Buying a house is even worse than buying something on ebay -- you promise to pay people you've never met some exorbitant amount of money that you clearly don't have, you write a mealy-mouthed pathetic letter about how you envision spending the rest of your life in their miserable overpriced hovel and how you can tell the current owners "put a lot of love" into the place, and you promise to pay the exorbitant amount of money even if you find out a family of termites has been living there since the Spaniards settled into a small town called Yerba Buena. They read your credit report (man, never should have joined the Columbia Record Club), make fun of the picture of yourself that you attached to the packet, throw you in a stack of fifty-plus identical packets of information they've gotten from everyone else who wants the exact same place, and then just pick the person who'll give them the most money.

Or..... they? columnist Carol Lloyd's Surreal Estate column this week is about a lawsuit filed in Alameda County where a couple who lost out on a house in Fruitvale have sued for fraud, claiming that the real estate agency representing the seller, Red Oak, rejected their bid, even though it was the highest and the one with the fewest strings attached, in favor of a bid that was $7000 lower but offered by a buyer who was also represented by Red Oak. One side claims there's a conspiracy to keep sales within the Red Oak family, the other simply says that the highest offer just wasn't the best one they got (and that the losing bidder's agent had been "rude" to the Red Oak staff).

Explain again to us why this is the American dream?