Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday Pix in Chicago

Marina Towers at 300 N. State Street...on a mission from God (via the House of Blues).

Bucket Drummers outside Marshall Field's (okay, Macy's) on South State Street.

Glad I kicked the habits. At 2 packs a day and a lottery ticket, I was smoking up a BMW lease payment every month.

I think I need more info before I comment further...

Geno Petro

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lights, Camera...Cut

Let's see...there was the time I was 'cast' in an independent film and broadcasted to everyone in the free world that I was going to be in a "MOVIE," possibly even Sundance, only to never hear from the casting director again. That wasn't too embarrassing. I mean let's face it, I have degrees in both Theater and English but have to sell real estate in Chicago to make a legitimate living. Lord only knows what my net/self worth would look like if I were forced to sell real estate (or act on stage) in some place like...say, Minot, North Dakota.

And of course, there was the time I jumped up off my sandy blanket after drinking cocktails all day in the sun screaming, "Sharks! SHARKS!" on a crowded beach in Nag's Head, North Carolina, only to learn, very soon thereafter, that the dorsal finned illusions were actually a school of snub-nosed dolphins. That was fun to be reminded of every summer vacation for a decade.

And most recently, last night to be precise, there was The Food Network show that Mona and I so didn't appear on. This is after ruffling more than a few feathers with one of my more widely read tongue-in-cheekers in recent months. I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone thinks I'm funny. At least, none of my wife's friends do. Not anymore. Nor, apparently, did the post production folks at DD&D. Fine.

So instead of making the usual Thanksgiving rounds this Thursday to those in our once too close social circle of ex-BFFs, Mona and I will be dining in seclusion at David Burke's Primehouse in The James Hotel. And if a camera crew just happens to walk in and stick a boom in our face with the videotape rolling, you'll never hear a peep out of me. That is unless, of course, Mona doesn't come up with her half of the bill.

image by


Monday, November 24, 2008

Chicago on the Fly

The Kennedy Heading in...


Lathrop Homes on Clybourn

Metra Tracks at Mayfair

Under The Edens

Geno Petro

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chicago (and Ms Mona) Comin' to the Food Network

(me, too. me, too...)

Okay, this is going to be fun. It's one of those stories I sometimes get accused of making up but honest to Pete, it's almost entirely true. And although this is a fish story of sorts, it's not the kind you're probably expecting. It is, however, a 'keeper' in my yet to be written book of tall, if not historically accurate, tales.

A few months back a close friend of my lovely Mona's called the house and invited us out to a 'group get together' at Glenn's Diner in Ravenswood. I happen to like Glenn's but not nearly as much as I dislike 'group get-togethers.' I dislike them so much I insist on putting quotation 'glyphs' around the very phrase. Glenn, a close friend of our close friend, is the proprietor of one of the hottest fresh fish joints on the North Side of Chicago. He had just been booked for a feature on The Food Network's 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' and requested our attendance for the shoot date. This 'group' he was assembling was to help provide the basic background noise, scenery, and some local neighborhood color to the filming. But since none in our invited party actually live in that particular neighborhood, and since it was one of those after work kind of 'get-togethers' (which I really dislike), and since we were all battling the same late Friday afternoon Chicago rush hour traffic coming from different directions of the city by car to get there on time; because of all these reasons...and then some... our entire table was late when the scheduled shoot time was upon us. Quite late, in fact, according to cell phone records.

As I was serpentining (flying over speed bumps) eastward and southward through every shortcut alley I know on the north west side of this bumper to bungalow speed bump ridden city, the little 6 year girl in my back seat (our friend's otherwise charming and precious daughter) was getting...well, a little queasy. Maybe queasy isn't the right word. She was getting car-sick. Actually, car-sick isn't even the right word. She was throwing-up all over my back seat is what she was doing. That's the right word. Throwing-up. And I'm putting it as nicely as I can recall (which is every time I reach into the back seat for something) even these months later.

Sooo...we were terribly late for our reservation, the crew had been filming around our empty table for an hour, people were standing in line to get in, and the back of my neck was... wet. Maybe wet isn't the right word. Whatever, I wasn't exactly in the mood for fish as I barreled down the final side street, hit the air brakes, and emptied my carload of 'get-togetherers' out on the curb in front of the restaurant. I spotted a Good Will Drop-Off dumpster in the alley under the El tracks at Montrose Avenue (Go ahead, drive by. It's there) that was brimming with donated clothing, and quickly tore off in that direction, doors still ajar. I threw the SUV in PARK, jumped out, and grabbed a few torn summer dresses and a Van Huesen button down shirt from the top of the over flowing charity heap.

I proceeded to wipe down the back seat with my new found tax deductible evidence; make that the back seat, both back doors, the headliner, seat belts, the little things you click the seat belts into, windows, headrests, carpets, mats, briefcase, glove box, CD collection, Open House brochures...It was all just kind of smearing, if you know what I'm saying.

I frantically (good word) looked around until finally spotting a garden hose in the backyard of a Two-Flat but the chain link fence had a Beware of Dog sign on in. And since I was now very possibly reeking of whatever that child ate for lunch that day, I thought better of throwing my hat in that particular back yard, ass biting, proverbial ring and considered Plan B. ( Let me say right now that the scene from 'Pulp Fiction' where The Wolf gets Vincent Vega and Jules to totally 'clean' a back seat in Jimmie's garage before Bonnie gets home in 20 minutes is, well...pulp fiction.)

So I reached back up into the Drop-Off and grabbed another soiled rag, this time a double knit pant suit that smelled worse than the back seat of my Bimmer. I soaked it in a puddle of muddy water that had been stagnating under the El tracks since the last rainfall and sopped up as much as I could considering my tattered resources. I then circled the block four times before finding a semi-legal parking space. I parked the vehicle leaving it unlocked with the windows and sunroof wide open, just hoping an unsuspecting car thief would stick his snout inside.

I walked coolly into the restaurant some 40 minutes after splash down and gave the waitress my order. Fish. Yuck. Everyone else was already on their second cocktail. And I, being the lifetime designated driver for such (and all) 'get-togethers' from now until my last sober breath on this Earth is exhaled, ordered my fifth and final coffee of the day. A little wired... Ya think?

Of course, the camera immediately zooms in on Mona and they ask her all the good Food Network fish questions about her dinner, and the flavor, and how it compares with fish from Hawaii, and the wine pairing, and all these other 'foodie' (hate the word) things. She answers and beams with such a sweet southern accent you have to smile. Meanwhile, they don't ask me anything although I'm pretty sure the camera that was stuck in my own silent face half the time caught me almost choking on a fish bone as I was staring down the six year old across the table, war now declared. Anyway, if you watch the show this Monday night, I'm the one in the blue floppy hat that isn't smiling.

So the dinner tasted like fish, which is good I suppose since it is the best fish joint in Chicago, but then another couple (who I never met before) sat down and more food and drinks were ordered and then, as quickly as it all began, the action was cut, the lights dimmed and the final check was presented. Silly me. I thought it was all going to be free.

But instead...the bill was almost $500 with tax and tip (which in Chicago is over 30% combined and another post for another morning). I barely knew half of those 'getting-together' that evening so the final math (division of who ate--and didn't eat--what, and who drank the most--not me--and who just came for dessert, blah, blah, blah) was excruciating. Several of us pulled out credit cards then were immediately informed that the check couldn't be spread over more than two cards. And that they didn't take American Express, which I was holding out in my hand like I was hailing a taxi cab in Montana. No takers. My lucky night continued. Priceless.

The two strangers (to me) got up hit the ATM a block away for some much needed cash but one of them never came back. Thirty minutes later we still hadn't resolved the bill and it was getting embarrassing. No embarrassing isn't the right description. Humiliating is better. Actually, humiliating and pissed-off is most accurate. And sobering (for me, that is). Luckily for everyone (including Glenn, I suppose) the members of the film crew had packed away the cameras, struck the set, and were already bellying up and throwing back at the bar, having their own 'get together.'

Glenn, the gentleman proprietor that he is, stepped up and quickly whacked a hundred off the bill (and his profit, I'm sure) but by this point my mind and the evening were both quickly dulling. My wife, however, was glowing. She is soon to be a Food Network star, at least in our own household kitchen, where Channel 72 is the only programming ever on that particular screen.

You can see her (and the rest of the above mentioned cast of characters) on the Food Network this coming Monday night, November 24th, at 9PM. Like I said, I'm the one in the blue floppy hat. I would have taken it off but my neck was still a little... sticky (yeah, that's the right word). Also, the shirt I'm wearing in the show was the only decent thing I came across in the Good Will Drop-Off. And like the old man on the radio has been saying almost every weekday morning in Chicago for the last 50 years...'And now you know the rest of the story....'

Geno Petro

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another Chicago Foreclosure

I'm coming clean. Two years ago I didn't even know what a Short Sale was--- not entirely. I'd heard tell of the horror stories, of course, but never had the opportunity (and yes, it is an opportunity for someone) to experience an American Dream gone sour, up close and personal. And just so you know, a Realtor never really understands this whole painful process---Pre-Foreclosure, Short Sale, Auction, and finally, full blown REO {Real Estate Owned} Foreclosure---until forced to jump through the Seller's and Lender's hoops at least a half dozen times for free. In the Chicago Real Estate market, I just never found this to be much of an issue (or a market). That is, not until lately.

Lately, I've been showing Short Sales and Foreclosures practically on a daily basis--several times a week, to be sure. And while still a relatively small percentage of the single family and condo inventory compared to the rest of the country, their numbers have clearly increased and their presence can be spotted in every Chicago neighborhood (note the stickers on the front door). The least expensive one I'm involved with now is listed at $58,900. The most expensive, $3,550,000. A handful are beautiful. Most are not. Each is heart breaking in its own way.

I work exclusively with Buyers in this expanding Chicago Real Estate market (and have no interest to get involved on the List side other than to negotiate Offers) and have acquired a keen eye and a keener ear in the process these past few years---clues dropped by the Bank or Listing Agent to help get the deal done in a relatively timely fashion. By timely I mean less than 6 months. Oh yeah, I said months, although REO properties (Bank Owned) are almost always faster to the Closing table than actual Short Sales.

This opportunity is the hidden beauty of the internet and high Google (and Yahoo) page ranking and positioning. The property 'Inquiries' and 'Requests to Show' come into on a daily basis. I consider our Chicago (and Northern Illinois) MLS Search Engine to be the best in the city and I encourage my clients to both Register and experiment. I instruct them how to look on their own, keeping me in their house hunting loop while I search the inventory as well.

And because of this effort I've lately found myself in neighborhoods I never would have imagined a few short years ago. (You mean there are actually paved streets west of Western Avenue? Don't the houses have cacti in their front yards? Isn't the Grand Canyon somewhere off of Grand Avenue and the M streets--Menard, Mobile, Monitor, etc...?) I took the above photo in Addison/Dunning this evening as my clients and I toured the shut down, evicted property with a high powered flashlight. Note to self: keep a bag of surgical face masks handy. The mold spore count was in the trillions. The Asking Price: $152,000. Not one of the prettier ones I walked through lately.

Still, we are mulling over an Offer. Hey, throw it against the wall. Who knows?...maybe it will stick to the mold. I'm telling you...heart breaking.

Geno Petro

Friday, November 07, 2008

Hangin' w/my BFF

So I was chatting with a BFF and new Facebook bud, Danielle, yesterday at our monthly lunch meeting covering the usual 'catch-up topics'--spheres of influence, scoop, dirty laundry, relationships, love lives, the Chicago real estate business, the pursuit of trump (dough, cache, coin, income, dust), the election, etc... when we came up with a possible SNL skit. Obama's First CIA Briefing. Here goes:

CIA Guy: "Okay Mr. President Elect. There are a few things you outta know."

Obama: "Okay shoot. No wait. Just kidding. I'm anti-handgun, that's right..... Proceed"

CIA Guy: "There really are UFO's"

Obama: "No shi...I mean wow. Really?"

CIA Guy: "Yeah, and Elvis is in the Witness Protection Program in Reno."

Obama: "The King? But how...?"

CIA Guy: "You can thank Bill Clinton for that. He was hanging in a strip joint outside a trailer park while visiting a...ahem... lady friend back in '96. They ran into each other in the back room. He hooked him up with a lap dance for a trade of immunity and anonymity."

Obama: "Who Elvis?"

CIA Guy: "No, Clinton. Elvis was the opening act. He did an old, fat Elvis impersonation. Really sucked. Great cover, though. "

Obama: "Who Clinton?"

CIA Guy: "No, Elvis."

Obama: "So I'm not the King?"

CIA Guy: "Afraid not sir."

Obama: "Damn... I mean Dawg. Dawg gonnit."

CIA Guy: "Yeah.... And about Marilyn Monroe..."

Obama: "Wait. Don't tell me. She's still alive too...?"

CIA Guy: "Oh no. Dead as a door nail, Sir." Wink, wink.


Obama: "Who?... you mean...Sarah Palin?"

CIA Guy: "Hell no. Sam Giancana. Badda bing....ifyouknowhatimsayin'..."

Obama: "Oh my."

CIA Guy: "Oh yeah. Word."

Or something along those lines. Hey, you gotta have something to laugh about. The Nation's dream apparently came true on Tuesday night and then the stock market proceeded to immediately tank another 15% in 48 hours. Pretty funny. Not the type of change I was thinking about, though.

Almost as funny as me not knowing the Green Party candidate I voted for was an African American female. Not a problem, mind you...I just thought McKinney was an Irish Catholic name; Green, Party, etc. That's all. Shows what I know about politicos. Anyway, Danielle and I laughed our asses off. And that's all that really counts during a summit meeting, I've found.

Geno Petro

above image of Cynthia (not Irish) McKinney: the candidate I actually voted for.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

You Can Leave Your Hat On

Yes, yes,'s a red letter November day indeed and I think we all know what I'm referring to. (It begins with Cha and ends with nge, I have heard) Cruising south on LSD (that's Lake Shore Drive in Chicago-speak to all you squares) I suddenly found myself crawling through the bumper-to-fender pre-ceremonial sprawl that is surrounding the assumed presidential post victory festivities at Grant Park tonight. There is predicted to be a million man march; one that will actually have a million men who show up. A million woman, too, from what all my lady friends are telling me in their morning coffee blogs about town.

I put on my snoop scoop lid (see picture above), jumped into my urban assault vehicle, and pushed south (and left) to the other side of Madison where all things Hyde Park await the good (and last) word from the 2008 polling contingent. I even had NPR on the radio providing some nice liberal background noise to soothe my troubled brainwaves.

Still undecided, I squeezed into a sardine can spot in front of a high rise at 4800 South Chicago Beach then proceeded to show a half dozen Short Sales and Foreclosures before deciding on the least imperfect one with my client. We wrote an Offer on the spot.

As luck would have it, we weren't the only buyers with that same idea on this super Tuesday. I didn't even have time to take off my hat, it seemed, before we got bumped from the deal and escorted to the street with the rest of the evictees. We grabbed our cells phones and chattered away in opposite directions for fifteen minutes of re-grouping and number crunching. We re-figured the odds and break even points. My client took a deep breath and decided to go with Plan B, second runner up in a beauty pageant of warts and blemishes, a full blown Bank Foreclosure even less attractive than Choice Number One which was homely, at best, to begin with. The small Condominium was something he can possibly live with for a couple years before fixing up and dumping it right back into the hopefully less glutted South Side of Chicago when things are different in the housing market. After all, CHANGE has been promised. Or so I've been told.

Geno Petro

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Follow the scent....and R.I.P.

Hey, all yous Chicago style dogs and property sniffing mutts. I just posted on Bloodhound Blog.

And to the oldest and most beloved scoop hound of us all (and one time Uptown neighbor), Studs Terkel, you'll be greatly missed but infinitely hailed.

Chicago is not the most corrupt American city. It's the most theatrically corrupt." S.T.

Geno Petro

image by some artist my wife won't let me hang in the living room