Matter and Matters

Sometimes (actually most of the time) it’s far too easy to get caught up in this world of matter. This world of financial responsibilities, bills, wars, rumours of wars, and again financial matters – most especially money. Money, money, money, money, money, money, money. It’s what makes this ridiculous world go around. Right? Nope.  Dead … Continue reading “Matter and Matters”

Sometimes (actually most of the time) it’s far too easy to get caught up in this world of matter. This world of financial responsibilities, bills, wars, rumours of wars, and again financial matters – most especially money. Money, money, money, money, money, money, money.

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It’s what makes this ridiculous world go around. Right?

Nope.  Dead wrong. All the money can disappear and the world will keep spinning. All the bills can go unpaid and the world will keep spinning. All the credit can be ruined, all the bank accounts emptied, and all the money sucked up by a giant rainbow eating typhoon and still this old world will go on round and round.

What keeps the world spinning? Gravity. Strong force. Electromagnetic influences we don’t understand. Maybe even love if you are a poet or a certain kind of mystic, but money has abso-fucking-lutely nothing to do with the world going round.

Money has been making my head spin lately – it’s been affecting the way I see the world, it’s been affecting my moods, and almost certainly as a result – it’s been affecting my health and my relationships.  And – money has been quite effectively eluding me as I do everything I can to get my hands around it.  Money does seem to work like that – the more you need it, the more elusive it becomes.

Changes to Google algorhythms finally seemed to have cut off my ability to make money on a regular basis with my travel websites. Google banning me from the adsense program (and despite my inquiries – they won’t tell me what it was I did) closed another door.

Ebay has been a good source of income to my family – but recently I’ve been hit by scammers and frivolous returns – Ebay makes money from buyers, not sellers – so the whole system is set up to protect those who transfer their cash to ebay – which has created many great opportunities for scammers to buy things and then file frivolous claims. They get their money back, they keep the items, and they file insurance claims on damage – Ebay looks on as sellers get ripped off. There are so many sellers that I am sure those of us getting ripped off are considered acceptable collatoral damage.

I thought that getting a space in an antique mall would be a good way to move away from Ebay – and I found an antique mall that seemed to be moving in a great direction – but as soon as we got in the owner started going in self destructive directions by alienating  vendors and making other reputation ruining moves – soon we were just one of a handful of vendors hanging on in a huge emptying space. For the four months we were there, we paid $1000+ in rent and commissions while earning only about $650 and losing about $1800 in inventory – do the math and you can quickly see that it wasn’t working.  We bartered for another space in a different mall and have had about the same results.

Tables at the flea market in Eugene were another angle that I hit – with more success than in the antique mall – but the markets are infrequent and the crowds are very hit or miss. Tomorrow is the last market until autumn – we’ll go back, but we’ll miss the one tomorrow because tomorrow is also Father’s Day and here in Reedsport, the last day of the Annual Chainsaw Carving Contest – which is important for us – see below.

The best solution seemed to be opening a little shop of our own. For less than the cost of the antique mall space – I was able to rent a small shop in Reedsport right on Highway 101. Reedsport Antiques is now open.  We’re not making money hand over fist – in fact – for the hours I’m putting in, I’m definitely earning less than I’ve ever earned – but – in the first two weeks, we’ve earned enough to almost cover the rent – which is better than we did in any antique malls.  To cover the added expense of opening and running a shop I hoped that the last flea market, an estate sale we helped run in California, listing a large number of valuable items on Ebay for bargain prices, and shop sales would help – as I wrote above – all of them failed and when you count on money or need money from a source – that’s about the time that money runs away from you screaming.  It’s frustrating.

And of course, it doesn ‘t matter. It’s hard to keep that in mind. It’s hard to remember that. My $43k in student loans are deferred and growing through negative amortization. If I don’t pay them – the world won’t end. Our shop and all my hours are almost paying for the shop – but food and rent and insurance premiums need to get paid for from somewhere – and if they don’t – well, it won’t be the end of the world either.

Money matters…in this world of matter. We need it and the more we need it, the more it runs from us. That’s why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. There is a very real and very not understood law of cause and effect with money – which could very well be the reason we are put here, the challenge we are given to overcome, or could be nothing at all.  All of this could just be a dark comedy we created for ourselves and which is going to play itself out while the world keeps spinning and then be forgotten while the world keeps spinning as we disappear from the universe and return to the nothing we came from.

Money doesn’t matter.  I figured that out at one point. It’s time to figure that out again.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

The Relief of a Home

I’ve secretly been carrying the weight of the world around on my shoulders but wasn’t able to tell anyone about it. Finally, I can relax.

Deciding to bring my wife and daughter to the USA was a huge decision and not one that I made lightly, the visa process to get my wife permanent residency was a struggle that took everything I had, especially doing it from Morocco, not having a residence in the USA, and not having a traditional source of income – at times, while we were going through the process it nearly ended things. We had some stupendous donnybrooks and when we finally got to the USA, I thought we could finally move forward.

I’m an extremely goal oriented person and even though I don’t talk about it much, most of my life and my accomplishments are mapped out and scheduled – for example – a year ago, without the visa, without the money to come to the USA, one of my goals was to have my family in the USA by May 1, 2013. We arrived on April 17th. As I said, I thought that I would be able to move forward easily – and, not surprisingly, I had a plan.

Over the past five years, I’ve supported my family and our adventures with the business I built from scratch, Vagobond Travel Media, LLC. Granted, we haven’t earned a six figure income, but it was enough to support us in Morocco, pay for some great trips, bring us to the USA, and put about $10k in our savings by the time we got here.  It’s fair to say that I am one of the world’s top experts on travel blogging, web development in the tourism sector, travel public relations, and most certainly in travel social media. I am one of the pioneers in these fields. In addition, I have a degree in anthropology that focused on how the world uses the internet to make connections in real life and a strong background in hotel management, project management, and mass media.

My plan was to use these assets to land a job in the tech capital of the world, San Francisco. I figured that in the modern tech world, my work would speak for me and that I would be able to find a decent position with a travel or social media start up, find a house in the bay area for my family to move into, and then, to move forward gangbusters and take the world by storm. Longer term plan was to use my start-up experience (and capital) to create a ground breaking travel social network.

All of that plan fell to shit.  Here was the plan:

Arrive and recover from jetlag for two days in a hotel. April 17-19

Stay with my sister for 1-2 weeks while job hunting. April 20- May 4

Visit my mother in Redding in late May, introduce my family to my family. Road trip to Washington, Oregon to see friends and more family.

Begin job. Locate a house in San Mateo area. June 15.

Have a garden in my backyard by July 1 and be growing vegetables and doing worm composting.

For a variety of reasons, I failed almost all of that. Things changed and didn’t happen the way I had planned. I adapted, but man, I hate it when that happens.  Our hotel recovery was interrupted and I accepted an offer to take us to Redding before I really had time to think about what I was doing, while in Redding my mother had an accident and we found ourselves feeling like we needed to scrap all of our plans and stay to help her but then we were made to feel less than comfortable with that decision and I grabbed my family and took us away as soon as I was able. The first opportunity after we knew my mom was okay and I had a car, we split. A friend offered us a two week house sitting gig in Sacramento in early May and I figured that was close enough to San Francisco that I could follow my original plan.

That’s when I was slapped in the face with an ugly reality. Tech start-ups don’t want to hire a guy in his 40s who has been calling his own shots for the past five years. My accomplishments didn’t count for enough with the start-ups to get past the fact that they could hire a fresh college grad with a social media or advertising degree for far less than I could support my family on in the Bay Area. I made the two hour trip from Sacramento to SF for multiple interviews but every time, the interviews ended with slightly apologetic/slightly arrogant remarks about how it was an entry level position and I was over qualified – i.e. my resume didn’t have a tech giant on it they could list on the company website as they sought funding and I wasn’t willing to accept less than I could support my family on. Fail.

But, adapt and overcome. I decided we could stay in Sacramento. Our friends returned from their trip and offered to let us stay in their house rent free for as long as we wanted – or until the courts evicted them – whichever came first. For the past three years, they have been fighting to overturn a foreclosure – and, aside from all the work they put into learning how to manipulate the courts, filing motions, and sending out documents – they have been living rent free. The house belonged to my friend’s cousin and was foreclosed on by the bank, she wrote a quit claim deed to him, and he and his partner began their fight to say that the house was really theirs and so it couldn’t be foreclosed. Three years of free rent, but the threat of eviction hanging over their heads every day.  That’s no situation to have a two year old and a new immigrant wife in, so I agreed to stay but only for as long as it took me to find a place to live.

I liked our neighborhood in Sacramento and the rents were modest for the area at about $900-$1200 per month for a house with yard, 2 bedrooms, etc. I found a couple of likely houses and filled out applications – now here is the thing, I had money in the bank, I could show my income from writing/blogging/book sales and I was willing to pay first/last/deposit which came to about $3600 up front, my credit is not stellar, but the only flaw on it is that I don’t have any credit cards but do have $40k in student debt – the landlords, however, were so scared of renting to someone without an outside (not self-employed) source of income and not one of them agreed to rent to me even after we met and I showed them my paypal payments from clients, records, etc. One jack-off slum lord met solely for the purpose of getting a business consult on his website and had someone moving in the next day…FAIL.

Also, living in someone else’s house isn’t an ideal situation for me to write, maintain websites, or even buy and sell estate and garage sale items since all of our possessions were in boxes and needed to be put back in boxes, kept tidy, and stored. My wife and two year old spent lots of time in our temporary bedroom and I tried to work in the living room, but since both of our friends also worked at home, I didn’t really get anything done in the almost 3 months we were there. Yes, we were there for 3 months while I tried to find work, tried to find a house, and tried to figure out how to take care of my family the best way. I am deeply grateful to our friends for letting us squat with them while I figured out that California just wasn’t going to work for us.  We made frequent trips to the Bay Area and Redding and I took us on a road trip up the West Coast so we could scout other locations, so my wife could meet my friends, and so we could be away from the squat and give our friends space.

By the end of July, I knew we had to leave. The women had begun to squabble over toilet paper and tampons and anything else, our two year old needed more structure for her development, and I needed to have a dedicated space to work.  For Sophia’s 2nd birthday we went to Redding to see my mom and so I could help my friends Matt and Amber with a garage estate sale and then I got in the car and drove to Reedsport, Oregon – which I’d picked out as the perfect spot for my family to live.

What makes Reedsport perfect? Violent crime is zero. There are no registered sex offenders. The town sits slightly inland on the Umpqua River and is safe from tsunami, the coastal region is wet and safe from forest fires, the town is a completely undeveloped tourist mecca which has the  Oregon dunes, the Oregon coast, the Smith River, the Umpqua River, and Winchester Bay all within a stone throw. Coos Bay is 20 miles south and Florence is 20 miles north. Because it is inland it doesn’t have the wind you find along the rest of the Oregon coast. The climate is mild with lows in the winter around 37 degrees and highs in the summer around 80 degrees. It has good schools, good fishing, crabbing, and a health food store.

So, I came up here and went to a property management company. I filled out the forms, checked into a hotel, and began my search. Here’s the thing – there aren’t all that many houses in Reedsport and most of them are owned by the residents – there were no 3 bedroom single family homes available – but there was one coming up mid-month. I looked at the outside, filled out the application, and gave the agent deposit and first months rent. She couldn’t get in contact with the owner. For three days we tried and I searched for other houses…I didn’t find any. This was my only option.

It was time to go anyway. I went back to Redding and picked up my family and we went back to the squat in Sacramento where we packed our things. I’d bought an $800 jeep a few weeks before and had a hitch and ball put on it so I could tow a U-Haul trailer. I rented the trailer, we packed our things, we said goodbye to our friends, and we set off. The trailer was too big and too heavy for the jeep but we made it anyway after reversing the ball so the hitch didn’t drag. I reserved a hotel for a week in Reedsport and up we came not sure if we had a place or not.

A week in a hotel room with a two year old is a long time. Long story short, we got the house and yesterday we  moved in. I signed the lease, set up my office, transferred the utilities (deposits on utilities are a big moving expense you don’t think of but should), and here we are! Last night was our first night in the house. We barbecued steaks in the back  yard and slept in our own bed in our own room in our own house filled with our own things.

Not having a home for my family and not having a job were a heavy load to be carrying – missing that June 15th deadline was a challenging blow. Now I can rest and get to work building my business again – my family has a home, I have an office, we have a life. It took me two months longer than I expected, but the funny thing is that during that two months – we managed to gather everything we needed (except couches and some other furniture) to make this house into our home.

I have a job – taking care of my family, writing, and continuing to develop Vagobond Travel Media, LLC – and here’s a bonus – my wife got a job at the hotel we stayed at – when things like this happen, you have to know that you are in the flow and the flow is good.

Our hometown is now Reedsport and it just might be the coolest undiscovered place in the USA.

No Se Pickers – Yo Se Pickers

I know pickers. Man, I know a lot of pickers. I know glass pickers, gun pickers, fishing pickers, fish pickers, antique pickers, advertising pickers, and toy pickers. I know nose pickers, too. No se pickers? I know pickers. I read about the economy of the USA and how jobs have increased but those jobs are mostly part time or less than average pay at a time when prices are higher than ever for gas, food, rent, and homes. All of that has led to a huge number of people turning to non-traditional ways to make money – among them, working online with blogs, websites, and online business along with pickers doing some serious picking.

I’ve been helping friends with garage sales and holding a few garage sales of our own as we get ready to move and I can tell you that the first twenty people to any garage sale are pickers that are either wheeling and dealing on their own, own a shop, or sell the stuff on Ebay. As a matter of fact, most of the rest of the people who hit garage sales are selling on Ebay, Amazon, or Craigslist too. While almost all of them complain about the rising cost of things at g-sales, due to g-salers using Ebay to look up prices, I would say that there has probably never been a better time to be a picker.

The reason? Baby boomers were hoarders of the cool stuff their parents left them and they are dropping off like flies now. In addition, those boomers whose parent’s still were alive, are mostly dying right now too. It’s sad, for everyone – everyone except the pickers who are loving it. On the table are vintage antiques from the 1890s to the 1940s plus tons of the ultra-hot Mid-Century Modern furniture, Modern Danish furniture, and incredible Mid-Century glass, ceramics, and decorative items.

Ebay and shows like American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and Storage Wars may have encouraged millions of out of work Americans to join the picker force thus making the picking more competitive and educated sellers about what they have so they don’t give it away, but is that very terrible? Not really. The reason is that the internet and those shows have also made millions more collectors and the education of sellers is a good thing – unless you think it’s cool to pay struggling families low dollar values for high-end items. Personally, I don’t think that’s cool at all.  I’ve always tried to be fair when I buy stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say – “Hey, I think I can sell this for $100 so maybe you should charge me more…” but I do say “Hey, this thing might be valuable – are you sure you want to sell it for a dollar?” and a couple of times “Hey, don’t sell this before you check it out.” It was painful a few times..I found a signed Hawaiian Ukulele from the 1920s that was for sale for $100 and insisted that the owners check it out – It was worth nearly $12,000!  I  really wanted that Uke, but I couldn’t afford the higher price…still, I don’t think I could have afforded the bad karma from knowing I was stealing it either.

Still, I have ended up with some amazing bargains. Most of the time, people just want cash in hand and since there are so many pickers and collectors out there now – there is a market for just about anything cool you might buy. I bought a monkey wrench for $8 yesterday at a thrift store (by the way, no need to tell thrift stores that something is valuable) – it’s selling online for nearly $100 – but I’m not worried if I don’t sell it – it’s a working monkey wrench! I love that…btw…never mind Old McDonald sitting on a fence – I’ve washed it…

Anyway, it’s a picker, collector, and seller heaven right now – which is funny, because aside from that, nobody seems to have any money at all.