It appears that the money is now in place for me to get an apartment in Montpellier when I get there the week of June 16. I've been ransacking the Montpellier equivalents of the website that got me the place I'm in now, and have actually found two apartments that look good, although one of them, I believe, was vacant when I was there in March, which is a bit ominous. But nobody's putting up the students' apartments yet, so I'm sure I'm just seeing the tip of what'll be a huge iceberg once I get there.
And, although nothing's signed yet, I should probably be looking for someone to take over the lease here. It's listed as a 2 1/2 room place, around 60 m2, but if someone wants to work on the loft-bed frame in the smallest room, which isn't as sturdy as it ought to be, and is also incomplete, you could actually fit three single people in here. Gas heat, although none in the room I use as a living room and office because the guy who turned on the heat in the kitchen and bedroom couldn't get it to work and then never showed up again. But the landlord's said he wants to hook this place up to the central heating anyway. At the moment, of course, it doesn't matter. Neighborhood couldn't be nicer; there are yuppies moving in, but there are also a lot of young American, German, and French hipster-types living around the 'hood, and a ferment of cultural activity, including a literary magazine being published by a couple of Americans out of this very building. The downside is that the apartment doesn't get a lot of light, and that gets a bit oppressive in the winter. Gas stove, which is pretty unusual -- and a real boon for those who like to cook -- and the refrigerator and washing machine are going with me, because, well, they're mine. Rent is €430, and you'll have to take over my €500 deposit. Available July, exact date uncertain. Tell your friends, send an e-mail if you're interested and set up a time to look at it.
I'm not sure what the exact legal requirements are -- I once heard something about my having to present three candidates -- but I'm pretty sure that if you want it and I want you to have it, you'll get it.
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And with the prospect of leaving the city I've lived in for almost 15 years, naturally comes a bit of trepidation. I know this place, I'm somewhat identified with it (dang, I'm going to have to get new e-mail addresses!), and I've got a nice network of friends at the moment (although I'm sure that a sizeable proportion of them will, like the others I've had, move on after a while in frustration). I expressed this ambivalence to a friend, who wrote back that he understood perfectly; this often happens to men in prison, who find the life inside easier to cope with than life outside. Okay, that worked. I'll start packing.
There was a very good article by Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times this week which ostensibly dealt with the fate of Tempelhof Airport, but also had some excellent insight into Berlin that, for once, didn't sound like the paper was trying to offload some Prenzlauer Berg real estate. As the story moves from the hard news of the "referendum" on Tempelhof, it makes telling comments on the inability of the city to get anything done about, seemingly, anything, and its almost knee-jerk negative reaction to any kind of change. The reference to the destruction of the Palast der Republik despite its ongoing viability is telling, and the reference to the new Schloss -- if it ever manages to get built, which is looking unlikely at the moment -- as "a forthcoming Potemkin village and a sad excuse for a showpiece in a city that prides itself on its cultural sophistication," is dead-on. Berlin desperately wants that cultural sophistication, but it expects others to actually produce it, offering no help in the form of subsidies or venues. It starves the avant-garde which made it famous in the immediate post-unification days in favor of maintaining three major (and at least one minor) opera house and has shut down every major avant-garde musical venue in the city. And Kimmelman's right on the mark in zinging Berlin for "provincial megalomania," and comparing the situation at Tempelhof with the destruction of New York's Penn Station. Read it, particularly between the lines.
I'm happy to be flying one last time out of Tempelhof on June 5, because I agree with Kimmelman about how nice it is. And no, where I'm moving has nothing like Berlin's cultural scene. But then, increasingly, neither does Berlin.
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There's a car I've been seeing parked around my neighborhood with a great sign in its back window. There's a heart, a peace sign, and what looks like a stick figure hoisting a barbell with one arm. In English, under each glyph, it says "Make Love," "No War," and "Wear Glasses." It's an ad for an optician, and every time I've seen it, I've said "Man, if I ever need glasses, that's where I'm going." Then, last Sunday after a day at the horse races at Hoppegarten (with very possibly the worst selection of nags I've ever seen there, which is really saying something), a screw fell out of the post of my very nice Ray Bans. Hardly a major operation, but, I thought, the perfect excuse to hand over a couple of euros to Mr. Love/War/Glasses.
Haven't seen the car since, of course.