Friday, December 28, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

My concern over the lack of retail in this neck of the woods has been well documented.

While I long for the day I can walk to the dry cleaners and fresh produce, with Woodlawn’s track record more of these fine establishments will open somewhere by my house in 2008:

A fast food restaurant
Can a sister get a casual dining restaurant? Even a Chili’s or Bennigan’s would be a step up.

A Currency Exchange
Great---just what we need---a reason why the 1st, 15th and every Friday becomes more dangerous.

A Dollar Store
Unless it’s a Dollar Tree, get to steppin’.

A Beauty Supply Store
As if I couldn’t hit a dead cat with the multitude that already exist. I find it ironic that (at least in black neighborhoods) blacks rarely run a business geared toward black women and most of the money is funneled out of the community. I’m just sayin…

Car Wash
Don’t get me started…

I know attitudes are slow to change and that my alderman is working hard to secure retail opportunities but I hope that new offerings are in the future.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Speaking of University of Chicago and their past plans of urban renewal, the school across the street managed to pull off it’s own mini renewal plan when they expanded their campus some time ago.

Now I’m not sure if the acquisition of the buildings and the land raised a stink when it was being done, but I have yet to hear of any drama.

The campus is undeniably beautiful and a gem of east Woodlawn.

It does give me pause though.

If the school across the street hadn’t had the foresight to expand their campus would my little section of paradise be this nice and quiet?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Big Brothers

So the University of Chicago is attempting to reconcile with the Woodlawn community.

At this point the overtures have been met with mixed results.

From what I’ve seen, the University is talking a good game but it still seems that the true spirit of partnership isn’t there.

But on the other hand the methods of the past haven’t worked either.

When the epic battle between The Woodlawn Organization (TWO) and the University commenced in the 60’s, TWO won the battle but as those of us who live here can attest to, they lost the war.

Not only did Woodlawn lose a great deal of its population but from what I understand a majority of it’s retail as well.

Frankly, since I’m not old enough to remember Woodlawn as it was I have to rely on books, articles and the old timers who were around to see such things.

Nonetheless, things got bad for the neighborhood---really bad.

So while the University didn’t expand their campus further south, the entrenched powers that be turned from social activism to social services.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping.

But my version of help is providing a vehicle to affordable home ownership, not affordable housing.

Because as long as you have a landlord, it’s my opinion that you’re not quite the captain of your own ship---I’m just sayin’…

Whatever the case, it would appear that the old way of running things isn’t working.

Abandoned buildings, Empty lots, high crime, few local employment opportunities (that provide a living wage), low home ownership and lack of retail do not an attractive neighborhood make.

So it with cautious optimism that the overtures from the University are being received; if the old ways aren’t working, then perhaps it’s time to look at some new ones.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Big Brother

When I moved to Woodlawn in late 2001 I was unprepared for the disdain I experienced.

Apparently those of us who don’t live in Hyde Park are sometimes on the receiving end of an upturned nose.

Now don’t get me wrong, Hyde Park is a lovely neighborhood.

The University of Chicago concerned residents works very hard to keep it that way.

Have you every noticed the sister of the very pretty girl in high school---yeah I didn’t think so.

I’m sure she knew that she was being tolerated.

You know when your presence is not really welcome.

And so it went when I moved down here.

My first clue was when I called Hyde Park restaurants and with the exception of one, none would deliver to me.

Then I tried to rent out my spare room and thought with such a large student population, it might be best to target Hyde Park.

After plastering the area with flies and pricing the rent reasonably, the calls started to roll in.

Interest was great until I mentioned my address on the answering machine.

I received a lot of calls and a lot of hang ups.

No dice.

The final straw came when I was in the Co-Op and ran into one of my north side dwelling friends who heard that I had moved.

A well-dressed shopper who had overheard me correcting my friend about the location of my neighborhood leaned over and threw in her two cents.

She stated that anything below the Midway (Roughly 59th-60th Street) wasn’t Hyde Park.

During this whole exchange she didn’t even acknowledge that I was standing there.

By that time I started to put it together.

With the rare exception of some parts of Kenwood, those of us who fall out side of the boundaries of Hyde Park seemingly suck.

I knew that Hyde Park was the neighborhood that all others are measured against on the south side; but I didn’t know the rest of us who also happened to live below Madison Street were less than.

Apparently it’s Hyde Park’s world, the rest of us are just living in it.

Despite what you just read, I truly don’t bear any ill will towards my Hyde Park neighbors.

Nonetheless it only took me a few years to determine my neighborhood’s pecking order and I’m a relative newbie.

Can you imagine the effects of living and interacting with 30 or 40 years of condescending arrogance from the University and Hyde Parkers?

Between that and the “urban redevelopment” plan the University tried to implement during the sixties; it’s not surprising that longtime Woodlawn residents have a healthy dose of mistrust concerning the University.

In the University’s defense though, they have made several overtures to try and remedy sins of the past.

Their police force is now regularly seen outside of the traditional boundaries of Hyde Park.

Community input of any southward expansion is taken very seriously.

The University also provides an employee assisted housing program for those who want to move to “outlying” neighborhoods like Woodlawn.

More importantly the University has abandoned its official policy of discouraging their faculty, staff & students going south of the Midway.

The olive branch has been extended.

The gulf is seemingly narrowing.

Or is everyone just smiling politely while still waters run deep?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Let It Snow

It’s bad enough that the school across the street hasn’t thrown in one dime towards the new sidewalk and parkway that they’re legally responsible for.

What's worse is that my fantastic alderman used some of her menu money to make the new sidewalk happen.

So let’s recap, we have a private institution that has slowly but surely expanded it’s campus by shutting down city streets and purchasing buildings for the land.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

The issue is that when the school across the street expanded its campus they also expanded their responsibility for the parkways and the sidewalks of the buildings it purchased.

In short, the school is responsible for the parkway and sidewalk on my street roughly from Stony Island to Dorchester.

If you’ve been a long time reader of this blog, you know that the maintenance of the sidewalk and parkway on the south side of their campus and across the street from my home hasn’t exactly been high on the list of priorities.

It fell somewhere between screw and you.

It shouldn’t take concerned neighbors to point out that the trash and the weeds that come up to their hips might need to be tended to.

Okay, I give---it was me. I was (and am) the concerned neighbor(s).

Nonetheless, it’s not rocket science right?

But that’s all water under the bridge right?

The trash is being picked up (sporadically) and the grass is cut during the warmer months.

To quote Neville Chamberlain, “There is peace is our time.”

Not so much.

Unlike Neville, I’m going to hold you to the spirit if not the letter of your agreement.

Doesn’t common sense dictate that if you cut the grass and pick up the trash that you should also shovel the snow during the winter months?

We have this nice new sidewalk and it was encased in ice and snow during our first winter storm.

I shouldn’t have to even call over to say, “Hey, don’t you think it would be a good idea to shovel the snow and throw down a little salt?”

But I did. And in doing so I broke a promise I made to myself.

I told myself not too long ago that asking the nice school across the street to perform the functions on the south end of their property that they so willingly perform on other parts of their campus didn’t seem to be an effective way of getting things done.

On the other hand placing a call to my alderman’s office is.

So I’m not asking anyone over there to do anything anymore.

They should have the sidewalk and parkway just as pristine and landscaped as they do at their school’s entrance.

If not, I’m getting on the phone.

There are city ordinances regulating and fining owners for not looking after the sidewalk and parkway abutting their property.

If we’ve got to keep our little patch of Woodlawn trimmed, clean and clear so should everyone else.

Apparently there has been a change in the maintenance and groundskeeping department over there so I'm interested in seeing if there's more of a proactive attitude about the south side of the campus.

Being nice has gotten me nowhere with them, time for talking is done.

I was once told that the school was concerned about being a good neighbor. Yeah, and tomorrow I'm going to wake up and fit my high school cheerleading uniform. My ass.

I don’t think they’re going to like me very much by the time it’s all over.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Real Cost

While the fate of the Hyde Park Co-Op is still being decided, the fall out from this dustup has a real price.

If the Co-Op is shuttered, their employees will lose their jobs and benefits with no severance package to speak of.

There’s a happy new year for you.

One would think that the former Co-Op employees would be able to apply for positions at the new store. Rumor has it that either a Treasure Island or Dominick’s is coming to the 55th Street space.

Still it’s an uncertain future for a lot of hard working people.

As I’m going on my fourth month of unemployment I completely understand what these good folks may be facing.

It would have been nice if the former leadership of the Co-Op would have based their decisions not only on the health of the store but on it’s impact of the employees.

25 year lease indeed.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Reporting From Left Field

Did you not love the supreme diss Jesse Jackson, Jr. gave Todd Stroger & William Beavers in the Tribune on Sunday?

Talk about keeping your pimp hand strong.

Surely Congressman Jackson didn’t just come to the epiphany that Todd Stroger doesn’t know what he’s doing.

I wonder what’s the major motivation?

This has all of the makings of classic Chicago political power struggle. I can’t wait for the next shot over the bow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Whistling Dixie

This is a long post but it’s worth it.

Guess who’s up to his ears in a commercial foreclosure, lawsuit and a possible sale?

That’s right, the effervescent Carlton Knight.

I recently took a trip to the Clerk of the Circuit Court records division after I discovered new legal proceedings against Mr. Knight.

I love the transparency of the legal system in my neck of the woods.

I’m just giving you the interesting parts. For those of you waiting with baited breath for a bullet point by bullet point outline of the failed summons service attempts, I’m sorry to disappoint you.

The following facts were taken from court records filed earlier this year:

A mortgage loan for $1,120,000 was taken out with Westbank in Hillside, IL by Carlton Knight and Chicago Title Land Trust Company (as successor trustee to NAB Bank) under trust number 2-107-0 on October 3, 2003. The 40 unit commercial property is located at 15144 Dixie Highway in Harvey, Illinois.

On April 19, 2007 a foreclosure suit was filed against Carlton and the above mentioned trust for the unpaid balance of the mortgage, legal fees and court costs by Inland Bank & Trust F/K/A Westbank.

On June 13, 2007 Carlton filed appearance documentation declaring his intent to represent himself (ProSe) and the answer Inland Bank’s initial complaint. His response was that there was “insufficient information with which to admit or deny paragraphs 1-3 of the complaint to foreclosure mortgage and therefore neither admit nor deny those paragraphs but demand strict proof thereof.”

Now here’s where it gets fun.

The newly engaged (and one of People Magazine’s sexiest men of 2005) Mr. Patrick Fitzgerald, jumps into the fray by filing his own answer to the complaint.

Why, might you ask?

It appears the Internal Revenue Service AND the city have an interest in the Dixie Highway property in hopes of satisfying both a tax lien AND a judgment.

So Mr. Fitzgerald representing the United States of America for the Northern District of Illinois stated on June 5, 2007 that a lien was placed on the premises “to secure a tax assessment balance of $379,530.72 as of May 18th 2007.”

Furthermore Mr. Fitzgerald had to raise his pimp hand to the mortgage company and the city by stating:

“The United States of America has insufficient knowledge to form a belief as to the priority between its lien, plaintiff’s mortgage and other liens against the subject premises.”

“The United States of America asserts its right of redemption accorded it under 28 U.S.C. 2410 and applicable state statutes.”

“…Further the United States of America prays that if the premises involved herin are sold free and clear of all liens and encumbrances, save the right of redemption vested in the United States of America by statute, the proceeds derived from said sale to be applied to the payment of the liens of the various parties in this cause…”

I wonder if it just would have been easier to quote Ludacris and just say “move, bitch get out the way.”

How hot is that shit?

But never one to take any type of legal proceedings lying down, Carlton filed a response on October 1, 2007 to the plaintiff’s petition to appoint a receiver.

Pimp hand indeed.

According to a receiver is a “person appointed by a court or secured creditor to run a company for a short period of time in a manner that will ensure as much debt is paid back to creditors as possible. Their main purpose is to use a company's assets in a way that will most effectively pay back creditors.”

In his response Carlton stated that the “plaintiff wrongfully assumes that rents are being collected and diverted for personal use. However 17 of the 40 units are currently vacant with less than $6,000 collected for September. All of the funds have been used to pay operating expenses (gas, water, waste disposal) and daily maintenance of the property.”

“The appointment of a receiver would only increase the expenses of a struggling property which is currently under a contract for sale, awaiting final approval and has a back up offer as a contingency.”

Whoo doggies!

Not to be one upped, Inland filed yet another suit---this time in the law division of the circuit court last week on November 28th.

Looks like these kids mean business.

Unfortunately the judge is holding the file in his chambers so I can’t get my hot little hands on it so I can give a good read.

But rest assured when I get a chance to read the paperwork, I’ll be sure to give you every factual relevant tidbit.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I don’t know about your own private Idaho but around here the neighbors always keep it interesting.

The Good
My new downstairs neighbor had her music up a tad too loud during the evening hours on Tuesday night. I knocked on her door and asked if she could turn it down and she promptly complied---end of story, right?


The next day when I open my front door to leave and a brief note of apology with a loaf of zucchini bread were on my doorstep. What type of love is that? I knew this kid would be okey doke.

The Bad
Not only do I have new neighbors across the way in the building next door---which now forces me to close my dining room blinds---but someone who lives in my building threw out what appears to be some type of mortgage application in the common trash bin in our hallway.

Now anyone who has half a brain in their head wouldn’t throw out an application that has a name, address, social security number AND (wait for it…) a complete bureau copy of their credit record along with FICO score.

Holy crap, the lady on the application has better credit than 99.9% of most Americans. If I were her and found out about this breech of security, I’d hand someone their ass so they could were it as a hat.

God I’d be pissed.

Now anyone could of thrown that documentation in the trash but I have a sneaking suspicion who it may be. Remind me to thoroughly question the sensitive information disposal tatics of any realtors or mortgage people I might patronize in the future.

And just in case you’re wondering, yes I’ll go ahead and tear up the application is tiny little pieces before I throw it away.

The Ugly
If you think on a larger scale, you could say that the entity of the City of Chicago is all of our neighbors.

That being said, the city finally completed the parkway project and finally put down the neon green spray on grass on Wednesday. Picture the relish on a traditional Chicago hot dog and that’s the color of the spray on goop.

It’s not pretty but I hope that with a great deal of prayer and people not trampling it, the seed will take and we’ll have grass next year. Naturally that’s easier said than done.

Mere hours after the grass was laid I saw a woman tromp through the dirt and goop in her finery, then worry aloud if the green was going to permanently stair her shoes and pants.

Now the city worked really hard to put in a nice new sidewalk complete with ADA compliant corners. It would of taken two extra seconds for her to walk on the sidewalk instead of walking through the parkway and the newly laid seed.

I hope the cuffs of her pants are ruined. Serves her right.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Good Vibrations

I still haven’t got this sidewalk thing figured out yet.

Our new sidewalk across the street was poured over a month ago but another crew came out and put in the corners.

While I know the corners have to be ADA compliant, why couldn’t the same crew do the corners at the same time?

Considering the south side usually gets the shaft, I guess I should be overjoyed that we got a new sidewalk to begin with.

I guess the old adage is right, never look a gift sidewalk in the mouth.

Nonetheless there is a crew outside right now breaking up concrete and setting up the molds to pour yet another set of corners.

Personally speaking, that jackhammer vibration---if applied in the proper situations---could be a good thing.

Speaking of a separation of duties, yesterday while I was setting up my Christmas tree on the balcony I saw a crew spreading grass seed just on the corner across the street from my place.

Yes, I have a lit Christmas tree on my outside balcony. That’s how I roll.

I don’t think my neighbors like the pine needles I’ve left in the hallway but I’ll deal with that tonight before Charlie Brown Christmas comes on at 7:00.

Anyhoo, I ran downstairs to check the view of the tree from the street and asked the nice seed spreaders if the seed needed to be watered.

They told me that the seed was the winter variety and it should be fine throughout the cold months.

Okey dokey.

What struck me as strange was that they told me that another crew would be out seeding the rest of the parkway with for all intensive purposes is “spray on grass.”

Now why would the city send two different crews to apply two different types of seed to the same parkway?

As I said earlier---we’re getting our due, perhaps I should shut my yap and say “Thank You.”

Monday, November 19, 2007


You know what's worse than being unemployed?

Being unemployed and not being able to get a ticket to Oprah's favorite things holiday show. If anybody deserves (more) free stuff right now, it's your's truly.

Trying to get through the phone lines is next to impossible. I doubt that there will be another time in my life when I can just go to an early morning or afternoon taping without worrying about my job.

Oh well, it seems like I'm watching all of that loot go out the door to someone else---again.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Is It Just Me?

It seems the most dangerous things to be in the Chicagoland area these days is a woman.

Disappearing wives. Strangled, burned bodies. Husband’s pulling off the road and murdering whole families.

It just doesn’t pay to be a broad these days.

It kind of makes you long for the good old fashion conflict resolution of my youth---it was called divorce.

If it was good enough for my parents, I’m sure it would have been good enough for the gentlemen who’s wives just “leave” and are never heard from again.

But time will tell. Nothing stays buried forever.

Now I know the knife cuts both ways. There have to be some family annihilators who happen to be women.

Perhaps their stories don’t get as much coverage as when men murder their whole families or when their wives “disappear.”

But it seems around these parts women are disposable.

Nothing underscores that point than the two burning bodies that were found in dumpsters around the south side.

Jesus take the wheel.

Naturally when the body of a pregnant young woman is found less than a mile from your home, you sit up and take notice.

You also tend to take notice as a single woman who takes public transportation and tends to be out when it’s dark.

In order to survive as a woman in Chicagoland you apparently have to fear both persons known and unknown.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Young Mr. Whitefolks' Delivery Dilemma

I saw Young Mr. Whitefolks recently and he was a little confused about why it was so difficult to order a meal to his home.

“I looked up restaurants that Grub Hub said deliver to my neighborhood but when I call to place an order they tell me that they don’t deliver to my address.”

“Does that surprise you?” I asked.

“Yes---if the restaurants don’t want to deliver to my neighborhood they should just say so.”

God, I just love this kid.

He further stated, “Why don’t they just say that they won’t deliver to 35th & King?”

Welcome to being black, dearest. Rather I should say, welcome to living with blacks, baby. You’re one of us now.

“It’s so frustrating. I only want food.”

At this point all I could do is give him a look of sympathy. He truly didn’t (and doesn't) know the totality of moving into a black neighborhood.

He didn’t know that in order to subsist, you have to go out and get the things you need. The luxury of having things brought to you other than the mail, UPS & Peapod is a rare occurrence.

But that wasn’t all Young Mr. Whitefolks had to say.

He also noticed that when he went to fast food restaurants that on more than one occasion he couldn’t order food that was printed on the menu boards.

“Dearest why would you expect to be able to order items that are advertised for sale?” I asked.

He looked at me like I was nuts.

Now I’m sure this isn’t a south side thing or a black thing but rather a bad service and not watching the stock thing. If your tastes tend to run towards fruit and yogurt parfaits and salads rather than burgers and fries you’re kinda out of luck.

You’ll either have to wait for your food or just be told that the restaurant doesn’t have what you want.

Apparently Young Mr. Whitefolks is used to being able to order whatever he wants off of the menu.

What a precious pumpkin.

In both cases, I strongly suggested that he put pen to paper and let the powers that be know about the lack of services in his neighborhood and to carbon copy everyone he could think of from his Alderman to Oprah.

He waved me off.

Not only did I tell him that the squeaky wheel gets the grease but he and his immediate neighbors will continue to be ignored and their hard earned money disrespected until they advocate for change.

Or in other words, attitudes won’t change until you demand that they change.

Companies also tend to think that if one person is concerned enough to put pen to paper, that a great many people may carry the same sentiment as well.

He was then amazed that other people were amazed at how livable his neighborhood was.

When cab drivers would reluctantly take him home from his late night job they were shocked to find a wide, green tree lined street instead of some languishing ghetto.

The drivers were concerned about his safety if they dropped him off on the south side. Apparently his statements of “I live in this neighborhood” did nothing to assuage their fears.

Go figure.

I told YMWF that some people’s perceptions of the south side may never change. You just have to look at them like they’ve lost their minds when they speak such foolishness.

It’s not our fault that they haven’t received the memo about the hotness of the south side.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Media Darling

I know I have people who read the blog---the counter keeps on ticking upward everyday.

What surprises me are people who actually make legal money from journalism who give me a tap now and then for my opinion or point other readers to my humble offerings.

It’s extremely validating and flattering in light of the fact I started this blog in order to channel frustration from our association’s dismal state at the time.

Trust me, I know I’m not alone in my condo drama out there. I’ve received enough e-mail from you fellow condo cowboys and cowgirls to continue to fight the power.

Yet when the peeps from Yo!Chicago, Gaper’s Block, The New York Times and the University of Chicago Maroon come calling, it’s an unexpected treat.

I was recently made aware that I Hate My Developer made the Chicagoland blog roll in The Reader.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Reader, it’s an alternative newspaper that’s been around for years. Hell I remember first picking it up when I was a wee baby in college.

Aside from helping you keep your entertainment schedule up to date, those kids do some damn fine reporting.

Discussion about the infamous Reader personals section is for another post.

Nonetheless, Whet Moser has seen fit to include my musings in the roll with a long list of amazing local blogs every Chicagoan should have on their reading list.

Does this mean that my Christmas card list will be getting larger? Am I going to have to buy a couple more bottles for the Christmas party?

Only time will tell.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Child, Please

Frankly folks it’s pretty simple.

If I don’t bring my drinking buddies to your kids’ play dates, why are you bringing your kids to my bar?

And, for the record, I don’t care if your European and this is standard operating procedure in your homeland.

Yesterday I witnessed what's becoming more and more prevalent in my neck of the woods---bringing kids into a bar.

The rare exception to this rule is if the tots are in the bar during a more family friendly hour (before the sun goes down) AND they’re sitting at a table.

But don’t expect your average patron to alter their behavior because your child happens to be at the bar. If they get smoke blown in their face or hear and see adult things---that’s your fault.

Jesus take the wheel.

This group of people not only brought three small children into a tightly packed bar, but a sleeping baby was wheeled off in the corner.

Classy huh?

Then to make it even better, they were blocking the only available narrow entrance and exit for other customers and staff.

If people keep on having to say “excuse me” perhaps that’s your clue to get out of the way and stop blocking the aisle.

Nonetheless, these future Darwin Award recipients didn’t catch the clue and continued to drink martinis and smoke around children that were clearly bored and fidgety.

I don’t blame the kids one bit---let’s make that clear.

I blame their booze hound parents who needed a drink so bad that they had to have their kids out after 7:00PM on a school night.

If you need a drink that bad perhaps you should check into being a friend of Al’s.

So if you happen to be in a smoky bar swilling down martini’s like you were 23 in the presence of your kids and you see an unsmiling black woman staring at you that’s your overt clue to go home.

Don’t make me have to say something.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Introducing The New Sidewalk

Is this new sidewalk all about the hotness or what? Once the grass seed goes down, you just might think you're in the suburbs.

Disapearing Acts

Slowly but surely the vacant lots are disapearing in Woodlawn. These newly constructed buildings near the south west corner of 65th Place are the newest entries in the local housing market.

The Enemy Within

If you’ve been a loyal and regular reader of this blog, you already know that I have little love for “investors” who buy into our happy home.

Plus it just burns my biscuits that someone makes our home their commercial enterprise.

As an association we’ve had trouble with “investors” before and we’ve luckily got those past issues under control.

Yet there’s always one pain in the ass. One person who has to keep it interesting and not make any attempt to be neighborly or abide by the minimal rules we have around this joint.

Ms. Realtor is that person.

Ms. Realtor is an owner of a unit that she rented out in the past and now has placed on the market

From what I understand she owes the association in excess of $1,000 in back assessments.

I get being a couple months behind---hey, we’ve all been there---but over $1,000?

Might I add she owes us this money AND she had the place rented out for a while. There was no good reason why she couldn’t of paid her assessments.

Moreover getting any type of meaningful communication out of her is like hitting your head against a brick wall.

So if her financial shit was hitting the fan, she at least could of given us a “heads up” on the assessment tip.

We understand that people have drama in the money department from time to time. No one is immune from that.

But from what I understand we couldn’t even get an odd e-mail much less the money that we’re legally owed.

So now it gets ugly.

If there’s not a lien on the property one will placed on it soon enough.

And in the interest of disclosure, one association member even threatened to go to one of the owner’s open houses and let her potential clients know about her deadbeat ways.
I personally think that’s going too far---but she already put it out there.

Why waste your time threatening someone and have a potential trespassing beef to deal with when there are so many other effective ways to get your point across?

I’m sure there’s some type of ethical violation that I’m sure the state real estate licensing board would be interested in hearing about.

But then again, maybe not; who knows? I’m sure someone is investigating that angle.

You see our bills can’t wait until the property sells in order to collect our money.

I can’t speak to Ms. Realtor’s motivation for not paying her assessments but in the past, when we’ve found ourselves in this same situation we’d often get the “We’ll pay when the property sells” line.

Well that’s all fine and well until no one has any hot water to shower with because People’s Energy hasn’t been paid.

But investor’s don’t worry about that because they don’t live here.

Past experience has also taught me that the people who try to take advantage of us usually tend to look like us.

Or at the very least they’re people of color.

Our developer, the deadbeats, Maurice Cousin---all the people who broke dirty with this association happened to be black.

Sorry to get all Bill Cosby and air out our laundry but---if you’ll excuse the pun---let’s call a spade a spade.

While I could go on forever about black on black relations, it’s easier to compare it to Don Imus getting fired for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team a bunch of nappy headed ho’s and Isaiah Thomas explaining in a deposition when a black man refers to a black woman as a bitch it may be less offensive than a white man referring to a black woman as a bitch.

We’ve swatted down a whole bunch of Isaiah’s in the past, I hope Ms. Realtor doesn’t turn out to be another.

I have seen the enemy and it is us.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Blustery Brit

I have a little spot I frequent to enjoy the odd adult beverage.

The fact that some people tend to find it swanky is great, I tend to like it for its sparkling décor and friendly service.

It’s just icing on the cake that on any given night you can see local, national and international movers and shakers and the odd celebrity.

It makes for fascinating people watching.

I dropped in a few days ago and was chatting with the bartender when a gentleman who has been one of the newer regulars sat down a few stools over.

While I’ve been introduced, I don’t really pay him any mind. He seems to entertain many others so I’m sure the fact that he’s missing my rapier like wit won’t keep him up nights.

He mumbled something in my direction about a bus---but like I said, I wasn’t really paying attention to him.

Plus it seemed like he has a few too many already. Frankly speaking that’s not too unusual for this guy.

If the scuttlebutt is to be believed, he’s a mean and crass drunk.

Since he got no reaction from me, he turned and said, “You can’t afford to drink here.”

Taken aback, I asked him what he was talking about.

He repeated himself and said, “You can’t afford to drink here.”

Now it was my turn to repeat myself.

He went onto ask how can I have a $15 glass of wine in front of me but take a $2.00 bus ride home.

And for the record, the glass of wine wasn’t $15 dollars. It was way less. I also reminded him that I took two buses to get home, not just one.

I asked him why he cared?

The Blustery Brit replied that he didn’t care but he just couldn’t figure it out. It just confused him.

He further stated that he hadn’t been on a bus in 50 years.

Well ladies and gentlemen you have your gold standard. The mark has been set.

While my memory is a little foggy of what I said to him (I was drinking after all), he said something about “Not getting into nonsense” and huffed out of the bar.

As a black woman you tend to get used to people making erroneous judgments about you based on appearance and gender.

But this has to be a first.

I’ve never had someone give me the what for’s due to the fact I’m an active public transportation rider.

Usually I shun the CTA, now I’m proud to have it as my badge of honor with this jerk off.

But now comes the interesting part.

I mentioned this little episode to other friends in the hospitality industry.

The gossip is that the Blustery is a bit of a flim flam artist, a con man, a charlatan.

My little spies tell me that their law enforcement friends tell them that Blustery had to quickly pack several times (and in several countries might I add) to make a quick get away from several “business deals gone wrong.”

That was their nice way of saying he had to leave because he was about to be picked up by the law from scamming people out of their money.

Well go figure.

Come to think of it, I had never seen him before last winter and he did appear out of nowhere.

Then of course this could all be malicious gossip. Who knows?

But it does have the sheen of truth to it, no?

Those who try to belittle someone are usually hiding a secret or two of their own.

Sights Seen

I saw a hearse that was a hybrid between a normal Cadillac and an El Camino with a ragtop.

It was super fly. All it needed was some spinners.

I was crossing the street today near the intersection of 63rd and Langley when I spotted the vehicle outside of a church.

I wanted to do a closer inspection but didn’t know if anyone was inside and didn’t want to be questioned about why I’m giving a hearse the once over.

From the front it looked like a normal Caddy---wide, black, shinny. It even had Illinois plates indicating that the vehicle was owned and used by a funeral home; but that profile screamed El Camino---or at the very least Subaru Brat.

A hearse with a ragtop and a cut-a-way profile---I dare you to find something that unique on the north side.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Enough Already

I’ve planted (most of) the free perennials the association received from the city.

I’ve revived my social life.

I’ve watched every “judge” show on the airwaves and can tell time by “Fraiser” and “Will & Grace.”

I am now officially addicted to “Cheaters.” That Joey Greco is the living end.

This unemployment thing is starting to wear thin. I hope the job search doesn’t take much longer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hubris or God Bless San Bernadino, Harvey & South Shore

This copy was taken directly from The Knight Company's website:

Real Estate Development and Property Management

The Knight Company has developed over 60 condo units and is currently involved in the construction of 18 townhouse units in San Bernadino California, 30 single family homes in Harvey, IL, and 132 condo units in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago – becoming the first high-rise on the south side of Chicago in over 50 years, in addition to the development of 150 condo units in the Lake Meadows neighborhood of Chicago.

The principal, Carlton Knight, has more than fifteen years experience in the condo conversion, acquisition, development, construction and management of rental property and he has completed the renovation of over 200 units. The management arm of the company currently manages over 150 units. He serves as the managing director, and is involved in all aspects of the operations. He has a hands-on and proactive management philosophy. The organization has an experienced property manager on staff to augment the talents of Mr. Knight.

All I can say is----wow. I'm rarely at a loss for words but---wow.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Only In New York

Only I could be sitting in a bar, meet a complete stranger and walk out of the bar with this as a gift.

No I didn't get the bling---just the simple mother of pearl face.

Whack-a-doodle, huh?

Nothing untoward or crazy went on, he was a complete gentleman and it was an unexpected surprise.

We were sitting there chatting; he went out for a cigarette and when he returned he brought me back this beautiful watch.

I can’t even begin to make this stuff up.

Now I have even more of a reason to love the King Cole Bar.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Deadbeat on Deck

I saw him across the bar and couldn’t believe my eyes.

Unless the Stoli was playing tricks on me, I saw the one and only Mr. Maurice Cousin at the opening of the Stoli Hotel in Chicago.

No there isn’t a real Stoli Hotel but rather a slick, big bucks promotion to re-brand and re-introduce Stoli to the national market.

You know the type of party that has all of the arbiters of cool. The hipper than thou.

So I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “Why was Woody there?”

Hell, I was asking myself the same question.

While I’m the eternal dork, I do have friends who aren't. They're my entrée in the club world.

Plus I stopped believing in paying cover years ago.


There I was at the bar and Mr. Cousin walks up and orders a drink across the way.

You know how someone gives you the “Don’t you look familiar?” look.

He gave me that look.

When I didn’t look away and continued giving him a stare that went from uncomfortable to downright hostile I think it might of jogged his memory.

Deadbeat motherfucker.

The only reason why I didn’t go complete sista girl on his trifflin’ ass was because my friend was at a work event.

Albeit a work event with pretty people and flavored vodka.

Despite my longing to cause a huge public scene I kept my karma mantra in mind.

The dirt he’s done will (or already has) come back to haunt him.

You don’t stiff your former neighbors for $7,000 via bankruptcy not get some type of metaphoric payback.


The blog has finally reached the 10,000 hit mark. Whee!

Now I know that may not be earth-shattering news in the blog-o-sphere, but it's quite an achievement for a little blog that isn't about sex or celebrities.

I'm just here to keep you kids one step ahead of the game.

It also doesn't hurt that I find this little exercise extremely theraputic.

Onward and upward---to the next 10,000 hits.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Indecision '07, Part II

I think the official logo for our condo association should be an ostrich with its head in the sand.

Because that seems to be the manner that some of my fellow board members choose to deal with association business.

I sent an e-mail last week to the board concerning the pack rat like habits of our handyman and a few suggestions to make sure this topic doesn’t become an issue in the future.

Do you know how many board members sent a response?


One person out of four took the time out of her day to lodge her opinions and concerns about the safety and security of our home.

That’s just pitiful.

But I decided to take the high road. I decided to send out a second e-mail concerning the subject last weekend and still have yet to hear back from the three who did not respond.

Now we’ve gone from pitiful to trifling.

One of two things is going on: Either I’m held in such low regard that I can’t even get a return e-mail or these three people are just so busy with their lives that they just can’t manage to squeak out an e-mail concerning association business.

But I’ll bet they’ll be the first to piss and moan the minute someone gets broken into.

Or the first to wonder, “How’d that happen” when someone accesses our building with a random front door key or code given out by a former renter.

Like I said---they’re a reactive bunch.

So what do you do when ¾ of your association ducks any type of responsibility for their home and the ones that serve on the board are lazy or so burned out that they don’t give a flying fuck?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Indecision '07

Trying to get my fellow condo board members to run this association like an actual business is like pulling teeth.

I am so sick and tired of reactionary governing but then I’m putting the cart before the horse.

For those of you who’ve been reading this blog, my woes with my past and present board members should come as no surprise.

In my opinion there’s been questionable dealings and of course the mainstay of any condo association---infighting.

I don’t mind people that don’t take my point of view but you have to be a bit more of a critical thinker when dealing with the homes of those around you.

More importantly you also need to effectively communicate with not only the general membership but with your fellow board members.

Apparently this seems to be a problem with our association.

But to the matter at hand.

Ladies and Gentlemen we have a handyman who gives practically every last woman in this association a severe case of the creeps.

And when I say severe---I mean severe. The great thing about growing older and more secure in your womanhood is that you give that “inner voice” way more play in the decisions you make.

Men tend to want to quantify their feelings---if it doesn’t make sense then they tend to ignore it.

Women just know---you know?

He does a great job cleaning but it came to quite a few owners’ attention that he was hanging around at inappropriate hours (read: Late at night) and was also storing personal items in our basement.

Naturally this wasn’t going to fly.

This topic came up informally between a few of us but nothing formal was decided.

He continued to skulk around; bringing “things” in and out late at night and during the day when he thought no one was around.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back happened about a week and a half ago.

I was returning home late one night when I happened upon our handyman.
It appeared to me that he was bringing two dismantled bike frames up to our building.

When I confronted him about the storage of his personal items at our home, he said that the bike frames that he had just arrived with were actually being taken from the building.

Yeah, right.

I let him know that we were starting the process of cleaning out the basement and that if his items happened to be down there when we started that he shouldn’t be upset if his things got thrown out.

He just looked at me said that he was aware of the risk, I said “ok” and went inside.

Now I believe that was on a Wednesday. When I still saw his items junking up our basement late last week the cleaning bug hit.

Round #1 went out to the trash last Thursday.

Round #2 went out yesterday.

While I don’t necessary fault our handyman for his assumptions---after all people will continue to take advantage of you until you stop them---I fault the fact that we as an association never established proper boundaries and procedures.

Attempting to correct these oversights with a group of people who react to emergencies instead of anticipating and planning for the unexpected.

Like I said, it’s like pulling teeth.

So Far, So Good

I can't tell you how refreshing it is to wake up to the smell of strong coffee coming from downstairs rather than cheap pot.

For the first time in almost two years my house doesn't consistently smell like day old bong water or a dirty one hitter.

My new neighbor might just be okey doke.

This could be the beginning of beautiful new relationship.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Nearing The Finish Line

In July of 2005 our association leveled a special to pay for the construction of our new back porches.

Each two bedroom in the association was responsible for a $3,976.00 assessment.

Some people paid in chunks, some paid monthly---I'm in the later group.

After 28 months of payments I'm thrilled to report that I have paid $3,108.00 of my total special assessment. That leaves $868 left to pay.

I'm tempted to pay it off in one fell swoop but since I don't know when I'm going to get a job, perhaps it's just best for me to continue paying it off in addition to my monthly assessment.

I'm under $1,000. This milestone has been a long time coming.

The Desert Gets Drier

I found out that the owner of the Stony Island Food Mart at 83rd and Stony recently died and his family closed the store about a month ago.

My condolences to the family on their loss.

It’s bad enough to lose a dedicated small business owner but it really hits home to lose one of the few grocery stores serving the south side.

If memory serves me correctly an independent, black owned business at that.

It makes you wonder what’s next for the shuttered grocery store.

Anyone have any news or information?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Audacity Of Hope


Obviously the Cubs can’t catch a break.

As a long-suffering fan I should be used to this outcome. Nonetheless that doesn’t take the sting out of a sweep by the Diamondbacks.

It’s hard enough taking shit from the Sox fans that live among us. In case you’re new, there are some Sox fans that absolutely live to see the Cubs fail.

Naturally a World Series title in the last century seems to bolster their notion of superiority.

But to take shit from people who make their home in a desert? Apparently we truly have done something to offend God.

But in the ever optimistic “Wait till next year” mode I offer this reflection----Even the good Lord let the Israelites reach the promised land---eventually.

100 years?

I’ve given it to Jesus but I also realize that God helps those who help themselves or at least those who can hit and provide run support to their pitcher.

***Heavy Sigh***

Saturday, September 29, 2007

3% Moves In

Since my layoff I've been able to closely observer the hoody hoo during the day.

Unlike previous years I've been a little surprised about how quiet it's been (thank you Chicago Police for beefing up the Hyde Park High School patrols) and how diverse our little piece of paradise has gotten.

That's just a nice way of saying where did all of my white neighbors come from.

I try not dwell on this subject even though I've written several posts about it, but anyone who thinks race dosen't continue to be an issue in the greater metropolitan Chicagoland area is trying to blow sunshine up your skirt.

Just today driving down Stony Island I was wondering where some of the white people I saw walking down the street came from.

Let me explain and give you some background.

When I moved down here in 2001, the University of Chicago had officially abandoned it's mantra cautioning people from going south of 60th Street. It was believed that traveling anywhere south of that boundary would be dangerous for it's students, faculty and staff.

Despite the reversal of policy, old perceptions die hard.

I quickly discovered that after a long day of moving and unpacking, I couldn't even get a pizza delivered.

At the time Peapod did not service my area.

It was made clear by the greater business community and most of the Hyde Park establishment that Woodlawn really didn't matter.

Fast forward six years and a different tune is being played.

While I still jokingly refer to Woodlawn as Hyde Park's ugly step sister, we are starting to get some love.

Apparantly that also translates into who now calls Woodlawn home.

I was taking a disco nap when the moving of furniture across the floor woke me up. I knew that my new neighbor(s) had arrived.

As usual I planted myself outside on the front balcony and almost passed out.

Sweet Fanny Adams, my new neighbor's white.

Jesus take the wheel.

I'm curious to know if she knows that most of us are of color and if that will be an issue. I don't anticipate it being one but people are strange.

And no I don't anticipate it being an issue with anyone who currently lives here.

I wonder if I should introduce her to the Cake?

Perhaps I should start with a "welcome to the association" and build from there.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

For My Peeps

I'm all in with this Cub playoff run.

Mr. Kass was right, screw this curse thing---we've all got to put it all on the line and get behind our team.

No cautiously optistic. No "goat busters." Just unwaivering support for the team.

And if you ever start to let doubt creep in your mind, you can always remember these words to a hymn I used to sing in church:

"We've come this far by faith/Leaning on the Lord/Trusting in his holy word/He never failed me yet/ Oh, oh can't turn around---we've come this far by faith."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Slowly But Surely

The actual pouring of the cement for the sidewalk across the street is almost done. I would assume that the sod (or groundcover?) would go down by Wednesday of this week.

My only question is if sod is laid, who’s gonna water it? We all know sod needs to be tended like a newborn baby once it goes down. If not you might as well throw your money away.

Pictures will be posted soon. The new sidewalk looks awesome.

My downstairs neighbor is in the process of moving out. Apparently the deal has been struck for the sale of the unit.

Oh yeah, I got quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Go figure the reach of the blog.

Unemployment Follies

Yes, I’ve started the job hunt.

And not any half assed job hunt but an actual intensive, flat out search.

I’ve made to-do lists targeting technology search firms, friends in the business and friends in general who might know someone.

Resumes have gone out to everybody.

I’ve meet with the outplacement company that was retained by my former employer and am in the process of completing a second version of my resume.

Hell I’ve even purchased a suit from Talbot’s.

It’s a great deal of work but I’ve realized that I have to keep myself busy so I don’t fall into the “rut of unemployment.”

Next thing you know I’ll be wearing fuzzy house shoes in public.

I’m just amazed at the process one has to go through to receive any type of assistance---whether it be unemployment, a medical card or the link card (food stamps).

As I mentioned before there is a great deal of waiting and basic instructions involved.

You usually get spoken to as if you’re not very bright.

But in all fairness, it didn’t seem like there were too many Rhodes Scholars in the bunch when I went to apply for my services.

While my boundless optimism for steady employment and benefits remains high, the look of some of the people is the various social services offices I visited didn’t seem high in the sky.

In fact, there was a mixture of desperation mixed with resignation.

I hope I never have that look in my eyes.

I hope that I never lose my pluck and fight.

I hope that I never give up the ghost and resign myself to live off of the paltry hand out from the State of Illinois.

Let me acquaint you with what a middle class working person who has paid into “the system” since she was a wee lass gets when her company lays her off.

Better yet, let me tell you what I don’t get----health insurance.

Since I have no children or I’m not disabled I get nothing, nada, zilch.

I paid over $14,000 is payroll taxes last year and I can’t get a medical card in case the CTA bus I’m on gets rammed by a drunk driver?

Can you believe that?

I don’t plan on being on it for forever but it would be nice to serve as a stop gap between jobs.

Yes COBRA is an option but at $400 a month it’s not a very affordable one.

I opted for an identical policy to my former coverage offered by for roughly $240 a month.

Now I hate to let my inner Pat Buchanan out but it doesn’t seem fair that someone who’s contributed to the system can’t utilize it because I don’t fit the profile of someone who seeks assistance.

Moreover, why must you be either at death’s door or impoverished before the government helps you?

Wouldn’t there be a greater cost savings in preventative care and not having someone declare bankruptcy?

Just asking.

Yes my unemployment is coming through but I have to call in every two weeks to make sure I’m certified.

Trust me on this one, no one’s getting rich on $367 a week.

Then of course I’m not going to turn it down either.

Hell it’s easier to get a job than going through this drama. But I guess that’s the point, right?

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Well Ladies and Gentlemen it was bound to happen sometime.

A building that’s being converted by Carlton Knight has to have major corrective work performed after it’s already been on the market.

That isn’t that unusual believe it or not.

Many times individuals purchase into a “phase” of a condo development prior to all of the work being completed.

Then of course these associations usually tend to be larger than a six flat.

From what I understand three of the six units of the building have sold.

It does give one pause to wonder if the people who plunked down their hard earned cash knew that the permit to replace and/or repair the plumbing, the hot water fixtures, flooring and kitchen cabinets had the final data review on the 8th of this month?

I have to ask my friends who know this type of stuff if the data review is supposed to be completed prior to any sales.

Moreover, if the data review on a permit is completed after some people have already closed, what guarantees will they have to ever get a certificate of occupancy?

Just a few questions whirling about my little brain---don’t mind me.


The major corrective work on this building concerns the porches.

Apparently that bad boy isn’t up to current city code.

Hell, standing on my back porch and looking across the way I could of told them that.

Per the DCAP website it seems that an application has been submitted to replace an existing back porch.

Boy oh boy I bet that won’t come cheap.

Getting the new porch plans through DCAP, demolishing the existing porch and building a new porch is costly. I’m gonna ball park it at about $30,000-$40,000.

Of course you could do it on the cheap but this bad boy must pass a city inspection. A real city inspection---not the ones that happened with a wink and a nod back in the day.

See how the bad things that you do come back to bite you in the ass?

Karma is a mother, eh?

We’re getting a new sidewalk, Carlton has to come out of pocket for big money and the Cubs won another nail biter.

This is a good day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's Happening!

There’s heavy equipment in the middle of the street and a dumpster at the corner.

My neighbor’s Chrysler 300 just got towed.

There are at least three guys who work for the city standing around doing nothing. In their defense they are waiting for the rest of the cars to get towed from the side of the street the where the work will be performed.

Yup, it smells like parkway construction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, through this blog, you have a front row seat to the continued rebirth of Woodlawn.

I’m so excited I’m about to pee on myself.

If you see some lady in a red robe with a headscarf jumping up and down, don’t call the police just calmly approach and speak to me in soothing dulcet tones. Eventually I'll focus and calm down.

And if you happen to have a bottle of Veuve, well all’s the better.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Closing

I have a neighbor who is attempting to sell her unit.

Unfortunately there is a bit of confusion concerning certain documents her buyer(s) need from the association for the closing to be scheduled.

Prior to my layoff I received a call from the buyer’s agent requesting all of the usual stuff---Decs & Bylaws, financial statements, a condo survey, paid assessment letter, which I personally delivered to the lender at Washington Mutual.

So imagine my surprise when I hear that a lawyer calls (for whom?) and gets quite agitated about the timeliness of the documentation provided by the association.

She further went on to state that she attempted calling another board member but they failed to get back to her.

At least on that point she’s correct.

Some people on the board aren’t the best with follow through. They like to paint themselves more as managers and idea people than workers---chiefs rather than Indians if you like that analogy; but if you ask me they’re just downright lazy.

But that’s another post for another day.

Nonetheless the lawyer was giving major attitude.

My neighbor who took the call was not happy about this interruption to her workday.

The irony is that she isn’t even on the board but still takes a very active role in the management of our home.

If I understood her rather pointed e-mail, neither she nor her treasurer husband will provide any more assistance regarding the sale of this unit.

While her reaction and decision serves as no surprise---mama has quite the temper---when I spoke with her a few days after the e-mail she did make a valid point.

Our neighbor has hardly ever come to board meetings. When she did, the meetings usually concerned rising assessments, our special assessment or renter rules.

A few years ago when the clarion call went out for maintenance help she was nowhere to be found. She may have contributed a few cleaning items but my memory is fuzzy on that point.

The kicker is that she’s some type of engineer (if memory serves me correctly) and never once spoke up to throw in her two cents about our porch project.
As we all know, you have no obligations other than to pay your assessments and show a begrudging respect for your neighbors when you live in an association.

But as most of us have learned, it never hurts to build up good will with the people you live around. It doesn’t mean you have to love them but pitching in to help out ever so often won’t hurt.

As an association it seems like we’ve been dealing with two different buyers and we’ve made every accommodation to comply with their requests for information.

Frankly speaking it seems like no one is coordinating the acquisition or dispersal of condo documents on the seller’s side.

She should have a copy of the Decs & Bylaws. If she knew she was selling she (or her property manager) should have asked in advance for the association financials.

I’ve sold a place before so I know the onus to make sure the gathering and distribution of these documents shouldn’t be on the association.

But this behavior by my soon to be former neighbor isn’t surprising.

When you’ve contributed nothing of yourself or your talents, don’t be surprised when people aren’t exactly falling all over themselves to help you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Take a little time to remember, reflect and celebrate those people that didn’t come home from work six years ago today.

In a few hours I’m getting a new member of the household, his name is Midas and he’ll be my new cat. Or should I say I’ll be his new girl.

I was given the green light by the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society yesterday in an application process that would put the FBI to shame; the only thing I didn’t have to do is take a drug test and get hooked up to a lie detector.

But you do need to protect the furry ones from the nut cases of the world.

The transportation department came out yesterday and marked off the crappy sidewalks on the north side of the street. I’m almost reluctant to believe it, but I finally think after all of these years of pissing and moaning that the sidewalks across the street are about to be redone.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Easy Come, Easy Go, Part II

The Porch People are out.

TATI, City Cleaners and Style Central are in.

With the exception of City Cleaners---and that’s only because they don’t have a website---my new retail friends are now added to the links list to the left.

As much as I bitch about the lack of goods and services in the ‘hood, these three small businesses are beacons of hope in the south side retail wilderness.

Large national retailers take note.

TATI is a great bicycle shop on Hyde Park Blvd. Not only can the mild mannered proprietor fix your bike, he can also make recommendations on the best bike for your body type.

If you have enough cash, he can even build a bike for you from scratch.

But that’s not what makes this little shop special.

I rarely run into anyone who’s just so happy go lucky---much less a small business owner. The perils and pitfalls of making a go of a business is harrowing; usually small business owners can be found mumbling to themselves looking disheveled.

Not this cat.

His business hours are somewhat unorthodox, when he’s open he closes everyday at 3:00 PM for an hour for tea time.

As if that weren't enough, get a load of this.

When I didn’t have the money to pay for repairs on my bike he told me just come back and give it to him later.

I almost passed out right then and there.

It was only a $10 bike part but who performs a service and lets someone they don’t know walk out the door without paying?

Trust me folks, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

City Cleaners has several satellites in Hyde Park but I’m a fan on the actual plant at 7159 South Stony Island.

Coincidentally they are located across the street from south side icon Moo & Oink.

Not only can they do quality work, their prices are fair and they have Sunday hours.

You heard me correctly---a dry cleaners that has Sunday hours.

For those of us who have wacky schedules, a dry cleaner that’s open on Sundays is a god send.

Now be warned, since the actual plant is on the premises it’s hotter than hell in there during the warmer months.

Trust me a little sweat is worth the value.

Last but not least are my new friends at Style Central.

I discovered them when I was running errands up in Hyde Park last week. They’re what’s know as a “lifestyle” store.

You know the type of store that has all of those little nick nacky things that make a house a home.

I was thrilled as I went through their offerings and found scented candles that I really liked.

What makes it even sweeter is that I don’t have to leave the south side to get my beloved stinky girl candles.

Now if I could only get stuff closer to my house…

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Easy Come, Easy Go

Yes, I’m still dealing with the repairs to our back porches.

Lucky for the association I’m unemployed and can spare the time to make sure these repairs are done properly.

Now the Porch People did come out about a week and a half ago and made 95% of the needed repairs.

It’s just that last 5% that needs to be completed.

Naturally the only person who was bilingual (English & Polish) had to leave the site; my attempts to communicate with the rest of the crew was futile.

They only did what the bilingual master carpenter directed them to do. Any further repairs weren’t going to happen that day.

I was on the phone to the Porch People before the work crew left our property.

The rest of the repairs needed to be scheduled so we could be done with this business.

Of course a game of phone tag ensued.

It seems that my phone calls to the master carpenter were about as useful as dialing for Oprah tickets.

As luck would have it, the office manager is out for a few weeks.

My persistent phone calls to the office paid off as someone else finally picked up the office manager’s messages.

He said that he would have to check schedules but the work should be able to get done shortly.

I’m kind of afraid what “shortly” means.

It’s because of the Porch People’s crappy follow up they will be banished from my links at the left side of the page.

Anyone can love you when you give them $90,000 of your money, but who’s gonna slap your ass and call you Sally when you call them on the mat about the quality of their goods?

Moreover, who’s gonna give the love when the aforementioned goods need follow up care?

This blog aside, I know tons of people. When I like what you do I can (and will) talk you up.

There are so many people and businesses that get professional referrals off of me it’s absolutely ridiculous.

Apparently the Porch People won’t be one of them.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Excuse my absence of late. I’ve been on a bender for the past week or so.

I figure my 39th birthday and a layoff are a good enough reasons to tip a few back.

Now granted a week and a half might have been a little excessive but hey you only live once.

Despite my partying ways, I did manage to act like an adult for part of the time and get some important business done and make some neighborhood observations.

First and foremost the mortgage deal is done.

That sound you hear is the collective sigh of relief that I won’t be shown the door---literally.

The best my mortgage company could do is to give me another ARM with a much lower interest rate.

I know, I know---it’s another ARM loan but at least it buys me a year or so. I can only pray that all these new condos being built sell like hotcakes so my property value shoots back up so I can refinance.

Did I mention how beautiful eastern Woodlawn is?

The worst-case scenario is that my mortgage goes up another $100 a month for another year. So that’s not too bad.

It’s better than the alternative that I was facing.

And yes I lobbied hard for a fixed rate with reasonable terms but that idea got the heave ho.

After all I’ve been trying to thread this needle since March.

But at least it’s done and I can rest a little easier.

I also applied for unemployment between cocktails.

For those of you who’ve had exposed to the public aid sector in the great state of Illinois it will not come as any surprise to you when I proclaim that no matter how special you may think you are, you will still be treated the same in the eyes of the employees of these respective offices---like you’re an idiot.

But in all fairness some of the clients of these services aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.

So I guess it’s safe to assume that starting with the basics is the best route.

Nonetheless, I was in the unemployment office for three---count ‘em---three hours last Tuesday.

God that sucked.

But it had to be done.

Since I have no money coming in, it might behoove me to make the magic happen.

Don’t worry (yet) my resume is being reviewed by my HR friend and I hope to have it out on the streets tomorrow.

If all goes well, I’ll be working in October.

Until then my only question is where did all these blonde stay at home moms come from? Woodlawn is crawling---well at least for Woodlawn---with Lakeview/Lincoln Park type moms with $300 strollers.

The things you see when you’re home during the day.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


The Porch People and I seem to have a huge communication gap lately.

Not too long after I wrote my last Porch People post, I received a return phone call from my contact and an appointment was set with the master carpenter.

Of course at the appointed time he didn’t show up.

I was fit to be tied. Saying I was pissed was an understatement.

I put a phone call into my contact that very day.

Since the appointment was for last Saturday, my contact and I played phone tag on Monday.

Oh---did I mention that the appointment was set on August 9th? A full nine---count ‘em nine days before the actual appointment on August 18th.

Can you believe that bullshit?

Adding insult to injury, one of the phone messages I received from my contact was that the master carpenter actually was there and left notes on what needed to be repaired or replaced.

We paid that company $90,000 for our porches and the level of communication that we receive on follow up problems takes the form of a note left on a porch?

Are you kidding me?

I was also told that he showed up at our association around 9:25 A.M. because of “traffic.”

Our appointment was at 9:00 A.M.

It was at that exact moment my head spun around.

What happened to professionalism? Moreover what happened to common courtesy?

And at the very least what the fuck happened to calling when you were late?

I took me a full day to calm down so I could clearly and more importantly---civilly speak to my contact.

I informed him that his master carpenter being late due to traffic wasn’t my problem. When an appointment is set---it’s set. And if for some “good” reason you’re going to be late, you at least have the common courtesy to call and let someone know.

Personally speaking I think these jokers are trying to blow smoke up my ass.

I have a feeling that the master carpenter didn’t want to get off of his can and schlep down to the south side.

We have a porch that’s roughly 18th months old and has questionable structural issues and a company that seemingly doesn’t want to do anything to correct their mistakes.

I’m quickly losing my patience with this situation and the Porch People.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I went and took the T.W.O. Neighbor survey on Saturday and quickly realized that it may not have been targeted for the working professional.

Then of course I may be wrong.

A vast majority of the questions were aimed at pinpointing employment skill sets.

Do you have a trade? Have you ever been a home health care worker? Do you have office skills?

In light of my looming unemployment, these questions are very pertinent.

Nonetheless I was surprised at not only the skill set questions but the questions concerning the neighborhood quality of life issues, general quality of life issues and affordable housing.

When a list of questions was ticked off about neighborhood concerns and retail and/or services wasn’t among them I found it odd.

I finished the survey and received a $10.00 Target gift card.

That came right on time as I just ran out of laundry detergent.

I mentioned to my friend that in my opinion it seemed that none of the questions were geared toward professionals or the non-existent retail presence in Woodlawn.

He listened and said, “That’s because they want to know about the potential pool of workers in the neighborhood.”

I sat stunned by his assessment.

When I asked why this survey was commissioned and what it hoped to achieve, I was given a stock answer of “community improvement.”

How this information was going to improve the community or what was going to be done with it wasn’t clearly defined or explained.

In fact I couldn’t get any information about the services that the T.W.O. was running out of the former all girls’ Catholic school next door to my building or a contact name for that matter.

When I commented that since Rev. Finney’s church left a few years ago, the upkeep of the property has been questionable at best, I was referred to my alderman and city services.

If you’re thinking what I was thinking at the time---I was a bit amazed by the answer as well.

And now that I’m thinking about it---I didn’t get a chance to interface with my neighbors.

As you came in and signed the sign-in sheet, the survey was administered by a T.W.O. volunteer/representative so you never got to kibbutz with anyone else.

What’s the point of holding a neighbor open house if you don’t get to say hey to the neighbors?

Very curious, no?

So it looks like T.W.O. may not be advocating for a dry cleaner for the eastern part of Woodlawn anytime soon.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Woodlawn Alert

The Woodlawn Organization (T.W.O.) is holding a Neighbor to Neighbor Open House on Saturday, August 18th, Tuesday, August 21st & Thursday, August 23.

Billed as an information-exchange gathering, community residents are encouraged to learn about T.W.O. and also participate in the Woodlawn Survey.

Personally I think this may be a great way for people that have been living next door or around the corner from each other to actually meet and to also reassess our rapidly changing community’s demographic.

If we’re lucky perhaps T.W.O. will persuade a cleaner to relocate or open in the eastern section of the ‘hood.

Can you tell that my fine garments are piling up by the door?

Dates, times & locations of the various open houses are below:

Saturday, August 18th
12:00-4:00 P.M.
1445 East 65th Street, Chicago, IL
Jackson Parkside Apartments 6040 South Harper, Chicago, IL
Berry Manor Apartments, 737 East 69th Street, Chicago, IL

Tuesday, August 21st
4:30-7:30 P.M.
1445 East 65th Street, Chicago, IL
Jackson Parkside Apartments 6040 South Harper, Chicago, IL
Berry Manor Apartments, 737 East 69th Street, Chicago, IL
WECDC, 950 East 61st Street, Chicago, IL

Thursday, August 23rd
4:30-7:30 P.M.
1445 East 65th Street, Chicago, IL
Jackson Parkside Apartments 6040 South Harper, Chicago, IL
WECDC, 950 East 61st Street, Chicago, IL
Harris Chicago Park District, 62nd & Drexel, Chicago, IL

New Friends

Say hey to some new blogging friends I made at Hyde Park Progress, The North Coast & The Chicago Bubble Blog.

They all stumbled upon my humble offering and apparently liked what they read.

Coasty has been especially verbal---leaving messages and chatting via the comments section, but Bubbly & HPP have given the love as well.

I added their links over to the left for easy perusal.

When time allows, give them a read. I think that you’ll enjoy or at the very least become informed of the myriad of issues in different 'hoods.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Does This Mean I’m Going To Have To Start Closing My Blinds?

I told you the ‘hood is blowing up.

Now it’s a long way from being a done deal but our friends at Hyde Park Progress have let the cat out of the bag about a proposed high rise at 64th & Stony Island.

Naturally I’d like to see more about the tower and its potential impact on the neighborhood.

The proposed building will be a block away from the crib so I need to know if they’ll have parking.

And if they also happened to have a pool that the public could use---that would be great too.

Granted, I’ll probably be married with kids before this project even breaks ground.

But isn’t nice to know that Woodlawn’s getting some love?

South side stand up.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Temperature Gauge

Much is happening in the hoody hoo right now.

It’s real estate-o-rama Woodlawn style.

A unit below me is getting ready to close next week. I can only imagine the (low) price that it’s selling for.

That sound you hear is my property value dropping.

And while I’m on that topic, a building on my block that I thought was a six flat is on the market as well.

Some dumb ass thought it was a good idea to take that beautiful building---which I suspect was built to house people for the Columbia Exposition---and put a bootleg wall up in the middle of the marble foyer and make it into two three flats.

Philistines. Why do these people even exist?

So the western three flat is on the market for $375K.

Note that it’s right next to the a condo “association” that my developer did, but four or five of the units went into foreclosure and have been on the market for almost two years.

Candidly speaking, if I had the money I’d buy a few units myself.

That all being said, there are signs of life that Woodlawn hasn’t given up the ghost real estate wise.

While the Living Green Lofts have yet to break ground, foundations have been poured for what appears to be two new condo developments on the southwest corner of Blackstone and 65th place.

And yes, that head you see peeking from the third floor of the back porches across the street is mine.

65th place and Dorchester seem to be the new building hot spots in my neck of the woods.

Now you can say if you build it they will come, but philosophy and reality are two different things.

I’m interested to see how quickly units will sell.

Moreover, I’ll click my heels if the units sell anywhere near the listing prices.

One word: Equity.

Four more words: I told you so.

I’ve chronicled the ups and downs of my humble existence for almost two years. Despite the drama my neighbors and I have gone through, you’ve never heard me say that Woodlawn wasn’t worth the struggle.

I love where I live. I love my pile of bricks. I love my view and I love the south side.

But don’t confuse my south side love with being a Sox fan.

I have no doubt that all of us will come out on top.

And when we do, whether it takes five years or fifty years, I’ll look like a genius.

In the interim it would be nice if a local dry cleaner would open up to clean a sister’s cashmere sweaters.

So it with some dread and renewed interest that I’m watching the ‘hood around me right now.

While the values may be depressed right now, I honestly believe that they’ll go from zero to sixty and it will take everyone by surprise.

Except for me.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Didn't I Just Say That

Chicago magazine (and frankly anyone with good sense) has also noted the damage done to property values due to foreclosures in "emerging" neighborhoods.

One way to minimize any condo association's risk is to lock it down and make it owner occupied only.

That's not to say that owner occupied units won't wind up in foreclosure, but it's my humble opinion that you'll be a little more motivated to save the roof over your head vs. saving the roof over your tennant's head.

I'm just saying...

Excuse Me?

Would you believe that we’re getting the cold shoulder from the Porch People?

Can you imagine that phone calls or e-mails aren’t being returned---by anyone?

That after almost two years a brand new porch with what was supposed to be constructed of high quality lumber is severely splitting.

And I can’t get a return phone call?

To add insult to injury now the “answering service” is picking up.

This must be a bad dream. Is someone pulling my leg?

Perhaps I’m overreacting. Perhaps they have a European mentality about vacation and they’re taking the month of August off.

Or perhaps we’re getting the shaft.

And if we are getting the shaft do they think that I personally don’t have every step of this process documented five ways to Sunday?

They have to know that I have every e-mail and every contract about our business together.

That I will go to the department of Consumer affairs and the news papers at the drop of a hat.

I hope I get a return phone call soon---like before the end of business on Friday.

If not, I’ll consider the gauntlet thrown down and it’s on like donkey kong.

You’re not taking $90,000 of our money and giving us substandard work.

I don’t think so.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What I’ve Learned

Believe it or not after months of determined pestering and a lucky break or two, my mortgage mess is finally settling down.

My mortgage company has the foresight to understand that all of a reduced amount is better than nothing at all.

But seriously folks, I’ve dodged a major bullet and am thanking the Lord that I still have a roof over my head.

So as a public service to you kids, I’m going to part with some lessons that I’ve learned about Chicago real estate.

1. Your home is not a piggy bank.

Don’t assume that the value of your home will continue to increase exponentially. Eventually all of these sky high values will shake out and come back down to earth.

2. Just because you got lucky once doesn’t mean lightning will strike again.

Yeah you may have sold your “started condo” for over twice the price you paid for it but that type of success rarely repeats itself every two to three years. Don’t think that you’ll be able to do that every time you want to sell or refinance.

3. Adjustable Rate and Interest Only Mortgages are the devil.

If you ever get one of these mortgages, please read the fine print and fully understand what you’re signing. You know how grandma always said you’ve got to pay the devil his due? Well those cloven footprints in the flower bed weren’t made by the dog. The devil wants you to pay up. Right now.

4. The ‘hood matters.

If you start seeing more than three foreclosures within a half mile radius of your home you probably shouldn’t plan on using your equity to send the tots off to college. As much as it pains me to inform you of this but the value of your home is about to take a nose dive---big time.

The aforementioned ARM mortgages, shady financing and mortgage fraud has hit everywhere but “emerging” neighborhoods where housing stock is less expensive are more vulunerable.

In short, a neighborhood (such as Woodlawn) is trying to turn itself around by attracting middle class home owners. Since the prices are usually lower than a similar unit in Lakeview or Lincoln Park, investors swarm all over newly renovated or newly built condo developments.

If you have an over leveraged legitimate home owner or a shady investor, everyone in the neighborhood will feel the pain of their bad decisions for years to come.

When the shit starts hitting the fan and units (or single family homes) start to get foreclosed upon the financial blood bath begins.

I should know, I’ve been living through it and writing about it for the past two years. It ain’t pretty.

Man, if I knew then what I know now…

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Oh Happy Day

Comcast is on it's way out the door!

The Dish/ATT cable guy is here and I'm (hopefully) mere minutes away from 250 chanels for my viewing pleasure.

Oh joy, oh rapture!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The City Hates Him Too

Ladies and Gentlemen seeking justice for our beleaguered condo association has been a driving force in my life for the past two years.

It’s why I started this blog.

Well that and I thought I’d go bat shit crazy from all of the association drama.

It’s been a long road.

I’ve discovered that if you pursue it long enough, things may start to change for the better.

I think that’s about to happen with respect to bootleg developers.

After countless months of waiting the City of Chicago is starting (or has started) a joint task force between The Mayor’s Office, The Department of Consumer Services and The Department of Construction & Permits to rout out bad developers and general contractors.

We have been delivered from the wilderness.

Hopefully the process will be smoothed out and properly publicized by the end of the calendar year so the general public will know how to put a shady developer or general contractor on “blast.”

The difference between these proceedings and a regular civil city lawsuit is that the city would be seeking remedies that bar the developer from doing business in the city---EVER AGAIN and to put the property or properties that he or she is developing into receivership.

Nice, huh? I call it the developer death penalty.

Now obviously there will be ways for someone to get around the death penalty, but that means you as the smart informed consumer that you are (after reading this blog) will actually have to perform due diligence.

Better yet, if you see your bootleg developer is doing another project, you have to blow the whistle on him or her.

Find the real estate agents that they list with and follow the paper trail from there. It’s incredibly easy and now that everything’s online all the information you ever wanted to know is at your fingertips.


The minute I get word of how you’ll be able to report your ghetto ass developer, I’ll put it on the blog ASAP.

It’s about time the city brings the pain.