Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I'm not 'Dreaming of a White' anything...

I reached for the phone but there was no one to call. The six inches of snow on top of the other six inches of last week's snow has made leaving or entering my house challenging, and access to my garage--(the whole point of having one to begin with being harborage from the elements), treacherous. And even though I am my father's son (and the apple never falls too far from that tree, as we are all well aware), it's not my intention this day to discuss the weather.

I'm ticked-off because I don't have a management company to complain to because my walkways are under a foot of snow and the City of Chicago snow-plows, buried my garage door. My mailman, (correction: he prefers to be called a letter carrier per his Christmas card signature...your letter carrier, Roger) Roger won't walk up my icy steps, from the sidewalk, to deliver my bills. I do have a phone number for the Post Office but...well, never mind...

One of the reasons we bought a single family house, nestled between the trees on three contiguous city lots, in the first place was to escape the clutches of condominium association and the ever escalating monthly assessments that are inherent in such an urban housing arrangement. In other words, we no longer wished to be 'One' with our neighbors nor did we wish to continue dropping upwards of three bills a month to participate in such a social networking community.

Six Months Ago

"Think of all the money we'll save in monthly maintenance fees...," I pitched to my lovely wife as I pushed the sales contract across the table for her signature then quickly refilled her wine glass. Ignoring the gesture, she looked me in the eye and asked...

"Do you even know how to cut grass?"

"Who me? Grass? Sure..." I declared. "I've cut a lot of grass in my day." That particular day being many, many years ago.

"What about leaves, and snow, and painting and..."

"Fine," I said, snatching back the paperwork. "We'll stay in the Dorm."

Actually, we 'stayed' in a lovely condominium complex surrounded by wonderful people amidst the great Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park. I called it a Dorm only because I was easily 10 years older than anyone else who had purchased there. I wanted a house goddammit, and I wasn't going to let a litte snow, grass or paint get in my way. So, I pouted...

"Give me the paperwork," she said, snatching it back. She signed, dated, and pushed the completed offer back to my side of the table. "So what...?" she finished..."Are you going to cut grass in a leather jacket and Dior sunglasses?"

I honestly hadn't thought about that. Yard work apparel...

Home Sweet Home

So in the three months since we closed on the new house (actually built in the 1890s and a whole different subject for an entirely different blizzard), I've spent:

$ 1737 Home Depot (all kinds of home ownership stuff I shoved into my garage and basement.)

$ 200 One Time Autumn Leaf Removal Service (although part of the above mentioned $1737 does include an actual leaf blower and a rake which, to my wife's delectation, I haven't yet found the time, energy or apparel to utilize.)

$ 100 Snow Removal Door Knocking Gypsies (who only shoveled half the agreed upon area before disappearing into the last flurry forever with the pre-paid loot and a magazine from my mailbox.)

$ 195 Water and Sewage Bill (which I forgot was included in our afore mentioned condo maintenance fee until my complaint was addressed by the City of Chicago Water Department-- that 'address' being a sharp city worker comment, "You live in an actual house, now, Mr. Petro. You pay the water and sewage bill yourself. Capisce?" Da Bears.

$ 200 Interior Design Consultation

$ 5,500 Custom Interior Paint Job as a result of the consultation.

I think I'll stop right here as I'm fairly close to telling myself, "I told you so." I just spend three years worth of assessment budget in three months and I don't even have anyone to call to make this snow go away. Instead, I'm staring out the window onto a winter wonderland--aptly named as I sit here wondering which kindhearted neighbor might show up with a snowblower. I honestly hope the deadbeat shovelers come knocking again. I'll pay them double.

At the end of the day...

I walk across the room and gaze out the other window toward the quickly setting sun. I forgot about all those bags of grass seed, ferilizer, mulch, and lime stacked behind the garage next to the six or seven 55 gallon lawn bags of twigs, tree limbs and branches (oh yeah, add a chainsaw, weed wacker, hacksaw and another $350 to the list) I keep meaning to do something with---but have no idea what. The City of Chicago garbage truck for my street refuses to haul it all away although they did take the case of beer I tried to bribe them with the last time I dragged everything to the curb on Christmas Eve. I suppose if the favor is never returned then it's not actually considered graft in this Administration. So much for the quid pro quo everyone is always yakking about in this town.

My Managing Broker Joe Pinto, gave me a high pressure power washer as a house warming gift. I considered hooking it up to the hose I forgot to pull in for the winter and blasting the snow off my walkways but after playing that mental tape all the way through, so to speak, I decided to take a pass. Besides, the hose is frozen to the ground and the sprinkler head is a block of ice--a slow leak or something. Probably a good thing, as I thought more about the idea and the potential rat's nest of a mess that might ensue.

"You know," Joe once mentioned over a typical afternoon lunch, "...people who complain about high assessments in condos don't have a clue how much it costs to maintain a building or a property. Anytime you drive down a street and see a single family homeowner cutting his own grass, washing his own windows or shoveling his own snow...anytime you see that, just know that there's a financial trade off for those efforts."

But how would I know? I've yet to do any of those things. I just bought all the accessories at Home Depot. Oh yeah, and the house.

Geno Petro

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