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A Real Estate Fish Story

A Real Estate Agent, A Fish and A Death Wish

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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.

I wear several hats: My mink fedora real estate hat belongs to Sotheby’s International Realty on the world famous Sunset Strip. I’M not world famous, but I've garnered a few Top Producer credits along the way. I also wear a coonskin writer's cap with an arrow through it, having written a few novels and screenplays and scored a few awards there, too. (The arrow was from a tasteless critic.) My sequined turban is my thespian hat for my roles on stage, and in film and television, Dahling. You can check me out in all my infamy at LinkedIn, LAhomesite.com, SherlockOfHomes, IMDB or you can shoot arrows at my head via email. I can take it.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  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.. https://bit.ly/NjWpw

  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

5 ways to grow your entrepreneur business without shaming others

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) We all need support as business owners. Let’s talk ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur that do not include shaming your competition.

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Entrepreneur women all talking around a meeting table.

The year 2020 has forced everyone to re-assess their priorities and given us the most uncertain set of circumstances we have lived through. For businesses and entrepreneurs, they were faced with having to confront new business scenarios quickly. Maybe your entrepreneur business was set to thrive as behaviors changed (maybe you already offered contactless products and services). Or, you were forced to add virtual components or find new revenue streams – immediately. This has been tough.

Every single person is having a hard time with the adjustments and most likely at different stages than others. We’re at the 6-month mark, and each of our timelines are going to look different. Our emotions have greeted us differently too, whether we have felt relief, grief, excitement, fear, hope, determination, or just plain exhaustion.

Now that we are participating in life a bit more virtually than in 2019, this is a good time to re-visit the pros and cons of the influence of technology and marketing outreach online. It’s also a great time to throw old entrepreneur rules out the window and create a better sense of community where you can.

Here’s an alluring article, “Now Is Not the Time for ‘Mom Shaming’”, that gives an example from about a decade ago of how the popularity of mommy bloggers grew by women sharing their parenting “hacks”, tips, or even recipes and crafting ideas via online posts and blogs. As the blog entries grew, so did other moms comparing themselves and/or feeling inadequate. Some of the responses were natural and some may have been coming from a place of defensiveness. Moms are not alone in looking for resources, articles, materials, and friends to tell us we’re doing ok. We just need to be told “You are doing fine.”

Luckily, some moms in Connecticut decided to declare an end to “Mom Wars” and created a photo shoot that shared examples of how each mom had a right to their choices in parenting. It seemed to reinforce the message of, “You are doing fine.” I don’t know about you, but my recent google searches of “Is it ok to have my 3-year old go to bed with the iPad” are pretty much destined to get me in trouble with her pediatrician. I’m hoping that during a global pandemic, “I am doing fine.”

Comparing this scenario to the entrepreneur world, often times your business is your baby. You have worn many hats to keep it alive. You have built the concept and ideas, nurtured the products and services with sweat, tears, and maybe some laughs. You have spent countless hours researching, experimenting, and trying processes and marketing tactics that work for you. You have been asked to “pivot” this year like so many others (sick of that word? Me too).

Here are some ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur (or at least, ideas worth considering if you haven’t already):

  1. It’s about the questions you ask yourself. How does your product or service help or serve others (vs. solely asking how do I get more customers?) This may lead to new ideas or income streams.
  2. Consider a collaboration or a partnership – even if they seem like the competition. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb
  3. Stop inadvertently shaming the competition by critiquing what they do. It’s really obvious on your Instagram. Try changing the narrative to how you help others.
  4. Revisit the poem All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and re-visit it often. “And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”
  5. Join a community, celebrate others’ success, and try to share some positivity without being asked to do so. Ideas include: Likes/endorsements, recommendations on LinkedIn for your vendor contacts, positive Google or Yelp reviews for fellow small business owners.

It seems like we really could use more kindness and empathy right now. So what if we look for the help and support of others in our entrepreneurial universe versus comparing and defending our different way of doing things?

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Opinion Editorials

Can we combat grind culture and injustice with a nap?

(OPINION EDITORIALS) A global pandemic and a climate of racial injustice may require fresh thinking and a new approach from what grind culture has taught us.

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Sleeping cat with plant, fighting grind culture.

Information is delivered to us at warp speed with access to television, radio, and the internet (and more specifically, social media). We are inundated with messages. Oftentimes they’re personalized by something that a friend or family shared. Other times we manage them for work, school, or just keeping up with news. Many entrepreneurs already wear many hats and burn the midnight oil.

During this global pandemic, COVID-19, we have also seen a rise in awareness and attention to social injustice and systemic racism. This is not a new concept, as we all know. But it did feel like the attention was advanced exponentially by the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020. Many people and entrepreneurs felt called to action (or at least experienced self-reflection). And yet they were working at all hours to evolve their businesses to survive. All of this happening simultaneously may have felt like a struggle while they tried to figure out exactly they can do.

There are some incredible thought leaders – and with limited time, it can be as simple as checking them out on Instagram. These public figures give ideas around what to be aware of and how to make sure you are leveling up your awareness.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Center for Antiracist Research – he has been studying anti-racism and has several books and interviews that help give language to what has been happening in our country for centuries. His content also delves into why and how white people have believed they are more than people of color. Here is a great interview he did with Brené Brown on her Unlocking Us podcast.

Tamika Mallory – American activist and one of the leading organizers of the 2017 Women’s March. She has been fighting for justice to be brought upon the officers that killed Breonna Taylor on March 13. These are among other efforts around the country to push back on gun control, feminist issues, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Brené Brown – research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She has been listening and engaging on how racism and our shame intersect. She also speaks about how people can reflect on themselves and where they can take action to better our society. She has some antiracism resources on her website.

With all of this information and the change in our daily routines and work habits (or business adjustments), what is a fresh approach or possibly a new angle that you haven’t been able to consider?

There is one social channel against grind culture that may not be as well-known. At an initial glance, you may even perceive this place as a spoof Twitter and Instagram that is just telling you to take a nap. But hold on, it’s actually much smarter than that. The description says “We examine the liberating power of naps. We believe rest is a form of resistance and reparations. We install Nap Experiences. Founding in 2016.”

It might be a great time for you to check out The Nap Ministry, inspired by Tricia Hersey. White people are called to action, and people of color are expressly told to give time to taking care of themselves. Ultimately, it goes both ways – everyone needs the time to recharge and recuperate. But people of color especially are being told to value their rest more than the grind culture. Yes, you’re being told you need to manage your mental health and include self-care in your schedule.

Through The Nap Ministry, Tricia “examines rest as a form of resistance by curating safe spaces for the community to rest via Collective Napping Experiences, immersive workshops, and performance art installations.”

“In this incredibly rich offering, we speak with Tricia on the myths of grind culture, rest as resistance, and reclaiming our imaginative power through sleep. Capitalism and white supremacy have tricked us into believing that our self-worth is tied to our productivity. Tricia shares with us the revolutionary power of rest.” They have even explored embracing sleep as a political act.

Let this allow you to take a deep breath and sigh – it is a must that you take care of yourself to take care of your business as well as your customers and your community. And yes, keep your drive and desire to “get to work”. But not at your expense for the old grind culture narrative.

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Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?

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Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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