Seen On The Streets

Seen On The Streets, Part 11

Potholes. Tons of them. Christopher Borrelli reported on the Chicago Tribune website on Monday:

It’s officially spring. We’re deep into pothole season, which, like other holiday seasons, seems to grow longer every year. This pothole season could be the longest yet. Potholes are out of control. The Chicago Department of Transportation said last month that pothole complaints have tripled in the past year; and since New Year’s Day alone, the city has filled more than 350,000 potholes. And because, according to CDOT, which assumes there are at least five unreported potholes for each reported pothole, their conservative estimate of the number of potholes remaining is, well, about 60,000 potholes.

At the very, very least…

Personally, I think the roads have been crap in many places around the Chicagoland area for a number of years now.

One spot in particular that’s incredibly chewed up and which I drive through on a regular basis is that portion of Thatcher Road right outside the Oak Park Country Club in River Grove.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the report of the shotguns being fired nearby on certain days at the Club- in conjunction with the cratered road- reminds some veterans of being in a warzone.

As a high school kid, when I could scrape together several bucks I would buy the latest duPont REGISTRY (magazine of luxury autos for sale) at the old Crown Books on the corner of Harlem and North. Lots of daydreaming would ensue where I’d be piloting some hot sports car around Chicago.

A number of years have passed, and practicality along with fate has left me driving an older, high-mileage Toyota instead.

Still, my lust for a high-performance vehicle has never subsided.

Although, the crumbling streets I’d encounter around the Chicago area made me remark to my girlfriend one day that owning a nice sports car (or even a “regular” one) may not be practical around these parts. For starters, there’s the city traffic. Second, there’s the high price of gas- especially if the vehicle requires the premium stuff. Finally, the increasingly crummy roads will “eat up” the bottom of the vehicle.

Case in point. While watching the local news one day this winter, I spotted a reporter doing a live broadcast about how bad the potholes were in the city. As they were doing the shoot, a hipster’s car went over one of these holes, tearing off a big piece from the underside of her vehicle. I felt really bad for the young lady as she proceeded to talk about what just happened on camera.

Further evidence of just how bad the local streets have gotten can be seen in a Craigslist.org post I saw the other day while taking in some car porn. From March 29:

Porsche 914 (1974) – $10500 (chicago)

Tired of winter and potholes, the car is 99% of the time in the garage…Selling my ’74 914,wide body from Sheridan Motorsports,custom interior,disk brakes front and rear,1.8l engine with double webers(40mm)pulls strong with no leaks,transmission rebuilt less than 500 miles ago,75k miles

Considering trading for a WRX of similar or lesser value…

“Tired of winter and potholes, the car is 99% of the time in the garage”

That trade request for a Subaru WRX makes sense, as things considered.

Still, even that rugged all-wheel drive vehicle may have too low of a ground clearance for some of the “surface anomalies” I’ve been spotting for some time now.

After I told my girlfriend about sports cars perhaps being impractical to own around these parts, I suggested for one to really experience what a sports car is really capable of performance-wise, one would probably have to head out to the back roads.

When I finally get my hands on one of these cars, “Escape to Wisconsin” will take on a whole new meaning for me…


Jamiroquai, “Cosmic Girl” (1996)
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Borrelli, Christopher. “Making potholes into art.” Chicago Tribune. 31 Mar. 2014. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-31/entertainment/ct-pothole-art-20140401_1_pothole-season-mosaic-marble). 3 Apr. 2014.

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Seen On The Streets, Part 10

While I’ve been doing quite a bit of driving around the Northwest Side of Chicago and surrounding suburbs lately, I’ve noticed the price at the pump has been rising.

I filled up the Flintstone Mobile for $3.99 a gallon of regular gas last weekend, and noticed that was typically the same price at the various stations I drove by yesterday while in the west suburbs.

From the Journal & Topics Newspapers (northwest suburbs) website yesterday:

Gas prices in the Chicago-area are quickly approaching $4 per gallon.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas peaked at $3.98 last week and had only fallen to $3.95 as of Friday.

Gas prices in the Chicago-area are expected to continue their rise, peaking in late April or early May between $4.10 and $4.25 a gallon in Chicago…

(Editor’s note: Bold- yes, bold now- added for emphasis)

If the cost at the pump does indeed go higher, I predict irritated drivers will start showing up on the local news again like they did in the summer of 2008.

Question is, will they also start cutting back on spending in other areas like they did that year?

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“Gas Prices Spiking Again.” Journal & Topics Newspapers. 26 Mar. 2014. (http://www.journal-topics.com/business/article_3c8eed54-b526-11e3-b729-001a4bcf6878.html). 27 Mar. 2014.

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Seen On The Streets, Part 9

Remember when I blogged last week about bread, eggs, and milk disappearing from grocery store shelves before a severe weather event?

I was in the northwest suburbs of Chicago last Thursday attending a wake. I had already been there for a while when I headed downstairs to the “break” room. I found myself talking to one of the other attendees, and the conversation turned to the recent “polar vortex” and the accompanying snow that pummeled the Chicagoland area. This person mentioned to me how she was at a grocery store during the severe weather event and noticed only one loaf of bread left on the shelves. She confided in me that her and her family aren’t really big bread-eaters. Yet, she thought to herself that she’d better grab that last loaf before that particular staple food was all gone.

At that point, we were interrupted by someone helping themselves to some food from the table we were standing in front of.

But I did manage to ask her real quick, “So, did you end up buying that last loaf of bread?”

To which she replied, “Yes I did!”

Probably not going to eat the bread, but still snapped it up anyway.

I wonder what those psychologists I mentioned last week in that bread/eggs/milk post would say about that?

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Seen On The Streets, Part 8

Last post for today as I put together new material for release early tomorrow morning.

When was the last time you searched your pocket change for any “valuable” coins?

Well, look what I received as change from a local store a couple of days ago:

Silver Quarter

A silver quarter that was minted in 1941.

And I thought the “change” that’s circulating nowadays had been picked through of coins containing precious metals long ago.

Apparently not.

According to the Coinflation.com website this morning, this particular Washington quarter, comprised of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper, has a melt value of $3.96.

Not bad. I think I’ll pick through a pencil case full of change that I have later on today in hopes of “striking it rich” again.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Back To Blogging

The last time I posted any new material on Survival And Prosperity was the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend, when I was in the process of packing up my belongings for a move out of the city of Chicago to the northwest suburbs.

While I had intended to start the blog up again last week, tasks related to the move prevented me from doing so. I apologize for this delay.

However, I’m now out of Chicago, back online in another city, and look forward to blogging again about personal and financial safety issues from my home office-in-progress at my new residence.

This summer, I hope to accomplish the following as it relates to the blog:

• Bring Survival And Prosperity back up to speed, with new material being posted around 6 AM every morning during the business week (I was doing this for a while, but it became increasingly hard to do with a family member’s illness and the move). This includes updating/refining the blog to make it more user-friendly.
• Resurrect several series of posts- New Book Alert, Resource Of The Week, Seen On The Streets, Signs Of The Time, TEOTWAWKI Theater- to be published on a more regular basis
• Develop my “Project Prepper” series of posts, especially as I have this great new “lab” at my disposal
• Dig up and discuss more rapidly investment-related material from the “crash prophets”- Marc Faber, Jeremy Grantham, Jim Rogers, and Peter Schiff
• Continue making Survival And Prosperity a more valuable resource than it already might be to you, especially as I still see a U.S. financial crash coming and it will probably be wise to have a number of preparations in place to weather the storm

One more thing. For some time now, I’ve been terrible at responding to messages sent to me via the blog’s contact page. I apologize for this, and promise to make improvements here.

That’s it for now. As always, please feel free to send me suggestions for making the blog “better.”

Thanks for following Survival And Prosperity. And God Bless America. Judging from the shenanigans that have come to light just in the past two weeks alone when the blog was on hiatus- we’re going to need it.

Christopher E. Hill
Editor

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Seen On The Streets, Part 7

“Flipping” homes.

I heard it was back.

And while driving through the Chicago suburbs Saturday, there was a commercial on the radio of the type I haven’t heard for a couple of years now (perhaps the title of this post should be changed to “Heard On The Streets”). It went something like this:

• Make lots of money “flipping” houses!
• Get in now before everyone else does
• We’ll show you how to do it
• Attend our upcoming seminar
• Seating is extremely limited and is expected to sell out, so register today

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 Housing, Seen On The Streets No Comments

Seen On The Streets, Part 6

Panhandlers.

Being from Chicago, I should be used to them. In fact, a couple of years ago, I was getting off the Stevenson Expressway on the exit ramp to Cicero Avenue on the South Side when my car was swarmed by a number of them.

Although these weren’t your typical panhandlers. It was the Squeegee Army.

The incident went down a lot like this (ends at 55:04).

And yes, I did drive away singing “I can dig it, he can dig it, she can dig it, we can dig it, they can dig it, you can dig it, oh let’s dig it, can you dig it baby” like Isaac Hayes.

Anyway, the panhandlers I’m seeing these days aren’t the ones I’ve typically encountered over the years.

They’re young (late teens/twenties). They don’t appear at first glance to have any physical handicap that would prevent them from working. And they’re panhandling at intersections where they didn’t used to before.

First, it was the young girl at Cumberland and Higgins on the Northwest Side by Park Ridge. Then, it was the dude at the corner of Northwest Highway and Devon in the Edison Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side. I only saw him once, and I kind of suspect a Chicago police officer (who probably resides in the area with his family) gave him a mouthful, kindly encouraging him to move his ass along.

And just this Tuesday, at the intersection of North and Harlem on the West Side by Elmwood Park, Oak Park, and River Forest, some young man was walking through traffic begging for money. He was also wearing desert camo pants. Maybe he was trying to get the message across to motorists that he was a vet?

Anyway, the numbers of panhandlers seem to be growing these days around the Chicagoland area. Not exactly the picture of a strengthening, sustainable economic recovery the American public is being sold on.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Seen On The Streets, Part 5

Back on October 5, I blogged:

In my neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest Side, there a number of individuals who come around on a regular basis to “aid” residents in their recycling efforts.

I mentioned Sanford and Son, Can Man, and the Two Amigos. Sanford and Son and Can Man have been awful busy lately, but I haven’t seen the Two Amigos lately. And they better step it up, because Babushka Granny may be on the verge of taking their place in this lineup.

I spotted the elderly lady this afternoon rifling through the garbage cans set aside for recycling which are located behind the condominium building next door to me. Looks like she was only on the hunt for coupons, although I really didn’t stick around too long to watch. I’ve got better things to do. Like blog about it.

As I said earlier this month:

But their arrival got me thinking. Who’s next? Should economic conditions keep deteriorating over the long-run (like I think it will), will we be seeing hungry Americans picking through the trash for their next meal?

Let’s hope not. But I suspect such stories may not be too far away.

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Friday, November 16th, 2012 Food, Main Street, Seen On The Streets No Comments

Seen On The Streets, Part 4

In my neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest Side, there a number of individuals who come around on a regular basis to “aid” residents in their recycling efforts.

First, there’s “Sanford and Son,” who drive their old, red pickup truck around the back of nearby condominium/apartment complexes, hauling away large household items that might be of value.

Second, there’s “Can Man,” a senior citizen who pedals up to the back of these multi-housing buildings and retrieves pop (soda to non-Chicagoans) cans out of the recycling bins.

And as of a couple of days ago, there’s the “Two Amigos,” two young Hispanic men in a North Carolina-plated pickup truck who I saw digging through the garbage dumpsters of these properties, retrieving anything that could be worth something. From the looks of it, they got their hands on some old computer equipment.

Thankfully, these newcomers were courteous enough to put everything back in place once they were done for the day.

But their arrival got me thinking. Who’s next? Should economic conditions keep deteriorating over the long-run (like I think it will), will we be seeing hungry Americans picking through the trash for their next meal?

Will we be one of the famished?

Don’t think it will get to that point? We’ve been down that road before- in the Great Depression. A quick search engine query with relevant keywords reveals accounts like:

Although few people died from starvation, many did not have enough to eat. Some people searched garbage dumps for food or ate weeds. Malnutrition took a toll: A study conducted in eight American cities found that families that had a member working full time experienced 66 percent less illness than those in which everyone was unemployed.

And:

“Food and jobs were hard to get and many people stood in lines for government hand-outs. A lot of people lived on powdered milk, dried beans, and potatoes.” In Chicago, a crowd of men fought over a barrel of garbage — food scraps for their families.

I can only hope Americans will never witness anything like this again. But it did happen here. And it’s taking place overseas today even in “First-World” countries like Spain as the global economic crisis that reared its ugly head in 2008 marches on:


“Spain: The economic crisis forces people to eat waste food”
YouTube Video

Obviously, there’s a lot to be said for setting aside extra food in case the means to pay for it dries up or some other disaster strikes. While that’s a topic I will talk about more in the future, just remember that’s it’s never too late to starting looking into and implementing some kind of food acquisition and storage program.

If anything, because I don’t want you to be that person rifling through garbage cans some day.

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Seen On The Streets, Part 3

Just a few years ago, the Chicago Police Department presence in my Northwest Side neighborhood was readily observable.

These days, not so much (perhaps the title should have read “Not Seen On The Streets”).

So where did all the Chicago cops go?

I recently came across a local weblog called the 41st Ward Citizen’s Blog, and a July 25, 2012, post entitled, “Tonight’s Public Safety Town Hall Meeting: My Observations,” goes a long way in answering that question. From the blog:

Some of the more interesting questions asked during the Town Hall Meeting, Question and Answer portion of the meeting:

1. Question: How many active duty sworn police officers are currently assigned to the 16th District as of today? How many active duty sworn police officers were in place at the 16th District, three years ago? What is the plan to replace officers who have retired/left the 16th District?

Initially, no one on the panel seemed to know, how many officers report to the 16th District each day, until the person asking the question reminded them. The all of a sudden, Capt. Dillon remembered that there are 197 sworn police officers assigned to the 16th District, presently. Three years ago, there were approximately 350 sworn police officers assigned to the 16th District.

There are approximately 44% less officers assigned to the 16th District today, compared to three years ago.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

To recap, in 2009 there were 350 cops. In 2012 there are only 197 cops.

So what happened to the other 153 police officers?

If they didn’t retire, they’ve been reassigned to more troublesome areas of the city (ones that pay the least taxes/fees yet consume the most resources), I understand.

Meanwhile, violent crime (murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated battery) is up over 8 percent in my police district from last year (according to the latest CPD data ).

Murders alone are up 400 percent.

And according to this local blog, what remains of those 153 officers won’t be coming back to the district any time soon, unless all hell breaks loose here.

Anything’s possible.

Source:

“Tonight’s Public Safety Town Hall Meeting: My Observations.” 41st Ward Citizen’s Blog. 25 July 2012. (http://41stwardcitizens.blogspot.com/2012/07/tonights-public-safety-town-hall.html). 11 Sep. 2012.

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Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 Crime, Public Safety, Seen On The Streets No Comments

Seen On The Streets, Part 2

Rural burglaries.

Okay, maybe not exactly seen by me on the Chicago streets.

But it’s something that’s hitting closer to “home” these days than this particular blogger would prefer.

While I was taking a break from blogging on Survival And Prosperity I drove up to my family’s place in southeastern Wisconsin for some upkeep and a little bit of R&R. Upon walking in the door, I noticed the message indicator on the nearby telephone answering machine was flashing. I played the single message, which happened to be a recorded notification from the Racine County Sheriff’s Department.

The law enforcement agency revealed that a rash of burglaries had taken place in our area, and to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.

From the website of The Journal Times, the daily newspaper for Racine County (Wisconsin), back on August 21:

The Racine County Sheriff’s Office is asking rural residents to keep their doors locked and their eyes peeled for suspicious people following an outbreak of recent burglaries in the western part of the county.

According to a sheriff’s office press release, the burglars have been stealing mostly from homes in rural areas, striking during the day when people are not home…

Items stolen thus far “appear to be a little bit of everything that is easy to carry,” [Racine County Sheriff’s Lt. Steve] Sikora said.

A couple of years ago, I read in another paper about similar burglaries being committed in the area.

However, as far as I know, this was the first time a local government agency had telephoned residents about such activity (to be fair, another family member may have intercepted the phone message).

Here’s hoping my Wisconsin neighbors heed the warning and start securing their properties if they haven’t done so already. So much for those days when one could leave their doors/windows unlocked and not worry too much about such thefts. Then again, did those “days” ever really exist in the first place?

Source:

“Burglars target rural homes.” The Journal Times. 21 Aug. 2012. (http://www.journaltimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/burglars-target-rural-homes/article_a44878fe-eb86-11e1-bb94-0019bb2963f4.html). 4 Sep. 2012.

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Seen On The Streets, Part 1

Real Estate “For Sale” Signs Going Up. Lots Of Them.

There’s more talk recently of a housing recovery being “right around the corner” due to shrinking inventory. A number of media outlets have discussed the decreasing number of existing homes on the market lately. For example, Nick Timiraos wrote in the Wall Street Journal’s Developments blog back on January 19:

“Housing Inventory Ends Year Down 22%”

There were fewer homes listed for sale at the end of 2011 than in any of the previous four years, a positive sign for the housing sector…

The 1.89 million homes on the market at the end of December represented a 6% decline from November and a 22.3% decline from one year ago, according to data compiled by Realtor.com.

I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but based on what I’ve seen around the Chicagoland area the past several days, inventory levels might be rising shortly. Driving back and forth between Chicago and the western suburbs I’ve noticed an awful lot of “for sale” signs going up in front lawns- more so than what you’d typically expect for the spring selling season. Stately homes, shacks, condos, you name it, and quite a few signs are out. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve seen only two “for rent” signs, both in my neighborhood, which has a lot of multi-family buildings. While Craigslist usually returns a good number of properties for rent around where I live, a quick search revealed only seven available going back to the oldest entry on February 24. Plenty of condominium units up and down my street for sale though. Hmm. I wonder if unwilling landlords aren’t thinking this is the year for finally unloading that ill-timed attempt at a “flip?”

Those who point to improving inventory data as evidence a housing recovery is near might be underestimating what I may be witnessing, which is, quite a few sellers who pulled their properties off the market some time ago to wait for better conditions could be charging back in, emboldened by each bit of good housing news they’ve heard lately. However, more properties placed on the market leads to increased supply, which could keep depressing home prices.

Source:

Timiraos, Nick. “Housing Inventory Ends Year Down 22%.” Wall Street Journal. 19 Jan. 2012. (http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2012/01/19/housing-inventory-ends-year-down-22/). 2 Mar. 2012.

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Friday, March 2nd, 2012 Housing, Seen On The Streets No Comments


Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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