Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Kinda Town, Again

My blog is taking it's third trip to Chicago. I'm here in business to see a client. My first trip was February 2007 for the Chicago Auto Show, the best of the auto show season. That was a momentous trip as I gave up Diet Coke and I've never had another one since. The next trip was November 2007 to pick up a 1988 Pontiac Fiero with my friend Mike and drive back to Austin.

Chicago helped me kick the Diet Coke habit but I'll never give up burgers and fries. So tonight I headed over to my old neighborhood here in Chicago to have dinner at the Green Door Tavern. It's old and it's wood. Rare in Chicago as most things post the Great Chicago Fire were made of stone. If you're downtown and want to head to a neighborhood bar without a "corporate" theme, head to the Green Door Tavern at Orleans and Huron. Try the blue cheese burger and some nachos. Yum.

And if you're on a budget, there's always the original Mr. Beef next door.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Long October

It's been a while, I know. As many of you know me, I'm a sporadic communicator at times.

I've begun to feel a bit of disconnect to my blog. And I'm going to overcome that, but it may take some time. My blog started out as the beginning of my departure from Los Angeles to Austin. You may recall that I left Los Angeles so I could buy a home and that was an important goal of mine.

I love my home here. I love my new friends. I love my dogs. I love having a garage and a big yard. I love the quality of life here.

There is so much that is good, but the last six weeks or so have been so bad. I've been angry, disappointed and at times a bit bitter. The government bailout of the banking system made me ill. I wrote my Congressman three times, and he voted against it. Anyone who broke the law writing mortgages from the broker to the underwriter should be brought before the courts, and he agrees as well. Despite my Democratic leanings, he's Republican and I'm voting for John Carter tomorrow. He wrote me back too.

So much of this is all wrong and we're spinning our heads looking for someone to point the finger at. The problem is that there is no one government, bank, mortgage company, President, Senator, CEO etc. We're looking at the government to fix a problem that wasn't theirs to begin with.

Having lived in the heart of the mortgage meltdown from 2000 to 2006 I was at ground zero of what was happening. I could have jumped in but I knew better. I wanted a house and I had to leave Los Angeles to get one. Back in the fall of 2006 you could still get a crazy mortgage that you could not possibly afford. I was offered upwards of 350k to buy a house. By Bank of America.

Of course I did not accept. I knew better. It was stupid. Your income times three is the price you should be able to pay for a house. I don't make that kind of money. (yet) Your income divided by two is the price you should pay for a car. Simple math I've learned long ago. I'm well below those two guidelines and while my parents expressed their pride in my decision making, I'm still feeling a bit ill and angry.

Bank of America, who owns the other 80% of my house, recently announced they were "adjusting" mortgages to fit people's income. They were going to take the principal down to 30% of the person's income so they could stay in the home. I felt that kick in the stomach feeling you get when you get horrible news as I read that article. I didn't have to leave Los Angeles, I just had to wait it out.

I often say, if you want fair, wait until the end of the summer. So I'm not going to scream at Bank of America, or send them nasty letters. It's a good business decision rather then evict people and try to sell houses. The numbers make sense, they are better off adjusting mortgages then flooding the market with properties in a climate where they can't lend people money to buy them. I'm all for good business decisions. I can live with people being evicted.

Harsh as it sounds, it's true. I sympathize with the renters who paid rent and then the landlord defaulted on the mortgage. Somehow they committed theft and should be brought before the courts. But the owner occupied properties, well you kinda had it coming. The mortgage is a simple financial instrument that has been around for decades. You put money down, you buy a house and make payments for 20 or 30 years that are fixed monthly. Your taxes and insurance go up with inflation but the mortgage stays the same. No brainer, our parents did it. Their parents did it. You knew better but chose to ignore it. It was the greed of wanting a better house then you could afford.

My story is the path I took to get to my piece of the American Dream.

And I get to keep it.