Friday, February 28, 2014

DIY: Suitcase Endtable

Once upon a time, before the Northeast froze solid, I went to visit Mama Jennifer--aka "She-Who-Loans-Mod-Podge"--and I saw this child's chair next door, thrown out with a bunch of other stuff. Said "Other Stuff" ended up at The Cherry Door, but I was intrigued by the little stool. It joined the Outcast Party in my basement for many, many months.

One night, I tried to fix the stool myself. Immediately, I found the task undoable. I could not crack out the glue from pegs or holes that support the back piece. I'm not even sure the stuff was glue and not some kind of NASA-approved epoxy.

The pegs, too, were bizarre. Not one fit properly into both base and back, so the whole thing kept collapsing on itself.
Even The Man couldn't fix the chair's many problems. It was clearly homemade--and home-ruined--made by someone who understood how to make a stool, but not a chair.

So, the chair/stool languished, topless, in a corner.

Meanwhile, I was stumbling around and over a heck of a lot of vintage suitcases I kept after helping clear out the attic and basement of my friend who moved from her home of four decades. I was beginning to hate the basement--just piles of old stuff everywhere.

One day in November, Mama Jennifer, a Zen master of Pinterest (I kid you not--check out her boards) sent me some pins of suitcase end tables.

Ahhhh, a challenge that Victor Frankenstein would approve!

For This Project, You Will Need The Following:

A stool with a flat seat
A smallish suitcase. (IT MUST HAVE FLAT SIDES; otherwise, your drink will slide off onto the floor, and then you'll just have more to clean up.)
Pen or pencil
A hand drill
A screwdriver (that matches your screws)
4 metal washers
4 one-inch long wood screws

Since the stool acts as a solid base for the table, you won't need to cut out a piece of plywood to tuck inside the suitcase. I'll show you what that memorable process is like another day.

Step 1
Choose which side of the suitcase you want facing UP.

Place suitcase on stool, with the UP side facing UP. Center it: step back, take a look at it; if it looks good, it's centered enough. Hold tight to both pieces, and turn them over, so the stool is on top.

Step 2
Trace around the stool.

Remove stool. Make 4 X marks, evenly spaced, within the trace line. These Xs are where the screws will attach the stool and the suitcase to each other.

Step 3
Drill holes through (JUST THE) X points, please.

Do match your drill bit width to the width of the screw. You need to have pilot holes slightly smaller than the screws, otherwise the threads won't get a good bite on the wood.

Step 4
Place the suitcase--facing UP--on the stool again. (You're almost done, I swear)

Center the stool on the original trace lines from Step 2.

Drill pilot holes with the hand drill through the holes in the suitcase, into the stool. You'll want to go down about 1/2 inch, so you'll have an easier time twisting in the screws.

Step 5
Slide metal washers onto metal screws, then screw each into each hole.

Blow off the wood dust, clean up the suitcase and legs, and you're done!

I LOVE this end table, and I see that shoppers on Etsy, where I recently posted it, love it too. Now, if only one of them would buy it.



Or, do you want it? Look at that sweet smile... I can tell that it likes you!
Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Comics: The Decoupage Crisis

Mod Podge.

I'm cheap, so once upon a time, I tried to make my own Mod Podge, using a recipe I found at wikiHow.  It dripped, peeled when dry, and basically just stunk. Whatever makes the Podge superior, I am sold.
Why you shouldn't make your own Mod Podge
This blogger, who provides this pretty picture, clearly explains reasons why NOT to make your own Mod Podge.

So, when I got all nutty Sunday evening and started decoupaging a cigar box with the thrashed old comics that I could not sell to Undiscovered Realm, I had a bad feeling. The bottle was light, too light.

When did I even buy the bottle? I had no idea. What did I ever make with it? Not sure. I did have a visceral memory of peeling the stuff off my fingers like half-dried-snots, though, so I must have done someth--OH WAIT! I made Game Board Magnets. Whew! As my mama says, I was having a Senior Moment....

So, despite an obvious Mod Podge drought, I jumped in.

I have several comics decoupage projects in mind, some featuring big-haired women, some the flat-out awesome 1970s comic book ads ("BULLIED NO MORE!"). What seemed straightforward and easy, however, was to start my decoupage career by featuring a massive Milk Dud ad with The Joker as the lid of the cigar box.

 I HAD to wrap this 3-part ad around the outside, too. God, I love the late 70s...


Before I started slapping on the Podge willy-nilly, however, I cut out pieces from other comics to fit the side and interior panels. AND, I read "How to Decoupage a Box"...again, wikiHow. (Insert small pat on the back for educating self here.)

I wanted an ALL VILLAIN box, but in the end, what's better than opening the lid and finding Batman there, waiting to thwart all evil plans?

Admittedly, I am a snob. I assumed that I'd hate decoupage, but I love it as much as a kindergartner loves playing with glue and paper. It's rad.

I papered the interior with "newspaper stories" from The Daily Planet pages that I found tucked in several comics.


I podged the interior and side panels first. It looked awesome. I glued and glued and dreamed of Etsy shoppers fighting over it. Then, I ran out of the good stuff.

In a PANIC, I threw out a Facebook call-to-arms. To my genuine surprise, not every citizen of the Rivertowns leapt to my aid. Most made fun of me. Fair enough. But, until a mama friend called and offered me the tender mercy of a few ounces of Mod Podge, I felt like THIS:

I love this lady. I may use her in every post.

LOOK. The Joker's evil is being sealed in...forever.

And here IT IS.
I love it.
In fact, I couldn't resist taking a few electrical outlet covers off the wall and decoupaging them during Downton Abbey.


Thanks for doing unto the Crafter as you would have done unto you, Mama Jennifer. I owe you....
Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Friday, February 21, 2014

Comics, pt. 4: The Aftermath

In fact, this is a short math problem.

I could not bring myself to include 13 really thrashed, but old, comics when I went to unload them at Undiscovered Realm in Hartsdale. I didn't think it would be fair to the owner, Chris. Coverless and/or tattered, they aren't worth $.50 as a group.

Check out the cover for The Odyssey and for Superboy. Love.

Ironically, if they had covers, these would have been among the more valuable comics in the boxes. Ah, well, so it goes.

1986, Green Lantern 201.
Yes, that's a flying raccoon annoying a four-armed creature.

I can't make myself toss these in the recycle bin, though.


"Your pulse is impossible, Son!"
"Have a care, Kildare! Each and every toe is virtually priceless!"
X-Men, story by Stan Lee...I can't bear to see this pulp turned into compost. 


New Mutants Special Edition vol 1, no. 1, 1986
If you desperately want to own some (or all) of these, you cover cost of shipping, and I'll get them to you. Otherwise, I'm afraid that their fate IS SEALED...
Vintage comics decoupage tool box - decorative paper cut action mystery comics
Like it? Find it on Etsy at Hoshizaki Cube Star
Or...I can make you one...

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Comics, pt. 3: Not Money


THWACK! One box on the counter.

THWACK! One more follows it.

Let the counting begin.

This is Chris. He's cool.

Follow Central Avenue south from Rt 119 in White Plains. Pass the Trader Joe's. Get ready to flip a U-ey when you see the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery on your right.

Thanks to The Petcast for the pic

Park, in front of the yellow hydrant if you must. Chris, the owner of Undiscovered Realm, says no one gets a ticket for parking there.

Then, open that creaky door, take a deep breath, and hold tight because you are about to enter a MAN CAVE.

The place was not what I expected. It's less a comic book shop than it is a way of life.

Via Facebook messages, Chris warned me not to come by on Friday or Saturday: "There's literally no room to stand."

Still, I was surprised that when I showed up, at 3 pm on a Sunday, a card competition was well underway. There is no downtime at Undiscovered Realm, I guess.

While I breathed deeply, acclimating to the den's distinctive scent, a player caught my attention.

Look at the picture above. That guy with the goatee and the brown coat smiled at me: "What a small world." We had met at the bar of Finalmente! the night before, bonding over homemade pasta and our admiration of US vixen Ashley Wagner's attempt to seduce the Olympic judges.
And just look how pissed she was that it didn't work....

Justin (my dinner buddy) and I shook hands. This I took as a good sign of my acceptance in the Den (I warned you in pt. 2 that this was only "mildly important"), but I might have been wrong.

Generally, I kept my eyes down as a guy named Andre (my dad's name--a good omen?) counted the comics, tucking in a Post-It every 100. It seemed the wise thing to do.

But when a guy I'll call "Ted" (the stuffed bear from the movie was behind him on the wall) told his fellow competitor, "I want to get you in the worst way!" I rolled my eyes and smirked.

Although no one else noticed my reaction, Ted did. His eyes flashed.

For the next three minutes, Ted, Chris, and several other guys (not, happily, Justin) casually threw the word "Penis"--and dazzling variations of it, from the scientific to the street, biological to prosthetic--into every utterance.

Oh, yes. I had angered The Bear.

(In times past, I used Eve Sedgwick's theory of Male Homosocial Desire to teach Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, but it's always fun to have a real-life example of being pushed out of the homosocial circle...and you don't need to be a theorist to understand this experience. To be fair, though, I had busted into HIS Den with my annoying estrogen...)

As the tide of genitalia talk washed over me, I kept counting comics.

I was silently daring myself to launch into a detailed description of my two vaginal births when Ted loudly feigned surprise: "Oh! I should watch my mouth. We've got a New Customer here!"

Chris called back, "Naw, man, she's cool."

Just like that, the dick-talk ended.

And so help me God, I was suddenly awash in the same conflicting waves of feminist rage and "Exceptional Girl" pride that I felt as a young teen in Pat's '80s comic den.

But, Back to the Comics...

Chris and I agreed that the catalog of the boxed comics showed promise--a couple signed copies, some cover variants, a heck of a lot of Buffy, a $40 Daredevil from 1981 ($40 IF it didn't have "condition issues" like a 2 inch tear in the cover), a #1 of Shaolin Cowboy... valued at $30....

"Value" is one thing; finding a buyer is another. I'm a Re-seller, not a Retailer. Before I slept the night before, I was resolved: fifty cents per comic was my price.

Some, sure, were worth more...maybe.... Some, however, would only get pennies, simply because there's a glut of them on the market. When I considered the thing as a whole, $.50 a comic seemed fair: it represented a ten-fold return on my nickel-per-comic investment. And, since I had sweated through the research process, I know I wasn't handing over a genuine treasure by accident.

Chris and I recognized the pragmatist in the other, I think.

$.50 was our agreed price. There were 716 comics.

WHOOSH. Musty pulp paper and man-smell pushed me back out into the snowy afternoon.

I had $360 more for my travel fund, more than enough to cover four one-way flights from Bergen, Norway, to London, this summer. 

I hope Chris makes many thousands on those comics. One day, a 90s and 2000s Comic Bubble will grow and they'll be worth that.

In the meantime, I'm sure that Unknown Goodwill Guy is happy that his comics are back where they belong, with The Guys.

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Comics, pt. 2: Not Pretty

My family lives in a home with about 1,000 functional square feet. I take about a quarter of the space with my Trash-For-Trip Hustle: suitcases of clothes I need to upsell; craft supplies (and let me repeat, Craft Does Not Pay); furniture and such I’ve posted on craigslist; and for many, many months, three narrow one-yard long boxes of comics. There’s potential for profit in all this stuff, but since I hate organizing, I have to motivate from time to time and just get it Out. Of. Here.

My first bit of luck with the comics came from the aptly named Angel, who runs my favorite local toy store, A Nu Toy Store.
16 Main St.
Tarrytown, NY 10591

She wanted a comics section in the shop. I wanted to move comics out of my home. We had a deal.  

I rapidly put aside whatever seemed valuable—a few 80s Alan Moore Swamp Thing (see, Pat, early training does pay off); an original Watchmen #12; the #1s, of which there were dozens and dozens; the older items. None seemed older than the late 70s, and very few were even that old.

(So, he’s young, I thought. Maybe ten years younger than me).

I hauled out nearly 400 of the kid-friendliest stuff from the 90s and 2000s—the classic heroes in the freshest covers—for the toy store. One long box—POOF!

Thanks to Angel, I broke even. I had almost 750 comics to left to sell and some hopes of finding a treasure.

I placed the two boxes in plain sight in the living room, expecting…intending…ok, fine, in denial about my desire to start the real work of organizing. They became an impromptu coffee table.  

I gave a couple copies of Wonder Woman to my friend, the local puppeteer, dancer, and storyteller Jill Muchnick Liflander. They made her happy.

Really, really happy.

By chance, I sold a couple dozen to a recent transplant from Pittsburgh, who came for a table I listed on craigslist and spent an hour oohing and aahing over the Swamp Things, some Whedon-era Buffy, good stuff….I was $30 into the black on my comics venture.

In the meantime, I found myself wondering about the young man—undoubtedly, a man—who gave up literally thousands of comics to Goodwill. The collection—of which I took only three boxes, remember?—could easily, easily, have cost him $10,000. (Average cover price is $3.95; I don’t like to do math, but this one isn’t too hard).

“He’s dead,” I announced to my Man. “He couldn’t have given those up.”

“Maybe he got over it,” The Man tried to soothe me.

“HAH!” I retorted.

“Maybe his mom threw them out. Maybe he fell in love and found someone more important than comics.”

I snorted, scornful, “You don’t know these guys. I do. He’s dead.”

You’ll understand me here: the thought of this young guy’s death depressed rather than motivated me. I’m no teenage Pandora, thoughtlessly jumping into disaster. Opening those boxes again meant traveling into this guy’s comic book ambitions and reveries. I’d be thumbing my way through a pulp version of Being John Malkovich.

Just make Cameron's hair frizzier and blacker and you'll have me.

You can understand why I waited. And you can understand why, in the end, I rushed.

From time to time, I looked up the value of the #1s. According to eBay, everything auction starts at about a third of cover cost, or of “value” as listed in free online resources like Comic Book Realm.

More importantly, though, no one buys. At least, not the stuff I still had. So what if I had a near-mint #1 of JLA-Avengers (2003) and its value is listed at $6?

eBay has ten, all listed at value, and no one’s bidding. Did I really want the long-term commitment of becoming an online purveyor of mostly 90s comics?

No: not my vocation. I simply have a trip to pay for, Friends!

Last Friday, self-loathing and ennui gave way to a rage to do something to make a buck this cold, unprofitable winter.

I pulled stacks of comics from the boxes and laid them on the bed, sorting only by hero, to keep it easy. Within an hour, I was pouring sweat. Comic in hand, I moved with the deliberate slowness of a Tai Chi novice, muttering “Where, where, did those Mutants go?” as I scanned the gridwork of comics that surrounded me on all sides. Brutal.
Does it make your head spin? It should.

On the first day, my younger kid stormed in once, righteously indignant, threw her arms out, and shouted at the chaos on the floors, bookcases, and bed, “What was the matter with this guy? Why did he have so many comics? Didn’t he care about his health?”  

I did not laugh. And I did not shout back the obvious, “What about my health? I’m cataloging this mess!” I just felt relieved that the boxes did not contain snuff-porn manga. I need no more of this unknown man’s fantasies in my head.

That night, and all the next day, I ignored my children and my husband in my mania to finish this journey through another man’s obsession. I cataloged every title, date, and issue, including its “value” rather than its going eBay price.

I learned one important thing from my online research: whether their cover price is $.50 or $7.50, most comics are “worth” $3.

Still life with 1/4 of the collection.

A few cover variants were valued far higher than average, and sometimes I was one tantalizing issue away from a title valued at $100. But, on the whole, 3 was the magic number. Yes it is: it’s a magic number.

That's me, screaming with relief to be done cataloging...
Ok, ok, the truth: Spider-Man 2099, vol. 1, no.9 (1993)

Saturday night--my body, hair, and sinuses washed clean of that comic book scent--my Man and I went out to Finalmente! for some fine Italian cuisine and friendly conversation at the bar with locals. (This will be mildly important later.)
Local pride! Check out The New York Times review of Finalmente!

The comics were back in their boxes. The catalog was complete.

I sipped my grappa, determined: Tomorrow, I will sell all of these comics! All, Baby. All.

To be continued….   

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Comics, pt. 1: Not Funny

The mid-80s, for me, were spent on the volleyball court, in under-18 Death Rocker clubs, and in the comic-book den of one of my best friends, Pat. Naturally, each community made fun of my interest in the other two.
1986: one of my public identities--club kid

I rolled with the jokes, but it was hard to justify what drew me back to Pat's den, time and again. To block out all natural light, he covered the windows with aluminum foil, an extreme gesture even for me, a swarthy Arab-American who was desperate to obtain (or fake) Irish pallor. Every visit, I silently begged my olfactory nerve to acclimate to the room's dusty funk of old pulp paper and God-knows-what-else.

In that room, however, I learned about a style of storytelling that I'd never considered before, and that kept me coming back for more. Something now known as the "Graphic Novel" was taking shape, issue by issue, and I read them all as they were released, oh-so-careful not to sweat on or bend the pages, which sent Pat—who kept each new issue encased in a plastic sleeve—into a tantrum.

Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and Watchmen, and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns gave me nightmares as effectively as Stephen King's novels, to which I was also addicted.
wanna read it yourself?

See what I mean by "Not Funny"? Unforgettable, though.

They contained images of the (so, so sexist) male loner's despair and agonizing, self-annihilating triumph over the cruelty, vapidity, and viciousness of Reagan-era capitalism. I never did love Comic Book Guy World, but I understood it, and I felt my "Exceptional-Girlness" to be allowed entry.

Ten years later, as a graduate student at Columbia University, it blew my mind to see bound-book editions of The Dark Knight Returns taught in literature courses to sincere Reagan-era-born undergrads.
Front CoverMy personal favorite. So damned good.

Today, Pat makes a fine living talking and writing about the Japanese pop culture that he has loved since childhood. You can even buy his books:
I did! (not sure about reading them, though...)

The Big Bang Theory boy-men visit their comic book shop regularly. And of course, they have their own comic book series....

And so, it happened early last summer—triumphant after my family's first European Trip-For-Trash—I walked into my favorite Goodwill and stopped cold at the sight of 5 narrow, yard-long comic book boxes laid out on a table. $1.49 per copy, a handwritten sign indicated. No one was interested, it seemed, except me. The folks at Goodwill know me now, so I was able to work out a deal. I went home with 3 ridiculously heavy boxes, which I estimated held about 1,200 comics, for $240.

"I'm gonna get a plane ticket for our next trip with these!" I crowed to my Man.

“Great,” he smiled, ever-tolerant of my unique kind of crazy. “First thing you should do is organize and catalog them.”

Oh, yeah, Organize, Catalog: "Doing It Right" is not my forte....

As I took a first flip-through the boxes, I was gripped with terror.

Nothing—not years of preparing our taxes, not organizing a professor's 15,000 book library, not even 8th grade office assistant—could prepare me for the chaos within.

Spiderman, Superman, Wonder-Woman, X-Men, Batman, Buffy, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Elektra, Spider-Girl, Doom, and so very many more heroes and villains…and their over-lapping titles…in no particular order.

Let’s just take one as an example: X-Men. Easy, right? Popular, and therefore sellable. But what kind of fresh hell is in these titles, some of which started decades ago? X-Men, The Uncanny X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, Ultimate X-Men, Civil War: X-Men (They have a civil war??!), Avengers vs. X-Men, Amazing X-Men, The Amazing X-Men (YES: they are different series; the “The” makes all the difference in value), etc, etc, ad nauseum. 

Was one of these really worth something? My head spun. My God, which one?

It hit me then: I was a modern Pandora with three boxes of the world’s evil in my home. I did the only sensible thing—I stacked them in a hallway and kept the lids on tight.

to be continued... 

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Monday, February 3, 2014

Where to Take The Excess: Santa Barbara Edition, pt. 1

While New Yorkers shivered under their down comforters this Christmas season, I was applying sunblock to the kids and hanging out on Goleta Beach with my in-laws, wondering why I didn't bring some tank tops with me.

Yes: I hate me, too.

Before giving myself over to the lazy luxury of a winter vacation in Southern California, however, I did my homework and found superb places to dump your excess clothing, housewares, toys, and building materials.

Today's Shop: Alpha Thrift

At least one generation of Goleta and Santa Barbara adolescents remembers when being called an "Alpha" was not a compliment ("Hail, future Fortune 500 CEO!") but a blood-boiling insult. For 60 years, Alpha's mission has been to educate and support the developmentally disabled and their families. (Let's just finish this paragraph by stating the obvious: Mean kids suck.)

For at least a couple decades, Alpha Thrift has held the crown as Best Thrift in Goleta, California. (Doubtful? Google "Best Thrift in Goleta" and see what you get.) Go in to one of their two shops on Hollister Avenue, and you'll be won over, too. Clean, well-organized, with minimal thrift store stinkiness!

To me, it looks like Santa Barbara Paseo Nuevo shoppers have nowhere to wear their fab high-end clothes, so they donate them, with original tags, so that you can get them from Alpha for two bucks. Yep, two bucks: look for happy face stamps on the price tags, and you'll be happy, too.

If you're not careful, Alpha Thrift will not help you clear out your mess, but you can swap your stuff for new--and better--stuff on the cheap, which is also satisfying.

Alpha Thrift sells and accepts donations of the following:
Clothes, Videos/DVDs, Rugs, Tools, Accessories, Books, Jewelry, Albums, Stereos, Furniture, Paintings, Linens, Shoes, Bedding, Electronic Equipment

According to their web site, they don't want the following:
Beds, Built In Cabinets, Text Books, Chemicals, Curtain Rods, Encyclopedias, Exercise Equipment, Ping Pong Tables, Lateral File Cabinets, Car Batteries, Large Desks, Large Outdoor Plastic Toys, Unframed Glass/Mirrors, Magazines, Built-in Appliances, Mattresses, Bed Frames/Headboards, Older CRT Televisions and Computer Monitors

And they pick up! So clean up and call (805) 964-1123

Or drop by one of their 3 Santa Barbara locations:

Alpha Thrift
5624 Hollister Ave and 5949 Hollister Ave.
Goleta, CA 93111

700 N. Milpas
Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier