Tales From The Real Estate Wars

Blogging since 2006, practicing law forever

No-Santa Clause
A reader and former (wonderful) client chided me for forgetting to post my annual poem about a couple of Grinch-like clients. She was right, so with my yearly apology for adding to the sleigh full of bad poetry on the web (and to the heirs of Clement Clarke Moore)… on, readers!
‘Twas two weeks before Christmas
And all through the deal
My clients had been difficult
Their stipulations unreal

Fix the roof, they commanded
Though it’s covered with snow!
Fill the oil tank, they demanded
Though it isn’t running low!

My phone rang December 11th
It made such a clatter
On the other end were my clients
With their usual patter

The sellers are hanging decorations
Began their newest grouse
Call their attorney and insist
St. Nick come off the house!

That jolly man & those elves
Must be nailed to the shingles
Who’s going to fix the damage
Cause by Herr Kringle?

I asked, is it necessary
To ruin the owners’ holiday?
Oh, yes, I was told
We really hate that sleigh!

So I called fellow counsel
Invoking a clause of the contract
To which he responded
“Your clients are truly whacked!”

I know it, I said
But what can we do?
Your clients are defacing the house
And my clients will sue

Since my clients wouldn’t budge
The sellers were forced to flinch
The decorations came down mid-December
Thanks to Mr. & Mrs. Grinch.

If you’re finishing up Hanukkah, finish strong! If you’re awaiting Festivus — go for it! If you’ll be celebrating Christmas, have a blessed and merry holiday! And please have a joyous Kwanzaa.

Happy New Year to all… see you in January.

Tossed Salad Friday
~~ “What’s your background?” he asked. “I was educated as a journalist but spent decades practicing law,” I replied. He gasped. “I didn’t know lawyers could write without a scolding tone.”

~~ This email from a blog reader was amusing; I just wish I knew the name of this conclusion-jumping mechanic so you could avoid him:

You know how you don’t appreciate religious music in public places? I thought of you because I just came back from the car repair shop. The mechanic asked me why I didn’t have a wreath on my car as “it is only 10 days until Christmas.” When I told him that I only celebrate my faith privately, he said, “Oh, I get it. You’re Jewish.” Only I’m not. I just don’t want to decorate my frigging car. Imagine?
car wreath
~~ Is the amount of violence in the world increasing dramatically or are we just more globally aware? I think the answer to both is yes, and my response is that I’m increasingly aware of my fear level.

~~ There are a whole lot of search engines around that couldn’t find their way out of a shed with a flashlight in the middle of the day.What’s the point of putting one on a site or including it in a program if it’s more clueless that the person doing the search?
search (547x800)

~~ Know what’s the best, best, best part of resuming relations with Cuba? No, it’s not asking naysayers (aka people against everything the POTUS supports) what was it about the last 50 years of embargo that did anything to break the back of the Communist regime. No, it’s not about the money that will flow into the US and the potentially envy-worth tourists that will stream into Cuba, decreasing the dictator’s sway. What I adore most is hearing broadcasters reporting on this story say rapprochement. It’s such a lovely word when properly pronounced, don’t you think?

~~Perhaps that glassy-eyed, tight-jawed face means that you’re stressed out over the holidays and on a frenzied mission for chestnuts or whatever. chicago_chow_trader_joes_or_we_p4 But that doesn’t give you carte blanche to roll your cart down the aisle of Trader Joes and scatter other shoppers right into the frozen vegetables and left into the oranges and limes. Not even if you are wearing a Ho-Ho-Ho-proclaiming Santa toque and a mistletoe pin that wildly flashes green and red.

~~ Have a wonderful weekend.

Happy Hanukkah!

I wish you a life of lights, love, and laughter.


Tossed Salad Friday
~~ Say what?
fortune cookie

~~ Years ago, I stopped seeing a dentist I really liked once she ceased accepting our dental insurance. “I don’t need to employ someone just to take care of insurance,” she semi-boasted. “I make lots more money and don’t have to wait for it.” Last week I saw her brother and asked after her. “She’s having it tough,” he said. “It’s hard to keep patients. They come in via Groupons; she makes very little money from those. Then the patients move on to another dentist offering a coupon.”

~~ I officially closed my last lawyer-file yesterday. Letters written, escrow disbursed, yearlong “Undertaking” headache gone. To quote Speedy, “Oh, what a relief it is.”

~~ The appointment card a practitioner gave me says, in bold print across the bottom, KINDLY CANCEL WITHIN 24 HOURS OF APPOINTMENT. Is that a request for courtesy or a demand to abandon my reserved date and time?

~~ There’s a fine line between thinking you’re on schedule and discovering you’ve got dog poop all over the bottom of your shoe. A very, very fine line.

~~ Readers know that I’ve had a really tough go of it over the past eight years. I’m not saying the woods are behind me yet, but I was able to buy a new pair of quality jeans before my current pair (circa 2008) ripped or wore out. How’s that for a leading economic indicator?

~~ A random question:  Does anyone still use the weather report printed in the NY Times? (Did anyone ever?)

~~I overheard two women chatting. One said, “I hate this time of year. There’s all that leaf raking, followed by the snow shoveling.” The other said, “I don’t rake or shovel. I trust the Lord to clear the paths.” I’d hate to be her insurance carrier — I’ll bet she has amassed lots of slip and fall lawsuits against her over the years.

~~ Are you defending torture because you believe liberals oppose it? Then go sit by Dick Cheney. I prefer my government not pay sadists $80 million to get their jollies.

Have a terrific weekend! Yes, I am still rooting for one occasionally-better-than-average team and two frightfully awful teams. I’ve tried to quit... maybe I need an intervention.

Just Another Crappy Closing
Our closing was scheduled for 2:00. It started at 2:45 because the funds for the 11:00 am transaction were only wired in at 2:30 pm — so the handwriting was on the wall.

The documents for our deal (which the lender’s counsel wouldn’t share until we were seated in the room occupied by the 11 o’clockers) turned out to be erroneous. While the promises were reviewed and eventually incorporated into newly-drawn docs, I kept asking on behalf of the sellers, “Is there [mortgage] money?” The answer each time was “Not yet.” Then suddenly the reply from lender’s counsel was, “Will you just stop asking? It’s out of my control.”

“No,” I replied. “It’s not out of your control. You take business from this lender you know is out-of-tune with promises made by mortgage reps and who is also very slow to fund loans. You allow this to happen in your office.”

She glared at me and said very angrily, “Listen. I represent Crapola Mortgage. I don’t give a shit if their deals take one hour or six hours. And I don’t have to answer to you.”

The buyer’s counsel said, “Oh, yeah? Well, my clients are paying your fee of $850, so you have to answer to them. Don’t you think they give a shit?”

“Wait,” said one buyer. “I am paying her, and she has this attitude towards us?”

The lender’s counsel walked out of the room and sent her paralegal in as necessary. On the way out, at almost 6:00 pm, she tried to avoid our gazes. That same buyer planted himself in front of her glass-front office and semi-hollered, “Crap in, crap out.” His attorney clapped him on the back.

Tossed Salad Friday
~~ I wrote most of this blog in advance of the non-ruling in the Eric Garner homicide. I have a gazillion things to vent and rant about it — and our generally unequal system of justice— but as I find myself more angry and raw as time passes, I’ll let my tweets of Wednesday and Thursday speak for me now (they read from the bottom up in case you’re Twitter-oblivious, and are time-stamped from when I took the screen shots yesterday):


a tweet

~~ Overheard half of a phone conversation: “I know, right? They should change the clocks again to give us more daylight hours to shop.”

~~ Tuesday was the National Day of Giving on social media. One of the organizations I promoted on Twitter was NPR. Do you know someone called me a “socialist” for supporting public radio?

~~ I have nada against the holiday season, and I am certainly not waging a “war on Christmas,” but do I have to sit in a waiting room and listen to Christmas songs for 20 minutes on December-freaking-1st? Both a woman near me and the receptionist broke into a rousing rendition of “O, Holy Night,” with hearty emphasis on the words, “Fall on your knees” and soaring ecstatically on “the night when Christ was born.” If you have an establishment catering to the public, it’s no big deal if you start playing “Santa Baby” and “Rudolph” around mid-December, but how about you reserve the holy numbers for church, Christmas parties, and your home?   file1651260567342

~~ Now, don’t call me Scrooge (or do — whatever). Love your holiday! Love your deity! Say 'Merry Christmas' all you like! Just remember your right to express your beliefs does not extend to making others feel uncomfortable (or worse). Substitute some other religion’s songs into the play list piped into a secular establishment, and see if you’d be completely comfortable listening to another deity revered and proclaimed as the one-and-only over and over again. If you can do so without getting tetchy, you’re a better person than I am — or you don’t have a blog on which to bitch.

~~ I came across the materials from a seminar I attended almost 11 years ago. I laughed as loudly now as I did in 2004: photo

Have a terrific weekend!

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
The former client emailed me to say goodbye, as she was leaving New York after her house closing:

[Spouse] and I just want to say thank you for all your good counsel and service over the years. We are so sorry that you couldn’t represent us at the closing. We used my cousin, who went to law school, to represent us. He didn’t charge us, but he got mopped dirty and often by the other side. That’s when you were missed even more!

To the best of my recollection, no one on the other side of a transaction ever mopped me any way at all. Which I now understand to be a very good thing.

Tossed Salad Wednesday
~~ I’d like an appointment for Friday, please. “Sorry, he only has morning hours.” OK, what’s the latest available appointment? “He has 1 pm.”

~~ Is stupid catching? I forgot to wash my head after encountering some real daft people this week. file1381272057810

~~ Speaking of stupid, the Turkish president is astoundingly asinine, saying, “You cannot put women and men on an equal footing.” It’s because women have a “delicate nature,” blah, blah. And then there’s the (now former) speaker-elect of the Nevada Assembly, who brags about the Confederate flag he keeps his office “on memory of a great cause,” and who refers to the relationship of Democrats and black persons as “the benevolent master knowing what’s best for his simple minded darkies.”  Or those who foam at the mouth insisting that the POTUS is acting outside his office to on immigration, then stare at you blankly when you say that Lincoln acted in the same manner with the Emancipation Proclamation.

~Don’t you just respect the hell out of the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, Robert McCulloch, who wants to make sure that he respects the Sunshine Laws of his state and gets all the evidence out, after conducting the evidence-sifting behind closed doors?  It’s also so great that he wanted the grand jury to decide without even suggesting a charge against the shooter, after so many times over almost three decades where he so unwisely beseeched grand jurors to return indictments against alleged perpetrators. He’s obviously evolving and growing since the death of this one teenager.

~~ Mind you, I am not advocating for or against the outcome of a trial in Ferguson. I am advocating for the same procedure to be followed in every case, not only in certain hand-selected cases. Justice needs to be non-judgmental and colorblind, and then the chips can fall where they will. mlk

~~ I am officially in the season’s over, back up the truck category when it comes to the Jets. You know me, readers. I defy logic and statistics and place semi-blind faith in my teams. But Monday night made me realize the team’s broken and has to be fixed. (Fast forward a few weeks or months and see if I come to the same realization about the Knicks. Right now, I am still densely delusional).

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a terrific weekend. I’ll be working almost non-stop, but I will enjoy the company of loved ones for a few special hours on Thursday. I hope you have that same joy!

Farm Sanctuary Thanksgiving


Tossed Salad Friday
~~ She was relating how wonderful and relaxing her vacation in Arizona was, except for all the gun-toters everywhere she went. “Picture this,” she said. “At the yoga studio, there’s a sign at the entrance that says, LEAVE YOUR GUNS OUTSIDE.”

~~ no gun Maybe we should drape such a sign across the entire planet.

~~ I went to a seminar that was brutally boring. The speaker’s remarks were quite similar to what he said the previous year. And the year before that. In fact, though he bills it as an annual update, he is still talking about things that happened more than a decade ago. So I was brutally honest in the evaluation form, saying that it was no more an update than I was an anesthesiologist. Though come to think of it, I became anesthetized that night as he droned on and on, so maybe I stumbled into a medical session. Perhaps the legal seminar was in the next room?

~~ For the record, I did feel guilty about panning the program. The very-experienced speaker seems nice enough, and he thinks of himself as quite witty, too. However, the evaluation asked me for my opinion, and my opinion is that an update needs to contain changes to the property laws that occurred post-Magna Carta.

~~ I opened a bag that boasted how it was resealable. 3559_NEW-RESEALABLE-BAG-BIRDEYSLater that day I encountered a bag that proclaimed it was reclosable. reclosable_clear_storage_bags-3_x4_100_pkg_35bc6373I know it’s not an industry standard or a federally-recognized description, but is there a difference? Both had similar zip-out-the-air-across-the-top smooshie things, and though I have no burning curiosity that would make me compare the two head-to-head, I’m wondering if some savvy reader knows whether there’s technology or merely marketing at play.

~~ He was insistent that “Obama lost the election this month.” When the radio host pointed out that the POTUS wasn’t on the ballot in 2014, only his policies, the caller said, “No, you’re wrong. If I’d have voted, I would have voted for that guy running against him.” If I’d have voted for Citizen of the Year, I would have cast my ballot for this dude.

~~Brava! http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/11/_7_year_old_plays_for_peace_in_ferguson.html

Have a wonderful weekend.

Memories Light the Corners of My Nose
I hate everything about smoking. I grew up with a mother who smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes every day before her mother came to live with us. Mom then upgraded to two packs per day to keep pace with Grandma’s rapid consumption. For many years, my hair and clothes were drenched daily in four packs’ worth of smoke, tar, and nicotine — bleeecch. 

Personal hygiene aside, my mom died young from a disease exacerbated and complicated by smoking, so I come to my tobacco aversion honestly. I can’t stop someone from smoking, but when I smell it, it triggers an immediate and organic disgust.

That’s how I came to be repulsed by the smell of a client. A nice enough man, he sat at my conference table reeking of Eau d ’Marlboro. I was grateful that he was just in my office for a few minutes to drop off papers. When he left, I opened the window and took big gulps of icy air.

However, the stink stayed despite the influx of new air. Maybe it was the fabric-covered chair he sat on? Sniffing that didn’t pinpoint the pong, and my smoke-free environment was as rank as one of Mom’s ashtrays in late afternoon. Bleeecch again!

Eyes watering, I sat at my desk to prepare this seller’s contracts. I opened the folder he left behind and was wiped out by the first whiff. Every paper he brought me proclaimed its long-term proximity to cigarettes.

I pulled out a two-gallon plastic zip bag and sealed the papers inside, adding a few drops of aromatic oil. Leaving it sealed for a few days did the trick, mostly. Without the aromatherapy, I’d never have made it through the three months of Mr. Tobacco’s transaction.

I’m thinking that it’s no coincidence that smoke and choke rhyme.

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