Thursday, May 31, 2007

Slumlord Ordinance

Yet another reason why my alderman kicks your alderman’s ass. Why is she such a rock star?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

On The Home Front

I’ve been working diligently to avoid the upcoming mortgage debacle and it’s looking like my perseverance may pay off.

I’ve been in negotiations with my lender to revise the terms of my deal.

Obviously the intent is for my mortgage not to drastically go up at all---much less every six months.

In fact, I hope my payments go down.

This sub prime mess is hitting everyone hard---including the lenders. I guess they realize that it’s better to get all of something than half of nothing.

Which is exactly what I told them when my dreams of refinancing went out the window.

The first adjustment---an extra $300 dollars on top of my current mortgage---would suck but I’d muddle through. The second adjustment in January of 2008 would kill me financially.

I estimate that I’d be paying an additional $400 for a total adjustment of $700 on top of what I already pay now.

There is no way financially I could pull that nut. I told him that I might as well mail him back the keys right now.

I don’t want to give up my home and I strongly suspect that my mortgage company doesn’t want to become homeowners.

Chicago, particularly certain neighborhoods, have been hit hard by this drama.

A six flat down the street from me is still very much in the throws of the foreclosures that happened almost two years ago.

Only a few of the foreclosed upon units have sold. The rest sit empty and their mortgage company owners keep on dropping the sales price to get the units sold.

Talk about a lose-lose situation.

The association loses, the neighborhood loses and most importantly property values go in the shitter.

It seems cheap prices will attract more investors who will rent the units which will rob our little piece of paradise of the overall stability that usually comes with owner occupied condominiums.

Stability equals stable property values. Not this roller coaster that we’re on now.

So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this whole deal works out---and in less time than I was quoted yesterday. I’ve been working on this situation since February.

Mama doesn’t have 8 weeks before this can be finalized. My rate adjusts July 1st.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sidewalk Apathy

Rumor has it that the oft discussed and much coveted new sidewalks and parkways will be going in some time this summer.

While I personally believe this to be gospel, it won't truly sink in until the signs go up and the concrete is poured.

I'm glad that three years of prodding and poking are about to come to an end but what really burns my biscuits is that the school across the street isn't contributing a dime towards the costs.

After all they're responsible for it's upkeep.

They took property off the tax rolls (as well as a street from the public way) to expand their campus. From my perspective, it seems as soon as they put up that nice tall fence on the south end of their campus, the rest of us who live on the other side of that fence became persona non grata.

But in the nicest way possible.

I've received assurances that the school wants to be a good neighbor but when it comes to coughing up the cash and pulling the trigger on this project let's just say words are all I've seen.

The galling part to this little tale is that they actually had some grant money for the parkways and never used it for the project. Moreover, the entrance to their school a block north is landscaped and pristine within an inch of its life.

As if they'd let their alumni see the crap that I have to call over to the school to get picked up.

So let's review---land was taken off the tax rolls so a private school could expand and they can't even give a flying fig about one of the parkways that they are legally responsible for.

Generally when you've been relegated to an afterthought in someone's life at least they should have the good manners to not make you feel like you're an afterthought.

But karma is a motherfucker. No good deed goes unpunished and apathy has a way of coming back to bite you on the ass.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I’m all about being proactive.

Nipping a problem in the bud before it becomes a problem is usually a good thing.

Keeping that philosophy in mind, I decided to get a jump on the potential mortgage debacle by posting an internet ad for a roommate.

I knew that the chances of me getting a roommate right away were remote---south side rentals are challenging at best---so I placed the ad early.

While I’ve gotten a couple of nibbles, the interesting part is that I think that every last response has been from a scammer.

The first respondent asked me for my exact address of my home---and in the first e-mail no less.

While that didn’t immediately set off any red flags, I did think that he was moving awful quickly. Kind of like the guy on the first date that starts picking out baby names and planning your life together.

Just a little creepy.

I forgot what I sent back in my e-mail to him but I’m sure it included me asking him something about himself and his thoughts on an ideal living situation.

His ad was vague and had a lot of pictures of him bare chested with his tattoos.

I was already feeling that this wasn’t exactly going to be a match.

He replied by asking again for my exact home address and included his personal e-mail address and his phone number.

No replies to my queries about him. He didn’t answer any of my questions.

That’s when I knew he was full of crap.

My ad also has pictures of my bathroom, the back porch and the front exterior of the building.

I don’t know if he was trying to case my place so he could rob me or if he was trying to set me up for the old Nigerian 419 scam. Either way I wasn’t having any of that foolishness.

I promptly deleted his e-mails.

About a week later another individual who also offered too much information right away set the alarms off in my head.

Pushy people who are involved in “getting to know you” situations are never good.

Luckily the roommate service that I’ve posted on is aggressively monitoring and deleting accounts that are suspicious.

But even if they weren’t I have my own roommate vetting process that is a little less detailed than a formal FBI background check.

Do these morons think I’m stupid? That I’d just let any jackass in my home?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Feel The Wrath

Now let's all give Macy's a big Chicago "I told you so!"

I wonder how long it will take for them to give our store back it's rightful name?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mike Holmes

Mike Holmes is the second best thing to come out of our neighbor from the north since Canadian bacon.

And, in the interest of disclosure, I do have a slight crush on him.

But I digress; there may be those of you who aren’t familiar with Mr. Holmes.

Mike Holmes is a general contractor who has a popular show on HGTV Canada where he fixes other bootleg contractor’s many screw ups.

In the process, he saves home owners from unscrupulous, shoddy and in some cases downright criminal contractors & developers.

Now you know why I adore him.

Then of course that lantern jaw and rockin’ body don’t hurt either.

I see men who obviously work out and pay attention to their bodies by going to the gym. Mr. Holmes on the other hand doesn’t look like that because of a soloflex machine, but rather good old hard physical labor.

I’m sure those natural genes passed down from his mother and father come into play at some point.

I just love that big corn fed lookin’ type of man----it’s just the Hoosier in me.

Mrs. Holmes (naturally, he has to be married) is indeed a lucky woman.

His shit’s so hot one of Hollywood’s most famous lesbians proposed marriage.

He seems like such a good and honest person I’ll excuse the flannel and overalls. Then of course there is no room in construction for couture.

On the other hand, the sentences sprinkled with “eh’s” may be a little bit of a challenge. What can you do, he’s Canadian. You don’t throw out a Cadillac because it has ding in it do you?

That would probably explain why I’ve taken to quietly eyeing the nice construction workers, pipe fitters, iron workers and electricians who roam about the loop.

I see a million “captains of the universe.” You know the type---look at my Porsche, I just made partner at a major law firm, check out my new million dollar condo.

Yeah those guys.

But in a sea of those yahoos, I feel a hankering for guys who can actually do something, guys who actually have a trade, guys who can make something with their bare hands.

Perhaps it’s the physicality of their work, maybe it’s those rippling muscles and perhaps it’s the scent of man so early in the morning. Go figure?

Easy girl…refocus.

Nonetheless, Mr. Holmes’ show is on the Discovery Home cable channel here in the states. I strongly suggest that all of you give it a look in the near future.

You can’t go wrong with a man who has his own set of knee pads for professional reasons.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Righteous

I’ve finally found a good developer.

I searched high and low, kept my ear to the ground and even solicited you kind readers for potential candidates.

Naturally I wound up with nothing. It was as if the word “good” and “real estate developer” could never be used in the same sentence.

The person I’m about to tell you about not only exists, but has been sitting a few blocks away all this time.

The irony is delicious, no?

Ladies and Gentlemen I’d like to introduce you to Benjamin Van Horne and Greenline Development.

You may have heard about Mr. Van Horne on the Chicago Public Radio broadcast about Woodlawn last week. I remember meeting him at a fundraiser for my alderman.

He seemed nice enough but when we’re talking real estate development, I’m sure the title of this blog says it all. I have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to people who have the word “developer” in their job title.

But then I heard the Chicago Public Radio broadcast, found his website and had that warm fuzzy feeling.

Still not convinced, I called over to my alderman’s office and spoke with my contact.

“Is this Van Horne guy the real deal? “

“Believe it or not, yes he is.”

“Bullshit---there has to be something wrong with him---some major character flaw. Developers aren’t nice.”

“No really, he’s the real deal and his buildings are spot on. We’ve never received one complaint.”

“Bullshit---are you for real?”

“Yes I am. He’s a nice guy with a conscious who builds buildings that give people an affordable yet nice place to live.”

That statement left me in a quandary. After all, it goes against everything I’ve ever experienced in the “gut rehab” condo market in Chicago.

I was truly perplexed.

In the interest of disclosure, from what I understand Mr. Van Horne has also done some fundraising for my alderman as well as stumped on her behalf.

Normally my spidey sense would be tingling after such a ringing endorsement, but I actually trust the people in my alderman’s office. If this guy were a fuck up I doubt that the love would be there.

At some point I have to trust in at least one city political institution, right?

Plus I like the fact that he’s a socially responsible capitalist. There ain’t nothing wrong with that.

So I will exhibit something I so rarely do these days---trust.

I think this cat is an honest to god good developer. Apparently the only thing he can’t do is turn water into wine.

So if you’re in the market to purchase a condo and it’s offered by Greenline development, more than likely you’re headed down the right path.

Now that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do your homework like Woody told you to. Remember, there is no substitute for good old fashion fact checking. Always cover your ass.

But unless someone has credible documentation to the contrary, Mr. Van Horne may be the first developer actually given the thumbs up by “I Hate My Developer.”

Let’s hope we’ll be able to add many other names in the future.

Spring Has Sprung

Like the swallows coming back to Capistrano and the boozers flocking to sidewalk cafe's, warm weather is returning to the second city.

Not only will I be putting down the garden in short order, but I'll also be able to shop for fresh produce at one of our many weekly farmer's markets.

My grocery bill will go down and I get to support local farmers---some of which hail from areas around my hometown.

On the hit list for next Tuesday:

Yellow Squash
Garlic Cheddar Cheese

Monday, May 07, 2007

…And To Prove My Point

Just in case you thought I was making this plastic flower stuff up, read this little ditty I found on a blog of the Lincoln (NE) Journal Star:

“…works for us! We tried real live flowers and found out it was easier to go to Goodwill or find the plastic ones on sale. My wife changes the flowers in the flower boxes according to the season. There's too much in life to get bogged down in trying to accommodate Mother Nature. And if you put a scented air wick out there they even smell like flowers!”


*More Heavy Sighing*

God Help Me

I've got personal drama going on and world is in turmoil but the latest thing to draw my attention is a few new landscaping additions.

I'm assuming it's a new neighbor who's making an effort at community beautification.

God bless him or her.

Someone put plastic flowers in one of our gardening beds. Roses to be specific.

I nearly passed out when I walked past the beds this morning on my way to work.

Lord Jesus give me strength.

This mystery person also added a pinwheel lawn ornament to the front yard.

*Heavy Sigh*

They also put white stones around a perennial. Note: It's not like I don't already hate the bootleg red landscaping stones that are already in our planting beds. The white stones just add that little something extra special.

But perhaps I'm getting too territorial and putting the cart before the horse.

Perhaps I should be grateful that I have a neighbor who also has an interest in gardening and the ilk.

The desire is there; maybe we can learn for each other and have a meeting of the minds.

Hopefully we can lose the lawn ornaments and plastic flowers along the way.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Bad Sign, Getting Worse

As luck would have it, my refi dreams are down the shitter.

Apparently either due to the foreclosures in the area as well as neighbors who want a quick sale and sell cheaply, the property value in the hoody hoo has dropped over $30,000.

I’m sure inflated appraisals by bootleg appraisers might have had something to do with this as well.

All of these factors have led to a no go on the refi as the loan to value ratios don’t work.

What does this mean for me?

It means that every six months until I can actually refinance my interest rate adjusts upward.

When my rate adjusts in July I may be looking at an additional $300 tacked onto my mortgage payment.

Now as much as that sucks if I work a little bit harder at the second job and stay in one weekend a month, I can make that up with no problem.

The shit hitting the fan comes in January of 2008.

That’s when the rate adjusts again and another $300-$400 gets tacked on to the first rate adjustment.

It’s gonna get ugly real quick like.

But instead of letting this situation control me, I’m exploring some options and will report back when the workable solutions have firmed up.

Until then I have to repay personal debts and batten down the financial hatches.

It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.


If the stage play of Xanadu does not reproduce this final scene from the movie down to every last roller skater, baggy pants wearing extra there will be hell to pay.

But recognize that the head dress is mine, bitches.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Check out this story on Woodlawn from the nice people at Eight Forty Eight from Chicago Public Radio.

Recognize and Represent!

Learning Curve

Young Mr. Whitefolks has now lived with and by us for the last six months.

By “us” I mean black people.

I’m sure being a minority in a minority neighborhood makes for some interesting stories for the relatives back in Wisconsin.

While Young Mr. Whitefolks enjoys Bronzeville, I’m sure he might still have some questions about black culture at large.

If he were going to ask questions about his neighbors and his neighborhood, this is what I’d imagine he’d say:

Why do you stop the car in the middle of the street to hold a conversation?

Where exactly is this Moo & Oink?

Bud Billiken? Who is Bud Billiken?

So what’s with the spinners?

Must there be two beauty supply stores per block?

What exactly is a square* and why would I have one?

Why does a straight man need a roller set?

So the CTA doesn’t run on time down here?

Despite the questions, I would imagine that Young Mr. Whitefolks has learned two important things about living amongst the peeps.

The first would be to try and buy stock in Newport cigarettes.

The second (and most important) would be to never, ever question a black woman about her hair.

Don’t ask why it’s long one day and short the next.

Don’t ask why some black women’s hair will be colors not found in nature.

Don’t ask about the package of hair.

Don’t pull an Imus.

Don’t ask why you’ll see some black women give the appearance of hitting themselves in the head. She’s scratching her head but is doing so in a manner that won’t mess up the hair style.

Just trust me on this one.

But Mr. Young Whitefolks may have also learned that if you ever touch a black woman’s hair unsolicited may put his physical being at risk.

I can’t wait to talk to him to hear his reflections on six months of south side urban living.

*A square is slang for a cigarette

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sly & The Family Stone

Since I’m pretty damn good at chronicling everybody else’s shit on this blog, I think it’s my turn.

I’ve been a preoccupied little beaver for the past 8 months.

You see I’ve been pulling double duty concerning a family affair. More specifically I’m essentially supporting two households on my meager income.

Well it wasn’t meager until I had to do (most of) the heavy financial lifting for myself and others.

Everything changed 4th of July weekend a few years ago.

That was when my sister made a tragic mistake to drink and drive. The subsequent accident she caused and the death of a motorist on the opposite side of the median changed all of our lives.

And when I say our, I mean mine, her children’s, her victim, her victim’s family and the other young women who where also a part of the accident.

That whole ripple effect is a motherfucker when it happens in your life.

So if you were ever wondering why there would be such huge gaps between postings, now you have your answer.

It’s difficult at best to push for truth, justice and the American way on the condo front; deal with apathetic neighbors AND make sure all the bills and mortgages are paid in two different states.

Did I mention that while all of this is going on, my only sibling who I dearly love---but who clearly fucked up---sits in prison?

Which is exactly where she belongs.

How one stupid ass decision, a momentary lap of judgment can effect so many people’s live is such a profound way.

But while all of this is difficult for me, I can only imagine the frustration of her victim’s family.

If the sentencing statement given by the woman’s adult son is any indication, he’s pulling pretty much the same financial nut as me except he’s desperately angry at my sister.

And who wouldn’t be?

Then of course perhaps our circumstances aren’t so different.

I hope that none of you have a family member or loved one shipped off to jail. But in the course of the last eight months I’ve found out that quite a few people that I know---movers and shakers, sophisticates & ‘round the way girls have a relative or two in the slammer.

It’s funny how people will unburden their souls about the problems in their families when you have complete candor about yours.

They understood my frustration, the dark moods, the rants in letters to my sister about choices in the past that have led up to this specific moment in time.

They understood the tears that still flow even now and how I somehow think it’s my fault for not being able to make everything have a happy ending.

In short, yeah I was pissed. I felt abandoned and alone.

I was the only person from our immediately family still (free) standing and oh so very scared. And yeah, I was preoccupied.

There are many times I barely feel like a fully functioning adult. To truly have to act like one because actual flesh and blood people and animals are depending on you is horrifying.

There’s a reason why I take to cats.

I don’t know how you real adults even handle this much pressure.

So while I don’t want your sympathy I do want you nice people to take something away from this little tale of woe:

Drunk driving is such a preventable crime. If you find yourself boozed up and lack the fucking common sense to not get behind the wheel; I hope and pray you surround yourself with people who will break their shoe off in your ass in order to save lives.

I know from firsthand experience. Don’t do it----the risks and consequences far outweigh you leaving your car somewhere.

For those of you who have lost a loved one or friend to this senseless act, my heart is always with you.

My mother died almost eight years ago and I was so not ready for her to go. While the circumstances weren’t as tragic and violent, I do know what it’s like for someone to leave you unexpectedly.

Lastly I learned that you can’t live someone’s life for them. On the flip side you can’t hold yourself responsible for their mistakes.

That’s always a tough one to deal with, right?

For reasons that I won’t discuss---hell even my closest friends don’t know----my sister and I have a history that may seem familiar to some yet foreign to others.

Some things just have to remain private.

And no I won’t answer any questions about the accident and the like. Not only is it still too close to the surface but it’s just plain none of your business.

This shit is hella painful.

But you’re wondering, “Why did she choose to post about this at this particular time?”

Two words---background knowledge.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happily Ever After

It’s nice to see that Mr. Knight & Mr. Cousin are doing so well in their personal lives.