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Friday, November 30, 2007

Don't Ask. Don't Tell. Doesn't Apply in Key West

During Wednesday night's CNN-YouTube Republican Presidential Debate Retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr created quite a ruckus. He prefaced his video question by saying: “I’m a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service. And I’m a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Course, the Commanding General Staff Course and the Army War College. And I’m an openly gay man.” Then said: “I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.”

The candidates responded and you can read what they said elsewhere. But his question and the fact that he had not disclosed that he was an adviser to the Hilary Clinton Campaign caused a media stir and lots of finger pointing at CNN for not doing its homework in learning about the general's affiliation with the Clinton Campaign.

Yesterday morning the general was on the CNN's "American Morning" program and John Roberts, the newsman, not the Chief Justice, questioned him about his motivation in asking the question. It was when John Roberts asked the general about his experience as a gay man in the military, the general said “because of the generation in which I grew up, one could not reveal their sexuality.”

I knew exactly what he was saying. Men who grew up in the 1950's and 1960's just were not gay, but had secret sex with other men. Many of them married and had families and lived in denial of their sexual orientation. Those that never married were just "bachelors". Have not heard that term in years...

But in June 1969 there were a series of public disturbances that became known as the Stonewall Riots in New York City when gays stood up against police harassment. And that act of defiance made it possible for so many millions of gay people to later acknowledge that they are in fact gay. And happy.

I added the "And happy" for a reason: the perception was that a gay life was actually a life filled with tragedy. That may have been true before Stonewall, because as the general pointed out that in his generation people could not reveal their sexuality. But 38 1/2 years after Stonewall people all over the world are openly gay to some extent or another. Some places are more receptive to gay people like large cosmopolitan cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Paris,and Berlin. But gays are in rural areas as well. They are probably just less visible.

Key West is a small town with a cosmopolitan attitude if there ever was one. It is not necessary for a gay man or woman to create any illusion about his or her sexual identity here. If you are a gay man living in Key West you do not have to keep your sexual orientation a secret. The City of Key West has five separate ordinances dealing with non discrimination based on sexual orientation, equality of human rights, discrimination in employment, housing, and AIDs discrimination. So it is okay to be gay in Key West. And beyond Public Policy there is the plain sense of community that we are one family that pervades our little town. I think there are as many straight people with the famous "One Human Family" sticker on their cars or scooters as gays or lesbians.

But in Key West it does not matter. To those of you who are looking to move to some place where it is okay to be gay consider Key West as your possible new home. My only regret about moving to Key West is that it took me so long to get here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What you can buy for $500,000 or less

Up north, in America, you can buy a pretty fancy home or condo if you have $500,000 to spend.

Since the housing market in Key West has taken its downward turn the prices on some single family homes and condos have become more affordable. So I thought I would share my search of homes and condos in the Old Town, Casa Marina, and Meadows Area with you.

To be concise: there ain't much. CLICK HERE to see the single family homes under $500,000. I have omitted some that are just plain awful or have really bad locations.

CLICK HERE to checkout the condos and townhomes in the same areas referenced above. There are two condos worth mentioning. Unit #298 at Shipyard in the Truman Annex is priced at $500,000 or $735 per sq ft. It is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath second floor unit with 680 sq. ft. and looks typical of the units available there. It can be legally rented on a transient basis. Other units have recently sold between $550,000 and $580,000 so this price is fairly good. CLICK HERE for the full info on this unit.

The townhome at Lionsgate 1118 Olivia CLICK HERE looks very interesting. This is a free standing single family home that is integrated into The Lionsgate Compound of similar homes that share a common pool and community area. CLICK HERE for more photos and info. This unit is priced at $485,000 or $700 per sq ft. (for basically a single family home in a great Old Town location with parking and the the use of a pool).

If you see something you like, give me a call. I'd love to help you find your affordable home in Paradise. Call Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

313 William Street -- Old Town Mansion

Just Listed: 313 William Street, Old Town Mansion. This award winning house was fully renovated/restored in 2005. The main house has 3 bedrooms 2 luxury bathrooms, library, an outstanding kitchen with gourmet appliances. Across the back of the house is a glorious covered porch that spans 34' X 16' with ample seating and views of the pool, outdoor kitchen and gardens. Beyond the pool is a cottage with sleeping loft and is kitchen ready.(Separate access and approved plans to enlarge). There are all new mechanical systems: plumbing, electrical, air conditioning. The house is wired for audio /visual, computer and cable and runs with efficiency. This is a one of a kind house that accommodates a garden party for 200 just as intimately as it welcomes a couple or family for a quiet evening on the front porch. CLICK HERE for more info on 313 William Street.

The house is on one of the best streets in Key West and it is located a stones throw from the Historic Key West Seaport. If you are a boater, you can be at your boat within a five minute walk from your front door. Likewise, you can walk to the restaurants and nightlife on Duval within a 5-7 minute walk.

Part of the Joy of living is Key West is the ability to take in as many of the events that make this little island such a joy. And this location and this historic house in particular, would make your life in Paradise just a little more joyous.

If you cannot afford the $4,275,000 asking price ($1497 per sq ft) there are lots of other homes that are not quite so expensive. CLICK HERE to checkout the Key West mls website to find the home or business that meets your needs. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing of properties that interest you.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Key West Investment Property

Just Listed: 513 Olivia Street Key West, Fl. Two story legal duplex in Old Town and just 1/2 block off of Duval Street.

Just a few steps from Duval sits this great conch house with a secluded pool and gardens. This historic duplex is an ideal income or owner-occupied property. The exposed Dade Pine walls accent a beautiful upstairs owner's unit with one bedroom and one bath. The downstairs unit has two bedrooms and one bath and opens to the rear gardens and pool. There are upstairs and downstairs porches that lend themselves to people watching or relaxing with a good book and your favorite beverage. This property is a possible transient rental license receiver location. CLICK HERE for more info and pics of this property.

The area is densely populated with other transient rental units. And its proximity to Duval lends itself to use as a transient rental operation. I would suggest any potential investor checkout the websites of several companies that rent units in the area to see what kind of income a new owner could expect to achieve after a couple of years in the business. THIS 2 BEDROOM ON OLIVIA rents for $6080 to $7500 per month during season. THIS ONE BEDROOM @ DUVAL SQUARE rents for $3320 to $4100 during season.

CLICK HERE to do your own search of the Key West MLS website where you can checkout all residential and commercial listings. Then call Gary Thomas at 305.766.2642 to schedule a showing.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Keys in the News--Again

The International Herald Tribune has an item in the November 21st issue entitled Florida Keys at a crossroad between locals and the rich. CLICK HERE to read the entire article. (About 5 minutes reading time.)

The author's main premise is that the character of island living has been changing as a result of Keys' population and popularity increases over the years which lead to more structures being built on limited amount of land. This in turn caused two social changes: (one) the demise of the Keys' laissez-faire lifestyle "where it once was possible for almost anyone — retirees and fishermen, hippies and lost souls — to move here with a little money, in search of paradise" and (two) the price of housing to rise disproportionately to the rest of South Florida. The author then reports about the loss of the egalitarian lifestyle of the Keys and the emergence of a class conflict between "the obscenely rich and their servants".

Read the article because most of what the author wrote is true. I have previously written about my dissatisfaction over the change in the character of Key West and the redevelopment of too many high priced hotel rooms and high end condos. A lot of us bemoan the loss of Atlantic Shores as an example. It will be reincarnated as an expensive oceanfront condo. I have also written about the number of over-priced new condos that have been built but not sold because they are priced too high for this market. I am not sure that I agree that there is a class conflict between the rich and their servant, however. But there most certainly is a financial disparity.

I used to live in Denver and traveled up to Aspen frequently. I watched the same phenomenon occur there. The town is now almost entirely elite. The workers live down valley and commute everyday. And even the down valley towns such as Basalt have become high priced as well. The scenery and skiing in Aspen is one of a kind.

Key West used to be unique because of its' sub-tropical climate and laissez-faire lifestyle. The climate is still the same, but many of us fear that too much of Key West will turn into a Disney-like caricature of itself. And if that happens, well that would be a real shame.

The tourists are starting to return and Christmas decorations are appearing all over town. So in spite of high prices and the demise of our culture (lol) I'd like to end by saying Happy Thanksgiving to you readers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Cujo OREO, that's what I called the condo I foreclosed on about 25 years ago for a bank in Denver. I used to do commercial loan workouts, commercial litigation, and property acquired by the bank through foreclosure (OREO or "other real estate owned"). The homeowner defaulted on the loan a year earlier. Another asset manager in the same department had started to foreclose the property and then dropped the ball. He left the bank and I inherited some of his problem loans including this one.

I reviewed the file and determined that the condo had been vacant for more than a year. I drove to the property to verify my suspicions but saw the place was fully furnished and I could see a dog moving about inside. I went back to my office and verified with the Public Service Company (the electric utility company) that service was terminated a year earlier. I called the condo association and learned that water had definitely been shut off a year earlier for non-payment of association fees. So I filed an a lawsuit in Denver District Court and got appointed as a Receiver to preserve the property during the foreclosure process.

With Court Order in hand I went back to the condo with a locksmith who got me inside. There was a cat that disappeared from view as soon as we entered and the dog was not to be seen. But evidence of the dog's existence was everywhere as there was poop on all three floors of the condo. Poop and urine everywhere--even on the walls where the dog did his business. The house reeked. The smell was overwhelming.

But the place was not vacant. There was a baby grand piano in the living room, a formal dining room table and breakfront, three fully furnished bedrooms, pots and pans in the kitchen, and clothes in all of the closets. There were remnants of burnt candles all over the place with candle wax on tabletops. There were empty plastic milk cartons that had been used to deliver water to the animals that got to live in the condo.

I saw what I thought was a pool of dried blood in one of the second floor baths and called the police. It wasn't blood. Use your imagination. One of the officers refused to go into the basement. There was so much feces on the floor that it was disgusting beyond your wildest imagination. Stephen King could not have written a more horrific tale of a foreclosure from hell. In fact I named the "asset" Cujo OREO because if reminded me of King's novel of the dog from hell. Foreclosures are always named for the owner who was foreclosed upon, but this time the asset was named to commemorate a dog of a foreclosure.

We literally had to tear our the bottom four feet of drywall throughout the condo to get rid of the urine. We had to remove the floors down to the floor joists because the urine had penetrated the plywood flooring.

Banks often have no choice but to foreclose on a loan. In good times most properties sell, but not all. If they don't sell it is usually because the price is too high or there is something wrong with the property. Lenders typically don't get a chance to see what the inside of a property looks like until after the foreclosure is over. Cujo was the worst, but there were many that were almost as bad. Some people purposefully damage their former homes as much as possible just to make the resale more difficult. There were others, however, that cleaned their homes and even left notes on how to make things work.

You are asking yourself why I wrote about a foreclosure in a distant place and a long time ago. Well if you happen to wake up in the middle of the night and watch some of the crap on TV about how you can make a bunch of money by buying foreclosed property without any effort you may think twice before you buy something unseen at a public auction. If the former owner could have sold the house he normally would have. The axiom "location, location, location" applies to the sale of foreclosed properties as much as it does to premium properties. Good sells. Crap does not sell.

Want to buy a foreclosure? A bank owns THIS ONE. The former owner bought it 3 years ago for $555,000. It is priced at $345,000 today. It is located on Frances Street near Eaton. I've seen better construction, but the price is "affordable" by Key West standards. The 932 sq ft abode has 2 bedrooms,1 bath, and could be fixed up fairly economically. There is a little upside on this one. The bank is the loser for sure. If you are thinking of buying a foreclosed property, give me a call and let me help you. I know dogs. 305-766-2642.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cheap Seats

One of the good things to occur as a result of the downturn in the real estate market in Key West is that single family homes in Old Town are more affordable. I just did a search of homes priced under $600,000. CLICK HERE to view the details on the homes. I used the strict criteria as to boundary lines: Duval East to White and Truman North to the Gulf of Mexico. No Bahama Village, Meadows or quasi-Casa Marina.

There are six homes that made the cut. The least expensive is a 1 bed, 1 bath 594 sq ft home priced at$450,000. The median home is a 3bed, 1 bath with 717 sq ft priced at $539,000. The most expensive is a 3bed, 2 bath with 1,638 sq ft priced at $599,900.

The house at 405 Frances needs lots of work. It is located across the street from a guest house, and it is just off Eaton Street. At $296 per sq ft it may seem a bargain to some. I think the price is still too high given the negatives.

I previously wrote about 730 Passover Lane. It is a cute little cottage just off the Key West Cemetery. It is priced at $1010 per sq ft. There is no pool and no room for a pool. It doesn't have off street parking, but that is not an issue since parking is not a problem given the location. I like the location, but the market does not.

630 Olivia Street is a cute cigar maker's cottage with a good sized backyard that has been updated. It is priced at $838 per sq ft. There is room for a pool. It is two blocks off Duval and the neighborhood is a mix of high and low priced properties. The house is situated on a one way street that is mostly used by locals. There are some absolutely charming homes in the area, but the area has never performed as well as other parts of Old Town as far as sales go.

The house at 5 Hunts Lane is priced at $499,000 or $412 per sq ft. Cheap yes, deal no. House needs lots of work. I love lane life, but this is a walking lane meaning you cannot drive your can down it to unpack groceries, etc. Everything you do in life has to be carted from some other location to the house. So your cost to remodel will be higher than other locations. There is no room for a pool so whatever outside life you want will be diminished.

527 Bahama Street is another problem property. It was tremendously overpriced when I showed it 3 years ago. You are basically buying the right to spend a fortune of renovate a small house on a 744 sq ft lot. Not a lot of space. And the location is worse. The house is basically adjacent to the downtown Faustos' parking lot.

Then there is 1116 Eaton Street. It is the little charmer located across the street from Strunk Ace Hardware. Price reduced to $450,000 or $670 per sq ft. And it is listed below appraised value. Cute 2 bedroom 1 bath Conch house with heated swimming pool. Perfect Key West retreat in Old Town. This little cottage has a rooftop sunning deck to get that perfect tan! The house did flood during Wilma.

At least two of the above properties are in or near foreclosure so there may be some flexibility on pricing. I know you can buy a bigger house in better condition in some other location. But then you would not be buying that house in Key West.

The weather here is absolutely wonderful right now. The days are warm but not horrible. The nights are cool, but not cold. The trees that flower are starting to bloom again. The recent rains have made everything come alive. Yes, you can buy cheap seats elsewhere, but who wants to live elsewhere?

You can perform your own search of all Key West homes by CLICKING HERE to search the Key West mls real estate listings. If you see something that strikes your fancy, please call Gary Thomas at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Key West Waterfront Single Family Home

Key West Waterfront Single Family Home. Imagine that. Do you have any idea how many people dream of owning such an animal. But they don't exist. Well, there are a few, but only a few. There are lots of condos and some town homes with water views, but very few homes. That is one reason I decided to mention this one at 100-2 Eaton Street in Truman Annex and just steps away from the Historic Old Town area.

Rare opportunity to own a freestanding single family waterfront home in Key West in the gated community of Truman Annex. This two story home has classic Key West style architecture, 3 or 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, private heated pool with spa/waterfall and spectacular unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico and those famous Key West sunsets. Additional features include recently installed hurricane resistant windows & doors, elevator, whole house sound system & parking for 2 cars including a carport with storage. The second floor living area has an open floor plan with vaulted ceilings & multiple sets of French doors to a deck with incredible water views. CLICK HERE for more info and photos.

The property was originally listed in December 2006 at $2,395,000 and has been just reduced to the asking price of $1,995,000 or $1086 per sq ft for the 1819 sq ft house. The lot is 3688 sq ft and like I said, it has dead-on water views.

CLICK HERE to see what else is available in the price range of $1,875,000 to $1,999,000. You will see other homes that are more architecturally interesting or more historic, but you will not find any with a better view. So if waterfront view is in your search criteria, this home may interest you.

You can perform your own search of all Key West homes by CLICKING HERE to search the Key West mls real estate listings. If you see something that strikes your fancy, please call Gary Thomas at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

1110 Curry Lane

I have often recommended that second home buyers purchase a home on one of Key West's quiet lanes. GO HERE to read about Key West lane life.

This delightful Conch Cottage tucked away on at 1110 Curry Lane in Old Town Key West just got more affordable. The seller has reduced the asking price to $1,095,000 or $907 per sq ft. The 2 bed, 2 bath home has 1207 sq ft of living space and sits on a 2321 sq ft lot. Curry Lane runs east-west between Frances and White Streets. The homes are compact and the lane is ultra-charming. There are two corner grocery stores within two blocks. And Duval is but a 7 minute walk.

The cottage has been lovingly restored to maintain all the character and charm you'd expect to find such as Dade pine walls, Georgia heart pine floors and beautiful attention to detail. The floor plan is open and spacious and offers indoor/outdoor living amid privacy. There are two bedrooms and two full baths plus a chef friendly kitchen with soapstone countertop and generous amenities. Outdoors you can enjoy the river rock lagoon pool, outdoor shower and lush landscaping. Relax on the front porch with a cool beverage and a good book. Off-street parking for small car. CLICK HERE for more info and photos.

If you have read this blog for very long you know that certain words signify things I think make a Key West home a good buy. The paragraph above is overflowing with those words. This is a home worth your inspection. Give me a call to arrange a showing: 305-766-2642.

Friday, November 16, 2007


"chutzpa" noun
(Yiddish) unbelievable gall; insolence; audacity

The house at 1224 Duval Street was just listed at $5.9 million. I don't know who has more chutzpa the owner or the listing Realtor. I watched the renovation of this house since 2003. It was a long and arduous process. The property appears from the street and the attached photos to be very special. But I cannot fathom how anyone could justify an asking price of $2,657.66 per square foot for a house on Duval. CLICK HERE for the full details.

These are the facts as told by the listing office "Stately home with transient license on world famous Duval Street, just completely restored to its former grandeur. Viva on Duval also includes two homes, 1227 and 1229 Duval Street, one, is a two bedroom two bath with transient license and the 2nd on the corner of United and Duval, is a commercial space, with possible conversion to a home with two bedrooms, two baths and transient license. This grand property is being offered turnkey with all new well appointed furniture/furnishings and the web site for Viva on Duval. Two pools, lots of off street parking, and a separate office with storage complete this is a one of a kind property in Old Town Key West."

There are bunch of photos at VIVA ON DUVAL.

Back on January 16th I wrote about Home Ego-Nomics Key West Style. I think what I wrote back then is right on when you look at the price for this property. I'd love to sell you or anybody else this property. The commission would be great. But there is no rational way to justify this kind of price for a single family home on a busy street that may be used for transient rental purposes. If you have $6 million that you want to spend, give me a call.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sweet William Cottage

The sweetest cottage in the very best Old town location!!! This circa 1887 conch classic has a wonderful outdoor covered porch with private garden and bricked driveway. There are extensive architectural plans for the renovation of this home which are included in this price.

The cottage is only 753 square feet at present, but it sits on a large 4560 square foot lot (46' x 100') so there is ample room for expansion. The present cottage has 2 bedrooms and one bath and is priced at $879,000 or $1,167 per sq ft. That price may seem high for today's market, but this cottage at 608 William Street really has what second home buyers look for in a Key West home: location, charm, and room to expand. CLICK HERE for more info and pictures.

CLICK HERE to see the next door neighbor's house. This house is a Key West landmark and has been in the same family for ages. The owner is an older woman who has no intention in selling, and the house will pass to her son at some future time. Broadway impresario Jerry Herman renovated a neighboring home a few years back. CLICK HERE to view.

CLICK HERE to search the Key West Association of Realtor's mls listings. Then call Gary Thomas at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing of 608 William or any other property in Key West. There may be cute little conch cottage in your future.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Harbour Place

There are seven distinct communities at Truman Annex, and the one with the Million Dollar View is Harbour Place.

This third floor 2 bed, 2 1/2 bath unit with 1260 sq ft of living space is affordably priced at $899,000 or $713 per sq. ft. CLICK HERE for more info and photographs.

You can view radiant sunsets and the famous Key West waterfront from your personal balcony. This beautiful unit has been tastefully furnished so you can move right in and enjoy everything this property has to offer. Harbour Place is a secure building located directly on the Key West waterfront. There is a large pool, beautifully maintained grounds, and designated covered parking and storage. One more thing: this unit can be transiently rented as part of an agreement with the City of Key West.

You can search all of the Key West and Lower Florida Keys mls listings by CLICKING HERE. Then call Gary Thomas, yours truly, at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing. Who knows you may find a cool condo at an affordable price just ripe for the picking. Don't miss an opportunity to buy at a good price before the market takes off again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

510 Fleming Street -- Commercial Deal

Do you remember the old days when you could leave the door to your house unlocked all the time and not worry about somebody committing a Home Invasion? I do. And for the most part Key West is still the kind of place where you can leave your house unlocked and not worry about somebody coming inside without an invitation. A friend recently entered her teenage son in a New England Prep School and told him that he would have to start locking his door to protect his things. This, she said, came as a total shock to her son. He had never thought of anybody needing to lock something up.

Remember the old days when a merchant lived above his store. I actually do. There was a small grocery called Eddie's Red & White a corner from my grandmother's house. Eddie and the Mrs. lived upstairs. I want to write a book about that memory someday. But that is another story.

Anyway, there is a nifty little commercial and residential duplex just steps off Duval at 510 Fleming Street. The commercial space downstairs is about 390 square feet. The upstairs residential is a 410 square foot apartment. The property is now listed at $595,000 or just $735 per sq ft. The zoning is HRCC3. CLICK HERE for more pics and info on this little piece of yesteryear.

Monday, November 12, 2007

730 Passover Lane Key West, Florida

730 Passover Lane is another sweet little Key West treasure just waiting for a new owner. This one bedroom one bath home is situated on a quiet Old Town lane with a delightful front porch, private rear garden with a pond and an outdoor shower, skylights, vaulted ceilings, sleeping loft, built-in cabinetry, pickled hardwood floors, and an airy and open kitchen featuring granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances.

In case you can't tell from the photos, 730 Passover Lane is located across the street from the Key West Cemetery. I swear I'm not being cheeky, but you couldn't ask for a quieter location or one with more long term stability. The cemetery is not going anywhere--ever. So the view is preserved. There will be no tall condos or hotel going in there. There won't be any late night parties with noisy neighbors or loud music. There will never be a parking issue either since the other residences on this block all have their own parking.

I love the bright sunny sky that shines on this little house. So many areas of Old Town are enclosed by huge trees. Not this little casa. It looks onto the bright skies and exudes a genuine bright and open feeling to all who enter. The rear area on the other hand is very contained and private.

This little treasure is offered at $599,900.

CLICK HERE to checkout all current Key West mls listings./ Then call Gary Thomas at 305-766-2642 to see 730 Passover Lane or any other little treasure in Key West.


The information on this site is for discussion purposes only. Under no circumstances does this information constitute a recommendation to buy or sell securities, assets, real estate, or otherwise. Information has not been verified, is not guaranteed, and is subject to change.


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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.