Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bad to da Chicago bone

This gray, primed beast can usually be found parked in front of Suzie China's on Lincoln Ave in the West Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago at around high noon. It's 'chopped and channeled and lowered and louvered' and...well, it pretty much follows along with the rest of the lines of that old Tom Waits song, too. The machine may be out of time and place with the rest of the BMW condo set in this bustling upwardly mobile phoned community but one thing is for sure; it is definitely not 'cookie cutter.'

In the last 10 years this offbeat Ashland/Belmont/Lincoln enclave has moved from a double row of gritty storefronts and 1920s apartment rentals to an upscale, walk around 'hood along the lines of Lincoln Square, Roscoe Village, and even Bucktown. Only Suzie C and a handful of other old mainstays remain. In this way, the old gray beast is a metaphor of yesteryear Chicago.

They don't build cars with chrome teeth anymore. And while it may take a fairly frugal owner to shun a two-tone emerald powdercoat for an Earl Sheibs coupon special, it takes an even out-of-the-boxier individual to keep the paint job primer gray with a cobwebbed pinstripe applique. But above all, I think, it takes a truly singular soul, with an iron clad constitution (and colon), to eat at Suzie China's everyday.

Geno Petro

i snapped the shot (but as always, I did not shoot the deputy...)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chicago Hardball

I am, what some might call, a Bi-Soxual--I love both teams, north(side) as well as south(side). If a ball, bat and hot dogs are involved then I'm all in. If a cool, summer Chicago night happens to be the setting, all the better. Add a couple dingers over the left field fence and a 7th inning stretch led by Cubbie great, Ron Santo or Drunky Martin offspring, Dina...well, words just can't describe the euphoria. Not fully, anyway. (Only a quick correction from a flat Chicago real estate market could be better. But for now, I'll enjoy the hot dogs and the dingers.)

As of this writing both the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs are perched atop their respective Divisions with 36 games to go. In interleague play back in June, each team swept the other at home. Then there's Lou. And Ozzie. And the fans.

I've heard mutterings of a 'Subway Series' as I go about my day; water cooler talk in the office, passing conversations on the sidewalk, whispers carrying on the lake front breeze over the bike paths and beaches. Toddlers are donned with Cubbie Blue and White Sox Black as the mothers congregate in Starbacks for their morning fixes. W flags are hanging everywhere north of Madison. The radio talk show pundits recalculate the Vegas spread on a daily basis.

And the numbers don't lie:

Theriot is batting 316. Quentin has 35 Homers. Jenks has 25 Saves, Wood 26. Soriano is on fire. The Cubs have the strongest batting line-up in the majors. The Sox may have the best bullpen of all time (according to Joe Morgan and others). October is only weeks away--that's 36 games in baseball years--and Chicago is ready for some cross-town hardball. When the boys of summer are gone (the Brewers, the Twins, the Yanks, et al) that's when the men of autumn suit up and play for all the marbles, several million each in bonus money (split 50 ways), and the Championship flag; the World Series in Chicago...somebody pinch me, please. And just to be clear, the word was Bi-Sox-ual.

Geno Petro

pix: Wrigley Field from the $52.00 nosebleed seats (another story for another day) and a guy (who only looks like me) in a goofy shirt.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Cafe Society

I was cruising down Lincoln Avenue last week when I caught a glimpse of the rare bird out of the corner of my eye. She was perched at a meter in front of the Starbucks at Greenview but by the time I pulled over to the curb for a closer look, she had flown away in the opposite direction towards Southport Avenue in a blur of orange creme beauty. I couldn't identify the exact specimen at first but I made a note to myself on the iPhone...'Cafe Racer/Orange/very rare/Google it.'

Two days ago I saw her again, banking the Diversey/Racine/Lincoln 6 way at a 45 degree angle and sling shotting toward the Chicago lake front and all things high rise and condominium. I did a loose back end U-turn, gunned it, but lost her just before the Sheffield Brown Line construction quagmire, my Mini Cooper jammed between two CTA buses and a Flash Cab, everyone's horn blaring at once in the same impatient disharmony. This time I noticed the badge on the gas tank as she weaved between vehicles, eastward and away---BMW Cafe. She soared into the exhaust horizon...

Now if you've ever met my father you would know for sure that you've been in the presence of a true Birder (that's a bird watcher in layman's terms). The fascination has been there for as long as I can recall. There was the time he spotted a 'flicker' (Woodpecker? Not quite) on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia and stopped his Cadillac dead in the middle lane of traffic for a better, craned neck view. There were the countless trips to Cape May, New Jersey and the Maryland wetlands, in his younger days, to catch a glimpse of soaring eagles or sandy beach egrets. His den at home is packed with Omithological reference books, high end binoculars, artwork, photos, and bird sounding clocks. Lot's of clocks--every hour, on the hour; CHIRP. Chirp, chirp, WHISTLE, Whistle, whistle, BEEP, Beep, beep or some variation thereof. Anyway, that's where I get it from.

I've always looked at motorized vehicles, cars and motorcycles alike, as engineering wonders of beauty (save the occasional Chevy Vega or Ford Maverick. The AMC Pacer was pretty lame too, along with countless station wagons and most things with four or more doors). Some however, are almost the same as Art. The rare few are Art. I've collected them for years in my mind.

When I was seven or eight years old I would sit on the grassy area alongside the Mill Creek Parkway in Levittown and identify the cars as they zoomed by; 1950s and 60s Impalas, Bel Airs, Imperials, the rare Corvette Stingray, a whole variety of Studebakers and Ramblers. Later on, and a little further south down the Eastern Seaboard, motorcycles would be included in the ritual; Triumphs, Nortons, BSAs and of course, Harleys. I never did acquire a taste for anything Japanese (two or four wheelers) although the new Lexus L650H V12 Hybrid Super Sedan is a bad maama jaama, from what they say.

My first and only motorcycle was a 1969 BSA 441 Victor; yellow and chrome with a ripped leather seat and scratchy horsehair sticking out. It smelled like a saddle; a saddle and motor oil. I rode it until it needed a total rebuild and eventually sold it in a basket for $441. It, like most of the guitars that have also passed through my hands over the years, would be worth many, many times the original value had I kept it. Doesn't matter anyway, my wife won't let me have a motorcycle and my dog goes bonkers whenever he hears one rumble down the street as every other husband on my block in Forest Glen has a big, fat Harley (okay, maybe not every husband, but a few...at least one I'm positive of, although he may not actually be married anymore). Anyway... I am allowed to look...

I saw the orange and creme BMW Cafe parked in front of the Starbucks near my office on Friday. I recognized the owner as he sat on the patio and worked his crossword puzzle. I felt like a kid asking for an autograph as I interrupted his morning ritual.

"Is that your bike?" I asked motioning toward the sidewalk with my head.


"Can I take a picture?" I followed.

He looked up at me for a second, sizing me up no doubt; 'Older dude. Bike enthusiast. Probably has a wife who won't let him have a motorcycle.'

"Sure. Go ahead..." he said.

I almost got clipped by a beer truck as I stood in the street trying to get a cool angle with my iPhone camera. Like I mentioned earlier, I am very closely related to a man who will slam on the brakes in the middle of Philadelphia to see a yellow breasted sap sucker. We are fearless, us Petros, if nothing else. Fearless with an eye for beauty.

Geno Petro

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chicago Market Days

There are a lot of places where, quite frankly, I stick out like a sore thumb (see photos in the sidebar > ) but believe me when I tell you, Chicago's Halsted Street in August is not one of those places....

...and I think I'll just leave it at that.

Geno Petro

yeah, I took them all

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Drove my Chevy to the Levee...

...then I left it there for 35 years. Nostalgia will not get the best of me. Not this time. It's back to the future, if anything.

You see, I went to my 20th high school reunion back in 1994--an event I had pondered for the better part of a decade prior--basically wondering how my peers were aging and succeeding in comparison to...well, me. But no, that wasn't enough. I had to go back for seconds 10 years later, even fatter, balder and more mediocre (but with a much better wife) than the first time. Few classmates looked even vaguely familiar during this second visit, and I spent most of the evening talking with someone named Chippy; a person I'd never seen before in my life (although according to him we were the best of buds back in the day... frequently skipping homeroom for higher ground, as it were. Hey, I don't remember nothin' but apparently, he graduated from Duke and I barely made it through Slippery Rock with a 2.0 average so he must not have been inhaling.). Anyway, the few people I did recognize were very happy to learn that rumors of my early demise 'were greatly exaggerated,' to paraphrase Twain/Clements/et al... as was I.

I left high school thinking I was going to be an actor or a writer or a movie director but ended up selling insurance for 15 years--my 'profession' when I made that first grand re-entrance to a gallery of uncaring eyes at the 20th gathering. A good many of my immediate peers in attendance had either inherited family businesses or were existing on some form of trust fund or another. Old money runs deep and wide in those Mid-Atlantic southern states or at least, that's how I've observed it over the years. All my rich kid friends became rich parent aquaintances--if even that.

When I hobbled into the 30th get together, 10 years later, I held the designation of 'Chicago Realtor.' Again, my immediate peers were either semi-retired or at the very least, identical clones of their own wealthy mothers and fathers, grandparents, etc.; good old boys in the richest sense. Old money is funny like that--it is genetically unforgiving. More so than ever, I realized that I was cast into a life where any success on my part would have to either come from within (i.e....selling lots of condos, houses and multi-units), or via the Illinois lottery.

And now it's 2008 and Classmates.com has informed me of yet another soiree---The 35th Reunion of the Myers Park Graduating Class of 1974. I emailed Chippy to see if he was going but he responded back saying he had no idea who I was and to take him off my list. (I email at least a half dozen other people every week I never went to high school with who tell me basically the same thing. The real estate business is also funny that way--quite unforgiving in its own right.)

The truth is, I don't have a list. I only approach those who have either happened upon one of my blogs or Googled 'Chicago Real Estate' and registered on our ChicagoHomeEstates.com site. These registrants are then assigned to me for follow-up. I don't send out direct mail or make cold calls or even knock on doors anymore. No farming. No magnets. No newspaper advertising, to be sure. No billboards. Only the Internet, dear friends (and the occasional referral or past client still residing in the overtaxed boundries of Cook County). The Internet holds the passcode to the future of Chicago real estate marketing as I see it. So don't worry Chippy, you'll never hear from me again. Same for anyone who has registered but apparently forgotten. Not a problem. I'm trying to reduce my oversized nostalgic footprint anyway.

And while I'm at it, bye bye to Miss American Pie as well. I'm sick of the refrain and you're getting a little long in the tooth, if you don't mind me saying. After a couple hundred million spins of the disk over a 35 year period this could very well be the day that I die and I don't want that tune stuck in my skull ad infinitum. Like I mentioned a few minutes ago...you can find my Chevy at the levee with a couple thousand cases of long ago emptied whiskey and rye. And if the good old boys still feel like singing around the yesteryear campfire, so be it. I'll be scouring the Chicago MLS on my laptop for price reductions.

Geno Petro

and no...it's not really my ride.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

No Crying in Baseball

It's one of my favorite Tom Hanks lines..."There's no crying in baseball." How could there be? In Chicago, with both teams currently at the top of their respective divisions in early August, only tears of joy are permitted. Those, and perhaps the kind that come from too much hot pepper and gardinara on the sausage, if you know what I'm sayin'. Can you tell....I just came back from a game?

The two Pinto brothers, Joe and Carmen, took me down to the old neighborhood at 32nd Street to see the White Sox chase the Tigers out of town last night. I hadn't been to 'The Cell' since...well, since its been 'The Cell' (U.S. Cellular Field for all of you outta towners and anyone trying to use AT&T service on the premises), and I have to say it's a wonderful ball park; great sight lines, good food, and lots of fanfare. And a shot of Southside Chicago revelry too; a couple of old rat pack dudes in tuxedos and bad toupees doing Frank and Deano at the front gate stage, three more fat dudes, also in tuxedos, singing The Star Spangled Banner in opera, and the lovely Dina Martin (Dean's daughter) singing Amore! on the 1st Base dugout during the 7th inning 'Stretch. Hey, it was Italian night....whacanIsay?

A few more sausages, a cup of lemon ice, and a giant pretzel with mustard later, I was drinking Alka Seltzer and chewing Extra Strength Tums like Christmas candy just to make it into dreamland where I, too, can imagine myself at the hot corner, wearing black and white pin stripes before a cheering crowd of 35,000. After all, Crede is on minor league rehabilitation assignment and Uribe is now playing third. He's batting .216 which is only .216 more than me...and I'm not even on a team.

Geno Petro