Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hot Diggity Doug's (an iconic Chicago field trip)

For months now I've been following with growing, make that great intrigue, the shaggy chic (if not downright haute) North Side neighbor-hood 'foodie' chatter surrounding a certain hot dog stand at the no-mans-land corner of Roscoe and California Avenues in the Avondale section of town. Location, location, location (the ubiquitous Chicago real estate mantra) my arse. I kid you not, dear readers...the joint is in an annexed tract of light manufacturing sprawl where you might still be able to get some land for free if you stake a claim with the City of Chicago and know someone at City Hall. (And yes, as always I exaggerate.)

It's "Hot Doug's this" and "Hot Doug's that...." say they all; at dinner parties, over cocktails at unhappy hours everywhere from the Gold Coast to Rogers Park, in churches all across Chicago (I'm guessing). Everyone's talking about it but nobody I know has actually ever eaten there.

Like Yogi Berra (the Ronnie Santo of the East Coast malapropism) once proclaimed..."Nobody ever eats there...the line is always too long to get in." Ahem.

On two previous occasions I attempted to stop in for a taste of their famous Chicago hot dogs and accompanying 'Duck Fat' Chicago fries, mainstays both. Each time the line to simply get in the joint nearly wrapped around an entire city block. Once inside, an equally tedius wait is in order before you actually get your food.

It was raining farm animals yesterday morning as I awoke and since it was indeed Friday, one of the only two 'Duck Fat Days' (along with Saturday), I figured I stood my best chance of finally sinking my chops into a Hot diggity Doug dog. After all, what other knucklehead would be willing to drive through a torrent in a Mini Cooper for a mere taste of encased meat and shoe string potatoes deep fried in foie gras? Besides me, that is...and about 75 other knuckleheads? (See picture above)

I waited in the rain outside of Hot Doug's for 30 minutes as the gentleman behind me, (pictured left) actually intelligent enough the bring an umbrella to a rain storm, refused to share his shelter...or even make eye contact. I waited another 10 minutes in the vestibule with 12 other people, and when I finally did place my order---a Keira Knightley (super hot...get it?) with 'everything' (in Chicago 'everything' means mustard, neon green relish, grilled onions, tomatoes, pickle, hot peppers and celery salt), an order of Duck Fat Fries, and a Coke Zero (watching the calories, you know)---I waited another 15 minutes for the food.

Also on the menu that day were Alligator Dogs, Parsley Infused Weisswurst Dogs, Chipolte and Cilantro Smoked Chicken Sausage Dogs, and a half dozen other varieties of blended meat Dogs; bratworsts, sausages, and kielbasis. Sadly though, Friday's Special 'Celebrity Sausage' was the Harvey Korman (may his funny soul rest in new found peace)---Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Chicken Sausage with Vodka-Cream Marinara and Burrata Cheese. Oh yeah, just so we're perfectly clear, only non Duck Fat Fries are served up Mondays through Thursdays.

John Lennon and Yoko stopped in (also pictured above) and ordered two Pete Shelley's (a Vegetarian Dog if you can even Imagine such an animal). 'It's easy if you try...'

Finally my own name was called and I grabbed my satchels of charbroiled snouts with all the trimmings and raced home to my bride to share the feast. My dog met me at the door, already having sniffed the duck fatted vittles from two blocks away. I emptied the food from the greasy brown bags onto white paper plates. The kitchen immediately smelled like duck liver. I almost gagged....

Now I'm not quite sure why I would even fathom liking anything prepared in duck fat, or foie gras, or any kind of liver for that matter. (You ought to see what I've done to my own liver over the years, for crissakes.) I was clearly caught up in the hype. Sure, the dogs were good but all dogs in Chicago are good. Hot Doug's makes a darn good Chicago style hot dog, this much is true. And I suppose if you don't hate ducks and liver then the fries are pretty tasty, as well. But if you ask me, people are just looking for an excuse, any excuse, to stand in a long line to say they've done the new 'In' thing. It was Monkees tickets when I was 10. It was Tickle Me Elmo when my niece was 4. It's my wife and her friends tonight for that whole Sex and the City and Cosmo hoopla. It was me yesterday (along with 75 other zombies) in a torrential downpour....

So I digress. As I was about to finally exit the restaurant, the guy with the umbrella, my fellow line standing follower of the masses, made a snide comment as to my constant picture taking during the previous hour.

"Tourist" he muttered.

"No, blogger," I snapped back.

"I'm a real estate blogger," I wanted to say, but didn't---stopping just short. He simply looked at me with his perfectly dry face without making eye contact; collapsed umbrella in one hand, CTA Bus pass in the other, awaiting his own name to be called. I wanted to add a little something extra about him being a professional duck loving line stander, what with his Bus Pass, premeditated umbrella, and all but I let it slide. It was raining farm animals outside and I had my own real estate challenges awaiting my attention. And as I sped off toward the old homestead and the oily waft from the brown paper satchels filled the interior compartment of my Cooper, I wondered what my dog thought about duck liver, the $13 I just spent on hot dogs, and if I really did look like a tourist...

Geno Petro

Friday, May 30, 2008

Two Chicago Listings, Two Great Values

At 3601 W. LeMoyne Avenue in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood I have 2 Bedroom garden units starting at $124,900 (yes folks, that first digit is a '1' ) and three 2nd floor 2 Bedroom units priced from $167,000-$174,000.

Virtual Tour for LeMoyne Avenue

A little bit farther south and to the east lies this beautiful, 1500 square foot 2 Bedroom 2 Bath condominium near the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Listed at $289,000, 33 E. 26th Street is the best value in a two mile radius. Do the math on the price per square foot and you'll see what I mean.

Virtual Tour for 26th Street

Both addresses are available for Private Showings any time. LeMoyne is OPEN Sundays from 1-4. Call Geno for a 'taste of Chicago' 773-720-2634.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Block by Block Chicago

While surfing the net (isn't there a better term for that pastime yet?) for neighborhood news near my homestead in the bucolic Forest Glen community, I came across the following website: EveryBlock Chicago. I just added the landing page to my sidebar on the right under Other Chicago Blogs & Links. It not only addresses many aspects of Chicago real estate: building permits, property tansfers, business licenses, etc---it also posts a street by street (address by address, in fact) crime blotter for every neighborhood in the entire city as well as restaurant inspections, business reviews and a basic bulletin board of real estate listings. (Our own Search Engine , however, is a much slicker and functional site for identifying Chicago real estate, IMHO.)

While reading the entries in my 'hood I was sorry to learn a bicycle was taken from a front porch just down the block, the morning breakfast spot I never had a chance to eat in was cited for sanitary reasons, and Mrs. McGillicuddy's snauzer chased the mailman back to his truck but hey, the public wants 'transparency' so don't complain, right? At any rate, click on the site if you have a few extra minutes of internet play time at work. Just type your address in the FIND NEWS NEAR bar at the top of the page then click the SEARCH CHICAGO button. Who knows, you may even locate that lost cat that strayed away last year.

Geno Petro

google image by worldexecutive

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Cut!...That's a wrap, Johnny."

Tonight is one of the final nights of in-town shooting for Michael Mann's Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and a famous (infamous?) Chicago alley off of Lincoln Avenue as his final resting spot. The above picture, taken from a car window with my iPhone, is a revamped period marquee of the historic Biograph Theater located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago's North Side.The movie is scheduled for full release in 2009.

Check out the double bill in the snapshot above: Clark Gable and William Powell...pretty cool. Almost as cool as 'Iced Fresh Air.' BTW, the Biograph still stands today. It's a Chicago real estate landmark. Below is the alley where the story ends.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

MEME'd myself, and you (no tag backs!)

MEME: A unit of cultural information ( in this case, a blogger to blogger to blogger questionaire... ) that represents a basic idea that can be transferred from one individual to another, and subjected to mutation, crossover and adaptation ( in this case, a viral site-to-site drip of Google Page Rank love ).

source The Daily Meme ( rhymes with 'Dream' )

I've been MEME'd before and no doubt, I'll live to be MEME'd again. Mary Mcknight MEME'd Laurie Manny who apparently MEME'd at least two other bloggers I know, Lenore Wilkas and Nick Bastian who, in turn, pinged me yesterday in the middle of a Memorial Day kickball game with the neighborhood kids (see above). I would normally have rolled my eyes..."how queer" but hey, I was playing kickball ( not an Olympic sport ) so I pushed Save instead of Delete and decided to address it later...which is now. No matter how you try and avoid it, later always ends up becoming now.

So I have 8 Questions to answer about myself which I will address below. I will then pass these same 8 questions along to 8 other bloggers who will either do the same or push Delete. And to quote Laurie Manny who basically owns the first page of Google in Long Beach, CA..."Hey, don't complain, you just got hit with some PR5 link love."

1. Who is your favorite musical artist? Van Morrison, hands down.

(I was supposed post a YouTube video but my Blogger platform is weak. "Your platform is weak? Your (beeping) platform is weak? You're weak!)

2. Who is your favorite artist? Pablo Picasso.

(A photo was supposed to linked from Flickr but again, my platform...)

3. Who is your favorite blogger? Greg Swann, also hands down.

4. If you could meet anyone (alive or dead), who would it be and what is the most interesting thing about them? John Updike, the greatest living American novelist and essayist that suits my taste and literary needs.

5. What did you want to be when you grew up? A Philadelphia Phillie.

6. What is the most interesting piece of trivia you know? If you blow into a dog's nose, his tongue will come out.

7. If you could live in any point in history what would it be and why? I wouldn't mind going back 51 years and giving this whole 'life' thing another shot. I think I'll take my Mulligan now, thank you.

8. What is the most interesting job you have ever held? Associate Sports Producer for KDKA-TV 2 in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s. I basically worked for nickles and dimes but witnessing Rocky Blier (former Steeler legend and brand new sportscaster at the time) walk into the Three Rivers Stadium locker room during a press conference smoking a cigarette and Chuck Noll (grim faced Steeler coach and basic hard ass), saying nothing, was worth every penny.

And, there you have it, an hour gone from my life forever. So in the spirit of tit for queer tat, I hereby pass the cooties on to:

Don Reedy

Carole Cohen

Allison Stewart

Susan Zanzonico

Chris Lengquist

Howard Arnoff

Doreen McPherson

Aaron Hofmann

Anyway, I don't have time to email everyone above. Many of you I do not know except for your kind comments here at Chicago's Home Weblog and on BloodhoundBlog. Hopefully your respective Trackback mechanisms are in good working order and you find this project well. Also, be sure to check your Statcounters. And Ms Manny said..."Don't complain..."

Geno Petro

photo by Kevin's wife, of Kevin's kids (mostly), in Kevin's golf cart. (ps...Kevin has it all)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day, 2008

No Chicago Real Estate talk today. Just some reflection on memories of those who have passed... and dreams for the rest of us in the queue. Geno Petro 5/26/08.

photo by my iPhone

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pole Position

Dude...who stole my car?

I was tooling along, nice and leisurely-like, headed home from my last afternoon appointment in Humboldt Park today when Flash, Zoom, Swoosh...a late 90's model, red, heavy Chevy full of baseball capped smirking passengers passed me on the right almost clipping the right front quarter panel of my Mini Cooper as they suddenly cut left and overtook my second row position heading west on North Avenue toward the finish line...I mean sunset. I always wondered where they got baseball hats with the bill off to the side like that and not in the front like regular baseball caps but with all due respect, that's their own business. Same with their collective Driver's Education certificates but I'm not going there either. (The driver did not have his hands in the proper 10 o'clock/2 o'clock postition nor was anyone buckled up for safety and the music pounding the tinted window glass was a little deafening but that's all I'm going to say about that. No further judgement.)

"Relax Geno," I tell myself. "Don't make eye contact. Don't beep the horn. And don't make a scene (who me?) Mind your own business ..." (Which happens to be real estate and not stock car racing, by the way. Chicago real estate to be precise. North Side Chicago real estate in case you didn't already know.) Anyway, I was featured at once this month already and you know what they say about over-exposure (LOL)... so enough about me. More about the carful of nice gentlemen that almost put my Cooper into the wall on North Avenue.

I had just cancelled my Open House due to...I don't know...Memorial Day Weekend, lack of Buyer interest, hunger... and was only a couple dozen Chicago city blocks away from my own backyard hammock and a grilled steak the size of a first baseman's mitt. Ironically, I suffered a mild form of food poisoning earlier in the week by ingesting a similar slab of steer in Phoenix, Arizona, but you know me--my memory's about as long as my...(at least that's what one Little League coach use to say to me all the time when I forgot the secret base stealing signs. "Petro, your memory is about as..." In defense of myself on all levels in that regard, he had very poor eyesight and I was only 10.) Anyway, I was on my way home.

Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma Chameleon...

With my guardian angel as my witness, four blocks later I'm parked on the side of North Avenue snapping shots (pictured above) with my iPhone. I walk up to the steaming vehicle and look inside expecting side billed baseball caps scattered everywhere. But nothing. Nada. The driver's airbag had detonated and someone's head cracked the windshield on the passenger side (ahh...too bad), but there was not a soul in sight. Bodies either. The red Chevy was empty; crunched, face first into a light pole at the corner of Mozart and North Avenues, with nary a smirk to be found. There were no people gathering around, either. No spectators. No Chicago City Police. No one cared. It was Sunday afternoon as usual in Humboldt and there were cookouts to attend and family and friends to connect with. Nobody cares about no stinkin' Chevy on no stinkin' sidewalk...

I looked at the car a little more closely. I estimated the vehicle (pre-crash) to be worth a couple grand, three tops. The wheels by themselves probably cost then again that much. I couldn't help but wonder why they didn't just spend the money on the actual brakes instead...or a Safe Driving course, or hats that didn't impair their vision. But like I already said, I wasn't even going there. I was going home to Forest Glen to grill myself a steak about the size of Derrek Lee's baseball glove and connect with my own family and friends who wear their hats like civilized people...with the bills in the back.

Geno Petro

photo by me...with a smirk.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Unchained and dog tired

I pulled back the covers an hour ago and finally shook off an intermittent 36 hour slumber. Squinting through sandy eyes at my iPhone, I sat up and quickly took note; Friday, May 23, 11am Central time. Chicago. Temperature 61 F. Battery Low. I'm not quite sure what happened to Thursday, the 22nd or half of Wednesday, the 21st but it's all in the record books now, as they say. I pinched myself, still happy to be among the living--in Chicago with a steady stomach; still in the real estate business, to be sure; and 'in the loop' technically from what I (and others) had just gathered from a 3 day seminar in the desert.

Upon returning from the BloodhoundBlog Unchained Conference in Phoenix (average temperature for the stay BTW---108 F) late Wednesday evening, I finally touched down in Chicago at 9pm, retrieved my checked baggage by 9:45, and managed to remember where I parked my car in Remote Parking by 10:30. An hour later I was laid out prostrate on top of my own bed in Forest Glen, still fully dressed with a fat dog on one side, an unpleasant smelling cat on the other, and an iPhone on my chest instantly pinging like a hail storm the second I finally made the decision to switch the device from Airplane Mode to ON and face the real estate music that awaited me. Everyone/where/thing was requiring more attention than I had the energy to give at that queasy moment. I felt like I might perish in short order from some obscure Southwestern Revenge (one too many chimichangas and local water, the last one being an apparent doozy). I'm pretty sure my wife, nowhere to be found, had staked her own claim in the guest room upstairs for the duration.

I was both shivering and sweaty at the same time, recovering from a cocktail combo of heat stroke, Poblano pepper overdose, and not wanting to leave the red desert, as I scrolled through, and listened to, my 50+ emails and messages for the day. My head was swimming in a queue of incoming and outgoing data from three solid days of brilliant presentations on the future of the real estate business as we are about to know it. Hosts Greg Swann, (and his lovely muse Cathleen Collins) with his elucidating Unchained Epiphany, and the crew-cutted (sans braces) Brian Brady, unchained and East Coast in his own right, set the tone (and the bar) for the multi-day event. Those who followed; Mary McKnight (RSS Pieces), Laurie Manny (Long Beach Real Estate Home), David Gibbons (Zillow), Glenn Kelman (Redfin), were all quite propitious in their own respects, as well. Okay...super-propitious. And the list goes on...

There were other Bald Guys listening, as well as Bawldguys talking, and great new friends to be made (with Don Reedy at the very top of the list). There were really, really smart people everywhere. There were SEOs and CEOs and REOs (or the discussion of) at every turn. There were impromptu brain storms and break-out groups in the side halls, the courtyards and restaurants. In the hotel lobbies. In the asphalt melting parking lots. In the desert. The after hours camaraderie was equally enlightening and only served to tighten the Web that connects us all in this cyber-twisted moving target of real estate marketing.

The Bloodhound Unchanined content was raw, organic, and hot to the touch. The cameras were handheld and grainy, like all great documentary platforms, recording history; and the participation, unstructured and at the same time, direct. The floating script allowed for equal time to any and all who chose to raise their hands and the energy in the room was kinetic at all times with a constant buzz of interaction. No one glanced at their watches. We dove into Page Rank and algorithms, with long tails and short heads; we waded through backlinks and whispered keywords in each others ears. We Twittered in the dry Arizona heat and looked up toward the clear blue skies and saw not only future of Web 2.0, but beyond...

I slept until an hour ago. Time to recharge. Time to get up. Time to go. I can't afford to miss another day of the rest of my real estate life....

photo by me (against the wishes of at least one shaded blogger to the left)

Geno Petro

Thursday, May 22, 2008

We hit the South Side, Baby

I recently received some link love from the Chicago Sun Times, courtesy of my literary cyber agent, BlogBurst. I was kind of hoping for a Feature piece in the The New Yorker, but in reality I'm probably a lot more South Side Chicago than I am Upper East Side New York. At any rate, I am grateful for the linkage and all the Google juice it sent my way.

(Note: they do make it a point of mentioning not once but twice..." The views expressed in these blog posts are those of the author and not of the Chicago Sun-Times." Good for them. Smart people.

Geno Petro

logo pictured is property of Chicago Sun Times

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Paint Your Own Wagon, Homey

The Low Art of the Graffito

I've always looked at it this way; as long as it's not painted across the side of my house, I can live with it, even sort of appreciate it. Sort of.

Hey, I reside in a big, grown up city so who am I to judge what is and is not a proper canvas for an aspiring artist? After all, I'm just a Chicago realtor trying to do my own thing in the same concrete jungle and am hardly a patron (of the Arts) myself. Anyway, Art (low or otherwise), iconoclasm, and vandalism have always made for strange bedfellows. Think Jean-Michel Basquiat. Think The Splasher.

And again, as long as it's not scribbled or sprayed across the side of my own crib...or my fence, (or my car, for that matter) I'm Kool and the Gang, nowatimsayin? (Do you know what I'm saying?) You see, true Grafitti, in my opinion, is not a random act of vandalsim. There are a whole heap of obstacles and factors to overcome before the multi-colored Word ever reaches the eyes of the pondering public, those haters. There seems to be some thought behind the ubiquitous late night deed that goes beyond mere 'tagging' (which is vandalism and does warrant a crack in the knees with a ball bat). Kool is not with the Gang on tagging, nowatimean?

First: The young, urban artisan must obtain his materials; aerosol cans of mulit-colored spray paint (a behemoth feat in itself according to City of Chicago ordinance). Clearly, there are laws in place. I tried to buy Rustoleum at Home Depot the other day (to touch up a rusty porch railing, not paint my masterpiece under mercury illumination) and almost got arrested. I was ordered to the city limits then escorted over the township line into the suburb of Skokie where Rustoleum is just another can of something that is marked up double the MSRP because it is not available (10 feet away) in the city. Okay, I exaggerate, but not overly. It's not unlike making a quick trip over the state line to Indiana twice a year for fireworks.

Firecracker in Hammond, big fun.

Firecracker in Chicago, big fine. $200+.

Not that I care one way or another about firecrackers either... although, I actually enjoy them on occasion in small, festive doses. Just so long as they are not exploded inside my: mailbox, front porch Halloween pumpkin, or cat, I am, as well, once again...Kool and the Gang.

Secondly: There has to be a space. The artisan must also seek out his venue. Under a bridge. Across an abandoned warehouse alley. On a billboard. Not on Geno and Mona's fence in Forest Glen; all very good options requiring at least some forethought and planning, I would imagine.

Thirdly: There has to be a degree of covertness. Now think; how much grafitti have you seen in your own lifetime? And now recall... how many times have you actually seen an act of grafitto in progress? My guess to your answers would be, in order... a lot... and none.

Lastly: There has to be the inner vision. The idea. The final twisted images of color, dimension, and phonetic spelling with its blend of loopy and angled penmanship, at the same time balloonish and severe, threatening and poignant, painted across anything I don't personally own or pay property taxes on. As long as it's all that....I am, like I said, Kool and the Gang. (Okay with it.) taken by me, under a Forest Preserve viaduct, a little too close to my house for either comfort or appreciation.....

Friday, May 02, 2008

May Day, May Day

I'm cutting the obligatory thousand words short by 900 or so, and going straight to option b)...i.e. the picture (April showers, yadda yadda flowers...). Two things puzzle me, however. First, the fact that there was actually snowfall on May 1st in Chicago and the above garden kept its collective bloom and secondly, that the tulips even bloomed in the first place as my dog Elvis lifted his hind leg on the above pictured corner of real estate at least once a day, every day, for the past 6 months. Take that all you Global Warmers. And judging from the shoddy condition of my own front lawn, acid rain has nothing on old Elvis, either--he's an environmental wrecking ball in, and of, himself...