A Year in the United States of America

Hard to believe but it’s already been a year since I brought my family to the United States. I wasn’t sure we would make it but a year seems like a pretty good indicator that we are and will. Of course, it’s been a struggle – but we’re making it. Major Ab Adversis – through … Continue reading “A Year in the United States of America”

Hard to believe but it’s already been a year since I brought my family to the United States. I wasn’t sure we would make it but a year seems like a pretty good indicator that we are and will.

Of course, it’s been a struggle – but we’re making it. Major Ab Adversis – through struggle comes strength. My work with travel blogs has mostly carried us – by the time we were set up in a house and went through the expenses of moving, buying a car, paying utility deposits, and finding where to live – our savings was pretty well exhausted. Through a combination of picking, garage sales, eBay, and selling advertisements on travel blogs – we’ve made it. We’ve managed to pay all of our bills on time (or in the case of student loans, defer one more time) and somehow we navigated through Obamacare and got the three of us covered with health insurance.

We didn’t make it in California’s Bay Area – which was what my initial plan was. A weird combination of circumstances skewed that and put us in Sacramento for a few months while I tried to arrange interviews and land a start up job in travel and social media – unsuccessfully. Even when we considered staying in Sacramento, I found that since we’d been living outside of the USA and we were living on a self-employed income that landlords were unwilling to rent to us without paying an impossible deposit and first and last.

I knew we had to leave and go where the income I was certain I could earn, would pay for a decent place for us to live. We could have gotten a low income apartment in California but I’ve never wanted my family to live in that kind of situation – so I found a dying town on the Oregon coast where rents were dirt cheap and the quality of life was much higher. For the same amount a scummy California apartment would have cost us – I rented a 3 bedroom house with a big front and back yard and a leaky garage.

Reedsport is a dying town filled with geriatrics and people on disability. There is no industry here and more than 3/4 of the jobs that were here when we arrived have disappeared – but we’re making it. Our little family has a nice garden, a pleasant house, and a wonderful environment all around us including the Pacific Ocean, four major rivers, dozens of lakes, plenty of streams, and beautiful forests and sand dunes. Environmentally it’s heaven. Culturally – it’s not even on the map.

For the past few years, my main income stream has been advertising on my websites and doing SEO for small clients. Changes in Google policies and updates have been drying that stream up and the writing is definitely on the wall as to whether or not it will survive at all – so we have diversified – I’ve discovered that I can usually support us using eBay and we’ve begun experimenting with antique malls and the flea market. We are now vendors in two locations and have a permanent table at the flea market – only time will tell if that works for us or not.

I was planning on having a garage sale today, but the weather turned grey and rainy – so I ditched the plan. Maybe tomorrow – Oregon is like that. Twelve days of sunshine while you expect it to rain but when you count on sunshine the rain comes – if the garage weren’t so leaky, I would have the sale anyway, but we aren’t starving and the bills are paid – so it can wait.

We’ve tried a few other jobs. My wife worked at a hotel as a cleaner for a few months and that wasn’t good at all. The pay was almost as awful as the work and she was repeatedly solicited for sex by weirdos travelling through. I took my insurance license and tried my hand at selling life insurance but the company was such a crock of shit filled with liars and cheats that I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror – and the money was a lie – at least here on the Oregon Coast – maybe it would be a good job in a big city somewhere or anywhere that people have more than the bare minimum they need to survive.

The highlight of our year here has been to reconnect with old friends and family. Being able to see my daughter and wife with my mom, my aunt, my uncle, my sister, my cousins, my brother, and my neices and nephews has been awesome. Seeing those relationships grow has been so good.

One would think that my wife would have learned crafts like knitting and sewing in her native Morocco but it turns out that instead, being in boring Reedsport has given her the time and impetus to learn many new crafts. I am hopeful she can turn her crafting and jewelry making into a business – again time will tell.

The hardest part of being here in the USA is that we just don’t have any money left over to travel or do the things we used to do – even when there is a surplus, we are living so month to month that we need to save it in case the car breaks down, the ebay biz fails, or the antique mall spots don’t earn enough to cover their rent. All of that means that there is very little time for relaxation or enjoyment and almost no money for it – it’s taken a toll on our health and on our marriage – but what can we do? It’s not different for most Americans – although when we watch the $100k fifth wheels and RVs towing dune buggies and motorbikes start to roll through our town, it’s hard not to wonder where they get all this disposable income….

But what the hell – maybe they’ll stop and buy some antiques and collectibles from us tomorrow…

It’s Been A Strange 10 Months in the USA

father and son 1992It’s been almost 10 months since we arrived in the USA. I’d been gone since 2009 and for my wife and daughter – that was their first arrival here. It hasn’t always been easy – in fact, sometimes it’s been very hard – but here we are – still persevering and still making it.

I’ve been learning a lot about myself since coming back. First of all – and I’m sure this is no surprise to anyone who has read my books or been following my blogs for a while – but I learned that I’m a bit of a selfish and inconsiderate prick. Believe it or not, I haven’t always known this. I mean look, I’m doing my best to become a better person, to be a better dad, a better son, a better husband, a better friend, a better brother, a better man – and I think I’m making some progress – so I’m not going to be too harsh on myself but I can see some pretty serious mistakes that I didn’t necessarily see before. My dad would say that these kind of insights are just the kind that one should keep to him or herself – and he’s right – but let’s face it – I’ve already gone too far in that direction to avoid embarrassing myself now. So let’s start with my dad.

I’ve written and shared about the fact that we had a big falling out and I haven’t talked to him in years (since 2009). It was really easy to blame him for lots of hardships in my life and I didn’t hesitate to do that. I blamed him for abandoning me and my brother and sister to my mom and her awful choice of a husband after him. I blamed him for not supporting me or keeping his promises to me, not playing little league baseball with me, not paying for my college, not being more of a relevant figure in my life, and most of all for not liking my books or supporting me as I told every embarrassing detail of my life. It was easy to blame him for those things but what I didn’t do was take responsibility for myself because of that blame. Let’s face it – I’m responsible for me, not him. In truth, he’s a pretty neat guy in a lot of ways and while I imagine our relationship can never be salvaged, the truth is that I’m just as responsible for our adult relationship failing as he is. I made the choice to be a dick about things with my dad. I didn’t have to do that, I chose to do that.  And it turns out – I think he was right – I probably should be keeping all this stuff to myself.  Hey, it would have been great to be one of those guys with an awesome parent who paid for my university and got me a start in business and always loved me no matter what – but not having that, I chose instead to be a resentful jerk about things. My responsibility, not his.

brothers 2006Coming back to the US, I had a similar falling out with my brother. We’ve been mutually ignoring each other since the last time we saw each other when I unfairly blamed him for messing up my game plan upon arriving in the USA. Again, my responsibility, not his. He surprised me with a very kind offer to take us where I wasn’t planning on going, I should have manned up and said no thank you. All he did was attempt to help me and then get shit on for it on this very blog. No matter the circumstances, I never should have thrown the blame at him for things not working out for us in the Bay Area. Not his fault, mine for lots of reasons.

I am fortunate though to be growing – I feel like the relationship with my mom is better than it’s been since I was ten years old. I finally figured out how to forgive her for the mistakes she made when I was growing up and in the process, it became clear that I’d been blaming her for lots of things rather than owning them and taking responsibility for them. I’m really grateful for the Mom she is today and the Grandma she is today.

I’m also very grateful to have the opportunity to strengthen the relationships with my sister, my aunt, my uncles, and many friends. Man, I’m so grateful to have the friends and family I do. I’m also grateful to have the opportunity to be a father and to be a husband. When I wrote Not My Morocco, I can’t begin to tell you how miserable I was. I blamed my wife for me being trapped in Morocco, trapped in a town and a country I didn’t want to be in, trapped in a religious culture I didn’t want to be in, trapped in a life I didn’t want to be in. Again, not her responsibility, but mine. I think about how unhappy I was and about the horrible trip I had with my friend when she came to visit from Holland – that friendship ended and it ended because I chose to end it, because I chose to blame her for lots of things, because I was a jerk.

friends 2001I did the same thing in relationships and jobs. Me. Yes, I did that. I was responsible. I made the choice to be a jerk.

Are you seeing a theme here? I am.

In my life, I have often taken the weak and easy way out. I have found it easier to blame others and end relationships than to take responsibility for my own problems, for my own issues, for my own mistakes and errors in life. My father, my brother, my friend – all relationships that I ended in the most public and awful way possible – it was me – I did that. Vengeful acts of awfulness that masked my own guilt and failure. No more. The relationships may be destroyed beyond repair – but it is me that is responsible, it is me that made things worse, it is me that failed and then decided to blame those who loved me. I did that.

I don’t want to do that any more. I don’t want to be that person.

It’s been a strange 10 months in the USA and this wasn’t the post I thought I was going to write.  I had no idea I was going to write this, but here it is.

There’s no going back, I know that. I also know that regret is not a useful emotion or action. I also know that unless you agree to face things squarely, you will never get past them. I am facing my mistakes.

2013 – My year in Review – Damn this one was tough… Check out my Life GPA for 2013

2013 has been a year to remember – that’s for sure. The year has been filled in equal parts with success and failure and along with the highs that came when I achieved my goals – there has also, inevitably, been some disappointment – but then, that’s what happens when you set the bar high. First, I’d like to let you know what my goals were when I sat down on my 41st birthday last year – December 27, 2012.

At the time, my wife, daughter and I were still living in Morocco. The most recent update from Google had crippled my income by sending advertisers scurrying away from anything that might be considered selling a link – my income had dropped from a 2012 high of more than $7000 per month to just less than $500 in December. I’m not sure why, but December is always incredibly difficult for what seem like outside influences – at least up until my birthday and then things usually turn around.

So there we were wondering if my wife’s immigrant visa would ever be approved, trying to survive a particularly cold winter in Sefrou, and figuring out how to be good parents and spouses. I had nearly $45k in student loans ahead of me and the expensive prospect of moving my family to the USA. With that in mind – these were the goals I made for myself:

In 2013 I will re-edit and rewrite every one of my twelve books so that they are the best I can make them.
In 2013 I will publish my books various other eBook platforms.
In 2013 I will create great cover art for my published books and those I haven’t published yet.
In 2013 we will move my family to the USA, find a house, and establish ourselves.
In 2013 I will jump start the stalled IAPOTJ (International Association of Professional Online Travel Journalists)
In 2013 I will launch the MVA App and found the movement of MVA (Micro Victory Army)
In 2013 I will plant a garden and take a permaculture design course.
In 2013 I will revise and republish The Hu Factor, write the sequel to the Hu Factor, complete Blue Eyed Bastards and edit The Keys to the Riad,, and I will finish book 1 of The Invented God. I will sign deals with agent and publishers.
In 2013 I will pay off at least $15,000 of my loans.
In 2013 I will earn at least $100,000.
In 2013 I will stop reacting and instead respond to problems with focus and improve my level of fitness.
In 2013 I will improve my metrics and earnings on all of my websites.

Look. It’s a lot. Each one of those goals had at least five micro-goals that in themselves were probably big enough to be a single annual goal. I expect a lot of myself and I almost never let myself take the easy way out. Here’s how I did….

I re-edited and re-published ten of my twelve completed books. I assigned and purchased ISBN numbers for them, published every one of them in print and multiple ebook formats, and redesigned my personal website to showcase them (that’s this site, by the way).  I didn’t end up re-editing The Hu Factor, writing the sequel to it (The Hu Man), completing The Invented God, editing The Keys to the Riad, or re-writing and publishing Blue Eyed Bastards – those four books also still do not have great cover art. Despite those failures – I still consider the first three goals to be a huge success. Overall grade on goals #1-#3 – B-, B+, B- Average of a B.

Moving on – I did get my wife’s immigrant visa approved, I moved my family half way around the world, and I managed to get us into a house of our own. I even planted a small garden. I did not, however, land a great job or take a permaculture course. Still – I consider this goal a success. A- overall for the garden and move to the USA.

In terms of the IAPOTJ and the MVA – these were back burner projects in 2013 and I didn’t give them much attention at all. Still, both organizations grew and developed memberships – I feel like the energy that I did give them early on gave them the momentum to carry on. I hope to pursue both in 2014. Overall grade C-.

I did not sign a deal with either agents or publishers. I didn’t pay more than $1000 on my loans though I did refinance and defer them again. I didn’t even come close to earning $100k in 2013. As of now – it looks like I’ll be lucky if I cleared $30k.  The related goal of improving metrics and earnings simply did not happen – in fact, I was barely able to keep things at the same dismal level as in 2012. Finally, I was better at responding with focus (mostly) but my fitness suffered and is probably the worst it has ever been. The US diet and the stress of trying to make ends meet and working on the computer or the phone all day took a toll on my fitness. I’m not going to give myself an F for these factors since there were micro goals that I did achieve – I figured out how to sustain my family with eBay, I created a successful eBay store, and I’ve managed to pay all of our bills and expenses. Still, the best I can give myself on these is a D.

Now – the extra credit. I had some successes that I hadn’t planned.

I earned my insurance license in the state of Oregon and took a job selling life insurance.

I traveled to Spain, visited Dubai, and introduced my wife and daughter to San Francisco, Portland, Bellingham, Seattle, Sacramento, Redding, and the Oregon Coast. We visited the Redwoods, camped in the San Juans, and I got to introduce my family to my friends and family.  I had some amazing cultural experiences before leaving Morocco and Spain, and I bought a jeep and a BMW, albeit older ones. I learned how to buy and repair watches, discovered how to buy and sell gold, and discovered the hidden gold of antiques and estate sales. Add to that the fact that my wife and daughter have wanted for nothing during this year, both have great electronic gadgets, and we have somehow filled our house and garage with cool things and I deserve an additional A to average things out.

Now it’s time to average things out (I am doing this as I write). B, A-, C-, D, A. Using the age-old averaging for GPA – 2.7 for 2013 out of a possible 4.0 – that feels about right except I’m going to give myself a bonus .05 for the happy singing of my wife and daughter coming from the next room as I write this. So- I’m raising my grade to an overall B- average for 2013.

So that’s me for 2013. Next week I’ll start working on my goals for 2014. At the end of this month, I’ll revisit my predictions for 2013 and throw out some new ones for 2014.

 

 

 

 

Living in America – 7 Months In – We Aren’t Who We Were

Well – here we are – still alive and struggling. The USA has been incredibly hard at times, it has forced us to make difficult decisions, it has, frankly speaking, been a disappointment to both my wife and probably more so, to me.

To illustrate this – I should probably tell you where I am. I’m in Portland, Oregon sitting in a hotel room I’m sharing with a stranger – both of us are here for training on how to sell life insurance. This is not where I wanted to be!

The United States is like that though – it smothers your dreams and forces you to become someone else so that you can take care of your family. The combination of my student loans and our forthcoming mandatory family health insurance means that my income from writing and blogging can no longer sustain us. We moved to one of the cheaper places I could find, but even so our monthly needs are barely covered by what I earn – and that’s before health insurance and student loans. The past few months, I’ve been earning an additional $1200 or so buying from estate sales, garage sales, and thrift shops and then reselling on eBay – but $1200 seems to be about the top I can hit with that. Inexplicably, the fees seem to go up exponentially with whatever I earn above that so that I end up with $1200 no matter how much I sell.

The buying and selling has gotten harder too. The dreary economic situation of the majority of people (but hey, the DOW JONES just hit record highs — yeah, whatever) means that there are more pickers, more sellers, and less buyers on eBay than ever before.  Shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers and Storage Wars have led people to overvalue their junk so that when you do actually find something you can sell – it’s usually priced too high for you to earn more than a few dollars on it.

Food is so god-damn expensive that it’s made my wife cry more than once. She got freaked out and took a job at a shitty motel which left me with no time to write or do the eBay thing because I was spending the days watching our 2-year-old – which by the way was awesome except that my earning potential was floored and what she was earning wasn’t even close to what I was no longer earning – and she was stressed out, and our relationship hit an all time low, and her job really really sucked…and I didn’t want to force her to quit but wanted her to see that her job was actually costing us money, destroying our relationship, and stealing the joy from all three of our lives…

We had a total melt down before that became clear – but thankfully, we both saw that what we were doing totally sucked. At one point, it hit me that the only way to make her see the effects was for me to find a real job – something I have worked my whole life to be free of – so, I took three steps backwards and hitched my wagon to a Life Insurance Company – which isn’t so different from back a decade ago when I was a stock broker in Portland. I took the courses, passed my exams, got my license, and here I am – waiting for the final bits before making my millions as a small town life insurance agent.

During that process, my wife realized she was missing out on our little girl’s life and her job was making her miserable – she saw the effects it was having on my ability to work at home and how it was badly affecting our marriage – and thank god – she left that awful place of her own volition with a new understanding of why I’ve always worked so hard to be independent.

By that point though I was already in this process and realizing that the health insurance and student loans were looming in January and my writing and eBay wouldn’t sustain them and us…so, I’ve stayed the course.  The good news is that we weathered our problems and emerged from the other side of the storm with a stronger marriage and a greater understanding of each other. For the first time, I feel like my wife actually gets what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Even when she’s mad, I’m no longer ‘the craziest American’ or ‘the most difficult American’ – she’s seen much worse now – god, I hate what she had to see at that hotel…she gets it now. She understands why I was freaked out about money before we left Morocco and why I never wanted to be tied down to a job. That, if nothing else has made our move to America worthwhile…at the moment, I feel like we have room for our marriage to grow.

But, like everyone else in the USA – money is now a big concern. The states have burned through our savings and at the moment we are living month to month. Life insurance pays on commission with no base salary – so while I’m training – we have to live on what I can squeeze from eBay and blogging.  If I haven’t written regularly, I hope that you, the readers, can understand why now.

Just in case you missed them….here are a few status updates that might fill in some of the holes:

 

Just spent a while reading the reviews that have piled up this year while I’ve been putting our life together in the USA – it’s an interesting experience to see how the world views you. Equally loved and despised from my written words but at the end of the day – probably not at all the way that either side thinks I might be. Although – maybe I’m every bit as despicable and great as both sides seem to indicate – more likely though – I’m just another regular guy doing what he can to take care of the people who count on me and hoping to have a good time doing it.

I’ve failed so far as a novelist and writer. Oh well, not the end of the world. I’ve written books, they weren’t as good as I’d hoped, and now – it’s time to do something else. I’m sure I’ll write more in the future – but I’m done identifying myself as a writer.   Sometimes you have to tell yourself the truth because it’s not fair to expect other people who love and respect you to do that.

I have the sense that I’m no longer a writer. I’m no longer a traveler. I’m no longer a free loader of any kind. I’m no longer a drunk. I’m no longer a free spirit. I’m no longer manic and no longer depressed. I’m no longer a stranger.

I’m just a guy with a license to sell insurance, a wife, and a little girl. I’m a guy with more bills than savings. I’m a guy with no more dreams of seeing the world or finding what I was missing. I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want to be loved or admired by strangers. I don’t want fans. I don’t want escape from reality.

I only want to keep the roof over our heads, fix the car, pay for health insurance, buy some ice cream, and help my little girl to be the best her she can be.

And, once that’s done, I wouldn’t mind moving to a villa on the Turkish Riviera or some Greek vineyard and becoming a better sailor.

I bought a food dehydrator and dried a huge bunch of apples and pears from the neighbors trees. Now I’m drying my first batch of beef jerky. My first batch of homebrew beer was bottled on Friday and should be ready to sample in a couple of weeks.

Since I’m selling life insurance now, my regular name Christopher Damitio is what pops up on the contracts – so it just doesn’t make sense to insist on Vago when it’s so confusing to people. Besides, Christopher is pretty nice.

 

An old woman at the post office today was complaining about the USPS issuing Al Qauida stamps – actually they were Eid stamps – she said “They’re suppossed to commemorate American events and achievements” – I wanted to remind her that millions of Americans are Muslims and to ask her if she thought creating stamps commemorating the carpet bombing of Tokyo or Laos would be good, or maybe the bombed dead civilians in Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere. Maybe a stamp celebrating the international arms industry or the exploitation of mineral rich lands…
Then, I swallowed all my bile and smiled. She just kept complaining and talking about how they should celebrate American holidays like Christmas and Easter and I thought about how I wished someone would toss her in a barn and shut the door, crucify her, and then bury her in a cave…actually though – judging by what I hear from most people her age – they are all miserable and the only thing they have to look forward to is dying and knowing they’ve left nothing for their ‘rotten’ kids. Wow….imagine if heaven is filled with her kind….

In the USA there is an undercurrent of dread which is very hard not to tap into and start feeling. It is the reason for the unlikely strength of the prepper, bugout, and survivalist movements. Even those you wouldn’t expect it of are storing food and carrying survival kits in their vehicles. Worse – it’s not actually a feeling of dread as a feeling of excitement and anticipation. A desire for something truly terrible to happen…Nobody says this, but America is collectively manifesting and creating something truly terrible and worse yet – and people won’t tell you this because they don’t know it or want to believe it – but people are looking forward to it. They are preparing for it, dreaming of it, and subconsciously, we all know that somewhere in some basement, laboratory, or compound – someone is engineering it. People want it! There is this sickness here in the land where people have more than anywhere else…when disaster strikes in the USA, people might wear somber faces, but inwardly they will want to be dancing in the streets….it scares the living shit out of me.

This journey I’m on – it’s so easy to get distracted and pulled off track. Sometimes it is as if this world is designed to create the illusions that make you forget your reason for being and that which you truly seek. My desire has always been to live a spiritually centered life and to seek a closer relationship and understanding of that which is called God. I can see why the sidhus would split and go hide on mountaintops to avoid being tempted back into this world of illusion. The tax man, the insurance bill, the visa process, the courts, the water bill, the big tata blonde, the car accident, the hospital bills, the x factor, the latest superhero film, the latest health diet, the bad relationship with parents, the feud between siblings or friends, the loud neighbors – etc etc etc – All of that pulls us away from God, pulls us away from joy, pulls us away from the spiritual life that we all want. My leaving the USA was an attempt to get away from the distractions of this world, going to Hawaii was the same, but the distractions are necessary – we must learn to be centered and loving WITH all of the distractions because that is what this life is. I sometimes feel RAGE at being consumed by the petty day to day illusions that I am forced to contend with – sometimes it turns to DESPAIR, and usually after that – I find myself here – in a moment of CLARITY. Perhaps Vago was a good name for me these past few years , unclear, unfocused, and unable to define myself or my purpose. I won’t be changing my name again, but if I were to do so, I would probably pick Claro, because that is what I want – to see clearly and with purpose. My love and thanks go out to all the friends who have offered support, love, and compassion through these years. My love and understanding go out to those who are stuck in the illusions (as I so often am). We are all on this journey together. May God (whatever name you choose to use for that universal force) help us all and give us clarity, serenity, strength, and wisdom.

 

Finally bought a scale yesterday – I’ve gained around 25 pounds since coming to the USA, for the British friends – that means I’ve increased my weight by nearly 2 stone… time to get on a healthier diet and regular exercise regimen! I’m amazed my clothes still fit me…it must have all gone to my face…lol.

 

 

Junk in the Trunk

Life is never as simple as it should be.  Life in Reedsport is very nice. We’ve had a steady stream of guests since we moved in – which is a very nice change – to be able to host friends and catch up on old times in our own home.  The junking has been fairly dismal in coastal Oregon – there are several reasons for that, but the biggest seems to be that there are a huge number of retirees supplementing their income by doing what I do, people here are generally savvy to looking up items on ebay before pricing them at garage sales, and at least where we are – these are people who have already downsized and moved here from somewhere else. Also, there just aren’t as many people here – so there aren’t as many estate sales – i.e. there aren’t as many children of deceased parents trying to get rid of as much junk as they can in the shortest possible time so they can go home.

Here’s an example of the difficulty – books – in Sacramento, it was fairly easy to buy a big box of books for $5 or less and then to take it to a bookstore and pull $25-$30 out of it. At the bookstore, you could find books for ten cents to a dollar and sometimes even pull out a first edition that could be resold on eBay for $100. Not so, here. The books tend to be priced $1 and up at the sales. The local bookstore no longer buys books. When I asked about old books and first editions, the owner told me he combs through and pulls them all but won’t sell them. A closed loop.

So, that’s the junking here – still, as I mentioned before – I’ve got a huge amount of very sellable stuff – the hard part is selling it. I’ve used ebay for a long time but never on the scale I am using it now – I’m learning a lot.  First of all – just because an item has sold for a price doesn’t mean that it will sell for that price again – there might have been one person looking for that glass net float who was willing to pay that price – but they already have one. In general, everything I list has sold before for higher prices than I’ve listed it – but at the moment, I’m selling about 15% of what I list and usually at 50% or less of what it sold for before. I’m not sure if that is because there are so many thousands of new listings every second or if people just aren’t buying as much as before.

Baseball cards are a great example. I’ve listed hundreds of baseball cards at less than 50% of book value – I haven’t sold a single one. It’s a great time to buy baseball cards, but there is no guarantee you will ever be able to sell them. Books have also become much harder to sell on ebay – perhaps it’s because everyone goes to Amazon for books – but since I tend to focus on funky, collectible books – I really want the auction format – but, hey, it’s not working.

What am I selling? Most of my sales are of old models of airplanes and 35mm camera equipment and vintage shaving gear along with the random chotskies or dishes. The camera gear is sold mostly to people in other countries. Ebay is fairly saturated and as you drive up and down Highway 101 you see a couple of types of businesses over and over – junk/antique shops, low end restaurants, and low end motels.

I haven’t given up, but I am a bit discouraged. At the end of the day – this is working – I can support us with it – but it’s not as much fun as it used to be. Perhaps a part of all that is that Hanane’s job has become a bit of a pain in my ass – initially, we had agreed that a part time job was a great idea for her to earn a little extra – after we were settled in – but her job came up and she jumped at it.  Almost immediately, her boss began to move her to full time – and – while she is willing to help with expenses – it’s my work that pays the bills – but now I find myself as a full time baby-always-with-me Dad who loves it but still has to be able to do my work of web development, finding new junk by digging through boxes at sales, and listing, packaging, selling, and shipping items. I can do it – but I feel a bit as if every responsibility has been dumped on me and there is no one offering any support. I pay the bills, I do the shopping, I earn our living, I take care of our daughter, I do my work, I do everything – including help my wife navigate her new working life – and now she has been promoted to Assistant Manager which probably means I have even less hours to enjoy being on the Oregon coast with my family and no time at all for myself – I’m with the baby all day trying to do my work and my wife gets home and doesn’t feel like it’s her job to take responsibility and give me a break – same goes for her days off.  And – she still feels it’s my responsibility to pay for everything. One would think that on her days off, I would be free to work or take some me time – but that’s not really the case – now those are family days or her rest days.  I’m proud of her for working so hard – but I’m beginning to feel a bit like a heel. If she were paying the rent, for groceries, the utility bills, gas, or giving me spending money – I would be quite happy to be a full time Dad – but that’s not how it goes. There will have to be some readjustment at some point.

On the positive side – spending so much time with my daughter is a total delight and I’m so honored and proud to see her development and growth. I know that I am largely responsible for who she is becoming. I don’t want to turn that over to strangers in daycare or preschool until she reaches the point that she can talk with us.

This is the most writing I’ve been able to do in weeks but now the baby has woke up. In the meantime – I’ve got junk in the trunk.

Reedsport Life

I’ve moved my family from North Africa to Turkey back to North Africa to California and now to Reedsport, Oregon. From here, I’m not planning on moving my family again. Sure, life in the USA isn’t as great as it once was, the days of children having more opportunity than their parents have never existed for me, but I hope they will exist for my daughter.

We have a nice life here. I’ve rented us a pretty house with a pretty yard, a nice garage, plenty of space in a nice neighborhood. Somehow, we’ve filled our little house up with nice things that make us comfortable and happy. We have everything we need – luckily, neither Hanane nor I need to have a lot of friends around all the time. She is happy to talk to her family and friends on Skype when she isn’t working and I’m happy to have the chance to hang out with Sophia, cruise around exploring the area, and once in a while to have an interesting conversation at a shop or a garage sale.

It’s nice that we have friends that will come visit and it’s nice that we live in a beautiful place where people will want to come visit. I am staggered by the beauty of this place. Equally amazing is the fact that this is a dying town – there are 4000 people in Reedsport and most of t hem are senior citizens who live in RVs and come for the good weather and leave with the bad. There are a dozen mediocre restaurants and dozens of empty shops and storefronts both in the old downtown and in the new. This town lived on timber and mills and those days are gone. There is no industry here.

But there should be – I’ve been all over the world and there are few places that have floored me the way this area has. Twenty miles south is Coos Bay and North Bend with cute little downtown shops, a nice bay, and many of the same problems we face here, but with a more diverse population. Twenty miles north is Florence where the snowbirds have built RV colonies   like Florentine Estates where every house has an RV barn. Both are good sized towns with healthy tourist industries. In  between are Reedsport, Gardiner, and Winchester Bay and forty miles of the most scenic lakes and forest of the Oregon coast along with the Smith River, the Umpqua River, the Siuslaw River and streams and ponds beyond mention. Tahkenitch Lake, Ten-Mile Lake, Siltcoos Lake, Woahink Lake, Clear Lake, Eel Lake, Saunders Lake, Beal Lake, Snag Lake, Spirit Lake, Horsefall Lake, Bluebill Lake, Three mile lake, Elbow Lake – and just in case you forgot – Unger Bay, Winchester Bay, Umpqua Beach, the Oregon Dunes. Yeah, the Oregon dunes – the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in the North America. Frank Herbert was inspired to write Dune by being here!

This is my backyard! And it’s populated by pensioners and retirees. I am literally in the vacation wonderland of the Pacific Coast – sure – this isn’t a winter sports or surf mecca – but it is a fishing, hunting, motorcycling, hiking, bird watching elk watching, canoeing, kayaking, horse back riding (Dean Creek has two of the largest Elk Herds on the west coast and viewing areas where you can watch them year round). It’s not unusual for me to see elk, seals, salmon, crabs, deer, or countless birds every day.

The down side is that the garage saling here is definitely not as good as in San Francisco or Sacramento – the retirees live in RVs and have mostly already gotten rid of the junk I like to find and sell and in a rural place – people tend to value their junk a bit higher – but, that’s a small price to pay. The truth is I amassed a nice horde in California that it will probably take me a while to sell anyway (check out Vago’s Treasures). And besides, if I’m going to do this for a living – it’s more fun to go on missions to different places for great sales and rare finds anyway.

So, that’s the reason why there is no one here but me, my family, the retirees, and a few people I haven’t met or figured out yet.  No jobs, no industry. But, the schools are good but small without crowded classrooms, the people are friendly, the crime is almost non-existent, and I’m loving it. My goal though – is to become the tourist bureau for Reedsport. Hell, maybe if i succeed at that, I’ll even become the mayor. To start all that out, I’ve bought a couple of domains for Reedsport, Oregon – coming soon.