Monday, November 13, 2017

The Jig Is Up

Each day, more victims come forward to name celebrities, politicians, and other public figures as sexual predators. Some of these perpetrators are being dropped like hot potatoes from their contracts. I have a feeling that more of these revelations will surface in the coming months, especially considering that some of the incidents happened decades ago.

I’ve read enough celebrity memoirs to know that the sexist behavior described is not only common, it is “expected.”  Some rock stars admitted (bragged?) about their underage conquests. Women to these guys were things to use, often a different one each day, then forgotten, like used Kleenex.   None of that was surprising, and since women (and girls) threw themselves all over their idols, it was often believed to be “consensual”. 

Because of the magnitude of the abuses I went through as a child, I think I always tended to minimize the severity of anything less.  By that, I mean that if I was the object of an inappropriate comment or touch in my life, I thought little of it. Boys will be boys.  I learned that at my father's knee, that men can't help themselves, and will take what they want.  I just had to accept it. 
There were exceptions, however, that stick in the mind, and won’t go away.  Here’s just one:  I was 17 when one of my classmates, a young man I had grown up with in grade and high school, reached over to rub my crotch as I was bending over to grab some ice cream in our local convenience store.  

As I jumped up, holding the ice cream, he was leaving the store with friends, a big grin on his face, friends laughing, as if it were all a joke - and that he had the right to touch me that way.  All I felt was ashamed. I put the ice cream back.  I was no longer hungry. 

Yes, this stays with me, almost half a century later.  I don’t think that my classmate thought he did anything wrong. He was just having fun, at my expense.  It was “nothing”.   I am sure that many who are now being accused are scratching their heads – what did they do that was so bad?  They had no idea of the effect it had on those they had their actions would be remembered, and stored, like shameful secrets for their victims.

For those of us who are not in the spotlight, these incidents often happen at work.  Many of my jobs in adulthood included having at least one co-worker – usually in a position of power – behaving like a sexist bully towards myself or another co-worker.  Mostly, these guys were ignored by management – but there was one exception.

I was head floor supervisor a large thrift store in the mid-80s.  

I was responsible for two floors of employees, customers, and stock.  That job was the most interesting I think I’ve ever had, in part because of the odd characters that came through it.  For instance, we had dressing rooms on the lower floor, which were open on the top.  Whoever placed the dressing rooms there wasn’t thinking too straight, because if someone wanted to, they could look down into them from the upper floor, and watch people dressing and undressing. 

 Which is what a few perverts did.  I’d have to escort them out of the store, and tell them never return.  The one time I called the police on this behavior (the guy wouldn’t leave), the cops just told him what I’d told him, and let him go (since then, the dressing rooms have been moved to a more private spot).  
I had a co-supervisor, “Chuck”. He and I  got along, for the most part, but he was also a bit of a jerk.  He liked to hang around and joke with the cashiers.  I was busy dealing with the floor employees and jobs one day, when one of my female cashiers took me aside, and told me that Chuck was “hugging” her, and touching her breasts.  Another female cashier backed her up, and said that when I went home, Chuck took advantage of the cashiers, in what amounted to blatant sexual harassment.  They were afraid to confront Chuck, as they were worried about losing their jobs.  I told them that I would talk to Chuck about it, and also to our store manager, the next day.   
When I told our store manager, “Mick”, about the harassment, he called Chuck into his office.  I repeated the charges.  Mick gave Chuck a warning and a 3-day suspension.  The cashiers thanked me, and we went on with our business. 

The next day, one of my $600. “drops” was missing from the company safe.  “Drops” were the money collected in envelopes by the supervisors at the end of each shift. Each supervisor signed the envelope that they collected, then put into the safe.  

Only two supervisors and the manager had the keys to that safe.  Since it was my drop that was missing, I was called into the office, where I was told that I was suspended indefinitely, while an investigation went on. Of course, I didn’t take the money, and denied doing so, but knew that until the real culprit was found, my manager was following company policy. Interesting, though, that my suspected infraction cost me an "indefinite suspension", while Chuck's was for 3 days - I guess sexual harassment wasn't as important as the loss of money.

Three days later, I got a call from my manager.  They had found the culprit - it was Chuck.  After I had reported Chuck, he thought he’d get back at me by taking my drop.  He was actually caught stealing cash from Mick’s desk, and Mick chased him down, and had him arrested.  Chuck served some jail time for the thefts – apparently, he had spent the $600. drop money on cocaine.  I was asked to return, which I did for another year, but it was never the same.  I was a hero to the cashiers, but after that incident, my heart just wasn’t into the work, as it had been before.  

The sad thing is that in all of the years that I and others have been subject to these types of abuses, instead of receiving support, we were expected to just live with it, or worse, we paid for what was done to us – paying twice over. Speaking of pay, I never received pay for the days that I was suspended.  I did receive an apology, however, which was as good as it got - back then.   

In regards to the recent charges against these public figures, I do not assume that all accusations are the truth. Some are not, I am sure, so that we don't just take anyone's word for it.  Each case needs investigation. No innocents should be accused. False accusations hurt not only the accused - they hurt those of us who were genuinely abused.

That being said, I’m happy that victims – survivors – are now being listened to and believed when they tell the truth about their experiences.  This is how positive change occurs.  May this trend continue. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Surviving Duran Duran in 1984

There was a question recently about whether Duran Duran belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.    Fame.

It brought to mind the one Duran Duran concert that my first husband (James Perry Peeples) and I attended, with our daughter Kelly. I found this letter that I wrote about that 1984 concert, among those that I am archiving for my sister: 

"I said I'd write and tell you about the Duran Duran "The Reflex" concert.  Since there's so much to tell about, I have to type this, single-space, on big paper. 
The concert was schedule for tonight, but when I called the Oakland Coliseum, to ask about parking costs (2.00), and when would be a good time to get there. "NOW!" was the response, so we had to endure a 6 1/2 -hour grueling wait (our seats were general admission, first-come, first-served). 
It was 11:00, and we got there at 11:45 AM.    There were already about 300-400 people waiting in line. The only good thing to come of this arrangement was that we got excellent seats - we could see the band very well, and with binoculars, we  could, if we wished, see Nick Rhodes' nose-hairs.(UGHI) 
The bad news is that absolutely NO cameras were allowed inside-made more galling by the fact that our seats were so good, and---the fact that we were SEARCHED - not once, but several times, before getting in. One burly guard asked me what was in my parka pocket - very suspicious---and I pulled out my S.F. Giants' cap!  He appeared deflated after I had done that.
The show itself, if you cut out the constant screaming, fainting spells of a great many on the 'floor, and the general lack of consideration by the fans for anyone but themselves, was excellent; I have to admit that Duran Duran are an extremely dynamic and charismatic group, in person. You'd be surprised how appealing they can be, which was, unfortunately, part of the cause for the general misery before the program.
 I especially liked Simon LeBon's performance in the finale, where he picks Andy Taylor up off the floor, upside-down, while Andy plays the guitar riff to "Girls on film".    Huge balloons were kicked out by the band during the encore, "Rio", and a lot of other colorful special effects almost made the day's misery worth it all  (of course, to Kelly, it was not only worth it all, but she wants to do it again). "Not on your life!!!" we said, simultaneously, feeling quite nostalgic for all those "civilized" concerts we used to attend.) 
Nick Rhodes and Andy Taylor were closest to where we were sitting, though Simon was all over the stage, as he admirably, and very deftly dodged the multitude of stuffed bears that had been thrown onto the stage.

I remember the sticky situation when the Beatles had had to perform through a floor covered in jelly-beans. If you've seen their filmed performances, you'll notice that they hardly ever moved from the spots they were in; they were probably glued to the floor with jelly-beans!
I came away from the D.D. concert loving the group, and hating the fans. DD  are definitely a great live band.  I also came away from the concert with ringing ears, which persist today. On our way home last night, Perry kept asking, "Do you hear sirens?"

At the concert, Kelly screamed herself hoarse (she had to bring a note to school today, explaining that her voice is out of commission.) She really enjoyed herself, and according to her, "..the best concert of my life", so that there should be no doubt as to how much we love her, since we went through a lot of misery so that she could realize that dream. We won't be going through it again, however; NO group is worth dying for.  In the midst of the crush, Kelly agreed that no group was worthy of dying for, but changed her mind once the group bounded onto the stage. 

Matters were exacerbated by the fact that I was having the worst day of my period at the time (don't want to gross you out with the details, only to explain my abject misery). I felt very tired and faint throughout the proceedings. 

Kelly and I had had to walk about a mile, before finding a restroom; a lot of kids were also looking for restrooms; Kelly and I were able to get into "Sam's Hofbrau", only because I was over 21(I never felt so glad, and so relieved, to be 32 years old!), since there was a bar in the Hofbrau. "  

I also  hadn't eaten all day, which didn't help matters. That food smelled GOOD!  Kelly got a lot of compliments on her hat & buttons, which she was happy about. 

There weren't very many parents there; many dropped their kids off, which was a stupid thing to do, especially the potential dangers involved(ambulances arrived continually, carrying off the unconscious). There were also a bunch of con-artists who were trying to bilk people out of their money with card-tricks; they came over to me, and I gave them my withering stare, which got rid of them plenty-quick. I found this stare to be quite useful, being somewhat surprised that people were so intimidated by that look. It also came in handy when push came to shove several times.

Another incident that made me angry, was that once inside, a woman asked to borrow our binoculars, to locate her kids, who were out on the floor. We were kind enough to oblige, but after about 20 minutes, she was still using them, drifting further away from us, when I reached out, and took them out of her hands, saying "We'd like to use our binoculars, now - and gave her the withering stare. She was saying: "My kids are out there on the floor- and I said, "WE made sure that OUR daughter stayed with US!" 

The stupidity of the parents who allowed their kids on the floor was magnified by the fact that there was little they could do when their kids might faint,hyperventilate, or be crushed. It was chilling to see how many bodies were passed to the front, and how the crowd crushed forward, like a giant amoeba. 

We saw Paul Kantner (of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship) in the special reserved section, with God/China, his daughter by Grace Slick. Perry was way more interested in that, than anything else.   "Paul Kantner just got up", or "Paul just went to the restroom!", or "Kantner just left during the performance of the "Contractions!" (an all-girl group that sounded lousy). 

Perry said: "I wish the Contractions would hurry up and have the baby already!", but we both thought that the constant booing of the fans toward them was the height of classlessness.

One girl behind us kept screaming "Simon!!!  AAGHHH  Simon!", and we kept wishing we could send her down to Simon. 

Kelly was really very good - we have a good kid! I blame the management of the Oakland Coliseum, and the arrangers of the concert for the miseries of the day; a lot of that to do with the "general admission" idea. "  Much wear and tear could have been avoided with reserved seating, and could've made the experience a fun and enjoyable one. 

We are left with sunburns and ringing ears; Kelly got a (5.00) program, and lots to talk about (looks like I do, too), so it wasn't a total loss. I'm thinking of having buttons printed up: 'I survived the Duran Duran concert!'"

Postscript:   I wrote an angry letter-to-the-editor about that concert's management, published in the San Jose Mercury News the next week (see below).  However.....we didn't keep to our word: We attended a Depeche Mode concert at the Cow Palace 2 years later, that made this concert seem like child's play!  That's a story for another blog.......

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mike Nesmith Made Me Go To YouTube's Copyright Offender's School

Yesterday, I got an email from YouTube saying that Michael Nesmith had YouTube take down one of my videos, because of copyright  infringement. This surprised me, since that video has been up there for 11 years!   The video was a hilarious bit by Jim Stafford called “Little Bits and Pieces”, where he gets so drunk he doesn’t recall anything of the night before, and has to be reminded by others about the crazy, destructive things that he had done. 

 The video was of poor quality, since I had digitized it from an old videotape that had been through the wars. That video got a lot of great comments, had hundreds of thousands of hits, and made people happy.  I make no money from any of my videos on YouTube – it’s all for fun. Life is often difficult and depressing, so I want to share the enjoyment, when I can. 

After the video was removed, I remembered that the video was presented on Nesmith’s “Television Parts” show, which we never missed, always full of fun bits and surprises.  Jack Handy’s little bits were also gems.  They don’t make t.v. like that anymore.  Where would you see this stuff now?  After removing my version, I looked. There is one other version which does not seem to be approved for copyright.  In fact, there are MANY versions of Monkees and Jim Stafford songs and videos on YouTube which do not have the copyright information on them, except for the “Standard YouTube License” which all of mine have. So, if Nesmith is on the warpath, he’s going to be plenty busy, because my video is the tip of the iceberg.  Oh well..I guess that gives him a hobby.   Knuckle down, your work is cut out for you, Nez! 

In addition to deletion of "Little Bits and Pieces",  I had to attend YouTube’s Copyright School, to be able to log back into my account. This lesson is brought to you by animated characters named "Russell" and "Lumpy", fit for a 4-year-old. I learned about "Creative Commons", and using permissions. 

You have to go through a lot to get permission to post copyrighted material.  The video tells you (mostly) that you did a BAD THING and could GO TO COURT and BE SUED if you persist in posting copyrighted material.  

What is interesting is that when I initially posted the video eleven years ago, YouTube sent me an email about the possible copyright issue, but them added: ”It’s o.k., you don’t have to do anything now”, so when I read that, I promptly forgot about it.

YouTube's "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" tone leaves the implication that it is o.k. to post copyrighted stuff, as long as you can get away with it.  YouTube then places ads on all of your copyright-infringed videos - without your being paid for them, of course.  So, YouTube benefits when you post copyrighted material. They're in cahoots with you - until you are caught.  After that, they wash their hands of you. They don't want to be sued. It's all on you!  

After scaring the heck out of you about court and jail for your offense, Copyright School then encourages you to make “your own original videos”, and then shows Russell in a video that is so lame that it would be a publicly humiliating  to post it. YouTube would have to shut down and go out of business if that were the kind of videos posted there.  
In any event, I passed the test, getting only two questions wrong. I now have one strike against me on YouTube - three strikes, and they will delete my account, and ban me from having an account with YouTube, ever again.  I'm also listed as an "offender".  

After that experience, the first thing I did was to remove any and all videos that I had posted that I even suspected had copyright issues.  That included my most popular video on there, Martin Briley’s “Salt in My Tears”,  the hits and comments of which way surpassed anything else I had ever posted. 

I got comments from that every week.  It was the only version of that video on YouTube for many years, though there is one now that was actually taken from my YouTube video, and re-posted - the quality sucks, but at least you can see it).  Martin Briley himself enjoyed the one I put up 10 years ago, and made comments, answering questions from fans.  Here is part of our correspondence about it:

From: Debwong
Date: Feb 27, 2008 6:14 AM

DEB: You don't mind my posting your videos on YouTube? How ODD that you can't post your video on here.
Let me try to post it on my MySpace blog. Also, would you like to add a comment similar to what you have written here on my YouTube site under your videos? It would stir up more interest, have people waiting to listen to your new stuff, & purchase your music. Maybe place a web link, etc. As you may have seen, those clips are VERY popular, & have gotten thousands of views. BTW, my sister & brother-in-law really love "Hands on the Screen", have really wanted to see that one again - I think it's brilliant.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Martin Briley Production Services
Date: Feb 26, 2008 6:57 AM

MARTIN:  No, of course I don't mind you posting my videos, I'm very flattered. Sure, we'd all like to receive royalties from Utube but right now I'm happy that despite Universal's indifference, someone gets to see them. 

The irony is that Mercury ( which became Polygram which became Universal ) and ALL the record companies billed the artists back in full for their own demos, and yet if I try to post my own video on Myspace, they yank it! ( as they've done before on Utube)

Since you seem to be such an avid fan, I thought I'd make you aware that due to Universal's procrastination in releasing 'Salt In My Tears' ( and the rest of The Mercury Years ) on iTunes, I recently created a new master of 'Salt In My Tears' and released it on CD Baby. It'll be on iTunes pretty soon and I've been assured that once Universal hears about it they'll put the whole of The Mercury Years on iTunes with amazing speed! We'll see. The new release on CD Baby includes an acoustic version of 'Salt In My Tears' and two new songs.



So, I guess that was his “seal of approval” – but I had been burned.  Down it went.  No more Salt.  No more Tears.  At least on MY YouTube. 

Interesting to note that so many fine videos presented on YouTube are copyrighted, the majority of which, apparently, are used without permission.  What would happen is all of those copyright infringed videos were removed?  Would there be much left to watch on YouTube?

So, I did wrong, I was bad.  At first, I was upset that Nesmith did this, but I then remembered that he is also the one who gave permission for my daughter Kelly Peeples to use Monkees content in her “Daydream Believer” film short. The Monkees TV show was a family favorite, and Kelly was inspired to write about a young girl who had a crush on – you guessed it – Mike Nesmith.  Kelly & Rosanne (co-producer) even met Nesmith at the Taos Talking Picture Festival's Open Screen, in New Mexico, in 1998.   So, that was nice.   

MORAL OF THE STORY:  If you have anything posted on YouTube that does not have the permission of the copyright owner, take it down.  Let the artist (or whomever) profit from their own work.  

P.S. - After I posted this blog, Michael Nesmith posted on Facebook about why he is finally claiming his copyrighted material.  He also posted a link to where others can view these videos, called "VideoRanch:  tps://

If I had known about it, I would just have posted a link......much easier than posting my YouTube videos. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017


 From the time I could hold a pencil - as the saying goes - I loved to draw.  Pencils were prized an collected.  Pencils were such a draw for me (so to speak) I appreciated even the image of pencils.  My sister and I had curtains in our room that I loved to stare at.  The curtain design was of baby elephants holding pencils in their trunks, and an apple in one foot.

In grade school, we were given fat round, dark red pencils.   We were also given large sheets of brown ruled paper with wide lines on it.  Not sure why smaller hands were given larger paper and pencils?
Not all pencils were created equal, however.  I preferred the softer lead (graphite) pencils, which made for blacker, smoother lines.   After 3rd grade, we graduated to the standard, #2 pencils, and standard ruled paper, and knew that we were now “big kids”.  
Cut to an event traumatic enough that I remember it 60 years later.  It was the last day of second grade, and my teacher had given each of us a large chocolate pencil, with tinfoil wrapper that looked like a pencil. 
My two favorite things in one – chocolate and a pencil! I was enchanted. I was on my way home, holding my pencil up proudly, when a boy slightly older than myself pretended that he was an airplane as he ran towards me, wings outstretched, and broke my chocolate pencil in half.  He  laughed, and I cried.  I went back to the teacher, and told her what had happened – could I have another one?  But there were none left, and I went home crying into my broken chocolate pencil.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Day We All Went to the Moon

Where were you on July 20, 1969?  I know where I was.  At Steve Neill's house, watching the moon landing on his small black-and-white television.

The aroma of curry was in the air; Steve and his mom had a cook named Olvero who had just made curried chicken for lunch.  I also enjoyed the curried eggs that Steve would fry for us.  

Steve was the one who took me to see "2001: A Space Odyssey" at the Coronet in S.F., and he insisted that the only way to view it was by sitting in the first row, looking up at the screen. 

We did that several times (this was back in the day when the only way to view first-run films was in a movie theater). Seeing a movie many times back then was like a badge of honor. Something to brag about, until VCRs and cable t.v. entered the scene, when watching a film many times was no big deal. 

Steve aspired to be a special effects artist.  His room had various models of space ships hung from the ceiling, on dressers, and on a table. Steve would film the models with his Super 8 (later 35mm) movie camera on small sets that he created.    His work later made the covers of many Science Fiction magazines (including this Fangoria Magazine from 1982):

But on July 20, 1969, our attention was focused on the moon landing.

This was not science fiction, but science fact - live coverage of an actual event, only dreamed-of until that day.  When Neil Armstrong stepped onto that surface - was it made of green cheese, as we were brought up to believe?  - the lunar dirt gave way to human footprints for the first time.  I just heard: "One small step....", and then we cheered.  I got chills. We were joyful, and amazed.  

I needed the lift of this historic occurrence.  Just three months before the moon landing, my 16-year-old sister was killed in a car accident.  I was 17, reeling from that loss, and still in that fog of grief and disbelief.  I needed diversions. Steve was good for that, and I am grateful he was there at that time. He later went on to become a special effects artist in Hollywood.  You can read more about Steve's career here:

As for me, I bought and saved a newspaper reporting the safe landing and homecoming of the astronauts. That is when I really cheered.  Here is that newspaper, which I still have - a bit worse for the wear, as am I - though the memories are as fresh as yesterday.

Other News on July 24, 1969: 

Appliances for sale that year: 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Just Wining A Bit

Last time I was drunk was in 1969.  I was 17, with two male friends, and I drank a whole bottle of Ripple wine.  Ripple and Red Mountain were the alcoholic beverages of choice back then. This was before Boone's Farm Apple Wine, and the other "soda pop" drinks.
I only have bits and pieces of memory after drinking that bottle, which was done partly on a dare by one of my friends.   In essence, I blacked out.   Just before the black veil descended, we were watching a t.v. show about Vietnam war casualties, some of it pretty graphic.  My friends were discussing how they were going to dodge the draft. 

In any event, the next morning, my head felt like cement, and I was very nauseous, and have some memory of throwing up in the toilet a few times.

I was also naked, lying between my two - naked – male friends.  That I didn't forget.  When I asked them what happened the night before, one shook his head, and the other just smiled. 

After that, I decided that if I were to drink, it would be no more than two glasses per day. Sort of a "wake-up" call.  

Prior to that experience, I had one other drunken night where some memory is missing.  I was at a party in San Francisco, and had several cups of hot, mulled know, with the orange slices floating in it, nutmeg on top.  It was deceptive, as it didn't seem like that much...but it was so good. Like dessert. I was also encouraged to have more, you know how that is?   "Have another glass - I made enough for an army!" said our proud hostess.  

I was wearing a very short fringed suede skirt and vest outfit, with pigskin boots to match.  Very sexy for that time.  Long story short, one of the other guests, a long-haired hippie dude about 6’4”, picked me up, and said he wanted to " (me) the City."  I weighed about 90 pounds at the time, so it was do-able.  He carried me up to Coit Tower, because I couldn’t walk, at that point.  He had me look through one of those view-scopes to see the City through it, but my vision was cloudy, and all I saw was fog.   He tried to make out with me, but I was too messed-up to reciprocate, so he brought me back to the party, and my friends drove me home.  Apparently, I had fallen asleep with my mouth open, in the car.  One of my friends described me as looking like a: "...sweet little bird with its beak open."

My generation also had other forms of chemical recreation. 
I tried pot, hash, and had mushroom (psilocybin) once. I wanted to fit in, but the effects didn't do it for me.  In fact, the negatives (paranoia, dizziness, nausea) made them not rewarding.  However, I enjoyed watching my friends partaking, and then laughing hysterically.  

From 1971-2001, I didn’t drink alcohol, save for a glass of champagne once, for New Years, I think it was in 1999.  My first husband Perry didn’t want anyone around him who drank.  I went along with that. It turned out to be a wise decision for my liver.  When I got together with my second husband Mike, we went to many art shows and parties, where a glass of wine was offered & received (helped calm the nerves).  

These days, when I do drink, it is two or fewer glasses, and not often. Last time was about 3-4 months ago. But I do enjoy that glass of red wine with spaghetti, pizza, or beef stroganoff.   I'll have a beer with Mexican food or fish 'n chips.  Just one. Burp!   

A photo of Yours Truly enjoying a glass of Guinness also wound up in a book, in 2009.

On rare occasions, there are family gatherings where a glass of spirits is included.  Then, there is the required drink at Malloy's Tavern, in Colma, after my mom's funeral at Holy Cross cemetery, where we all get together, and have one...or two... for Mom, of course. That also includes a sing-along, for those who are inclined. Much better AFTER imbibing.

Now that I am 65, I think I have dodged a few bullets that I could so easily have caught, including the addiction to alcohol (especially with my family history).  There is still time, of course, for me to become a full-blown alcoholic.  But I really am not that motivated, and would rather spend $$ on other addictions.  Like books.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Cousin Judy Garland

My mother Marie Loree Bowen (Hagler) was always told that she bore a resemblance to Judy Garland. Mom could also sing, beautifully.  She and my father met when performing in a high school production of "H.M.S. Pinafore" -with parents like that, we all inherited the singing bug. 

Mom was often asked if she was related to Garland. 
Little did she know that she was. 

My DNA connected with another cousin of Judy's,  a 4th cousin to me. Then, looking up our family genealogy, we found that Judy Garland (a.k.a. Frances Gumm) ‘s 5th great-grandparents William Batte Sr. and Mary (Stratton) Batte are my 8th great-grandparents (mom’s father’s side). 

William and Mary’s son William was the direct line ancestor to Judy; their daughter Mary "Polly" Batte, who married our 7th great-grandfather Richard Bennett, is our direct ancestor.

These are the kind of surprises that keep me at my family’s genealogy research. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Yard Sale Season and My $5. Vacuum Cleaner

It’s Yard Sale Season again! This time of year gets me nostalgic for those Saturday morning cruises for bargains that we took for so many years, in my quest for products to sell on eBay.   Pacifica and the Coastside had a lot of treasures in those garages. We especially enjoyed the pack rats, those hoarders who finally had to let go of part of their stash, for cash. 

Think of it: all over the country, there are treasures hidden in garages and storage lockers that even the "Pickers" crew haven't yet unearthed! This is an ongoing American dream. 

Some sales are neatly set up, and organized.  This one in Pacifica made it easy to peruse the merchandise.

Some sales are slightly less organized.  

A few sales reek of bitterness or urgency.  
We didn't care, as long as there were DEALS. You can't get too emotionally involved.

I have always loved thrift stores, garage sales, yard sales, rummage sales and flea markets. Years ago, I worked for a large thrift store in Redwood City, which is now called "Savers". That was sort of a dream job for awhile. 
The huge variety of items which came in each day, in addition to the interesting people who shopped there, is worthy of a book in itself.

With that experience, embarking upon my eBay business in 2001 seemed like a natural occupation for me. My eBay name is “Not_New_But_Cool”. I always included  my card, with each item that I sold. 
My husband Mike and I would get out early every Saturday morning, so that we could beat the “early birds” in finding the best deals on what we thought might sell.  There would be signs on every corner - some were quite eye-catching. 

Tip for buyers: Always bring small bills. The sellers will appreciate it!  Be courteous.  If the seller says: "No Early Birds" respect that (though Mike will often point out that a few who ignored that rule were the first to get to the good stuff).  

Well over 4,000 positive eBay feedback ratings later, I can say that our success stories stand out, while our failures are swept under the second-hand throw-rug of “experience” and “lessons learned”.   In reality, if you count all of the hours I put into it – just after returning home with the goods – I was making about $1.00 an hour. 

What I learned about the things I was selling was a real education, and it was also great practice for product photography. 

Our living room is like a huge light box, windows on 2 sides, filtered light, and great for time exposures. Our camera was hooked up to our television set, which was a useful monitor. This experience has proved invaluable for when we do product photography for clients these days.  Using a large mirror for highlight & shape, we could make the items stand out over so many of the other images on eBay.

Some of the things that we found were slightly bizarre. 
Ranging from a petrified crocodile head to JFK doll, to campy logo "Closet Boy" hangers, with appropriate image.

 When money was scarce, I even sold a few of my own collectibles.  This included a hand-written letter from May Pang, who was Beatle John Lennon's gal-pal for a few months. That went for a couple of hundred dollars. 

Learning how to package items safely, and creatively was part of the job.  Mike & I would go “dumpster diving” for cardboard boxes, to save money. We learned that bubble wrap is like gold. At one yard sale, I found a lot of it lying around, which the person who was having the sale was happy to give to me. Packing with newspaper is not ideal – too heavy, and things would break.

Dealing with bidders /buyers on a daily basis, I learned how to write up honest but provocative and factual listings. I always provided positive feedback when paid. Of the few times I gave negative feedback, it was earned, and served mostly as a warning to other sellers about certain bidders. That was in the minority, though. Now sellers can’t leave negative feedback, which takes away some of the seller’s options. That is one of many reasons that I don't sell as often on Bay anymore.

Pet peeves of garage sale customers: People who leave last week’s yard sale signs taped up, thus faking us out, and wasting our time. There are only so many sales you can go to within the golden hours of 7-10 AM. Luckily, most of the time, a practiced eye can detect a weathered sign from a block away. 

Other gripes: Folks who hold yard sales, and wind up not wanting to part with their stuff, after all. Or those who price their items higher than the market would bear. Irritable persons who would snap at you if you tried to bargain. We figure that bargaining is a part of it (certainly part of the fun of it).   We have seen a few fights break out, at these sales. 

There are things that you learn after awhile – that “Estate Sales” are basically held after someone has died.  These often do not offer "bargain" items, but you can never be too sure.  The "Estate" could be anything from a mansion to a trailer.  

Estate sales usually mean higher prices, and are often not worth it. That being said, some of our best selling items came from estate sales. You just have to know how to shop, and have at least a rough idea of what was trending. The variety of items we sold surprised even us, as we never know what we would find each week at those yard sales. That was the most fun of all...the surprises!

Every week, we would see many of the same people at the sales (and they would see us). Some earned nicknames. There was the schoolteacher we called “The Book Man”, for obvious reasons....always gravitated towards the book pile. There was the “Stuffed Animal Lady”, whose car was filled with plush toys. There was also “The Junk Man”, who bought machine parts and repaired them. You could tell the folks who were buying to resell, and the ones who were in it just for the fun of it, just by the intensity of their demeanor.

I really enjoyed the citywide yard sale days.  Pacifica’s day for that is different than Half Moon Bay’s, so that we had two such days in the year to look forward to. Since everyone is having sales those weekends, prices are generally lower on stuff, as there is so much to choose from, and sellers know it.  Bargaining is an art. Part of it is like playing poker - if you see a great find, you don't let on.

We learned to pay more, however, for “Benefit” yard sales, those which donate the proceeds to a charity or cause. We don’t even attempt to bargain on those ones. There are certain ones we never went to, as we knew that they would be overpriced, and not for the resale-resale market. 

People often asked me what I sold. “Anything and everything”.  If that is too vague, I’ll specify some of the more memorable items: 

* Vintage books & magazines 
* All sorts of housewares, including vintage appliances; 
* An original Macintosh Computer, with case & accessories, that I got for $5. at a garage sale in Pacifica, and sold for $850.; 
* An antique wooden Madonna that I bought at a yard sale in El Granada for $2., and sold for $325.;
*Film CAMERAS  - lots of cameras! We even sold Mike’s old Hasselblad, when he switched to full digital photography; 
*A vintage model race car that Mike picked up for $1., and sold for over $200.; 
* Handbags:  Dooney & Bourke handbags that I bought for under $5., and sold for between $50. – $200.; 
*Vintage electric Farberware grills, which used to bring in good money. 
* Collectibles of all sorts, too large a variety to even list. 

But everything has a trend, and when we purchased a dozen Farberware grills during one of our last yard-sale runs, we couldn’t get rid of them. Timing is everything in the buying and selling on eBay business. That timing includes which day of the week you start an auction, as well as the time of the auction. Holidays are a mixed bag. 

Once we tried selling items twice and failed, we donated those items to our two favorite local thrift stores.  One is the Alternative Thrift Shop, located at 522 Plaza Alhambra, Ste D, El Granada, CA, run by Cindy Judkins.  

My most lasting garage sale purchase was something that I kept: a Hoover Vacuum cleaner, fully-equipped, for just $5, from an over-packed garage. The seller just wanted to get rid of stuff!  That vacuum cleaner has worked beautifully for 12 years, now.  It truly sucks - and sucks hard....which is what you want in a vacuum cleaner.

In 2009, when our gallery moved to Main Street, I quit the eBay business, and went to work full-time at Spring Mountain Gallery, where I am now co-owner. We are too busy these days to take that time out for yard sales. But I do miss the fun of the find, and the art of the deal.