Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Geno From Chicago 2008

My "Best of" Blog Posts for 2008 from across the internet can be found at:

Geno From Chicago

(Comments have been Disabled but links to all original posts are live.)

Geno Petro

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

That's a Wrap...

To Chicago, the free world, and beyond:

I just posted my final 2008 piece on Bloodhound Blog for the year. Check it out with your morning coffee. It's a little strong so you may need some sugar. They don't call me 'Doppio' for nothing...or at least that's how I think they've been spelling it. And as an added bonus, I actually make mention of 'real estate' in this one.

Simple Peace, if not true and everlasting Love, to you all in 2009,


image is Chicago through a dirty windshield on LSD

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wish List: pick-up truck, house trailer, forgiveness...

Driving downstate through an ice storm this past week allowed me many quiet white-out hours to ponder my own, unfulfilled, Life's wish list. The cosmic notion hit me just about the time we pulled into Effingham, Illinois (love the name, Effingham---consider: "Honey, I'm sick of that Effing-ham. How 'bout some Effing-turkey instead this Christmas?") some 240 miles and 8 crawling hours south of our bittersweet home in sub-zero, salt mottled Chicago. We settled down for the cold winter's night at a Comfort Inn and dined on some warm gruel at TGI FRIDAY'S before awaking, early and rested, on Day Two to resume our annual Christmas pilgrimage to Tennessee and all gifts sweet and southern.

Next stop on the GPS, Metropolis: 'Home of the Giant Superman Statue.' We had been meaning to check out this giant statue for several years now but always took a pass in an effort to make better travel time. Perhaps this day would finally be.... 'the day' we threw haste to the wind and dropped in on the Caped Crusader and that whole cast of characters. Wait...maybe that's Gotham. Hmmm... Oh well, in the end it really didn't matter.

In a fleeting moment of clarity, I realized that all I ever really desire in this fair and unbalanced world is what everybody else around me has. I could learn to be content with just that, I supposed. The key to this mental metacafe, I concluded, lies not so much in the 'What'... but in the 'Where.' I want what everyone around me has as long as it's: on the Right Bank of Paris; on the Upper East Side of NYC; on a tropical beach... in the Tropics! So in the case of Metropolis, Illinois, this would compute to a comfortable house to decorate for the holidays, a pick-up truck, and a secure assistant-middle-management job at the Big John Supermarket in town.

My wife and I, forever pondering the myriad of future retirement options, always seem to pose the same question whenever we find ourselves in a new spot far, far away from Chicago: "Think we could live here?" We look around, pause...and usually continue on in silence. Truth is, we generally don't fit in. And this day is no different. We quietly pulled up to the Metropolis town square in the BMW and got out to stretch our legs. As advertised, there stood a statue of Superman, although whether it is 'GIANT' or not is arguable.

All things equal, the Big John statue at the Big John Supermarket across the street is much taller and more muscular for my money. But I'm an outsider. What do I know? Some teenaged locals were giving me a hard local look from the next pick-up truck over as I framed my iPhone camera upward for some tourist shots. One of them proclaimed, "That's a pretty big dog to be haulin' around in that fancy ve-hic-le."

I looked over my shoulder and observed our overfed pampered pet sitting upright on his own heated backseat with a jingle belled Santa collar around his neck, panting out the window. The locals had two very lean, growling pitbulls with rusty spike collars chained to the side rail of their flat bed. I looked back up at the two statues towering above and tried to remember the last time someone picked a fight with me. I attempted to mentally recall some of my karate moves but to no avail. I have a black belt laying around the house somewhere, I remember. I wondered if it was still good, praying for muscle memory. Another life, sadly. Really need to get back in shape...clean out the basement...did I unplug the coffee pot?...what was I just saying?...

"Where do you get parts for that?" another big farm boy asked, pulling me back into the Metropolis moment.

Hmmm. Good question. If I answered "at the BMW shop" someone was going to take a swing at me and let the dogs loose for sure.

"Its not mine," I finally say. "I just stole it. Wanna buy it? 30 grand. Cache." Smiling. Thank God I was wearing my sunglasses and skull cap. No more words were exchanged between the humans although the collective hounds continued giving each other the city/country stink eye for several awkward seconds.

I snapped a few shots, jumped back in the fancy ve-hic-le, and headed toward the interstate wondering how long I'd even survive in a short sleeve white shirt and clip-on tie, assistant-managing such indigenous folk. Maybe the retail food industry is not for me after all, I concluded. I pictured me and Big John eventually butting heads somewhere down my second career line and dismissed the fantasy altogether. "You can scratch Metropolis off the retirement list," I said. And although Mona would have made a pretty hot Superwoman, she didn't seem too disappointed with my executive decision (although just between us, she is faster than any speeding Bloomingdale's shopper I've ever met).

Upon reaching our peaceful and rolling hilled destination of northwestern Tennessee, we tossed around the benefits of good country living for two days and ate like fatted calves like we always do in this bucolic family setting. My father-in-law once again reminded me exactly how much real estate I'd need to sell in Dyer County to make a comfortable living. We've had this conversation often. The conclusion is always the same. A lot...of real estate, that is.

Mere price point alone dictates that selling houses and condos in Chicago assures at least a modicum of success for a Realtor compared to the deflated, slow moving housing market of this rural section of the Economy. Still, townsfolk sit around the local eatery, Toot-'n-Tell-It, and discuss the future of America as they see it. 'Goodyear's laying off. No acorns this year. Lot's of pecans, though...' The parking lot is full (as it is on every occasion I've been there) and the local, flannel shirted workers chew on the three square fat over black coffee and pie, everyday except Sunday.

Funny. The Chevrolet dealership in town is boarded up. Goodyear down the road is rumored to be laying off soon. GM, on a national level, is about to crash, but Toot-'n-Tell-It in Dyer, Tennessee is still packing them in and slinging hash morning, noon and night.

"If we retire here we could sell the BMW, buy a trailer and you could get a job waitressing," I said as we pulled into the parking lot full of pick-up trucks for one last stop before hitting the road for good after a most pleasant Christmas visit. My wife just looked at me. The passenger compartment smelled like dog and pecan pie. We'd been in the ve-hic-le hundreds of hours and traveled thousands of miles through storms of biblical proportions these past several days. And now we were about to embark on the final leg of our Christmas journey; the 492 foggy miles straight home to Chicago. No stopping; Effingham, Metropolis, and now Dyer, soon to be mere holiday memories left behind...

"Where do we get parts for this thing?" she asked, as we idled in front of Toot-'n-Tell-It for the final time this trip.

"I don't know. Not the Chevy dealership, that's for sure," I said.

"Why don't you go inside and ask someone?" she asked.

And I would have but I still couldn't remember if I had an actual Black Belt designation or not. I reached into the backseat and took the ridiculous collar off my dog before he got us both beat up, set the navigation, and waited for a signal, before pulling away. "TURN LEFT. 100 FEET," it instructed.

"Real men down here use compasses," Mona said, as we pulled onto Route 45 North, still pissed about the waitress comment.

"Yes," I said, as I adjusted my power seat and fastened my safety belt. "And their wives keep the trailer nice and clean, I'm told." as I quickly added Forgiveness to the list...

Geno Petro

images via iPhone

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like...

To: All

Believe me, I'm feeling you. Who (besides most grandparents and myself) really cares about receiving other people's family pictures on Holiday Greeting cards? It seems instead of Hallmark illustrated Santas in Santaland or Winters in Wonderland, the way to roll on the Christmas cover anymore is straight from the digital files of the household hard drive: Happy Holidays from the Holihans in Hawaii! (on the beach), or Merry Merry from Murray and Mary in MuckityMuck! (in matching reindeer sweaters by the hearth), or Rappy Rolidays rum Rover! (in antlers and fluffy white neckwear).

And whether the photoshopped families are adorned in swimwear, sweaters, or slobbery scarves, it's almost always about the Sender and not the Receiver. Or so I've heard. Lucky for us, the two Christmas cards we received so far this year clearly came from a box of 25 others just like them. We use them as coffee cup coasters instead of lining them up on a mantle or stringing them across the room. Like I mentioned, two cards total this season. (I'm secretly hoping to break our record of six total from last year.)

And this is because two is exactly two more than we have ever sent out ourselves, total, since we were married 7 years ago. The first year the cheer just kept on coming, 50 or 60 cards at least. Year two, as well. Then, recessionary numbers were reported in years 3 through 5 with a dramatic supply-side drop-off in year 6. And this year only two. One from my parents. One from my daughter. Oh, and one from the housekeeper with something written in Polish, either Merry Christmas or I Quit!, I imagine. Either way, it was one of those money holder cards but there was no money in it. Gee....I winter wonder what that means? (I don't count Christmas cards in the tally that I receive but actually have to put a check in and hand back.)

To be honest, we still exchange gifts with our inner circle and dearest loved ones and to be fair, Merry Christmas To: and From: is usually printed on the tag or wrapping paper somewhere. I don't count these as cards although the thought (and gift) is certainly there. You really can't set a cup of coffee on a To: and From: tag. And they look very silly strung across the living room, as well. Or lined up on the mantle, for that matter.

I heard someone comment recently that receiving a Christmas card with someone elses family vacation picture on the cover is kind of like receiving a Birthday card with a picture of the Sender on the cover. Especially when it is 5 degrees below zero outside and the Holihans are hanging 5 at the 21st Parallel. And really especially if they lost weight. Get my snow drift? Same goes for the family pet. However, take a peek at the very top of this post and tell me, is that not cute or what?

Merry, Happy, Cheer, and Joy to all and to all...let's get this year over with already!

Peace, too

From: The Petros

image: Oscar on a box, under the tree.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why I Should Pay My Mortgage: Reason #23

When my mostly white galoot of a hound goes galloping across the side yard as I stand watching--coffee cup already clutched and brimming--through the toastier side of the veranda picture window in my boxers and nightcap, all I can make out through the Chicago pre-dawn snowscape is a snout and three brown spots darting from pine to pine. We both know it's sub-zero outside but the animal has his own morning ritual--a personal call to duty marking his American Bulldog territory in chemical union with the less domesticated denizens of the adjoining Cook County Forest Preserve; racoons, possums, gophers and such. Basically, they just pee all over each other.

The truth be known, this is one of the main reasons I begged my wife to buy the house in the first place. I love my dog. I hate walking him in the winter. I no longer have the patience or thermal body make-up to dawdle from tree to tree to and back again on my end of the leash, waiting...anticipating...begging..."Elvis, take a dump already! I'm freezing!" He's on dog time. He does what he has to do, when he has to do it. No sooner, no later.

Forest Glen
, as I've written many times before, is a bucolic little alcove tucked in a residential nook between the Milwaukee District North Metra tracks and the North Branch of the Chicago River. We love it here. We are demographically in the city of Chicago but mentally in Mayberry RFD, or at least this is what I'm told by our more urbane, fairer weather Lincoln Park/Old Town acquaintances. It's a 22 minute train ride to Union Station and a 22 second walk to Nature. It's where a guy can stand at the window in his boxer shorts and nightcap watching his dog walk himself at 5:45 AM. And it's the best and only reason I can think of today to get dressed, drive to the Bank of America branch on Clybourn and North Avenues, and make my December mortgage payment, which, by the way, is about the price of two round-trip Business Class tickets to Rome. Every month. Go figure...then again, don't bother. We all have our own financial beasts of burden to, well...burden

"Elvis...HURRY UP!!!" I yell through the frosted window as he sniffs around for the perfect spot, still putzing. He is such a putzer, that dog; definitely not built for condominium living, that's for sure. Not in the dead of winter anyway, which like I said, is one of the main reasons I put a contract on this house to begin with. After this month's payment we only have 345 more to go. That's 28 3/4 years. I'll be 81 and Elvis will be 35 (245 in dog years). Mona, of course, will still be 37. I should have done the math, I suppose, but I didn't. I follow my heart, not my accountant's advice; always have, never will. Besides, we're dead for a long time I've heard...

Geno Petro

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chicago Readers...Hark!

Greetings to all you Chicago's Home Weblog readers, fellow real estate bloggers, internet insomniacs, on-the-clock Facebook addicts, disappointed Illinois constituents, Obama chanting optimists, run-of-the-mill blogosphereans (yeah, I made it up) and everyone else electronically cyber-chained to their work-space cubicles: I just posted on BloodhoundBlog. Click below for my latest essay:


(ps...they tell me its at least humorous, if not entirely factual)

Geno Petro

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Temporary Housing

"We build sand castles," a sales manager once told me. "When it comes to recruiting and developing a team you have to remember that a third are coming, a third are going, and a third are making up their minds..." Ironically, I happened to be one of those 'going' at the time.

The same holds true with home sales in Chicago today. Lenders are sorting through stacks of mortgage re-work files on ivory tower credenzas deciding (arbitrarily it seems) which deals to stick with and which deals to send off to the oyster shucker. I have a condo buyer who, when we first spoke back in August, only wanted to look at Short Sales and Foreclosures. His latest Text to me this morning pinged the following urgent message: NO MORE SHT SALES. NO MORE 4CLOSURES. NO MORE PAIN. We lost another one at the witching hour. I looked in my briefcase and pulled out four different Initial Earnest money checks with his signature. I wrote VOID, too, on the latest example.

The housing market, as we know it today, is subject to the winds and tides of economic change--- both globally and locally. My advice: Determine the safest distance from the tsunami and then make an Offer. Oh yeah, bring plenty of supplies and don't bother glancing at your timepiece, either. Remember, we're on Island Time (not Chicago time) now and waiting for a quick answer, like swilling warm sea water or staring into the eclipse, will only drive you insane (or at least that's what the nuns used to say). When the Sun does re-appear (one day soon I predict), those who purchased at low tide will be the king and queen crabs of the sandy 'hood, taking those long, romantic walks on the beach, hand in claw...or something along those metaphoric lines.

image taken from my iPhone on Captiva Island last Monday

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chicago's Top Ten Real Estate Deals

Check out Dennis Rodkin's latest Deal Estate piece to see my new Top Ten Real Estate Deals in Chicago blog. I am the Chicago 'concierge' (je suis) for the nationally syndicated Top 10 Real Estate Deals which features, you guessed it... the Top Ten Condo & Luxury Real Estate Deals in major housing markets across the country. (And people complain about how hard the state licensing exam is...)

And while the business of actually buying and selling property is as challenging as it has ever been in recent years, there are still bargains to be found (and had). You just have to know where to look and from whom to seek your advice (ahem...). Oh yes, and remember the sage words of Joe Pinto, my Managing Broker/Owner at Chicago Home Estates, "It's only a buyer's market if you're actually buying."

Meanwhile, Mona and I are off to Captiva Island, Florida until next week. That is, if we don't get snowed in tonight. I need some natural Vitamin D from our nearest star to bronze up the winter pallor.

Geno Petro

Monday, December 01, 2008

Oh this so sux

Quick cosmic question for the odd Augustan poet out there: Exactly which Circle of Hell in Dante's Inferno can Chicago in the wintertime be found? I awoke at dawn this day only to discover a 3 inch blanket of ice and cinder covering my usually (6 months a year) bucolic parkway. Neither household pet would go near the veranda doors although bladders and curious minds were certainly brimming (my first morning chore regardless of climate, animal relief). The coffee tasted flat and the radiators in the house were clinking like a fleet of old tin lizzies. Oh...and it was garbage day--cans by the curb. (Minor household repairs, coffee and trash--also my chores.)

A month or so before I relocated to Chicago back in 1995 I was under the (wrong) impression that I'd soon be moving to Delray Beach, Florida. It was sort of a company transfer thing and my options (a direct order from my vice president) were limited (nonexistent). I had already resigned from my established position--and been replaced--in Virginia (beautiful 11 months a year) and was awaiting my turn in the corporate re-organization queue (take it or leave it) of a Fortune 500 insurance giant (with a very small unFortunate--the giant, that is--wiener). I pissed someone off upstairs (go figure) then suddenly, one day, they shoveled me off to Chicago instead of Delray and the rest is deep frozen history (the other 6 months a year here). So today I stand before the frosted window, 13 years to that fateful day later, wondering...once again...WTF???

"Where's your winter coat?" People would often ask me during those first few seasons in this, the windiest of all frozen cities.

"This is my winter coat," I'd reply, teeth chattering, ears frozen, eyes watering from behind my Ray Bans.

"That's not a winter coat," they'd parry. "That's a Members Only jacket."

"It goes with my boots," I'd say, looking down at my thin soled, Italian leather, hand crafted slip ons---mortally soaked and stained with cinder and salt, my skinned head uncovered as well.

"Those aren't boots," they'd declare before pointing down to their own buckskin and fur lined knee highs with Gore-Tex outers and Vibram soles, "These are boots!...And where's your hat?"

And so it continued until I got a real estate license and purchased my first condo in this incongruous love/hate city of soot and sparkle. I met the woman I'd eventually (instantly) love and marry and she would then forever after buy me hats and coats and boots til death does its part. And now, on any given day from December through April, I look like a duck hunter roaming the streets of the big city for my next meal. So on this, the onset of my 14th year in Chicago, I must once again ask to whomever might be listening....."WTF? Exactly which Circle of Hell..........."

Geno Petro

(image is not my car but if it was, I doubt I'd bother washing it either)