No one here gets out alive

Yesterday the Forever 27 club stole a new member.  It had been a while, but the beast must have been hungry.  I defy you to show me anyone who was in a Death Pool who didn’t have Amy Winehouse on their list.  She was a softball, like Lindsey Lohan.

A lot of people don’t understand the torture that comes with immense talent.  The more brilliant the talent, the deeper the torture.  Robert Downey Jr. is an excellent example of that.  Jean Michel Basquiat is another good one.  Add to that list Pete de Freitas, drummer for Echo and the Bunnyman, Pete Ham keyboard player for Badfinger, Kristen Pfaff of Hole and Pigpen and you’re starting to get a who’s who of talent.

The original Forever 27 includes Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain.

Amy Winehouse went on a fatal bender Friday night in London, in spite of five Grammys for one album.  She just couldn’t get it together.  Ever.  Currently no one knows exactly what killed her.  She was at least hammered.  Toxiology will determine if she was still doing drugs or not.  Friends have said she hadn’t done drugs in a while but she would stop drinking.  There are reports that the alcohol had debilitated her to the point that she was having seizures.  Doctors had told her to stop drinking but she wouldn’t and she seized out.  It doesn’t really matter.   Her soul was tortured, that’s what made her art so good and now it’s over.

Want to hit the interstate in a Cadillac

Once upon a time in a land far far away…

It’s our anniversary!  Three years ago the Amateur Manager attempted to silence the Wine Dog and Dearly Departed Escrow Officer.  It didn’t work then and it’s not working now.  We both sought legal counsel.  We were both told that due to the economy the Bloodless Empire would just blame our demise on the economy and get away with it.  On one hand they did, on the other hand they’re still paying for it.  I have been forced to use them on one escrow in the last three years.  I have never, nor will I ever, write them in to a contract.   I am starting to sell more homes, my hard work is starting to pay off.  If I can keep it going I will become a force in this market and I will never write First American Title into a contract.  But more importantly, I tell anyone who writes their name into contracts on my listings why I’d like them to pick anyone but the Bloodless Empire.  You just can’t buy a lack of goodwill like that.

It’s been a very rough three years.  It would have broken someone else.  But we are tough women, that’s why we got the ax back then.  The Dearly Departed Escrow Officer has had just as rough of a time as I have.  She called yesterday out of the clear blue sky.  I gleefully wished her a happy anniversary.  Is it today?  Today or tomorrow, I can’t remember off hand.  (It’s today)  We get together every so often.  She works in Lafayette now.   We’ve been through the best wine lists in Lafayette.  Cuz that’s how we roll.

While the fat lady sang on my title career, my real estate business is getting a foot hold.  It has to, I don’t have a choice.  I mean, I suppose I do, I could live in a refrigerator box under the 680, with four Dobermans.

So for old time’s sake, let’s pull out an oldie but a goodie.

Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign

We’re back on the subject of customer service.  Because in this country it’s a lost art.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’ve been going to Toastmasters for the last year.  Maybe I did.  My Dad was a toastmaster.  My Aunt was a Toastmistress back before 1973 when they officially brought women into Toastmasters.

Everybody talks about, or more importantly, pays lipservice to the Nordstrom customer service dictum.  Few come close to it in practice.  One of the gals in my club is a relationship manager for Nordstom here.  She’s been with the company for 17 years having started out as a cashier.  She knows the Nordstrom principles.  On Monday she talked about how they were applied in her store.  She read a letter from a customer who had a minor fire and lost five garmets she had just purchased. Nordstrom replaced all five, way more than the woman was expecting.  That’s customer service.

Today’s whipping boy is Wells Fargo.  I have a short sale about to close.  Up until yesterday, they had been stellar.  Yesterday they lost me.  I have a cash deal on a little condo.  When we started the condo had the trifecta going for it. A construction defect lawsuit, the HOA dues had a delinquency rate over 15% and the owner occupancy rate was off, making it almost impossible to finance.  By the time I sold it, the FHA approval on the complex had also expired.  After four months on the market, I had exactly one offer.  Luckily, unlike other agents, I price my shorts sales at the median for the market for that property and then slash the price every 10-14 days.  So when the bank came back and countered the buyer on this little piece of shit condo I was able to say “Hey, I tried that price and it didn’t sell, here’s a copy of the MLS history.”  I had my approval in two hours.  Then the games began.

My homeowner hadn’t paid her dues even though I told her to.  That resulted in us having to go to a collections company to get the demand for the HOA dues.  We had a 10 day escrow.  I called the collection company only to be told that I couldn’t talk to anyone that they had 10 days to get us the demand and that was that.  I could pay an extra $75 to get my deal expedited but otherwise it would just work through the system.  I called and badgered and did my social engineering thing and was still unable to crack them.  “I’m sorry you feel that way, but it’s our policy….”  Quit saying you’re sorry.  You aren’t your just reading a freaking script you’re a trained monkey.

Finally at 4:45 last Friday night they send the demand.  In defense of this escrow officer who I did not pick, she turned the HUD around in 15 minutes.  I tracked down my seller over the weekend and we had the HUD back over to the bank by 8:30 Monday morning.  Except my closer is on vacation.  Her email informs me that her email is being monitored, but gives me no hope as to who might be able to help me.  I call the 800 number on the bottom of her email and am told that they have 24-48 hours to approve the final HUD.  OK, I’ll be patient.  Until around 3pm when I call again.  Has anybody checked it?  Oh we have it but we have 24-48 hours to review it.  Is there anyone I can talk to?  Let me try your closer.  My closer is on vacation.  Nothing.

First thing Tuesday morning I’m on the phone.  Same shit.  Different day.  Then around 1pm I come up with a new tack.  If they approve this right now, it will record Wednesday morning and the bank will be paid off on Wednesday via wire.  If not, it won’t be approved until Wednesday and won’t be recorded until Thursday.  They can actually gain a day’s interest by reacting a little faster.  This guy gets it, but is unable to find anyone to answer a phone call.  He forwards my request to a manager.  3pm nothing from the bank yet, I call back again.  You have to know that these are call centers and under no circumstances are they allowed to actually solve a problem.  And that’s a pathetic failure of customer service.

I call back again at 3pm.  This is the money call.  This trained monkey tells me that they have 24-48 business hours to respond.  BUSINESS HOURS? I bellow.  What the hell is that?  She repeats that they have 24-48 business hours to respond.  I can’t believe this stupid shit just said that twice.  And I tell her so.  There is no such goddamn thing as business hours you ignorant barely trained monkey.  “I’m sorry you feel that way.”  NO YOU AREN”T.  You are reading a goddamned script and you could give a damn how I feel.  Then she proceeds to tell me that HUD has to approve my HUD.  Are you freaking kidding me?  HUD doesn’t approve HUDs.  It’s a freaking government form.  Wells Fargo, the morons that hired your stupid ass away from the porn call center where you used to work approves the HUD.  Escalate this call.  I can’t.  You can’t or you won’t?  I can’t.  Do you have a freaking manager?  No.  What?  No.  So you come to work whenever you feel like it and leave whenever you feel like it and they pay you whatever you want because there is no manager in place?  No.  Then let me talk to the person who makes those decisions for you.  One moment please, is there anything else I can do to help you today?  You haven’t done a goddamn thing to help me today so don’t pretend like you have any use in this situation, you don’t.  I’m sorry you feel that way.  Holy shit.

The sixth call to the same number failed to yield anything of use.  In another 75 minutes it will be 48 hours, not 48 business hours since I sent the final HUD to Wells Fargo, we’ll see what happens next.


So I want to write my words on the face of today

I don’t know why anyone in this country is buying Mitch O’Connell’s bullshit.

Say, hypothetically, I’m a title company employee.  I lose my high paying job in October of 2006.  I’m out of work for 5 months, then I get another job at a fraction of what I was making.  I work there for almost two years before I lose my job again.  I have to start my own business because I can’t get work.  That works fine for the first 18 months and then I have to start my business again.  All the while my income spirals downward.

While this is occuring I cut costs.   I quit going out to eat.  I stop buying wine.  I brown bag it.  I grow my own vegetables and make my own bread.  I cut out cable television, I cut back on leaving lights on, running things when I’m not there, cut energy cost I can.  I get the stripped down garbage service.  I renegotiate all of my insurance.  I drop a bank account that’s costing me money. 

Not one of those things solves all of my problem, but the cummulative effect of doing all of those things eases the issue.

So how on God’s green earth are we suppose to reconcile the Mitch O’Connell’s argument that taxing the richest 2% of Americans at the same rate as, say every other one of us, shouldn’t be done because iti doesn’t make that much difference in solving the deficiet?  Is anybody listening to these assklowns?  That is the stupidest argument I have ever heard.  How about I keep my cable and showtime and Home Box and all that other shit because it won’t make that much difference in solving my defecit problem.  America, are you listening?  This is utter bullshit.  Warren Buffet, Paris Hilton, Steve Jobs, Barbra Streisand can all afford it.  Shameful.  Maybe this is a little insight to what really matters to these guys. 

Here’s the deal, Obama’s incoming money is off the hook right now.  He had 170,000 individual contributers by this time in 2007.  He has 550,000 now.  He is crushing all the Republican opponents right now.  From what I see, only one is qualified to run the country and the GOP won’t pick Mitt Romney.   That’s too bad.  We will save Michelle Bachman for another day.

Here’s my solution, re-write that tax code.  POS taxation.  That’s it.  You can have it, you can earn it, you can keep it.  Spend it and you pay for taxes.  I suppose that will send some people up to Montana to build a Ted Kascynski unibomber cabin, but not too many.  We’re Americans.  We’re lazy.

‘Cause when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door

Life is never boring here at the Farm.

About a month ago, before the Ride, I had a mouse.  He was in the pantry and wreaking havoc.  He chewed the bottom off of several bags of flour, not funny.  Crapped on everything and generally made a mess.  I set traps.  Numerous traps.  I never caught him.  Auntie stayed here with the Hellhoundz while I was riding and the fact that the mouse wasn’t caught prior to her arrival weighed heavy on me as I left that morning.  I told her I thought he was gone, it was the truth.  He hadn’t gotten into anything in several days including me peanut butter laden traps.  I was right.  He was gone.

I don’t know if he got stuck and couldn’t get out or became a conductor for that 220 line running down there.  He was done.  That is the back of the pantry.  About two years ago I had air conditioning installed here.  The electrical box is in the pantry.  The guys didn’t fix the holes they cut in the walls and I just haven’t gotten to them.  I put on some gloves but only got half of the mouse.  He was either crispy crittered or petrified.  If it’s the former, I need to have an electrician fix the bite marks in the 220.  And half of the mouse is still in that hole.  Maybe he was too fat from eating my flour and rice to get through the hole.  Who knows?

I threatened my last remaining apricot tree.  It bore no fruit last year.  One tree fell, another was riddled with termites and this one has been fighting for it’s life.  I told it that if it didn’t bear fruit this year it was firewood.  It is currently full of fruit.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.  Those apricots are not green, it’s the kitchen light that did that.  It could be a very good year for apricots.  In other news I made a little discovery that I’ll be using in the very near future.

The interesting thing about Bubba is that he doesn’t hold a grudge.  He doesn’t seem to care who he mixed it up with.  He’s fine with Norman again.  Ike on the other hand thought it was a good idea to mix it up with Norman on Saturday too.  Ike’s ear is cut.  Norman is fine.  Ike has this not great thing that he’s developed that involves snarling and occasionally snapping at me.  I was trying to put Norman in his crate and Ike stood in the kitchen snarling and wouldn’t let us through.  I tried to move him to the side and he snapped at me.  I’ve done things to curtail this but he’s had a couple of episodes, this is the only one involving another dog.  I’m taking him in next week for some acupuncture.  My theory is that he’s in pain and grouchy.  If this doesn’t settle it down I’m afraid I’m going to have to let Ike go.  I can’t be afraid of one of my own dogs.  It may be that the pain has gotten too much for him and it’s time to let him go anyway.  I’ll find out next week, but last Saturday was a little unnerving.

This real estate thing is interesting.  If you work hard, you get deals.  The deals might give you a lot of adjida, but I’d rather have adjida and make money than just have adjida.  July could be very decent to me, good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

Which gets us to my next subject.  What have we done in this country where it has become acceptable to do a shitty job?  I’ve got a 10 day escrow, I got bank approval on July 5.  The escrow company didn’t ask for the demand from the HOA until July 7.  The HOA’s are in default too and sent out to collections.  The freaking deadbeat collection company refuses to send a demand any faster than 10 days because that’s how many days they have under law.  Escrow should be closing on July 15, could be closing today, but may be delayed until July 22 just because of the collections company.  And I called them and they refused to do any better without an additional $75.  My father used to mock these sort of paper pushing asshats.  I can see him acting that out in my head when I have to deal with incompetence like this.  All I have to say about them is what a bunch of parasites!

I’ve got another deal where I called the HOA three times yesterday and never got a return phone call.  All I want to know is what’s covered by the HOA’s insurance and what kind of policy does my buyer need to purchase.  It ain’t rocket science.  No one bothered to return my phone call.  I return all phone calls within a maximum of 8 hours.  During business hours a maximum of 2 hours.  It’s my personal standard.  Most calls are returned with about 15 minutes, some before a voicemail is left.  The goal is concierge service.  There are people in this business that have yet to return a phone call to me.  There is one big REO guy who I had an entire escrow with and never talked to the arrogant sonofabitch.  His “assistant/mistress” didn’t return phone calls either.  Just for the record, dude, I know your license is restricted.  I don’t remember what you did but eventually I will.  There’s a good chance that information will appear here.  You really need to treat your colleagues with more respect.

And finally, why do dogs fart and then look at their asses as if to say “What’s that noise?”

American idiots

Like you, I worked in the title industry and I had a front row seat to the disaster. I felt the excitement of the surging market. My numbers looked good, your numbers looked good. We all worked hard. We made some money. The future looked limitless.
We all knew real estate agents and mortgage agents who made boat loads of money (title company owners and executives, too). They found buyers and sellers and money for transactions. That was their jobs and the made some money.
From my front row, around 2001, I noticed something was a little weird. The financial markets were being battered by the collapsing tech sector. Remember that? Money flowed into tech. Start ups had no idea how to make money, they provided services that consumers wanted so the money would follow. Their ideas were perceived valuable beyond their value. Hardware and software companies sold goods and services to those start ups. The start ups weren’t credit worthy, but they were extended credit. At some point, the bills came due and the start ups couldn’t pay. They defaulted. The companies who extended them credit never got their money back. They defaulted, too. Soon the new economy was the newest failed economy. The money that flowed to tech hadn’t evaporated, but where’d it go? Real Estate.
Around 2001, we moved from one bubble to another. Just like tech, homes were perceived as valuable beyond their value. Banks would lend without end, therefore homes were valuable beyond their value. A home is worth whatever a lender will finance (that’s still true today). Because of the valuable collateral, investors were lined up to buy bonds secured with real estate (especially since the rest of the economy was flat circa 2003-2004.). Investment products were created around the rising real estate market. We all know the rest of the story. Many made some money, a few made a killing. We’re all paying for it. At the bottom of the pyramid were consumer financial products. Mortgages.
I’m not a fan of Frank-Dodd reforms passed by the 111th congress. They don’t go far enough and it codified the rights of financial institutions to bugger the hell out of us until its provisions took effect. The one part I thought was long over due, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. We would have a seat at the table, as financial product consumers. If you have a bank account, a credit card, a car loan, student loans, investment accounts, a MORTGAGE, you’re a financial product consumer. There is no agency that represents your interests. According to cynical proponents of the status quo, the “market” does that for you, . The market failed to prevent two bubbles the second of which may have killed our economic health. Sorry, the market is broken because it’s fixed and it is fixed against most of us. The president appointed Elizabeth Warren to head this commission. It will be part of the federal reserve and it will operate under the fed’s budget (that mean congress can’t mess with it).
For some reason, the GOP doesn’t want us to have a seat at the table. Please listen to the contempt shown Ms. Warren by Patrick McHenry.

Dating back 10 years ago, Warren detailed how the credit card industry manipulates your charges and payments to generate fees. She is a professor at Harvard Law School. He is plain spoken and she is smart. Her mind relates complex financial industry regulation, practices and profits to how the industry works with the consumer. She is the perfect choice for this position.
While we’re waiting to hear of Wine Dog’s tales of velo jackassery and two wheeled hijinks, please think about why we’re not represented. Think about the ugly confrontation between a lying congressman and Ms. Warren, as it was shown in the video clip. Think about how this WHOLE mess could’ve been prevented if a consumer product regulator understood the damage that could be done to consumers and the nation’s economy because of no doc, $0 down, neg-am, teaser rate front loaded mortgages. What if.
Then write a nasty gram to your representative, house leadership and senate leadership. The game playing has got to stop!
This weekend is the Santa Cruz Mountains Vintners’ Festival. I’m sampling some of my neighbor’s juice and I’ll report back by Monday. If you’re interested, here’s a link

Time will tell on their power minds

File this under “Bad decisions”, I’ve got another rescue here.  I just couldn’t see this guy dying in a shelter.  I don’t know how healthy he is or isn’t.  He’s got terrible lick granunomas on his legs, he’s probably got a thyroid condition and he kind of gurgles when he breathes.  I don’t know if he’ll go back out or be hospice at this point.  I named him Stormin’ Norman. Because I’m not out of General names yet.  (I have Ashby, Petraeus, Jackson and MacArthur waiting in the wings)

He’s about 110lbs of big boy Doberman.  He’s a red if you can’t tell by that picture.  Up until about 10 minutes ago he had existed without incident here.  I even left him out of his crate last night and he came back and slept quietly and uneventfully in the bedroom.  This morning Bubba wanted to play with him.  I was discouraging that activity as I’ve been to that movie and I know how it ends.  But Norman was feeling playful.  110lbs of playful.  Next thing you know it’s on.  I can’t tell what’s happening just that there’s a lot of dust and noise behind a tree.  I run over there and Bubba has Norman on the ground.  I pulled Bubba off of him and to my surprise there was no damage to either dog.  Bubba and I went inside for a serious discussion on manners.  He’s cooling his heels in his crate right now.  Norman is laying in my office, where he likes to be.   He’s the best dog for laying in my office, the only one that doesn’t get up my ass when he’s in here.

He’s really been doing good around the house.  He hasn’t even attempted to get into something that he shouldn’t.  He’s put up with Ike’s agro bullshit beyond any point where any dog should have to do that.  His response?  Ike was up his butt and Norman was trying to sleep on the cool tile.  After longer than any other dog would have allowed it to go on Norman finally snarled at him and warned Ike to back the hell down.  Ike did.  Norman is very easy going.   Really a prince of a dog.

So I’ll have him looked at in a couple of weeks when and if these freaking escrows every close and if he’s in good enough health to go back out I’ll start looking for a home for him.  He’s a gentle giant, one of the kindest Dobermans I’ve ever met.  He’s be perfect for an older couple, as long as he doesn’t break their bank with health issues.

Once upon a time Ozzie was relevant.


Let freedom ring, let the white doves sing


Yeah, like that.  OK I have a nomination for the worst person in the world today.  Not that today is worse than any other day, this woman is despicable every day of her miserable existence.  Like Jerry Falwell before her, I will not say “rest in peace” upon her passing, I will sing “ding dong the witch is dead.”  Because just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should.  She’s nothing more than the lobster boy at the carnival.   We need to turn the video camera off.

Video Here

And I will not apologize for that. This woman is insane and the fact that anyone listens to her is an abomination. And you are not allowed to use the word “gaga” again. Ever.