Setting Things Straight….

I’m letting this blog go back to its WordPress roots  It’s much easier to upload pics to Facebook, than to upload them to Flickr (whom I also pay), and then select each pic and copy the link and then paste it here, and then delete all the other assorted code that comes with each pic.

But there was a story that needed told, something that happened over a decade ago, that I have kept quiet about. The dust had settled over the events that transpired but a year ago I heard a comment from the spouse of one of those involved that Mark ‘had gone crazy’ and taken everything back.

Mark didn’t go crazy. Mark realized he’d been lied to and cheated and stolen from and then kicked to the curb, holding a bag that cost him a lot of time and money and pain and falling out with some close to him. Everyone else was told lies and those lies became ‘facts’ to those that heard them before they spoke with me.

Back when my children were young, and my wife and I wanted to get them into Catholic school, money was tight. Interest rates were falling and we refinanced for a lower rate and to get some money to put the kids in the school we chose. A former family member had a job as a mortgage broker, and to help him and his family, we did our refi through him.

When he saw what an excellent credit rating we had, he invited me to join him and two others in a real estate investment group they had formed. Buying houses at sheriff’s sales, fixing them up, and then renting them out was a big business back in 2000 and everyone was getting in on it. I did my research, looked at what they were doing, and got in on the action.

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Damage done by angry Boobs

While the paperwork was being put together for the LLC we were forming, I would purchase the houses in order to get a better interest rate, and have a better chance at a refi on the property to have money to fix it up. If there were a couple bucks left after the fix-up, we’d all get a few dollars to bank for ourselves, and the rent money would go towards the mortgage and a fund to cover any repairs that popped up.

We made our first purchase of a house in Cleveland, and we spent a few weekends painting, cleaning, installing a drop ceiling in one half of the duplex, and repairing whatever needed fixed. This looked very promising.

7028Morgan4Door kicked in to remove cabinets

As time went on, I purchased six more houses. I trusted my two partners on two and inspected four myself. Money was being used to paint and renovate and the houses were being rented. Or so I was told. One of the houses was going to be rented to a partner.

With all the purchases and refi’s, money was coming in and my two partners, who I’ll refer to as Big Boob Vrabe and Little Boob Reynol (you’ll see why later), were taking a bigger cut of the money because they quit their jobs to do this full-time. The job I had was not one you walked away from, as the benefits and pay were excellent. The Boobs were going to Disney, buying laptops and digital cameras, and living it up. The money I was getting was going in the bank or paying bills.

7028Morgan8Furnace stolen because house was not locked

To cut straight to the chase, a house was bought on 22nd St here in Lorain. It was in great condition, and only needed tile in the kitchen and carpeting in the living room and hallway. We had the money and got it done. Bob and Bob wanted to refi the house anyway to get more money out. I couldn’t see the need for it because the house was ready to rent now, and nothing needed done. Thus began the downfall of this entire partnership.

A little behind the scenes info to put more into perspective. A friend of theirs from said mortgage brokerage, which I’ll refer to as “Columbus Home Mortgage” (to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent), was apparently creatively submitting these applications. I’ll call him ‘Dave Not-ready”. Dave got pissed with me when I apparently asked the ‘wrong questions’ in front of the representative of the loan institution that was financing the last house we purchased. More evidence that something stinky was afoot. (Also, they had this insurance agent putting through the paperwork, listing each of these properties as my primary home, in order to get a lower rate. More BS that I learned later.)

So, due to my unwillingness to refi the property on W. 22nd, I was booted from the group. Words were exchanged, none of them pleasant, but I was expected to disperse funds from the pending refi. I was left holding seven properties with mortgages worth a little over $500,000. My intent was to sell them, because I couldn’t work and do the real estate thing. They gave me the keys, and I visited these houses to see just where I stood.

Yea, I had 6 houses that weren’t worth diddly. Cabinets had been installed in a few of the homes. These two returned and yanked them all out. Money had been paid to them for a dumpster to empty out an attic and garage at a house on Morgan in Cleveland. All the garbage was still there. Because they failed to make a duplicate of one of the keys, they beat in a brand new door at one house so they could remove more cabinets. They spray painted obscenities on the wall and ceiling at another Lorain property, but they did it in Spanish to try not to incriminate themselves. Materials from painting and cleaning were strewn over another house because they were pissed.

Other things came out after the fact. Loose lips sink ships, and all. When visiting the properties and speaking with the neighbors, I learned that these guys would pay a neighbor kid $20 to mow the lawn while they threw a football around until he was done. A lot of their ‘work afternoons’ were spent at a strip club, drinking and throwing bills at the girls. There was even a discussion of hiring some of the strippers to paint the interior of a couple of the houses, and the Boobs would sit in chairs and drink beers and watch.

I made the difficult decision to file bankruptcy and let the banks foreclose on everything. Big Boob expected me to continue to let him live in the one house (which was in Elyria), and to draw up a lease-to-own agreement. After what I was left with, I told him he had 30 days to get out. He left garbage in the house, a mattress, took part of a window so that the house was open to the elements, and broke most of the ceiling lights.

Word got back to them through a mutual acquaintance that I was going to file bankruptcy and stop paying on the houses (banks won’t foreclose until after you’ve stopped making payments) so they told all the tenants to stop paying rent. This later led me to file suit against all of them in small claims court in Cleveland for unpaid rent. This meant months of driving to Cleveland after working all night and sleeping in the court house until court convened in the morning.

Still trying to find a way to deal with their anger over the end of the gravy train, and trying to cover their butts should I try to sue them, they went to Cleveland one night and set fire to the garage on Morgan that had all the garbage in it. The Fire Department came and put out the fire and then just hours later, they returned to the property and set fire to the house. How do I know? Because when I found out this happened weeks later, I went out to see for myself and to talk to the neighbors. Three neighbors all told me they saw two men running away from the property that night that fit the descriptions of my two partners, one short and round, the other tall and thin.

Guess what happens when a property that is being foreclosed upon by a bank, owned by someone who’s planning to file bankruptcy, is found to have burned due to arson? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigates. Yup! Now I get to drive out to Cleveland a few more times to meet with an agent with ALL the paperwork I have concerning housing appraisals, mortgage paperwork, insurance information, and leasing agreements. They found me completely innocent of any wrongdoing and wished me luck should I pursue charges against my former partners.

Meanwhile (yes, there was other stuff still going on), these two hold a pig roast at the Elyria property on money they got from me to try to entice other family members to invest in their venture. Well, there was already a divide between some of the family based on the lies they told and the facts they got from me and my wife. After hearing from us, they all politely declined due to shortness of extra money. (Big smile!)

Not getting any takers on the investment side of it, they decided to try their hands at remodeling and home repair. They talked another family member into taking a loan out against her house and they would replace the gutters and make other repairs. Well, Little Boob ended up putting his foot through the roof and damaging the ceiling in the back room of this house. And when they replaced the gutters, they hung the gutters with an INCH-AND-A-HALF of space between the edge of the house and the back of the gutter!! “It’s supposed to be like that!” they claimed. Imagine the additional BS I’d have had to deal with had they actually WORKED on some of my houses!!

So, on top of taking non-paying renters to court and dealing with mortgage companies telling me I should beg family members for money so my house doesn’t go to foreclosure (LMAO-Dude, I ain’t livin’ in that house!), the Boobs then got the residents to break stuff in the houses and outside the houses so that Cleveland Housing Inspectors would cite the houses and I’d have to repair them. Driving 45 minutes to East Cleveland to fix the interior of a toilet tank, a part that NEVER breaks, is a pain in the backside. But they were being boobs and I just looked forward to the day that all this would be over.

One of the houses had a porch, and nice wooden spindles along the railing. These were kicked out and thrown around the yard. I was contacted by a housing inspector who told me I had 30 days to repair the spindles. I explained that the house was in foreclosure proceedings, I was filing bankruptcy, and I didn’t have any money to fix that. She told me she understood and asked that I keep her informed on the progress of the foreclosures.

Got another notice 40 days later, telling me I needed to replace the spindles and paint the porch on the property. Another call to the inspector, who ‘sounded’ concerned, told me not to worry about it, and to continue to keep her posted. Thanks!

Received a summons to appear in court for inaction concerning the repairs of the porch and the paint. I told Judge Pianka what my situation was and about the conversations I’d had with the inspector. She denied EVER telling me not to worry about it and said she had told me to try to do whatever I could to fix them up. Guess who Pianka believed? Now I had 30 days to make those repairs or end up in jail, plus I would pay about $500 in fines and court costs. At this point, as far as I’m concerned, ‘everybody lies’.

I got a notice in the mail that there was a warrant out for my arrest for failure to appear at a court hearing. Seems the Boobs told a resident that if he made any repairs or painted the house, they would deduct the cost of the materials from his rent. After he made the repairs, they lied to the renter and said I changed my mind and refused the deduction. So the renter called a housing inspector to the house to complain about a railing and a notice to appear in court was issued. However, the Boobs told them to list my mailing address as the one at which the renters were living and I never received the summons. So, someone mailed it to my home. I called the Court, and was told I could come in and pay the fine, but to be careful driving, because if I was pulled over for anything, they’d see the outstanding warrant and I’d be arrested on the spot.

Needless to say, I pretty much held my breath all the way into Cleveland, doing EXACTLY the speed limit. I almost ran up the steps to the court’s office to pay the fine. Once that was done, I almost broke down. I’ve about decided that there is no end to all this BS.

I think I mentioned earlier that there was a refi in the process when the ‘business’ was dissolved. I kept every penny, and disbursed none of it to the two knuckleheads. Now, mind you, I could’ve buried that money, about $9,000, in a hole and filed bankruptcy and dug it up later. However, in my mind, it wasn’t my money and I wasn’t going to be a cheat. So I used it to pay the mortgages on all those properties until it was gone. The last payment was made in November of 2002. My bankruptcy was filed in the spring of ’03 and discharged in June, I believe. It was done. The properties were forfeited back to the mortgage companies, the only house I had to worry about was my own, and the only building I would need to concern myself with was with rebuilding my credit.

What about the Boobs, you ask? Little Boob got divorced. He ended up refinancing his own house to live on that money, and then trying to flip it to someone to get more money out of it and instead, got none of that money back and stuck with an even larger mortgage. At the end, he had sold almost the entire interior of the house on eBay before he lost it.

Big Boob just recently bought a lot in Amherst, apparently with the hopes of building on it. He’s been sponging off his wife’s family for the last 14 years. Big Boob’s wife was heard to say, when she found out that her husband was doing something a little sly and in the ‘grey area’, ‘I don’t care as long as there’s money coming in.’ Interesting.

Me? I still have my home of 22 years, celebrating 21 years at the job that I kept. I keep to myself and prefer to do things alone or with my wife and children. I haven’t gone crazy in the least bit, as you can see.

There is a lot of unpaid court settlements from renters that had judgement rendered in my favor. So, if there are any collections lawyers that would care to take this up, I’m sure there’s a few bucks in all of that for both of us.

Bessemer15“Wonderful” house in Cleveland

7028Morgan9Attic that was never cleaned of the house that was burned

West101gHow the Boobs cleaned up after a job

7028Morgan6Cabinets they damaged because they were angry

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Falls for the ND400

I met Michael for lunch Wednesday at Baldwin Wallace, and I’d taken my camera equipment because I was in a shooting mood. Coming off the turnpike at 57, I veered left at the last second and went south, intent on going to Cascade Falls, behind the police station.

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(Sorry about the color and graininess of this one. Had the ISO set for 1600 and forgot to check. f/5.6 and the shutter was 1/40.)

Adding the ND400 filter, I shot this from the same position:

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(ISO 100, f/6.3, shutter at 3.2 secs)

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(ISO 160, f/5, 1/320 secs)

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(ISO 100, f/5, 2 secs)

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(ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/500 secs)
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(ISO 160, f/5.6, 2 secs)

New Toy: Neutral Density Filter

As I stumble along, discovering new things to do with my camera, there’s so many different accessories that can be bought that will create different effects on your photos. Colored filters (blue? orange??), filters that will keep out UV rays, polarizers let you acheive vibrant color saturation, reduce or eliminate glare from non-metallic objects, fluorescent light correction filters gives true-to-life color rendition and dramatically increase color saturation.

Then there are neutral density filters. ND filters come in varying degrees of dark. They reduce and/or modify all the wavelengths of light equally, without changing the colors or hues. The purpose is to allow flexibility with aperture, exposure time and/or motion blur. I’ll show you some things you can do with an ND 8 filter.

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I was able to stop briefly by Cascade Falls (East) the other day to try this out. (I’ll mention and show in later posts what I’ve been able to do with this filter.)

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This shot was the first one I took, dialed the shutter to 1/250, f/4, ISO 500. Didn’t try to set anything up, I just wanted to get a base shot.

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This was adjusted to f/8, 1/10 seconds on the shutter, ISO 100. Note the smoothness of the water, still a bit washed out though.

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ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/40 second on the shutter. Good color in this, not washed out, quick enough to show detail in the water.

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ISO 125, f/22, 1/3 second on shutter. Still good color, good light, smooth flow in the water.

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ISO 125, f/22, 1 second. A little bright from the white, but still good color in the green of the leaves.

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ISO 100, f/22, 1 second. Basically, the same settings as the previous photo, but this is what you get without the filter. Big difference.

I will end up at Mile Long Pier sooner than later, to see what kind of effect this has on the lake water when shooting the Lighthouse. I’ll get those up, too. Before I left, I thought I’d try shooting the sun, and was pleasantly surprised with what I got.
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I loved the ring around the sun in the first shot, and then the “rays” in the second shot. Also note the detail in the clouds with the sun in the same shot. Definitely looking forward to playing with this filter in the future.

Update: So this is about 2 weeks and change later. I was in Elyria, and had the opportunity to play with the fountain.

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First shot: Shutter at 1/400 and the ISO at 200

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Adjusted: Shutter at 1/8, and the ISO at 100.

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1/8 of a second, and ISO 100.

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1/5 of a second, and ISO 100.

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1/4 of a second, ISO 100.

Summer’s Last Hurrah: Cascade’s Flora

When I go out to shoot, I’m looking all around me – up, down, around, and close to the ground. Colors, shapes, shadows, I take it all in. I’ll shoot hundreds of pics at a time, and pick what I think are the best, though I’ve found that my opinion is sometimes not that of others. So, as I continue the “Hurrah” series, these were the most eye-catchting, in MY opinion.