Maxed out 

A Comedy of Errors: Part III

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As promised, no math this week. But to recap, the foundation I've tried to lay so far in this comedy of errors is this: just because it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it ain't necessarily a duck. A condo hotel unit is priced more like a residential condo than a commercial hotel room and therefore, from an investment point of view, bears about as much resemblance to a hotel as a duck does to a rabbit.

After the US Civil War, carpetbaggers from the North descended on the South like Christians invading the Muslim Infidels during the Holy Crusades. Theirs was an adventure based on plunder, wealth and power. Their weapons of choice were rigged laws and bogus tax assessments they used to cheat the defeated southerners out of pretty much the only thing they had left - their land.

With the power of corrupt law enforcement behind them, the carpetbaggers encountered little real opposition. One story, possibly apocryphal, was told about an unctuous little weasel named O'Malley who roamed the hill country of the Virginias duping the locals out of ancestral land lying atop valuable coal deposits.

O'Malley was oily and duplicitous and had more tricks for cheating a man out of his land than street hustlers have for shaking spare change out of tourists in New Orleans. Sometimes he'd pretend to be their friend and front them the tax money they didn't have, only to foreclose a short time later on the incomprehensible mortgage they'd signed. Sometimes he'd tell them bold lies of future riches and get them to partner with him under terms that soon led to O'Malley owning the land outright.

His favourite ruse though was to insult the landowner, to needle the man until, in red-faced frustration, he'd smite the scoundrel a mighty blow. Of course, O'Malley was always accompanied by a paid-off sheriff's deputy who, witnessing this violent assault, arrested the assailant and let the wheels of justice grind him down to inevitable bankruptcy.

On the last day of O'Malley's life, he was angling for one of the prettiest patches of hill country he'd ever seen. The semi-literate hillbilly who owned it traced his claim back several generations to pioneering stock. He was tall and lanky and, like all remote hill people, suspicious of strangers and taciturn in their presence. He'd sold off enough timber and tobacco to raise the cash to pay the newfangled tax bill and he'd turned down an offer to partner with O'Malley.

So O'Malley was deep into insulting the close-mouthed man when his life came to an end. He'd run down his land, thoroughly demeaned the ramshackle house his family called home, called his wife ugly, his children stupid and suggested his mother may not have enjoyed the blessings of a sanctified marriage. The landowner had sat stonefaced through O'Malley's tirade, calmly smoking a corncob pipe and ignoring the increasingly frustrated little man.

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