domenica, aprile 12, 2015

Schadenfreude from the source

Well, Germany is not Belgium. Things have been much easier here than there so far, despite the relative language handicap I've got relative to Brussels. Most everything that doesn't involve German delivery men, who I think are recruited from some sort of scum somewhere so primordial that its origin must be from a separate genesis-of-life event, has been happening smoothly and on time - tax and social security excepted but hey . . . this is Europe. If that was going smoothly, it wouldn't be Europe.

It wouldn't be anywhere, I suppose, besides Australia, and even there it's descending into chaos - the runaround with Centrelink over my Family Tax Benefit has been retarded enough that it makes me question if the rebates were with it, which I suppose is the point.

I still follow Australian news, though less and less, and saw with schadenfreude that such benefits are being cancelled for families that refuse vaccinations. In L_____ many of our more intimate acquaintances belonged to a discrete group of massage therapists, homeopaths, and wives so dedicated to their houses that it threw me violently up against the wall of exactly how fucking socially retrograde hippies are, which I'd been suspecting for years, but whatever. . . where was I?

Right, I think I might have mentioned the time we were at a big Christmas party with all of them, which was basically Godzilla's debutante party - he was three or four weeks old, so short of his first round of vaccinations. And it came out that all of the little rugrats running around and practically licking my baby had never been and would never be vaccinated - two of them came down with whooping cough just weeks later, luckily when they were old enough to not be in serious danger (which Godzilla would not have been), and unluckily at the right time to really kick out the legs of the older one, who'd already been struggling at school and then missed weeks together . . . lost track of what I was going on about again.

Right. Anyways, these social retrograde single income families were so dependent on family tax benefits because of that single income-dom that I wonder how their firm persuasion not to let their children be vaccinated, that they really tried to rhetorically clobber us with at that party (perhaps noticing how I started trying to physically shield Godzilla from any microbes in the air), is running up against their incomes.

I would like to subtly inquire, but we started peeling off from them socially, uncoincidentally at exactly that time, and have spoken to exactly one of them since we left town. So there's no way to come out of the blue at this point and subtly ask "hey, how are your dumbfuck opinions that you were willing to prioritize over your and my children's safety holding up against your annual income falling by thousands of dollars?" Nevertheless I enjoy thinking about it.

In less vicious good news . . . it's springtime here and so very, very beautiful . . . I love it here. I've even chosen the graveyard where I'd like to be buried eventually if my dream funeral of being chopped into pieces and fed to birds in a final act of charity turns out to be impractical. We're moving into our more permanent apartment in a few weeks, which is good - it's a pretty nice apartment and at the moment we're coming up on two months in the temporary glorified studio, which is beginning to challenge our mutual affection. Unfortunately it means at least three more attempted encounters with German deliverymen. Oh well. Maybe it's an unsubtle way to encourage car ownership and all those passels of assholes are actually lovely people. 

giovedì, marzo 05, 2015

Poor low-level sociopathic parasite

I've lived, in the sense of had long-term rental contracts, in six countries, all with their own way of doing real estate, and I can say one thing without doubt; if you would like to meet a certain kind of scum of the earth anywhere on earth you happen to find yourself - the low-level sociopathic parasite kind - go to a rental real estate agency. I'm not saying all rental real estate agents are scummy - I'm just saying rental real estate agencies are probably the right places to find scummy people of the low-level sociopathic parasitic kind.

I've been lucky in generally living in places where I could shift to talk the language a bit, which, stunningly, includes here. My German isn't going to win any awards anytime soon, but it's adequate to get sold to and as a consequence it seems we have been able to rent directly from a landlord, as has usually been the case. The only place I've had to use an agency was Australia, where I've been on both sides of the coin, and been most disgusted with scummy parasitism as a landlord rather than a tenant.

Anyways, as I mentioned, we seem to have found a place to live which is a direct rental from the landlord. The contract is signed, I've transferred the deposit and first month's rent, and I have some keys, and I still can't quite believe it, because of that thing about how much Germans complain, and how much we were told it would be impossible to find a place as foreigners,

When we chose this place - which I think I also can't quite believe we've got because it's quite lovely and 200 euros below our budget - we'd been looking at another place, an agency rental. In fact we'd been there twice. And when I told the agent for it we'd taken something else, he was quite indignant we had made him go there twice, and that we had asked him to talk to the landlord over whether he would be flexible about including the two parking spots in the lease (we don't have a car anymore, so . . .)

This agent stands to make Euro 2,400 off of whatever tenant signs the lease on this place . . . and he was bitching about having to have a conversation with the landlord and visit an apartment twice after putting it on a real estate website. Euro 2,400. That's much more than a month's pay for most people here. And that was too much work for him.

Wow.

That's not the real issue, of course, which he couldn't talk about, I suppose because he thinks we don't know about it. The real issue is that German real estate law is about to change, in an effort to throw the brakes on runaway rental costs here - as of next month agencies aren't going to be able to charge tenants fees anymore, and will have to charge landlords instead. And that means landlords just won't use them, because in most of the cities here, this is totally a landlord's market right now, and all they have to do is put a sign in the window (which is what ours did). Which means that rental real estate agents are about to feel a pinch and have about three more weeks to cash in.

I guess when the agent heard our shitty Anglo accents and saw my financial records in our "application" package for this place . . . he saw euro signs . . . the last he's likely to see for awhile, since any tenant who can help it (which we aren't - the three of us are living in a glorified furnished studio that the lease runs out on in April, and we are all ready for violence) will wait a few weeks to start looking. Probably already spent it in his head.

I kind of feel sorry for him. 

mercoledì, marzo 04, 2015

Meeting my match

First of all, readers, if you haven't given me up for dead: some  news. I'm in love with Cologne. Our second day here was the local Carnival parade, and we got pelted with bagfuls of candy while everybody dressed up, like some awesome version of Halloween where the city turns into a street party instead of children having to walk door to door like suckers, or even worse what I hear they do these days - no trick or treating and having inside-parties instead. More about me loving Cologne later.

What is striking me as particularly interesting is how painless everything has been so far when Germans have been endlessly insisting to us how completely and inevitably painful everything was going to be. Godzilla is going to a very nice daycare, though there are "no" daycare places (granted I did apply for it almost a year ago). He was accepted at four different and awesome forest kindergartens (granted I did apply to nine, and most of them a couple of years ago), though there are "no" kindergarten places. We seem to have found a really lovely permanent apartment we are signing for tonight, though there are "no" apartments to be found, and agencies have been gagging to get us into others (granted German law is about to change to make agency fees payable by landlords instead of tenants, and new rent controls are coming in, in three weeks, and we are willing to take it up the ass by taking a place now, before the lease on our temporary place runs out).

I am facing three possibilities:

1. We are almost frighteningly lucky and indebted to fate
2. Everything we have managed so far is on the cusp of falling through at the last moment
3. GERMANS COMPLAIN SO FUCKING MUCH.

The F-word, who has lived here in the past and is amused at how I've been girding myself up for Belgian-level bureaucratic insanity that has not yet come, vouches for the third. He says that's why everything is so good here - the sheer weight of complaints waiting behind fragile dams, flooding through when anything slips even slightly below standard. And yes. Everything is good here. Except the weather, and even that has been a refreshing change from 40 degree days and sun that can kill you. All the same, I'm leaning toward two, myself. Three years in Belgium - basically I take nothing for granted anymore until I'm holding it in my hand. I'll let you know what happens.

Of course, dear readers, if you have followed any part of the last however many years of this blog, you will have some notion that if the F-word is correct, and what is happening now is evidence of Germans complaining SO FUCKING MUCH, it makes me love the place even more, because if complaining is the hallmark of this culture, then this culture has the same hallmark as my soul. 

giovedì, febbraio 12, 2015

Outties

Now that the day is here, it . . . nah, it still feels like it took forever to come.

Probably because we were in Shepparton for the last week of our time in Australia and things came to a head between the F-word and his father. What a fucking week that just was. I actually lost the hearing in my right ear for most of it. Sometimes psychosomatics really work out for me. Half-deafness was fairly unpleasant in most ways but at the same time I really understood why old deaf people resist hearing aids so vociferously. It is marvellous to have an excuse to not listen to the shit people say. Almost tempting - almost worth learning sign for. My main regret would be not hearing Godzilla anymore, who is becoming more lovely all the time.

Unfortunately I had my ear irrigated yesterday, just in time for the fucking fireworks and waterworks this morning. I have never heard so much garbage, in such a compressed amount of time, from a person I'm meant to have respect for. And I'm not writing that in anger but in shock and pity. Words like avalanches, avalanches of utter and utterly heartfelt rubbish, and a level of accountability-denial that is utterly wasted on a foolish, silly, breathtakingly rude old man when it could be earning thousands of dollars a minute with a law degree hung around it.

Fuck. I'm only starting to get excited about leaving now, as we enter single-digits of hours until the plane is due to board . . . mostly I've just been relieved we're leaving and I don't have to see and deal with this anymore. It's mental illness - whatever the causes, it's mental illness and it's infuriating and painful, like every serious illness. And since I don't love or or even fondness for the man suffering all over us, it's hard to get from pity to compassion. 

lunedì, dicembre 29, 2014

Good Lord, but how can we all avoid being Catholic when Christmas can be so purgatorial?

Oh, thank heavens that I've now wrapped up what is quite likely to be the last Christmas I'll ever spend in the fucking Antipodes. What a bunch of bullshit it is here. And no, it's not the weather. Singapore is a fucking steamroom full of heathens, and they do Christmas right there. It's just so fucking ocker-half-assed-bullshit. Every shitty little string of lights and dime-store tinsel barely decorating some fucking overpriced shop full of the world's factory seconds is like a fucking knife in the heart.

Fuck. This. Place.

Also, in-laws. The F-word has a lovely step-father who is all into Christmas and without him I'd find Christmas with the rest of the F-word's family unbearable. Of course, without him, having found the first Christmas unbearable with the rest of the F-word's family (with precisely seven exceptions) I would have started insisting we have "destination" Christmases in various interesting and exciting Asian countries, and that would have been awesome.

But then that would have precluded our second Christmas here happening, during which the F-word had a major conflagration with ten close family members that has shaped up into looking permanent. Which would have been - bad? Good? I don't know. I'm certainly not unhappy about not having to ever see those pieces of work again. No matter whether it's good or bad, though, in general in terms of our time in Australia, we've reached the limit of the benefit that the F-word can expect to reap by facing up to the ongoing problems he has always had with almost all of his family - indeed we've reached a point where he is just shaking his head over them, while I'm struggling to not physically tear physical heads from physical bodies.

(Our third Christmas was alone with a one-month-old baby up in the tropics, which was more or less as it sounds - too busy bonding, cuddling and sleeping to notice much. Our fourth was a slightly less purgatorial version of this one just past. And this one just past Christmas - well, thank heaven it was the last. The F-word is the only person in his father's family that the F-word's father still has a relationship with after many bitter fights and fallings-out. That would make it so ironic if the F-word's old lady - that is, I - would be the person who would finally snap and throttle him.)

BTW, Australia has given me asthma, which is sort of shitty, but at least it means I should be able to get my marijuana on prescription from now on. Merry Christmas to me.