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.