Monday, August 29, 2011


Another rainy, not great beach weekend. This is completely irrelevant to 12 and 13 year-old boys. Wyatt and his cousin Trevor have built a fort with the weeds growing on the bluff at Lake Huron and the talk is serious about survival on "the island". Wyatt is making fishing spears and Trevor is collecting wood for the fire (Never mind that they'd sooner starve than eat fish and the wet conditions mean mom is the one getting the fire going).

Listening to the news, you can't train early enough for survival skills. Besides if Armageddon is coming (drought, hurricane, earthquake, scary leadership…) I say have fun with survival, be creative and stay ahead of the creepy "Lord of the Flies" types.

Survival mode is no time to play it safe. Salvage slave says experiment, try different ideas, maybe be a bit outlandish. A flame-retardant suit is a must when the heat is on. But then again, having desirable currency (for the time being) handed to you is a definite yes. Ok so the suit wasn't a money-maker, but that attention getter did bring in business (and left with 9 other items, which added up to real green stuff). You might need to make a quick getaway off the island, but that new sailboat in the driveway now makes two and there's another "fort" that needs work right now. Bartering works as currency in the new world order. Trade sailboat for kitchen remodel help (then maybe we can sell that not-so-small fort).

Who knows what survival will require in this ever-changing atmosphere? The salvage slave is looking to see what's at selling at antique shows now, and if it's lights made out bed springs and rusty wire baskets then why not ratty lampshades? We're stocking all this material-of-the-moment. These put-together lights do make ceilings so much more interesting.

I keep saying reclaimed lumber is in the design magazines, now my Midwestern clients are asking about it. Plenty of that around here. Someone wants to clad their wall. It looks great with industrial furniture as table tops to steel bases. I've started a pile of it. Scarves cut from vintage fishing nets? Can't we be fashionable while dodging spear attacks? Sold the first one I put out in New York, am gonna have a dress made out of it to inch the idea along.

If weird isn't the way, then you might be living under a rock. Stranger ideas than these have been advanced, some stuff works some doesn't. You gotta keep trying. I just had to run an errand at the dreaded mall. Looking around at the people and piles of stuff, I sure can see what won't be needed on this island. There's nothing you can make anything useful out of! There's nothing that inspires creativity, well unless you count Wyatt and Trevor running around like wild indians. Definite thumbs down. Now back to the studio, I hear drums beating….Brimfield, New York next week!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Same Script Different Day

The rain is falling gently outside the bedroom's old rickety windows in the quiet of an early morning. The view is panoramic, romantic, a painting in muted shades of white, grey and putty juxtaposed with the wildflowers and lush greenery of Michigan's summer splendor…"cut! what's that in the corner?! Stylist! That bright red and white-striped sail does not belong in this picture!" My sail, like a loud drunk crashing this perfectly serene impressionistic moment, it's the prescient warning, the tension builds.

It's English country charm throughout and what you'd expect of this 40's stone cottage. But, is this my story? I stayed the course, ten years, I did, until a pile of signal flags (that Ellsworth Kelly clearly co-opted) showed up at the 100 mile Garage Sale this weekend. The sign of signs, you can't make this stuff up. And now there's four of us reviewing flags, lively discussing the whole idea of a period change, for the living room. It's epic. I'm fairly crazy about the prophetic nautical warnings like, "this vessel in distress and not moving (for sure)" and "this vessel altering it's course to port (that's right..and wrong)."

Will she divest herself of all those carefully collected nudes? Period quilts, rugs and fishing lures? The graphic pow of these modern masterpieces fills the screen, she can resist anything but temptation…Addiction. Intervention...What a front, the whole shop gig, that's why they're called "dealers," duh! All that country cottage crap, so much gateway drug to the modern minimalism hard stuff. Again with the signs and now the innocent child obviously experiencing advanced stages of fetal collecting syndrome, "Mom! Can I have one for my loft (packed to the rafters with stuff)!" It's epidemic, the buddy George is eyeing one for his bedroom too (probably hanging in there now). Is it true? Hot, sunny and blue waters scream beach day, yet these two 12 year-old boys choose the 100 mile yard sale in a blink, no prompting...

It's nobodies first rodeo here, the boys get the bikes, baskets and backpacks and we're off. Idling on the highway is for amateurs. We cover the distance, while all those poor folks are still trying to park. We know exactly where we're going and it's no more than two miles, skip the buzz kill of endless miles of consumer garbage and bad homegrown craft. Garage saling on this level requires one be in the zone, hyper focused. It's A LOT to plow through this much stuff, and man are the discard piles high these days. I am mostly not a garage sale shopper, but these too were such a hoot, they made it fun. The young pros already have the scan down pat, they know what they're after and not easily distracted (girls aren't on the radar yet). Everybody got a good laugh when they politely, but shamelessly, bargained for prices, it's sick! Call the authorities!

And this jaded picker found the ever elusive, "I haven't seen it before," early, folding, tin lunch box with the owner's name scratched in it, boat benches to make tables out of in weathered teak, a crate of yellow marquis lights will make a great sign (enough already) a hand-painted soda pop sign (stop her), a life ring in great colors (a little past saving, it and mine) and all those vintage cotton flags, you know how I love multiples. I also saw some longtime colleagues and got the local dealer news. It's good stuff. All your friends are doing it. Don't judge, you closet junkies.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Virality, It's not just for kids anymore

I've just finished the July 17th newspaper. Hoarding red flag? I'll have you know some 14 year-old girls are quitting school to run blogging empires. 10-12 year olds in the know can't get enough make-up and fashion tips and everybody loves to make fun of the dumb girl in the embarrassing dance videos. She's building a brand, so who's dumb? Everybody! What a blast! Luckily nobody grows up, so even though my demographic trends a little older, I've got savvy style tips and near total lack of inhibition. It's a sure fire formula for attracting an audience. With my marketing moxie and just a little technical know how (not me silly, I'll get a 14 year-old for that ) I'll have them flocking to the blog, the store and the endorsements will be rolling in!

Look here, I just bought this terrific pair of 40's secretary pumps for $10 at the Royal Oak Flea Market (that earlybird shopping fee of $5 could be money in my pocket). These are sexy because they're not, get it? Pair them sockless with my sister Lia's hand-embroidered 70's denim skirt (on loan, guilt trip "the doctor" into buying first ad, get ball rolling). I can't decide between the crochet tank top (Garage Annex Antiques $10, ah crap they close in 3 weeks, make that Brooklyn Flea, hipster city) or the linen men's vest (Detroit estate sale $7, poor dear is probably dead…check probate records, those lawyers are always mugging for some ad, cha-ching).

I'll model the options and post them for your vote, tell everybody so my "virality" is assured. Be sure to call me as I don't reliably check either email account and won't know I'm "infecting" people positively. You mention my blog and website (Yuen Advertising-work tiger tag team bit, play down my asian light) and when everybody realizes there's no online shopping, they'll run to the store. The "exclusivity" of being open only two days a week will "create the sense of urgency." They'll be throwing money at me when they finally get in! (To think of all that hand-wringing about Ebay opportunities passed. Ebay will be paying me and I still won't be selling anything there, love it).

I was wearing my ripped-up jeans from Neiman Marcus (J-Brand $217, ok. it was the outlet and I paid $33, they'll never know!) with the aforementioned tank top and strapless bra (TJ Maxx $15, Target owns this, bonus!) when I attended the uber outsider performance of "Manifest Destiny" in Detroit the other night. I mention this intimate apparel item because crisis or no ladies, unless you pre-purchased enhancements before the credit crunch, mid-life is no time to go rogue (hmmm Eurasian Palin, publicity stunts? I like. I like a lot). When you are the oldest person in the room, perky matters! (don't forget plastic surgeons-top of the list!).

This carefully calibrated clothing choice contributed to a cool factor I felt on the hot set of this production. The hosts/new building owners/20-something cuties from another state, recognized me (ooh, joint video in that stunning, newly gutted former Jam Handy film studio on East Grand Madonna's people, we grew up together, practically bff!). Doll, look it's not that I think I'm all that, really, it's the jeans! Turns out those darling young men were my guests at the Steampunk Exhibition (get mailing list, that dungeons and dragons groupie fest isn't free) and that pivotal wardrobe item worn with saucy top hat ($40 Royal Oak Flea Market-is this privately held?) and faux velvet stretch bustier (Lori Karbal, Birmingham-she'll be top tier) left a lasting impression!

The play was hilarious and bawdy and Detroit is the mecca for clever young upstarts from more viable places (so who's bankrolling these moves? check Hamptons et al for parent support groups, shake the trees). The play was an old timey Westward Ho theme suggesting that Detroit is the new frontier. The whole thing totally fired me up to buy my own behemoth, heck I'm gonna need it. Deconstruct it and they will come! I hashed the whole plan out on the pick-up tailgate (Chevy Silverado...can you see it? My dad, the GM reitree and me, the grandson, total home town heart-warmer, could be the new Eminem/Chrysler thing) while sucking on Parks BBQ ribs post show (hmmm colorful neighborhood, might have to bus 'em down on a food tour). Man that's good pig, and did I eat like one. Had to lean over cowboy style, if you get my drift. This isn't some come on, the jeans are money, and haven't we learned some investments are more important than others?

And lastly, when the heat index was at 110, that $12 tent dress I bought new at HM (am I the only mature shopper in this joint?) was the only choice for the Swedish jugglers' performance at TANK 425 (W. 9 Mile Rd., Hazel Park, isn't it in the contract that your husband has to endorse you? Kind of a drag it's the same kitty though). Wow is that a Cirque du Soleil try out? Totally mesmerizing and poetic, we were all stunned and it wasn't just heat exhaustion. As the dew turned to full-on perspiration, I said with complete sincerity, "this is pure joy," and hogged the fan to myself. I said the same thing moments later inhaling the berry vodka infusion in air-conditioned bliss (Valentine Vodka, Ferndale) Old broads love a stiff one... Joy is also being of the age where having fun in comfort matters more than the sure knowledge that a "tent" is the most unflattering thing you could wear. It's also not giving a shit, now that's sexy…soon to be viral, catch it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coasting into Shore, Great Lakes Style

I say the drive home from New York doesn't bother me, though it's long and boring. Pennsylvania thinks it's Texas and won't get off of it until after a 450 mile-long argument. But, the weather's easy and Wyatt's keeping me company with compelling facts like, "Did you know you can dilute lime juice with water and clean a teapot? And, more mangoes are eaten than any other fruit in the world?"

We get in at midnight, not horrible. You know you are crossing into Southwest Detroit when you see the steam rising and the twinkling of lights low on the horizon. It's the Marathon Oil refinery which spans both sides of I-75. I think of all those christmas lights turned on and lying on the floor, waiting to be put up and high into the tree. It makes me smile everytime I come home this way. OK so the steam is also the smoke of noxious off-gassing and daytime here lacks some romance. I am trying not to think about lights high up, that would remind me of a magnificent canyon of architecture. I am trying to come home and not feel a hard uphill climb ahead of me.

That comes the next day and sweet Jesus do I need a vacation before I do another single thing. I feel the intense strain of a very long paddle out and the pulling of my whole self up, trying to get any part of that big East Coast wave. My own bed is like a resort that I never want to leave… oh, actually I can't. I make it to the front seat of the car for the first nap, crabby as could be. We are heading to the lake, pulling a sailboat, am I relaxing yet? The wind is coming out of the Northeast, steady, gentle wave maker, it's a sure cure if I can get there. Ahh the first dive into Lake Huron, man it's so good. I'm just gonna enjoy the sun for a spell....

Salvaging? Right, I forgot why you came. Of course I hit two flea markets in between naps and a sunburn. You didn't think I'd emancipate? Brimfield is four weeks away (breath), and maybe the Brooklyn Flea Market this time (please weather and fortune gods). I gotta represent (as my friend Mark likes to say.) You know that! Seriously, I did score in the most unlikely of places and no I am not telling you where! I got good stuff and making more of it with just this and that together all in my mind (so as to push out those scary banking thoughts) Good finds all along the way. The huge bus I'm driving is unloaded and the boxes are everywhere. I'll be yanking it out and not arranging it, a mess again, naturally. Dig in (that's Fridays and Saturdays for sure! With Mark that is, I'll pop in but I'm not done with that lake yet).