Archive for May 2010

May 24, 2010

oh my God! I COULD NAME HIM PIRATE!!! ‘Pirate’! ‘Pirate’? I could name him Pirate the Puppy!!!


Help Wanted

May 12, 2010

I think I’m developing a dependance on classified ads.

I trawl their polluted waters obsessively looking for things that could make my life better. That bookshelf I need…that kitchen shelf I need…a new flat? A sublet for a friend…a job with a reliable income…

I don’t look for love online. Not yet at least. I still attach a stigma to it. Shelving: yes/ companionship: no. I prefer the thought of a lonely future to the cold clamminess of online romance. I like people to come recommended. I don’t take easy to strangers; but that’s another story…suffice to say ‘the devil you know…‘ will always be preferable to the devil who sent you a fake photo and lives in his parents’ basement.

Now that I’m looking for a new flat I find that I check Craigslist and obsessively, the way someone might tap their foot on the floor while doing something else. My fingers automatically type their htmls into the address bar if I hesitate for even a moment, forgetting what I originally wanted to do online.

I know that part of the reward feeling comes from the fact that it’s a hunt, essentially. If I get there early enough, if I am diligent enough checking the listings–if I relentlessly chase the wildabeast that is my new flat as it darts away from me across the plains and force it eventually into the river so that I can leisurely trawl the banks waiting for it to tire and swim back to shore, exhausted–if I do all that then I will be rewarded with a fat, tender flat for dinner.
Yes, it’s rough out here on the classified plains.

When I’ve exhausted the flat search I amble almost without thinking over to the furniture listings. I’ve needed another bookshelf for about six months now–I just keep waiting; waiting for the right one to expose itself in a vulnerable moment. When that happens I will leap upon it–unrelenting in my courteousness as I inquire as to it’s availability. When it comes to classifieds, I shoot to kill.

I have helped friends coming through Berlin find their sublets on several occasions. I react to their requests for help like a police dog given a scent to follow. They may or may not choose to go with one of the flats with which I present them, but they acknowledge my diligence. A pat on the head, that’s all I ask.

Last weekend I realized that the hunter and hunted had changed sides. A listings poacher had me in his sights.

The man was advertising an unusually reasonably-priced flat in my neighborhood, and referred in his ad to specific features of the area that only someone who has spent time around here would know. I answered his ad and asked to see the flat, at which point he tried to hustle me into an agreement and asked that I send the first month’s rent to him in England where he claimed his ‘church’ had been moved as he and his family were ‘missionaries.’ He wanted it sent by Western Union (poor little Western Union–their business is a byword for thievery if ever there was one!)
Best of all, when I wrote to clarify that I would neither agree to anything nor pay any money before I’d had the chance to see the flat in person, he chided me for being sceptical of him. Flowery paragraphs waxed poetic on thievery as anathema to him as a ‘Man of God‘ and one who understood ‘how hard people work for their money‘ at that. In a nice little dig, doubtless intended to shake my confidence in the matter, he intimated that a person who finds herself unable to trust another betrays a lack of ability to trust herself!

Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t looking for a spiritual counsellor. Politely omitting mention of his variously flawed logic; spelling; and approach to business & thieving I ended the correspondance by telling him I’d found somewhere else to live. I even wished him and his family all the best in England. When you walk the mean streets of the classifieds, I find it pays to play nice. Every bear knows that you catch more flies with honey…than…your gaping jaws lined with sharp bear-teeth I guess. Really I’ve never heard that expression finished.

A Name And A Nickname To Go Along With It

May 10, 2010

Ok, ok! So I was thinking ‘Atticus’ for a boy dog. Like Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird? Except that you never hear that name anywhere else and it’s such a lovely name and it would kind of make one want to hug and cuddle the bearer of the name because Gregory Peck is so noble and wonderful in that film that a cute creature with that name would have everything in the world going for it.

And then I was thinking if ever that felt a little formal, you could just call him Sugarpaws! SUGARPAWS! It would be like you were back in the 1930s or something and it was Chicago and here’s this sweet little dog and you’re in the mob and everyone in the mob uses nicknames so your dog gets one too and you call it Sugarpaws!

Maybe in the next place I live they’ll let me have a dog and then I’ll really get to use one of these names for real, huh?

A Visa For Everywhere I Want To Be?

May 9, 2010

From the time I was little I wanted to move to Europe. I mean–I say this–but then again, I also wanted to be a clown and a check-out girl at a grocery store (for a brief time in the 80s we went to one where they whizzed through the store on roller skates–no shit I wanted that job). Anyway, so moving to Europe was one of those things that I thought I wanted, but I’ve never really trusted what I wanted (shall we open this psychological door? nah…).

When I question this idea–like, what exactly about moving to Europe seemed appealing even as a small child?–I can’t really come up with a good answer. It probably seemed about as good an idea as growing up to be pretty or staying up late; something vaguely adult to do that would lead me in the right direction, style-wise.
I think that in a lot of ways I never really thought I’d do it. I distinctly remember that up until very recently I strongly disliked the idea of a vacation because of the implication that one must come back. The idea, or indeed, the fact of returning from a place where you visited  (and would like to have stayed) has always struck me as being so pedestrian. I remember my grandmother often remarking on our return from trips here and there that it was nice to go away but that she was glad to be home. I think–especially when she would volunteer this as my own sentiment after asking about some trip I’d taken–that it was for her a very reflexive attempt to whitewash any sadness or feeling of nostalgia for the place I had just been. Grammy has handled way more in her life than I can conceive of in mine, and she’s earned her right to do a little whitewashing. Nevertheless I hated that sentiment with all my heart. Why the insistence that where we came from was better than where we went? The compulsion to whitewash I’ve come to understand better over time, but that sentiment rankles me still.

So 3 years ago, after leaving a bad social situation in Toronto and spending a few months in Saint John with my parents to earn money and mentally regroup, I came to Europe. It seemed like many of the best people I knew were here, and if nothing else it would be a prime time to do some travelling while I had friends & family to visit and stay with.
After 7 months I settled in Berlin, and have lived here since then–May 2007
(incidentally, I have often given thanks for the shit that I got mired in in Toronto for making me feel so wretched that I felt compelled to leave the continent).

Tomorrow I go for my visa meeting at the foreigner’s office. This will be my third time since November. Normally I only have to go once a year, but due to changes in the system, I have been rejected for a visa twice now. I am confident that this time I have the sufficient documents, but then, I thought that before, too…

Everything about the experience of the foreigner’s office is strange. It’s strange sitting across the desk from a stranger who has the power to up-end your whole life. It’s strange standing in line at 8am with a 100 other immigrants eyeing each other as we stand in our best clothes and feeling like you’re competing with them for the favour of a bunch of ill-aired bureaucrats. It’s strange to think that as someone from a privileged background and a first-world country I could find myself competing with someone who has nowhere to go if Germany turns them down. It’s strange to find myself having to defend my own experience of this process as unpleasant and at times demoralizing on the basis of the fact that I’m a white, blond girl from a rich country and therefore (according to the logic of the immigration lawyer with whom I found myself arguing) it would seem, incapable of having such an experience–at least not in a context where gender wasn’t the defining factor.
So yes, it’s strange–I’ve made my point.

These weren’t the things my 4-year old self imagined when I thought of moving to Europe. I suspect that the Roman Coliseum and, probably, sheep factored more heavily into my imaginings than badly-maintained socialist architecture housing worse-off civil servants who get their coffee from a button.

All the same I submit to the process because 3 years on I am still enamoured of this place. The appeal can be as basic as the cuisine; peasant food–not unlike what I grew up with, but with 500 years more screwing around to get the recipes right–and every major city has it’s own damn sausage! How can you deny transmunicipal sausage profiles? Or the fact that I can just get on a train, and–theoretically–go anywhere from Lisbon to Asia! It may as well be around the corner! I may not do it but that’s OK, because even home is now somewhere to be discovered. Indeed, the most compelling aspect of it all may be the fact that I’ve finally gone away and kept on going.