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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 can’t believe that I’ve actually done my 20th new drawing this month. I’ve actually managed to keep up with drawing one new drawing a day for this month as part of Inktober. I’ve seen other people’s Inktober work on social media and there are a few people who are actually drawing two or more drawings per day this month. For me, I think it’s a major achievement that I’ve actually disciplined myself to make one new drawing per day and I feel a sense of accomplishment about that.

In any case, I want to dedicate today’s drawing to my mother, who’s celebrating her birthday this month. I added Elvis Presley in his Jailhouse Rock days because she has been a major Elvis fan ever since he became famous while she was a teenager.

I also realized that this year is the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death. I remember the news reports of the throngs of people who descended on Graceland for the 1st, 5th, 10th, and 20th anniversaries of his death. For some reason I haven’t heard a word about similar mass remembrances of his death this year. My only guess is that the hard-core Elvis fans who used to make such pilgrimages (and these were the people who became fans when he first became popular) have either died off or gotten too old to continue to make such trips. Oh well.

I attended my first Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School event of 2017 in Baltimore. I walked around the Station North Arts District a bit before I headed to The Wind-Up Space.

There’s a one-time movie theater known as The Centre, which is located just a few doors down from The Wind-Up Space whose art deco architecture is eye-catching. Recently that old theater has been renovated into an arts center. The Center really looks nice when it’s lit up at night.

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I walked into The Wind-Up Space where I noticed that, even though the Christmas holiday season ended a few days ago, that place still had a Christmas tree up. I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of that tree because it’s mostly loaded with Krampus ornaments (with the exception of a VHS version of Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory that was hung on the tree).

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The model for this event was a burlesque performer named KiKi Allure and some of the drawings I did in this post are definitely NSFW.

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I took part in two of the contests that were held that evening. One of them was where we had to come up with some graffiti. I couldn’t resist invoking that infamous recording of Donald Trump where he bragged about how he grabs women by the pussy. (And that’s not to mention that he was still elected President of the United States despite all that.) By the way that phone number I wrote is real—it’s for the White House switchboard. That drawing was among the finalists but I didn’t win.

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The other contest I took part in was where we had to somehow incorporate both Elvis Presley and David Bowie because their birthdays are in January. (Of course this month is the one-year anniversary of David Bowie’s death and it was also the same day that I went to another Baltimore Dr. Sketchy’s event.) I decided to have the two men do a dance-off in a battle for KiKi Allure. I modeled Elvis after his role in the film Jailhouse Rock while I modeled Bowie after his androgynous glamour rock phase back in the early 1970’s. This drawing also made the finals but I didn’t win.

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I did one last drawing of KiKi Allure before the event ended and I headed home.

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Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Continuing with this series on having a tabletop Christmas, here are some more ornaments that I currently have on my small tabletop tree.

I’ve been into animation since I was a child so it’s quite logical that I would have a lot of Christmas ornaments to reflect my interest in animation. Some of these ornaments were ones that I purchased while others were given as gifts from various relatives over the years. I used to have a lot of animation-themed ornaments back when my husband and I used to put up a six-foot tree. Since my husband left I’ve done some serious downsizing. While I still have a few animation-themed ornaments left, my collection of Christmas animation ornaments is a far cry from what I had five years ago (when my husband left just three days after Christmas with no indication that he was the slightest bit unhappy).

The ornaments shaped like Disney characters tend to predominate my collection the most. Okay, so I like Disney animation, especially Mickey Mouse. Here’s a caroling Mickey Mouse next to a ceramic ornament featuring a pink mouse in a stocking that I was given as a child by my parents and I still have it.

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Here’s a wooden Mickey Mouse clock. (No, it’s not a real functioning clock.)

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This was an ornament that I purchased during one of my many trips to Walt Disney World over the years. My husband and I arrived shortly after the 1st Disneyana Convention was held so the resort was selling these ornaments at a clearance sale for half-price.

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I also have a Mickey Mouse stocking hanger. I still have the same stocking that my parents originally purchased for me when I was an infant. It hasn’t been filled with anything since my husband left. These days I just hang my stocking as a decoration since it’s really not worth the effort for me to fill my own stocking. (Filling one’s own stocking kills the element of surprise right there.)

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I have a small Santa Mickey snow globe decoration that I received when I attended the annual post-Christmas white elephant gift exchange that my support group for people who are separated or divorced puts on each year. The snow globe has the year 2013 written on it.

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I also have other Disney characters besides Mickey Mouse in my Christmas tree, such as Winnie the Pooh.

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Flit is a hummingbird from the animated Disney movie Pocahontas.

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The next photo has two Disney ornaments. The raccoon is Meeko from the Pocahontas movie. The other figure is Stitch from Lilo in Stitch and he’s dressed like Elvis Presley.

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I have another Stitch ornament. This one is a small plush ornament and he’s wearing ear muffs, mittens, and a red sweater that says “NAUGHTY” on it. Next to Stitch is Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh and he’s sliding downhill on a sled.

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These next two photographs show a double-sided ornament. On one side is Belle and the Beast from the film Beauty and the Beast.

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The other side shows the Beast after he’s been transformed back into his original human self.

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Rounding out the Disney decorations are two dolls resembling the two princesses Anna and Elsa from the movie Frozen. I originally bought the dolls thinking that I would display them at Christmas then put them away in the attic after the holidays. Except when it came time to take down everything, I couldn’t bear to put these dolls away. These days I keep them with my doll collection upstairs and I bring them downstairs to join the other Christmas decorations.

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I have other animated-themed ornaments that are based on non-Disney characters as well, such as this one featuring Sylvester and Tweety from the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes cartoon shorts.

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My parents gave me this ornament based on Dr. Seuss’ classic Christmas book How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which was later turned into a made-for-television animation special then it was remade into a live action theatrical feature film starring Jim Carrey). This one features the scene after the Grinch had finished making a Santa outfit for himself and placed reindeer antlers on his dog Max and they are both standing in front of a mirror (which is actually a real mirror).

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I know that technically the ornament in the next picture is really based on a video game but Sonic the Hedgehog was turned into a cartoon series in the 1990’s so I’m going to include it here on a technicality. I bought this ornament back in the days when I owned a Sega Game Gear and I was really into playing Sonic the Hedgehog. Basically the ornament is shaped like a Game Gear (including a Christmas scene featuring Sonic) while Sonic is running on top of the Game Gear bearing Christmas presents. I’ve long since sold my Game Gear but I still have the ornament nonetheless.

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Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12

There was one weekend in June that had two festivals I was potentially interested in attending—one was the Maryland Faerie Festival and the other was Hon Fest. Both took place on the same weekend. I finally chose Hon Fest because I went to the Maryland Faerie Festival last year, money was a bit too tight for me to take a longer trip to Darlington, and I hadn’t been to Hon Fest since 2013. So I wallowed in this annual celebration of kitsch.

The only downside was the weather. For the past two or three weeks before the festival the weather had been a bit on the cool side with low humidity. It figures that the usual high heat and high humidity would make a comeback just in hime for Hon Fest. (The temperature went up as high as 91 degrees Fahrenheit and, boy, did I feel that humidity.) I dealt with the weather by periodically ducking into the air conditioned shops.

I took a whole lot of pictures because everything was so over the top.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

One of the cooling stations was at St. Luke’s Church on the Avenue, which is a really lovely  historic church that is engaged in all kinds of social action projects, such as setting up its own urban garden.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

The church got in on the Hon Fest kitsch action by setting up this giant Kerplunk! game outside.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

I did some more shots of the festival and the surrounding area. It was one large major piece of kitschy eye candy.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

At one point I played around with my Hatsune Miku smartphone app, which resulted in this photo.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

Other than that photo I basically took my Hon Fest pictures straight with no filters or special apps.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

I checked out this relatively new store (or at least it had opened since my last visit to the Hampden area back in 2013) called The Nerdporium, which has comic books and classic video games on sale.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

After my brief visit to The Nerdporium I resumed my picture taking of the sights of Hon Fest in general.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

I showed up to one of the stages where I saw a band that I recognized. They are The Wild Anacostias and I have seen them play at various places near my home before. That’s cool to suddenly run into their performance. They definitely got the crowd going.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

The Wild Anacostias led a procession of Hons (people who dressed up in totally kitsch fashion) to an area where a professional photographer took a group shot.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016
HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

Even Mr. Natty Boh got in on the fun.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

I shot a short video of the beginning of the parade where you can see what the people who followed them wore.

This next photo is of the inside of a Royal Farms Store. I’ve been to other Royal Farms Store but this one is the fanciest I’ve ever been in. This location actually has two floors with tables and chairs. The others I’ve been in are the usual convenience stores with no seating.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

Here’s the Glamour Lounge where a woman can get her hair teased into a beehive.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

Here are a few more miscellaneous shots of the festival.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

I finished my time at Hon Fest with some ice cream that was made on the premises at The Charmery. They not only had excellent ice cream but there is also a pretty cool wall mural with a painted sidewalk on the side of the store. A lot of people chilled by that store.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

After I finished eating my ice cream and taking the previous photos, I decided to head back to the parking garage so I could retrieve my car. (One great thing about Hon Fest is that Johns Hopkins University lends out its parking garage for only $5. It’s only slightly more than taking the light rail then transferring to the Hampden shuttle bus and it’s way more convenient.)

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

I went inside a shop called Bazaar Baltimore, which sells all kinds of strange stuff.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

Once I left that store I blundered around the area for a bit. (I rarely visit that area.) I managed to reach the 700 block of 34th Street, which is the same area that’s famous for its annual display of Christmas lights. Seeing that block again reminded me of the time I went there in June, 2013 and I did a blog post where I posted photos showing side-by-side comparisons of that block in early summer with that same block six months earlier when all the homes were decked out in lights. I took a few brief pictures of those homes but not as many as I took back in 2013.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

What’s more, two of those homes in that block are currently for sale. If you’re looking for a new home in Baltimore and you’re the kind of person who loves to totally decorate your home for Christmas and you don’t mind getting a lot of attention from people who literally come from across the U.S. (and even some foreign countries), then you may want to call the phone numbers listed in those signs.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

At one point, while I was on my way back to the parking garage I tripped and fell on my knees. One knee was scraped up so much that I had to use tissues to blot the blood and I ended up covering it with a large bandage when I got home. I was feeling a bit woozy from the high heat and high humidity so I wasn’t quite as careful when I was walking. Luckily I was okay. The wound got slightly infected at one point but I managed to get rid of the infection by using Dr. Gordshell’s Skin Cream. It’s the same stuff my parents used to use on me when I was a kid and I would sometimes have a scraped knee that became infected. This stuff did a great job with my latest wound. Dr. Gordshell’s is so good at fighting burns and infections that if you have a situation where it doesn’t work at all, then it’s time for you to see the doctor. I’m serious about this. (And, no, Dr. Gordshell’s isn’t paying me to endorse this. I have had enough first-hand experience that I can vouch for its effectiveness.)

I managed to take one more charming photo of a home in Hampden before I found the parking garage so I could retrieve my car and drive home.

HonFest, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 2016

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.

Last Saturday, June 8, would’ve been my wedding anniversary had my husband not abruptly ran away from home without giving any kind of advanced notice that he wanted out of the house on December 28, 2011. I haven’t seen my husband since that day in divorce court two months ago when the judge gave us a Provisionary Divorce and, after all the abuse he has flung my way (including threatening to sue me if I didn’t do everything he wanted me to do in order to conform to this timeline that exists only in his head and sending a divorce petition in a .pdf format as an attachment to an e-mail he sent on Christmas Eve that my own lawyer later said was a fake because it didn’t have a case number assigned to it), I would prefer not to have anything to do with him ever again.

I decided to do everything possible to keep my mind off of my wedding anniversary. I went to Behnke’s Nursery in the morning to check out this garden party that was held there and to purchase some gardening supplies I needed for my own new garden that I’ve recently started. The garden party basically consisted of wine tastings, local musicians providing some tuneful ambiance, vending tables from local crafters (none of my own crafting friends participated in this event), and tables from a variety of local gardening clubs. It was a nice little party but I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy looking for stuff to buy for my garden.

After I left the checkout counters and loaded my new things in the car, I drove up to Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood to check out the annual Hon Fest. The last time I was in that area was back in December when one city block on 34th Street has become famous for all of its rowhouses being totally covered in Christmas lights. I haven’t gone to the Hon Fest since 2007 (the year before my hip replacement surgery) and I thought it would be good to visit it once again.

I took my Canon DSLR camera with me and I was busy snapping photos of both the festival and the local stores. I really like this area so much that I’m thinking about visiting Hampden again in the near future when it’s not clogged with tons of people because of the Hon Fest or having houses totally covered in Christmas lights. (I picked up a local map of the area from the information booth at Hon Fest so I can plan which stores and local art galleries I want to visit before my next trip.)

The Hon Fest, as described in the Wikipedia, is basically an annual celebration of the stereotypical lifestyle of the average Baltimore resident. Lots of people come dressed up wearing beehive hairdos, feather boas, and housedresses and many of them will drink Natty Boh (short for National Bohemian beer) or Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Many booths have pink flamingo decorations on display. I saw a bunch of women dressed as Lucille Ball during her I Love Lucy sitcom days. I even saw a bald Elvis impersonator. (Yeah, that one seemed surreal since the real Elvis was always spotted with a head full of hair.) If you happened to arrive without a beehive hairdo and regretted doing so, you could either buy a wig or go to a booth where hairstylists will tease your real hair into a beehive. The Hon Fest is one of those events that is better described through pictures than through words.

Hon Fest

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The only downer about the Hon Fest was the weather. It started off pretty cool and cloudy and it started to drizzle while I was shopping at Behnkie’s Nursery. By the time I reached Baltimore the sun came out along with this very high humidity and temperature in the 80’s. The huge crowds exacerbated the situation. There were times when I ducked in the stores for some air conditioning relief. After a few hours I grew tired so I drove home. (Fortunately there was a parking garage belonging to Johns Hopkins University that was reserved just for this event. The parking fee was only $5.) The Hon Fest continued the following day but I didn’t go because I was too exhausted from the day before and I had too many things to do around the house.

Here’s Elvis Presley’s version of the song "Blue Moon". My mother used to say that it was her favorite Elvis song and she would play that song over and over on her record player when she was a teenager. Listening to it, I can understand why she loved it so much.

Birthday Cake

Today is my husband’s birthday and also his first birthday since he abruptly ran out of our home on December 28, 2011 with no advanced warning whatsoever. I texted him about how he wanted to celebrate his birthday this year and I said that it could be as fancy or as simple as he wants. I saw him briefly in person before a dinner at our church last Saturday and he basically told me that he’s not into celebrating his own birthday this year.

It’s so sad but it’s his birthday and he can celebrate it or not celebrate it as he wishes. I have no other option but to honor his request and not get him a card or a gift. But I’m still putting up this special blog entry to let him know that I’m not going to totally ignore his birthday today.

In fact, I’m playing the same Facebook game that I played for my birthday last month by looking up what song was popular on the day that my husband was born. This one is interesting. It’s one of those rare instances where both sides of the same 45 R.P.M. record were hits in their own right. Both songs are by Elvis Presley. One side is a song called “Don’t.”

The other side is called “I Beg of You.”

An Elvis costume contest was held at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC last year to commemorate what would have been Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday.

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