Tales of the Shopkeepers

A few tales of the shopkeepers:

Killing dreams and moving on…

Other than death…there are only two things that can kill the dreams of a hard-working, principled man:

1) Himself…life brings changes and dreams are free to modify…
2) The government he pays homage to…by removing his ability, resources, or freedom to follow those dreams.

The storm…a year ago…and the SECOND storm (a year in just a few days)…impacted our budget by 10’s of thousands of dollars…and probably undid FIVE years worth of work. Pretty much everything we owned was damaged inside of two week’s time.

That is a telling blow…but it wasn’t a fatal one.

We rolled up our sleeves and got to work…and have accomplished some things…but with the projects/damage at both houses and Cupola Art…and the constantly re-arranging priorities as we’ve worked to salvage belongings and mitigate further damage to the buildings…have had us spinning our wheels for nearly a year.

But the really serious blow…is the medical insurance/care and Obamacare (ACA) situation. Many folks have been cheering this on…these are inevitably folks that are benefiting from the law…but NOT the ones paying the bill for the law. I’ve paid hundreds of thousands in medical insurance premiums over my career…and seldom had any claims. The ACA stripped away state law protections against predatory practices and instead, made them the “law of the land”. We’ve seen double and triple digit increase in our costs ANNUALLY, the costs of a new and massive government bureaucracy, and government regulated yet uncontrolled profit taking by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries running rampant.

This medical/government thing has ballooned beyond all rational estimations. We now consume the VALUE OF THIS BUILDING every two years, NOT in care, but rather…in premiums, taxes, and deductibles. Yet, we end up paying cash out of pocket for the majority of our medical services.

This artificially induced “crisis” has consumed our entire project budget…for Cupola Art, The Old Vic, AND the Suburban Blah House. Despite decades of hard work, sacrifices, and careful planning, we are getting knocked right out of the middle class on this issue alone.

I would have laughed out loud if someone had predicted in 2008 that it would get this bad.

There is no relief in sight…in fact…by any rational estimation…it is on track to get much worse.

This…and this alone…has robbed us of the resources to attack the rest of the damage, and put Cupola Art back into operation…at least in the short term. We looked at our houses and the damage there…the building, and our budget…and determined it would take us 3-4 years (IF the medical robbery doesn’t get worse) to get back on track.

We could not sustain this.

Today we contracted to sell the Cupola Art building. It is NOT…what I wanted to do. It is, however, the smart thing to do.

We look forward to seeing what the new owners do with this iconic building.

Now…having said all that…we are smart enough to NOT have exhausted all our resources…and we will focus on The Old Vic…and I’ll continue the art and writing in our space there. It’s even suitable for a gallery and shows when that time comes.

This feels like a failure…but as in all things…we’ll turn it to our advantage and continue to move forward.

Daniel Meyer

Most. Dangerous. Thing. Ever.

We like to decorate for Christmas. We don’t always have a lot of time, but we like to try. With a 110 old Victorian and a 150 year old commercial building, we get plenty of opportunity. We’d have put up 10 trees this year if we had them…and the lights…and the time…

We are thus(ly) always on the prowl for cheap decorations.

My wife picked up a box of assorted ornaments and other Christmas stuff at the thrift store recently…of course, finding a box of cheap decorations BEFORE Christmas might be a warning of something sinister…

What happened to the family that owned this box before? Why get rid of it now? What could possibly be wrong with a box of ornaments?

Well…we may have our answer. It contained something more dangerous than simple decorations. Something diabolical in its simple temptation to unleash its destructive power!

It contained this:

Meet the Most. Dangerous. Thing. Ever.

The Most Dangerous Thing. Ever.

See, this thing was in a small box and had to be put together. It falls apart completely…down to its component pieces, if you even look at it sideways. Seriously, a small breeze, somebody bumping the counter, or even turning the radio up too loud and you have bells, bits of metal, candles, and naked baby angels flying all over the place. Just a bump…or a harsh look, and parts and candles are rolling all over the shop.

And apparently the idea is…to set this thing on FIRE!

The heat from the flames will presumably cause the naked baby butts to spin around ringing the bells…

So…the unstable thing…the thing that won’t stay together…the thing that violently disintegrates with literally no provocation, I’m supposed to set on FIRE and let it SPIN around!



Yeah. Okay.

I’ll let you know how it goes…


The Day the Cat Stood Still

We may have lost a couple of potential customers a few days ago. I suppose that’s what happens when the wife lets me mind the store.

Not really my fault though.

See, when the weather is nice, we leave the front door open. It seems to get folks in that would otherwise bypass us. See, for some reason, despite the green and black “open” sign, the decorated bench out front, The Big Chief keeping watch on the sidewalk out front, and the super bright flashing blue and red LED “OPEN” sign, folks often seem to doubt that we are open…peering in the windows and moving on.

The open door seems to confirm any suspicion that we might possibly be open, and they will come on in.

I keep wondering if I should employ a sort of “reverse bouncer”, ya know, some 6 foot 7 inch, 350 pound, steroid-sucking mass of muscle and attitude…to stand out on the sidewalk and throw people IN to the store…but that’s just a stray thought.

Anyway, nice weather. Door open. Attracts people and saves some on AC or heat. Nothing wrong with a nice breeze and the sounds of small town Texas.

But doors that are open to people, are open to other things too.

As is my habit, I was tinkering on something or other in the work area at the back of the shop, when to my surprise I hear a “Merroww?” and a small cat rubs up against my legs.

Behold! A visitor! Probably not a customer though, cats typically forget to bring their checkbook, but we do encourage lookers too.

Long familiar with cats, I can tell this small female is well fed and seems properly socialized. No collar, so maybe a stray, but if so, a recent one.

Since she was rubbing against my leg, that is usually a sign they are friendly and want some attention.

I reached down to pet her.

She didn’t like that at all!

“PPPHHHHHHSSSSSSTTTTMMMMEEEYOOOOOW!” All the hair she had stood on end, she jumped at least 3 feet in the air, and bolted out of the store at just slightly under light-speed.

A little startling, but in the end, no harm done and the cat left on her own. Problem solved. I seem to have more than my fair share of problems lately, so I really dig the ones that solve themselves.

Or so I thought.

Some time and several customers later (Hey! I sold one whole soft-drink!), a couple of older ladies came in and began to browse.

As usual I greeted them and then left them alone to shop. It’s a fine balance…customers don’t want to be bothered/smothered…but they don’t want to be ignored either. Each one has a different tolerance…

Sitting at the counter trying to figure out which limb the state comptroller was gonna want chopped off and filed with the quarterly tax paperwork (small business friendly my big hairy butt ur back), I could hear the ladies talking to themselves about the art.

“Oooo…this one’s nice.” I glanced up. Yep, one of Roger’s works. They invariably get compliments.

Shortly, they had moved on to the paintings, and a particularly interesting piece by Larry Algaier…a ceramic fired, mounted/framed female torso relief (I need to get/post a pic of this work).

“How do you think he made that?” the ladies discuss among themselves. They giggle a bit, “Who do you think the model was?”

I grin to myself. It’s the ladies that invariably comment on any art that depicts the female form.

I do enjoy the lookers, even when they aren’t buying. At least I can get some confirmation that art, and enjoyment of it, is not dead. In this depressed economy, when everybody seems only to remember the pragmatic and practical, I sometimes wonder.

“Oooo! Look at that one! It’s SO lifelike!”

I glance up. They are still admiring the section with Larry’s works. I wonder which one they are discussing, but I am more focused on re-reading (for the tenth time) the instructions on the tax form. A degree in engineering…well over 40 credit hours of higher mathematics…and this stupid paragraph makes absolutely no sense. I’m pretty sure, translated into “people” speak, it means something like, “Pull any number you can think of out of thin air and put it here.” Ah well. All they can do if I mess it up is send armed troops in to seize everything I own. I write “3.1416” in the blank.

Another snippet from the ladies, “Look at the eyes! How do you suppose he did those?”

A tickle at the back of my neck…something’s not quite right. I’m pretty familiar with the selection of art in the shop and can’t really think of any in that area that would/should elicit that response.

I glance up, the ladies are on the other side of a counter and bent over looking at something on the bottom shelf that I can’t see.

“And the fur! It’s so real!”

The fur? THE FUR? Oh crap…

I stand up just in time to see one of the ladies reach down to touch the “art”.

Sitting there on the bottom shelf, frozen as still as any statue, is the small cat that had visited me this morning.

The lady’s hand approaches. The cat is still frozen, ears forward, watching.

Perched on her haunches, tail wrapped back around her front paws, she has placed herself so she looks exactly like she belongs. Not even a whisker twitches.

Yep, here I am. Just another piece of art.

The hand reaches closer. I raise my hand to point (I’ve no idea why) and start to speak.


The cat simply explodes. “YRRROOOOWWWWWPPHHHHHSSSSTTTTTT!” Fur expands. The cat, fluffed out to fully twice her normal size, leaps clear over the hapless bent over women and simply disappear-er-ates (technical term) with a electrical “snap” and the hint of a sonic boom.

I barely catch a glimpse of her tail vanishing around the corner out in front of the store.

Both women throw up their hands and howl, with laughter or terror, I can’t be sure, and then with a sort of trot/jog, head for the door with a foot-stamping gait…a sort of “OMG a mouse” kind of stereo-typical run/dance that carries them around the tables and statues in the front of the shop. The howling approaches a siren’s wail as they hit the doorway still running for all they are worth.

I stand there behind the counter, hand raised, and with my mouth open to speak. I’m still not sure what I was gonna say.

I’m not sure whether I lost a couple customers, or gained some great advertising.

Me, they’ll probably forget, but “The Day the Cat Stood Still” will no doubt live on in their memories forever.

Daniel Meyer

It goes up!

One of the cool things about being an old building owner is all the nooks and crannies to be found inside.

I’ve needed an art studio for some time now. Often, actually doing art falls by the wayside as with no dedicated space to work, too much time is spent in getting materials out and ready to use, and in putting them away later to make room for the next project.

I promised myself that I would have dedicated studio space in the Old Vic and in our business.

Well, now is the time for the studio in the Cupola. I’ve got art projects to do and framing and packing and …

Anyway, The Cupola has a mezzanine…a sort of half floor in part of the building between the first and second floors. Ours is about 25 x 20 feet and will make a great space to work. Heck, that’s big enough for an apartment! Hopefully it will give me enough space for my visual arts supplies and projects.

A stairway to a nook…It’s in the back of our shop.

A stairway to a nook...or perhaps a cranny

It goes up!

It goes up

A few tables and a bit of light, and presto! An art studio!
(View from the top of the stairs)

Room to work

Lots more work to do…there is a lot more space up here…but it will get me started. I’ve got projects and images to get out of my head!
(view back toward the stairs)
Lots of room