Thursday, May 26, 2005

It Can Be Done

I may or may not be absent here next week, because I've signed on to sort of road-manage Carl Stone's mini-French tour. We start with a Carl solo concert at Instants Chavirés in Montreuil, a suburb of Paris, Monday evening, and then, with pi'pa player Min Xiao-Fen and shamisen player Yumiko Tanaka, we jump into a van we'll be renting and blast off for Strasbourg, where the trio will do a concert Tuesday night at the Modern Art Museum there. Then, the next day, a six-hour drive to Bourges, where I don't think I've ever been before (I did a rather frenetic driving trip about nine years ago and should have kept notes), for a concert at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des arts de Bourges. After that the trip gets somewhat unfair: I get to escort the ladies back to Montreuil on the train, and Carl gets to drive to Aix-en-Provence, where he'll surely get the best meal of the whole tour. (It's also not at all far from Montpellier).

But I have stuff to do here, including actual paying work, so I have to come back Saturday night. Anyway, once I move to France, Aix is, as I noted, just down the road.

Meanwhile, if we think back to my previous encounter with Deutsche Bahn, the following tale is interesting. I have to get to Paris on Sunday, and it's a 9-hour train ride from here, changing trains in Cologne. Unfortunately, as seems to be happening all too much these days, a huge amount of money I was owed took its sweet time getting here. It arrived yesterday, so I scurried down to the station to buy a ticket.

"Paris, on Sunday," I said to the lady behind the counter, and she looked up. "Are they giving something away in France these days? Because practically all the business I've had today is people going to France. Ah, well. Want to take a night train?" Well, no, I did that once, and been there, have the chiropractic bill, you know. Just a regular train, leaving about 10am would be fine. And there it was. "I can't get you the Sparpreis, I'm sorry," she said, looking at the screen in front of her. (This was the very bit of information the last woman failed to mention). "Yeah," I said, "I'm booking late." "Exactly. And when do you want to return?" I told her Saturday, and she typed in some more stuff. "Oh, this is bad," she said. "There are no more reservations available to Cologne." "But I can get a ticket." "Yes, but no seat." "No seat? Does that mean I have to stand?" "It's World Church Days, and everyone's going to Cologne," she said. "So the train's full." "But," I pressed her, "does that mean I have to stand?" "Maybe, I really can't say." (Today I found out that the attraction isn't so much ecumenical fellowship as that the new Pope is rumored to be attending, and he being German, everyone wants a look at him).

She wrapped things up, and even checked to see if paying €50 more for a first-class ticket to Cologne would get me a seat (answer: no), and then actually said "Sorry about the Sparpreis and the reservation. Have a good trip anyway."

Now, besides the obvious difference in attitudes, what was the difference between this woman and the old bat who'd sold me my last ticket to Paris? Easy: this one had an East German accent as thick as Griebenschmalz on a Schmalzstulle (the attraction of a slice of brown bread with lard spread on it continues to escape me, one of several reasons I've figured out I don't belong in this society). The other one was from the west.

Why should one be polite and efficient and the other hostile and dismissive? Easy: one lived in a society that took her for granted for at least the first half of her life. The second one had the postwar economic miracle providing a soft cushion for her capacious hind end and was resentful that she had to have a job. Or that's how I read it.

I'll try to log on from the road, and I'm taking my camera and connecting cable, just in case, so you can expect pictures.

And, in the chaos of departure, yesterday Et Et sent me some URLs and I did some window shopping. The Pope of Mope met him at a party, and he's an architecture student here for a year from his Montpellier. Anyway, these were real-estate search sites, and I checked on the move-in prices for some apartments in Montpellier. €5-7000 ought to do it: the sites list the move-in cost. This concrete information is now stored in my head.

Now to figure out how to raise the money.

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