“G’mornin’, Sam.” “Mornin’, Ralph.”
October 10, 2016 Cheap Advertising Online

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“G’mornin’, Sam.” “Mornin’, Ralph.”
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I’m deep in production on a new book, which means that my sleep schedule is completely screwed up. Sunday night, I woke up at 11 PM after a six hour nap.

By 6 AM, I knew that I hadn’t the slightest inclination to fall asleep. Which meant that contrary to plans, it was actually quite possible for me to go to the annual You-Do-It Electronics Presidents’ Day Sale.

The Sale is a minor legend among New England geeks. YDI is to Radio Shack what Roger Daltrey is to Clay Aiken. It’s the good electronics store, the dangerous one. It’s the store for folks who know from personal experience that each integrated circuit contains a cubic centimeter of Magical Blue Smoke that makes it run, and that the moment this Magic Smoke is released, it stops working.

You-Do-It can’t sell you replacement Magical Blue Smoke, but they’ll sell you a replacement part. In high school I used to make regular You-Do-It runs to buy 74LS ICs by the half-dozen. Whenever a floppy drive at school broke down, it invariably turned out that one of those chips had released its blue smoke.

My ability to fix these 0 drives for about .25 endeared me even further to the school faculty, which was probably not a good thing. I was already getting away with a lot of stuff and it only made me bolder. 🙂

Any part you need, any tool you need, any sort of networking, radio, or power whatsit you need…they have it. On the top floor, they sell all sorts of home, car, portable, and professional A/V toys. In a nutshell, You-Do-It in Needham is in the GPS database of anybody who was likely to own a GPS receiver in 1990.

The Sale (which dates back to the Seventies, I think) is the stuff of legend for two reasons. Way way way before Sears and Best Buy stole the idea for their after-Thanksgiving sales, YDI instituted the idea of the Earlybird Special. You know, certain advertised items that they have only a few copies of, advertised at (ideally) insanely-low prices to bring people in.

The nature of the Specials tends to vary and there are usually five or six different attractions of varying intensity. If you get there late (say, close to 8 AM, when the store opens) you could get a 19" color TV (tube) for a decent but not unbeatable price. One year, the reward for being one of the first two in line was 50% off your entire purchase of any store merchandise, with the total discount maxed at a very sensible 00.

Yes, that year I got to the parking lot at 10:30 PM and was first in line. I beat #2 by just 45 minutes. This is how an impoverished freelancer replaced his busted TV not with a cheap 20" Goldstar, but a 00 Sony bigscreen.

The other attraction is a room full of salvaged merchandise ranging from high-end audio equipment all the way down to bags of resistors and capacitors, all at "please, just take it off our hands" prices. Seriously, shiny audio-video gear that normally sells for 0-00 is stickered at a flat or so. No box, no manual, not even a solid promise that it works. But crimeny, at those prices you can buy two or three and trust to the law of averages.

In addition to civilians, the Sale also attracts a regular army of entrepreneurs and sharps, who swarm through the room to scoop up merchandise that they can fix up and sell online or at flea markets and such. Some of them throw elbows as though their next month’s rent depended on it.

I actually haven’t attended the sale in years…maybe not even at any time in the 21st century. For one thing, unless you get there early enough to be one of the first ten in line (4 AM…though 3 would be better and 1 is optimal) there’s a law of diminishing returns in effect.

Plus, it’s sort of a young man’s game, I realized. After x years of dutiful attendance, I lacked the eye of the tiger. Or at least I lacked the desire to shove a retiree over a stairway railing to get my hands on a laserdisc player (back in the days when, I should say, a Laserdisc player cost 0, and a very neat thing to have).

I seem to remember that in my last year or the year before, I was near the head of the lie of people waiting for the doors to be thrown open and for the race to the Surplus Room to begin, and there were a bunch of people behind me that were so twitchy and sketchy that I chose to step aside and let the pack pass me by. Chalk it up to maturity. Also to the fact that I can now afford to buy my home electronics at prices that don’t require hand-to-hand combat.

YDI still sends me the sale flier every year, and I always examine the earlybird specials with interest. All that it’d take is a 20" LCD TV to get me back in that parking lot. But like every flier in recent years, I didn’t spot anything so dramatic in this year’s ad that I felt particularly motivated to make the trip.

But again, it was 6 AM and I was awake. I knew that I’d be up for another eight hours at least. I was a bit nostalgic for the Sale…and I had a bitchin’ SLR to take pictures with. I imagined that I’d arrive way too late to be anywhere near the head of the line, but I could still come home with some great shots.

And so I closed my eyes, commended my soul to God, and left the sanctity of central heating and cable TV for a dark 15 degree parking lot.

My teenage kid sent me a text message telling me I should take off my shoes. Okay, I’ve done that — so what’s next?
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Note: this photo was published in an Apr 27, 2010 EveryBlock New York City zipcode blog with the title of "10036." It was also published in a Sep 13, 2010 blog titled "Bean Bag Couch For Grown Ups And Kids," and a Sep 18, 2010 blog titled "Bean Bag Sofa, Couch Or Chair-The Cheap Dorm Room Furniture," as well as a Sep 19, 2010 blog titled "Plan Your Parties Inexpensively With Party Rentals." And it was published in a Sep 21, 2010 blog titled "Kids Just Love Amazing Coral Reef Above Ground Pool Liners." It was also published in an undated (Sep 2010) blog titled "Todays Swimming Pools Choices and Options ? Things You Should Know." And it was published in a Sep 26, 2010 blog titled "Buying Wood Furniture – Caveat Emptor," as well as an Oct 1, 2010 blog titled "How To Maintain Your Glass Furniture" and "The Sky is Now the Limit When it Comes to Choices in Fantastic Decorative Above Ground Pool Liners." It was also published in an Oct 30, 2010 Swimming Pool Tips blog, with the same title and detailed notes as what I had written on this Flickr page.

Moving into 2011, the photo was published in a Bringing Fun to You blog , with the same caption that I used here on this Flickr page. Don’t ask me why, but it was also published in an undated (mid-Sep 2011) blog titled "Swimming Pools: The Swimming Pool." Yeah, you read that right — that’s the title of the blog…


Times Square, in case you cared, was not always known as Times Square. Until 1904 it was known as Longacre Square; it got that name because, back in the mid-1800s, it was a center for carriage-making in New York City, and was considered to be similar to a carriage-making district in London known as Long Acre. Later on, it was nicknamed the "Thieves Lair," because of its reputation as a low entertainment district. The first theater on Long Acre Square was built by cigar manufacturer Oscar Hammerstein — and by the 1890s, it was thronged by crowds of restaurant and cafe patrons, and middle- and upper-class theater aficionados. It was the year 1904 when Mayor George G. McClellan yielded to the pressure from New York Times owner and publisher, Adolph Ochs, and renamed the intersection of 42nd Street, Seventh Avenue, and Bloomingdale Road with its current name — Times Square — in honor of the Times Building.

Most visitors and tourists, of course, know nothing about this; nor do they know that the intersection of Broadway and 42nd Street is the eastern terminus of the Lincoln Highway, which was the first road (5,869 miles long) across the United States — covering a total of 14 states, 128 counties, and over 700 cities, towns and villages. Indeed, most New Yorkers don’t know any of this history either, and their eyes would probably glaze over if you explained it all to them. It’s sad, too, because most people think that Times Square is a garish invention of the modern age, and that it sprang into existence with the arrival of … oh, I don’t know … the Beatles.

All that history notwithstanding, Times Square underwent another major transformation back in February 2009, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that traffic lanes along Broadway, between 42nd and 47th Street, would be transformed into pedestrian plazas between Memorial Day and the end of the year. The plaza was originally supplied with inexpensive multicolored plastic lawn chairs … but you won’t see any of those in this Flickr set, because they’ve all been replaced with relatively sturdy metal furniture (though, like the tables and chairs in Bryant Park, none of it is chained or bolted into place; people can move things around to suit their immediate needs). On Feb 11, 2010, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the pedestrian plazas in Times Square would remain permanent; and now there is a similar plan underway to experiment with a pedestrian plaza on 34th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

I was vaguely aware of this development, and I’ve occasionally seen the tables, chairs, and pedestrian plaza while traveling around the city. But it was cold in February, and there really weren’t all that many visitors. Now it’s spring, and it’s warm, and the tourists have begun to arrive. So I took the subway down to Times Square this past weekend, and spent an hour or two wandering around, mostly between 42nd and 47th Street, to see how people were using this newly-transformed part of the city.

Aside from the people hustling theater tickets and guided tours, as well as a preacher or two, I didn’t really see any New Yorkers. Almost everyone was a tourist — either from some other part of the country, or from some other part of the world. I heard a dozen different languages, saw a dozen different fashion styles, and observed a dozen different reactions to the huge signs (known locally as "spectaculars" and "jumbotrons") advertising the products of Coca-Cola, Samsung, and other huge companies. ABC’s Times Square studios are located here, Good Morning America is broadcast from here; and there are more movie theaters and Broadway theaters than most people can cope with during a single visit.

In my case, there was no need to try to see everything or experience everything in one swell foop; I simply thought it would be interesting to capture a cross-section of the visitors to this small part of the city in which I live. Once you’ve seen it all, you can decide for yourself if it’s someplace you want to visit…

so close yet so far out
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The old timers at the Maya Meetings stay
at the Rodeway Inn, within walking distance
from the UT Austin campus. My darlin’
companion and I came to the party late, so
we’ve never managed to snag a room at the
Rodeway — they’re usually all booked up.

I found the Austin Motel online when I was
looking for an alternate place to crash during
the meetings, and I immediately fell in love
with the way the website design appropriated
this crazy phallic neon sign as an ever present
icon that was repeated many times over in
the global navigation (although I think they
may have redesigned the site not too long ago
— but I’m posting by Sidekick and I’m too lazy
to check). It’s a perfect example of design
so bad that it’s good.

The motel continues the bad design theme —
a 1930s motor inn, it’s been redone in true Austin-style
with full size photographic wall friezes
and funky random themes in which pictorial
representations of tropical plants figure

It’s also cheap. Half the price of the Rodeway.
Which pretty much seals the deal.

So it became our hovel of choice when we were
in Austin — or mine, at least. My sweetie found
my taste for this kind of funkiness questionable
at best, but the rate sold him too, so he pretty
much let me do what I wanted to do. (Smart man.)

Only it seems we weren’t the only ones to
fall for the Austin Motel: the last couple of
times I’ve tried for a room around this time of
year it’s been booked up solid with
SXSWesterners, and this last time they
referred us to the Hotel San Jose right
across the alleyway.

The Hotel San Jose is another mid-century
modern do-over — each room is its own little
bungalow, appointed in a way that would make
Dwell Magazine terribly proud. The website
advertises that each room has its own Eames
chair (no foolin’) and the door handles look a
whole lot like the ones Wittgenstein designed
for his sister’s place.

My sweetie’s complaining that the hemp soap
smells like dirt, and the lime green flip-flops
placed for my convenience in the bathroom could
be mine if I didn’t mind shilling out 20 bucks for

I suspect this place is a whole lot hipper than I
know how to be. And it costs just about as much
as the Rodeway. So we’re back to square one.

But the robes are awfully comfy, anyway.

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