I think I just dropped my property value.

Genius of all geniuses, I took my labor pains of Labor Day all the way down to the Apple Store to remedy the Great Toshiba MP3 Player Incident of 2007 — meaning I dropped it and it broke — with a little bit of upper-crust, 80-gig iPod love. Sure, there were warnings from the likes of the nearly departed Jason Ferguson that I "should wait, because they're going to announce new ones this week and the price might go down," but nooooo, that wasn't good enough for me. It would be like a house without liquor, a bottle without pills, a shoe without Odor-Eaters if I were to prolong the agony of not being able to hear "Harper Valley P.T.A." whenever the Barbara Eden whimsy arose. And then, with only a pinch of speculative Apple-head warning, it happened. I lost again.

"The 80-gig iPods will now be referred to as the ‘iPod Classic,'" aged the MSNBC anchor, who was clearly laughing at me. "The price will be reduced by $100."

I'm a lesser man! Or is that a lessor man?

On tonight's price-reduction docket is an absurd endeavor of similar devaluation: an open house/cocktail party for the "rental community" intended to open the lofty doors of the Vue at Lake Eola to those who don't have time (er, money or credit) for a mortgage. With the real estate market currently on suicide watch, I figure it might be a good venue in which to commiserate with similar dried fruits of diminishing returns. Or at least to jump off a balcony.

"I don't want to go!" I pod into my non-iPhone. "I want to DIE!"

"Oh, it'll be fun!" Tony Toshibas. "I'll pretend I'm a Chicago entrepreneur interested in renting something for my clients that's not as tawdry as a room at the Hyatt, I'll sniff at the $2,000 rent and say words like ‘prohibitive,' and we'll leave in a huff!"

Oh, that does sound fun.

By the time we finally reach the party — it's not actually at the Vue, nor is it actually a party, which means we're both late and early — my acquiescence has morphed into antipathy. A gaggle of streaky-blond fembots with real estate breasts ("a business investment," chirps Tony) are doing their best smiling-shark impersonations, circling around the crowd of about three couples, batting their eyelids to conceal the dollar signs in their pupils. "Did you guys get invitations?" fins one in our direction.

"Uh, yeah," I fidget. "This is my friend Tony from out of town. He's interested in renting."

"Oh, so you're interested in buying."

"Oh, no. I already own a house downtown," I curt, richly. "And a plane."

None of it sounds convincing, but we're in the door, soon being offered the decidedly middle-brow fare of cheap chardonnay and Heineken and being pointed in the direction of a table with burrito parts and nachos. You know, rental food.

"So, tell me about what you're looking for," a blond hair flutters.

"Well …" and here's where Tony turns into God on skis … "I run an outsider's extreme-sports media enterprise out of Chicago. You know, because the West Coast is so overdone. And we're looking at branching out into Orlando. The wakeboarding's big here, right?"

"Oh, yeah," eyes glaze over.

What follows is the full sales pitch, via tag-team fembots, which, I should say, is beyond beyond: There will be art commissioned for the lobby, a fingerprint identification system, a conference room, a media room with reclining chairs, high-end retail, a patisserie, a "supper club," an Olympic-size pool, a tennis court; self-contained existence at its coffin best, and you'll be able to transmit something like 48 gigabytes of information into your life in half a second.

"Wow, you're like a living, breathing hard drive," I pod again. "A fancy new iPod!"

"Actually, we're a prototype for Progress Energy," lips purse. "And over here will be the pet area so you don't have to worry about walking."

"So who cleans it up?" I shit.

"You do," hair straightens. "But there's a drainage system so it never stinks."

Tony does his best to keep listening to the stink while I admire the glass-encased replica of the high-rise, replete with tiny little suicide figures waving from the balconies, and just as I imagine one of them (probably named Billy) bouncing off the tennis court on top of the parking garage, the flatulence of a real estate lie permeates the room.

"The developer bought these 38 units and he wants to rent them out," eyes blink. "You know, a nest egg for his retirement."

"Wow, you're not like the rest of the failing condo market, then, huh?" I fart, too.

"No," pupils dilate. "You should do a story about us."

Should I?

Anyway, about 10 hot minutes later, we're at the Apple Store with my iPod dangling in an Apple scrotum, waiting in line with the rest of the unhappy world.

"I bought this two days ago!" I plead while being pulled out of line for appearances. "Don't you think somebody could have told me? I'm a writer for the Weekly, you know. We write about these things."


"OK, bring it back on Saturday and we'll give you a new Classic one and your $100 back," my new favorite Apple-head, Devin, relents. "I'll take care of the restocking fee."

I think I've just picked up my property value.

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