Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Emigrant's Dilemma, Chapter 7: Day Of Zen

After I posted here yesterday, I headed down to the Bar Vert Anglais, a great bar where a bunch of expats hang out, which also has affordable drinks and nice staff. I'd agreed to meet Etienne, a guy from Montpellier I'd met in Berlin when he was an architectural student (he's now an architect: see, education works!), there, and I knew Bart would be there, as well as a few other people I'd met in March.

And sure enough, there they were, with a few other people. There was Lou, who appears on Bart's blog as Blonde Lesbian, and in mine as the woman who cooked the second decent hamburger I'd had in Europe (her restaurant, like the place, Banana Republic, in Copenhagen, where I'd had my first decent Euroburger, is long gone), Sam the carpenter (who's going to get some work from me, since me + tools = disaster), and a bunch more. A silent guy I'd met briefly appeared with what looked like a large, unstable pizza, plopped it down on the table, and disappeared for a moment, returning with more stuff. He'd just given us a huge stack of charcuterie (coldcuts to you Americans, Aufschnitte to you Germans), plus a brilliantly-ripe Époisses, another ripe cheese that wasn't quite as complex, and a blue that made me remember that that village of Roquefort is nearby. Plus some sliced baguette. He then disappeared into the bar to watch the game.

I told my tale of woe: no luck with the agency, the idiotic escrow demand, and everyone went off at once. "Don't use an agency! I know that one: they're the worst in town! It's word of mouth you want; it's the only way to get a place here." Well, I said, let the mouths form some words. I told them what I was after and cell phones came out, buttons were pressed, and messages left. A guy walked out of the bar and surveyed the scene outside. It was Nick, the owner. "Hey," said Bart, "Nick's cousin rents apartments." So I talked to Nick. "Well, I dunno..." he said. I told him luxury wasn't the aim, but a roof over my head was. Nothing fancy, just big enough for all my crap. "Hmmm. I'll see what I can do. Come back tomorrow at l'heure apéro, around 6, and I'll see what I can do. I bet I can come up with something."

So there I was: good company, good food, and an evening that was warming up nicely. Again, I realized why I wanted to be here.

I left after a couple of hours to dine (yes, there will be the customary after-journey wrapup of food, but not just now), and thought, hey, this might just work.

So this morning's Yahoo horoscope basically said that only a good attitude would get me what I wanted, but not if I had any doubts. I was stymied as to a way forward: the morning e-mail had a turn-down from the only private ad I'd been able to find ("Sorry, already rented. Good luck!") and I had all day til Nick showed up at the bar. I did a bit of work, then sauntered into town with no particular plan. One thing I knew was that I'd need a telephone when I moved, so I checked FNAC and priced some. FNAC has an interesting detail: all of their prices include an eco-tax for the packaging, so that the more packaging something has, the more tax you pay. Very nice. Then I went to the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, a big green space nearby, and had lunch. After that I figured I'd go back to the hotel and work some more.

I got to the Bar Vert Anglais at around 6 and found Bart there. Nick was nowhere in sight, but I'd learned last night that his dad is sick, and he might be preoccupied, but I left a message with one of the bartenders and he called to no avail. I sat down and ordered an apéro.

It occurred to me that this was the first nice day in a while, and that I should just surrender to the rhythm of the place. Let it happen. Eventually Andy, an Irish musician and IT specialist showed up, then Sam the carpenter. "Hey," said Sam, "remember that place I told you about? I should give you the guy's number." So I wrote it down. He called him. No answer. "He's a flight attendant, so his phone's probably turned off." Okay.

Nick didn't show up. I found myself not concerned. This was good.

Eventually, I was hungry, so I paid my bill and went off in search of dinner. I looked at the streets as I walked. I suddenly had a strange feeliing. It was optimism. This is going to work out.

I have an interesting business meeting tomorrow around lunch time. I'm told Nick will almnost certainly be in around 4. I'm going to try the flight attendant again tomorrow. And I'm sure I'll connect with Nick while I'm here. If I have to come back in a week, so be it, although the annual dance festival will be going, and there might not be hotel rooms.

I won't panic. I'll find an apartment. I didn't find it today, but there are two more days. The sun is shining, it's warm, and the smell of melons as I pass vegetable stands is intoxicating.

I've walked over a threshhold. And tomorrow is another day. And it's Andy's turn for charcuterie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ed, glad to hear it. Really hope you manage to make this work. Fingers crossed.