the button closed.

*If something is free, everyone asks for more than one. Always. It's Darwinian. Never walk away with one mango, if you can have two mangos.

*If there are multiple signs saying, "Look but don't touch," that is the item people will pick up. (Which is the reason for the signs, but still....)

*If anything needs to be filed, the store can be nearly empty, but there will always be a person standing where you need to be.

*Everyone puts the bags on backward. (Flap in front.)

*European books with the lettering on spine facing the opposite as American books, will always be put back correctly. (I file them backward on purpose!!!)

*If you are looking for a book, knowing the author or title is usually helpful. Giving me the shape and color....not so much.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I told you so...

I'm trying to not do a lot of 'told you so's'....really, I'm trying.

But, damn if I didn't predict a lot of this. The latest is the thunderstruck article in the paper this morning about how "Convenience" is disappearing from retail.

What? You thought they'd cut their bonuses first?

Or the idea that Bend might actually have an out-migration. I saw this first hand in the '80's, but if you hadn't seen that, this prediction probably seemed pretty crazy.

It's actually the reverse side of people moving to Bend solely on the basis of it's amenities -- for the grass is greener idea. Seems to me, this is bound to create disillusionment, especially when the economy goes sour.

Moving around looking for the best place to live, is a lot like businesses moving around looking for the best place to sell. Sometimes it make sense, but if you see a business or restaurant constantly moving, there's something off.

There isn't a magic location, or a magic formula in business. Just hard work, and brains, and energy; but most of all, a need that isn't already being filled.

I talked to my main man, Roger, down in Grant's Pass yesterday. Magazine Exchange has been my sport card distributor since 1986, when he was the only guy to actually deliver what he promised. Did huge business with him for years, but have slowly tailed off.

He's one of those steady-freddy guys; I know that the answer to my question, 'how are card shops doing?' is going to always be answered, 'some are slow, some are busy.'

I sort of challenged him yesterday: "O.K. Roger. Name me the card shops in Oregon....."

He could only come up with two in Portland.

So that kind of confirmed what I've been feeling: cards in Oregon are all but dead. I always thought would happen, I was there at the beginning; when you could only find a few dusty packs at Safeway; and I'm here at the end, when you can only find a bunch of regurgitated, recycled crap at Shopko.

I stuck with cards out of sheer cussedness, because I wanted to see this day.

So I could, in fact, say "I told you so."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Coffee-stained books.

I got a call from a landlord in Prineville, who was thinking of starting up a used bookstore/coffee shop.

Now, I can't tell you if combining coffee and books is a good idea or a bad idea. But I can tell you that doing it because everyone else is doing it, seems ....I don't know....doubtful.

I've noticed that Borders has decided to 'rededicate' themselves to being booksellers, instead of purveyors of multi-media. Novel idea, eh? A bookstore that sells books.

When Linda and I opened the Bookmark, we had almost everyone tell us that we should serve coffee, among other things. But by then, we had 25 years of experience under our belt. We kept to the mantra "Keep it Simple, Stupid" throughout the process.

I'm trying to imagine running our thriving store with the added burden of space, time, energy and money (not to mention infrastructure and labor) of doing a coffee shop on top of it.

But you're always saying, diversify! Duncan! product. Product that uses the same space, systems, cost-structure and labor requirements as other product lines.

It's a little like diversifying your transportation by buying a horse. Quaint, and cute, and a whole nother magnitude of complexity and trouble.

I know of at least one bookstore that stalled because of the bureaucratic requirements of servicing food and drink.

Two new bookstores opened in Redmond in the last couple of years -- one with a full service bar that served drinks and snacks, with comfy chairs, and so on. The other, last I looked, was all books.

The one that is all books is still there.

What I'm saying is question it when EVERYONE is doing it. You may be better off doing the opposite.

By the way, the customer will always, always, always says "DO IT!" Why wouldn't they?

Extra amenities, extra service? Why not? What's the problem?

But an owner really needs to add up the costs, and the continued costs, and be absolutely certain that's the direction they should go. For example, I've been watching the success of Keeneye's Paizano's Pizza place in Baker City on her blog, Untrained Professional with OCD (Link at Pegasus Books Blog). And kind of wincing when she keeps adding menu items and services.

But what if she decided -- on top of everything else she's doing -- to take a section of her restaurant and do an entirely different business? She needs that like she needs a hole in her head, I'm pretty sure.

I don't think people put this much thought into these choices: it 'sounds' good, everyone is doing it, and it's a nice amenity. What could go wrong?

But if you are very, very successful in your core business, then that 'other' business may actually detract from it. If you aren't successful, than the 'other' usually isn't enough to save you, at least from my observation.

For a few years there, I was under pressure from every one of my game suppliers to 'support' their product lines by having 'game' place space, and to 'host' tournaments. Feeling overwhelmed by product and everything else, I continually turned them down.

But I noticed that 'add value' space and energy hasn't saved a whole lot of independent card shops, games stores, toy stores, and bookstores from the CORE WEAKNESS of their main product.

Seems to me that if the core product is weak, it's dangerous to distract yourself from it by adding something completely different -- unless you intend to transition into that new thing. And then, the same logic holds. Go completely into the new thing if that's what you intend to do.

Whenever anyone asks "Why" I don't do something, the answer is always the same: Money, Time, Space, Energy, or Interest.

Like I said early on, I'm not saying it can't work.

I'm saying -- question the assumption.

P.S. I just realized that this might be construed as a slam at Dudley's down the street, but that isn't at all where I'm going. In fact, from the articles I've read about them, they have a whole thought-out coffee, books and public meeting place ethos worked out.

I'm saying that I don't know that coffee/books is a slamdunk idea that everyone automatically thinks it is....

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Retail Refuges?

It seems like I'm hearing lots of fear based messages in the local media and on the blogs.

This isn't all bad. Fear--like pain-- can be a warning.

Even messages of 'don't fear' or 'we're hopeful' can ironically come across as unintentionally revealing of the mindset.

We're keeping our average above what I consider the red-zone, and Linda's store continues to do really well. (In fact, she's getting kind of overwhelmed.) Pegasus had it's best day of the year, yesterday, which was a bit of a relief because I had totally restocked the store from top to bottom, and was wondering if I should have done that.

But I'm getting this feeling that people are starting to seek out retail 'refuges'; places they can sense are healthy, and humming along, and that they can be comfortable in.

I have no idea where that feeling is coming from.

Just a hope, probably.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The further I am.....

...the farther I get.

The life and death of a product.

You start out, learning everything you can about what you're selling. You keep up. You're interested and you're talking to people who are just as interested. Word gets around. Gossip is ubiquitous. Information is on the frontpage of every communication you get from industry sources.

And then it starts to slide. You sell a little less, so you shrink back the time, space, and attention you give a product. It falls a few pages back in the publications. It's not the first thing people talk about when they come in the store.

And one day, you're standing behind the counter, and a customer gives you a piece of important information that is three months old.

Or maybe I should say, what once would have been 'important' information.

Panini, which just bought out Playoff cards (at least I knew that much!) has got the exclusive to produce collector cards for the National Basketball Association next year.

Wow. An Italian sticker company.

Makes sense, since Basketball is international sport, nowadays. Perhaps I'll have a market for all the mid-list stars in the basement someday in Europe or Asia.

But I'm stunned I didn't know this. It was announced in January.

But you know what? I really shouldn't be surprised. There are no publications I currently take in sports cards, except Beckett which I barely glance at. Others I just let go, or went out of business. Nobody comes in to talk about sports cards. Very few people buy them. I sell the random card, pack or box.

I remember from 1985, when I first started carrying sports cards, through about 1991, my ears were keenly attuned to the hobby. I always used to joke that I would zig just before the hobby zigged, and zag just before the hobby zagged. I knew instinctively which direction everything was going, and if I missed it somehow there were plenty of people to tell me.

So it was almost as big a surprise back in 1992 to hear that a competitor had opened (American Sports) and that he had been open for a couple of months! And the only way I found out was through an ad in the Bulletin. But this connects almost exactly in hindsight to the date when sports cards started their long decline. Not just for me, but for everyone.

This is something I wish people understood about their favorite hobbies. If interest and sales drop below a certain threshold, it pretty much falls apart. The middle cannot hold, because it's all connected. The customer just sees more choice, usually cheaper prices, and all looks great.

Eventually, it always seem to diffuse into nothingness.

Maybe I'm overstating the case. I'm certainly wishing I could continue to be the 'middle', the go-to guy, but's what I see.

Sustainable growth.

“This crisis did not come about because we issued too little money but because we created economic growth with too much money and it was not sustainable growth,” Merkel said. “If we want to learn from that, the answer is not to repeat the mistakes of the past.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel

This quote sort of caught my eye, because she's saying what I've been thinking about Bend from the beginning.

It was never growth, per se, that I was concerned about. Too little, too much. Or just right.

It was sustainable growth.

It's as if we built a good solid first floor of a building, and it took us forever to do it, so we skimped a bit on the second floor, but it seemed pretty solid and people liked it and we had an immediate need for a third floor, so we skimped a bit more, on the fourth floor and the fifth floor, as it got progressively shakey.

A few of us who had been through hurricanes or tsunami's or earthquakes before saw the dangers, but most didn't seem to be paying attention. No excuse, really. We just forget the basics. 'Nothing's free.' 'You have to work for the money.' 'If it looks too good to be true...' 'You get what you pay for...'

But as long as the building still stood, no one cared.

The thing about losing the top floor -- as we all know to our sorrow -- is the next floor down is taken out, as well, and so on.

The trickle down theory only works in reverse, evidently.

There is a comment on the Portland Housing Blog that I sort of hope is made up.

"Spoke to a wealthy Bend doctor. He said that most of the down draft you are seeing are the marginally employed and the (hard boiled, institutional, consistently) poor, and the foolishly overleveraged.

For the folks in his socio-economic bracket, things are pretty much the same as they ever were. Sure, some people have delayed purchases, procedures, etc. but that has been an over reaction to the news, not b/c they personally were somehow worse off.

Much Ado About Nothing, was his statement. Bend inhaled a bunch of wannabe jokers and now is exhaling them. Utlimately, it wasn't really that big of a deal if things settled back to where they were 5 years ago. Life was just fine in Bend in 2002-2003 for him and he could do just as well if prices reverted."

Nevermind the "Let Them Eat Cake" morality expressed here, it's just plain foolish and shortsighted. (And as someone immediately pointed out, it was also a 'wealthy' doctor who got caught up by the Shire....)

I also agree with Ms. Merkel in this comment, if you'll allow the stretch, as it relates to Bend.

"German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned bankers to maintain sustainable growth once the global economic crisis subsides, adding that the pace of any recovery would be far slower than the rapid decline."

P.S. Before anyone points out that Merkel was referring to arcane money supply issues, I'm aware of that. But that was just the mechanism; it was the idea that we could grow past our actual production of basic goods and services, that was dubious.

Friday, April 3, 2009

never mind the scenery.....

Have you guys seen that ad, I thinks it's a cellphone ad, or blackberry, or something, where a family appears to be visiting the Museum of Natural History?

(Later -- it's a Sprint ad.)

The Mom and Dad proudly lead their charges through the museum, while the kids don't even bother to look up from their video games or their text messaging.

Surely, this isn't the message they wanted to promote?

Or is it?

Don't need to leave your home to visit a museum, when you got a handy little tool in your hand.

I wish I had the tech savvy to change the background pictures from Wholly Mammoths and Sabertooth Tigers, to -- Oh, I don't know. A raging fire, a bomb squad, a out of control forklift, pictures of the Holocaust or the Killing Fields?

Do you suppose those kids would look up for that?

And while I'm having an old foggie moment, has it become standard practice to watch T.V. from the back seat? Whatever happened to the adventure, playing car games, talking to the family?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

More signs of the times.

On the way to work today, I saw a stretch limo parked on 1st St., festooned with "For Sale!" signs.

I've been hearing how the Bridezilla phenomenon is starting fade, so I suspect that extra luxurious Proms and Graduations are probably out, as well.

What's interesting to me is to watch the cable channels, and see how flummoxed most of the commentator's are at the muddiness of the times.

They were expecting some big denouncement?

For it all to become clear?

This isn't a movie, or a T.V. show. What I found in the past was the booms were going on for quite a while before I noticed them, and recovering from crashes took even longer to develop.

Only in hindsight were they obvious.

A fantasy life.

When I was twelve years old, I wandered into my Dad's bedroom looking for something to read. He always had stacks and stacks of books, A book cover caught my attention.

"What's that?" I asked, picking it up and staring at the soft fantasy cover, a mountain and billowy trees, if I remember.

"Oh, you might like that," my Dad said.

I opened up the book, and read the first line.

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit...."

That's when my life was highjacked.

My family never knew what hit me. I became obsessed, reading the trilogy over and over again that summer. I fought with my sisters over reading rights, and it was a disaster when one of them left the Two Towers out on the lawn. I read it anyway, twisting the bloated paper into a readable format.

My brother was home that summer and was in the play, The Fantasticks, and that was the soundtrack of that summer. I still can't listen to Try to Remember, without an overwhelming nostalgia. Overwhelming.

What you love at 12, you love for life. I searched the library for something, anything that would fill that need. I couldn't find anything outside of children's fantasy, which barely sufficed.

It wasn't until about 5 years later that 'modern' fantasy became a strong genre, with books in every bookstore. I was in a college bookstore, and from the corner of my eye I caught the cover of a book. I remember veering toward the book rack, drawn to it like a laser.

A Frazzeta cover to the first Conan book. I found and abandoned Lord Foul's Bane (stupid book), I read The Sword of Shannara (a complete copycat of LOTR's) without criticism. (When I see the excitement of young kids over Eregon -- which to me is completely unreadable -- I understand that there must be something there....)

I did read many other books, but the Lord of the Rings was my touchstone.

It's why I became a writer.

It's why I own a bookstore with comics and books and games and toys.

My mother indulged me, buying the Hildebrant calendars every year. Eventually, my love started to fade a little bit. I got frustrated with waiting for the next fantasy chapter, and disgusted by the sameness of it all. I continued to read S.F. but mostly started reading mysteries.

Still, when I see the look in the young girl's eyes when they talk about Twilight, or when a young boy talks about Harry Potter, young and old talking about Star Wars, even titles that have no real resonance with me, such as G.I. Joe and Transformer --- I know exactly how they feel.