Happy Old Year

Happy Old Year

And so it ends. 2009, you were a bit odd. You gave us some serious scares, and yet, you didn’t seem that bad. Maybe it was all that depression talk that prepared me for the worst, but whatever the result, I find that you weren’t really that terrible. 2008 was far worse, and in case 2008 thinks it’s off the hook, it isn’t. 2009 wasn’t bad, and I was lucky enough to help dozens of people fulfill their Lake Geneva real estate dreams. I had a few near misses that would have made 2009 a banner year, but the truth is, I ended 2009 having sold about $5MM in residential real estate, so it was a pretty decent year by that measuring stick. Then again, the only measuring stick I need to consult in order to gauge how great of a year 2009 was is pictured below.

I was happy to have been healthy this year, and to have my children enter and finish 2009 healthy and happy. My 95 year old grandmother broke her hip in August, but it’s December, and she’s still kicking. Figuratively, of course. I spent a lot of time on the lake, fishing, boating, and swimming, which always makes any year quite a bit better. I veered off path, as I typically do, many times during the year, and those departures from focus are tucked away in my garage as not so subtle reminders of my grandiose plans. In September, I bought many feet of maple stock and many more clamps. I bought a planer. I bought some wood glue. I was going to make myself a giant end grain butcher block cutting board. Or two. I worked on those stupid cutting boards for many, many hours. I gave one to a friend, whose wife promptly left it sit in a sink overnight, so it split and warped. I had mine in service for a couple months, until my wife left mine in the sink where it warped and split as well. Total cost for material and tools to create two cutting boards that are only suitable as firewood? Roughly $320. The cost of my new, beautiful maple cutting board made in Effingham, Illinois by Boos Butcher Block? $80 from Williams Sonoma. Nice work, David.

At some point over the summer, I read an article about the famous Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann. Mallman has a vacation home in Patagonia, which means I was a fan of his from the very beginning, given his appreciation for the vacation home. It turns out that those Patagonians not only make a great winter jacket, but they also like wood fired grills. Big, fat, primitive, metal grills with open loading areas and movable grates, so gaucho’s can build wood fires under the grilling plates, and then cook over the smoldering coals. The article prompted me to buy Mallman’s book, Seven Fires. The book prompted me to do what it is that most people may be prompted to do upon reading a book about a sort of famous chef from Patagonia. I found an iron worker who could make me a gaucho grill.

Well, that’s not exactly true. The iron worker sort of found me. I was in East Troy, and had just finished up my meeting with the DRX-9000 chiropractor. I was driving home, and even though I’ve lived in Lake Geneva my entire life, I have literally visited East Troy no more than a child sized handful of times. I was driving West on 11, when I drove past a house that had ornamental gates and various metal things in the lawn. There was also an open sign that I noticed out of the corner of my eye. I turned around, and ventured into the very dark, soot filled shop. The man I met that day is a special sort of guy, and I have a great appreciation and respect for him, even though I don’t even really know his name. I think it might be “Puck Rover”, but that may just be what I heard, not what he said. He is a second generation metal worker, and he works out of the simple shop that his father built more than 60 years ago. He’s a relic, and an invaluable asset. He didn’t talk much at first, but I warmed him up by carrying on the sort of one party conversations that I’m becoming increasingly infamous for. He became my friend, and as I write this, I’m realizing I need to go see him.

My affinity for him aside, my purpose that day was to see if he could fabricate some metal grates to put over the square vents that are cut into two masonry fireplaces in my Lake Geneva foreclosure. He said he could, so I picked out some metal designs, and drove off. A week later, I picked up my metal vent covers, and I liked them. During that week, I had also read the article about chef Mallmann and embraced his assertion that everything tasted better over a wood fired grill. So there, that sunny July day, we sketched a drawing that sort of looked like a Argentinian gaucho grill. A couple weeks later, “Puck” called, and I raced out to see him and my third, metal, child. The creation that sat in his driveway that afternoon looked very little like what we had drawn on a sheet of metal just a couple weeks prior, and it looked even less like Chef Mallmann’s patagonian grills, but it was mine. It was mine, and I was, well, its. The next day, we were joined as one over a smoky oak fire (later replaced by Hickory), and we’ve been inseparable ever since. The cost for my big grill that is uniquely mine? $500.

The expenditures weren’t wise, but like the cheese making debacle of 2008 and the demi-glace infatuation of 2007, they are the exploits that make me who I am. They are also true to my abiding belief that I can do anything I set my mind to, including defying all Old Man Potter endorsed odds, and ultimately dominating the Lake Geneva vacation home market. I’m looking forward to 2010, and can’t wait for another summer of fun in the Lake Geneva sun. I think the real estate market will continue to improve, but I do think that high unemployment and continued foreclosures are going to temper much of the unwarranted enthusiasm beaming from most Realtors coffee stained smiles. Next week, I’ll begin a ten day long review of individual Lake Geneva vacation home markets, both reviewing the year past, and forecasting what I see in the year to come. I look forward to writing another year of posts, and hope I can provide you with valuable information, and a window into my own Lake Geneva life. If you’re interested in Lake Geneva real estate, I hope 2010 is the year you let me help you take a giant leap of faith and finally pursue that Lake Geneva vacation home that you’ve been dreaming about. Thanks to my readers and customers alike for a terrific 2009. Here’s to a healthy, happy, Michigan taunting, wood fire flavored, water splashed, Lake Geneva filled, 2010.

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