The real purpose of this trip, wandering the romantic hills notwithstanding, was to see Montpellier again and see if I could get a more realistic impression of what it'd be like to live there. I'm not quite sure how I expected to do this, but certainly seeing other neighborhoods than the historic center (where I admit I still would prefer to live), checking out rental prices and coordinating them against the neighborhoods they are in, and looking for goods and services was a part of it.
The first thing we did was hit the new tourist information center at one edge of the Comédie square and pick up the tourist map (which is downloadable as a PDF file here (get the "Grand Plan Touristique"). That gave me some inspiration for wandering, but I must admit I was seduced first by the amazing Biennale of Contemporary Chinese Art, which is spread across a number of venues in the city. I really wish I'd taken notes, but since this was a spur-of-the-moment decision, I didn't bring along anything to write with, and I'm afraid the names of the individual artists blurred together in my head. (I blame, among other things, the heat.) I firmly agreed, though, with the jury's choice for first place, an astonishing installation telling a complex story in impressionistic form through dozens of video screens and thousands of photographs pasted on every surface of the room. We stayed there looking at it for at least 20 minutes. The sheer breadth of approaches was breathtaking, and it was extremely gratifying to find such a world-class show in what I'd been told over and over was a provincial city. If you're anywhere in the neighborhood before this closes on October 2, it's worth the afternoon.
I also poked into some neighborhoods in the center I hadn't seen before, and got a better idea of where the tram-line they're putting in runs, got a sense of what happens at night, and generally stuck my nose here and there. No great revelations, but a growing sense that yes, there are limits to what's there, and no, I'm not overly bothered by that at the moment. At least there seem to be resources there, and the overwhelming feeling of poverty that hangs over Berlin is missing. I also ran into the possibility of a project I could get involved with immediately, but I share the actor's superstition (telling your friends you auditioned for Hamlet and think you got the part is the surest way for the director to lose your phone number) about talking too soon, and so all I can say is, watch this spot.
But between the markets, the easy-going atmosphere, the incessant sunshine (300 days a year, says the propaganda), and watching the body language of the people around me -- so much more at home in their bodies, it seems to me, than Berliners are -- I became even more convinced that this is a change I need to make.
Many, many problems lie ahead to be solved. One thing the drive convinced me of was that renting a truck and doing it myself (with help from friends, of course) wasn't going to happen. I was just too fried at the end of a day's drive to want to do it in a large, heavy truck with all I own in it. I have no idea how much movers cost here, but I need to find out. I'm going to have to make at least a couple more visits before the move happens, to find an apartment and partially furnish it, to open a bank account and get telephone and electrical service and all.
And this is going to take money. I don't, currently, have that money, although work seems to be picking up, and rumors of work are in the air, even though it's August, but I'm reluctant to sit down and try to add all of this up, because I'm afraid the end figure will scare me. There have been setbacks, too: the proposed sale of my San Francisco poster collection started with a couple of prime ones up on eBay which attracted not a single bid. (Nor did any of the other desirable posters the woman who's handling my stuff put up at the same time get any; she figures it's just a bad time of year). I was hoping to have them sold by now, unfortunately. And I still have to pay for living here, paying my back rent, keeping my bills paid, and putting food on the table. It's not going to be easy, and yet the challenge, and the goal in front of me, is what's keeping me going. I'm going to do this. I have no idea how I'm going to do it, but I am, dammit!
Okay, I'm packing the travel slides now, so you can stop yawning. Next time I post, I'll be back to talking about Berlin. Gotta be here now, like the man said.