Category — Chicago style

Bus stop eavesdrop

It was supposed to be a simple little  walk down the street.   Probably about three miles there and back.  (We city people think three miles qualifies for “simple” and “little.”)  The purpose was to drop off some press kits at a client’s hotel, followed by a quick pit stop at the bank before returning home.

Right before I left, I put on a cute new pair of Hush Puppies thinking this would be a great opportunity to break them in.   I stepped into them and attached the Mary Jane Velcro strap.  I took a few steps.

Heaven.  Damn, I’m going to love these cushy shoes, I thought.  So, I grab my purse and my press kits and off I go down the street.

Three quarters of the way there, I start to notice a bit of discomfort on the outside edge of my left little toe.    By the time I get to the bank, the discomfort has turned into pain.

I lean on the counter, and take the shoe off.  I reach for a band aid I typically keep in my purse.  (I’ve had shoe issues before, so I typically have a couple of band aids stuffed into one of the compartments.)   I figure, I’ll wrap one around the toe and then walk the mile and a half home.

Four steps later, I realize that plan needs to be scrubbed.  If I attempt that walk, I will probably elect to self-amputate my toes long about the third block.

N. Michigan Ave. aka the Blister Creator

So, I gingerly step over to the bus stop a few feet away.  I take a seat on the bench and proceed to eavesdrop on a variety of conversation and requests.

Here’s why I hear from a group of three girls and a guy:

Guy:  See that building across the street?  I saw the penthouse on one of those buying real estate shows.

Girl #1: He must have been really rich.

Guy:  This was going to be his first purchase.

Girl#2.  It would be really cool living up there.  Can you imagine how fun into would be to look into the windows of other apartments?  I bet you could see unlimited one-night hookups.

Me:  (inaudibly)  Yes, that’s a pretty normal criteria when evaluating a high rise condo purchase.  Dear real estate agent, in addition, to the imported granite counter tops and state of the art appliances, exactly how many times a week will I be able to see other people porking through my kitchen windows?

Mercifully, the MENSA girl and her friends board the bus and get on with their lives.

Next up, is a woman in her 20s, with a messenger bag hanging across her chest.  Just as her bus pulls up and she is getting ready to board, she turns around and says to me…

Do you have a dollar you can spare?

What I say is:  No.

What I want to say is:  Sorry, but I believe you’ve confused me with an ATM machine.  Take a look at my chest.  Do you see a keypad anywhere in that vacinity?  No?  Then STFU.  Because as far as I can see, you are able bodied and have a CTA card, which presumably you’ve bought.  So, what was it about me that screamed “she’s an idiot and will most likely hand over her wallet?”

Maybe she noticed me hobbling and thought she had an easy mark.  Not a chance.

Let me share one more thing with you.  This is the sign I encountered last Friday in a rest stop bathroom on the Indiana Turnpike.   I had no idea these people clean with Agent Orange.

Damn! I left the gas mask in the car.

June 3, 2012   Comments Off on Bus stop eavesdrop

Surprises hidden in the water tower

I’ve lived in Chicago all my life, with the exception of that lost decade in Cleveland.  One of Chicago’s most famous landmarks is the Water Tower.  It was one of the few structures that remained standing after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

In the past 20 years that I’ve lived down the street from it, I must have walked by it hundreds of times.  But never once have I walked inside.  In fact, I didn’t even know that you could.  Just another example of how we frequently don’t pay attention to things in our own backyard.

Or maybe this is just means that I’m an idiot.

A few days ago, I was invited to attend a play.  When I noticed the address, I figured that the theater had to be somewhere around the Water Tower.  What I didn’t realize was that it was in the Water Tower until I used Mapquest to pinpoint the location.

Hmmm.  There is a theater inside the Water Tower?!  Wow.  Next thing you’ll be telling me is that there is water in the Water Tower.

So, walk a mile down the street and enter the Water Tower.  Well, shut my Alice in Wonderland mouth!

The Water Tower has water and lots of it!

I was stunned to discover that the Water Tower not only had water, but it had a large tourist center, a lovely seating area and…..wait for it….a one-room Chicago Public Library.  And oh yeah, the theater.  (It also had a person who kept mumbling to himself, but hey, not every experience is perfect.)

The Chicago Public Library branch is on the left. Note the vinyl albums. I wonder when the last time this inventory was updated. 1950s??

Maybe next weekend, I will attempt to explore the city’s sewer system.  Perhaps I will find the lost city of Atlantis.  Or maybe just a nightclub for rodents.

May 6, 2012   Comments Off on Surprises hidden in the water tower

It’s a hole in the wall.

Last Tuesday, my building engineer knocks on my door and tells me there is a little problem brewing behind one of the walls in my master bedroom.  He thinks there is a problem with one of the water pipes and unless it’s dealt with it might burst.


The thought of having hundreds of gallons of water pouring out of a high pressure, high-rise water system and into my bedroom is not particularly appealing.

Even less appealing is the thought of tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

So, I immediately consent to the inevitable.  Breaking through the wall to get to the pipe. Sledgehammer away, people.

After about an hour of pounding, I walk into the bedroom to find the following.

Apparently my building engineer is a frustrated cartographer.

A rough representation of South America with Australia apparently having been relocated to the south Atlantic.

Oh, yeah and the rest of the bedroom covered in fine plaster dust.

Long about now, I’m thinking that a flood would have been more desirable.

So, out comes the dust rag and the vacuum.  (Handling these things normally cause an involuntary face tick.  Which is how I justify a biweekly visit from my housekeeper.)

The next day the crew returns to switch out the pipes.  The water is shut off in that portion of the building for five hours.  That means 35 pissed-off residents.

I finish and retreat back into my office.  About an hour later, I hear more banging.  I walk back into the bedroom a hour later to find this.

Oh, man. Australia is still fine, but what the hell happened to South America?!

And once again, the entire bedroom is covered in white plaster dust.

I briefly consider calling Ripley’s Believe It or Not as I reach for the vacuum cleaner a second time.

Then on Thursday, a different crew arrives to plaster and paint the former South America and Australia.  Then a third crew needs to come back upstairs to move my furniture back in place.

In doing so, my white bedroom carpet is stained, which results in a call to the carpet cleaner.  Appointment set for Wednesday.

I wish they had just taken that sledgehammer to my head.

March 18, 2012   Comments Off on It’s a hole in the wall.

Why being a landlord sucks. Part 2

Sigh.  This has been another week of prospective tenant hell.

I am so exhausted from dealing with all of these asshats that I can barely type right now.  So, I’m going to keep this rant short.

Here’s a play by play of some of the conversations I’ve endured while trying to rent my one bedroom condo.

Location, location, location

Prospective tenant #1: Hi…I’m really interested your apartment.  I see that you are asking $1700 per month rent.  But, I’m currently paying $1,100.  Is there anyway you can reduce the rent?

Me: Sure.  I don’t see why not.  First let me call my bank and tell them to reduce my mortgage by 60% so that I can cut the rent by the same amount.  Oh, and by the way, I give prospective tenants an I.Q. test.  Clearly you won’t be passing that anytime soon.

Prospective tenant #2.  (After a 30 minute apartment showing and tour of the building.)  Oh, one more thing.  We are really looking for the lease to start on May 1st.  Would that be okay?

Me:  Of course, it’s okay.  Are you kidding me?!  I’ll just tell the bank to fuck themselves in April.  I was just kidding when I posted April 1st in HUGE type on the ad.

Prospective tenant #3. How many square feet does the apartment have?

Me:  Sorry, I cannot rent the apartment to anyone who is illiterate.  The square footage is clearly listed on the ad.  Unless you are visually impaired there is no excuse for your stupidity.

Prospective tenant #4.  (Provides a number in the query email for me to call him.  I dial it and the name on the voicemail doesn’t match the name on the email, so I reply to the email stating that.  He calls me shortly after and tells me that the autofill put in his old work number.)

Me:  Seriously?!!!   Did you not notice the incorrect area code and digits?   Are you capable of going to the bathroom without supervision?

Give me strength to find a suitable tenant before I commit a felony.

March 8, 2012   Comments Off on Why being a landlord sucks. Part 2

Why being a landlord sucks

As a long-time landlord I’ve had my share of great, and not-so-great, tenants.  (Current husband/wife tenants are awesome sauce.  Unfortunately, their family is about to expand and they need more space.  God speed.  They’ve earned themselves a great referral into perpetuity.)

Unfortunately for me, this means I have to start the tenant courtship/screening process all over again.  Kind of like starting a new dating relationship except that a credit check, criminal screening and a lot of cash is involved.

Then, again, I’ve been known to put prospective boyfriends through the same thing. I just feel that Google stalking is pretty much mandatory if you are going to impact my life in any fiduciary manner.

Brand new bathroom with floor to ceiling marble just completed.

Being that this is a one-bedroom apartment and located on Chicago’s lakefront, it usually attracts late-twenty-something, up-and-coming middle managers.  Typically, ones who have been educated at prestigious universities.

Unfortunately, their educational pedigree is not always a good indicator of their character.  May I share with you my first three experiences from this cycle?

Prospective tenant A.  Mom and dad live in a well-heeled Chicago north shore suburb.

Their little princess is a fairly recent graduate of the University of North Carolina.  She emailed me last Sunday to arrange for a viewing.  By Wednesday, I had not gotten a reply to my email back to her.  I sent her another one from a different address just on the outside chance it ended up in the spam folder.

Twenty-four hours later I heard back.  She was interested in setting up an appointment for either Sunday or Monday.  I emailed her back within in minutes trying to get specifics from her.  As of this writing, no reply.

Prospective tenant B.  Late 20s, Gonzaga U graduate who is relocating from the West Coast.  I called her within minutes of her email on Thursday.  She was only in town for a couple of days and wanted to secure an apartment for an April 1st move in.  She wanted to see the apartment the next day.

I call my current tenant to nail down a mutually convenient time and call “B” back within five minutes.   We confirm a 2 pm showing on Friday.  I shuffle around my business appointments to accommodate her.

The appointed time comes and goes.  I call her at 2:15 pm.  The call goes into vmail.  She is a no show.  Needless to say, she didn’t even return my call to apologize or explain.

Prospective tenant C.  She called me yesterday and set up an appointment for this afternoon for her and her fiance.  She makes it, he doesn’t.  Lovely young lady who tells me that she really likes the apartment, but that they have already been approved for a different one.  She asks to take an application and discuss with her fiance.  I receive a polite email an hour ago that her fiance has decided to go with the other apartment.

So, as a public service to 20-something young professionals looking for apartments, here are some tips.

1.  There’s this thing called the internet.  That means that prospective employers and even landlords are going to search your shit out.   We will track down your work history and connections on LinkedIn, check your vapid tweets on Twitter and reverse search your phone number.  And that’s just for starters.

2.  As landlords, we are likely to be older and better connected.  As in, we actually may know people in top management in the company for which you just accepted an entry level assignment.  It’s not a smart idea to piss us off.  (I’m speaking directly to you, Ms. Gonzaga.)

3.  If your Twitter profile professes your love of martinis and partying, you aren’t even going to get to the credit check phase with me.  The last person I want living next door to me is a drunk who may end up puking in the hallway.

4.  If you make an appointment with me and don’t show, I will check your Twitter or Facebook.  (It’s because I care so much and want to make sure you didn’t have an accident and are in the emergency room.  You get that I’m being sarcastic, right?)

If you are posting away about your adorable Tar Heels, I’m going to take that as a sign that you are still alive and you are a rude piece of crap for not keeping your appointment or calling to cancel.

5. To Applicant C.  Thank you for being classy enough to send me an email informing me of your decision.  Common courtesy will get you far in life.  Oh, and your engagement ring was gorgeous.  Just sayin’.

I will eventually rent this apartment.  Probably sooner rather than later.  I will likely get an amazing tenant (reread the part about my ability to conduct thorough background checks).  But in the meantime, I’m also likely to deal with several more spoiled private school, trust fund babies who were never taught the importance of courteous behavior.

March 4, 2012   3 Comments

Elevators. Aka potential stink tanks.

Living in a high rise, the only way to exit the building is by first taking the elevator.  Or by parachuting out of the window which I do not advise.  What with the winds and all.

Press the down button at your own olfactory risk.

Most of the time the quick elevator journey is uneventful.  However, there are times when a gas mask is desirable.  Let me count the ways.

1.  People who wear too much perfume or aftershave.  Or make selections that smell like a cross between Draino and Raid.

2.  Smokers whose garments reek of nicotine.  (My goal is to throw up on one of them.)

3.  Non bathers.  Yep. There are one or two in every building.  Eau de stench.

4.  Smelly pets.  No, I don’t think it’s cute if your dog licks my ankles with his slobbery, smelly tongue.  On the other hand, you may wish to ask it how it enjoyed a heaping helping of the body lotion I just slathered onto my legs.

5.  Food.  I don’t mind the scent of pizza wafting out of a delivery bag.  It’s garlic reeking through human pours that I have issue with.  Are you trying to protect yourself from the invisible vampires who live in the neighborhood?  Seriously.  What the hell are you eating?!

6.  Passing gas.  You can’t hold it in for a few more seconds until you enter your own apartment?!  Seriously, what is your problem.

So, if you are guilty of any one or more of these six olfactory sins, then the next time I enter an elevator and you are in it, I would appreciate it if you could wedge yourself into a corner as far away from me as possible.  It would also be a good idea if you turned your back to me.  This way you will be missing my grimacing and eyeball rolling.

January 29, 2012   2 Comments

This explains everything

Did I take a vacation last month?  I think I did, but that deep relaxed feeling I was able to conjure during my two weeks in Florida is a distant memory.

Not to mention that my fabulous suntan is flaking off like stage four dandruff.  Despite the fact that that I’m applying lotion every 7.5 seconds.

But I digress.  Let me discuss what I mean by “this explains everything.”

Last week was a short week when people were still segueing out of holiday mode.  This week?  This week is more like someone flung open all of the cages in the zoo and the animals are running loose terrorizing the city.

Every day this week has started before 7 a.m. with some European-related client drama.  It’s ended past 6 p.m. when I push away from the computer.  (Not really, because now I’m on the laptop and before 11 p.m. hits odds are pretty high that I’ll get some email that needs immediate attention.)

It’s Wednesday and I’m looking at the calendar in disbelief that it’s 11 more months until Christmas break.  Or seven months until my trip to Greece.  Or maybe two more months until I’m institutionalized.

Feeling absolutely exhausted with two more days left in the business week, I figure I should read a few more industry e-newletter emails before reaching for the remote control.

That’s when I saw it.   An article detailing the most stressful professions.

Public relations executive  #2.  The only profession more stressful than mine is commercial airline pilot.  (Okay, on some lists the military and the police bump me  slightly down the chain, but I’m always in the top 10.)

Hence the reference to “that explains everything.”

That means what I do for a living is more stressful than neurosurgeons and trial attorneys.  Those wimps didn’t even make the top ten.

Note all of the letters that have rubbed off of the keys. If that doesn't say stressful profession, I don't know what will.

If that wasn’t enough, while I was in the process of typing this, my local news reported that Chicago residents are subject to a higher than average stress level.

Great.  Both my profession and zip code are conspiring to give me a heart attack.  Or maybe a stroke.  Whichever can kill me faster.

The good news is Northwestern Hospital has WiFi available throughout the building.  Which, of course, means my profession will continue to stress me while I’m on life support.

January 11, 2012   2 Comments

How the rich celebrate Halloween

This is actually amusing considering most of these homes are behind gates and the owners are not likely to open them for the unwashed masses, a.k.a. trick or treaters.   However, I wanted to share a few snapshots I took while walking through the ‘hood in Chicago earlier this week.

Nothing says Halloween like hiring a company to decorate your front lawn.

You know you have too much money when you chose to purchase cobwebs.

Apparently she is looking for the ruby slippers at the bottom of a planter.

Arrrgh, matey! I buried treasure inside this pumpkin!

A new way to recycle spa robes.

Grave markers and kale. Nice color pallette.

This is what can happen after a colon cleanse.

The wealthy prefer to keep their loved ones close. As in buried right by the mailbox.

Who doesn't have a skeleton buried in their front yard?

I love the creepy butler at the top of the stairs.

Last year this house had a huge spider crawling on its exterior. This year its a 20 foot Frankenstein. (BTW, his feet are chained down so that he doesn't end up being driven away on the roof of a car.)

October 30, 2011   3 Comments

More proof why I hate public transportation

When people ask me why I have such a dislike for public transportation, may I share last night’s encounter with you as a prime example?

I was a guest at a corporate event at one of the roof-tops across from Wrigley Field.   If you’ve never been to this iconic venue, you may not know that it sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  The home of the Chicago Cubs isn’t one of those huge steel structures with massive parking around it.  No, sir!  This place has character.

Hence, the most viable way to go to a game is …gasp…public transportation.

While I was fortunate to arrive to the park without major incident or annoyance, the same could not be said for the return trip.

May I introduce you to “smelly, talking-to-himself, jotting down baseball stats and shouting obscenities,” dude?

He was so oblivious, that I could have done an entire photoshoot with strobe lights.

Leaving the event during the eighth inning, I made my way to the bus stop two blocks away.  As I approached the corner, I noticed there was a guy wearing headphones, talking to himself and  jotting notes down on a large piece of paper.

Great.  The mayor of Freak City was taking the same bus.

Apparently, I was not successful in telepathically communicating “don’t even think of sitting next to me” because he boarded the bus and made a direct beeline for the seat beside me.

That’s when I officially began my ride on the Stench Express.

I thought, well, if I have to endure this for the next 15 minutes, I need to make the best of this.

And by endure, I meant, “I need to start a Facebook thread and start uploading photos.”

Normally, you aren’t going to turn to the person next to you on the bus and take a photo of his/her weird behavior. Because that, of course, would be like begging to be stabbed.

But this guy was waaay more into listening to the end of the game through his headphones and shouting obscenities than committing a felony. A little thing like the click of an iPhone didn’t even make an impression.

He also was leaning into me with his right leg.  That’s when I began to have thoughts of amputation.  Did my iPhone have an app on it which could perform microsurgery?  Damn you app developers.  A little less Angry Birds, a little more switchblade, please!

But the worst part of this whole encounter was the smell.  As in “I am willing to give you my entire life savings for a gas mask” right now.

Then a miracle occurred.   He stood up and walked off the bus a good mile from my stop.

That was a two-fold benefit.  The obvious one was the smell leaving my perimeter. The second one was that  I was not going to be followed home.  Which seriously minimized my chances of being dismembered and stuffed into a garbage can.

Normally, a Cubs win would have been good enough.  But, you gotta admit, avoiding a dismemberment is right up there.

September 20, 2011   Comments Off on More proof why I hate public transportation

Hunkering down in the heat wave

If you are reading this today and living in the United States, odds are that you are also experiencing craptastic weather.


I don’t know about you, but when Fahrenheit temperatures reach triple digits, I am not the happiest of campers.  Chicagoans are used to dealing with “wind chill” numbers in the winter, but a “heat index” of more than 110 degrees is not a usual occurrence around these parts.

To make things a little more complicated in the ivory tower in which I live, the elements pummel my windows on three exposures—east, west and north.  So today, in addition to running all of the air conditioning units, all of the room darkening blinds have been lowered.

A 20 ft wall of darkness. One blind slightly raised to periodically check the scorched earth.

You can call it energy conservation.  Or a possible trial run for a future stint in the witness protection program.

So, while the sun was blazing outdoors, indoors it looked like an AMC Movieplex. Without the popcorn and large boxes of Milk Duds.  (They usually don’t serve poached salmon at the movie theater, right?)

If you have to hunker down, having a big flat screen, recliner and a remote control makes the suckass weather suck a little less.

Hope you are keeping cool and safe.

July 21, 2011   5 Comments