Tag Archives: ideas

Which Boat For Me?

What a delightful dilemma! In planning for my financial future one of the exercises I undertook was an attempt to lay out major expenses I anticipate for the future. My kids have graduated for college so that’s out of the way. My house is nearly paid for. There will be a need for at least two new cars over the course of my remaining life. And I want to travel. A lot.

Then there is that one other thing that I have always longed for. A boat. The financial plan only looks at numbers. It doesn’t care what the numbers represent. The plan doesn’t say things like why the hell do you want to go to Pago Pago? Or, a boat is a lousy idea. But family and trusted advisors do say things like that. Then again, there are some who say follow your dreams, listen to your heart. Buy the boat. So I allocated a very small sum toward a boat. At some point in the future. Hopefully before I am too old and feeble to enjoy it.

With the modest budget I have set, and I mean not much more than a fancy bicycle, I have no choice but a used boat. Which is really what I want anyway. A fixer upper project. There are thousands of them out there. The choice I have to make is between three types of boat.

With my love for all things mid-century, I am fascinated by small speedboats from the late 1950’s to the late 1960’s. They are known as runabouts. What I love is the curved, single piece windshield. And the sleek lines. Something measuring fourteen to eighteen feet would be nice. The wooden Chris-Crafts are beautiful, but my budget is more along the lines of a fiberglass hull. Besides, I’d be afraid to scratch a Chris-Craft! Runabout boats have a certain look, and you know it as soon as you see it. They are getting harder to find, and even one requiring some work would be near the top of the budget. The positives are that they are beautiful. They zip about with style and grace. They attract attention. And they are fun. The drawback is that you have to step in and out and small engines require maintenance.

On the other hand, a pontoon boat has a lot of potential. Great for lakes. Perfect for parties. Easy to get in and out of. Get a bunch of friends together, load her up and have a blast. Engine still needs maintenance. But the aluminum body is easy to care for. And I can find a number of these within my budget.

And then there is the sailboat. The romance of the seas has always captured my heart. Call me Ishmael. And I’ve actually owned two small sailboats before. One was so small I couldn’t even fit into it. That was a fixer upper project and when I finished it I sold it. Without ever sailing it. The other was a sixteen foot Snipe. My wife hated it because in a calm wind it didn’t move very fast. Becalmed on the water in July in Georgia makes for a pretty hot day. I sold that one too.

I’m not a good sailor. Need more practice. But I love the idea. And I loved the reno project and would gladly take on another. Small fixer upper sailboats are easy to find. And within my budget.

So, that delightful dilemma remains unsolved. The romance of sailing the seas. The exhilaration of the zippy runabout. Or the party on the pontoon. In a perfect world I would buy all three. I have no idea how I will decide. But when I get the boat, I’ll let you know.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?


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The Desk That Didn’t Sell

Well, it wasn’t a desk at all. That was the whole issue. It’s a beautiful piece of solid walnut furniture. A fabulous looking mid century modern desk. Flat top, tapered legs, several drawers and really cool hardware. But it’s actually a sewing machine cabinet. Without the sewing machine.

I have it in my antique store. Can’t remember where I found it, or how much I paid for it, but when I saw it I knew I loved it and could sell it in the store.

It’s been sitting there, waiting patiently for a new home, for nearly a year now. So you can imagine how excited I was when the sales clerk called me to tell me that someone was interested, but wanted a better price. What could I do for them?

Under the circumstances I might normally slash the price. Half off! Give the damn thing away! But I knew it was still a very nice piece and was worth more than I was asking for it. Nonetheless, customers in antique stores always like to feel like they are negotiating themselves a great deal, and I’m happy to help with that perception. I told the clerk to give them 25 per cent off. Nice piece. Good for them.

As I reviewed the daily sales I noticed that the “desk” was not listed as sold. Hmmm I thought. Had they wanted me to give them the desk for free? What kind of people were these? The next morning I rode up to the store.

There sat the desk. Unsold.   But every item that had been displayed on it was removed, and scattered randomly throughout the store. What in the world?!!!

Approaching the sales counter, the clerk smiled at me and laughed. She said they had agreed to take the desk at the offered price, but changed their mind when they realized that it was a sewing machine cabinet. The clerk thought it was still a nice piece of furniture that could be used as a desk and didn’t understand the big deal. Obviously the customer didn’t see it that way. And didn’t read the clearly marked tag.

What fascinates me however is not the customer’s change of heart, or their desire to get exactly what they wanted. No, it’s the idea that they removed every item from on top of the piece, set each and every one down somewhere else, and then walked out and left it that way. They must of thought the sales staff had noting better to do than clean up their mess. I know, it’s retail and that’s how customers are.

On other occasions I’ve noticed that people will pick things up and put them down somewhere completely different. Could they have forgotten while they stood there admiring the object, where they had found it?

And why do they bring me their trash? I find stuff all over the store. And yes, we do have a trashcan at the desk. Candy wrappers , soda cans, coffee cups. All left among the antiques. Like I’m not going to notice. More stuff for my staff to clean up. I know, it’s retail and that’s how customers are.

This morning as I scoured the scene, I noticed a grape on the floor. We don’t sell food in the antique store. And we don’t have a lunch counter. The grape came from outside. And one of my treasured retail customers left it for me on the floor.

I spent an hour or so replacing all of the objects which had been on the desk, cleaning up the grape, and tidying up in general. And I can’t wait to see what I find next time.

That’s part of my story, what’s yours?

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Is infinity a quantum physics concept? Something that rocket scientists sit around discussing as they peer into their telescopes and the heavens? Or is it just an idea that is really hard for most of us to wrap our heads around? It’s a big place.

I once has a conversatioin with a customer service representative regarding some issue I was hgavinf, and a s well trained CSR, the person on the other end of the hone line tried to end our conversation by asking if I had any other question.   Of course I have lots of questions, and I asked two: where is the end of the universe? And what is on the other side? After an awkward silence, I heard a very faintly whispered “thank you sir.” Click.

For me, infinity isn’t just a concept. It’s a tangible place.

No, I don’t travel at the speed of light. Nor do I have access to a wormhole to take me to the edge of the universe. I have what some would call a man cave.

This isn’t like any man cave you have ever seen before though. On the door is a sign, written in Chinese, that says “Captain Matt’s Magical World of Infinite Fantasy.” For short, I call it Infinity. I love Buzz Lightyear you see. And his motto is “to Infinity…and beyond!!!” When I go to my man cave, I say I’m going to infinity.

There is no television. No recliner. No sports memorabilia. It’s filled with the stuff that defines me. Stuff I’ve collected over the years and like to have around me. And the entrance is guarded by two very small, but fierce, Chinese dragons.

I have a mid century swivel rocker. And a rattan chair like Morticia Addams had. And a really cool mid century barber’s chair – so sleek. And it swivels and goes up and down! These chairs surround a large white marble tulip table my mother bought in 1968. And of course there is a bar made of an old mid century record player cabinet.

That’s the seating area. There is also a work area. My office. Here resides a mid century desk, and its chair. There is an old school stereo system with turntable. And old records to play on it.

Here and there you will find book shelves and display shelves filled with the books I enjoy. And the things that remind me of something from my past. Modern sculpture. Asian art. Colored glass items. Movie memorabilia. Ship models. Jars of marbles, because it’s obvious that I’ve lost mine. There are native American artifacts. Nautical treasures. And some fabulous mid century lights – including a red spaghetti lamp. Even a few things that glow in the dark! And of course, Buzz Lightyear.

There is also a workshop area. It’s filled with projects that need to be worked on. And several storage areas. You might guess that these are filled with items awaiting a better place for display or use. And you would be right.

I don’t allow people into infinity. I’m afraid it would blow their mind. But if you ever did get a chance to go inside, you would have a much better understanding of me. And that I really haven’t lost my marbles.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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A Moving Idea

Sometimes an idea will simmer in your mind for a long time before you get the details worked out. Or even begin to take it seriously. Then some sort of trigger gets pulled and you feel compelled to act. Even obsessed with bringing this idea to fruition.

When I was a child my father’s employer transferred his job to another city. Another state. He loved his job, so he was going. And so were we. He was moving from the sprawl of Northern New Jersey to a manufacturing town in Pennsylvania. Not far from the Amish Country. He wanted to live in a rural area.

He and my mother looked at houses to make their new home. One of them was a farmhouse on a large hunk of acreage. In the middle of nowhere as farmhouses with vast expanses of land tend to be. He liked it. My mom, not so much. She was afraid that she would be isolated from the rest of humanity. And that her two young children would be stranded far from friends. Eventually they built a house in an upcoming new subdivision. Close to town, and shopping. The best schools in the state. A one-quarter acre lot.

This particular area was still considered to be in the country, and there were vast cornfields behind the house. And across the street, in the still undeveloped portion of the neighborhood, there were open fields. Up the road was the farmhouse and red barn to which all of this land had once belonged. So my father got a little of what he wanted, and my mother got everything she wanted.

That’s where I grew up. From age five until I graduated from high school. The day after I graduated, my parents moved out. They had bought my father’s dream home. An old stone farmhouse on ten acres of land. With a barn. They lived there for the next thirty-eight years and although I had grown up in suburbia, I have ever since considered this second home, Shadowlawn Farm, to be my real home. Like my father, I too loved the country life.

Fast forward to twenty years ago. My life takes many turns similar to my fathers. My wife and I had started a family and were living in an urban subdivision. The schools were failing and we wanted more for our children. We started to look in the neighboring county. Which happened to have the best schools in the state.

We looked at existing subdivision homes. We looked in the country. Every Sunday we would drive out to the country and ride around looking. One neighborhood had particular appeal to my wife. Best one in the county. We had always heard that you should buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you could afford. That was her plan. I was still holding out for the farm.

Finally it was my father-in-law who caused me to take action. He shamed me into it. What he said to me one day was that my kids needed to move. They needed to be near other kids. And I should get off my wallet and do right by my family. Of course I was going to take care of my family, but I didn’t have to do it at the expense of my life. But I did.

Time was passing and a new school year was approaching. If we bought a new house, or piece of property in the next county we could enroll the girls in the best schools available. There was a vacant lot for sale in that best neighborhood. So I bought it. And my wife and I got together with a builder and proceeded to construct a new house. It was exciting, but a story for another time and blog post.

Fast forward once again. This time to 2016. For the past twenty years I have been poring over real estate books looking at houses. Moving has never been a consideration. The kids were still in school. Then college. My wife was content. I was antsy. Then my back failed. Two surgeries later and I was having real difficulty with the stairs in our three story house. And walking. Moving suddenly became a consideration. But where?

To be continued…

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?




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The Front Porch

She called me a romantic. Not like Don Juan with all the girls swooning. Or the most interesting man in the world. I don’t drink dos Equis, but I do stay thirsty.

There is a difference between being romantic, all hearts and flowers and such, and being a romantic.

I’m pretty sure that there have always been people who could be termed romantics in the second sense. They just didn’t have a name for them until the end of the 18th century when the Romantic Movement began. This was when a lot of artists and writers and philosophers were breaking away into a post Enlightenment movement. Folks like Goya, Verdi, Keats and Shelley.

What was happening was that these creative people were expressing themselves via their hearts. Emotion and feeling. Moving away from the rules of the day. Expression through the mind and a literal representation of things and ideas.

For years my mother had a painting hanging in the kitchen. A bright watercolor of a very inviting front porch. Wide space with plenty of shade and big comfy furniture. Down south we’d say it was a great porch for visiting and sippin’ sweet tea. Not my parents front porch, but not too different.

For my parents fiftieth anniversary we children gave them a painting of their farm home. Big old stone house. Big front porch. Very welcoming. The painting is firmly rooted in realism and depicts every detail in perfect absolutism.

I like the make believe porch picture better. Don’t get me wrong. I love my parent’s house. Including the porch. But it’s the other painting, the one that gives me a hint and let’s my mind run free with my ideas about the porch that I love so much.

Thinking with my heart and not my mind. The painting is just one example. I guess she was right about being a romantic.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? Www.personalhistorywriter.comImage

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Television Surprises

My daughter watches a lot of television.  At least it seems like it to me.  I’m not a TV snob.  I’ll admit I watch television.  I like the History Channel, and old movies, and public television.  I like slapstick comedy.  And crime dramas.  I don’t like talk shows or chick flicks.  Or news the likes of such and such a movie star was seen at so and so restaurant.  Not my thing.  I think my daughter watches some of that stuff.

Personally, I’d rather see her read a book or take a walk around the block.  But I don’t see me walking around the block either so I can’t really say much.  Lead by example. I’ve always tried to get my kids interested in art and antiques and they are doing pretty well.  They have been to art museums in London.  And Rome.  And New York.  They tag along sometimes when I go antiquing.  And actually buy some things for themselves.  And I was surprised this weekend when they agreed to go to an auction with me.  I bought a bunch of treasures.  They didn’t see any.  Or didn’t buy any I like to think.  But progress.

Lately I’ve been buying a lot of fixer upper furniture.  I have a vision for how it might look restored to its original appearance, but not how it might be repurposed.  Or restyled.  But it turns out that my daughter, the TV watcher, has a good eye for what can be done to give something old a great new appeal.  Great ideas!  I’m so proud of her.

Did I mention?  She picks up a lot of tips and ideas from…television.  She loves HGTV and that’s what they do.  Buy a junky old chair, wipe off the dirt and grime, paint it bright green and voilà!  Major interior design statement.  Or something like that.

She’s been a big help.  Her ideas are going to make money.  I may be able to take her on as a partner yet.  I still think she should read a book, but if TV gives her these ideas I guess I’ll let her continue to watch.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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The List

Busy people make lists.  Each in their own way.  Some people use their phones to keep up with their lists.  Others use paper and pencil.  I’m the type who makes a list with anything available.  Whenever I feel the need.  Paper napkins are a favorite.  Or church programs.  Maybe a shred of paper I found in my pocket, part of yesterday’s list.

These lists get updated with new things to be done.  Some things stay on the list for a long time, getting done very slowly.  Old lists are lost or discarded.  The real list is kept in my head.  I just write it down to keep it at the front of my mind, rather than in the back.  The things that get done slowly are the ones in the back of my mind.  Or the ones that are part of a not fully developed idea.  I keep a list.  It’s around here somewhere.

Now I have a very important list.  One I have to keep filled with details.  And updated on a regular and frequent basis.  It’s the inventory list for my store, Living History Antiques.

I’m good with Excel and I’ve made up my own little spreadsheet.  I have the item number, based on sequence of acquisition, and a description, the price paid, how much I’m asking for it, what it sold for, and when it sold.  Oh yes, and the last column.  That one tells me whether I’m going broke.  It’s labeled “Profits.”

It’s gonna take a few more sales until I hit a profit overall.  I’ve made money on everything I’ve sold, all one of them!  But I’ve spent a few bucks collecting all the stuff I have in the shop, so I need to sell a couple of things.

The list tells me where I am and what I have.  It gets longer every day.  I keep it on the computer.  But I also keep a paper copy in my pocket.  To write lists on.  And to have available should the mall people call with a question. 

“We have a buyer who’s offering such and such for that awesome thing you have.  Can you do that price?”  I need to know what I have in it.  Most of it I actually have in my head.  And for some things, going with what I have in my head, correctly remembered or not, would be ok.  But this is my business, and I need to be right.  Can you imagine selling a fifty dollar item for two bucks because I got confused?  Bad business.

So I keep the list with me all the time.  And panic if for some reason I don’t know where it is.  Yes, I can make another copy.  But what if they call right this second?  That’s unlikely, but it’s part of the business.  I know I’ve bought stuff that required a call to the owner.

Busy people, and successful people, keep lists.  And I do too.  That’s part of my story,  What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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