I attended my first doll convention in 2008; it was the Tonner Halloween convention in Framingham Massachusetts at the Sheridan that resembles an old medieval castle. I was excited about this for a couple of different reasons. One - it was another excuse to escape reality for a few days and two - I would get to play dress up. I always loved dressing up for Halloween as a child but once I became an adult, and was married to someone who could care less about such things, I didn’t have many opportunities to dress up anymore. I purchased a few different costumes for the weekend-long event. There were different themes each day, which equaled several different looks. My first costume was a “girl with apple on head but knife-thrower missed the apple and knives were stuck in belly/chest”, I’m sure there is a shorter name for that! This was such a cool idea but the costume was really cheap and screamed store-bought compared to everyone else’s amazing handmade creations. My second costume was an old-fashioned lady ghost, this was a fun look and I felt more confident than the night before yet still not as incredible as the majority of elaborate costumes that filled the room. My last costume was Elvira. I went all out for this costume, ordered it online and chose the high-quality version with her signature bouffant wig. I had way too much fun playing Elvira and have several times since then. I couldn’t believe all of the people who came to this event from all over, their love for Robert Tonner and his doll creations and the whole Tonner staff was unmistakable. The creativity of the attendees was also astonishing, from their costumes to their doll art that they entered into the various contests. There was everything from actual dolls and doll displays to doll photography. It entire event was super fun, Robert Tonner, along with his staff, sure did an amazing job of entertaining us all. It truly was one giant family of doll enthusiasts, gathering together to celebrate their common passion. I gave much consideration prior to the event on whether or not to introduce myself to anyone or just stay anonymous; I decided on staying anonymous, I didn’t want everyone to know that I was brodjam on eBay, fearing that it would somehow complicate things. A small handful of people figured me out but for the most part I remained just another Tonner Doll admirer. I took all of my souvenir dolls home and offered them up on eBay, it paid my way to attend the event and put a few extra bucks in my pocket. I was already looking forward to the next convention and was excited about playing around with some doll photography to, perhaps, enter in the competition room.
And now that I am back on track with the timeline of my story, let’s pick up where I left off with Installment #24.
My trip to Italy was fabulous; aside from a couple of cruises to the Caribbean, it was my first time being outside of the United States. I had to put a rush on applying for a passport (my very first) in order to be guaranteed that I would receive it in time, which I did. I purchased a book on learning to speak Italian and studied all of the basics. I thought I was doing really well and looked forward to using this new language when I arrived in Italy. Unfortunately once I was face to face with the opportunity to put this new skill into use all I could muster up was mediocre versions of hello, goodbye, and thank you; and those came out with a slight southern twang. Luckily most people spoke English; I find it interesting that many countries teach English as a second language but in America, the melting pot for so many different cultures, it is only an elective. I visited Venice, Milan, Florence, Pisa, and mini small towns in between. It was the adventure of my lifetime thus far and as I marveled at the architecture and people-watched, it was hard to believe it was me who was really there experiencing it all. I returned from my Italian adventure bitten by the travel bug. I had always loved to travel but this was a game changer...I wanted more and I wanted more NOW. Traveling to various locations within the United States for the numerous weddings that I either attended or was a part of would have to do until I had another opportunity to travel out of the country. I returned from one of the wedding trips to find my apartment door ajar. I freaked out, ran inside and started calling Henry’s name. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I went outside and looked around, but I just didn’t know what to do, I had no idea how long my door had been that way. I reached out to my friend’s sister who had stayed with him while I was gone but didn’t get an answer. I went back into my apartment, distraught and panicking, I went into my bedroom and looked around some more. I was looking under the bed and all around the room but was looking too low, once I looked “up” I spotted him tucked inside of my closet on top of a stack of storage bins holding seasonal clothes. I could see his little eyes peering out at me wondering if it was safe to come out of his hiding spot. Relief washed over me as I grabbed him and held him as tight as I could, crying and thanking the Universe that he was not lost. Time to find a new Cat Sitter!
After a year of selling dolls full-time, attending a Tonner Doll factory sale, and gaining a new client, I took a good, hard look at my eBay income for the last several months and realized that I was making a living wage selling all of these stunning dolls on eBay. Could I really survive on dolls alone? I felt confident that I could and so I hung up my job-seeking hat and settled into my new entrepreneur shoes; and they felt really comfortable, like a well-worn pair of walking shoes that you trust to get you through the day. With the passing of my mom, an aunt, five weddings all over the country, and a trip to Italy, this new “career”, with lots of flexibility, couldn’t have come at a better time. 2008 was a heartbreaking, challenging and busy year, I don’t think I said “no” to any opportunity to get out of town and escape reality for a brief period of time. When I was at home I would keep myself busy with a multitude of friends. I created a lifestyle scenario where I didn’t have time to think about the loss of my mother and how different it was really going to be not having her around anymore. The “Lost Soles of the Highway” project had, at some point along the way, been put on the back burner. I reached my goal of finding 50-75 lost shoes on the sides of many roads and did some research on how to get a book published. I had to write a “query letter”…a query letter? Finding examples of such online back them wasn’t as easy as it probably is today. I drafted a couple of said letters but fear set in and I pushed it all aside, this was out of my comfort zone and I certainly didn’t want rejection from this passion project that had played a significant role in my coming to be a self-assured, independent woman. I held onto hope that the Universe, just as it had provided me with rainbows, would also provide me with someone who could guide me through this very unfamiliar and uncharted territory. I stopped carrying my camera with me in the car and eventually that fear of getting out of the car to take photos of the shoes, that fear that I worked so hard to overcome, crept back into my life. And I let it win. I would continue to spot shoes on the sides of roads and yell out “SHOE”, but I would keep on driving; the thoughts of pulling over and getting out there for everyone passing by to stare at took back its control over me and I would only stop on the occasion that there was absolutely no one around or if it were super convenient. I had no desire to ditch the project; I was bound and determined to do “something” with it…one day.
We interrupt this week’s installment to bring you another recipe!
If you haven’t guessed by now, these interruptions are fill-ins for when I have writer’s block.
Everyone LOVES my guacamole!!! But I have come up with a super easy way to make guacamole that doesn’t involve a lot of kitchen time. I will warn you, it’ll go fast so you might want to double/triple/quadruple the recipe; depending on how many people you’re serving. Just the other night I doubled the recipe to feed 3 people and there was not one bite left! Now, a couple of things that are VERY important…the salsa you use MUST be “Fresh Salsa” from the produce section of your grocery store, you CANNOT use salsa from a jar or any salsa that has a tomato sauce/paste base. The “Fresh Salsa” looks like chopped up tomatoes, onions and peppers with just a little bit of clear-ish juice floating around in there. I have added photos to this week’s blog post if you want to clarify what this kind of salsa looks like. I use the “Hot” version to give my guacamole a nice kick, it’s not TOO hot but if you aren’t a fan of any kind of heat then feel free to go with the mild or medium. The lime juice, I use the stuff from the plastic lime but real lime juice works, too.
Here’s what you need…
I was nearing the bottom of the factory sale bargain barrel when my co-worker friend, who I was originally selling the dolls for, shared with me that they had a friend who was interested in having me sell dolls for them, too. They made a phone call and before I knew it I was making a trip to pick up more dolls from a new client (to protect my client’s privacy I will refer to them as Client #2). After a long drive I arrived at their house and was astounded by their doll rooms, yes I said “rooms” plural. The displays were meticulous and everything was arranged with careful thought and intention. The upstairs was devoted entirely to dolls, two rooms filled to the brim with floor to ceiling shelves displaying layers of fashion dolls from the mass produced to limited editions to one-of-a-kinds and everything in between. Downstairs in the family room was a built-in shelving system that housed the entertainment system along with multiple shelves that displayed more dolls, their favorites I imagined. There were coveted dolls scattered about in the living room and bedroom as well. I whipped out my trusty Canon camera and started shooting, I couldn’t help myself, there were so many fascinating dolls and groupings that needed to be captured (back then I was very much into photography and loved to “play around” with my camera; these days I find myself a bit jaded by the advancement of technology and the “camera” every human being has connected to their hip). I had so much fun positioning and photographing all of the wonderful creations, for a brief moment I felt like a famous photographer shooting his models for the next edition of the cover of Glamour magazine. The collection was made up of, what I would guess to be, about 90% Tonner dolls: Tyler and all of her friends, Matt and all of his friends, Marley, Ellowyne and all of her friends…the list went on and on. I believe Client #2 owned at least one of everything that was ever produced by the Tonner Doll Company along with some dolls that I laid eyes on for the very first time. My photography ended up being mostly out of focus and disappointing, I looked forward to making another trip back to pick up more dolls so that I could try my hand again at capturing the collection in all of its whimsical glory. We boxed up a carload of dolls that they no longer desired and on my way back home I went, excited and grateful that I would have stable income for the next few months.
Photos from Client #2's collection
In December 2007 I attended my very first Tonner Doll Company factory sale. It was held at the John A Coleman Catholic High School across the street from Tonner‘s offices on Hurley Avenue in Kingston, New York. I was informed that I should arrive early as people start camping out the night before. I found this so hard to believe but nonetheless I arrived bright and early that cold winter morning with three close friends; we were each willing to invest a few hundred dollars in whatever goodies we could grab and afterwards I would do all the work listing the items for sale on eBay and take a percentage. It felt like a great win-win for everyone involved; they had no knowledge or experience with dolls whatsoever, just very good friends who were willing to go along with my hair-brained plan to keep a steady income streaming in while I searched for a “real” job. The night before we all congregated in the living room of one friend as I schooled them on what kinds of dolls and doll items to keep their eyes out for, even though I had NO idea what would be offered or what I would even be looking for. I showed them photos from the Tonner website and they diligently took notes to prepare themselves for the early morning insanity. As we waited in line, in the chilly high school hallway outside of the gymnasium doors, we sized up our competition and listened in on conversations about previous year’s factory sales. When the doors finally opened we moved swiftly into the gymnasium with the rest of the bargain shoppers, single-file, one by one; luckily we weren’t too far back in line and got a decent opportunity at some top-notch items. Let me tell you, that factory sale was crazy; I’d never seen anything like it! When I was told that it was comparable to a wedding dress sample sale, with people grabbing and kicking…they weren’t kidding. There was no time to think, you just had to get in there and you had to grab whatever you could get your hands on and stuff it all into the giant, lawn & leaf garbage bag that the Tonner staff provided you while you were waiting in line for the doors to open. If you got out alive and without injury you were considered lucky; ok, I just made that up for affect but it certainly does paint a very vivid picture of what a madhouse that factory sale truly was. Most people rushed in like they were on a mission to snag that last loaf of bread on the shelf before a winter storm hits. They filled their giant black bags with everything the could get their hands on, then they would go over into a corner and sort through everything, setting aside the items that they really wanted into one pile and those they decided against into another. This eventually led to Tonner having to change the rules about how their factory sales would run and operate. My three friends and I came home with lots of goodies and over the next few months I filtered them into my eBay store and we all made a decent profit. To heck with old records, model cars, and humungous artwork…more dolls is what I needed to find!