Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Don't pee in the alley, Sally

When you staggger out of one those few remaining Chicago beer gardens in Ukrainian Village after a night of too much 'zimne piwo' (go ahead, Google it) and start the slow crawl home to your graystone garden hovel, be careful where you relieve yourself, water the flowers, see a man about a horse...Or more specifically, don't pee in the alley behind the 1007-1015 block of N. Wolcott Ave. It is a designated urban art district of sorts. 'Tres cool,' as they used to say at the forever hip but now disinterred, Lava Lounge on Damen (most recently morphed into a place called Piccolo that serves gelato and bruschette---HUH?). Sorry, gelato is a lot of things but 'hip' isn't one of them. (Same with the 1200 block of Milwaukee Ave as compared to the 800 block of Damen back in the day. Go ahead, Google it too.)

An excerpt from the most recent issue of TimeOut Chicago's Art & Design section explains the West Town neighborhood phenom to which I refer, in further detail:

The buildings belong to sculptor Jerzy Kenar, who began commissioning alley art in 2003. And by commissioning, we mean he gave neighborhood teens $100, a can of paint and some Coca-Cola and had them go to town on his garage doors. Since then, the alley has been filled with cartoons or graffitiesque letters. Teenage boys work on the garage with their girlfriends in tow, “smoking and passing cans of paint...”

In other words, it's art. Try not to piss on it. Zimne Piwo!

(Also... Greg Whelan just sent me this link. Like I said earlier, tres cool. He lives in the UK Village.)

Geno Petro

i took the pix

Friday, July 25, 2008

Anachronic Chicago Storefronts

It ain't Mayberry...R.F.D. or otherwise

Check out the above random photos I snapped on my way into the office yesterday. The architecture is purely turn of the century (1890s to 1910 Chicago) but the actual establishments housed in each are anything but. (Notice the names and services; tattoos, piercings, manscaping...) This is one of the very cool things about living in modern day Chicago; appreciating the uber hip, small business nexus that occupies space in what was once our great grandparents' storefronts.

Floyd, the beloved barber of Mayberry repute, would more than likely need to know how to pierce a tongue and dye a Mohawk purple to help cover the $4,000 per month triple net lease in 2008 dollars were he just simply cutting hair today. Even our own real estate office on Diversey Parkway occupies the first floor of a 1920's walk-up. It's definitely an eclectic blend of big city lights and Main Street America. And to quote our man Floyd as he gently tugged on the sleeve of Barney's new sportcoat, twirling the herringbone fabric with his delicate fingertips:

"Oohh...Just goes to show. If you want a good suit, you gotta go to Raleigh..."

Geno Petro

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chicago Street Surfing

Zoom in on the silhouette of the dude with outstretched arms on the horizon. He's wearing inline skates and is about to ride the handrail from the Forest Glen Metra platform at Forest Glen and Balmoral Avenues (across from my house), 45 degrees straight down onto the cement sidewalk 20 ft below. One minute later the '4:55' from Fox Lake to downtown Chicago screamed by with bells clanging and horns blaring and the whole crowd, mostly teens, flipped it off.

Hey, it's an organic way for the neighborhood kids to get together and have fun with the urban landscape. It's kind of like living across the road from Diamond Head in Honolulu except that the ground here is concrete and indigenous scrub brush instead of beautiful black sand and palms; and the kids are skating instead of surfing; and the temperature in January is 20 below instead of 80 and....well, never mind. Anyway, it was pretty cool to watch until the cops came and made everybody pack up their gear and go somewhere else to possibly break their necks on private property. I'm pretty sure everyone flipped them off, too.

Geno Petro

photo by me and my iPhone

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chicago's Home Outsource

Click on either of the hyperlinks below to visit the latest news sources that have posted my Chicago's Home Weblog articles on their websites. The referenced real estate piece is from a few weeks back but the news wires just picked it up yesterday. I was noticing an unusually high traffic volume day on my site Statcounter when a Blogburst link directed me in the direction of and Reuters. And just when I thought no one was listening... "Hooray for the internet!" say I. And while you're at it, check out my latest post (and join the commenting fun) over at BloodhoundBlog.

Geno Petro

pix lifted from (I'm sure they won't mind)

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

Saturday, July 05, 2008

O'er the ramparts we watched the Chicago Fourth

(click above hyperlink to read the entire article )

Anyway, the rocket's red glare was certainly bursting in the northwest Chicago air over our own Forest Glen house last evening--cat under the bedspread, dog under the bed, wife and I on the rooftop terrace hootin' and hollerin' along with the rest of the neighborhood--as the streaming, popping bursts of color lit the sky on every horizon and the familiar smell of burnt silver powder lingered in the summer breeze until well past the midnight hour. What a country!

Geno Petro

(pix not by me...)