Friday, August 29, 2003

You'll notice the new, seasonal look here at Cap'n Ken's. LSU Football, baby.

We kick the season Saturday vs. the University of Louisiana at Monroe (all of the second-rate state universities, which used to be known as Northeast Louisiana, Southwest Louisiana, etc. lobbied to become "The University of Louisiana at ..." a few years ago. I'm sure the rednecks going to school there are MUCH smarter now).

Anyway, with the season kicking off, I'm going to stick my neck out on the line with predictions for the 2003 campaign. Note, however, that I am not typically somebody who predicts SEC Championships for my Bayou Bengals.

I love my boys, but I'm a realist. We're usually the underdog, and for good reason. If we have good high school talent coming out of Louisiana, we do fine. But we're a small state, and we depend on recruiting in Texas and Florida to really do well, and that's hard to do consistently.

And we're the kind of school ABC does not want to see do well. Our colors are purple and gold, for God's sake. We have those old-school stripes on our shoulders, and a rather unhip LSU logo and tiger face on our helmets. Given our choice, we'd never wear anything but white jerseys.

In other words, LSU football is a perfect reflection of Louisiana. A bit beaten down; never really expected to amount to much, and assload of fun and pretty unique. As I've said, I'd stack LSU Football up against any program in the country for tradition, fun and performance.

I'm not much of a fan, by the way, of our new logo, which is featured in the top-right corner of the Cap'n's new-look page. To me it looks like Mike the Tiger is holding a press conference.

So on to predictions, which I'll take game-by-game:

UL Monroe - Win
at Arizona - Win
W. Illinois - Win
Georgia - Loss
at Miss. State - Win
Florida - Win
at S. Carolina - Win
Auburn - Loss
La. Tech - Win
at Alabama - Win
at Ole Miss *
Arkansas *

* We will win one of these games and lose the other. This isn't because Ole Miss or Arkansas are particularly good; it's just that we always screw up at least one of our final two games, which are typically against these two border buddies.

So that's 9-3, 5-3 in the SEC. I'll stick by this prediction, although we really need to get into the season to see how Georgia and Florida come together. Could end up at 8-4; I'd be real surprised if it swings to 10-2. Shooting for the Peach Bowl (mostly because it makes it easy for me to go).

I like Auburn (yes, Charles, Auburn) to win the SEC and maybe even end up playing for the national title. Georgia may make the SEC Championship, but the depends on how bad Tennessee and Florida shape up to be.

Good news on the Peaula's front

The developer's "coming soon" sign went up yesterday at the former Peaula's site on Moreland at Ormewood. And it was NOT a "CVS Coming Soon" sign.

Looks like there are going to be a number of small commercial spaces - 400 to 1,300 square feet - but there was no mention of condos, lofts or anything like that.

But no mention of a drug store is good news.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Fame, fortune and friends

Who's the most famous person you know? I started thinking about my connections to fame recently because of my friend Dave, who very well may become the most famous person I know before too long. More on that in a minute ...

I can't say my links to fame are impressive.

Of people I'd say I truly know and am still in touch with, there's really just my good buddy Lee, the elder statesman of the Baton Rouge rock scene and currently guitarist for The Myrtles. But right now he's probably as famous as being the graphics guy at LPB than as a rocker. Things are going well for The Myrtles, so who knows? He could be a good fame connection someday.

Lee's little brother - Sal Barbier - is actually damn famous in skateboarding circles. His signature "23" shoe is the best-selling skate shoe in history. I knew Sal when he was 12 and saw him skate for the first time. But I haven't seen him in about 13 years.

My stepfather is somewhat famous as a ex-TV newsman back in Baton Rouge, and my dad gained great infamy 22 years ago in Louisiana as a political fugitive (my stepfather - before he was my stepfather - actually won a Peabody award for a piece he did on my father. Sound f'ed up? Remember that my best friend's uncle is also married to my sister ... gotta love Louisiana).

Otherwise, there's Steve Jacobson, who was "Steve, the van guy" in Slacker and Bill Davis from Dash Rip Rock. Get past that and it's pretty much my journalist buddies who are "famous" to a very, very slight degree.

Anyway, these are not particularly great ties to fame. The wife, having grown up in Music City, USA, has somewhat better tales. She went to school with Johhny Cash's son and Barbara Mandrell's daughters and a friend of hers dated Reese Witherspoon's brother. Closer, but still not very impressive.

So I'm banking on Dave Poche.

Not ringing any bells? There's no reason it should, unless you live in New Orleans and have a kid under 8 years old.

See, Dave - once just a simple architect - is now one-fourth of The Imagination Movers, New Orleans' hottest and hippest family music act (actually, they probably refer to themselves as something other than "family music act". I have no kids, so I don't get the IMovers).


That's Dave second from the right.

Despite his twice-over fatherhood, Dave's still a fairly cool guy. If I hadn't known him for 23 years or so, I'd not think so from that picture, of course.

The Movers have only been around for a few months. When Dave sent out his first email about this project - entitled "Dave Poche humiliation alert" - I found the Imagination Movers website, which was nothing more than a cartoon image of the four guys. I swear to Moses I just sat and stared at it in bewilderment for a good 30 minutes.

My first inclination was to mock. After all, this was my buddy Dave. I could tell some stories, but Cap'n Ken's is linked off Google, so I shant sully his reputation here.

But it didn't take me long to realize that, even if I personally have no use for the Movers, this could be some powerful stuff. The boys are in talks for an Imagination Movers TV show on one of those kids' networks, there are people from other states talking their CD up on Amazon, and the guys do actually have some catchy songs.

I bought Dave's CD and Lee's CD in the same order from Amazon (yes, I'm keeping that receipt) and I showed the Movers' disc to some parental-types up here at the office. Without exception I heard the same question: "Are they like The Wiggles?".

Apparently The Wiggles are the standard-bearers of the "kids music that doesn't suck" market. So when I saw The Wiggles' show on the Dish last weekend, I took a look.

Wiggles = ass clowns. Lame, unimaginative music and "dance" moves that could have as easily fit in a Chris Guest/Michael McKean/Harry Shearer project as a serious act.

And then I knew. If The Wiggles are the current gold standard of kids' music, The Movers are gonna be freakin' huge.

So good luck, Dave. I'm counting on you to be "my famous friend".

Home Sweet Ours

It's 9:06 a.m. as I write this, which hopefully means our seller is at the closing attorney's office signing his part of the paperwork that makes his home ours and puts us in debt to the tune of a half-million dollars (from the scary finance sheet that shows how much interest we'd pay over 30 years).

This was all supposed to happen yesterday at 9, but thanks to the feet-dragging of our new lender (HSBC, in case you're ever freelance shopping for a mortgage), it got pushed back to 2 p.m. and Mr. Seller couldn't make it then. So we did our part yesterday and he does his this morning. We'll sign the lease this weekend, and start the 60-day countdown to us having to cover two mortgages.

The wife is pulling together flyers and a website for the current abode, and I'm picking up a for sale sign at Home Depot today. It'll be interesting to see if sticking a sign in the yard drums up any interest. The old man next door has his house for sale, and it's listed with some hood Realtor whose marketing plan appears to only include a sign in the yard, so we'll see. As we get closer to two-mortgage time, we'll look to list it if we don't get FSBO bites.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Where have you gone, Joe DiBloggio?

I remember a time way back in the late mid summer of 2003 when my friends Charles and Will used to write really clever and entertaining blogs.

But, alas, the date of Charles' last post is August 17. Will has not blogged since August 8, but then again his wife just had a baby. (In Will's case I expect to see a blogless period - representing his paternity leave - followed by a flood of blogs about green feces, cranial soft spots and infomercials airing at 3 a.m.).

So what up, Chuck? Are you just sick of it?

Seems like now it's just the wife and myself blogging back and forth, and we could really just talk about this stuff at home ...

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Sign of progress

Driving up to the cleaners/Starbucks yesterday morning, I noticed that the fine folks at Sembler have put up their "coming soon" sign for the Edgewood Retail District (heretofore known as 'that Atlanta Gas place on Moreland' and not to be confused with the Edgewood Crackwhore District, which is about 500 yards south on Moreland).

So now it's official ... coming to the 'hood are: Lowe's, Target, Kroger, Barnes & Noble, Ross, Cost Plus World Market and "Electronics Store", which probably means they're still negotiating with Best Buy.

To mollify the neighborhood activsts, Sembler is including "low-income" and "senior" housing, which means the center will also have a Chinese/Fish/Wings place and a Piccadilly, I guess.

Anyway, I hear and read a lot of bitching about this project. Sure, it's damn big. And, no, Moreland can't handle the extra 20,000 cars a day (imagine the VaHi crowd making their way down to Lowe's through Little 5).

But the fact is having 500,000 square feet of suburban-type retail on Moreland is good for property values (unless you live too close to it, I'd imagine). There are a lot of people who will take a closer look at intown living once we have more of the comforts of suburbia.

I wouldn't have bought my place in East Atlanta three years ago if Publix wasn't building their store in East Lake (I put up with driving to Ansley, then Ponce before it opened). And I'm willing to put up with a good bit of crap to live in Atlanta's hippest neighborhood.

So think of the people who right now wouldn't think of living intown, but once they have a Lowe's & Target up the street suddenly start to see the appeal.

Sure, people who are attracted by Target or Ross or Barnes & Noble are more likely to be bland suburban types than hip intowners, but there's a limited supply of hipsters to buy houses in the hood anyway.

Greedy SOBs like myself need the dumb masses to start moving in (don't worry, they will want boring subdivisions, not hip places near the Village) to drive our property values up to VaHi and Inman Park levels.

So bring em on! When do we get the Chuck E Cheese?

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Put the wheels back on ...

I try to stay away from the "anger stuff" here at Cap'n Ken's - I leave anger to the First Mate; she's good at it - but the AJC really pissed me off today.

The top piece of the Metro section (ajc.com editors seem to have more news judgment as it's hidden online) was a story carrying the headline "Mobile home owners fighting eviction".

It's the typical AJC story of "progress" uprooting simple, hard-working folks in "a quiet community, a place of clean streets and tall trees where homes are in good repair. Some homes' porch columns feature yellow ribbons, and American flags flutter from others." Isn't that sweet? I feel for them already ...

And now the company that owns the property wants to build a 350-home development on the land, which is leading to the "eviction" of the 96 trailer dwellers, according to the AJC. The white, black and brown trash own their trailers, but not the land.

Bad, bad, evil greedy "corporation" (the writer made a point of calling it a "corporation" - read:EVIL). These are simple, hard-working folks, and they're just going to put them out on the street (albeit with wheels under their houses). Injustice, I say! Injustice!

But wait.

Turns out the company is letting everybody stay until March 1 (they all rent month-to-month).

And they're going to give them each $1,000 plus two months' rent credit (about $500) to help cover moving costs.

And they're going to negotiate a group rate with a trailer-moving company for them

And they're going to provide information on nearby trailer parks that have vacancies.

The company doesn't owe these people jack. Yet they're giving them 7 months notice and is going to come out of pocket to the tune of $144,000 to accommodate them.

Yet this is still the top story in the AJC's metro section, paints these people as victims and comes complete with an inflammatory and false headline (it's not "eviction" if you aren't under a lease, you know).

Typical AJC bullshit. I should remember this story next time their telemarketers call wanting me to subscribe to that worthless rag (no offense, Tony).

Of course, the smelly group of residents has hired a lawyer - who will no doubt be paid in cheap beer and pork rinds - to fight this horrible, horrible injustice. Unfortunately, the issue here is political not legal (the Duluth City Council has to approve an annexation and rezoning for the development to go forward), so they may stand a chance of winning.

Trailer trash impedes progress (how I'd write the headline, you see).

P.S. The ajc.com editor who posted the story pulled a little trick I used to do when confronted with this typical AJC crap story during my Evil Empire days - change the headline. The link still has the "eviction" headline, but the ajc.com guy changed the head on the piece to "Project would uproot owners of mobile homes".

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

PVR, take 5

We have another DishPVR 721 on the way. This will be the 5th one we've had since we bought (for $549) our original DishPVR 721 last fall.

PVR No. 4 lived a week. No. 3 lived about 12 hours. No. 2 managed to function for a couple of months (including one complete crash of the box which wiped out Ashley Judd - Style Star and many less important programs). I think PVR No. 1 had the longest life, maybe even 4 months.

So now No. 5 is on the way. Dish Network blames my house for the problems with their DishPVR 721. Last Sunday they sent out a couple of technicians to make sure my system is grounded properly (it is). Now their solution is to send me a "three-prong adapter" intended to make sure the electrical part of the system is properly grounded. From what I understand, this adapter is the same $1.50 plug you can buy at Radio Shack that lets you plug a two-prong power cord into a three-prong outlet and have it grounded properly. Nevermind that my herd of DishPVR 721s have all been plugged into a surge protector which itself has three prongs.

When No. 5 fails, Dish has promised to send out a "field service manager" to look once again for "site issues" that could be causing the problem. [DISCLOSURE: I did, in fact, install the second cable that runs to the 721 and "quad LNBF" - bought off Ebay - myself, so there's a chance the problem is, in fact, with the inept installer].

The Dish folks seem completely baffled that I am having these issues with the DishPVR 721. Everytime I'm on the phone with their "advanced tech" people, I try to pry information about 721 problems out of them. They tell me a good number of people now have the DishPVR 721 and problems are rare.

But the installer guy who came out Sunday made a very good point. If they are so willing to keep shipping me replacement units and they have such an efficient system in place to do so (when I call, I get a new unit 2 days later, complete with return instructions and labels for my old unit in a nice little package), there just may be an issue with the unit.

Another disturbing thought came to me when I was on the phone with Dish today. I asked if the units they send as replacements are new or refurbished. They are, in fact, refurbished. I'm working the math to see how many DishPVR 721s I should expect to be sent before I get back one I've had before.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Why didn't I see this coming?

Two months ago, I did a blog about the use of URLs in license plates (www.pointless.url.gov). Tonight, as I'm doing some blog-topic research, I came across a link on the Ga. DMV site that reads "2004 License Plate Design".

Care to guess what the new Georgia license plates will look like?






Yep, it's a URL. Seems that in the new millennium it's more important for Georgia to be in your web browser than on your mind.

By the way, I looked for a press release on the DMV site that explains the change, but there is not one out yet. I imagine a typically idiotic quote from the governor to the effect of "The new license plate designs helps showcase Georgia as a modern, forward-looking state and will let people all across the country know how to find information about the state online."

And since it seems the news of the new plate may be breaking here at Cap'n Ken's, let me forecast some possible reactions:

- There will be protests over the removal of "Georgia on my Mind" because Ray Charles is black. Suggested protester quote: "It's just one more way the white man is trying to push the black man to the sidelines."

- Advocates of the poor will use the addition of a URL to license plates to push for subsidized Internet access in low-income Georgia communities. Suggested advocate quote: "It's unfair that someone has to drive around with a web address on their car when they can't even get Internet access for themselves."

- Officials of Cobb and Gwinnett will push to change the county-name stickers that go on the bottom of the plate to include their URLs. Suggested government official quote: "People should know what's available online for Cobb County as well."

- Georgia Clean and Beautiful will complain that the shading on the top side of the plate makes it look dirty. Suggested tree-hugger quote: "What does it say about our state to have every car in Georgia look grey and dingy?"

Let Google do the walking

Checking the Cap'n Ken Mailbag this evening, I saw a note from a random East Atlantan who happens to live a couple of houses down from the Dutch Pimp house I referenced in one of the house-hunt blogs. Seems he recently moved to the street and was researching at Google. Search for +Stokeswood +"East Atlanta" and my house blog is in the small set of results.

I'm always happy to pick up a new reader, of course. He liked the blog, added some of his own observations of 'hood house hunting and closed with this: "I assume you're the Ken [last name removed] at Bus Chronicle."

I don't think I know this guy, but it's possible. But he didn't say "I assume you're the Ken [last name removed] who used to work at the Bus Chronicle". I left there six years ago. So I'm thinking he Googled the Cap'n.

Of course, my mid-1990s contributions to American business journalism such as "Huge retail center coming to Cumming" and "Bugle Boy likes fit of Henry County site" (disclaimer: I did NOT write these headlines) are important pieces of reportage which are rightfully archived online for the world to discover.

In trying to figure out if I knew this new fan, I went to retrace what would be his likely Googlepath from the Dutch Pimp house to Cap'n Ken's former persona as a suburban business writer.

The email address for Cap'n Ken included (until this morning), my last name, which is supposed to be a closely-guarded secret around these parts. Thus, I figure my new fan might have searched for +"Ken [last name removed]" +Atlanta, which would serve to limit the results to folks with my name who live in our fair city.

When I performed this search, what was the first result I got? Just my name, home address and phone number. Nothing too personal or anything like that.

Since when has Google become a one-stop shop for throwing out that kind of personal info? Of course, going to an online phone directory return the same information, but there's something different about going to the world's largest search engine and having personal info come up when that wasn't necessarily what you were looking for.

As an example, here's the result you get when you search for +"Hosea Williams" +Atlanta (I figure Hosey won't mind revealing his address, seeing as he's dead now). Keep in mind that I didn't go to a Google phone-directory page or anything, just keyed in a name and a city on Google's homepage.

Then I did a little test on Cap'n Ken's readers and other folks:

The wife? Yep, address and phone number, but at her home in the days before she got hitched to the Cap'n

Charles D? Yep, address and phone number

Tony in Grant Park? Yep, but phone number only

Jason K? Nope, but your now-PETA-unfriendly dad is

Wood Hill Will? Not that I could find (the brother has a real common name, one of the listings could be him at an old address or somesuch)

Tom L, esq? Yep, address and phone number

Edward R? Yep, address and phone number

Ward B, Paul C, Dave P, the ex-wife, the 90-year old guy who lives next door to me, the VP of my department, the dude we're buying the house from, they're all in there. Hell, I bet I could get Coffeeshop Dude's address and phone number if I knew his name.

Because Google is such a common research tool, something really tweaks me about the idea that someone searching, say, for the name of newspaper writer he's unhappy with to see what else he's written would end up having the first result be that writer's address and home phone number.

If you look hard enough, you can find a link in Google that allows you to remove your listing from their results (you'll need to see how your name and address appear and provide an email address - in itself concerning, so I used an extra one I have). Your results will still appear in Anywho and whatnot, but it won't be the first result people see if they happen to search for your name and the city you live in on the world's biggest search engine.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Blah / Ho-Hum in 2004!

Very few bits of reality have amused me so much recently as has the fact that Liberia's new president is named Moses Blah.

Blah sworn in as Liberian president. Change "Liberian" to "American" and I think you have the Washington Post headline from Jan 21, 1977.

President Blah. I like that. Really does seem like an American thing, though. Hard to see a Blah president coming in to lead a place like Liberia. I think Liberia is more suited to having General Disarray run the place.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Sportsman's Paradise

The phrase "it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there" was created for Louisiana. I'm an expert on this topic, having spent 46.7% of my time on this Earth living there (my native state, Georgia, has claimed 36.8% of my resident days, Alabama 13.7% and Tennessee 2.7%).

I actually love Louisiana. The culture is absolutely unique and fascinating, I've yet to find a sandwich in Atlanta that matches the poboys sold at gas stations in south Louisiana and I'd put the atmosphere, tradition and sheer fucking fun of LSU football up against any program in the country.

But being from (in the sense that my formative years were spent there) Louisiana is like having an otherwise cool uncle who's a raging alcoholic and pisses down the basement stairs every time he comes over for dinner. You like him, but would really rather not be around him for long stretches of time.

So part of my daily routine is to read the News section of The Advocate (the Baton Rouge daily, not the national gay newspaper) to see what kind of shit Uncle Louie has gotten himself into now.

Today's all-too-typical Louisiana headline was "La. leads Southeast in exodus". That's hardly shocking. If you're not a chemical engineer, lawyer, doctor, bartender or construction worker, there are basically no jobs for you in Louisiana.

Today's story was full of typical "smart young people are all leaving" quotes from demographers and depressing Census reports showing even Mississippi and Arkansas managed to grow from 1995 to 2000 while Louisiana lost 75,000 people.

I did like this demographer quote in particular: "It's a horrible, horrible, horrible kind of mix of basic demographic trends for any state." Not just "horrible, horrible," mind you. It's thrice horrible.

Anyhow, the thing that really grabbed my attention was a URL The Advocate placed at the bottom of the stories, as online papers like to do. This one was to a site created by the governor's office to convince people that Louisiana is not, in fact, a shithole. I'll provide the URL a bit later. You just keep reading ...

On the governor's site there's a feature called "Louisiana Positives" and the teaser for it reads:

"Louisiana is ranked in the top of class by national ranking agencies and publications in a wide variety of fields such as education, productivity, technology, accountability and generosity. Visit the Louisiana Positives site to read the extended list of good things about the state."

Never mind that the "site" it points to is actually a PDF file and the fact that interest groups who go out of their way to tell you how great they are (think "Proud to be Union!" or "Democrat and Proud!") are typically very much down-and-out.

The Louisiana Positives list is 10 PDF pages long and features all sorts of dubious claims to fame for the state, its cities and companies. Among the more amusing:

• The La. National Guard's high-school-dropout program is the best in the nation (a good thing considering about 40% of kids drop out of high school down there)

• Higher Education in Louisiana is among the most affordable in the country (and Sampos are among the most affordable TVs)

• New Orleans was ranked the 3rd best restaurant town in America (THIRD?? NOLA has the best food in the world, man. Must be the random tourist murders and puke-lined streets holding down the ranking.)

• Louisiana ranked 5th in the percentage of manufacturing establishments with Internet access. (I have no response to that)

• All 7 of Louisiana's metro areas made the Forbes list of Best Places for Business and Careers. Houma was 33, Lafayette 70, Baton Rouge 110, Shreveport 165 and New Orleans 168 in the large metro category. (What this does not say is that the list ranked all 200 big metros in the U.S. - i.e. No. 1 is the best, No. 200 is the worst - so anything below 100 would be considered the 100 worst cities).

• Louisiana moved from its "traditional 1st or 2nd" ranking in the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory down to 12th in 1999. (Slogan "Louisiana - now with fewer airborne toxins!")

I give the governor credit for trying, and I think Mr. Foster has done a lot for the state. But it's a long, long road to change the way things work in Louisiana and the perception outsiders have of the place. For every new business initiative, there's a new batch of smart kids leaving, and a new controversy like the "choose life" license plate the state created.

It's Louisiana, and it'll always be that way. Unless, of course, you come up with a catchy logo:



The Advocate story: La. leads Southeast in exodus

The governor's site: http://www.chooselouisiana.com

Downloadable logos for your promotional use

Thursday, August 07, 2003

I thought I was going blogless today.

But ...

On the drive home, I heard something that spurred me to action. The radio was, as usual, set on WSB AM (they indirectly pay the wife, you know) and Sean Hannity was blabbing away. He had the Alabama judge on who won't take down the 10 Commandments and he was going on about God and the Constitution, and that got old quick. I almost pressed the CD button to listen to my new Dexter Romweber disc for a third time, but instead I punched radio button 3 and landed on Buck and Kincaid on 680 The Fan.

They have this weekly "happenings" feature with the publisher or editor of Jezebel magazine, whose name is Beth something or other. Jezebel, for those of you who may not know, is a young-person society magazine here in town with a business model that my late friend Scott Rogers once said revolved around putting enough random people in each issue to ensure profitability because each of them would buy a copy.

I own one issue of Jezebel, which happens to have Britney Spears on the cover. This Beth person interviewed her, and one of the photos in the mag was taken over the shoulder of Britney showing Beth in the other chair, big old grin on her face. I think that about sums up the essence of this Beth person.

So Beth is going on about all the best things to do in town this weekend - some event at a club in Buckhead, some other event at some other club in Buckhead, and an event for people who are over 35 at yet another club in Buckhead - and she throws out a recommendation for a band playing tomorrow night - at a club in Buckhead.

The band she was raving about is called Bed Head, and she described them as a "great 80s cover band." This is her idea of a great live music show.

Now normally, this would bother me a bit, but probably not enough to fire up the laptop and blog on my own time.

However, it just so happens that also appearing live tomorrow night is a band called The Myrtles. The Myrtles are an emo-country band from Baton Rouge who are getting a pretty good buzz in college music circles. Their guitarist also happens to be my best still-living-in-Louisiana friend.

Good music is not appreciated by the masses, I know that. It's especially not appreciated by the type of people who read (as in "I'm in the magazine!") Jezebel. The Replacements are called geniuses today, but I doubt they ever sold over 100,000 copies of an album. The now-lame REM will sell out their arena tour, but only about 125 people showed up to see Pete Buck's excellent side project at Variety Playhouse last year (Pete was selling merch and signing CDs, by the way). Elvis Costello had to beg a record label to put out My Aim is True, which is one of the best records ever made. I could go on. I won't.

Anyway, people are sheep and most young Atlantans would rather see some shit-ass band play 'Come on Eileen' and '99 Luftballoons' than broaden their horizons and take in a fresh, talented band that's getting good press in the totally-ignored college music world. Fine, that's reality.

Beth can go on about her weekend recommendations, and she'll drive the sheep to Buckhead. But for what it's worth (which is not much):

The Myrtles
Friday, August 8
10 High (underneath Dark Horse Tavern)
Show starts around 9; they'll go on around 11:30
Tickets: Who knows? I plan to be on the list

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

editor's note: this is the fourth and FINAL installment in an irregular series of blogs related to the recent house hunt of Cap'n Ken and his First Mate

The House Hunt
Tonight's Episode: Woman in the Shadows


If the wife and I didn't have to drive past the seemingly unattainable house of our dreams to go pretty much anywhere, maybe we'd have forgotten about it.

But we didn't. And every open house we went to; every email update from jennypruitt.com we received, every new house we saw being scraped out of the dirt just reinforced that no place in the neighborhood suited us like the place just up the street.

The last obstacle for us buying a new house was removed in early July when we got a tenant into our rental condo downtown, so it was time to get serious. We were gonna buy a house this summer, dammit, no matter which house we had to buy.

We came across a builder at one open house who had what I think must be the last decent lot in East Atlanta, so that was promising. Before we went down that road, however, I figured I should close the books on the dream house.

I had very low expectations when I called our dream-home owner - Randy - to see if by chance he wanted to sell his place to us.

"Hey, I'm gonna buy a house, and I'd rather buy yours than the one I'm about to buy" was essentially my opening line. Randy initially said the timeframe still wasn't quite right and then threw out this interesting tidbit ... unprompted.

"Basically, I'm trying to figure out if my wife and I are staying together or splitting up," said the man who'd never met me 2 minutes into our second-ever phone conversation. "I'm going on a trip in August to figure things out, so call me back after that."

Come August 11, he'd know the fate of his marriage, apparently. I almost wanted to ask if he was going to tell his wife before he told me.

Randy went on to say that if he decided to split up with the wife, he was going to hang on to the house. I believe his words were "It's a great fucking house. I know you know that."

Great. We had to count on the guy who's been living apart from his wife for 7 months to decide to uproot himself and move away to be with her. I didn't like the odds. I mentioned to some people that I should call him back and talk about that time I saw his wife sunbathing in their backyard. "Dude, she's hot! You gotta hang on to that shit!".

But I didn't. Needless to say, this was a discouraging development. I began mentally adjusting to the apparent reality that the dream house would not, alas, be ours. I broke the news to the wife, who also was not ready to put much hope in Randy making things work with his lady.

Then the next day, I get a call. From Randy. Seems he wants to talk about a deal.

I can only imagine what changed his mind, but I think maybe it was a conversation that evening with his lady. I envision it going something like:

Randy: Hey, that dude who wants to buy the house called me today. I told him to shag off until I decide whether or not I'm leaving you.

Randy's Lady: Well, asshat, you know that if you leave me, you're going to owe me half of that $60,000 we put down on the house and half of the appreciation since we bought it, right?

Randy: Do what, now?

Thus, he calls me back.

Over the next few days, we had an involved email conversation about the current real estate market, Realtors fees, interest rates and things in the DotCom world (he's employed by a leading online news information service).

I cycled through about 10 periods of thinking we'd have a deal to thinking we wouldn't (I spared the wife much of this roller-coaster) before I just cut to the chase:

My "I'm tired of this. Here's my offer" email was met by an "I'll do it for this much" reply, and we had a deal.

Really. A deal. I couldn't resist telling the wife over AIM "I think we're getting the house". I hear she danced for hours on her desk.

Randy struck a deal with his former Realtor to represent him as a deep discount, and we met at the house on our way out of town that Friday to sign a contract. There was an out clause for either party because Randy wanted to make sure he could find suitable living arrangements before he committed (seems the August 11 deadline for his marriage got moved up).

That weekend, Randy signed a contract on a condo. The deal was sealed.

We close on the house August 27 and will rent it back to Randy for two months while his condo is being renovated. Move in is November 1.

My days are now filled with matters of mortgages, insurance and the like, and our weekends revolve around furniture shopping (we have a lot of space to fill) rather than open housing.

And thus ends the odyssey of Cap'n Ken and the House That Wouldn't Sell.

P.S. A free slice of Grant Central pizza for the first blog reader who identifies the origin of the episode titles in The House Hunt. Claim it at kwomack@mindspring.com.

NOTE: Relatives of Cap'n Ken, except those who are related by the marriage of Cap'n Ken's sister to your uncle, are ineligible.

Monday, August 04, 2003

editor's note: this is the third in an irregular series of blogs related to the recent house hunt of Cap'n Ken and his First Mate

The House Hunt
Tonight's Episode: Blueprint for a Caper


It was official ... there was no house in 30316, 30317 or 30312 that suited our needs and desires as well as the one 420 yards from our current abode - the home that was no longer for sale.

We had made a decent offer on the place, but that only prompted the owners to take the house off the market. Fate, it seems, was not on our side.

If fate wasn't with us, I'd need to enlist its sworn enemies - logic and perseverance.

It's logical to believe that a person who hires an agent, cleans the house up, sticks a sign in his yard, a lockbox on the door and welcomes random strangers in on a Sunday afternoon does, in fact, want to sell his house.

Perseverance comes in to play as the strategy to shake loose whatever is plugging up the process. The guy wants to sell the house, logic says. I just needed to find the right trigger.

The information we had on the seller - I'll call him Randy - was that he was selling the house in order to move away to join his wife, who had fled Atlanta due to a lack of job opportunities. So the motivation seemed clear.

Randy had bought his home new back in 2001. The counter-offer he had made to our original offer suggested he was looking for the 5% annual appreciation we'd seen in the EAtl back in the late 1990s. But the economic downturn of that sumbitch Bush has slowed down that growth.

He wasn't going to get that much anytime soon. Our offer would have given him a 5.5% return over two years; a realistic figure given economic conditions.

So he got a good offer, and he is motivated to sell. Why, then, did he blow us off?

There was only one way I knew of to get an answer and push fate to the sidelines.

About a month after of flurry of offers, I gave old Randy a call.

"I'm the guy who tried to buy your house" was the message I left on his answering machine. "Call me if you want to talk about selling it."

Within a couple of hours, Randy called back. "Would love to talk about selling without the agents ... but not anytime soon" was his response. Seems Mrs. Randy was living in a place where they couldn't have dogs, and they have a dog. So by the end of the year they could get a dog-friendly place in the new town and Randy & pooch would sell the house and move up then.

Fishy, to say the least. I told Randy I'd give him a call back if our laid-back timeframe for buying a house changed, and he said he'd call if anything with his situation changed.

Fair enough, but fate still had its sticky little fingers all up in my business.

We sat tight over the next couple of months, took care of some unrelated financial business to put us in a better position to buy a new place and continued to spend 2-5 every Sunday at open houses ...