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 " 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,' " 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

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