Ghost of Deals Past

Spin Till It Flies.

Tailpipe has seen them wandering the South Florida streets, ghostly figures with darting eyes. The Real Estate Agents. They were once sprightly lads and lasses, pressed and polished, riding their Beemers euphorically along the crest of the real estate boom. Now, they plod the avenues, haunted by falling sales, searching for that fabled oasis: a marketable 2/2 or a condo that's hot.

Fortunately, there's first aid for these lost souls from the Florida Association of Realtors, which represents more than 145,000 housing middlemen in the Sunshine State. No matter how bad the news, FAR can find an "expert" to raise the agent's spirits. Interest rates are still low. There's a market of delectable choices out there. Sell a house, because prices never go down!

These are direct quotes from recent FAR press releases, including the hard facts and the tortured explanations from FAR experts:

Bad News: First-quarter 2006 home sales down 20 percent compared to the same quarter last year (May 15)

Expert: "The rate of increase in unit prices continued on the upswing." — David Scott, University of Central Florida finance professor

Bad News: March 2006 home sales down 22 percent compared to the same month last year (April 25)

Expert: "People feel they are wasting their money by renting and are ready to buy, and mortgage rates remain favorable." — Norka M. Diaz, president of the Realtor Association of Miami-Dade County

Bad News: February 2006 home sales down 20 percent compared to the same month last year (March 23)

Expert: "With so many arts and leisure activities, who wouldn't want to live here?" — Kay Seitzinger, president of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors

Bad News: January 2006 home sales down 19 percent compared to the same month last year (February 28)

Expert:"Now that buyers are seeing more choices [in homes on the market], it's even more important for both buyers and sellers to seek advice from real estate professionals." — FAR President Mike Dooley

And remember, the 'Pipe adds, a little attention to curb appeal clears all hurdles.

An Internal Affair

Watch out, coppers: Your brothers and sisters in blue are some of the most rabidly loose-lipped rumormongers in South Florida. Nothing they love more than poking fun at their colleagues who carry guns and badges.

Lately, Broward's lawmen have been talking about a road patrol deputy in the Broward Sheriff's Office's Pompano Beach division who joined the force in January 2004.

The story is that the officer had recently partaken of a night of partying at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. He met a couple of young ladies at the Native Americans' little party oasis on U.S. 441 and, according to the story, took them home. And that's all he remembers — or so the story goes. He awoke the next morning to find his gun, badge, and car missing, fellow cops say.

"You don't leave your gun and badge out in front of people you just met," says one veteran police officer familiar with the case. "That's unacceptable."

One of Broward's finest falling for that old ladies-of-the-night routine? Hey, big boy, let's you and us have a party at your place. Then, while you and Thelma get comfy on the couch, Louise rustles up a potent Mickey Finn. Didn't they teach you about that one at the academy?

Seeking confirmation of this wild case, Tailpipe broadcast an APB on BSO's official media channel.

Sheriff's spokesman Elliot Cohen responded. "The deputy has been suspended pending an Internal Affairs investigation," Cohen confirmed.

Just the facts, sir.

"I can't provide any additional information," Cohen told the 'Pipe. "But I will say that the details you provided — it didn't happen exactly like that." The officer himself could not be reached for comment.

Tailpipe will have to wait a few weeks, maybe a few months, to get the exact story details from Internal Affairs.

Leave the Family Jewels at Home

June 1 marks the official kickoff of what promises to be yet another rollicking hurricane season. Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Dennis, Katrina, Wilma — we all know the roll call of the past two seasons. And just about anyone who got stuck drinking warm beer in the cloudless days after those monsters knows the drill of lining up for a taste of the public dole. Lately, though, the communal ritual has been impugned by dogged Palm Beach Post investigators, who note that the state has no clue how many of the 700,000 Floridians who lined up for food stamps after Wilma "needed" the money. Many, the newspaper reported, arrived "in brand-new Land Rovers, Volvos, Priuses, Jaguars and Hummers."

Tailpipe resents the implication that Floridians should either take handouts or indulge in conspicuous consumption, but not both. Here are some tips for having your cake and puttin' on the dog the next time a storm demolishes the infrastructure:

If you're driving, say, a Mercedes GL SUV when you arrive to claim your food stamps, do everyone a favor and park at least a block away. Then ride your Segway the rest of the way. Nothing says hardship like a vehicle that lacks even a windshield.

Roll up the sleeves of your blue Gucci dress shirt as you wait. It provides a touch of the common man, and besides, no one in this line would appreciate the stitching on the French cuffs anyway.

After you receive your rations, it's customary to sample the food on-site and to compliment the volunteers. "I've had no better," you might say, "since my personal chef accompanied me to my chalet in Lausanne." Mention of cool locales will raise staff morale.

Wink at your county benefactors and say a little prayer that postal delivery doesn't resume any time soon. Any excuse to put off paying your platinum card until your trust fund payment kicks in, eh, old boy?

From the Gonads

When it comes to pithiness, former Miami New Times writer Steve Almond has always cranked it out like horsepower on a NASCAR track. Almond made a few waves recently when he resigned his teaching position at Boston College in protest over the school's choice of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker.

Almond has always had a way of telling it straight up, and the 'Pipe fondly recalls his classic piece from 1994 about the life of H. Wayne Huizenga, the garbage-collection-to-Marlins-owning mogul. The story opens with the 22-year-old Huizenga, then a door-to-door salesman of sorts, coming to blows with an unwitting customer. Huizenga managed to grab and twist the man's testicles, actions for which a jury later awarded the homeowner $1,000 in damages.

Huizenga learned a valuable lesson from that incident, Almond concluded: "When met with resistance, don't get caught grabbing the opposition by the balls — have someone else do it."

Almond himself, however, goes for the gonads directly and succinctly, as he did in an open letter of resignation to the Catholic college published in the Boston Globe on May 12. "Simply put, Rice is a liar," he wrote. "She has lied to the American people knowingly, repeatedly, often extravagantly over the past five years, in an effort to justify a pathologically misguided foreign policy. She is a diplomat whose central allegiance is not to the democratic cause of this nation, but absolute power."

And then, the final bitter twist: "This is the woman to whom you will be bestowing an honorary degree, along with the privilege of addressing the graduating class of 2006." — As told to Edmund Newton

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