Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Yankee's Guide to Chicago

Chris Hendricks, an Active Rain blogger friend of mine from Cali, is coming to Chicago to watch his beloved Giants take a few swings at our hapless Northsiders. I just looked up the word 'hapless' in my synonym dictionary to be certain I was using the correct adjective and sure enough, directly below the definitions: unlucky, unfortunate and woebegone...was a copy of the 2007 Chicago Cubs schedule. To me this posed yet another question: If 'hap-less' means unlucky, unfortunate, and woebegone...what does 'hap' mean? I looked it up too. And yes, it's a word as well. Definition: one's luck or lot. Funny, eighteen years of Liberal Arts education and I never heard of it. And, if the Cubs weren't already a half dozen games below .500, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

Anyway, Chris and his wife are coming to Chicago and requested an insider's list of 'non-touristy' things to do while in town. I was thinking as a joke I might arrange a tour of the stockyards (or what's left of them) followed by a trip to the basement of the Sears Tower (think about it...nobody pushes the Down button in that elevator) then maybe a quick dip in the Chicago River after dinner at Charlie Trotter's (average dinner for two---$600. With wine, an easy grand, out the door---but a swim in the only river in the Midwest that flows in opposite directions---priceless,). Like I mentioned, Chris is a blogger friend of mine. I've never really met him in person. Please don't call Dateline.

All kidding to the side for now, I do think that a weekend trip in Chicago using only Public Transportation, specifically the Elevated Train system (EL), would be an awesome way to see our city. So to Chris and his lovely (I'm assuming) wife, here is what I propose:

Friday Afternoon: Fly into O'Hare field, collect your baggage from the lower level of whichever terminal your gate is located and follow the overhead signs to Ground Transportation and CTA (Chicago Transit Authority). Wait for the train to arrive at the platform and take the Blue Line east to downtown. While it may at first seem you are waiting for eternity, it's still a much quicker passage into the city than navigating the expressway with a kamikaze (I'm being polite) taxi driver during rush hour. (BTW, it is always rush hour from the airport to the city.) You will enjoy an interesting, if not scenic view of the urban topography that lies at the feet of our extended city limits. (The airport is actually about 17 miles northwest of the Chicago Loop and was annexed into the city limits by some back room gerrymandering decades ago.) Upon arrival, it's a short walk or cab ride to any downtown hotel.

Saturday Afternoon: Take the Red Line north to the Addison Stop. This is Wrigley Field, home of our hopefully soon to be 'happed' Chicago Cubbies. Come a few hours early to stroll through the surrounding neighborhoods. You may want to skip the likes of the Cubby Bear, Hi-Tops and other such tourist attractions and instead, walk a few blocks east before the first pitch. Boystown is always a fun place to stop for a drink or coffee. Just follow the rainbow flags along Halsted Street. I can't really describe it but you'll know it when you see it. Halsted Street between Addison and Belmont, you can't miss it.

Saturday Evening: If you haven't had too many $7 beers and you managed to arrive safely back to your hotel (Caution: the Red Line ride back after a Cubs game can in itself, be a David Mamet play) consider jumping on the Blue Line west to Bucktown for dinner. This is one of my favorite Chicago neighborhoods and this Metromix link will tell you what's happening there on a daily basis or simply walk the sidewalks and pick a place that feels right for you. You'll love it there. The train stops at the intersection of North/Damen/Milwaukee Avenues.

Sunday Brunch: Take the Brown Line northwest to Lincoln Square. This Northside neighborhood has a German heritage with plenty of local cafes, bistros and restaurants. Get off at the Western Avenue stop and wander eastward. The town square is beautiful.

Also, if you are coming from a northern or southern destination along Lake Michigan the Red Line can drop you within a few blocks of Millennium Park, a must see for everyone including Chicago natives. If you are staying downtown, it is walking distance east from most of the finer hotels and a few of the rattier ones, too. The Crown Fountain, Kappor Sculpture, Lurie Gardens, and Pritzker Pavilion, located in the Park, are all 'must sees' if you are visiting Chicago. The Art Institute is adjacent to the complex so pat one of the guardian Lions on the snout as you walk in to view a Picasso.

I must now admit that I am also a visitor of sorts in this amazing city. Born on the East Coast, I arrived here in the mid-1990's against my corporate will. For the first year or so I wouldn't take off my hat or galoshes in protest of the longitudinal relocation package that landed me here-- even in July. Finally I opened my eyes and learned to embrace the beauty of a 6 week Summer. The dozen or so times I myself have ridden on the EL in Chicago, it's been to the locations I mention above. (Personally, I own two cars and would drive to the mailbox if it wasn't just in my lobby.) Anyway, it's only a thought. Try the CTA if you'd like to give your Chicago visit an added twist of adventure.

As for my friend Chris and his wonderful (I'm pretty sure) wife--I hope this gives them a few ideas. Maybe try one rapid transit excursion this trip--perhaps the Red Line to the game and back or the Blue Line to Bucktown, to be sure. I happen to have house guests in town the same weekend the Hendricks are here so we may very well still never meet in person. My two young nieces from Doylestown, Pennslyvania will be anxious to see what big city surpises my wife and I have in store for them. First stop, Sears Tower...bottom floor....just for laughs.

Geno Petro

Friday, June 22, 2007


2746 N. Wolcott Ave, 1 North


...Come to 2746 N. Wolcott Avenue from 2 until 5PM on August 19th. Be among the first dozen guests and receive a bottle of wine, compliments of the house! This is our personal residence and truly, the showpiece of the neighborhood.

Click Here for a 'Virtual' Sneak Peek!

Geno Petro

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hey Jude...Dude.

{A few days ago}

While standing in the Starbucks line with one of my younger clients the other morning I noticed Paul McCartney's latest attempt to puncture the demograhically unforgiving shield of the twenty-something buyer we all seem to be expanding toward with near Einsteinian adequation. Word on the web and beyond is that the ex-Beatle averaged less than a million paid downloads for each of his last three singles (Dude!) and is now banking on the 'check-out line of choice' for Realtors and housewives of all ages, to boost his shrinking musical market share in the U.S. I stood silently looking at the CD display ironically titled, "Memory Almost Full," waiting for my beverage. I tried hard to remember if I even own a CD player anymore. I don't think I do. Great excuse for not forking over the other half of the twenty-spot I just handed the Barista.

To put it in persepective, Hey Jude--a record I did buy with my paper route money--sold 4 million records in as many months back in '67 when the same time adjusted dollar bought you an actual piece of circular vinyl in a mini record jacket with Peter Max artwork, liner notes, and an extra 'B-Side' for all the yet-to-be morphed Trivia Pursuiters in unknowing early gestation. Even compared to a contemporary talent as benign as... say, Hannah Montana of current Disney Channel fame, the old rocker from Liverpool is at best these days, just barely "like...so whatever." (translation: not very popular.)

And while my own twenty-something client was fairly certain she'd heard of the man, she wasn't really sure of anything he'd recorded. "Oh wait...I know. Satisfaction...right?" I should add that she also refers to me as Mr. Petro which pretty much makes me feel like the junior high school Science teacher I never wanted to be. And upon exiting the coffee shop, one last glance over at the air brushed album cover only reinforced the fact that while I'm at least a decade younger, I may actually look older than Sir Paul. Hey, at least my beautiful wife still has both of her own legs and a much sweeter disposition, from what they've been telling me on the on E! Channel.

{40 years ago}

And since I now find myself rapidly digressing down the Abbey Road of my youth I should probably take a moment to mention that the last song of every dance I recall attending during those junior high soirees of the late 1960s was in fact, Hey Jude. It was during these same awkward middle years that I, along with a few of my closest inner-sanctum buddies, would hover close to the Boys Locker Room entrance in the gym only to stand and watch as the marginally cooler upperclassmen and really pretty, older girls (tenth grade) swayed insufferably for the full 7 minute 7 second 'long version' of the ballad. And by the time my buds and I were old enough to get our own pretty girls, Hey Jude had been replaced by Miss American Pie and a dance was the last destination we had in mind as we flew through those remaining high school nights in our Fords and Chevys, with no foreseeable end in sight. And according to my client, herself a 1998 high school graduate, Smells Like Teen Spirit was the long playing finale at her spring formal...from what she understood. Apparently, her and her date never made it to their big event either.

{Back to the future}

We took our Ventis back to my car and quickly navigated through the Northside Chicago traffic before turning onto Lake Shore Drive, headed north to meet her fiance at the Uptown property. We had collectively--on our own and together, in all combinations of accompaniment--already looked at 30 similar places. There was no reason to imagine (hope) that this one would be any better or worse than the others. The light wasn't 'right' at one, 'too bright' at another, 'on the alley,' 'off the alley,' "What...no alley?" 'too close,' 'too far'....and the thing is, I totally get it. Everything is just 'so whatever' these days, from music to condos and everything in between, that I decided to quit fighting it and instead... just get it.

You see, I can't just slap my product at the end of a check out line like Paul McC and expect some unsuspecting young housewife, fiancee or whomever to impulse buy a condo too close or too far from an alley, with or without too much light., based on my past reputation and successes, no matter how much I air brush the promotional photos on my website. My typical internet clients have many, many options so the fact they are even in my car is remarkable in itself. So what, if we have to look at 30 properties together. They've no doubt looked at hundreds on line before we even made a connection. So like I already said, I get it.

I turned up the radio and we listened to NPR in silence as we drove along the lake. They were airing story about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Go figure.

"Have you been following that conflict over there?" she asked me, trying to make general conversation I guess, obviously sick of talking about Real Estate and all it has to offer to society. I was lost in thought about how bad Paul McCartney sucks these days.

"Yeah. My entire life." I said. "I've been hearing about it over there, in one way or another, ever since I can remember." And this is true. Be it 1967 or fast forward to 2007, that is the one situation on this Earth that has remained constant, the way I see it. The two best Beatles have already died and nothing has changed for the better in the Middle East. Not even close.

I veered onto the ramp for our exit as her cell phone rang. Her fiance was running about 20 minutes late, she announced. He's always 20 minutes late. Historically, I've never been a late person and such last minute delays used to really tick me off. But lately, I've started to become a bit tardy as well. I mean, who really cares when it's all tallied up at the end of the proverbial day? I circled the block as it started to drizzle.

"There's a Starbucks at the corner," I said. "We can wait for him there."

"Cool," she said.

We stood in the Uptown Starbucks and found ourselves in a similar line staring at the same "Memory Almost Full" display as earlier. The same CD was playing through the speakers. Not very good, I thought again. Pretty lousy, in fact. I felt a little embarrassed for my generation. At least a more youthful icon like Kurt Cobain died before he had to trap consumers at a coffee house and he was actually from Seatlle. As the Barista topped off our half-emptied beverages my client turned to me and spoke,

"I think that Prince is around 50, isn't he?"

{Just the way it is}

I think it was her way of trying to identify with me more as a person than a Realtor now that we touched on such non Real Estate issues such as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and music from the last 40 forty years. A little of that perhaps, mixed in with trying to find a way to fill the next 15 minutes with small talk until her partner showed up to nix yet another condo. Too 'uptownish,' was my best bet on this occasion, or maybe...'too close to the lake' (I haven't heard that one yet this year) but I chose to keep it to myself. (I stop biting my tongue however, after the 4oth showing-- or the second 'back out' or 'deal kill,' whichever comes first.)

But as I paid for the second and final round of the morning and caught my own middle-aged reflection in the scone and muffin glass at the counter, I couldn't help but think that just maybe I happened upon a connection to a generation that virtually no one--with the possible exception of me and Prince-- born before 1960 might understand. Truth is, a couple hundred grand is a lot of money to those of this generation and whether they plan on spending it on a condo, graduate school, or simply walking the Earth like Cain in Kung Fu, they are going to definitely do it in their own time and in their own way. And in my opinion, at least their music doesn't suck for the sake of being commercial. It's just generally bad on it's own terms.

image by mosaiccartsource

Geno Petro

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Check Out The Crib

O.M.G! Your BFFs will die when they see your supermodel Duplex in West Lincoln Park/Lakeview. Jenn-air, Bosch, and Granite Kitchen. Marble Baths with Grohe body sprays in two Baths. 20 foot Living Room atrium with curio Fireplace. Two levels of custom paint in designer colors. Deck, so many closets, and 2 secured Parking Spaces make this condo a 'Best in Show.'

Oh, and B.T.W.....it's mine. ps...for $474,900...it's yours.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Cobbler's Shoe

My wife and I just made an offer on a house and I think I've lost all voice of reason. Of course I, in my unbiased Real Estate opinion, think the place is undervalued while she, with her eye for detail and blessed with superior negotiational instincts, considers it overpriced. I like it the way it stands now with it's odd living spaces and turn of the century quirkiness (that's two centuries ago, mind you). Nothing I can't live with, I don't think. She already has plans on turning a guest suite into a private dressing room, as lack of substantial closet space is one of the above mentioned quirks. But then again, she does have a hundred (alright, 50) pairs of shoes and again as many handbags.

She wants to knock out walls and invite Emeril and Ina Garten over to redo the kitchen (which is pretty bad, I admit--and I can't believe I actually know who those people are) while I can live with the un-chic appliances and stenciled oak cabinets for now. She reminds me though, that "for now" can mean "for-ever" in my world and also that my idea of fine dining is airline food---First Class, of course but airline food, nonetheless.

See what I'm saying? I have very little control over this situation and it's not because of this 'God thing' I've been hearing about in the media (alright, NPR) or anything like that. It has to do with that whole Tailor wears a torn suit and Cobbler has a hole in his shoe phenomenon that's been floating around since Aesop's time. I'm an expert negotiator except when it comes to something that requires my own subjectivity. And while I've been called the Real Estate go to guy in Chicago when it comes to OPP*...I can't even buy groceries at Trader Joe's without getting stabbed and robbed in the check-out line (and they're 99.9% recycled and organic tree-muggers).

I am writing this as a mental exercise I suppose, to put aside my obsessive thoughts of lounging for entire weekends in a row on a hammock while the day's catch** smokes itself to perfection on the grill in an actual yard. I should stray from the idea of simply opening the back door in January to let the hound out into the sub-zero night with no residual 'pick-up' duties of my own until the Spring thaw, messy as that might be. I should not allow myself to believe that something as mundane (although it is architectually beautiful) as buying (overpaying for?) a house that someone else no longer wants, needs, whatever...will change my remaining time on this Earth in any significant way.

No, this purchase will not slow down the aging process I've been noticing these past several months in the mirror nor will it help me shed those 10 unwanted pounds (alright, 20) from my middle-aged girth or even make my lovely wife love me anymore than she already does-- or my pets any more loyal than they are, in their own simple ways. Hell, it won't even do anything to help me sell my own listings I have lingering on the Market including the Condo I live in now. Buying this house will simply make me feel good for a few months until I am forced off the hammock and into the garage to try and uncover the lawn care WMPs*. Come to think of it, all these reasons are why I bought a Condo instead of a House in the first place.

(* Other People's Property)
(** Nick's Fish House)
(*** Weapon's of Mass Procrastination)

Geno Petro