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Decal & Life Update #006

Alright, time for an elaborate update. First of all, if you’ve come here via the small info box over on the decals page; thank you for your interest, and thank you for dropping by and I am sincerely sorry for having to disappoint you if it happens to be something I don’t, or Joe Morgan of the Ray’s Kits North America Facebook page happen to have in stock. I’ll try and be brief and have a more elaborate explanation of the situation underneath. The long and short of it is, I’m stopping with the print-on-demand for a few months, picking up again at the end of March. There’s still a good 350 sets I got on hand, ready to ship out within a day or two. The rest? Unfortunately, I won’t be getting around to any of it until March 31st, 2023. The reason why? Well, as many of those reading this know; my girlfriend Vicky passed away on November 16th, 2022. She was the better half of this little decal shop, handling orders, customer contact and honestly everything else besides designing and printing the things. Since her falling ill in September and her slow but steady road to recovery, I’ve been trying to run it all by myself but often Vicky would help out again. And truthfully, until November, it looked like she’d be making a miracle recovery and was actually saying every single day how she was looking forward to going back at it 100%.

Well… Yeah, that unfortunately didn’t come to happen. Allow me to make the coming gargantuan wall of text a little easier to navigate for those who are looking for more specific information, though. I can understand that reading this could be a bore or just too much damn information when all you want is some heads up on your order or when I’ll be doing all the funny business again. Vicky’s always said that the only way to achieve any semblance of people appreciating you is to remain open, to have a line of communication no matter how bad the situation may be. Transparency beats all. I’m also looking forward to finally getting a long, long overdue November order and December order delivered anywhere between now and a week or two so I can get the peace of mind that I’m not keeping folk hanging on any longer than they have to.

What’s Going On?

So that being said I thought I’d use this as a means of explaining the current situation. Frankly, since the last post… I’m fucked up beyond recognition. They warned me it was going to get worse when life would begin to continue for others, but man it was a understatement. It’s been 47 days since I sat on the floor with her laying next to me for two hours in the cold before the coroner was able to pick her up, and I’m not going to deny it; it’s caused some good ol’ trauma. It’s traumatic to have someone who’s your all and everything die by itself of course, but to be there, watch her go from “I’m kinda feeling wrong” at a quarter to four in the morning, to calmly asking me to call the emergency number while I am blowing a gasket in utter fear and freaking out with the phone in hand, to literally five and a half minutes later where they drag me ahead of the emergency personnel and allow me to be the last one to hold her as she passes on in my arms. I’m seeing a therapist as of Christmas, bi-weekly and it’s working a treat. Lady reckons I’m dealing with PTSD, re-living the night that it happened all too frequently. In short, I jettison my ass out of bed, adrenaline raging, fully prepared to be on-fucking-time and getting her the life saving help she needs. Then I’d snap out of it, but the adrenaline is still giving me a boost so unreal that I can’t even remotely find a shred a sleep for the rest of the night.

So for close to a month and a half I’ve been either completely sleep deprived or trapped in some kind of lie where I sit on the couch, talking to the girl all by myself in a desperate attempt to trick my sanity into believing it’s all right and nothing awful has happened. She’s alive, day to day still happening, nothing out of the ordinary. Of course, it’s a lie, it’s a means of giving my brain a breather to not be upset, sad or just downright depressed every hour of every day. I work half days now, and as I get back in the bustle of it, I just zone out and relive that fucking night from the very moment she woke me up. But to quit the sad-spouting for a moment, I’m riding through the period at the moment where my family who is superb, loving and just the best folk I could ever ask for, are moving on themselves. They got kids, they got folks, they got work and life to deal with and honestly I don’t fault them. It’s a self-destructive cycle, that in my mind I have to fight the notion of not calling them up, not asking them for help cause I for some reason think I’m a sad sack nuisance who’s still living every day as if it were November 16th, while they’re in the present having trucked on as they should. Every discussion, every mention, every story I involve Vicky’s name, her likes, her wants and whatnot. They don’t mind, they love the fact I share and look to others for help as in any other circumstance I’d do everything in my might to fix it myself, but in my depressed-ass mind I just feel like I’m dragging them down with me back to sadness-ville. I’m also eschewing any contact with friends, reneging on hanging out or just going out for a beer, instead choosing to sit in my jammies on the couch and turning into a human puddle.

Hence the therapy, that notion needs be ironed out of my wad of thoughts. Part of it is exhaustion, part of it is depression and despite it all, knowing what I’ve lost and how aimless I’ve become, I’m thankful to the high heavens that I’ve spend a third of my life with the best woman I’d ever had the pleasure of knowing and loving. Yeah I wanted to end up sitting in a rocking chair on the porch with her fifty years from now, looking like human raisins and the thought of not having that is giving my soul a righteous acid bath, but the silver lining is that I’ve got to experience her love. Glass half full, eh.

The gist of it though, is that the woman I love is dead and everything is worse now. That’s as succinct a summary I can give it. I’ve functioned like a car wreck since that moment, trying to speed away from a hit-n’-run, mangled and destroyed but pushing on. It’s taken me far, far too long that this isn’t healthy for me nor anyone who interacts with me. The whole reason I’m writing this is to shed some light on me, the situation but mostly to explain as to why everything is such a total shit-show. I’m hardly functioning, the white screen of my own website gives me a migraine on account of the exhaustion and every single day that I sit down and get ready to type out emails, I either doze off or just sink into a misery pit of sadness and end up weeping again for a solid three hours. It’s unfair to anyone who spent a dime on me and the decals I create that I’m half-assing the whole process, and while I do everything in my power to ensure the product I ship is flawless and its fortunately the printers who carry 85% of that burden, I’m the one screwing up on customer contact, making sure the right requests make it to the print and even something as simple as shipping the right decals out to the right person.

The last week I’ve been straying further from getting back to emails in a timely manner, packing packages as soon as I get an order through and now it turns out that I’ve shipped the wrong products more than once to the wrong customer. Custom requests that I either bungle or ship to the wrong customer, That’s a slippery slope, and completely unhinged on my part; you beautiful people pay for a product, you deserve good communication and a product you’re more than pleased with. Nothing less counts, end of story. And that’s why I’m taking a three month break, use a chunk of that time to get my grief and utter despair worked on and then settle on getting all of the decals I’ve wanted to design actually done. It’s my favorite part, I’m a designer! Thanks to Vicky I was able of upping my detail from just the exterior packages with some bonus decals to complete packages that leave no nook unexplored. And thanks to Joe Morgan, they began reaching a far bigger audience and allowed me to spend even more time on the design process as more orders became domestic rather than international. So we grew massively, the inventory grew just as quickly and to a degree it was very manageable.

The issue we ran into the whole damn time was the printing company in the UK either lagging behind on orders or having full blown equipment failures that compounded a two week turnover into a two month one. Their troubles began right around the same time that Vicky had her stroke, it made me inherit the whole household for a month while she recovered and on top of that the whole decal business. Slowly she began clawing her way back into doing some work, it made her feel like the person she was before becoming bed-ridden thanks to that damn stroke and it seemed to help her get back on the proverbial horse even quicker. Now we’ve had four consecutive months where either the prints were delayed by low inventory at the printers or breakdowns, and frankly I’m looking forward this month proving that their woes are solved. Vicky and I strove to get every person their decals in a timely manner, in a proper box and not some dingy padded envelope, all for that beautiful dopamine hit from that email we get from nearly half of of you that goes “holy crap they’re great, thanks!”. Literal fist-pumps, brother, your happiness is our happiness. And while those dopamine hits still come in plenty, me having to constantly disappoint people with the “Yeah sorry, they’re still being printed, hopefully soon”.

There is a bright side, a little point of light. They’re experimenting with a new series of printers, one that has a far greater and sharper color range and a far higher print resolution, so the quality’s bound to kick up in the coming months.

In Regards to the November and December Prints

That leads me into the next section; why in the world is a order placed on November 9th still being produced on January 2nd? The short answer is; backlog due to breakdowns. I’ve had lots of inquiries but obviously not everyone’s aware why their decals are taking close to 70 days to be friggin’ made. The UK printers have been dealing with printer problems all through August, September, October and early November. They didn’t cease taking new orders in the meantime and when their printer spectacularly failed on them, it set them back three and a half weeks with nothing. They had to replace and import a whole new unit, and when it finally got there, the ALPS(the metallic printer, basically) gave the ghost and needed rare-as-balls parts from Japan, adding even more of a delay. Is this lousy business? Hell yeah, but I’m not going to bite the hand that feeds me any harder than is necessary. They’ve been up and running again for a month, working a three month backlog away that unfortunately includes two of my print runs. Large ones, and honestly I wish I could shed any more light on the process other than “stuff’s screwed and they’re determined to un-screw it by early January”, I really do. It’s damn well shameful that its taking two months to see some prints, no matter how slow an ALPS printer goes at it or how many things end up breaking.

And truthfully, I’m so sorry that this is the status quo these last few months. To everyone, and Joe Morgan who constantly sits around idle as much waiting for a resupply, I’m so sorry. I suppose one silver lining to taking this break is that by the time I begin placing my own orders again(the Rays Kits Decals North America supplying will continue, worry not!) the backlog will be long gone and it ought to go back to normal at Goddamn last. I was in contact with the printing company a week or so ago just before Christmas, asking for a rough ETA on the November order and if the December one that I placed on the 26th would be done at the same time or later down the line. While not fully committing to a date, they reckoned that the week of the 6th was going to be when they would ship it out at last, though there’s a chance it might drop into the second week. I’m looking forward to it, finally being able to inform the folks that their decals are at-long-last underway.

The lack of clear communication, the behemoth of a wait and the situation as a whole; I am so damn sorry. I’m thanking the Gods and all of you for the significant tolerance and patience that I keep being reassured with that you people grant me, it’s amazing. But please let it be clear that this shouldn’t be necessary and that I’m doing all I can to ensure that this kind of stuff never has to happen again. A three week average on shipping is long enough, no-one should have to wait several months on top of that just to know their order is in the pipeline.

Joe Morgan of Rays Kits Decals North America

Name-droppin’, booya! I’ve been referring to this guy for months now and plenty of folks are well aware of this Wisconsin-based legend by now. As far as it goes now, especially since the loss of Vicky, he’s allowing me to do the exact same thing that Vicky allowed me all those months. He’s been at it for a year and a half just about now and honestly does an even better job of showcasing these decals than I could ever have asked for. Not to mention, he’s doing it because he likes it, not even ’cause I’m asking him to. Go figure, he’s that into ’em. There’s no better guy to work with, and he’s a pro at it to boot. The issues with the printers have been causing him to grow low in stock time and time again but with the printers looking to finally be catching up to their backlog any day now and with me taking a break from the hustle and bustle allows me to get extra effort into new designs means he ought to be stocked to burst every month from now on as it should.

The only service that is temporarily dropping is me customizing/changing sets on the fly, they’d be mostly as they are with color variations being the only significant difference. And honestly, I do apologize for dropping out myself for three months plus but at the very least the decals will still remain available and steadily so. The work of preparing, quality checking, packing and shipping a mountain of decals to a single source is way less time consuming than doing fifty odd packages a month all by myself. I’m going to work on means of solving that in the meantime, but mostly to get a peace of mind and see it through that Joe will be able to make y’all happy with a plethora of new, freshly printed designs ready and able to be shipped at a moment’s notice from Wisconsin. Whatever he may not have, have a gander here as I’ll be working on making sure the stock is updated accordingly(some plug-ins futzed the stock count on a lot of products, feel free to ask if happen to have any that show as “on backorder” or “out of stock”) but know that he should have most if not all the more popular sets at any given time from when the big-ol’ 200+ decal order heads to the States hopefully very soon from now. And again, the aim and goal are to keep this up every month, for as long as we can maintain it.

Feel free to show him support through likes and comments, I hang around as much as I possibly can and answer questions that Joe hasn’t or can’t answer himself. He deserves all the love that can be given, he’s practically carrying me on his shoulders now that I’m so damn down and out. Truly, a hell of a guy. If I weren’t 4100 miles away I’d have bought him enough beers to qualify us both as raging alcoholics. He’s also the wonderful soul who’ll be representing us at various conventions in the coming months, so if you ever spot him at a booth, surrounded by a maze of decal sheets – give the man a handshake and a high five!

So while I’m recuperating and generally coming to terms with my life being drastically altered for the worse, he’s carrying the big ol’ torch and he’s doing it like a champ. If you ever read this section Joe, thank you for tolerating my slow-as-balls responses to emails and seriously, when I inevitably end up in the States; I’m bringing the finest, highest quality Belgian and Dutch beers, man.

What’s to Come?

Well, in short? That “coming soon” page that has been sat idle for a quarter of a year, since Vicky’s stroke. That is still what I am to complete first and foremost. The 1/8th scale Firebird sets are a high, high priority, as are the 1/16th MPC counterparts. They’re a hell of a lot of work but they need to be done, after all the promises that were made. Life threw enough curveballs to permanently adjust the course of the celestial bodies by this damn point but that’s the very next one I want to see done. As you’ll see below, the regular 1/8th set is already done and ready to purchase through Joe Morgan within a month’s time. The second in line is the ’80 Camaro Rally Sport, one that I was primed to work on just when Vicky’s stroke happened. Based on popularity and requests, the set that is bound to follow immediately after is a Ford engine bay package akin to the GM one I did, spanning all Ford marquees and possibly one for AMC down the line as well. But other than the Firebird, they may not see the light of day in January, I just can’t make any legitimate promises in that regard. I just need to chill out for a bit, unwind and untether myself. If I get in the mood, then abso-effin’-lutely, but otherwise, it’ll be a bit of a fluid timeline.

And honestly, I am sorry for the uncertainty that it’ll bring. Fortunately, there’s close to six hundred decal sets to choose from for the time being, but when I get in a better headspace it’ll grow further and bigger, that I assure you. Hell, speaking of uncertainty, if things take a turn for the better, that March 31st date may shrink down too. Who knows, honestly? I’m looking forward to healing, to be able to think of Vicky or look at a photograph of that beautiful lady without sagging through my knees. Life’s shitty, but I’m aching to get to see the bright side again. Even if it comes with that damn Eric Idle song.

What’s New in Regards to Decals

Despite it all, I’ve actually achieved the finishing of at least two sets. I know, unbelievable. Well, I’m cheating; one was mostly done already but needed finishing touches and the second is more or less a very advanced compilation of things I had already worked out to begin with. First is the ever-popular Firebird in the 1/8th scale.

As you can see, it’s not just a supplement to the Revell kit. It’s meant to enhance the kit as it stands, with more accurate representations of the various kit decals like the period accurate Delco batteries for all three model years, the turbo and non-turbo fan decals, the 4.3L and 6.6L emission stickers, more period accurate shock, starter and hose decals. And of course, the main attraction is the fact that the bird is the right colors. But to me it also matters that the damn license plate is actually a real one and not some Arial-font based one. Other additions are gas-panel emblems, fuel stickers, different types of door handle decals, more accurate versions of the engine bay decals, fully upgraded and font-accurate versions of all the dashboard buttons and a very important piece, at least to me; the one piece dash. By God the instructions make it a nightmare to place them, and they’re also too small and frankly the wrong shade. They’re too bright, but ah well. Also, a set of Uniroyal tire decals as a spare option to the default Goodyear Eagle GT tires. The kit has raised-letter Eagle GT’s, with the specific instruction to fill them in the paint-guide though the outline’s defined enough to be easily painted. Thought, for folk like me, having a means to step outside the kit boundaries and scrape the letters off with an alternative on hand; it’s neato!

Second is the GM engine bay decals. It’s been one of the most requested things aside from the MOPAR ones and I got two sets of those these days. Essentially, the set carries all the underhood decals from Chevrolet, Pontiac, Cadillac, Buick and Holden and some of the more esoteric varieties of some like the Canadian only Pontiac 350 and 450HO, the Toronado-only air cleaner, the Camaro Z28 only 5.7 litre one, so forth. It has enough to detail a fair few engine bays over the foreseeable future for those who buy it. From what I gather, I can’t get enough of these printed so… Yeah that Ford and AMC set is coming soon, I promise.

Some of the other new things is, well, a bit of an unusual one. One night, at four in the morning, I was too damn sad to sleep but too worked up to do anything really productive. So, what did I end up doing? Well, I got forty one new tire decals made. Grief is a weird fuckin’ drug, people. Eleven of them are on the website already but soon I’ll be revamping the white letter tire decal page and refresh it, make it easier to navigate and such. Also, a bunch of these sets are also the color type; neat, eh?

Goodyear Eagle NASCARGoodyear Eagle NASCAR #1Goodyear(Single, Type B)Goodyear Wrangler TD
Goodyear Polyglas GT E60-15Goodyear Wide Thread GTGoodyear Eagle STGoodyear Eagle ST(Vintage)
Sumitomo Cyclone Radial GTFormula 1 Super StockMach Seventy RadialBF Goodrich Belted T/A 50
BF Goodrich Belted T/A 60BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KDR2BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KDR2(Older Type)BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KDR2(Outline)
BF Goodrich Baja T/ABF Goodrich Baja T/A KDR2BF Goodrich Baja T/A KDR2(Older Type)BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KDR
BF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/ABF Goodrich Trail-Terrain T/ACooper Destination SRXDaytona Radial RLT
Dunlop Grandtrek 3GDunlop Grandtrek ATDunlop Grandtrek AT3Dunlop Grandtrek AT3G
Firestone DestinationFirestone Destination A/T2General Grabber A/T(Vintage)General Grabber X3
Goodride Radial M/TKelly Edge ATMickey Thompson Baja BeltedPathfinder All Terrain
Uniroyal Rallye GTUniroyal Rallye GTSUniroyal Tiger Paw 60Uniroyal Tiger Paw 60 SS
Windforce Catchfors A/T II

Like I said, grief’s weird. And I do have a weird affinity to getting the widest, fattest catalog of tire decals I can possibly do. There’s like fifty years of rare, one of a kind raised letter tires out there and slowly but surely I’m working my way through digitalizing them all and getting them all in scale.

What Remains?

Like I said. I’m fucked up, I’m a shell of a man riddled with trauma. And yeah, I’m all too aware of the horrors seen around the world and I know the old proverb of “it could be worse”, but I’m acutely aware of that being meaningless in the small scale. Every person carries a weight, a mark on their soul of some degree and mine went from a pinhole to a twelve gauge blast in a single night. I’m just so damn thankful for my family, for the people who continuesly send me the nice messages, the emails, the comments and I’m especially thankful for those who look at this utter mess or sit with a month a half of waiting for a set of decals, so… Thank you, for sticking by me, for sticking by Joe Morgan and for keeping Vicky’s memory alive.

Thanks, all of you. I’m sorry I haven’t gotten in touch with everyone that reached out, let it be known that despite me being a wretch and not answering every one personally, I read and cherish every damn word.

Until soon.

5 comments

  1. Neal, I am really glad that I read this entire message. Thank you for taking the time to express yourself so effectively. Thank you for all your kind words. I have your back, and I am honored to help carry the load until you are better able!

  2. May God bless and watch over you in your time of sadness. He will help heal your soul, just trust and believe in His Love for you. Allow yourself to do a “Trust Fall” into His arms and He will carry you through to better times.

  3. Neal, You can allow yourself to feel the way do. Just take it one day at a time. If it helps, you and Vicky gave me some real joy by producing the excellent ’75 & ’76 pace car decals that proudly adorn my permanent collection.

  4. Hey man….just read this and feeling like a jerk e mailing asking about an order. You just worry about getting better.

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