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Dancing Skeleton

Today is the day after Halloween and the first day of the two-day Mexican holiday known as El Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In addition, Inktober officially ended right on Halloween yesterday. I succeeded in drawing and uploading 31 ink drawings in 31 days from October 1-31. I finished Inktober at the same time as I ended up getting sick with this stomach flu where I constantly felt nauseous and I alternated between going through dry heaves and diarrhea. The fact that it also happened on the same day as Halloween totally sucks. I barely managed to get myself together enough to give out treats to the trick or treaters. Instead of going to a Halloween night party at a friend’s house, I had to make an emergency run to Giant after the official trick or treat time ended just so I could pick up some medication and toilet paper.

Today I feel better in that the dry heaves and diarrhea has subsided and I feel mostly tired. I took a nap today and I’ll probably go to bed early tonight so I can rest some more.

As I go over the drawings I did during the month, I realized that I could easily put them into certain categories (with many of those drawings falling under more than one category).

Animals: Penguin, panda bear, black cat, dinosaur, swan, pig, two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest amusement park shaped like a duckling and a swan, Willie the Whale, goat, and Zombie Dog.

Based on Dolls I Currently Own: Volks Dollfie Dream, Batgirl and Wonder Woman (with Donald Trump and by themselves).

Building: Crooked House.

Clark’s Elioak Farm: Two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest shaped like a duckling and a swan, the Crooked House, Willie the Whale, goat.

Death Penalty: Guillotine.

Friday the 13th: Black cat.

Halloween/Day of the Dead: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Goat Man, Zombie Dog, Day of the Dead skeleton, Frankenstein, Jack O’Lantern.

Hollywood Scandal: Harvey Weinstein.

My Own 100% Original Character: Zombie Dog.

Native American (For Indigenous Peoples Day a.k.a. Columbus Day): Wolf kachina.

Real People: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time, Tom Petty, burlesque performer Reverend Valentine, Harvey Weinstein, my father-in-law, my mother (which also includes Elvis Presley), Madonna Girl Dale.

Religious-Related Drawings: Jesus Christ (with Donald Trump), Unitarian Universalist flaming chalice, wolf kachina.

People Who Celebrated a Birthday During Inktober: My mother.

People Who Died During Inktober: Tom Petty and my father-in-law.

Politics: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time.

Relatives: My father-in-law and mother.

Superheroes: Batgirl and Wonder Woman together with Donald Trump and by themselves.

Supernatural Book/Movie Characters: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz and Frankenstein.

Virtual Models from Figurosity.com: Woman running with a gun, woman dressed in psychedelic tye-dye outfit holding a gun.

The biggest challenge for me is that working on a new drawing a day then uploading it online to this blog and various social media sites took a portion of my time that I could’ve spent doing other things (such as doing house cleaning, putting up Halloween decorations, sending out a few more resumes). That was the main reason why I had quit a previous effort to do one new drawing per day starting on January 1, 2016 (which was a New Year’s resolution). I think the reason why I was more successful at Inktober than my previous daily drawing effort last year was because I knew it was only for 31 days that I had to worry about doing a new drawing each day. After that I could draw as much or as little as I wanted.

Even though there was an official Inktober prompt list of one word for each different day, I was more interested in doing my own thing since this is the first year I participated in this. (Inktober has been going on since 2009.) I only used the official prompt list if I was stumped for inspiration. Now that I got my desire to draw whatever I wanted for Inktober out of my system, I’m thinking that if I was to do this again next year, I would discipline myself by sticking strictly with the prompt list. It would be a way to challenge myself, especially since I’m sure that there will be a word or two that will have me totally stumped at first.

The biggest benefit I got from Inktober is that I was able to learn which social media sites gave me the best exposure in terms of publicizing myself and my work. I uploaded my drawings to the current popular social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) as well as other social media sites I haven’t posted anything in a while. These sites used to be relatively popular until they were overshadowed by Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. I decided to upload to them because I wanted to see if I should still bother with them. I found that the absolute worst were Flickr and Google+ because I only got one “Like” on both platforms and that was it. Tumblr was hit or miss in that I got maybe one or two Notes (which is Tumblr’s version of “Like”) for some of my drawings but there were others that got zero Notes. (The one drawing that got the most attention was the one I did of Tom Petty and that one only got four Notes.) Minds, the open source alternative social media site, was just as hit or miss as Tumblr in that I got maybe one or two “Likes” on some drawings but others were totally ignored.

By far the best response I got was on this blog and Instagram. In fact I got new followers on both platforms because of Inktober. Twitter came in at a close second in that I also got new followers as well as retweets. Facebook was surprisingly more of a mixed-bag. While I got a better response than Flickr, Google+, Tumblr, and Minds combined, the response rate was lower than this blog, Instagram, and Twitter.

The one major social media site that I didn’t use was LinkedIn because that one is more of a professional social media site and some of my drawings were either too political (such as the ones featuring Donald Trump) or the subject matter was one where I just didn’t feel comfortable in posting there (such as the one about the Harvey Weinstein action figure). I’ve seen people get chewed out on LinkedIn for posting anything that was even remotely controversial (especially one that’s political) and I’d rather avoid it since it’s common knowledge that would-be employers tend to look you up on LinkedIn to see if you’re someone they would even want to hire. I don’t want to lose out on any potential opportunity because of some post I made there.

It was time consuming to upload the same drawing on so many different social media sites per day but at least I gained knowledge on which ones are worth investing my time in promoting myself in the future so it was worth it in the end.

I also learned that there is certain value in practicing drawing only for yourself because you’ll never know when one of those drawings you’ve done have struck inspiration to do a regular art project based on what you’ve drawn. I’m thinking about doing a watercolor version of that swan I drew during Inktober because I really liked the results.

Another positive result of Inktober is that I discovered Figurosity.com and that site was valuable in providing virtual models for me to practice my drawing with. I plan to use that site for my drawing more often.

I also looked at other people’s Inktober drawings on social media and I was amazed by the amount of creativity I saw there. There were a few people who did some really ambitious things for Inktober. I saw some people do two or more drawings per day, which I personally admired since I found it a challenge to do even one new drawing in a small sketchbook every single day. I saw one guy who was working on a graphic novel and he decided to use Inktober to draw and ink one new page per day. There was another person who decided to use Inktober do a large complex drawing where the person inked just one section of that drawing each day with the goal being that the large complex drawing would be completed on October 31.

The biggest challenge with Inktober is to maintain my enthusiasm for continuing with drawing one new drawing per day then uploading it online. The first few days I was very eager and enthusiastic. But then I came down with this nasty cold but I continued to work through that cold even though my body wanted to get more sleep so it can knock off those cold germs. After I got rid of that cold I began to gradually view the daily Inktober sketches more and more as some time-consuming daily chore instead of something that I was excited and enthusiastic about. Even though I tried to keep the designs relatively simple and I used a small sketchpad, I still found myself burning out towards the end. This was especially true when I wanted to put up Halloween decorations or go to some Halloween-related local event only to remind myself that I needed to make time for my daily Inktober drawings.

By the last week I went to Clark’s Elioak Farm because I wanted to draw enough pencil sketches so I could just ink over them on the allotted day for the next few days. Then I spent one additional evening filling up my sketchbook with enough Halloween-themed pencil sketches to last me until the very end of the month.

But then I began to just burn out on even doing the ink over the pencil outlines, especially during that last weekend before Halloween. I started to partially-ink over more than one pencil sketch a day or two before the allotted date while leaving each one intentionally unfinished until the allotted date, when I would finish it so I could technically say that I did work on one new drawing per day each day during Inktober. One evening, about two nights before the end of Inktober, I used my free time to do the bulk of the inking on my scheduled drawings of the last two days while leaving just a small area of each drawing unfinished so I could spend less than 15 minutes completing each drawing on the allotted day.

I did it this way because I grew tired of spending anywhere from a half-an-hour to a full hour working on each new drawing then spending additional time photographing my drawing then uploading it on my various social media accounts. You may think that I was cheating but I don’t care. If I hadn’t done something like this, I would’ve grown so tired of spending a chunk of time on my Inktober sketch that I would’ve quit just days before October 31.

Right now I’m typing this in the early days of NaNoWriMo, which is something similar to Inktober where you spend every day in November writing your novel. I’ve read about people who are doing NaNoWriMo but I’m definitely not taking part in this. Spending time each day doing Inktober was enough for me without having to go from doing daily Inktober drawings in October to writing daily NaNoWriMo prose in November.

Now that Inktober is over, I’m going to take some time off from drawing on a daily basis because I have other things in my life that I need to focus on (such as the upcoming winter holidays in December). Ultimately I’m going to try doing a new drawing in my sketchbook at least once a month. I would do this by just working on that drawing in blocks of 15 minutes on a given day (and that would be only if I had extra time available for me to do such a drawing). I would keep on working on the same drawing, 15 minutes at a time and one day at a time, until I’m finished. Basically I want to practice my drawing but on a more leisurely schedule where I can balance that with other activities that require my attention at the same time.

Of course only time will tell whether I actually achieve this. (LOL!) But I’m willing to at least give it a try.

Here are a few things I would advise a person who’s thinking about doing either Inktober next year or simply wants to devote a different month to doing one drawing per day (such as December or March or June):

1. Don’t obsess too much about drawing supplies. I know the official Inktober site has a list of recommended supplies but some of these supplies (such as Micron pens) can be pretty expensive to those on a tight budget. If you can’t afford the recommended Inktober supplies, don’t fret. Just go with cheaper supplies instead. I did my Inktober drawings using a cheap pack of multicolored Paper Mate InkJoy pens that I purchased at Target for only $10. And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t use the best supplies either. I saw quite a few Inktober drawings that were done only with the cheap disposable blue ink Bic ballpoint pens and I found them to be just as interesting and well-done as the ones that were used with the more expensive pens. As for drawing paper, I would recommend shopping around because sometimes you can find the best bargains. Here’s one example: I’ve seen 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm) sketchbook drawing pads on sale at my local Five Below store for only $5.

2. Use a small sketchbook that’s no bigger than 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm). Not only will you fill up the page faster than with a larger sketchbook but a smaller sketchbook is more portable. I did my Inktober drawings using a 4” x 6” (10 cm x 15 cm) sketchbook. When I decided to travel to Clark’s Elioak Farm to do some more Inktober drawings, all I had to do was to put my sketchbook (along with my pens and pencils) in my purse and I was good to go. Heck, I saw some Inktober sketches online that were drawn on Post-It Notes.

3. If you can, try setting aside a certain time each day to work on your Inktober sketch. It could be when you wake up the first thing in the morning or after dinner or whenever. If you can’t commit to the same time every day, then just take advantage of whatever free time suddenly materializes to do your drawings. I’ve seen people admit that they did their Inktober sketches while riding public transportation on the way to or from their day jobs. I’ve even seen people admit that they did their drawings on the sly while being forced to sit in on a boring lecture at school or they took advantage of some downtime at work. Just do whatever works for you.

4. The one thing about Inktober I learned is that you can do some advance drawings in pencil as long as you wait until the designated day to do the final inking. In fact, I learned that this year’s official Inktober prompt list was put online two weeks before the month began so one could have the luxury to decide what he/she wanted to draw on the designated day and even do a rough sketch in pencil. I took advantage of this policy towards the end of the month when I began to burn out on doing a new drawing every day and I was in danger of quitting before the month was over. What I did was to go to Clark’s Elioak Farm, where I finished one new drawing in ink but I did other unfinished drawings in pencil that I could finish in ink over the next few days. By the time I finished that series, it was close to Halloween so I spent one evening just doing a pencil drawing of Madonna Girl Dale (who usually wears a costume in public all year round) followed by pencil drawings of traditional Halloween and Day of the Dead figures until the 31st drawing of the month. So I spent the last week of Inktober just coloring in one previously made pencil drawing in ink per day until I reached the last drawing on Halloween.

5. If you hit a rough patch where you really can’t focus on doing any complicated detailed drawings or you don’t have a lot of time to do anything too complex, just do a simple drawing that you can easily finish in 30 minutes or less. I experienced this challenge earlier this month when I came down with this horrible cold that literally left me feeling very weak and tired all the time. For those days I decided to do simple drawings of a penguin and a panda bear because those animals were relatively easy for me to draw quickly before I felt tired enough to take another nap. As an added bonus, those two drawings were basically black and white drawings so I didn’t have to do much thinking while I drew them. I also didn’t bother with drawing backgrounds because that would’ve been more time-consuming and I didn’t feel wide awake enough to draw something that would’ve been more complex.

6. Don’t be a perfectionist about your drawing. The whole purpose of Inktober is to practice your drawing, not focusing on being the next Rembrandt or Keith Haring. The idea is to do a quick drawing that can be done in a small part of your day.

7. Don’t be afraid of posting your drawings online, even if you personally feel less than enthusiastic about your latest drawing. I found that people tended to be really nice towards those who posted their Inktober drawings and many of them gave positive feedback. I personally didn’t encounter any cyberbullying in the month that I posted my Inktober drawings online. Just post your drawing online even if you personally don’t like it because there will be people who will like it better than you do.

Well, that’s it for Inktober 2017. I’ll end this post with a couple of embedded things in case you’ve missed some or all of the Inktober drawings I’ve been uploading over the past month. One is a YouTube video that includes some catchy background music.

If you prefer to view the pictures at your own pace without background music, you can view my Flickr album instead.

Inktober 2017

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I went to my first Baltimore Comic-Con in quite a few years. I attended that event the first time in 2012 and the second time the following year. Then I didn’t go for another few years until recently. The main reason was financial. I ended up going to other events, such as Intervention Con, and with tight finances being the norm these days, I couldn’t afford to attend those events and Baltimore Comic-Con as well. Something had to give and Baltimore Comic-Con was the one that I ended up not attending.

But then a few things happened. First, my utilities company informed me that they had made a billing error in my favor for the last several months so, for the next few months I’m paying a lower bill than usual. Then I found out that Intervention Con wasn’t going to happen this year mainly because the organizers decided to focus on holding two specialized conventions instead—PotterVerse for Harry Potter fans and (Re)Generation Who for Doctor Who fans. While I like both Harry Potter and Doctor Who, I don’t like them enough to consider spending time and money at specialized conventions. I’m more into conventions that cover things like art in general or comic books in general instead of a very narrow field.

I’ll admit that I miss Intervention Con because that was my favorite convention due to the fact that it’s smaller and more intimate than—let’s say—Awesome Con or Otakon. Getting a good seat at a panel was no problem, I found it easier to meet people, and I didn’t have to do as much walking because of the small size so I didn’t become physically spent as much as when I used to go to Otakon. If you want to know why I loved going to Intervention Con so much, check out my blog posts and pictures from the cons I went to in 2013, 2014 (Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3), and 2016 (Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3).

As I was typing this, I remember that another annual event I usually loved going to at this time of the year, the Silver Spring Maker Faire, has also decided not to put on another event in 2017. I hope it’s not some kind of a sad trend where the organizers of these fun annual events have decided to cut back on holding their events because it would be really sad if that was the case. (If you want to know why I’m sad about what happened with the Silver Spring Maker Faire, check out the photos I took in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.)

Like I wrote a few paragraphs ago, I found out that I had a little bit of extra spending money so I decided to go to Baltimore Comic-Con for the first time in four years. What made it really sweet is that the famed 1980s rapper DMC (from the group Run-DMC) was going to be there and he was not only signing autographs for fans (who paid at least $20 for one of his comic books) but he was giving two panels—one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Saturday was the only day I could go to Baltimore Comic-Con because of finances and the fact that I was serving as a substitute teacher in my church’s program that teaches local immigrants how to speak English the following day. But I managed to treasure every moment of my time there and I took a bunch of photos the moment I stepped outside of the Baltimore Convention Center and paid the $35 Saturday admission fee.

Baltimore Comic-Con

Baltimore Comic-Con

While I was waiting in line I witnessed this cute scene of a baby dressed in a Batman outfit (which isn’t apparent in the photo below because of the angle of the baby but I saw him wearing it in real life) looking at this man wearing his Spider-Man cosplay outfit.

Baltimore Comic-Con

Here’s the cover of the official Baltimore Comic-Con program book.

Baltimore Comic-Con

I even shot a short video when I first arrived soon after the convention opened at 10 a.m. that morning. Fortunately the ticket purchasing lines were shorter that morning, which wasn’t the case later in the day, so I was able to quickly purchase my ticket then go straight to the Dealers Room where I saw the convention employees actually clapping their hands at each guest who walked through the doors.

The employees only did that in the morning. When I returned to the Dealers Room at various times later in the day, the employees stopped clapping for everyone and simply looked at people’s paper bracelets (which served as our passes) before letting them in the room.

If Intervention Con is my favorite convention because it’s smaller and more intimate, then I have to say that Baltimore Comic-Con is my second favorite because the organizers are trying to strike a balance between focusing on comic books and having a few celebrities in attendance, but not as many of them as the gigantic San Diego Comic-Con. I’ve heard all sorts of stories as to how humongous and utterly exhausting it is to walk through that event and I’m pretty reluctant to even consider trying it. I had a hard enough time going to a three-day event like Otakon (which is why I’ve stopped attending in recent years) and I think San Diego Comic-Con would be even worse. I’m happy to say that finding a decent seat at a workshop or panel is still really easy at Baltimore Comic-Con. I never had to stand in any long lines in order to get to the panel of my choice (and I went on Saturday, which is usually the busiest and most crowded of the three days).

After I got my ticket I initially checked out the vendors room but I only stayed there briefly because the panel featuring DMC was scheduled to begin at noon. I found a few reminders that DMC was here at Baltimore Comic-Con this year.

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

I arrived at the panel early enough that I was able to get a front row seat. This panel was devoted to DMC’s comic book venture known as Darryl Makes Comics and it also had others who currently work on the comic book series including Greg Pak, Khoi Pham, Domo Stanton, and Amy Chu. DMC can be seen in the photos wearing the black Motörhead t-shirt.

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

I learned that DMC has been into comics since childhood and this fascination even influenced his rapping days with Run-DMC. He said he started Darryl Makes Comics as a way of getting different voices into the comic book industry who tend to be overlooked by the larger companies—including not only people of different races but also people from different classes, older people, women, etc.

I was really enthusiastic by this panel and I found out that DMC was selling copies of his comic books with his signed autograph in the Dealers Room for $20. I wanted to buy it but, unfortunately I was tempted by a whole bunch of other stuff that was also on sale in that same room and I didn’t have unlimited funds. I took a bunch of photos of some of the stuff that was on sale.

There was a booth by a company called FigureThis who had this really neat idea where they will shoot full body photos of you with multiple cameras placed all around you then send those photos to a 3D printer where it will print a 3D figurine of your image.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

I still have photos posted in older blog posts of various 3D printers that I’ve shot at various events over the seven years that this blog has been in existence. I have older photos of really large 3D printers that cost at least $2,000. At Baltimore-Comic Con I saw these smaller portable printers by a company known as M3D that were available on sale for only $295.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

What’s more, these printers were small enough that a visitor can easily carry the printer home with him/her after purchasing it. If I had more money to spare, I definitely would’ve purchased one myself.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

I was very impressed with the 3D figurines this small 3D printer was capable of producing.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

There was this really cool looking computer from a company known as Chimera Computers, whose slogan is “They might have the flash, but we have the power!”

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

There were a whole bunch of other products besides comic books (yes, they had a lot of comic books available for sale) that were on sale ranging from t-shirts to drinking glasses to vintage Nintendo video games to realistic looking figurines to superhero stories written in chapter book form for children who are beginning readers. In short, there was a little something for everybody.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

The cosplayers were out in full force and I took a lot of pictures of them as well. I saw a lot of people dressed as Batman this year because the day I went to Baltimore Comic-Con also happened to be Batman Day, a day which many comic book shops in the U.S. hold Batman-themed events to observe the anniversary that Batman made his first ever appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939.

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

After wandering around the Dealer Room snapping pictures for a few hours, my legs were growing tired. I decided to check out the 2:45-3:45 p.m. (yes, that was the actual scheduled time) panel on “Baltimore Celebrates Batman Day!” (That panel was how I learned that there was actually such a thing as Batman Day.) I’ve been a Batman fan from way back starting with the time my parents gave me a Batman bank as a present and I still have those early childhood memories of putting loose coins in the slot located on Batman’s back. I grew up watching the reruns of the 1960’s TV series starring the recently deceased Adam West and reading whatever Batman comic books my mother happened to purchase during her weekly grocery shopping trip. (Sometimes she would buy Batman while other times she would buy comic books featuring Captain America, Superman, The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The Incredible Hulk.) So I was eager to check out that panel.

The panel was moderated by Jimmy Palmiotti and it had people who had worked on either the Batman or Harley Quinn comic books including Amanda Conner, David Finch, Peter J. Tomasi, James Tynion IV, John Timms.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

The panel primarily focused on the Batman and Harley Quinn comic books that have come out in the last five years while also mentioning the feature films Batman had appeared in within the last ten years. I’ll admit that I was a bit lost. That was because I haven’t read a Batman comic book since Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel series back in the late 1980’s. (I remember finding Miller’s interpretation of Batman as a very dark vigilante to be an interesting take but the story left me feeling so cold that I never re-read it. It didn’t help that, years later, Frank Miller was openly accusing the Occupy Wall Street movement as being a bunch of louts, thieves and rapists. Never mind the fact that my visits to the Occupy sites in Baltimore and DC indicated otherwise. I ultimately donated The Dark Knight Returns to an upcoming used book sale after my husband left me. Ironically Frank Miller was Baltimore Comic-Con’s 2017 Guest of Honor and he made his only convention appearance the day before. I wasn’t that inclined to even check him out in person and I don’t regret opting to go on Saturday instead of Friday.)

I watched the Batman feature films of the 1980’s and 1990’s but I stopped watching them after that because they seemed to emulate Miller’s vision of a dark violent vigilante anti-hero and I grew tired of that. The only Batman movie I’ve watched in recent years was this year’s The LEGO Batman Movie, which was excellent because it expertly combined the campiness of the 1960’s TV series with the darker interpretations of recent years and it worked extremely well. In fact, I purchased it on DVD when it was released. Maybe DC Comics should just let LEGO have exclusive rights to making future Batman movies because LEGO knows how to tell an entertainingly memorable Batman story.

My legs were a bit sore so it was a relief to sit down even if what the panelists discussed about Batman went over my head, with the exception of when they were discussing The LEGO Batman Movie. Although I was so intrigued by hearing the description of the Harley Quinn comic book series that I’m going to see if my local public library have the graphic novel reprints on the shelves. The high point of that panel was when the panelists asked if anyone had attended any of the Batman Day celebrations at a local comic book store in addition to going to Baltimore Comic-Con and someone got up said he actually went to such an event before he arrived at the Baltimore Convention Center. He had snagged some free Batman and Harley Quinn masks, which he gave to the husband and wife team behind the Harley Quinn comic book.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

The panel ended but my legs were still sore and tired. I decided to stay in the same room for the next panel that was about the legendary comic book writer and artist Jack Kirby.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Panelist Mark Evanier talked about his personal friendship with Jack Kirby, which he wrote a book about called Kirby: King of Comics. Abram Books’ Charlie Kochman was also on hand as the two of them discussed the book and Evanier’s recollections about Kirby. I found it to be a very interesting talk and it seemed like Kirby was definitely an interesting and unforgettable person.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

After the panel ended at 5 p.m. I thought about making one more return trip to the Dealers Room but my legs were really hurting by then so I decided to just take the next light rail back to the North Linthicum station (where my car was parked) and head home.

I had thought about buying one of DMC’s comic books with his autograph for $20 but I found something else in the Dealers Room that I ended up buying instead and I couldn’t afford to buy both.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

It’s a plastic ocarina, which I purchased for $20, and it came with a free songbook that provided instructions on how to play the ocarina along with songs from the classic Nintendo video game The Legend of Zelda. I paid an extra $5 for a Star Wars ocarina songbook. I bought it from the STL Ocarina booth after hearing the person staffing it playing lovely music with that ocarina. I’ve been slowly trying to teach myself how to play it but I think it will be awhile before I can play songs on it that sound just as lovely as what I heard at that booth.

As for the Darrel Makes Comics comic book, I’ll go to the local public library to see if it has a copy of any of the issues on the shelves. I would like to read it at some point since I own a couple of old Run-DMC CDs and I’ve always been a fan of the group. This is one of those times when I regret having to deal with tight finances just so I can survive.

Tom Petty died suddenly yesterday so I did this drawing based on the video “Don’t Come Around Here No More” which was based on Alice in Wonderland and he appeared as the Mad Hatter.

This year I got into knitting because it’s one activity that tends to calm me down, especially whenever I go through extreme stress (such as finding money to pay the bills or dealing with my mother’s latest health issues). One day I would really love to knit (and maybe even sew) my own clothes. I decided to start small with making doll clothes just so I can train myself for the day when I will finally try knitting a human-sized sweater or some other type of clothing. I came across this book written by Nicky Epstein called Knits for Dolls, which focuses on knitting clothes for American Girl and other 18-inch dolls.

I found one pattern that was intriguing called “Alice’s Tea Party.” It’s obviously based on the Tea Party scene in Alice in Wonderland but this doll looks like she’s dressed like a 1920’s flapper who’s ready to go to a party featuring a live jazz band.

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I changed the colors from the original pattern. I ended up using pink and black, which made the out seem much bolder.

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Most modern 18-inch doll clothes tend to use velcro, including even the expensive American Girl doll clothes. I decided to use snaps instead because I know what it’s like to get a doll’s hair tangled in velcro and it’s such a pain.

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Here are the various American Girl dolls modeling the same outfit, which gives you an idea of how the outfit would look against various hair and skin colors.

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I even made a short promo video for this outfit.

Back in July I learned about a special display at the University of Maryland at College Park of various editions of Alice in Wonderland that were collected by a devoted fan. I managed to get there to check it out in person shortly before the exhibit closed for good.

Late last month I found another Alice in Wonderland display of a different sort that’s currently located in a glass enclosure located on the lower level of the Greenbelt Library. It consists of needlepoint and small statues of the various characters from the book. An artist named Richard Starr did the sculptures but there were no labels on who did the needlepoint. I don’t know how long this display will be up so if you’re an Alice in Wonderland fan who happens to be in the Washington, DC area, you can click here for directions on how to get to the Greenbelt Library.

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A few months ago I walked around the campus of my alma mater, University of Maryland at College Park, while snapping pictures. I didn’t bother with going inside of the undergraduate library, Hornbake Library. Had I done so, I would’ve been greeted with an extra surprise.  I learned about this in this post on the Living a Doll’s Life blog of all places. Basically the Hornbake Library has been having a special exhibition in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel Alice in Wonderland. The exhibition started last October and it’s going to close at the end of this month.

I became very interested in a special exhibition devoted to Alice in Wonderland since it’s being held at my alma mater and I live close to the campus. I thought it would be a shame not to see it at least once before it closes. The big snag is that the exhibition is in a special room at Hornbake Library and that room is currently on a limited summer schedule where it’s only opened Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. I had some free time on the Tuesday before the Fourth of July holiday weekend so I decided to go to the campus.

Since I discovered that exhibit in a doll blog, I thought it would be cool to bring some small dolls with me that would also be appropriate for the occasion. The white rabbit is a Goodreau Dolls Scrappy the Rabbit while the girl is a Little Pullip Alice Fantastic. I took this next photo while I was eating lunch in the Food Court located in the Adele H. Stamp Student Union.

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When I was at campus in February, I saw that the University Book Center from my own student days had increased its space but I couldn’t investigate because it was closed that day. (I was there on a late Saturday afternoon.) This time I was able to go inside the store since I came on a weekday afternoon.

In my student days the University Book Center occupied the basement level. Since that time the same store had expanded by one floor. The upper floor sells mainly University of Maryland Terrapin clothes (including t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, and even shoes).

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The lower level is still the way I remembered it, down to the exposed pipes on the ceiling.

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After I ate lunch at the Stamp Student Union I made the short walk to Hornbake Library where I saw the new statue dedicated to Frederick Douglass along with three huge banners hanging at the front, including one banner dedicated to Alice in Wonderland.

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The exhibit was held in the Maryland Room that’s located on the first floor. I knew I came to the right place when I saw a statue of Testudo the Terrapin wearing a Mad Hatter hat.

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Here are a few signs about the exhibition.

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Basically the exhibit consisted mostly of books from the collection of Clare and August Imholtz, who had spent three decades collecting anything to do with either Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, or both. They had acquired various editions of Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, in many different languages. The next photo shows the smallest editions that the couple currently have in their collection.

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This next photo shows a copy of Alice in Wonderland that was signed by Alice Hargreaves (née Alice Liddell), who was Lewis Carroll’s original inspiration for the Alice books.

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The two Alice books were originally published with illustrations by John Tenniel. The Tenniel-illustrated editions still remain in print but there have been a variety of editions where Tenniel’s illustrations were replaced by illustrations done by others. The vast majority of the collection on display showed these other illustrations, many of which are quite fanciful and colorful.

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There were a few Alice-related ephemera on display as well, such as these two ads that used the Alice characters.

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There were also a few magazines on display that also included Alice-inspired illustrations.

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There were a few miscellaneous items as well, such as paper dolls and crossword puzzles based on the Alice books.

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There was a table with a few copies of both Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass where people can sit down and read the books.

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Outside the Maryland Room there was a nearby hallway that had wall displays devoted to the various characters in the two Alice books.

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It was a relatively small exhibit that I was able to go through in about an hour. The next photo shows a view from the front doors of the Hornbake Library.

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Like I wrote at the beginning of the post I decided to bring a couple of appropriate small dolls. I never had the chance to use them because of the nature of the exhibit. (It was all books and other published items that were displayed behind glass cases.) I picked up a couple of free items at the exhibit which I displayed with the dolls after I returned home.

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Here’s a bookmark that has a riddle that was actually printed in Alice in Wonderland.

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There was a free Word Puzzle sheet that was similar to the kind of word puzzles that Lewis Carroll used to create. I tried the puzzle but I bombed out because it was a pretty difficult one. (And I’m a person who has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism.)

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The last two photos show the two sides of this free postcard I picked up at the exhibit.

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Basically this exhibition will be up until the end of this month. The Maryland Room in the Hornbake Library is on a summer schedule where it’s only open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For the latest up-to-the-minute news on this exhibition, I suggest looking at the official blog. While I personally found the exhibition very interesting, keep in mind that there are no hands-on multimedia exhibits and the displays are totally static (which is something you’ll need to consider if you are thinking about taking young children to this exhibit).

UPDATE (July 31, 2016): The exhibit at the University of Maryland is now closed but the online version of this exhibit will remain indefinitely.

A few weeks ago I was going through my Flickr account when I found this album I created back in 2009 that has brought back memories for me. Here’s some background.

In late 2008 I underwent a hip replacement followed by several months of physical therapy. By early September I was starting to feel like my old self again. One day I was browsing through both the This is Blythe website and forum (both of which sadly no longer exist). I saw a notice in the Meetups section of the forum announcing a meetup of Blythe doll owners at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show that was held at a school in Waldorf. I was intrigued by the announcement so I went. I took my camera with me (this was long before I had received my first smartphone) and I also brought this doll, who was the model in this photograph that I actually exhibited in a few local art shows.

Blythe Doll in Cherry Blossom Tree

This particular Blythe is an Ashton-Drake Galleries reproduction of an early 1970’s Blythe doll that was manufactured by the now-defunct Kenner Toy Company. If she had been an actual Kenner Blythe, she would be sold on eBay for at least $900. But since that doll is a reproduction, I bought her off eBay for around $60.

The notice on the original forum didn’t specify what time everyone was going to meet nor did anyone respond with saying that they were going to be there. I decided to pack the doll while thinking that if no one showed up for the meetup, I could still peruse the doll show itself so it wouldn’t be a total loss.

Basically I met other people (I remember that it was all women there) with their Blythes so I took out my doll and introduced myself. We all took photos of each other’s dolls and someone urged us photographers to post our pictures on Flickr then post the link to our albums on the forum. I did that.

In addition I also wrote some notes about the event shortly after the doll show, which I found on my hard drive. I think I took those notes around the time when I was considering starting a new blog so it would’ve made sense for me to take notes so I would have some content for this new blog. I think I may have even considered it starting it in the fall of 2009 but I ended up not doing it. I think it was probably because I still didn’t feel ready yet and I was still getting over the last vestiges of that hip surgery. In any case I didn’t take the plunge and start this blog until January 6, 2010—four months after the Blythe meetup took place.

Thanks to the current trend of having Throwback Thursdays on the web, I can now revisit that event using the notes that I took back in 2009. Basically I went to the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show exactly 10 months after my hip replacement surgery. I carried my Blythe doll in a bag because I wasn’t sure if the meetup was really going to take place or not since no time was specified. (My notes said that the doll show itself took place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on September 12, 2009.)

I arrived at the doll show where I paid my admission fee and I was encouraged to fill out this ticket for door prizes that were being given away. A new name would be drawn every hour until all of the prizes were given away. I began to peruse the various vendor tables filled with all kinds of dolls when I saw three women who were openly toting their Blythe dolls. So I pulled out my Blythe doll and introduced myself. The other women were very nice and friendly and their Blythes were all very lovely.

I remember we all started to peruse the vendor tables together when one of the women who was working the doll show was walking around calling my name. I caught up with that woman and she said that the other women had just had the hourly raffle prize drawing and  they pulled my ticket. So I walked over to the table that was near the entrance to the doll show and I had my choice of prizes. I remember that the prizes weren’t much and that was my only memory. I ended up picking this Asian doll that was encased in a plastic box.

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

I attempted to remove her from her box but her feet just wouldn’t budge so I figured that she was meant to stay in her box forever. There was some Asian writing on the bottom of the box but I didn’t know what it said since it was in a language that I was not familiar with.

After I picked up my new doll, I caught up with the others from the Blythe meetup. (I remember that it wasn’t a very big doll show so I had no problem with finding them.) At one point we decided to temporarily leave the doll show and eat lunch. We all carpooled over to a nearby Texas-themed BBQ restaurant where we displayed our Blythe dolls (and my newly won Asian doll) at our table.

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

We returned to the doll show after lunch where we shopped among the tables. A lot of vendors asked us questions about our dolls and seemed genuinely interested in Blythe. One of the vendors was kind enough to let us put our Blythe dolls among her merchandise and take pictures of them.

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

I also took a lot of photos of dolls other than Blythe. The show itself was held in a high school and the vendors were all set up in the cafeteria. The school cafeterias I used to eat in during my public school student days generally had no windows. This high school cafeteria was different in that one wall had a series of long windows that overlooked the hallway next to that room. The show organizers used the long windows to put up this display of dolls and stuffed animals. The toys displayed in the windows were not for sale at the show and the displays were pretty imaginative. Each window had a different theme ranging from Harry Potter to Raggedy Ann to fairies to dolls from around the world to Gone With the Wind. The window displays were really lovely to behold.

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

I remember that I stayed at the show for most of the afternoon socializing with the other Blythe doll owners until it was close to the time when the show would close. Soon after that meetup I uploaded my photos on to Flickr and I provided a link to my album on the This is Blythe forum.

I haven’t been to another Blythe meetup since that time. I went to a few other doll meetups but they were all for Asian ball-jointed dolls and I only went to the ones that were connected with an anime convention (mainly Katsucon and Otakon). The last anime convention I went to was Otakon in 2013 and I had pretty much stopped going to anime conventions because they had become way too crowded for my taste. (It got to the point where if you wanted to go to a certain panel, you had to stand in line for at least a half an hour before it began. Even then you weren’t guaranteed entrance because there were times when a room would be full by the time I had reached the front door of a panel.)

I haven’t been to another doll meetup since Otakon 2013. Right now attending doll meetups are a very low priority in my life. If one happens to occur near when I live and I don’t have anything else that I needed to do, I might go to another one just to check it out. Doll meetups are fun in that you can see actual dolls in person without having to buy them yourself but, to date, I have never made an actual friendship or created any kind of meaningful relationships through a doll meetup. Those types of meetups are basically focused on what dolls your brought rather than who the doll owner is and what does he/she do other than collect dolls. These days I find it easier to just look at photos of dolls on the Internet than to get in my car or hop on a Metro, go to some place, and meet a whole bunch of strangers where the only thing you have in common with any of them are dolls and everyone present basically talk about nothing but dolls the whole time you’re there.

The Southern Maryland Doll Club Show continues to be an annual event (the last one was held on September 12, 2015) but I haven’t been back since. I should think about returning for the heck of it, even if there is no doll meetup of any kind.

As for that Asian doll that I won as a door prize, I displayed her on a bedroom shelf for a few years.

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Even though I thought she was cute, she didn’t really do much for me. The fact that she was permanently stuck in that plastic box enclosure didn’t help. The weirdest part about that box enclosure is that she’s covered on all four sides and the bottom yet the top has no lid or any kind of covering. That made dusting the doll a major hassle since I couldn’t remove her from that box. I placed shrink wrap over the top in order to keep out the dust. About a year or two after my husband walked out on me in late 2011 I ended up donating her to the American Rescue Workers as part of a general decluttering of my home.

I enjoyed myself at that one Blythe meetup but my biggest regret that I didn’t take any pictures of the other women who were there that day (although I took plenty photos of their dolls). I don’t remember their names or what they looked like or anything about their personalities. (Our discussions basically centered around dolls in general and Blythe in particular.) In fact, I haven’t seen any of those women since that meetup. If my memory is correct, I think it’s because the other three women all live in Southern Maryland while I live closer to Washington, DC so there is that distance factor. I also didn’t hang around the doll forums very much after my hip surgery so it was by chance that I happened to see that notice about that meetup in the first place. It’s still too bad that This is Blythe is no longer online because it was kind of cool reading posts by other members and seeing lots of nice doll photos.

At least I still have this Flickr album to remember that Blythe meetup by.

At long last here’s a post that I’ve been working on for two months, which documents the closing of a local Kmart.

I’m not surprised that the Kmart that was located in Greenbelt, Maryland at the Cipriano Square shopping center (across the street from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) has just closed its doors for good recently—one of hundreds of stores that were doomed to go out of business throughout the United States. Both Kmart and its parent company Sears have been suffering financially for a number of years. The main problem is that both companies are presided over by a CEO named Eddie Lampert who has been applying principles he derived from reading Ayn Rand novels to running his business enterprise with disastrous results. Here’s a quote from this article.

Plagued by the realities threatening many retail stores, Sears also faces a unique problem: Lampert. Many of its troubles can be traced to an organizational model the chairman implemented five years ago, an idea he has said will save the company. Lampert runs Sears like a hedge fund portfolio, with dozens of autonomous businesses competing for his attention and money. An outspoken advocate of free-market economics and fan of the novelist Ayn Rand, he created the model because he expected the invisible hand of the market to drive better results. If the company’s leaders were told to act selfishly, he argued, they would run their divisions in a rational manner, boosting overall performance.

Instead, the divisions turned against each other—and Sears and Kmart, the overarching brands, suffered. Interviews with more than 40 former executives, many of whom sat at the highest levels of the company, paint a picture of a business that’s ravaged by infighting as its divisions battle over fewer resources. (Many declined to go on the record for a variety of reasons, including fear of angering Lampert.) Shaunak Dave, a former executive who left in 2012 and is now at sports marketing agency Revolution, says the model created a “warring tribes” culture. “If you were in a different business unit, we were in two competing companies,” he says. “Cooperation and collaboration aren’t there.”

All of which proves that Ayn Rand is a poor role model when it comes to applying her principles that she espoused in her novels to real life. This worship of Ayn Rand is a reason why Eddie Lampert has shown up on a number of “Worst CEOs” lists like this one.

It sucks that things are going bad for both Sears and Kmart since both stores have been around since my childhood. I still have memories of the times my mother took me to Sears to buy clothes for me. I remember my father had a few Craftsman tools that he would use for things like yard work.

And then there’s the other store that began with the letter K. When I was growing up, there was a Kresge’s at the local Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie, Maryland (which is notable in the Wikipedia for being the enclosed shopping mall to open on the East Coast). Kresge’s was an independently-owned five and dime store and it was located just a few feet away from another five and dime—Murphy’s. I can remember the times I purchased cheap toys with my allowance money from both stores and the years when my mother would buy me one of those cheap plastic Ben Cooper Halloween costumes that were sold in both stores instead of sewing me one with her sewing machine.

Murphy’s eventually went out of business while Kresge’s started to open larger stores and, in the process, changed its name to Kmart. When I first moved to the area where I live now, there was a Bradlees that was the main anchor of Cipriano Square. Bradlees was a big box discount store that had nice things for pretty decent prices and I used to shop for clothes there a lot. A few years later Bradlees closed down and it was replaced by Jamesway, another large discount store that also had nice things at pretty decent prices. Jamesway closed down after a couple of years and Kmart moved in its place, where it had stayed until recently.

I bought a lot of things from Kmart over the years. I’ll admit that the checkout lines were always crowded mainly because the store always put too few employees at the cash registers (mainly to save money) so I always had to wait in line for at least 15 minutes. No matter what time of the day, there were always more buyers than cashiers. Yet Kmart had some nice things (especially in women’s clothes—I bought a lot of professional looking clothes for the office jobs I worked at) so I still shopped there despite the crappy service. I learned early on that Kmart was not the store to shop in if you had limited time and you needed to be somewhere else by a certain exact time. Basically if I needed to buy something, I went to Kmart on days when I had nothing else that I had to do so I could endure the very slow checkout lines.

Even Kmart’s purchase by Sears didn’t improve the checkout lines very much although it was convenient that I could get Kenmore and Craftsman products at a store that was located closer to my home than the nearest Sears.

Basically shopping at Kmart was something that was endured but the hassle turned out to be worthwhile in the long run because I obtained useful stuff, some of which I still use (such as a Martha Stewart laundry basket that I bought years ago and it’s still in very good shape).

When I learned via one of the Facebook groups that I belonged to about Kmart’s imminent demise in my area, I knew that I needed to take advantage of the going out of business sale because there were a few items that I needed to buy and it was an opportunity to get them at even lower prices than before. I also decided to take pictures to document the store’s decline. I made a few trips to that store before it finally closed for good this month. Here is what I saw during those trips.

February 13, 2015

It was very fitting that I made my first trip to Kmart after I heard the news on a Friday the 13th. The outside of the store didn’t give any indication that it was closing down soon.

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But once I entered I saw the signs announcing a massive sale where everything in the store was between 10-30% off the regular price. The signs said “Huge Inventory Blowout!,” which would lead one to believe that Kmart was just having the usual end-of-season clearance sale in order to make way for new inventory for the spring and summer months. If I hadn’t seen that Facebook message that someone in one of my groups posted online, I would’ve made a similar conclusion as well.

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Since Valentine’s Day was the next day, it was natural to see a rack full of Valentine cards near the store entrance.

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There were all kinds of merchandise that had the discount prices on them.

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Even though the going out of business sale was in its early days, some of the shelves were already starting to become empty.

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And the Refreshments area near the cash registers had already closed down for good.

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There were some merchandise that were haphazardly thrown into bins. Some of the stuff looked like leftover Halloween costumes while others looked like leftover Christmas decorations. I wasn’t about to go through those bins to get a closer look because they looked so messy that they seemed intimidating to me.

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I found a My Little Pony Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocks doll set that’s a Kmart exclusive.

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Among the normal items on sale, there were a bunch of things that I thought were pretty odd. There is this toy shaped like a Kenmore vacuum cleaner that’s supposed to teach little girls the joys of doing vacuuming while subtly instilling brand loyalty to Kenmore products at an early age. (If my parents had given me a toy like that when I was a kid, I would’ve thrown a fit. I was into dolls, stuffed animals, and craft kits. Anything that resembled household appliances were considered boring to me.) It’s pretty ironic since Kenmore was originally created as a Sears store brand and I’ve read that Sears is among the list of companies most likely to go out of business permanently in 2015. Unless Sears sells its Kenmore line to someone else, any little girl getting a My First Kenmore Vacuum Cleaner would consider this one as My Last Kenmore Vacuum Cleaner.

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This kid’s t-shirt had me going WTF?!? at seeing Ariel from The Little Mermaid wearing glasses. I hate to say it but glasses are totally not practical for mermaids or any other creature who spends the majority of time underwater.

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Then there is this really bizarre game that’s being marketed for girls called Freaky Becky. Judging from the box, it looks like each girl player has to do something with the enclosed zombie doll known as Freaky Becky and that zombie parts will frequently fly all over the place as part of the fun. I can imagine parents getting exasperated over having zombie doll parts fly everywhere and maybe even get lost in between the sofa cushions or on a rug where someone steps on it later.

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There are similar games made by the same company for boys as well: Johnny the Skull and Zed the Zombie.

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There were a few strange items for adults as well. Remember the Snuggie? Well Kmart was selling sleeved blankets where one can choose from Minnie Mouse or Elvis Presley.

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I needed to buy a few new items but it wasn’t until after I arrived in the store that I realized that I didn’t have as much money on me as I thought so I bought fewer items than I wanted. Since the sales only ranged between 10-30%, I decided to focus on buying only those items that I really needed to buy (as opposed to items I’d like to buy but I really don’t need). I bought one Playtex bra to replace at least one of the old bras that I’ve owned for years that have been getting increasingly ratty and stretched out. I also saw this exercise DVD that was originally marked at $10 but the price was lowered to $8 called Lesley Samsone Walk Away the Pounds. Lately I’ve been making an effort to walk a minimum of one mile a day, six days a week and I’ve been wearing a pedometer to make sure that I make at least the minimum goal. Some nights I’m short of my minimum goal so I’ve been taking short night walks around my neighborhood in order to push my pedometer beyond the 1 mile mark. The DVD comes in handy for those nights when I can’t go outside because it’s raining or snowing.

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February 14, 2015

I’ll admit that I was annoyed with myself for coming to Kmart’s going out of business sale with not enough cash the day before. There were some items that I absolutely needed to replace (because they were literally falling apart) and I figured that it was a  rare opportunity to replace these items at a discount.

I’ve been to enough of these going out of business sales over the years to know that they tend to be multiple phase plans. During the early phase, the discounts tend to go no lower than 30% with many items only being offered for 10% off the retail price. But it’s also during that phase when you’re more likely to get the items that you want. By the time steeper discounts are offered, chances are that many items you want will have already been sold and much of the merchandise left are literally the dregs.

So I decided to take an organized approach to Kmart’s going out of business sale. During the initial 10-30% off phase, I decided to focus only on the items I really needed to buy while putting off other items that I would like to have but I really don’t need immediately for later in the going out of business sale process.

Since I stupidly didn’t bring enough money the day before, I decided to go back on the following day, even though it was Valentine’s Day. I didn’t mind shopping on Valentine’s Day because it’s not like I have a significant other to spend the day with or anything like that. I got a chance to take photos of a few more items that are a bit on the kitsch side, such as these pillows based on Star Wars and Frozen.

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I browsed a bit around the beauty aisles where I found this cologne that’s marked with the 007 logo from the James Bond movies.

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It’s been a long time since I last bought myself a bottle of perfume or cologne. There seems to be an excess in perfume/cologne with a celebrity’s name attached to it, such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry. I just don’t remember ever seeing such products named after celebrities like that. I just remember names like Chanel No. 5 and Jean Naté, which weren’t named after celebrities who are currently fixtures in the tabloid media.

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Paris Hilton has a whole section dedicated to different brands of her perfume/cologne. Talk about a total inventory glut!

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Here are some bath-related products for 20% off.

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There was a large cardboard bin that had just books that were 80% off the retail price. I looked in the bin but I didn’t find a book that interested me enough to buy one. It’s too bad because it was about the only place that had the steepest discount.

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There was a large pile of Easy Bake Ovens that were placed right in the middle of an aisle.

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There was a section of brightly decorated bras from Joe Boxer. While I loved the designs on the bras, I felt that they were impractical because the designs would ultimately be covered with a shirt. If the shirt was on the sheer side, there’s a chance that the bra’s designs would show through, which would be okay if a woman was at a party or something like that but would be embarrassing if she was working in an office.

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Between the fact that it was Valentine’s Day (with people doing their last minute holiday shopping) and it was a going out of business sale, there were plenty of people in the checkout lane. I saw people literally fill their shopping carts with merchandise. It took me a while to actually check out with my items.

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Here’s what I bought that day. I purchased another bra to replace one of my older bras that have gotten ratty and is literally falling apart. My new bra is a pretty light pink color, which I like.

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I purchased a can opener mainly because the last can opener I owned had a blade that was getting increasingly dull and I had a harder time opening metal cans. This new can opener works really well and I can open cans much faster than before.

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Here’s the back of the package, which has the name of Kmart’s store brand (Essential Home). The can opener was really easy to remove from the package.

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Here’s a close up of the back package, which features the Kmart logo.

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I purchased two bath mats mainly because one of my current bath mats was really falling to pieces (I ended up throwing that one away after buying my new mats) and the other one is just starting to fall apart. These new bath mats have worked out really well for me.

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This last item was an impulse buy. It’s a liquid soap dispenser that’s shaped like the Eiffel Tower. I thought it looked really nice and it was on sale for only $12. I got rid of a soap dispenser last year after it broke apart and I bought a new one at Target soon afterwards. With this new soap dispenser, I now have a total of three dispensers. This Eiffel Tower looks really nice in my bathroom.

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February 17, 2015

Three days after my Valentine’s Day shopping trip, I made yet another shopping trip to Kmart. By that time the store had finally decided to put up an outside banner along with several signs in the windows and in the entrance foyer admitting that, yes, it really is going out of business.

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There were all kinds of items with discount signs.

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They were even selling this necklace and earring set with one of the stones missing from the necklace.

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Then there was a whole row of Grumpy Cats.

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There was the same large stack of Easy Bake Ovens that I saw just a few days ago, except the pile had gotten smaller.

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There were sales everywhere.

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The checkout lines were very busy with shoppers taking advantage of the sale.

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The photo below shows my haul from that trip.

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I bought another Playtex bra, this one in a tan color. I also bought a pack of Hanes underwear because I recently had to throw away a couple of panties because they had developed large holes (I had them for a few years). It’s always useful to buy underwear in bulk even if you can’t currently use all of the new panties at once because you never know when you’ll need to throw away a pair of old panties that developed holes big enough to shove three fingers through them.

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The next photo shows my biggest ticket item I’ve purchased from Kmart to date. It’s a Blue Line stereo that has built-in speakers, AM/FM radio, a CD player, an alarm clock, and an outlet to plug in a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or MP3 player so one can listen to digital music in stereo. The price was originally listed at $69.99 but I got it for $50. I had wanted to purchase a smaller stereo that I could fit on a tabletop ever since I got rid of that huge stereo that was taking up a massive amount of space in my living room but I wasn’t able to do so until recently because money was very tight. So far it works really well and it has a great sound.

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My cash receipt included this notice expressing regret that they had to close the Kmart in my area but I could call or go online to Kmart.com to find other Kmart stores. It also included this incredibly dumb-sounding slogan: “We’re Open. You’re Saving!” Whatever.

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March 18, 2015

I grew tired of going back to Kmart for the last three shopping trips so I decided to take some time off from going there, figuring that the prices would eventually go even lower the closer the actual going out of business date arrives. I ended up waiting a whole month before I went back. By the time I made my return trip, I noticed that there were more empty areas inside of the store.

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By that point the discounts had increased to as much as 40% off. I was intrigued by these MiP robots when I first started seeing them in other stores last year but I didn’t go for one because of the $99 price tag for a small robot. These MiP robots were now 40% off but I decided to wait a bit longer to see if they go any lower.

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There was a shelf full of piñatas, which is great for parents of more than two kids because they could stock up on them for future birthday parties.

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With more items being sold out, it seems like there are a greater number of merchandise that I would consider odd, strange, or off-beat like these weird fish-like stuffed animals.

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Then there is the sleeved blanket for kids featuring Olaf the Snowman from the Disney movie Frozen.

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For the adult collector who is really into clocks, there were various anniversary clocks on sale featuring I Love Lucy, Elvis Presley, The Wizard of Oz, and Marilyn Monroe.

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For your next party or family get-together, how about playing a game where you do nothing but guess which logo belongs to which corporation. Sounds fun, no?

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Then there are these creepy looking Lalaloopey Babies, which look like they could’ve been the offsprings of the Other Mother and the Other Father from the movie Coraline.

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Then there is this Ketchup Kritter where you replace the cap of your ketchup bottle with this demon head and you get to see him vomit ketchup over your hamburger or french fries.

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As to the weirdest item I found at Kmart during that time, I have to say that it’s a tossup between the Ketchup Kritter and this resin deer statue that functions as a toilet paper holder. That deer is a great example of how sometimes the jokes just write themselves.

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I didn’t buy anything on this trip because I had already purchased everything that I needed to buy and I want to see the prices to go down just a little bit lower before I buy anything else.

March 26, 2015

A few days earlier I woke up with a scratchy throat that quickly segued into all of my sinuses being stuffed up and feeling tired all of the time. Yes, I came down with a cold. After staying completely indoors the previous day, I still felt so tired that I took an afternoon nap. After dinner I decided to skip my weekly support group meeting for people who are separated or divorced and just do a short outing. I ended up going back to Kmart to see the progress on its going out of business sale.

The first thing I noticed was the section near the front door. In better days Kmart used to display outdoor items for sale depending on the season (such as artificial Christmas trees or gardening supplies). That area always used to be well stocked with items that people could pick up before even entering the store. On this day the only things I saw on sale were bags of potting soil.

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I managed to show up to the store after dinner. I discovered that these days this Kmart tends to close by 8 p.m., which is way earlier than normal. (In contrast, the Kmart in Hyattsville, which is not currently slated for going out of business, closes at 11 p.m. every night.) By this point more items were priced at least 30% off with many of them starting to be marked with the 50% off sale.

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I also saw quite a few odd items. First there are these oversized neon-colored alarm clocks that were a bit on the gaudy side.

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Until I made this trip to Kmart, I never knew that one could have the option of buying a hybrid lava lamp/table lamp.

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I also never associated Kmart with beer making kits.

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There were shelves full of Valentine’s Day cards for anyone who wanted to get a head start on preparing for Valentine’s Day, 2016.

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There was this women’s shirt that was a midriff-baring tank top that had a scientific drawing of a T-Rex. Okay, whatever.

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There was a clothing line with Selena Gomez’s name on it, although I’m more familiar with her name through the various celebrity gossip sites than with her clothing line.

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There’s one of those giant musical step-on keyboards (such as the one that was featured in the Tom Hanks movie Big) that has the logo of Rolling Stone magazine on it.

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Then there were a display of these giant action figures based on Star Wars and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that were at least 2 feet tall.

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There were sections of the store that had rows upon rows of empty shelves. There were some areas where the shelves had already been dismantled.

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I only bought two items during this Kmart trip. One was a box of acid reducer over-the-counter medicine. With the Easter holiday coming up and with the stress over filing my income taxes, I really want to prevent any kind of acid reflux as a result of eating foods that I normally don’t eat or stress. I got 50% off the listed price, which was nice.

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And then I purchased this doll for 50% off. She is an Ever After High doll, a line of Mattel dolls that are similar to the Monster High dolls except that all of the students who attend Ever After High are children of famous fairy tale characters. I purchased Madeline Hatter, who’s the daughter of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.

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She carries a teapot-shaped purse.

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She wears a teacup-shaped hat, which is incredibly cute.

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The front of her hat has some gold designs that one would find on a fancy teacup. She wears earrings shaped like spoons and she has long curly hair that’s primarily purple with light blue streaks.

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Even the heels of her shoes suggest a teapot handle.

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All in all it’s an incredibly cute doll and I’m fortunate that I got her for around $11.

March 27, 2015

I came back to Kmart the next day because I made the same mistake as a month earlier: I didn’t arrive with enough money so I had to curtail what I wanted to buy. This day I made sure I had more than enough money before I arrived in the store. I still took more pictures because it looked like the store was rapidly clearing out with each passing day.

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Many of the items were now sporting 50% off discounts, such as this line of 18-inch What a Doll!, which looked like it was Kmart’s answer to the ever popular American Girl line.

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I saw these cloth Mooshka dolls on sale, which I thought were incredibly cute looking.

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For those who missed out on last year’s Holiday Barbie doll, there was a second chance to buy that doll and one could buy it at a steep discount.

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Going back even further, anyone who missed out on a chance to buy a special 30th anniversary Cabbage Patch Kids doll a few years ago also got a second chance to buy one at a major discount.

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There were still plenty of cometics to go around, such as this perfume endorsed by Britney Spears.

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I admit that there are two reasons why I had ever heard of One Direction in the first place: 1) I’ve seen various products bearing the band’s name such as the One Direction eye shadow in the next two photos and 2) I have a One Direction song on one of my Just Dance video games. (To be honest, I literally can’t recall the name of the song or what it sounded like. I could do a Google search but I’m too lazy to do so.) One Direction recently made major news when one of the members of that group, Zayn Malik, announced that he was leaving the band and it caused a lot of their teenaged fans to go into total hysterics.

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The idea behind the One Direction eye shadow is to choose the package based on your favorite One Direction member. I looked closely at the photos of the enclosed makeup and it looks like all of the eye shadows are identical. The only difference is which photo of the One Direction band member is featured on the box.

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There was perfume endorsed by the rock band KISS.

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First there were the Monster High dolls, now there’s Monster High cosmetics. This is strange when you consider that Monster High was originally aimed at elementary school aged girls and the Monster High makeup I saw is definitely inappropriate for young girls. My parents wouldn’t let me wear makeup of any kind until I was in middle school.

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A few weeks ago I found Ketchup Kritter, a device where you put a red devil head on a bottle of ketchup and watch him vomit ketchup on your food. On this trip I found his buddy, Mustard Monster, where you get to put him on a bottle of mustard and watch him vomit mustard on your food.

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Then there is this device where you can mold bacon strips into an edible bowl. It might work with some foods but I can’t imagine trying it with ice cream or cereal.

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There weren’t many books left on the shelves.

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Here’s a sample of the books that one can choose from.

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There’s nothing wrong with a dollhouse that one could assemble for a doll lover. It’s just that this dollhouse is designed to fit an 18-inch doll (instead of the usual 1/12 scale dolls that measures between 3-6 inches), which means that this dollhouse would take up a huge amount of space in anyone’s home.

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No, the next photo isn’t upside down. That was how I found these Homer Simpson slippers hanging on the racks. These slippers are totally bizarre for this reason: you generally put your foot inside of Homer’s mouth so it would look like Homer is either eating (or choking to death) on your foot.

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There were watches based on a band one of whose members has recently quit and a one-time teen idol who is now more famous for his frequent brushes with the law than for his music.

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I was glad that I purchased my underwear pack when I did because the lingerie department was full of slim pickings. There is no way in hell I would ever wear THIS on my crotch.

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And then there is this children’s loft bed with a sliding board. That poor kid would have a hard time deciding on whether it’s playtime or nap time.

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A flameless candle?!?

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Over in the school supplies section, there were Duck Dynasty folders available for students. Maybe I could see teenagers using this but I can’t imagine parents being willing to buy a folder for younger kids based on a TV show featuring a person who has gotten into controversy for making outrageous statements like this one featuring a hypothetical situation about an atheist family, rape, and decapitation.

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You can have your lips smell and taste like soda pop.

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I get the idea of something for a cold night like a matching mug and blanket set. But do you know how hard it would be to balance a mug full of hot liquid while keeping a warm blanket wrapped around you and hoping that you don’t spill the mug or the blanket falling off of you?

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There were cheap shelves for items that ranged from $1-3. But the merchandise in them were pretty messy and disorganized.

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And then there is this thing. It’s a hooded jacket but it has no sleeves. Or maybe it’s a vest but it has a hood and it looks awfully thick for a vest.

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That camouflage hooded sleeveless coat or vest looked tasteful compared to this shocking pink variation.

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I found this in the Plus Size Women’s department. This shirt was in at least a size 20 and it had thin horizontal stripes, which would make a 300 pound woman look like she is wider than normal and weighs at least 500 pounds.

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And then there is this line of Selena Gomez flannel checkered shirts. On the surface there’s nothing wrong with them until you look closer at the shoulders.

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Yes, those are studs at the shoulders.

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There were the same shirts in other colors and they all had the same pattern with shoulder studs.

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Okay, I’m not a fashion designer but I’ve done enough sewing to know that you don’t embellish anything that already has a pattern because the embellishments will either disappear among the pattern or make the pattern so busy that the outfit is ugly. If you’ve ever seen a gown or a cowboy shirt embellished with bling, you’d see that the designer typically uses a plain solid fabric as the base to embellish, not something that already has a busy pattern.

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That fox welcome sign is pretty cute. It’s too bad that you can see the large area of chipped paint one of the fox’s ears on the left side.

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I had considered buying myself a bag of socks until I found that all of the sock bags had been opened. Many of the bags also looked like one or more pairs of socks had been removed from each bag.

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I even saw a loose individual sock that was just hanging on a rack. Even though the bags of socks were at 50% off, there was no way I was going to buy an opened bag like that because I have a feeling that I wouldn’t get all of the socks that the bag label said I would get.

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On this trip I purchased two items. First is this box of Life cereal. Yeah, I know it sounds lame but I was running low on cereal and I saw a shelf full of Life cereal that was on sale for 30% off so I went for it.

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Then there is this other item that I had my eye on for quite some time. The MiP robot was originally priced at $99.99. This robot’s discount had finally sunk to 50% off and there weren’t a lot of MiP robots left on the shelves so I decided to buy it. The price was $50 and I got an extra $2 off because I was using my Kmart Shop Your Way Reward Card and I had received enough points to get that discount. Sweet!

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I chose the black robot. It looks pretty nice and very attractive and it definitely warrants its own entry that I may get around to writing at a later date. The box of Life cereal and the MiP robot turned out to be the last items I’ve ever purchased at Kmart’s Greenbelt, Maryland location.

April 1, 2015

Yes, I made a trip to Kmart on April Fool’s Day but the going out of business sale was no laughing matter.

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The bags of soil that were the only outdoor items that I saw for sale on a previous trip were sold out. Only the two soda machines remained.

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I checked both machines to see if I could purchase a soda like I used to do sometimes before entering Kmart in better days. I took a closer look and found that the LED lights weren’t working. I tried inserting a dollar in the bill slot in one of the machines and that machine just wasn’t working at all. It looked like someone had disconnected those two machines for good.

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Inside the store I saw a new sign saying that the going out of business sale was now in its final two weeks.

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There were even steeper discounts than before.

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However there were more empty areas than before as well. There were floor marks indicating where stock shelves used to be located.

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There were also areas of the store that were roped off with yellow police tape where collapsed shelves, signs, and various fixtures were stored.

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Plus there were rows upon rows of empty shelves.

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One part of the store looked like a portion of the drywall was stripped away. There were instructions spray-painted in this neon red paint color. There were other instructions that were written in ink. I have no idea if these instructions were written recently or if they were originally written when remodeling was originally done on the space when the former Bradlees turned into Jamesway then, again, the former Jamesway turned into Kmart.

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Despite the increase in empty areas, there were still plenty of items that were available for sale at steeper discounts than ever before. The items ranged from pretty nice (sadly the clothes that I personally liked didn’t fit me because they were in sizes that were either too big or too small for me) to totally bizarre.

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Even though Easter was just a few days away, there weren’t a lot of holiday items aside from these greeting cards.

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In fact, there were far more Christmas items than items for any other holiday (including Easter). At least it provided an opportunity for anyone wanting to get a head start on this coming Christmas in just over eight months while paying far less than they would’ve just four months ago.

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I didn’t buy anything on this trip. Like I wrote earlier, the clothes that I was interested in were either several sizes too big or too small for me. I began to have a feeling that the window of opportunity for me to buy the choice items at a discount has closed for me and I’m just seeing the dregs now.

April 5, 2015

Easter Sunday fell on April 5 this year and it was also Passover as well. After attending church, I decided to go to Kmart because I was curious about whether it would close on this holiday like many other area stores did. When I arrived, I got my answer as I saw plenty of cars parked outside. At first I thought it was a shame that employees were made to work on Easter/Passover until I realized that once Kmart closes for good, they were going to have all the time off they could financially withstand so they might as well work through a holiday.

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When I first entered I noticed a new sign that was literally the final countdown of the number of days left until Kmart closes its doors forever.

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There were plenty of shoppers on that Easter Sunday as they were looking for bargains that were starting to hit rock bottom prices.

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There were more and more empty and partially empty shelves on that day.

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The back of the store was mostly blocked off with yellow police tape. I noticed that the ceilings had these pulleys with yellow rope dangling that weren’t there before. I saw that more and more dismantled signs and shelves were behind that roped off area.

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The one area in the back that weren’t roped off was the aisle leading to the Layaway section and the public restrooms. I decided to go down that aisle to check it out.

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When I first approached the Layaway desk, I noticed that no one was working there and the lights were off. When I stepped closer to the desk to investigate, the lights automatically turned on. It was a pretty surreal experience to say the least.

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The public restrooms were across from the Layaway desk. I decided to check out the women’s bathroom.

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One toilet still had the seat cover on it but, otherwise, the women’s bathroom was just as clean as I found it on previous trips before Kmart’s going out of business sale.

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Down the hallway from the restrooms was this opened door that looks like it leads to the warehouse where inventory was kept before being put on store shelves.

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Also near the restrooms was another opened door that looks like it leads to an Employee’s Lounge. (I didn’t investigate either doors because I think those areas were for employees only.)

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The leftover inventory was getting slimmer and slimmer. Most of the items left were ones that I photographed on previous trips. There were a few new items I took pictures of for posterity.

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I couldn’t help but notice a One Direction board game, especially since the Internet went in a total uproar a few weeks earlier when one of its members decided to quit the band. I guess this board game is a collector’s item now (assuming that anyone will even care about buying One Direction collector’s items 10-20 years from now).

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I found one oddity on this trip. It’s a CD called Music for Vampires. I have to admit that the title sounded intriguing and it was on sale for $6.

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Until I turned the CD on the other side and I found that it was basically a compilation of mostly New Wave and Modern Rock songs from the 1980’s and 1990’s that only used the word “Vampires” in the title in an attempt to get Twilight fans to buy this. I would’ve bought it myself but I didn’t because I already have most of the songs either on other CD’s or as MP3 files.

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April 9, 2015

With Kmart closing soon, I decided to make another trip to see how things were going. The countdown sign located by the front door was updated to reflect the fact that shoppers had only four more days until the final closure.

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The discounts have gone very steep with some items reaching the 85% off mark.

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There were plenty of shoppers when I was there who were searching for something—anything—they could buy very cheaply.

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There were more bare shelves and more empty areas when I was there. If I had to guess, I’d say that about 25% of inventory was left.

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The stuff I found on the shelves were literally the dregs, such as this candy that was supposed to look and feel like boogers. The Elf on the Shelf was back on the store shelves along with various leftover Christmas items. There was literally nothing that tempted me. Nothing.

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I found this Ashlee Simpson CD that was a Kmart exclusive. It was originally $5.99 but it was now on sale for $2.99.

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April 17, 2015

I intended to go to Kmart on the final day of its existence. It would’ve been interesting to see what was left on the shelves. It also would’ve been interesting to observe both employees and customers to see if anyone would get misty-eyed over Kmart closing for good. Or if the employees would just stop giving a damn about anything since they were going to be unemployed the next day.

But then a few things happened that distracted me. First there were the taxes. Yeah, that sucked but the alternative to not bother filing would’ve been worse so I gritted my teeth and made every effort to get them done by the April 15 deadline.

Then there were the cherry blossom trees, which bloomed later than usual this year. On top of it, after a long cold winter, the weather had gotten warmer at last and the snow was becoming a distant memory of me. I fell into temptation from both the weather and the cherry blossoms and basically enjoyed the beautiful scenery instead of going to a dying big box retailer like Kmart.

By the time I returned to Kmart the store had already closed for good. But I noticed a few interesting things that I photographed.

The giant Kmart letters that once graced the outside of the building were gone. There were faint outlines that showed where the letters used to be placed.

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Curiously the soda machines were still located near the entrance. Not that it really mattered since they weren’t even working.

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The front door had a few signs posted.

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One of the signs announced that Kmart was officially closed while the other sign announced that a fixture sale was going on and the store was opened from 12-5. Unfortunately I got there after the store had closed for the day. However, I noticed the dates and tomorrow was going to be the last day of the fixture sale. So I had another chance to go inside that store and take a few last photos of an empty store. The only problem was that the Greenbelt Mini-Maker Faire was also happening that same day and I was selling my wares there. Since the event was ending at 4 p.m., I had a chance to show up for the last hour of that fixture sale so I made a mental note to return the next day.

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I looked through the door and saw that the store was empty of inventory. Basically it was an opportunity to purchase shelves or maybe a shopping cart.

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I walked around to the side where Kmart once had its Garden Center. Instead of plants, potting soil, and other seasonal items, the entire area was mostly bare. Although I saw that the Kmart letters were there on one side of the empty space so I found out where the giant Kmart letters went.

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The parking lot outside Kmart was empty except for a few shopping carts that were left behind. It was kind of eery seeing these shopping carts in an empty parking lot waiting for someone—anyone—to use them once again.

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April 18, 2015

Thanks to the fixtures sale, I thought I had another opportunity to take more pictures of an empty Kmart. However April 18 was the last day of that sale and it would only be held from 12-5 p.m. On top of it, I had to work the Greenbelt Mini-Maker Faire, which was going on at the same time. Since that event ended at 4 p.m. I thought I would have some time left to check out the tail end of that fixtures sale. Once the 4 p.m. end time came, I quickly packed up my tables, chair, and inventory so I could go to Kmart for one last visit.

I arrived in the parking lot around 4:40, which would give me 20 minutes until the official end of that fixtures sale. Except when I came to the door I found that it was locked.

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I also saw some glue or tape residue where the green since the sign announcing the hours for the fixtures sale was once placed.

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It looked like the store closed before the official 5 p.m. closing time. I guess things like remaining open during the official posted time doesn’t really matter since the store is officially gone for good. It’s not like keeping customers satisfied really matters anymore. I looked through the locked doors one more time and I noticed that there were still fixtures in that store. I guess they’ll eventually be put in storage somewhere or get shipped to the remaining Kmarts that are still in business as of this writing.

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The only thing different I noticed from the day before is that the abandoned shopping carts in the parking lot were gone. I don’t know if someone connected with Kmart took them or if someone simply stole them. All I know is that the parking lot near Kmart is now completely empty. The only odd thing that remained were the two soda machines near the front doors that aren’t even working.

Even though I hated the crappy customer service (due mainly to understaffing the cashier area so the checkout lines were always long no matter what time of day or even what time of year), I’ll still miss the nice things I used to purchase for reasonable prices. There is another Kmart in Hyattsville that I could go to. There’s also one in Crofton that I could go to on my way to my weekly support group meeting for people who are separated or divorced. But how much longer the surviving Kmarts will last is up in the air since both Kmart and its parent company Sears are predicted to completely go out of business. Right now it looks like Sears is more focused on dismantling itself and Kmart by closing a lot of stores across the United States than on doing anything radical to save both stores. Sears and Kmart are currently in a downward spiral where they close some stores, which results in lost revenue, which leads to closing even more stores, resulting in even more lost revenue, and so on.  In a way it’s sad since I’ve known both stores since I was a child. Oh well.

FREE TUTORIALS

For those who own American Girl dolls (or other 18-inch play dolls, for that matter) and who wants to own accessories but are too cash-strapped to do so, AG Crafts & Hacks have tutorials and tips for creating your own accessories at a fraction of what American Girl charges. For those who love Doctor Who, there is even a post on how to build a Tardis that’s big enough to hold at least two 18-inch dolls.

Speaking of American Girl, for those who want to buy Julie’s 1970’s Egg Chair and Ottoman set but balk at paying $100, there’s a three-part DIY alternative that costs no more than $30: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

If you’re a creative person who’s looking to sell his/her creations either online or in real life, check out the free advice on Make/Sell/Grow, which covers everything from marketing to figuring out whether you really made a profit or just gross income.

MISCELLANEOUS LINKS

People of a certain age will remember Thomas Dolby’s first and biggest hit, “She Blinded Me With Science”. Recently Dolby has moved to my neck of the woods (the Fells Point area of Baltimore, to be exact) where he’s teaching at the Johns Hopkins University and, in the near future, he will also be the artistic director of the Program in Sound and Film in the Station North Arts District.

The next time someone tries to convince you about how Ronald Reagan was The Greatest President Ever, show him or her this list of the 10 Reprehensible Crimes of Ronald Reagan.

This 1971 U.S. government-issued short movie uses the classic Alice in Wonderland story to promote the idea that drugs are bad but the trippy psychedelic graphics seem to make drugs more appealing.

In recent years there have been people who are known as anti-vaxxers because they are against giving young children vaccines. (Among such anti-vaxxers are Donald TrumpCharlie Sheen, and Jenny McCarthy.) Their main argument against vaccines is that they cause autism even though researchers have yet to find such a link. Here’s a different perspective on this controversy that was written by a woman who has autism that I feel is a definite must-read.

Bruce Jenner is already famous for winning the decathlon gold medal at the 1976 Olympics and being Kim Kardashian’s stepfather. Now, if all those rumors are correct, Bruce Jenner is about to make another milestone as he comes out as a transgender who is in the process of becoming a woman. This article provides an interesting perspective on what kind of impact Jenner coming out as transgender could have among mainstream America.**

**UPDATE (February 8, 2014): One day after I provided this link, I found out that Bruce Jenner himself was involved in a horrible car crash that resulted in the death of one of the drivers involved. And, one other thing, I’m continuing to use masculine pronouns when discussing Bruce Jenner because, as of this writing, he hasn’t yet made any public statements that he is really becoming a woman. Once he makes a public statement, I’ll start referring to Bruce Jenner as “her” along with any new names publicly disclosed.

Since I’ve written about The Enchanted Forest both yesterday and back in January, I’d thought I’d share something that I’ve owned since I was a child. It’s one of the few things I’ve managed to hold on to from my childhood, which surprised me because my mother used to do these periodic rummaging through personal belongings while looking for items to either trash or give away to charity. I think the fact that it is very small had helped it to survive my mother’s insistence on getting rid of old things on a regular basis.

It is a souvenir postcard set that I got from The Enchanted Forest. Judging from the clothing styles of the people in the photos, I would guess that it was printed sometime between 1960-1970. It was originally folded like an accordion, as you can see in the next photo.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

I decided to scan it into a digital format and upload it online. Here is what some of The Enchanted Forest attractions looked like back then and what they look like now.

Here is the front of the souvenir postcard set. As you can guess, you would write the address of the person you would mail this set to and place the stamp on the right side. As for the photo, it shows Old King Cole, who pointed the way to The Enchanted Forest right next to the highway. It also shows the Enchanted Castle, which served as both the entrance to the amusement park and a gift shop. Rapunzel graced the balcony at one of the turrets on the left side of the castle while a lute playing dragon looked at visitors from the rooftop.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

Old King Cole is still around at the original site even though the amusement park has been closed down for decades. Today he points to the location of The Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, which is a typical shopping center that has a Safeway, a Petco, and a few other stores.

Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, October 18, 2014

The Enchanted Castle is still there and it’s located right next to the shopping center. The front gate is now permanently locked and shuttered.

Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, October 18, 2014

Rapunzel is long gone but the dragon is still on the castle rooftop playing his lute.

Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, October 18, 2014

Clark’s Elioak Farm is located three miles away from The Enchanted Forest Shopping Center. Many of the former Enchanted Forest attractions have ended up on that farm and the family who owns it opens its farm to the public from April to November. When a person arrives at the farm, he or she will encounter a building that looks similar to the original Enchanted Castle.

Front Entrance to Clark's Elioak Farm

Rapunzel is at this new location and she’s still trapped in one of the castle turrets.

Front Entrance to Clark's Elioak Farm

Clark’s Elioak Farm has its own lute playing dragon who looks over at the visitors entering the farm.

Front Entrance to Clark's Elioak Farm

The next scan shows the back of the vintage souvenir postcard set. The flap allows the sender to write his or her name so the receiver would know who sent that postcard set. The flap tucks neatly into the slot on the back. The back shows a photo of the Merry Miller’s House.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

Today the Merry Miller’s House is located at Clark’s Elioak Farm.

The Merry Miller's HouseLooking through the front door, one would see the Merry Miller himself looking as cheerful as ever along with his mouse friends.

The Merry Miller's House

The other side of the back of the postcard set shows another place on the flap where the sender can write his/her name so the receiver would know who sent that postcard set. There is also information about how The Enchanted Forest is a fairy tale-themed amusement park, directions on how to get to The Enchanted Forest, a map showing the park’s location, a schedule of when The Enchanted Forest is opened to the public, and how groups can use The Enchanted Forest for their own outings and birthday parties.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

The next scan shows the Crooked Man outside the Crooked House in the foreground and Jack and the Beanstalk in the background.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

Here is the Crooked Man and the Crooked House at Clark’s Elioak Farm.

The Crooked Man and The Crooked House

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

The Crooked Man and The Crooked House

Jack and the Beanstalk is also at Clark’s Elioak Farm although it is located further away from the Crooked Man and the Crooked House.

Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk

The next scan shows Little Toot sailing through the tunnel opening of Mt. Vesuvius in a large lake.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

Little Toot is at Clark’s Elioak Farm but he’s currently docked in a pond that’s way smaller than the lake at The Enchanted Forest. Little Toot is no longer a ride but people can still board him and just sit on the benches.

Little Toot

Little Toot

The original Mt. Vesuvius had a giant slide on the side that kids could go on. Clark’s Elioak Farm has recreated a smaller version of Mt. Vesuvius. This new version is still a slide but it’s now on solid ground.

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

The next scan shows the Mother Goose Ride going past Robin Hood’s Snack Bar in the background.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

Mother Goose and her children are at Clark’s Elioak Farm but they are no longer a ride. Mother Goose now serves as a slide.

Easter Bunny's Home and Mother Goose

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Her two children now serve as stationery statues.

Ducklings

Ducklings

As for Robin Hood’s Snack Bar, that structure was originally burned down to the ground by teenaged arsonists in 1990 after they broke in to the shuttered property determined to make some mischief. (The teens were later arrested by the police.) But Robin Hood, who once graced the ceiling of the snack bar, is now on Clark’s Elioak Farm battling an enemy while one of the guards of the Queen of Hearts from Alice and Wonderland seem detached from the action going on behind him.

Robin Hood and a Card Guard

The next scan shows the home from the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears in its Enchanted Forest days.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

The entire large home has been transferred to Clark’s Elioak Farm and completely restored. Here is what it looks like on both the outside and the inside.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

The next scan shows the Gingerbread House from the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. In its day this building was one that parents could rent for their children’s birthday parties.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

The Gingerbread House is still in its original location at the former Enchanted Forest amusement park as of this writing. The amusement park has been fenced off with those “NO TRESPASSING” signs. However, if one goes off to the side of The Enchanted Forest Shopping Center and looks close enough through the woods, one can still see the remnants of the original Gingerbread House.

Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, October 18, 2014

The famous ice cream cone-shaped chimney with a portion of the Gingerbread House still peeks through the woods.

Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, October 18, 2014

Clark’s Elioak Farm has constructed a smaller version of the Gingerbread House. Parents can no longer hold birthday parties at this Gingerbread House (although they can hold birthday parties elsewhere on the farm—there are gazebos and picnic tables that one can reserve for such occasions) but Hansel and Gretel are still there and the witch is still imprisoned behind candy cane bars.

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

The centerpiece of the original Gingerbread House was this giant birthday cake that was on a round table where kids celebrating a birthday party can sit around and eat their refreshments. This large birthday cake can now be found in a gazebo at Clark’s Elioak Farm near the present location of the Three Bears’ home.

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

The next scan shows the Antique Car Ride. I had fond memories of actually driving in those cars even though they didn’t go very fast and the high rails prevented any child from driving to the other side of the park.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

The Antique Car Ride is one attraction that didn’t make the transfer to Clark’s Elioak Farm. While there are hay rides on the property, there’s nothing that the children can drive themselves.

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

The next scan shows the Safari Ride through Jungleland.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

Jungleland is another attraction that didn’t transfer to Clark’s Elioak Farm. The closest the farm has to the old Jungleland is this dinosaur family (which were not part of the original Enchanted Forest).

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

The next scan shows the home from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

The home didn’t make the transfer to Clark’s Elioak Farm but Snow White and the dwarfs’ beds are located in a building that she shares with scenes from Sleeping Beauty and Robin Hood.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

As for the dwarfs, they are elsewhere on the farm. They can be seen at this mining attraction, which is pretty fitting considering that in the Disney version, the dwarfs are gem miners.

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

The Seven Dwarfs

The Seven Dwarfs

The Seven Dwarfs

The Seven Dwarfs

The Seven Dwarfs

The next scan shows Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandma’s house.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

This structure didn’t make it to Clark’s Elioak Farm but a smaller version of Grandma’s house is there for children to see Little Red Riding Hood seeming suspicious that someone is impersonating Grandma.

Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood

The next scan shows the giant shoe from the nursery rhyme The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. This shoe was originally a slide where children can enter from the back heel then slide down through the sole of the shoe.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

The entire structure was transferred to Clark’s Elioak Farm.

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

Children can now continue to enter the shoe through the back heel and slide through the front sole while some of the Old Woman’s many children look on.

Last but not least is this scan of the Teacup Ride that was based on Alice in Wonderland.

Vintage Enchanted Forest Souvenir Postcard Set

The Teacup Ride is now at Clark’s Elioak Farm but it is now permanently grounded and parts of the old ride is located throughout the farm. These days people can just sit on the benches in the former ride.

Clark's Elioak Farm, October 18, 2014

Alice in Wonderland Teacups

Alice in Wonderland Teacups

Alice in Wonderland Teacups

I hope you enjoyed the then and now comparisons between The Enchanted Forest vintage postcard set and the same Enchanted Forest attractions currently on display at Clark’s Elioak Farm. To see more photos of other Enchanted Forest attractions that weren’t featured in the original vintage postcard set, see the entries I wrote yesterday and back in January.

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