Monday, April 30, 2007

Warm Sunday

These were some of the sights seen yesterday while picking up gardening supplies around the intersection of 87th & the Dan Ryan:

Several lifestyle vignettes featuring the newly added outdoor furniture section at 87th & Dan Ryan Jewel; a bistro set was styled with a wine glass and a bottle of Boone’s Farms Blue Hawaiian.

At that same Jewel I was able to find micro brewed beer (Sam Adams) AND Morning Star Farms veggie burgers as opposed to malt liquor and no veggie burgers. Perhaps someone has been listening to my grocery rants after all.

While there is a brisk business trade in the median on 87th Street, the bootleg Newport cigarette guy is new. Normally you can buy anything from a Final Call to bean pies to a 10 pack of socks; tax stamped cigarettes is a new entry into the roster of products. What do you bet that the government will be down there in a quick hurry to put an end to that foolishness?

A very confused looking white couple in a BMW Z4 roadster at the corner of 65th & State.

More enterprising individuals selling “oils & incense” out of a van parked in a gas station parking lot at the corner of 87th & the Dan Ryan while also serving flavored sno-cones and slushies.

And my personal favorite:

A Plymouth Voyager mini-van with spinners.

You seriously cannot buy this type of entertainment. I love the south side

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I Just Can't Make This Stuff Up

I know this is a blog where you can read about the dangers of bootleg developers and apathetic neighbors but I've happened upon a gem I've just got to share.

Apparently it's all about the pussy power!

I shit you not, Alexyss K Tylor is my new fucking hero.

The Yo

Bias and racism are still very much alive in the Chicago real estate market.

I know it makes people uncomfortable to acknowledge the 800 pound gorilla but ignoring it won’t make it go away.

That’s why the kids at YoChicago are so refreshing.

Now in the interest of disclosure, they did a little blurb about this blog a while back.

That still doesn’t negate the consistently superior work that the Yo does covering all of Chicago neighborhoods.

And when I say all of Chicago’s neighborhoods---I mean ALL of Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Not just the north side.

You see my funky friends if you look at corporate relocation periodicals and moving guides you’ll notice the Maginot Line drawn about at the South Loop with Hyde Park as the lone beacon of civilization on the south side.

But that’s only if you’re an egghead academic and have to be there.

Apparently there is only a small sliver of the city that’s acceptable to live and play in. Therefore those neighborhoods are the only one’s that garner the lion’s share of positive media attention.

Those kids at the Yo seem to think differently about that.

While time---and let’s face it, laziness, prevent me from schlepping around most of this beautiful city; those saucy kids at the Yo do all of the work for me so I don’t have to get up off of my Chipotle soft taco eating ass.

More to the point, I love the fact that the south side and west side gets as much play as any of the premiere neighborhoods to the north and east.

In fact, my perceptions about Austin were changed by the lovely homes I saw in a video entry.

And that interview with Dempsey Travis was priceless.

Now that doesn’t mean I’m gonna rush right out and move, but I’d love to hop in my gay boyfriend’s SUV and house shop affordable Victorians.

We need to plan for our dysfunctional marriage and co-parenting our turkey baster baby with his husband of 16 years.

Such is the knowledge that the Yo imparts.

It seems that the Yo is taking those oft held beliefs about the south side and those of us who choose to make our home here and are smashing them to pieces.

It’s about time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Maybe This Is Why I'm Surrounded By Gay Men

In a million years I never would of believed the dream would come true.

They're mounting a Broadway production of the movie Xanadu!

God I'm so excited! I'm so selling my Bear's tickets to raise money for a New York trip.

Why does this shit always happen when cash is tight?

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Rich & The Infamous

Since the weather was so nice yesterday, a friend and I took a slight detour to indulge our house envy near our respective ‘hoods.

As you know I live in Woodlawn and he living in Washington Park so before our little trip up to the north side, we decided to split the difference and look at those super groovy mansions in Kenwood.

Note: While single families in Hyde Park are expensive; I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that you need your last two year’s tax returns and W-2’s to walk down the street in Kenwood.

It’s a touch pricey.

My friend pointed out the home where Black Islamic leader Louis Farrakhan resides as well as other properties owned by the Nation of Islam.

While the neighborhood is beautiful, the architecture and landscaping on the five properties wasn’t my cup of tea. It didn’t look like it fit in with the Victorians in the area.

Then of course the hard looks were we given by the Nation of Islam’s 24 hour, 365 day a year resident security presence on the street outside of the main residence didn’t really encourage drive by browsing.

Let’s suffice it to say that you’d rather get arrested by the Chicago Police than play a game of tough guy with these very serious, heavily (and legally) armed, dour gentlemen.

If you are lingering in the street without a clear destination or linger just a little bit too long, they will trot right over and ask you your business. More importantly they’ll ask you to move---and they mean right now. Not a minute from now.

I love a well dressed man---don’t get me wrong---those guards I saw yesterday were smokin’ hot .

But that whole not drinking, woman subservient cover my head thing just isn’t in my personal game plan---no matter how hot the man.

We wisely (and quickly) drove on.

Then we saw the house where the big dog lives.

Sen. Barack Obama’s hot ass Victorian mansion is the bomb diggity.

Apparently his books sold briskly ‘cause that pile of bricks ain’t cheap.

His house is beautiful and that is an understatement. Then of course I’ve always been a sucker for a wrap around porch.

I would have loved to drink in the beauty of that gorgeous house a bit longer but apparently the Senator has his own security parked across the street.

They're called the Chicago Police Department.

I would imagine now that he’s declared his presidential candidacy he’s eligible to received Secret Service protection to his person, his family and his house.

Now while I saw the blue and white across the street, I’d think it’s pretty safe to assume that the men in dark suits and driving dark sedans weren’t too far away.

After all you don’t want to let your home envy get you thrown in the slammer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bad Sign

My mortgage person is missing in action.

After the appraisal flap, I take no news as bad news.

None of you have any idea how much of a serious monkey wrench has been thrown in my personal financial plans.

I anticipate my monthly mortgage payments will go up another $300-$400 dollars a month until I can find a new deal.

While I’ve started working on another lender, I’m battening down the hatches to prepare for the upcoming storm.

I should be able to ride it through for a month or two but if it’s extended for a longer period, I'll be in trouble.

Additionally, the mortgage adjusts every six months so God only knows how high that bad boy will go.

I’ll tell you one thing---I have no intentions on finding out.

Let's all keep our fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


It was like the Lord High Executioner had fallen off of the face of the earth.

Ever so often I would call and e-mail about some slowly moving business that we had discussed but this time my messages went unanswered.

So I called and wrote numerous times.

No response.

Then I started calling Buford Pusser.

At least I got a voice mail back. The subsequent game of phone tag yielded the same results.

So then I started calling the Lord High Executioner’s cell phone number.

In retrospect he may be kicking himself for giving me that information.

I also asked a friend who works in the law department for the city what the deal was---why was the LHE so hard to get a hold of?

My friend gave me the skinny---the LHE got transferred over to the Building Department to help those kids out while they’re ironing out their problems.

Within 24 hours of hearing that news, The Lord High Executioner himself called & left me a message.

I was being handed off to another person within the law department.

While it’s nice to know the love is still there ( I think?) I now have to start from scratch with the new guy.

When he called me yesterday, I suggested that he start reading this blog.

You loyal readers know that everything that’s been going on simply defies a two or three sentence description. I mean who would believe it?

I pray that the new guy will be as helpful as the LHE.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I’ve hipped you to the deal about the food desert.

I was devastated when Cub Foods closed.

Frankly if it weren’t for Peapod, I would have starved to death by now.

It would appear that my fellow south siders in zip code 60615, 60616, 60637, 60643 & 60653 are in on the secret too.

In an article published in the April 1st Chicago Tribune, Peapod deliveries to those zip codes have dramatically increased since 2002.

I was a huge fan of Peapod when I lived on the north side but when I moved south of Madison Street I became persona non-grata.

That’s when I discovered Cub foods and made the trek to purchase my groceries. I mean if the same person with an established account can’t get the love, I interpret that as my money’s no good.

So I boycotted them for a few years.

Now I’m not sure when Peapod changed their tune but we went back on speaking terms about a year and a half ago.

These days if you don’t place an early order for your grocery delivery, you’re screwed.

As I read the article several things stood out. I liked the fact that the following trend was identified:

“More than half a million Chicagoans live in a food desert, according to a study conducted last year, but a new analysis by the study's author, done at the request of the Tribune, underscores what Peapod users already know: Not everyone in a food desert is poor.”

“Of the 203,369 households in the desert, clustered on the South and West Sides, 31 percent have an annual income of $50,000 or more, study author Mari Gallagher found.”

Well duh.

I'm not rolling in the big dough but I have a few pennies to rub together (sometimes).

Shopping in the 'hood is not only frustrating but in a way highly entertaining.

I'm used to people looking at me like I’m some kind of freak when I ask for the refrigerated pesto?

Morningstarm Farms veggie burgers? Fugetaboutit!

Can a sister get some brie up in this bitch?

Probably not.

You'd think all south siders (read: black people) consume is Yoo-Hoo & Pork Rinds.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Progress On Dorchester

The top photo is an update of a previous picture I posted in February.

While it's great to see new construction in the neighborhood, I personally think the design and facade choices leave a little bit to be desired.

It's going to be interesting to see how that property will be marketed.

The bottom picture is the brand spanking new project that broke ground a few weeks ago.

They're moving so fast on the construction, that the second story is literally going up as I write. In fact, their moving so fast I have yet to see any permit information posted about the project.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

It’s difficult to realize that despite all of your hard work, that there are some things you just can’t control.

Such is the way of the foreclosures in my association and on my block.

Despite the fact the process started over two years ago, the repercussions of those foreclosures linger like a bad stench.

I was surprised to see a much lower value for my unit once the appraisal came back last Thursday afternoon.

I cursed the name of the former owners in our association who only seemed to care about their bottom lines and nothing else.

After gulping down that big glass of haterade, I rallied the forces of good and countered with supporting comps of units that weren’t exactly like mine but provided a basis for a much higher appraisal.

An extra $40,000 is nothing to sneeze at.

As of this writing, the appraisal department has the paperwork and will render a decision in the next day or two.

That still leaves me and any other people in my association who try to refi or sell in a hell of a predicament.

Do we accept shit comps from someone who can’t even pull values from around the corner? Do we fight it and hope for the best or do you lower your selling price (and grab your ankles) as the market is still very much tipped toward the buyer?

So like the nice article said, do some homework prior to plunking down your hard earned cash for a place.

If you’ve got a high number of foreclosures and investors with rental properties you may want to steer clear or have a diamond in the rough. It all depends on your outlook.

Let’s say you’re only going to stay for a short while or you’re not the type who’s not into community involvement.

My suggestion would be to head for the hills.

You’re the type of person who wants a ready made hood. A neighborhood with bright young things strolling the boulevards, people with good dental plans, shopping, nightlife and all of that jazz.

And if you have the money, and some do, head for one of the many neighborhoods in Chicago that will fulfill your urban desires.

But for those of us with Tiffany wishes in a Jewelry Exchange world, we have to look elsewhere.

If you are the type who can make a dollar out of fifteen cents and plan on staying put five years or longer, an “emerging” neighborhood may be for you.

You may not have the fabulousness of the ready made hood and you won’t have grocery store anywhere around you, but eventually you will be thought of as the forward thinking type as you had enough foresight to see potential.

Kinda like Gloria Estefan before Emilio got to her.

After all, anyone with money can buy fabulousness; it takes a special breed of person to make fabulousness.

You, my urban pioneer, can consider what type of new construction is (or may be) happening in the neighborhood over the next few years.

While prices may be depressed now, in a year and a half to two years, its gonna be a whole new ball game.

How so?

For those of you who don’t know, real estate appraisal comps are comprised of what has recently sold in your neighborhood or in my case my building and my neighborhood.

Because of the low selling foreclosures in my building (a 2 br for $108K), and three other low selling foreclosures down the block (on average $130K a piece) I should have anticipated that I would have trouble.

Had my appraiser simply taken into consideration the recent sales of the condos around the corner I’d have a whole different ballgame.

Now I don’t have all of the bells and whistles that the units around the corner have (stainless appliances, granite, half bath or parking space) but according to a friend’s calculations that should of only knocked my appraisal down $20,000---not $55,000.

But on the bright side when the proposed developments behind me either get built or sell, real estate in east Woodlawn is quite literally going to go through the roof.

That will take about two to three years to happen, but I’m not in a hurry.

I’ll simply continue to make improvements to my unit so it can be on par with my new neighbors.

Monday, April 02, 2007

If You Don't Believe Me...

If my examples of our condo's growing pains with investors haven't been enough, perhaps you'll believe it from our friends at YoChicago.

The Appraisal

There's a reason why all of the little things matter.

High foreclosure rates paired with too high a number of rental units equals appraisal disaster. At least it did for me when I got an appraisal last week as a part of my refi of an ARM mortgage.

You see I was one of those people who actually paid attention to the fine print.

I actually knew that my mortgage payment would be adjusting in May and didn't want a $350 surprise when I went to pay my June mortgage.

So I investigated rates and the like with my current mortgage holder, decided that they were smoking crack as there terms were nutty; and choose to look elsewhere for reasonable financing.

I found a lender (my bank) and everything has gone through with flying colors until we hit a small stumbling block called the appraisal.

The appraiser and I don't exactly see eye to eye on the value.

In fact, there are 55,000 little reasons why we're not seeing eye to eye.

I know you're asking yourself, Woody---what the hell? How in God's name could there be that much of a disparity in what you think your unit is worth vs. what an appraiser thinks your unit is worth?

At this time and in this place the value of some Woodlawn real estate isn't too bright.

The real estate chickens have come home to roost. Foreclosures seem to haunt those of us who continue to live in a neighborhood long after the banks have taken over the properties.