Thursday, September 29, 2011


National Geographic Ad
May 1928
(These and subsequent images are Hawaiian Odysseus photos.)


I'll be honest.  I am definitely not one of these eBay gurus making a million dollars or more each year on eBay.  I'm thankful for what I still consider to be the world's greatest auction site, but, frankly, I struggle to make a living.

If I might allude to my blog site's namesake, there is a scene in the Homeric epic where our protagonist encounters the challenge of maneuvering between two sea monsters--Scylla and Charybdis.  To avoid one meant encountering the other.  

Later Greek tradition cited these metaphorical sea hazards as treacherous realities existing on opposite sides of the Strait of Messina between Sicily and the Italian mainland.  Scylla--Homer's six-headed monster--was the personification of a rock shoal on the Italian side of the strait.  Charybdis was actually a whirlpool off the coast of Sicily.  These sea hazards were located close enough to each other that they posed an inescapable threat to passing sailors.

In colloquial terms, Homer found himself between a rock and a hard place.  

That's me...and that's where I'm at.  My proverbial dilemma--I'm unemployed because I left my job as a baker in Redmond, Washington, to return home to my loved ones in Walla Walla County.  

To be employed would mean grueling midnight shift hours that ravage my body, not to mention the psychological strain of being separated from my family and working for an unappreciative boss.

No, in the 60th year of my life, I want to be employed by someone who truly appreciates, respects, and holds me in high regard--ME!

There's no better high than the freedom of working for oneself.

And so it behooves me to continually stretch my creative, resourceful, and entrepreneurial reach. 

For the past eleven years, I've supplemented my income by running a fly tying store on eBay...nothing elaborate, but a help in meeting some of the financial obligations.  Just as valuable as the humble income earned on this global venue was the 100% positive feedback rating that I happily received from over 5,000 unique customers.

One's reputation is golden...a lesson I had forsaken as a youth growing up in Hawaii but one I hold dear to my heart today.  So the eBay feedback, by proxy, gives me a unique opportunity to be an outstanding global citizen.  At my age, that counts for a lot. 

Today, I am at a point in my life---and my eBay sojourn--where I need to amp things up a bit.  

My goal is to expand my eBay business.  That expansion requires the notion of sailing out into new, completely unrelated to fly tying and fly fishing, and heretofore uncharted eBay waters, as it were.


A new venture can be daunting and fraught with unexpected stressors, so in order to keep it lighthearted and easy on the blood pressure, I am going to have some fun by sharing my experiences with you.  Success or failure, it doesn't matter.  I'll learn valuable lessons either way. What truly counts is that I try my very best to  create new streams of income in this Walla Walla desert.

Being unemployed, in the traditional sense, affords me the freedom to try new things.  And it's the bold, raw, and scary energy of risk-taking that propels me out of bed each morning.


Okay, so let's get started.  

A few days ago, I caught the Valley Transit bus to the east side of Walla Walla and browsed through the renovated and greatly improved Country Store.  

The current owners have reorganized the store into a flea market emporium.  Aspiring entrepreneurs rent out small sections in the store.  When something sells, the store receives a small commission.  For those sellers who don't carry enough inventory to warrant a full space, the store has a special room where individual items are neatly arranged for potential customers to view.

My personal mission was to find old magazines.  Not long ago, I  had received in my email an affiliate marketer's ad that promoted the concept of a lucrative eBay income from cutting up and selling pages from old magazines and newspapers.  While I didn't buy the product, the idea forged a path deep into my subconscious, nestling into the recesses of my gray matter, liberally hatching all of its little baby ideas while I slept.   

On several occasions, I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning and run--okay, slowly shuffle--to my laptop.  For the next two or three hours, I would do a lot of research on how other sellers were promoting old magazine ads on eBay.

Research is key.  I can't stress that enough.  Long before I make my first listing, I want to know average prices, best forms of listing (fixed price or auction), how to promote the product, what shipping details make the best sense, overhead costs, where to find the items to sell, and how the general market is behaving.

The biggest surprise for me was discovering how well some of these vintage ad entrepreneurs were doing.  It blew me away to learn that in  several cases, eBay store owners were selling ONE ad (that's one magazine page, folks!) for FIVE to TEN DOLLARS or more!

Needless to say, I was excited!  I definitely wanted IN on this action!

But where do I start?

Well, one of the sole proprietor shops at the Country Store had these two boxes of old National Geographic issues from the 1920s and 1950s.  When I attempted to purchase just one of the magazines, the female clerk graciously informed me that I would have to buy the entire 2-box set.

The original price tag read $65.00, and I simply couldn't afford to invest that much on a whim.  The clerk proceeded to tell me, however, that the owner of that specific booth was closing shop at the end of the month, and so everything in that section was discounted 50%.  

If my brain could salivate, my head would've been soaking wet!

With Walla Walla's 8.6% tax, I'd be paying a little over $35 for the two boxes of vintage magazines. Instantly assessing what I could resourcefully do with several dozen old periodicals, I was confident that I could come up with a good return on my investment.

Still, caution reared its pretty head.  Caution is like this bittersweet cousin to Impulsivity.  Each is a pain in the rump to the other, but you need to consider both in order to be a successful entrepreneur.

I needed time to let these cousins wrestle it out.  Somewhat reluctantly, I left the Country Store and headed on back home.

That night, I had a good discussion with my wife.  She is Caution personified whereas I am Impulsivity on wheels.  Trust me, it makes for a great marriage.  I once told someone--it might've been a judge, come to think of it (LOL!)--that my success in life was directly proportional to how much I listened to my wife.

Anyway, I got the green light from my better half.  With our lovely daughter entering her freshman year in college, my wife and I see eye-to-eye when it comes to the family scholarship fund.

So I went back to the Country Store and gave the surprised clerk a check.  I mean, those boxes must have sat around for months.

That night, I was like a schoolkid during recess.  I quickly and carefully removed the staples from one of the 1927 NG issues, separated the ads from the prints and narrative pages, trimmed away the rough, staple-torn margins as best I could, and took photos of each ad.

Next, I began grouping each ad with two magazine pages.  In my auctions, I provide the customer with a bonus of 2 pages from the same issue.  These extras are lesser ads, prints, articles, or a combination thereof.  As a newbie in this interesting eBay niche, I believe that having a special touch goes a long way.  With several formidable competitors, this new kid on the vintage ad block needed to have a special gimmick.

Later in the week, I found a specialty shop on eBay that sold acid-free plastic sleeves and backing boards (cardboard mounts).  These items are important shipping and preservation supplies that maintain the integrity of the vintage ads.

And then I started listing.  

In drafting the actual wording, I imagine that I am a buyer.  I ask myself, What questions would I have when shopping for vintage ads?  I write with the same voice that I use in writing this blog.  It's the real life voice I would use if you were sitting across from me this very moment, enjoying a nice cup of brew at the Starbucks on Main Street in Walla Walla.  It's a good voice because I feel comfortable being who I am and secure in doing what I do.


So, you're on the ground floor of this new entrepreneurial venture.  You're going to receive updates via this blog as to how things pan out.  

Right now, I am experimenting with both auction style and fixed price listings.  At this stage, everything is trial and error.  I have to be extremely patient, carefully studying the demographic patterns in the market, and tweaking whenever necessary in order to optimize my listings.

Peppered throughout this particular blog post are photographs I took of six different automobile ads from the May, 1928 issue of National Geographic.  This is one of my strategies--to build a thematic set of ads and list it in an auction starting at 99 cents.  It may or may not sell, but that's the fun and adventure of doing this.  It's like being a parent of a newborn baby and watching with a mixed bag of emotions--joy, amazement, frustration, extreme fatigue, exhilaration, amusement--as it grows.  (I mean, I'm hoping it grows!)

Oh, the 99 cents factor?  It's a twofold strategy.  It keeps things cheap as I engage in trial and error mode, and it's hopefully a great way to attract potential buyers.  I keep in mind that I am a newbie, and I need to tread lightly and deliberately as I trek through what is for me a brand new and unfamiliar niche. 

I invite you to click on the link below to see the Vintage Ads category of my eBay store, Lords of the Fly.  (It's right below the final picture.) 

If and while you do drop in--and I sincerely hope you do!--please check out my other eBay listings.  Feel free to drop me a line via either eBay or this blog.  For those of you who have done or are doing something similar, I would surely appreciate your advice and even mentoring.  For those who are inclined, like me, to dabble in the freedom of working for yourself, I definitely invite you to contact me and tap my brain.  Not much there to tap--but I'll definitely help you as much as I possibly can.

In closing this post, it's my earnest prayer that the good Lord bless my new project.  My odyssey continues to be an interesting and challenging journey.  Now that I'm home, I've set my mariner charts on shoring up a scholarship fund. 

Focusing on helping my daughter, you see, puts blinders on me as I strategize my way through the treacherous passage of Scylla and Charybdis.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Browsing eBay at the Coffee Connection Cafe
Main Street, Walla Walla
(Hawaiian Odysseus photo)

I am stoked!

True, the bottomless cup of Joe and the delicious mid-morning edibles are fantastic at the Coffee Connection Cafe in downtown Walla Walla.  The A-1 service I'm receiving from the waiter and waitress is superior to anything I've experienced thus far in southeast Washington.  And-oh!--the homemade biscuits are as big as bagels with a taste to absolutely die for!

What's amping up my excitement this very moment is that I sold something on eBay.  Something I paid a dime for and turned it around on the world's greatest online auction site for a 2,820% profit.  
(Bringing that staggering differential down to earth, in terms of dollars and cents, I made $2.82 for the magazine sale.)

Here's the breakdown.  

I found the magazine at St. Vincent de Paul, a noteworthy thrift store about a block west of the Valley Transit Center on Main Street.  It cost me a measly 10 cents, an absolute steal considering the near mint quality of the National Geographic issue.  

The Buy it Now fixed price listing fee on eBay was 20 cents.

After the issue sold, the final value fee was $1.29.

When the buyer made his payment, I was charged a PayPal fee of 59 cents.

Utilizing free USPS priority mail padded envelopes helps keep my shipping costs down.  Still, the service costs $4.95 per parcel.

Labor?  I work hard on my eBay business, but let's just say it's all a labor of love as I diligently attempt to make a living that is far more meaningful to me than slaving away on a graveyard shift baking 10,000 bagels a night for a boss who was just plain constipated about giving out well-deserved kudos, never mind a decent wage compensatory for the effort.  

But I digress.  Whew!  Did I have all that in me?

So, labor aside, my total overhead was $7.13.  

I charged my customer $9.95.

My profit, then, was $2.82, or--just as I mentioned earlier--a 2,820% net increase!

Do you think I'll keep looking for National Geographic (and other) magazines to sell?  

You bet I will!

You see, the thrill of it all was proving to myself that I could actually step out of my comfort zone and develop a new niche for my eBay business.  

For eleven years now, I've been selling fly tying materials and supplies.  With the cost of hooks rising, it was getting difficult to sustain a profit margin that made sense after all the numbers were crunched.  So, especially in the last three months when I moved back home to College Place from my sojourn in the Seattle area, I have been diligently trying to find new and maybe even multiple streams of income in an overall dry creek bed of an economy.

So every seemingly little move forward is, in my deeply appreciative soul, a HUGE accomplishment.

Any progress has been slow and clumsy.  In the spirit of open disclosure, as embarrassing as it is to me, I'd like to share with you the eBay item number so you can look it up and see for yourself just how clumsy.

Here, I'll make it easy for you.  Click on this link:

In the second paragraph, I completely forgot to include other articles that the magazine contained.

Ah, the foibles of an eBay entrepreneur!  But, you know, I'm thankful for the mistakes because I learn more from them than anything a hundred online mentors could ever teach me.

Today was a good day.  Today, I reaped the rewards of thinking outside the box.

And I am totally stoked!

Excellent Decor at the Coffee Connection Cafe
(Hawaiian Odysseus photo)

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Trail's Beginning, 9/11/11
(This and subsequent images are Hawaiian Odysseus photos.)

There have been many significant events in my life, just as there have been in yours, but the two instances that have indelibly left their mark in my gray matter were the heinous 1963 assassination of JFK and the destruction of New York's Twin Towers a decade ago.  

Here in southeast Washington, I wanted to participate in the global-wide tribute to 9/11 but was honestly at a loss as the day began as to how I could best do this.  

Needing some exercise, I asked my better half to drop me off near her workplace in Walla Walla so I could walk the four miles back home.  Currently, I'm on the comeback trail, so to speak, to a healthier lifestyle and better physical fitness.  At almost sixty years of age, it's a daunting aspiration, and I desperately search for inspiration from any and all quarters.  Anyway, on several occasions, I have walked this route and felt that much better about having done so.  Just the day before, I had even added some jogging and running to my walking routine...not much of the fast stuff, mind you, but enough to get some of those long-dormant muscles working again.

Ah, did I feel it the next morning...and that would be the dawn of 9/11/2011.  I felt like a pincushion all over, and as I walked downstairs to have my breakfast, I cringed with every step I took.  

My wife asked me if I wanted to do the walk again.  I hadn't planned two days in a row of that, having manufactured an entire Rolodex of excuses the night before.  But good old macho me couldn't resist the pull to do the John Wayne thing.  Ah, sure, I responded.  My mind, moving much quicker than my body, came up with the plan to take my camera along in my backpack so I could take some photos of the Fort Walla Walla Trail.

So that's how I eventually came upon the idea to do a huge photoblog of the Fort Walla Walla area and the trail that passes through it.  This, then, would be my personal tribute to that fateful day ten years ago.  

After my wife dropped me off, I walked a dogleg mile, headed north on 2nd Avenue and then west on Chestnut Street, until I arrived at the Walla Walla end of the trail.  

One of the interesting features on this trail is the Walla Walla Planet Walk where a group of science buffs painstakingly estimated the juxtaposition of several colorful spheres, each representing the planets of our solar system, in terms of the proportional distance each planet was from the sun.  The College Place end of the trail, just before the Fort Walla Walla Amphitheater, represents the position of our sun.  

 Soccer Field at the East End of Trail

 A Great Walking/Jogging/Skateboarding Trail

A Gorgeously Plumed Magpie

Neptune Sphere

When I was a young lad attending Kapaa Elementary School, I was taught that Pluto was the furthest planet from the sun.  In more recent times, astronomers have concluded that Pluto is not a true planet.  I don't know about that.  I think it sucks that Pluto has been placed in a fringe category.  Anyway, Neptune, then, was the first sphere I encountered.

For the sake of continuity and expediting this along, the following photos display the actual progression of my walk.  

 A Disk Golf Hole

Disc golf, or Frisbee golf, parallels the rules of golf.  It is a fun and physically active game, a popular pastime of the local youth and collegiate set.

The entirety of the trail is a nice blend of sunburned grass and flourishing trees.  

 Buildings on the Veteran's Hospital Grounds
(North of trail)

An Abandoned Home at Halfway Point of  the Trail

Innovative Picnic Furniture

 A Nice Shaded Area, Perfect for Picnicking

 Firewood for the Winter?

 View of the Planets Closest to the Sun

The huge profile of William Shakespeare marks the end of the trail.  The spheres above represent the planets closest to the sun.  The most distant sphere, golden in color, is the sun.

 Closeup of Earth

Outer View of Fort Walla Walla Amphitheater

Each summer, the thespian department of the Walla Walla Community College stages a major musical production at the amphitheater.  (I regret that the amphitheater was closed at the time I took these photos.  I hope to do a future post in which I can share with you an inside view of this structure.) 

The Fort Walla Walla Museum is located just a few yards past the amphitheater.  There is a $7 charge for admission.  I didn't have any money on me, so I decided instead to photograph the beautiful campus.

There are several cabins on the grounds that authenticate the structures of the early pioneers in the  Walla Walla area.

To further enhance and commemorate the heritage of yesteryear, the Fort Walla Walla Museum sponsors a Living History Company, a group of volunteers from the local communities of Walla Walla, College Place, and Milton-Freewater (and a few others who come from longer distances).  These men and women dress in period costumes and present biographical and historical tidbits, bringing the origins of diverse cultures and the development of the local territory to life for thousands of visitors each year.

Native American Tepee

Covered Wagon

Just thirty yards or so from each other were genuine replicas of a tepee and a covered wagon.  It brought to mind an appreciation for both cultures--while diametrically opposing, each icon represented a spirit of survival, fortitude, courage, and resilience.

In recent years, these same character traits have been dynamically demonstrated by the survivors of 9/11.  In deference to and respectful memory of those who died, we can also hold in high esteem those who remained, got back up on their feet, cleaned up the literal and figurative ruins, and rebuilt and restored the legacy.

The Cemetery

The following images were taken at the cemetery portion of the Fort Walla Walla grounds.  Memorialized here are pioneers and soldiers alike.

Approximately 40 yards on each side, the cemetery rests in the partial shade provided by giant trees typical of the Walla Walla area.  Like guardian angels, the magnificent green sentries maintain faithful vigilance over this hallowed ground of peaceful slumber.

A Pavilion Across the Way, Just East of the Cemetery

The Guns


 French 156MM Guns

Filloux 155MM Gun

The afternoon sun was on the downslope of its zenith, and my stomach rumbled just enough to remind me that I needed to get back home.  At this point, I only had another mile and a half to go.  

I had no clue that I had taken about sixty photos by this point, a fact I would only discover later in the evening.  My head was light from the heat of the sun and the gnawing hunger pangs, and I was both somber and appreciative as I pondered the gravity of this tenth anniversary of 9/11.  

Walking the Fort Walla Walla trail, viewing the picturesque museum grounds, and considering the juxtaposition of 9/11 east coast gallantry and this day's personal observation of Pacific Northwest history, I felt a certain satisfaction deep within.  I had given heartfelt tribute to the brave souls who died in the 9/11 tragedies by way of my personal sojourn through southeast Washington history.  

The key lesson drawn from this special day's tribute is that sacrifice, courage, toughness, and resilience are universal trademarks of the human race, integral facets that set us apart and above all other living things.  

My earnest prayer is that we someday, somehow, are restored to the original mastery of being God-appointed stewards of our planet by learning to live in harmony with one another.

 Sign at the West Entrance

The End of the Trail