Do what you need to do instead of what you ‘should’ do

With interest, I’ve watched the reactions of different people as I propose a series of plans that are not what I ‘should’ do. Everyone has a should of their own and they feel free to impose it on my worldview. For the most part, people have the same reactions they had when I decided to … Continue reading “Do what you need to do instead of what you ‘should’ do”

With interest, I’ve watched the reactions of different people as I propose a series of plans that are not what I ‘should’ do. Everyone has a should of their own and they feel free to impose it on my worldview. For the most part, people have the same reactions they had when I decided to move to Hawai’i or when I decided to walk around the perimeter of Oahu or make my way by foot and thumb across Canada or move to Alaska or travel the world or start a blog or any of another gazillion ‘impossible’ things I have done. The reactions tend to be one of the following:

1) That’s Awesome. You should…(shares something they want to do or think would be of benefit). These are the people I care most about. They trust me. They know me. They encourage me.

2) Hmmm…I don’t see how you will you (fill in the blank – get the money, make this work, do this at all, etc) You should…(and they tell me that I should do something which they are doing or were told they should do). These are very often people who I think care about me, but they don’t understand me, they don’t ‘get’ me, and they never will.

3) And then there are the others – they are the haters who simply try to smash your ideas or dreams and discourage you. These people might pretend to be your friends or loved ones, but they only love themselves. At best these people are selfish pricks, at worst they are life saboteurs. People who are unhappy with their own lives and will stop at nothing to make sure that everyone else remains as unhappy as they do. Do yourself a favor, just take them out of your life.

4) One last group bears mentioning…the group who use your idea to springboard into talking about themselves. Just turn and walk away, they aren’t worth talking to or bothering with – they will not even notice you are gone (once they find another person – any person – to tell about themselves). These are the people who plant big uncomfortable kisses on you despite the fact you have told them you don’t like to be kissed. The guilt trippers who will do anything to show you how wonderful they are except shut up and leave you alone. These are the energy vampires. If you can’t stick a stake through their hearts, just do your best to avoid them.

Type 1 can be present at any stage.
Type 2 tend to be around during the naysaying – they are the type who offer help when they don’t think you need it but are often absent when you actually do because suddenly life prevents them from doing what they say…this type will offer you all the help in the world but when you actually ask them for work/results/action – they just can’t do it. I first became of this type when I published my first magazine – I had tons of backers and help offered for as long as I did all the work and paid for everything – when I needed help, everyone was busy – and six months later my magazine failed and I had a nervous breakdown. It’s best to just accept that the promises of this type are hot air and if they come through – sweet Jesus, it’s a fucking miracle.
Type 3 Haters just gotta hate, but they want you to think they do it because they care (about someone besides themselves)
Type 4 Energy suckers are worse than haters. If you can’t stick a stake through their hearts, just do your best to avoid them.

So, all of that to say – don’t do what they think you should unless it is what you think you should do and you believe it is what you truly need to do.

Life, Death, and Student Loans

The title of this post sounds good in the order I put it, but I’m going to reverse that order as I write this. Since I graduated in 2008, my student loans have been a huge burden. Despite having paid off $10k, I’ve had to defer the loans and they have grown from around $35k to close to $50k. Since coming to the USA in 2013 the burdens of rent, auto insurance, auto repairs, health insurance, groceries, utilities, and every other bill that you are forced to pay when you try to have a life here have forced me to defer my loans again and again. I’ve built a couple of profitable businesses in this little town that have enabled us to live here – and my hope was that I would be able to sell them and pay off my loans – but the sad truth seems to be that people who live here don’t have the money or the ability to buy or more importantly to take over these businesses – it’s not that they are unable to do the work, it’s that they are (by and large) on social security or disability or retirement pensions that will penalize them if they earn money. It’s one of the reasons it is so hard to find good help here – people don’t want to screw up their current entitlements. So, as much as I hate to say it – it looks like my student loans will continue to grow and I will continue to defer them – indefinitely unless something changes.

And that brings me to death. I’m not sure, but I think debt remains even after you die. If I were to die, my family would inherit my debt – which is complete bullshit. I have a life insurance policy that would cover everything – but I certainly hope that in the event of my death they will take the money and give the middle finger to the debt collectors – it is not their debt and if I die, the debt dies with me – at least that’s how I think it should be. The debt owners should have a life insurance policy on me if they want to collect when and if I die. But, I don’t intend to die anytime soon. However, living in this town of retirement and disability and working as I do with liquidating the estates of the dead or soon to be dead – I am more acutely aware of my own mortality than I’ve ever been – and I’ve always been acutely aware of it. All of this American bullshit we worry about doesn’t matter – the chase after money, the chase after paying bills, the insurance, the stockmarket, the tech gadgets, blah blah blah. We are going to die someday and that is all there is to it. That awareness is what has led me to live the life that I’ve led – we have today but yesterday is gone and tomorrow never has a guarantee. We must live.

And that brings me to life. I want to enjoy the life I live and I want to give my daughter every opportunity to enjoy the life she lives. I want my wife to enjoy the life she lives. These past four years, we have been working towards several goals 1) American citizenship for my wife (which we have achieved) 2) Paying off my student loans (which I discussed above but am ready to give up on) and 3) Building careers and business which will support us and allow us to live the rest of our lives the way we want to live – this is a tricky one because my wife’s family still lives in North Africa – so the life we want needs to include a way to see them at least periodically. The life we want to live must also include warm ocean and sunny beaches – which is something the Oregon Coast simply does not offer. There are people in the USA who I love and care about, but if I do not see them for years at a time, I can deal with that. The same is not true for my wife and her family in Europe and North Africa – this has been a huge burden for her. And that brings me to it – we are ready to live. Because we are ready to live, we are ready to move along to a very different life in a very different place. We are putting it all together now as Sophia finishes kindergarten and Hanane finishes up teaching for the school year. Stay tuned for much much more…

Perceived Value versus Real Value versus Potential Value

I deal with this every day. I’d like to think that it has made me more realistic about the real value of the things I possess. Here is what I see almost daily. A person walks into my shop with an item that they perceive as having a substantial real value. Sometimes they ask me for the price they see it as worth – and sometimes I say “Yes, I’d like to buy that from you and your price is fair.” This is the place where perceived value and real value meet. This is the ideal situation. I wish it was like that all the time. Real value is where money changes hands and I suppose I need to point out that this is a fluid value – it does not stay the same. As an example, the person leaves the shop and I place a price tag on the item and another person comes in and says “I like this and your price is fair, I’d like to buy it”. Again perceived value and real value have met – for the same item but at a higher price. Let’s say the buyer is also a dealer and she takes the item to her shop where she places an even higher price on it. Another person comes in and says “Hey I like this and your price is fair” and so it goes until the item is taken off the market or until a dealer has a higher perceived value than the real value of the item to anyone who sees it.This happens to me all the time too – I buy an item which I perceive to have a higher potential value than the price I am paying. It’s worth noting that until someone else agrees to pay the price I am asking, the real value remains at what I paid for it but if no one is willing to buy it, the potential value has decreased and as a result my perceived value will probably decline until I reach a real value where someone else agrees to buy it.

So, back to the first person who comes in my shop with their item. More often than not, they have an inflated sense of the perceived value and I either decline (if it seems they are not willing to lower their expectation) or I make an offer that fits with my perceived value of the item. As a dealer, my perceived value of the item is almost always lower than that of a buyer – that is how I earn living. My thought process goes something like this “I think I can sell this for X amount and Y is the amount I want to make on the item eventually – so I am willing to pay X-Y for it” Some people think it’s a simple matter of percentage for example -“I think I can sell this for $100 so I’m willing to pay $80 for it” but that’s not the case. There are other factors. If I think I can sell the item the same day – I am willing to earn less, if I think it will be harder to find a buyer than I want to pay less, and if I have to hold the item for a very long time, I am willing to pay even less. If the item is big and takes a lot of space or requires a lot of work on my part – I need to pay much less. So it is never as simple as someone asking “How much is this worth?” and me as an appraiser saying “It’s worth this much”. Does it have emotional value? Is there an interesting history to it? What is the economy doing right now? What are the current trends? What kinds of prices have such items brought in the past?

Potential value is the pie in the sky – the place where the right buyer with the right need and the right amount of money is in the right place at the right time. Most people think of their items with the highest possible potential value. i.e. Grandma was important to you so Grandma’s stuff has a lot of value – but unless you find someone who Grandma was equally important to, you will have a hard time finding a shared perceived value and a real value transaction.

In summary – real value is a monetary transaction. Perceived value is untested. Potential value is where the stars align and the item brings the highest real value possible. My 1994 Jeep Cherokee illustrates this concept well. I paid $900 for it. That’s the real value. It’s a fairly desirable model and I’ve made some improvements but also put a lot of wear and tear on it – so my perceived is a bit higher at around $1500. Finally, the potential value is the one I hope for – I’ll put an ad for around $3000 and hope that the guy who has been looking for this model happens to find my ad and have the money. Probably what will actually happen is that the actual new real value will be somewhere between $900 and $1500, but it’s always good to have hope.

The Pyramid Conspiracy Theorist aka The Smartest Man in the World

The smartest man in the world came into my shop today – he didn’t overtly say he was the smartest man in the world, but it was obvious he had the answers to everything. Jesuits, he was ready to tell me about their conspiracy. He told me how the Ancient Egyptians were actually Aryans and used swastikas in their ancient ceremonies and all about how the Jews we consider the Jews weren’t really the Jews at all because the real Jews were all black. He told me about an upside down pyramid in Alaska and Pyramids in Mississippi and Missouri and how there are pyramids on every continent buried under piles of dirt and how he someday wants to travel to them all and light them with strings of LED lights but not to tell Mark Burnett because he would steal the reality show idea from him (oops, oh well, he probably isn’t reading this – not Burnett or the smartest man in the world). Oh the things he told me – and all of that without me even asking to be told anything at all! In fact, when he started to tell me anything at all, I kept saying “I don’t want to know about any of that, I just want to watch reality TV and live in this little town where nothing happens. He told me about big cities and dangerous neighborhoods and he told me about the real problems in the world and how companies can be profitable and what I should buy to sell in my shop. He told me about how Mermaids were dangerous and would eat you (if they were real) and then told me that they are real and he has seen videos of them circling around oil rigs waiting to eat the workers. He told me about more pyramids and how they were obvious and everyone knew about them but people chose to just overlook them and so he was going to expose them (again) with LED lights.

It was exhausting trying to get the smartest man in the world to stop telling me things. I tried every polite trick in the world, but none of them worked. He showed me pictures on his phone that I didn’t ask to see. Finally, he left. I prefer to not be around such smart people. I’m very tired of being trapped in my shop when they come to share their knowledge with me. Yes, I’m almost through with this aspect of my life. That knowledge is all that I need at present, thank you very much.

The Gradual Dismantling of Democracy

The first 50 days of President Il Douche have been somewhat of a relief – which is a bit strange to say, but there it is. My worst fears had been a sort of blitzkrieg against everything that our country stands for – using the National Guard against civilian targets, the setting up of internment camps, the rounding up of political enemies, and the seizing of assets based on religion, ethnicity, or politics. Yes, steps have been taken by the administration in all of these directions but the safeguards put in place by the founding fathers and later generations have proved to be a buffer, not an insurmountable buffer, but one that has prevented the instant consolidation of power and allows time for resistance to be organized. All of that being said – the American experiment in democracy is being dismantled albeit at a gradual rate. There has been no grand awakening of enlightenment among the new administration, no sudden revelation of truth, justice, and the American way. In many ways, it has proved itself to be worse than even the most pessimistic among us feared – but the slowdown has been such a relief. The appointments and nominations were not rubber stamped, the initial travel ban was challenged and shut down, the follow up ban continues to be challenged, protections for LGBT, children, and immigrants have been weakened but not wiped away- yet. In my worst fears, things would already be much worse than they are – but of course they are actually very very bad. The most powerful position in the world is occupied by a narcissistic liar who deflects legitimate concerns about the integrity of his person or his government with manufactured conspiracy theories – we have still not seen his taxes or income and probably never will, the ties between Russia and his administration (and himself personally) run deep – deep enough that it is not inconceivable that he is bought and paid for by Russian oil money, each potential scandal surrounding him seems to be met with a manufactured conspiracy from the Russian controlled wikileaks, or a made-up story taken directly from talk radio. It seems clear to me that while we are distracted by the absurd headline grabbing stories, the safeguards of democracy are being dismantled behind our backs. If you think about it, the US with it’s drone like workforce and population enslaved by debt is an income generating machine – if you were to think of it as a company (which the current administration certainly does) you would work at weakening unions and collective bargaining power, decreasing pay and benefits, and increasing output. If we were to look at the current administration as a hostile takeover by corporate raiders, the next step is asset stripping to pay back the debts incurred by the hostile takeover. I believe that we can expect to see legislation which enables the following – maximizing debt for corporate projects (i.e. huge infrastructure projects, increased military spending, privatization of government funded institutions), defunding of institutions designed to protect citizens from corporate greed, selling off of assets to administration-friendly corporations at a loss, and a softer position internationally against our own interest but in the favor of Russian interests. The wealth of those associated with the administration will soar, the chains of debt for the rest of us will be strengthened. I believe we will see credit requirements eased but exit strategies from that debt tightened. Bankruptcy, which has allowed the administration’s CEO to get to where he is, might be a thing that is no longer allowed below a certain level. Time will tell. In any event, I don’t think that things are looking good for anyone who is not already in the top 10%.

Constant Rain Creates Mold Holes

The Oregon Coast is filled with decaying structures and ever-present mold. There isn’t much you can do about it. Hang a picture on the wall for a while, pretty soon there is mold between the wall and the picture. Same goes for furniture, rugs, and if you have metal things like tools or bicycles – the surface rust is almost instant and if you leave it for a season, it becomes a rusty old thing. The garage in the house we rent is a mold/rust/decay swamp – everything I’ve ever put in the garage has been ruined. The first year it was water damage, the next year I covered everything with tarps and the mold got in, the third year here it was rust and mold combined with water damage, last year I realized that anything in the garage was going to be ruined so left nothing but things that can’t be ruined like crab traps and rusty tools.

I brought nice carpets with me when we moved here. My favorite one was ruined by rain dripping from the center of my office (which is downstairs on the first floor) and yet, somehow the rain dripped from the ceiling fan right onto a beautiful Persian rug. A new leak sprung from an interior wall the other day and started dripping on my 150 year old mahogany secretary desk, but it was caught by a Chinese porcelain vase I had on top of it.

Things just get ruined here. My new enclosed trailer started leaking the other day – when it rains constantly and the wind blows constantly and the mold grows constantly and the leaks find their way in constantly – things just get destroyed. On the Oregon Coast, all it takes is a season of weather to turn new to old, another season of weather to turn old to worn, another season turns worn to broken, and it takes just one more to turn broken to ruin. I’m feeling the four winters we’ve been here – I started new but am on my way to ruin if I stay here any longer.

We mustn’t let that happen.