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A Real Estate Fish Story

A Real Estate Agent, A Fish and A Death Wish



fish storyIn most fish stories there is some scale (pun intended) of truth. I heard a hilarious tale about a fish incident that I would like to share with you. Of course, this is the Gwen Banta, two martini, Friday version, but somewhere in here you’ll find the naked truth about a real event in the Hollywood Hills:

The Right Bait

Patrick, Realtor extraordinaire from West Hollywood, landed a juicy listing in the Hollywood Hills. The sellers were friends of friends, so Patrick was determined to impress. The home was a standard Hollywood Hills mini-mansion with spectacular views of Tinsel Town, a pool spa, gym, screening room, and a lavish Koi Pond full of gazillion dollar trophy fish – features we all have in our homes. Uh-huh.

Shortly after the first open house, the sellers called Patrick and announced that they had to leave for Cannes and asked if he would check on the property periodically. Oh – and please make sure the Koi pond does not fill up with algae (scum is discouraged in the Hollywood Hill unless it drives a Mercedes.) They told him they would leave a de-scumming substance on the kitchen counter and asked if he could treat the pond every few days. Patrick, ever eager to please, agreed. It would have been better if had agreed to shave his beard with a chain saw.

As instructed, Patrick waited three days to check on the pond. When he returned to the house, he was quite dismayed to see a thick film of green gunk forming on the water.  Ever the dutiful agent, he immediately grabbed the algae remover. Not being a whiz kid about size of pond and calculation of gallons of water, he was baffled about how much to add. He could not reach the sellers via phone, so he poured in a small amount, and, unsure of himself, seized a what-the-hell moment and threw in some more. (Cue the chain saw.)

Hooked Solid

The following day, Patrick returned to check on the fish. To his horror, at least eight of the koi were doing the back swim.  We’re talking belly up, folks. Patrick went into the biggest panic of his life. He could hear the fish, in their dying breath, mumbling “Koi Killer,” and “Je accuse” and “Et tu, Brute.” (Apparently several fish were foreign nationals.) The Hollywood Reporter reported that one fish even left a will.

Patrick’s mind was exploding. He netted one fish and tried to shake it back to life. He may have even given it mouth to mouth resuscitation…or tried to force water out of its tiny, water-logged gills. There may have even been paddles involved. And IV drips. (These are common in L.A. homes.)  Fish lore in the Hollywood Hills has it that Patrick was on his knees over a fish yelling, “Don’t go into the light.” Suddenly there was one last breath, the bowels released, and darkness descended. (That’s the fish, not Patrick…although his bowels were not exactly under control.)

After administering last rites, Patrick became girly-man hysterical. How could he tell the sellers he was a mass murderer? How could he pay for the expensive fish? He had sold houses that cost less than the deceased. He would have to sell everything he owned. Oh wait a minute…everything he had was leased. Even his hairpiece. What would he do?

A Struggle to the End

After a sleepless night, he received a call from the sellers. They had arrived at LAX and were on their way back to the crime scene. Patrick popped a few Valiums and drove over to meet them. On the drive over, he formed every story he could in his head as the sounds of fish pleas haunted him:  “Help…save me…I can’t breathe…where’s my close-up? ”

Perhaps he could tell the sellers a coyote jumped the fence. Hmmm…no teeth marks. Maybe he could say the neighbor next door went on a rampage. Hmmm…the neighbor was already on trial for a spectacular Hollywood crime. They were fresh out of neighbors. What about the Twinkie defense? No….he’d never be allowed back in his trendy Hollywood gym after a sugar conviction

. There was nothing to do but confess and then dive off the infinity pool into the tawdry flats below where the crappy two million dollar hovels were located. Death by humiliation.

When he arrived, everyone was gathered around the pond. Was it an impromptu wake?  There were no paparazzi, so how could it be?  The housekeeper, Carlotta, was standing next to the sellers sobbing uncontrollably. The smell was horrendous. (No, not Carlotta, the fish.) The carnage had grown in proportion.

The seller spotted Patrick and directed a sorrowful gaze his way. All Patrick could blurt out was “I am so sorry…I’m sure they had a good life, …and God must have a better purpose for them, like maybe that great sushi bar on Sunset…”

Reeled In

The seller nodded and whispered to Patrick, “Please don’t say anything to Carlotta – she’s devastated. She misunderstood our instructions and put the chlorine based chemicals into the pond instead of the indoor fountain.”

Carlotta was the killer! (He hadn’t trusted her since he first spotted her knock-off Prada bag.) Patrick felt the pent-up air leave his chest as he took his first gulp of air since the previous day. He nodded sadly and commiserated with the seller. “Oh my God, that’s terrible,” he whispered from his Valium induced haze. “Next time I can treat the fountain for you as well.” Yup – he was reeled in. Some folks never learn not to take the bait.

Patrick, Agent Extraordinaire, was last seen trying to revive an exotic pet bird in a fountain in a home North of Sunset. The housekeeper reports he was yelling, “Hold on, I’ll get a stomach pump!”

Moral: In every fish tale, there’s a fish that took the bait. Agent Fish are the easiest to catch if the bait is a green paper adorned with dead presidents.

Thank you to my dear friend at Sotheby’s International Realty.

Happy birthday, dearest Liam.

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  1. Joe Loomer

    July 31, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Gwen – this has to be one of your best ever. The truth is always stranger than fiction – and in this case much funnier!

    I’d regale you tales of snakes in the pool – but it’s my own pool – not as funny as dead fish, and they’re too small to really scare anyone except the neighbors kids (when I throw them over the fence without making sure NO ONE is back there).

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Gwen Banta

    July 31, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    It’s great to hear from you, Joe, but I feel it is my duty to warn you that when your neighbor’s kids are teenagers, you better be prepared to beat it the hell outta Dodge…or you’ll find a horse head in your bed. No doubt they all need prolonged therapy due to PTSS from the day Augusta rained snakes!

  3. Kim Curran

    July 31, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Your posts are priceless Gwen!

  4. Ian Greenleigh

    July 31, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Hilarious! Reminded me of my youth, dropping M-80s into the coy pond of a wealthy friend. For your information, I am mortified by my behavior at that age.

  5. Wesner Michel

    August 1, 2009 at 6:03 am

    A Real Estate Fish Story | Real Estate Opinion MAG – AgentGenius: A Real Estate Fish Story about an Agent, a Fis..

  6. Erion Shehaj

    August 1, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I just wanted to say that I LOVE your stories …

  7. Gwen Banta

    August 1, 2009 at 11:50 am

    We all did things we regret, Ian. My brother and I once set our neighbor’s pet rabbits loose because we wanted to see them hop all over the yard. Of course, they found a hole in the fence and bailed out of there before we could catch them. Oddly, they came back eventually…and about triple in number 🙂

  8. Gwen Banta

    August 1, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Thank you, Erion. I’m glad the things that make me laugh also entertain others, especially considering what a warped mind I have.

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Opinion Editorials

4 ways to stand out against the competition in today’s job market

(EDITORIAL) Are you trying to figure out how you can stand out to recruiters and hiring managers in this job market? Look no further than these 4 steps.



Woman doing a job search on laptop in the hot job market.

Are you trying to figure out how you can stand out to recruiters and hiring managers in this job market?

Recruiters often have aggressive hiring goals and are sorting through many resumes to discover the hidden gems that will help organizations achieve their business transformation and growth goals. If you have had a non-traditional education or career path, or have a resume gap due to a layoff, being a caregiver, or any of a multitude of other reasons, it’s important that you know how to share your story in a way that will empower recruiters to advocate on your behalf in this job market.

When I’ve mentored diverse job seekers through the years, these are the four key steps I recommend they follow:

  1. Develop your personal brand

Do you have a LinkedIn profile? If so, when is the last time you audited it? Is it telling the story of who you are now and where you want to go?

It’s important to make the most of the eight (8) seconds that recruiters are spending on your profile. Because, on average, and as lazy as ‘we’ recruiters sound, unless in that time we can tell what you do, who you are, etc., we might not keep reading on.

  1. Tell your story

You have probably heard the phrase “elevator pitch,” but did you know this doesn’t just apply to businesses? As a job seeker, you need to know your story and how it aligns with the roles you are looking to get hired for. If you were to record yourself and tell YOU how great YOU are, would you hire you? If not, remember what value and experience you bring (no matter how seemingly small), your story is you and some of the best stories can be told badly, and some of the most challenging stories can become the most inspirational. Only you have the power to decide what you want your story to be.

  1. Build your network

Your network is your net worth. The more contacts you have, the more chances you create, and the single hardest part of the journey is just to start. Have you built a network in the job market that has the type of job you want? If not, how do you? First, go and find hiring managers. Start by searching on Linkedin, use “job title” and “hiring” in the search bar. Then connect with the people who have posted that they are hiring, sending them a message about your interest, and/or asking them for help (industry tips, thought leaders to follow, who else is hiring). People are generally very open and friendly, and in this landscape, they will be willing to either hire or connect you with someone else. If they don’t, is that someone you would want to be connected with anyway?

  1. Focus on your goals, your “why”

The most important thing! Focus on your WHY. No matter what, job searching can be one of the most challenging things in the world! So don’t just focus on the results, because you will get a job; focus on why you are doing this. Remember you are going through a journey and that you will have a good day, and you will have a bad day, and the best advice I can give (which I repeat to myself ALL the time!) is this… “You either WIN or you LEARN.” Make sure you remind yourself of this and remember WHY you are doing this because the why will keep you going and the experience is something you should embrace, no matter what.

Job seeking can often be all about the numbers and let the saying “Your network is your net worth” be inspirational to build your personal brand and grow your network daily. You will be amazed to see the kinds of opportunities that the network will open for you!

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Opinion Editorials

Finances in my 20s: What I wish I knew then that I know now

(EDITORIAL) They say money makes the world go round. So, let’s discuss how to be smart with finances before it’s too late.




Being in my early twenties, something I’m still getting used to is the fact that I’m making my own money. This is not to be confused with the babysitting money I was making 10 years ago. Twice a month is the same routine: I get my paycheck and think, “Wooo! We goin’ out tonight!” but then I snap back to reality and think about what that money needs to be put towards. The smallest part of it going towards fun. It’s been tricky to really start learning the ins and outs of finances. So, I do what I usually do in any type of learning process? I ask for advice. I used to be fixated on asking those more advanced in age than I what they wish they knew when they were my age. Now that I’m determined to learn about finances, that question has been altered.

I reached out to a few professionals I know and trust and they gave me solid feedback to keep in mind about building my finances, about what they wish they had known in their 20s. However, I don’t think this only applies to those just starting out, and may be helpful for all of us.

“It’s important to simply know the value of money,” says human resource expert, Nicole Clark. “I think once you start earning your own money and are responsible for your housing, food, etc. you realize how valuable money is and how important it is to budget appropriately and make sure you’re watching your spending.”

Law firm executive director, Michael John, agrees with Clark’s sentiments. “I wish I had kept the value of saving in mind when I was younger,” explains John. “But, still remembering to balance savings while rewarding yourself and enjoying what your efforts produce.”

There are so many aspects of finance to keep in mind – saving, investing, budgeting, retirement plans, and so on and so forth.

In addition to suggesting to spend less than you make and to pay off your credit card in full each month, Kentucky-based attorney, Christopher Groeschen, explained the importance of a 401k.

“Every employee in America should be contributing everything they can into a 401k every year, up to the current $18,000 maximum per person,” suggests Groeschen.

“401ks present an opportunity for young investors to 1) learn about investing and 2) enter the market through a relatively low-risk vehicle (depending on your allocations),” he observes.

“An additional benefit is that 401ks also allow employees to earn FREE MONEY through employer matches,” he continues. “At the very least, every employee should contribute the amount necessary to earn the employer match (usually up to 4%) otherwise, you are giving up the opportunity to earn FREE MONEY. Earning FREE MONEY from your employer that is TAX FREE is much more important than having an extra Starbucks latte every day.”

Whether we like it or not, money is a core aspect of our daily lives. It should never be the most important thing, but we cannot deny that it is, in fact, an important thing. It’s tricky to learn, but investing in my future has become a priority.

This editorial was first published in May 2018.

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Opinion Editorials

Dopamine detox to rewire your brain from internet addiction (it’s common!)

(EDITORIAL) So, you’re addicted to the internet. Whether your drug of choice is scrolling, posting, or interacting – it’s time for a dopamine detox.



Upside down photo of man holding iphone case saying "social media seriously harms your mental health" representing dopamine.

Ah, smartphones. The best friend we can carry around in our pockets. This small device that’s nearly glued to our hands gives us instant access to many worlds.

It’s exciting to see what’s up on Instagram, take up to six stabs at Wordle, and scroll recipes you’ll never make on Pinterest. It’s also a place where we can share the highlights of our life and, in return, get validation through likes.

With that validation comes a small rush of dopamine, something we’ve all become accustomed – and some of us addicted – to.

While I’m not addicted to posting, I would say I have an addiction to scrolling. I can’t make it through a 50-minute episode of “Dexter” without picking up my phone to check an app or two.

And there is that dopamine rush with it, where you feel like you’re the most up-to-date you’ve ever been. But what about when this becomes too much and we’re overloaded with information and feel bogged down by the constant updates?

First, we need to understand what dopamine is.

It’s a neurotransmitter that works in two spots in the brain: first, its production helps us begin movement and speech. Second, we feel it when we receive or expect a reward. It even creates a kind of “high” similar to what’s found in nicotine and cocaine.

So, if we expect these dopamine hits from social media and we don’t get those results, the dopamine crashes to the ground creating burnout.

Well, this can cause burnout. And, while tempting, the solution isn’t as easy as just deleting all of your social media and walking away clean. Additionally, “take a break” features are too easy to swipe away.

So what can you do?

Mana Ionescu at Lightspan Digital recommends a Dopamine Detox.

While breaking an addiction takes longer than a day, Ionescu recommends starting there and tailoring it to your needs.

Here is what she describes is necessary for a detox:

  1. Turn off all notifications on your phone. ALL of them. You will be looking at your phone every 10 minutes as it is. You won’t miss anything. We lose endless hours of productivity because of those pings.
  2. Tell people to call you if it’s urgent. And teach them the difference between urgent and important. So do keep call notifications on.
  3. Stop over-messaging. The more you message, the more you’ll get responses.
  4. Shed the pressure to respond right away to messages that don’t need a response right away.
  5. Take detox days. Nothing but calls, confirming meetings, and using the GPS is allowed on those days.
  6. Put your phone on sleep mode at night. You can, at least on iPhone, set permissions so that certain phone numbers can get through, in case you’re worried about mom.
  7. If you’re dating, remember that texting is for laughing, flirting, and confirming plans. Please pick up the phone and talk to that person to get to know them. I will not take you seriously if you just keep texting.
  8. And yes, we all know the game, whoever looks at their phone first over dinner picks up the bill.

This won’t be easy, but your brain will likely thank you in the long run. And, when you’re back online, hit up the comments and let us know how the detox went!

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