Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Quick Flip

Monday July 28th, 2014 – Waukegan, IL

   I’m still basking in the radiant glory of my killer business triumph yesterday, flipping the stash of toy cars I nabbed for $2 at a thrift store for a cool crisp twenty. Actually the bill was a kind of soggy and rumpled, but twenty bucks is twenty bucks. The point is I made a profit for little work.

   That’s the pure essence of what every fly by night huckster has been attempting to do since the beginning of time. It has never been easy, and never will be. I just happened to luck out and I am fully aware of that fact. The universe threw me a couple of bones, and I flipped them for twenty.

   I realize it’s only $20, but there are much larger implications involved. What if I had purchased an item for $200 and sold it for $2000? I would be a lot more excited than I am now – and I truly am now. It feels great to pull off a successful deal, but it also makes me wonder if I did it right.

   My two main wheeler dealer mentors have traditionally been quick flippers, and both of them were able to stay in business twenty years or more. They may have varied on rare occasion, but for the most part they’d get something in and flip it right back out. If they doubled their original investment, they’d do it day and night until they couldn’t do it anymore. Then they’d do it again.

   Greed is part of the human bag of tricks, and everyone thinks about how they can score a sweet financial deal that gives a ridiculous return. This is why casinos stay in business. People that won big can’t just walk away and appreciate that they won. They have to try and clean the casino out.

   I must admit I did think on the way home yesterday that I could have kept those cars for a little while and tried to move them on Ebay. I only went to one dealer, and he gave me my price. What I don’t know for sure is, was my price correct? Ten times my investment is great, but did I have a stellar load that could have sold for a lot more? That would have involved a lot of extra activity.

   I would have had to list what I had for sale on Ebay (which I have never done before), write up all the sales notes, take pictures and eventually mail them to each buyer. Maybe I could have put them all in one lot, or maybe I should have split them up into several. There were many options. 

   My initial investment was very small, so I could afford to sit on the whole bag as long as I felt like it. Knowing me that would be months or even years, and I don’t want to start stockpiling old clutter at this point in my life. I want to get rid of as much as I can, and only collect cash piles if I collect anything at all. I was able to turn my investment into a healthy return, so I’ll accept that.

   I also came across some old sports cards I forgot I saved. They weren’t anything great, but they were old and worth something so I took them to a sports card shop today and got $40. I can’t put an exact price on what I had in them, but I’d rough guess $20. I bought them several years ago so I’ll count that as total profit. They were just lying around, and I turned them into in pocket cash.

   Who hasn’t had the dream of starting with something tiny and turning it into a fortune? This is not the first time I’ve done deals like this, but I always end up needing the money and that ends the game before it starts. I’ve got a couple of other trinkets I can cash in, and I should be close to $100. That’s a nice round number to start, and I’ll keep watching for deals. They’re out there.

From now on, this is the only collectible I am interested in acquiring mass quantities of.

Trans Am Treasures

Sunday July 27th, 2014 – Wilmot, WI

   I was walking through a thrift store a couple of weeks ago and ran across a bag of toy cars that were on sale for $2. It was a generous sized bag for that price, and I noticed it was packed with a collection of Pontiac Trans Ams for whatever reason. When I was growing up that was a hot car.

   Somebody had obviously been collecting them, and they were donated. I have always liked toy cars, and anytime I can cop a sizeable load of them for a low price I’ll do it if for no other reason than I like to give them away to kids. The look in their eyes when they get a big bag is priceless.

   This seemed like an especially good find, so I gambled the two bucks knowing I wouldn’t lose. I opened them in the car, and was impressed with the quality of the load. There were Hot Wheels and Matchbox and Corgi which are all brand names. They were in top notch condition and there was a nice variety. There were also a couple of slot cars – both Trans Ams – and a Batmobile.

   When I got home I immediately emptied the bag for a count, and it was 27. Not shabby. That’s far less than a dime a car. I looked up some of them on Ebay, and saw they had asking prices of up to $15 a car. There was a Hot Wheels special edition that was a mail in offer exclusively, and there were four of those. The Batmobile had asking prices between $10-$15, so I knew I’d be ok.

   Even the no name Trans Ams had to be worth at least a buck each, and there were also a couple of higher end Matchbox models of older cars that were in excellent shape. There were also a few cheapo cars in the bag that would probably sell for a quarter or less, but as a whole it was a haul.

   Today I took my weekly run through the flea market in Wilmot, WI and decided to bring along the bag of cars to see if I could sell them as a whole. I would much rather turn a quick profit and let some vendor make out than set up and sweat my Sunday away trying to sell them all myself.

   My cousin Jef Parker used to own Collector’s Edge Comics in Milwaukee, and I would watch him wheel and deal comic book collections. He said there were always two strategies, and buyers had to decide if they wanted to flip it for a quick profit or piece it out in detail and squeeze every cent out. The latter would entail much more time, effort and expense so he preferred the former.

   I also watched master sports card dealer Ray Gunderson of Gunderson’s Sports Cards in West Allis, WI pull off deal after deal and that was his strategy too. He was always about a quick flip – even if he lost out in the long run. He didn’t care if the buyer got an extra good deal, and in fact he wanted that so they’d come back and buy from him again. “This ain’t no museum,” he’d say. 

   Whatever he paid for anything, he’d move it out the door for 2-3 times what he paid for it. He kept his doors open for 20 years doing that, and everyone thought he was crazy for having such low prices. But his success was being able to buy low, and he did it regularly. He was a master.

   That’s exactly what I did with this bag of cars. I stumbled upon it by chance, and it was able to be had for the right price. I suppose I could have farted around on Ebay and maybe made $100 or more, but I settled for a quick $20 from a dealer who was sweating in the sun. Maybe I could’ve tried for $40 or $60, but I kept it fair. I made a nice profit for doing nothing. I’ll take it and run.

I copped a great load of toy cars at a thrift store for $2.

This isn't even all of them. I feel like a miniature used car dealer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Buffet Of Danger

Saturday July 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   Does life ever get even a little easier for any of us at any time? I’m beginning to think it never does, and that scares me. Well maybe not scares, but absolutely disappoints. I’d hate to think we plow through the treacherous jungle this planet can be, only to leave with no payoff. That stinks.

   The human experience as I have observed it is a constant evolution of change, and each change brings with it a spanking new set of ominous obstacles to have to figure out a way to get over. It would certainly be nice to have at least a little time to enjoy the scenery, but the intense struggle always seems to require more than just casual attention – at least for me anyway. It never rests.

   My problems have always been different than most everyone else’s in my immediate circle, but I always assumed I would receive a higher payoff. When I was a kid I knew other kids that came from various levels of dysfunction, but nobody was close to my situation and it was a distraction. 

   I really struggled through childhood when I should have been just enjoying being a kid. I never had that chance, but I assumed adulthood would be easier. Then I chose to get into THE craziest business around, filled with instability at every turn. Adulthood has been a buffet of danger also.

   Again, I assumed I’d meet a great woman and build a good life anyway. Well, I met a bunch of women that may or may not have been great but I knew inside that I wasn’t ready to put together the life I always dreamed of. That’s why I got into radio, assuming it would bring along stability. 

   Boy, do I have to quit assuming. Nothing could have been more unstable, and life has been one crisis after another for as long as I can remember. I know everyone has problems, but not quite as unique or complex as mine. I don’t know anyone else that has had to testify in court against their best friend from childhood for robbing the same bank twice. Those kinds of events leave scars.

   I wouldn’t wish anyone that mental torture, and I still have nightmares about it. Another rotten feeling is moving across the country for a job, then having that job taken away with zero backup. I know that has happened to others, but I’ve had it happen five times. I’m still hurting from that too, and I never had anyone to go to for help or support. I’ve made it this far without a safety net.

   Now I’m reconnecting with the siblings I never got to grow up with as a kid, and it has opened up a tremendous window of hope. It feels SO good to begin this process – even this late into the game. It is what I have always wanted, and I feel it only getting better. Meeting a woman I could spend quality time with is still on the bucket list, but that’s extremely difficult in my current situation.

   I thought for sure I would be financially secure by now and on my way but I’m a shopping cart and cardboard sign away from vagrancy, and I’m living week to week despite the fact I’m trying harder than I ever have. Life is constantly changing, and now that I finally figured out my craft it seems like nobody wants it anymore. I am a master blacksmith but nobody is buying horseshoes.

   On top of that, I’m still dealing with depression and diabetes issues. Both of those require a lot of attention and effort, but how can I do that when I’ve got to focus on survival? There aren’t any trust funds with my name on it, and I’m screwed. No wonder old people are salty. Life is HARD.

Life seems to get harder as it goes on. No wonder old people can be so crabby.

She doesn't look crabby. I wonder if she wants to have lunch?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mentor Magic

Friday July 25th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

   I love being a mentor. It’s got a lot of the same rewards of fatherhood without having to change any diapers. I have had some tremendous mentees along the way of all ages, and it’s funny when they have been physically older than me. It doesn’t matter, as they are still in the role of student. 

   I am a student myself of many things, but in comedy I am the mentor. It’s one of the few topics I’m able to speak on with relative authority, even though the entire time I am teaching I remain a dedicated learner. I just happen to be farther along than most, so I can reach back and nurture.

   The challenge of figuring out how to bring out the best in each individual is something I never get tired of. Everybody is different, and mentoring is not something that is started and finished in one session. It’s long term, and requires dedication and input from both parties. I really enjoy it.

   One of my current favorites is twelve year old Trevor Burke along with his father Joe. Joe took one of my classes at Zanies in Chicago many years ago, and now Trevor is doing comedy. He’s a super kid and I have grown to really like him – even though I would highly recommend that kids don’t do standup comedy for more than fun. There are several reasons for that, and all are legit.

   First off, kids don’t have the life experience to be able to draw upon for material. They are in a tough spot, and I don’t think it’s fair to the average kid to put them in a position to be on stage in front of total strangers – especially adults. Too many things can go wrong, and it’s intimidating.

   Second, bombing on stage can be an absolutely horrific experience. I wouldn’t want to throw a kid – especially one I like – into such a precarious position with any sort of regularity. If the kid is doing a talent show at school or something for other kids, fine. But as a career path? No way.

   Of course there are exceptions to almost every rule, and Trevor is it. Joe has a background with entertainment, as his brother had a band. Joe is fully aware of the pitfalls, and is very good in the way he keeps Trevor grounded. He and his wife Pam are excellent parents, and it all just works.

   People frequently ask me, “Is the kid funny?” He’s a KID. He’s still developing as a person, so it’s unfair to put adult expectations on him or any other child. He’s funny enough, and should he decide to stay with standup as he matures, I think he’s got an extremely bright future. What he is loaded with is likeability and experience. He’s been acting for years, and is at home on the stage.

   He enjoys performing, and that’s a huge part of it. He’s a novelty right now, and everyone gets that. He’s getting a lot of attention because Joe knows how to play the entertainment game. He is Trevor’s manager, and it’s a chance for them to bond as father and son but still develop a career.

   Tonight I rode to Milwaukee with them both and watched Trevor compete in a talent contest at a street fair. It wasn’t the greatest of circumstances, but he went up and did his set anyway. There was a girl about his age that was a singer, and she had a bunch of her family come out so she was the winner because it was based on audience response. Trevor wasn’t disappointed, and we went to dinner at The Safe House afterward. It was fun to hang out, and no matter what happens I will still be his mentor and friend. Comedy is a nasty racket. I want to see him enjoy his childhood.

Trevor Burke has done more in show business at age 12 than most do in a lifetime. Plus, he's a really nice kid too. I'm a big fan.