Thursday, July 10, 2008

Chicago Real Estate: 26.2 miles of red hot cinder

Carter Suggs and the rest of us slugs

In case you haven't been observing from the sidelines dear readers, this whole Chicago real estate diversion I've been a party to these past several years is a marathon--not a sprint. And while I don't recall ever actually running 26.2 miles consecutively or even un-consecutively (I was a sprinter when I last set foot on a track 35 very long years ago as you'll soon learn) I have been involved in some marathon-like negotiations as of late. And I'm telling you straight up, with St. Joseph as my witness, it's the last 2 /10ths (.2), that ubiquitous straw of camel back-breaking fame, that can tip the scales in either direction, for the better or worse. And it is this very, constantly shrinking margin between what makes and breaks a real estate transaction these days, that has me taking a short 'breather' to wax poetic before I re-double my efforts tomorrow and try to put together a deal that might actually involve a trip to a title company in the near future. Soooo....., allow me to digress...

My last heat

It was a blistering afternoon in the late Spring of 1974. The graduating members of our high school relay team, the mighty Mustangs of Myers Park, were slowly disembarking the un-air conditoned 1950's green and white diesel beast (our ancient, beloved, mascot emblemed school bus) for the final time, somewhere in the boondocks of eastern North Carolina, when we were suddenly struck motionless in our proverbial track shoes. We gazed in wonderment at the rural venue. Compared to our own hallowed stadium grounds of green and gold composite track surfaces, Booster Club sponsored electric scoreboard, and manicured white chalked and numbered playing field fescue back in Charlotte, the vision was almost other wordly. And myself, having recently relocated south from the great urban sprawl of northeast Philadelphia where one could definitely see the air one breathed, I was all the more intrigued by the Nature of it all. I decided it was, indeed, time to take off my leather jacket and Ray Bans and get serious. People were jogging through the woods, warming up barefoot, for crissakes.

The burnt colored, coarsely raked, 440 yard oval cut-out that encircled the overgrown football/baseball/tobacco field we looked onto was a Milky Way of sooty glass specks and finely crushed gravel--cinder, to be exact. The infield, 120 patchy yards, elbow to elbow with other multicolored warm-up suited runners in different stretched positions alongside their own painted diesel transports; The Demons, The Eagles, The Orangemen--was a base of red, hard Carolina clay. Bushels of unharvested dandelion weeds lined the outer perimeter of the back country school grounds.

The air smelled of pine tar and lumber from a nearby saw mill. An uninterrupted trickle of sulphuric well water leaked from an old fashioned hand pump in the far end zone. The Home side bleachers boasted two separate, half dozen row sections of gray splintered wooden planks attached to a common bent, rusty metal skeleton. The Visitors side sitting area was cracked earth. We looked at each other with young, overprivileged, suburban eyes. No world records would be set on this May day we joked half-heartedly. What none of us knew at that moment was that we were only correct by a mere fraction of a second.

9.3 (seconds, that is)

In 1974, Track and Field events were measured in yards and timed in minutes and seconds. The Men's World Record for the 100 Yard Dash was 9.0 seconds and had stood, unchallenged, for years. I was blessed enough to be among a handful of other sprinters to break the 10.0 second barrier that day--9.9 to be exact, finishing fifth out of a field of 6 in my heat. A young, Tarboro, NC high school student named Carter Suggs ran a 9.5 in the same race. The memory is a blur as was the image of his posterior, all ass and elbows, 30 feet ahead of me from jump street. I almost gave up smoking right then and there. Twenty minutes later in the final heat, (as I looked on from the cracked earth Visitors area with the rest of the slugs) he blazed a 9.3 on the cinder track--.3 seconds off the world mark.

Just so you know, the difference betwwen a 9.9 and a 9.3 is about a city block spread at the finish line, or in less urban terms--from grill to tail pipe--the entire length of an old green and white painted school bus, diesel, unleaded, or otherwise. It is most certainly the difference between a shot at a professional athletic career and one that entails slinging residential property for a living. At the very least, it provides a margin of posterity for all to ponder. (I've been Googling myself off and on for the past 3 years and while I can't find any virtual proof of my personal 9.9 second sprinting effort back in the glory days of 1974, I have no trouble unearthing almost every residential listing I've ever advertised during my Chicago real estate career--good, bad, or indifferent.)

I think I missed the Google "High School Track and Field Statistics" long tail search engine cut-off by considerably more than a few tenths of a second (bus lengths, city blocks, whatever...) in the same manner my last buy-side deal died over a couple thousand dollar closing credit and a furnace tune-up. It would probably be in the same manner I'd collapse at the 26 mile mark, just .2 miles shy of the golden ring, should I ever be daring enough to enter a marathon in the first place---which of course, is what this whole real estate business is---isn't it? Or shall I digress...

Geno Petro

image by billingsgazette

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