Monday, July 25, 2016

A Not-So-Happy Beginning to a Well-Deserved Retirement . . .

Many of you are aware that William “Picasso” Gaglione (along with his Faithful Sidekick, Fred) and Darling Darlene Domel, the King and Queen of Stampland, decided at the beginning of the year that they were going to retire after the Grapevine, Texas show in mid-July.  Through word of mouth, signs in their booth, and such, the message was spread.

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If you enjoy sitting in your crafting room and making cards and artwork using rubber stamps, these two delightful folks are the roots of the stamping family tree – if you missed it, click on this link and you’ll go to a blog piece I wrote three years ago where you’ll find links to the path they took.

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Over the 20 years that we have been on the show circuit, I have simply come to love them – so much so that when “Picasso Masks” were created for a performance art piece last year, I simply had to have one.  I am staring at it on my wall as I type this.

Darlene and I live to tease each other – without fail, our greeting to each other on setup day at a show is some version of “Oh Gawd – not again!”  For months I have begged her to make my fondest wish come true and retire early (some of you will take this seriously – Darlene won’t – this is sarcasm, folks).

We have had conversations about where they were going to settle – I knew they were leaving Chicago, but they have always been “city folk”.  For a while, they were moving to Panama – then their thoughts turned to Georgia or Tennessee, and they finally decided on Knoxville.  Knowing that, I put a shelf life of three months on their retirement – assuming they would miss us (and you) so much that they would rejoin us at the show in Sevierville the third weekend in October.

We parted company after we tore down our booths at the end of the Collinsville, Illinois show on July 10 – with plans for a Gala Farewell Weekend in Grapevine.  Some customer friends were planning a cookout and there was to be a cake during the show.

Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I stopped for the night in Memphis three days later and found the following e-mail on my phone . . .

“Looks like we will be missing our own going away party...
the head gasket on our van blew up...anyway...the car is pretty much dead...
or just sick and tired of moving after 215,000 miles
not worth the very very costly repair it would require
and we cannot find any vans to rent this week in southern Illinois...

we are putting stuff into storage 
until we can find a new vehicle...
make a new plan
not sure how we will work that out yet

but we are not getting to Dallas area at all in the near future
so so sad!

send good thoughts our way...

Darlene and Picasso”

I went on to Texas the next day, certain that they would somehow find a way to get there.  But to the disappointment of many, it didn’t happen.

Darlene is a writer as well as an artist – I think that sometimes putting her thoughts on paper is her way of thinking.  I got a long e-mail from her the day after the Grapevine show explaining their saga – she has shared this narrative with a number of people so I will also share it here (if you don’t want to read through it, please scroll to the bottom of the post) . . .

“as you know, I came to realization that I just could not do any more shows, the driving was just getting to be too much. Since our lease was up at the end of July we felt it was a good time to end our traveling and relocate to a warmer climate.  That was something we had been considering for a while.  Our last shows would be Collinsville  Illinois and then Grapevine Texas.  Then off to Knoxville Tn. to find a new place to live.  That was the plan.

We had an airbnb in Collinsville...and stayed over on Monday so I could have a chance to see my sister who was visiting her husband's family in Springfield.  Also  had a chance to do laundry and relax for the rest of the day since the previous 6 weeks had been pretty frantic...packing up our lives, having an estate sale to sell off most of our belongings, arranging with a moving company to pack up the remainder of our goods and put it in all in storage until early August, clear out the leftovers, clean the house and hand over the keys to the landlord.

We were staying in Belleville Il, just a bit south of Collinsville and stopped for a late lunch in town on Tuesday.

When we went back out to the car, where we had parked in the lot, I turned the key and this very odd growl noise was the result....a sound unlike any I had ever heard which point a man in a plaid shirt and jeans came over and said, "Lady, you have a real big oil spill under your car.   You should take a look under the hood."  I agreed and he and I opened the hood.  He pointed out the dark oil stains on the hood insulation and the leak under the van.  "You had better call a tow to the nearest mechanic."   These are the words you NEVER want to hear.  But worse was to come.

Called AAA and waited in total anxiety. 

The tow driver was very nice but seemed to agree with the plaid man.  We went to a local garage.

The mechanic there made some very growly kind of sounds as he poked around under the hood.  "Do you have a regular mechanic?   Did he ever mention that your head gasket was leaking?"   I answered in the affirmative.  I also said that my mechanic felt it was nothing we had to worry about for awhile.  He said, "I think your time is up.  There are more than 215,00 miles on this van and that is more than I have ever seen on one of these.  You have to rebuild  with this kind of problem and I don't think it will be worth it, since the value of your van is probably not even twice what it would cost to do the repairs.  You should contact your insurance company."   We did.

The mechanic and the insurance people talked on the phone awhile and then they talked to me.  An adjuster would be out to see the van soon. 

Progressive is really a good company and we only had to wait about an hour until the man showed up with his ipad and his checklist.  He agreed with the mechanic.  He said that now we had to talk to the finance company and have it declared a loss.

This turned out to be the sticky part.

The agent from the insurance and the person from finance had differing views.  Apparently based on some sort of percentages the repair would still leave several thousands of value in the van.   Very few several, but enough to warrant repairs.  The mechanic felt this was stupidity in the extreme as did the insurance man.  They felt that the repair of the head gasket would be severely detrimental to the value.

I decided to consult another expert, my nephew who owns a lot of car dealerships in Chicago.

After a round robin of conversations with the mechanic and the insurance agent my nephew agreed that we should just call it a loss.  The finance company could argue but without further payments they would have to take the car back.  The problem would be the reprocess on my record.  He could help me with that.

So the final result was a very heated conversation with the finance people, a tow out of the mechanic's lot to a lot outside town and a ride with the tow man to the nearest Super 8 along with a few pieces of our luggage.

At the hotel we tried to find a van to rent.  There was nothing available, not even in St Louis, until after the weekend.

Now we had no car, a van full of our stock and personal effects sitting in an unattended space.  Not an optimal situation. We had the van packed with a month's worth of clothes and things we would need after the show to hold us over until we could find a place to live in Tennessee.  The plan being to do the Grapevine show, visit my niece and her family and head out to find a new home. Now here we were in a hotel without any transportation at all.

We finally found a rental company that would pick us up and a storage space with a reasonable rate and then made about 6 trips back and forth with the stock and put the boxes into storage along with any unnecessary critical items. The bare essentials we packed into the car and headed back to Chicago.

We returned the car to the rental company and took a cab over to my nephews offices.  He gave us a car to use for a few days and started looking for a cheap, safe, fuel efficient car for us.  We checked into a hotel and fell asleep for what seemed like two days.   The stress levels dropped considerably.

He found us a Kia Soul, a boxy compact, 2012 with only 90,030 miles.  It is an odd mossy green color, so we call it Froggy.  It ranks 3rd in safety on the road and gets good gas mileage.  We worked out very good terms.

We set off for Tennessee yesterday with a stopover in Kentucky last night.  We will be in Tennessee today and can start searching for a new place to rent to call home and a place we can set up the shop again and make stamps and open up the website. We ended up paying out a lot of the $$ we saved for our move, the moving company costs, the first and last deposit on a house on hotels and car rental and the storage costs and car payments.  We will still have to make a trip back to Collinsville to get our stamp show inventory out of storage. 

But we have had some very helpful angels come to our aid along the way and we have faith that this will be a good move in the end.  Challenging situations seem to be the ones that increase our level of gratitude, however taxing on the nerves while it is going on.”

For people who have been self-employed most of their lives, the leap into retirement can be really scary – even more so when a blown head gasket takes away the income from their last show and requires the purchase of a replacement vehicle.

We are hoping that space will become available (the show is currently full) so they can do that “last show” in Sevierville in October – if it doesn’t, I have offered Darlene a demo table in our booth and we will make space for them with us.

Another friend of theirs has started a GoFundMe Campaign for those who would like to send a tangible thank you to two really nice people who have shared so much talent and love with us over the years.  If you would like to be part of that, you can click on this link and go there.


  1. Hey Greg, I would like to know if they will be in Sevierville, please. I can drive there easily from Ga. Not so much to Grapevine, Texas. It would be great to see them one last time.

    1. Make your plans ... one way or another, they will be in Sevierville, either in their own booth or as part of the Marco's booth. October 15-16 at the Sevierville Convention Center.