domenica, dicembre 20, 2015

Books in the dark

So, thanks to the Economist and the books it reviews, shortly before the miscarriage I was introduced to this, which looks like this:

And this book about it was reviewed in the Economist.

Directly after the curettage on Friday, I had a massive energy boost, from some sort of hormonal realignment, I guess, and from no longer being pregnant. It was very welcome but one side effect was sleeplessness - not usually something I suffer from. For awhile the sleeplessness was welcome as a way to process what had and was happening but eventually it just got silly. So, I got the ebook to read in the dark on the phone. And the chord this has been striking with me is enormous.

The big deal about malambo is who does it, how they train, where they do it, and how they stop. Unlike so much professional sport and dance, it isn't a middle-class activity. It's a traditional dance normal people suffer to do professionally; a herculean training regime has to be combined with some sort of working-class lifestyle. The top competition for malambo is in Laborde, and the winner of the solo event at Laborde has to retire; if he competed and lost at another competition somewhere, he would be tarnishing the reputation of the Laborde competition.

The author of Dancing For His Life was fascinated - as was I - at the idea that winning the competition ended a career. Within the small world of malambo, you are covered in glory, and assured of a professional future as a teacher able to charge three figures for an hour of class, and since your retirement from dancing is enforced, suddenly you get four hours of your day back that you had to spend training before. But that's it. You put in a herculean effort for years, and then you are done. It's fascinating altogether, and as the Economist review highlighted, the book is a really engaging exploration of what authenticity is. But it took me a few days to figure out why it was ringing in my head as a subject so much.

The morning I went into hospital was the last time I breastfed Godzilla. I didn't want to stop even though breastfeeding had become fucking penitential. We had got to a point where we were intermittently trading a candida infection back and forth. Between that and pregnancy sensitivity, it was starting to hurt - more than it ever had since the beginning of breastfeeding. It was making me cross, and extra tired.

But I didn't want to stop. I stopped because I needed to get my estrogen levels back up after the curettage to get back on a normal cycle and help avoid scarring. Otherwise the plan had been to keep going until he stopped asking. I cried when I realized we were at the end of the line. And my body has been protesting too. After a whole week, my left boob was still sore and leaking. Godzilla caught a cold on Friday and listening to him snuffling and snoring and not being able to breastfeed him through it - which I was sure always accelerated him getting over colds and sicknesses in the past - was like a fucking knife in the heart.

But you know who hasn't been protesting? Godzilla. He is fine. He is finished. He still wants to cuddle and touch them, but he isn't asking to nurse anymore. Today he actually explained to me why he couldn't nurse anymore: "you went to the hospital, and now we can't nurse anymore to help you not get sick again." He is sleeping well. He is falling asleep faster and without fussing. He is done. Those three years got us past the finish line. We have won at nursing. And winning at nursing means never doing it again - with that kid, at least. That is fucking bittersweet. And I think that is why the whole malambo-winning-retiring thing is striking this crazy chord with me right now.

It's not just breastfeeding, of course. It's so many important things in life: winning, if it means anything, means finishing. Backing off, letting go. If we are good enough parents to Godzilla, someday he won't need us anymore: first he won't need us to take care of him, and then he won't even need us to be alive; he will be able to bury us, or feed us to birds, or whatever, and then continue to have a happy life. Writing a good book means that once it's finished, it isn't mine anymore. It belongs to the people who read it. If I have an intractable problem with someone (cough-inlaw-cough) I don't win by being better than them at fighting or being better at being a shitty person; I win by resolving my own problems with the relationship and leaving the conflict in the past.

This experience - the miscarriage and its aftermath - is teaching me something - I'm not sure what - about control, and specifically about not actually having it.

I think it is this: I cannot control the most fundamental aspects of my or anyone else's existence. No one can. If they try, they either become destructive - since choosing to be destructive is something we can control - or they close themselves in to a tiny and highly regulated world, and it still doesn't work. I can prepare for what my best guesses are for what the future will hold, and I'd be insane not to. But even the best case scenarios in a good life, in the right kind of life, involve so much surrender of control. So much acknowledging that complete control is not the best outcome. It's not even a possible outcome.

Like a malambo champion: winning doesn't mean you're the best forever. It means you're the best at one moment, and then the rest of your career, at best, is helping other people be the best. Being a good parent doesn't mean that you are the centre of your child's world forever - the person who permits them, or a lodestar whose disappearance would throw an expedition into chaos. It means loving someone enough to give them the equipment they need for their own expeditions. After awhile you're not even the base camp anymore. You're the person who taught them how to build a base camp.

And I'm starting to feel like this - thing - this lie that we tell ourselves over how possible and how desirable control is - is at the heart of the worst aspects of human society. You can find it all through history but we're at some sort of apogee now. This is how we got sold rugged individualism as an ideal life - this big fucking lie that the great truth of life is that our fate is in our own hands; that misfortune is a result of some sort of failure of will - of people not controlling their own destinies properly. That control is happiness.

giovedì, dicembre 10, 2015

The baby that isn't

The baby is gone. It died last week, without me having any idea, with no change at all for me, except me suddenly feeling less shitty and first trimestery. This is - would be? - the tail end of the first trimester, so I didn't really feel suspicious. Just relieved that the glory days of the second trimester seemed to be dawning. Oh, fuck me.

Today and tomorrow its body is being removed at the hospital. At the moment, that's what I'm fixed on, as a goal and as an idea - the removal, and not being pregnant anymore. My body still feels pregnant. Spending the day and the night crying and mourning after finding out at the gyno's yesterday morning hasn't brought my body up to speed with what's happening. I'm still ravenously hungry, still sick in the mornings, still exhausted. It's a very distressing contradiction and I need that to be over.

Otherwise, it's hard to quantify what I'm feeling. Relieved for the baby. A missed abortion and the odoema on the ultrasound indicated it probably had terrible chromosomal problems. This way it was never in distress, never alone, never in pain; just in a warm safe place and then it wasn't alive anymore, because it was a baby that just couldn't be, anymore than what it was over those 11 weeks that it was; that was all it could have and I hope it was enough for the little soul. I guess it was. My body has struggled to keep this baby. But this baby was not to be kept.

The terrible sense of loss I feel is seperate from that "this is the best thing for the baby" feeling; it's the loss of a possibility of a person that has been taken away from me. A timeline that was meant to last from next June until my own death, just gone.

I don't know what happens from here emotionally. I'm trying to be on my guard about falling into anxiety over getting pregnant again, anxiety during any future pregnancies, some sort of magnified anxiety over Godzilla's safety and well-being now that he is again for the moment an only child. Anxious over anxiety. For fuck's sake.

I have an urge to get extremely, extremely high, which I'm not going to do. I also have an urge to take a big trip somewhere - just do that running-away thing - with my family, though, which is nice; no urge to scarper. I want to go to one of the temples in Japan that allows mothers to honour their dead babies because as fucking culturally foreign as Japan and Buddhism is to me, there is NOTHING - nothing - a big fucking fat terrible cultural void - that addresses this sort of tragedy in Europe and North America, and that makes me furious.

I don't want to deal with this by myself. I resent any suggestion I should. I need help.  

martedì, dicembre 08, 2015

Making peace with Paris

Well, the first day we visited Paris, on our way to the apartment we'd rented, a young fella in the RER who was getting out at the same stop as us opened the door and then waited for me - encumbered with backpack and boy-in-stroller - to exit. "Do I know him? Does he want something?" I asked myself, and quickly corrected myself enough to muster a merci, and get a je vous en prie, or some such, before we both continued our days.

This is what living in Oz and then Germany for years has done to me - made it totally baffling when people are polite. When people have a fucking modicum, a bare goddamn minimum, of superfluous social grace. In a sense I'm not complaining because I know what chivalry is tied to in Latin culture, and I have a very intimate acquaintance with the chauvinistic flip side of courtliness, and the excellent gender relations devoid of all that in Germany is part of what made me decide to live here. But it was like a fucking holiday to go back to France, even to its rudest, nastiest, smelliest city, and have people have some fucking manners.

It was pretty awesome to be back in Paris - just straightforwardly awesome this time. It made me feel old, in a good way - that city doesn't change, I have changed a lot since my time living there, and I approve of the respective not-changes and changes. Magically the weather was good, and the food on offer fit in beautifully with my end-of-first-trimester urges - mostly avocado, steak and salmon. The food was soooooo good. And I did it justice.

I didn't notice any real change of habits or paranoia in people's behaviour after what happened three weeks ago - just more security, more cops and more guns. The local people who brought up the attacks with us asked us if we were scared, as tourists, but only seemed sad themselves. The bars and restaurants were all crowded. I don't know about the tourist destinations; the weather was too good to go inside anywhere and that wasn't what our visiting friend from Australia wanted to see. We did take her to see the crazy glass ceiling at Printemps, and the shopping district was absolutely crawling with people, as you'd expect at this time of year.

Paris to France is like New York to the US, since Muslims became the white man's boogeyman. People in Paris aren't the ones who are going to go extra paranoid about foreigners and Muslims now that this has happened, and Charlie Hebdo has happened, and more things will happen because France is a fucked up place with a fucked up, filthy history (did you notice how many of the killers were of Algerian descent? So let's go bomb Syria obvs, that's the problem here) and with a ghettoized present. Even though all those things happened and will happen in Paris.

It's the yokels, the dummies, the poor people without prospects or much to threaten in the provinces. They'll bring the FN in, while people in Paris go on having to suffer both through living in Paris - a lovely place to visit but, let's face it, a bit of a shithole - and the violence attendant on living in Paris and the ever-increasing conflict attendant on living in a place like Paris while the fascist side of French culture is becoming wholly ascendant.

We had a fucking top notch weekend, is my point, but I'm sad. 

martedì, novembre 17, 2015

The miracle of holistic motherty

Oh FUCK ME, am I sick of pre-natal yoga. First of all, I fucking hate yoga. HATE IT. It is a bullshit industry, a naive person's Pilates, monetized cultural appropriation and appropriated from one of the most viciously colonial, racist, misogynistic cultures in human history at that, and what's more FUCK DO I HATE YOGA.

It was tedious enough when I was pregnant with Godzilla but at least then I had the time and emotional energy to burn, not already having a kid running around to take care of and to not accidentally throttle when my upitty hormones got the better of me and he was messing up some sheets, or something. But now it just feels like this fucking stupid, terrible drain on my time at a time when I have no time, and energy when I have no energy. And the fucking stupid music! Oh FUCK ME do I hate it.

But if I don't do it, my back spasms to the degree that I can't do anything. The general physical and joint discomfort becomes unbearable. Because the first trimester of pregnancy is basically cancer.



Well. Time to do some yoga.

domenica, novembre 15, 2015

Guess which is which.

Well, now, everybody has turned tricolour on Facebook and gives all sorts of fucks about dead people because they're in Paris, and not Lebanon, or Iraq, or Myanmar, or under a fuckton of mud in Brazil. But it's not just about racism (though it is about racism) and not just about identifying more with the French because they have a developed economy that's familiar to us and so we understand a little better this could happen to us elsewhere in the developed world too (though it is about that) and not because we only recognize terror when it's wearing a balaclava and explosives and not a suit or uniform (though it's also about that).

 Paris has a special meaning to a lot of North Americans and Europeans. I'm guessing about half the people I know have been there, and most of the other half would like to go there. Personally, I was there for three years, and they were, you know, fucking formative sorts of years, that have left me with a love hate relationship with that place that has only really swung back toward love since I entered the middle class, because that is a shitty town to be poor in.

But even when I wasn't middle class I went to shows at the Bataclan and got falling down drunk around the Bastille and had an apartment I shared with a bunch of fucking mice a few blocks from where those restaurants got shot up and sometimes I had a really fucking good time, and I know I feel this attack differently than I feel others around the world because it happened in places I know and love, in my fashion.

Nonetheless, there are a lot of arguments for open borders and travelling as much as you can, to as many places as you can, meeting as many people as you can, and one of them - far from the most important thing but still so important - is that more places have more emotional meaning to you, more people are REAL to you, and your heart is a little more open to understanding that tragedy always deserves a response.

 So I bet you ten bucks that if you watch your conversations in the coming days, there will be a split in people's thinking about refugees coming into Europe or North America from the Middle East. The split will be between people who have never moved out of their socio-economic/cultural comfort zone, and people who have. One will react to the atrocity in Paris by calling for a shutdown in refugee intake, and the other will react by understanding that the fear and sadness they feel over what happened in Paris is the same fear and sadness that are driving millions of people to leave their homes against their will and look for a safe haven elsewhere, and that those people should be welcomed, because there is not all that much separating us.

venerdì, novembre 13, 2015

Well, how about that.

The oven is full and has been fired up.

So last time I got pregnant was pretty easy to localize in time because we had just started trying to get me pregnant, like, the day before my mum had a sudden medical emergency and I had to go from Buttfuck Nowhere Australia to Canada. However, it's a mystery to me which sexual encounter was responsible, because Godzilla is our first child so life was one big fuckfest back then, and my stress response, even to "oh god my parent may die on the other side of the planet before I can even get to Sydney airport, living in the backwoods of this fucking Antipodean infrastructureless mess blows", was to fuckfest even harder. In 36 hours there would have been a good 10 opportunities. (I know, right? Go F-word go!)

It's interesting to me that based on the last pregnancy test I did besides this morning*, which was negative, and on October 1 - assuming that wasn't a false negative - there were probably fewer opportunities for this egg to decide to try to hatch eventually. Maybe three? Three in two weeks? Lots of stress these days, fortunately nothing on par with a punctured mother, but the stress response now is to fall asleep at the same time as Godzilla and eat lots of poppyseed cake. Wow, does life ever change. And I guess it's about to change again. I can imagine a life with two children as well as I could imagine a life with one when I had none, which is - the mind boggles, and I think of my nonna who raised 11 of her own and a couple of the neighbours', and I figure we'll work something out.

Yes, I know, I'm confiding early. But I need to talk about this and think about this, and as I believe I mentioned last time, I'll need to talk and think about this even harder if it doesn't work. Especially since this time there is a new aspect of isolation - linguistic and cultural this time, instead of living in Podunk Nowhere, population A Bunch of Aussie Hippies - so even though I think my readership is down to about four, I need to write and think about it, you four guys. At least I'm closer to people who can help. At least I kind of know what I'm doing, a little, I guess.

* I wrote this post when I found out I was pregnant, like, a month ago. Life hasn't got quite that dry. 

mercoledì, settembre 23, 2015

And what now for you, fair city?

So the citizenship ceremony was happily in Berlin, and not back in Australia; I wouldn't have been looking forward to making that trip in the five days or so I would have been able to spare for it (that is, four days travelling and one becoming a citizen - Jeebus - the world is fucking big). Much more exciting to go to Berlin. And fucking eye-opening too.

When we were deciding where to live a couple of years back, Berlin was an obvious candidate, because of course Berlin was a fucking candidate. It's Berlin, and the F-word is an artist, and I'm a sensible human being, so of course I wanted to live in fucking Berlin. And one of the things Berlin had going for it is that it was cheap. When I started price-comparisoning that couple of years ago, there was no real comparison; getting a place in Berlin would have been a vastly cheaper prospect than getting one here.

Berlin got to the final three, but we decided to bank on the F-word being able to make more money in NRW as a teacher, decided that the higher rent here would get made up for by it being a lot cheaper to travel to the other parts of Europe we're most interested in travelling to (as well as out of Europe), and decided that it'd probably be better to live in a city that wasn't perpetually on the edge of bankruptcy considering we'd be sending a kid to school in it. And as much as I like it here, I wasn't sure we'd made the right decision until this weekend just past.

The thing is, we were having a lovely weekend. And though I was a little disconcerted by how it looked like the whole of Berlin was going through the final stages of a complete facelift, and at how it was impossible to find a home hardware store anywhere even sort of downtown-ish, and how the doner had gotten all crappy but there were schmancy restaurants everywhere and three organic groceries to the block, we were having such a lovely weekend that I started wondering if we had made the right decision.

After all, I reasoned, the place had gentrified, but you know what? So had I. Look at my income, look at my possessions, look at my nice new induction cooktop. My toddler wears New Balance running shoes and I have four pairs of Birkenstocks. Maybe it is time to just drop any lingering vestiges of pretence that I'm not viciously and typically middle class. Because Berlin has three or four opera companies and the Pergamon museum and, well, I like having organic groceries everywhere I go. Maybe this is the right city for me, at the right time.

And it being stuffed to the gills with other expatriates - expatriates are a nocive weed, but they're my kind of weed. Their proliferation in Berlin actually seemed attractive to me, disgusting as it was to see fresh generations of American expatriates unselfconsciously and brusquely conducting their business in English (where do you think you are, people, Amsterdam?). I had realized when we were living in Australia that there are a lot of important things I don't have in common with anyone except other migrants anymore, and a lot of other important things I only have in common with other expatriates, that absurdly privileged and bizarrely rarified subset of migrants . . . it is a strange existential trip to be an upper-income white Anglophone migrant in Europe these days with the "migrant crisis" on everyone's lips, boy . . . Anyways. I digress, badly. All that "expat" claptrap is best served another day.

To sum up, I wondered if we had made a mistake, started imagining scenarios that would see us move to Berlin, and then . . . then I looked up rental prices.

Sweet mother of fuck.

For what we are paying for a lovely, comfortable, big place in a very pleasant suburb 20 minutes by tram to the center of our city, putatively the sixth-most expensive in the country and ahead of Berlin (which is putatively the seventh), we would be living in a fucking tiny firetrap in a shitty suburb full of skinheads who'd want to kill us for our lack of Aryanitude. I'm not exagerrating. Fucking Spandau would be more expensive than where we are.

Look, I've seen this sort of shit before, sort of. I screwed myself when we moved to Australia in 2010 by negotiating my salary on 2007 cost of living figures after three of the most heated years of inflation in ages. But this was FAST. I mean, in the space of the year, all of the available rentals seem to have shot up by 50% or more. And localized to one city! None of the press coverage I've read about Berlin inflation have really captured the scale of the problem. It has been a migrant and, if you like, expat city for ages - stuffed with them - but, now? What can happen to it? With all the high-rolling economic refugees pouring in from London or wherever and spoiling the market so fast?

To sum up, summier: we dodged a bullet and I feel like the Berlin I first saw 16 years ago and even the Berlin I saw five years ago are gone for good. I don't know and can't guess what will come next. For overpriced cultural meccas, Europe has already got Paris and Amsterdam. Berlin was Berlin, and now I don't know what it is. 

lunedì, settembre 21, 2015

How to become Australian

I''m officially Australian now. I think I may have written before about my mixed emotions over becoming one, but the longer I'm out of Australia and the more my exposure to Australians is limited to expatriates, the less weird I feel about it. And on the darkest moral level of the subject, I realize I had already fully sold myself to a genocidal state structure by buying a house and earning a shitload of money there. The ceremony was just an admission.

Anyways, it was a fascinating experience. There were two other women swearing in, who I liked, whose income and age bracket were similar to mine; I assume their motivations were at least a little similar to mine too, based on the chats during the coffee-and-cookies (pardon me very fucking much, biscuits) after the ceremony. None of us had real plans to go back to Australia. One of them had also made the decision to leave God out of the proceedings and the other was annoyed that she hadn't realized that was an option.

Neither I nor the other two ladies citizening had practiced or even, apparently, heard the national anthem - "Advance Australia Fair" - ahead of time, which was rough as we had to sing it. And the established Australian guests weren't much help either. I think I have never admired a civil servant quite as much as I admired the ambassadorial staffer (a man about a decade younger than me) who had conducted the ceremony - he manfully (I rarely use that adjective in a complimentary fashion, but today I do) led the singing at a discreetly loud volume a note or two ahead of the rest of us to cover up for our complete incompetence.

Nevertheless I had a really hard time not bursting into laughter, both because being part of a room full of people pretending you know a song is one of the funniest things in the fucking universe, and because I was picturing the ambassadorial staffer at ambassador school, learning how to lead the national anthem a note or two ahead to cover up for all the Australians, fresh and established, who didn't know their own national anthem and were pretending they did. If it was "Waltzing Matilda" I - and I expect all of us - could have done better.

Godzilla was the only child there but it was a family friendly event; he was allowed to sit on my knee in the front row while I waited to pledge and he behaved himself. Mostly.

I'm quite hard-boiled about these nationalistic things but I found the ceremony a moving experience. I was partly set up to be moved this particular week, of course, by Tony Abbott being removed from government by his own party. The Coalition is the Coalition, and Malcolm Turnbull, for all his charm, is just another right-wing profiteer. (Pretty much.) But years ago - like, 2008 or something - when we decided to move to Australia, I was pleased about moving to a country whose major parties featured leaders who could express real policy decisions outside of monosyllables. Malcolm Turnbull was one of those leaders. So I can't help but be glad that he's back, especially since Tony Abbott as my national leader would have been personally embarassing.

Anyways, the F-word took pictures of the ceremony, and one of them is of me, framed by a big empty space on the wall where Tony Abbott's photo used to be, and where his replacement hasn't been put up yet. Sometimes it is schadenfreudelicious to be part of history.

mercoledì, agosto 26, 2015

Life/life balance

After five weeks back in Canada it's almost obscenely nice to be back home, and to feel like I have come back home. It's a first, actually. Going back to Australia from Canada always felt like eating a big plate of ratshit, and going back to Belgium not much better. And my peregrinations before that to Italy and France and the UK, though years long in some cases, never felt and were never planned to be permanent. Back to the F-word and to our lovely new kitchen full of fully functional appliances and excellent knives. Back to milky European air, forests, and bakeries all over the place. Back to mattresses we spent a lot of money on. Back to a place where all the problems on offer are my own, and are modest.

Some of my close family members aren't in terrific places at the moment. One is living out the end of the chapter of what could have been with his estranged child, who is suddenly grown up and leaving town; it hasn't been loud or messy, but I think the way things have turned out over the last three years has made this the great tragedy of his life - let alone the child's. It's something I used to be angry about, but now that it's resolved as a tragedy it's just unutterably sad. You can be mad at a drunk driver for causing an accident, but seeing them living with a missing limb afterwards is pretty pitiable no matter how it happened. Another close family member is going through a gruelling decision-making about where to be living, and another is dealing with the deep and fairly crippling depression of his spouse.

It could all be much worse and I'm very grateful it's not. And I'm very grateful that I was there for a good long stretch to share in these problems. But when you're out of your own element and fully in someone else's, the immersion is quite complete. It's the only way for me to do it, of course. And it's not a bad way to do it. I think I probably get more quality time with my brothers and parents than most people my age, because of these long visits. And because it's vacation time, it's fun, and doesn't feel like dragging myself dutifully to holiday get-togethers I'd rather not be at - God knows we got enough of that shit in Australia. But it is so nice, physically and emotionally, to be back in my own space, without caring any less about what's going on with my people. 

mercoledì, agosto 12, 2015

If I could torture other people half as well as I torture myself I could make a really good fucking career out of it. 

mercoledì, luglio 15, 2015


I was wondering how the flies would get in my ointment. As a basically dissatisfied person, I wondered, what will I find to be dissatisfied about here? The weather is actually enjoyable after four years of cancerous sunshine, the social protections are great and inexpensive, awesome conditions for the boy, good cost of living relative to income, forests, parks, outdoor swimming, strangers are nice to each other, etc. etc.. Everything's awesome. What am I going to find to bitch about? Anything?

It turns out that the only thing that has cropped up is that I feel uncomfortable living in a country whose politicians and population feel so comfortable holding another country's head down a toilet.

There was obviously criminal wrongdoing leading up to this situation - obviously years of Greek books being fudged, Greek businesses dodging taxes, and French and other European banks making criminally irresponsible commitments. I don't suggest it's a good thing that northern European taxpayers be on the hook to the tune of billions of euros to paper over these criminal acts and incompetencies. I do suggest it's a fucking terrible thing that Greek people suffer conditions that look like total defeat after total war in a way that will be of immense profit to private investors.

And I suggest it's utter and complete bullshit to suggest Greeks brought this on themselves, and that there is some sort of moral reason why they can't be allowed to cancel their debt. They can't cancel their debt because they're not allowed to cancel their debt. Not like Germans were allowed to cancel their debts, over and over, because who was going to stop them? Last time anyone tried to, they turned into the fucking Nazis and fucking massacred everybody. If Greeks swing to the extreme and violent right, as I am sure they will if present proposed conditions are enforced, there's just not enough of them for anyone to care.

There's no positive-looking scenario for Greece right now but what is being levered through the EU and the Greek parliament at the moment is terrible. I hope it's a joke - something nobody expects will be accepted - an unspoken way of kicking Greece out of the euro without anybody that anyone takes seriously having to explicitly say "we're kicking Greece out of the euro". Otherwise - if these machinations are meant to succeed - I think for the first time I can confidently say fuck this place.  It's a semi-socialist paradise to a pinko like me, but at the same time, it exports the most virulent and predatory aspects of its capitalists the way Saudi Arabia exports violent religious fundamentalism.

I'm still not ever leaving, though. And frankly, after four years in an actively genocidal country, it's still a moral relief. 

venerdì, luglio 10, 2015


When we bought our house in L_____, back in Aussieland, it was in a very sweet neighbourhood. A sort of oasis of old-fashion Australianness, where neighbours still made eye contact and chit-chat - preserved by virtue of the fact that the people living there were fucking old and had been living there for decades and decades.

The inevitable happened and they started dying. One next door neighbour, who was so sweet I'm pretty sure she turned into some sort of fairy godmother on her mortal demise, died in her late 80s, while we were there. Her family, also a bunch of fairy godpeople, and reasonably well-off and harmonious, screened the buyers of her house - not for cash but for niceness. They had all these emotional connections with the house, and the neighbourhood, and didn't want it to get suckier. I thought that was remarkably nice - and lucky for us.

And when we moved and rented our place out, we did something similar - not to the same extent and I suspect the Fairy Godpeople family took more of a financial hit than we did - we chose tenants who seemed like they wouldn't be a fucking burden on the neighbourhood. Of course as a landlord you do that for your own sake as well. But we're happy with the way things have been going with them.

And then the other next door neighbour - a sharp-tongued lady in her mid-90s who I was quite close to - also died. Her family sold of her house ultra-fast to investors, who rented it out ultra-fast to a bunch of fucking loud, violent, harassing pigs, and who don't want to be bothered with what fucking pigs their tenants are, despite also not wanting to be bothered to pay the 8% interest a month to get a management agency to be bothered for them - it's a private rental.

Pigs will be pigs - whatever. I get that.

What is sticking in my craw is that these cunt landlords, who live and have "artistic" white-collar jobs in an exponentially more expensive "hippy" city on the coast, are the fucking scourge of the modern economy - fucking moron middle-class jerkoffs who think investment properties are a license to print money and who settle whichever sort of tenant in those properties with zero regard for the neighbourhood or even the fundamentals of their own investment. People who seriously don't give a shit to the point of not wanting to pay someone a small amount of money to give a shit for them, and who, when confronted with the issue of their pig tenants, want to address the situation by not being contacted by the neighbours who are actually having to deal with the anti-social behaviour and instead by outsourcing their responsibilities as owners to the government - city council and the police - despite them not even living in that city.

Fucking parasites. Fucking middle-class, WASP, yoga-twisting granola-munching hypocritical self-obsessed devoted individualists who a fucking fascist would be justified in spitting on in disgust.


martedì, giugno 30, 2015

Rage against the lawns

Hah hah. After all the interest on the mortgage, expenses, renovations and repairs we netted a whopping $1,000 renting out our house this year. Fucking. Property. BARONS. I'm gonna go buy me a swanky car. It'll have to be diecast, but whatever. But I'm thrilled about it because at least we weren't spending money on the fucker. God, I hate the present model of home ownership. HATE. IT. What a way to lock away all your means and assets and force the population to agitate for political and economic models that impoverish the young, so that despite us being so very, very rich in the west, most people always feel a little poor and desperate.

Fuck it. Fuck it hard. And I write that as someone who waited until late to buy a house and so doesn't have a mortgage that feels like it's strangling us. And who now lives in a place with cheap rent and lots of tenant rights so theoretically I'll never have to jump back into this fucking bilgepool. We will, though. Once the house in Australia is sold and we've lived in this apartment long enough for the kitchen to have paid for itself. My money philosophy is pretty much based on keeping fixed costs low so when he have enough cash again to not worry about mortgages again we'll spend it.

I do like the German model of relying on rentals better, of course - though I think it started running away with itself when everyone decided to move to Berlin a few years ago, and they've just had to slam down some pretty tight rent controls there. Our apartment was completely bare when we moved in and we had to get a kitchen installed. It's about half-half here - half the apartments already have kitchens, half don't - and the ones that are empty when you move in are about two hundred a month cheaper than the ones that aren't. So if we manage to stay here a good four or five years, which I think we will because it's lovely, we'll be ahead of the ball.

One thing is making me savagely joyful though - having a lawn, hiring someone else to mow it, and still coming out ahead. Fucking. Lawns. What an emblem of the decadence of Western culture. Which, BTW, is a point where I'm in agreement with one of the subjects of this fascinating documentary. As well as in thinking that "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a fucking gross, rape-y song. 

venerdì, giugno 26, 2015

All happy Mistress La Spliffes are the same

It is really awesome here, which is why I haven't written anything here for awhile. I kind of love it. It's only been - what - four months? - but if you have read this you know me well enough to know I hate most things right away, and I still love it here. That's a record for me loving a place, I think. Well, I kind of love Toronto and I was there for ages, but that's different.

This place has:

- Doughnuts
- Beer
- Cheap and awesome daycare
- Forests
- Parks
- People. We've been so busy setting up that we haven't put a lot of energy into seeing people (old friends, I mean) but nonetheless in the last four months we've seen more of them than in the whole four years we were in the antipodes
- A great deal more and very little to gall me

Even the language issue, which is a big one for me, is not that big a deal - we've managed all the bureaucratic stuff we've needed to with our unterschwein German. And it is coming along. Not to mention Godzilla is learning really fast. He has that crazy sense multilingual kids have of what to talk to who - Italian to his daddy, English to me, German to Germans - but when he has a temper tantrum, he has it in German, which is hilarious. Like a mini and very cute rant scene from Der Untergang. Here's my favorite riff on that, BTW.

I expect I'll start blogging more when I have more to complain about. We're going to start trying to make another baby in a couple of months, so I'm sure that will be full of inappropriate and plaintive stories.

mercoledì, maggio 06, 2015

On being a cunt

I suspect family problems are self-perpetuating. (Look at the fucking wealth of privilege in that sentence! Shows you how many family problems I've had . . . ) I suspect when people are at a point where they're able to be really furious with the people who they emotionally know should be the ones they're closest to in the world, they have to search for reasons why they're right about why the other person is such a cunt . . .

Readers, this may be a shocking degree of self-unawareness, but I'm always sort of shocked when people think I'm a cunt. I try to squelch down my more cockroach-y thoughts, or else save them for this blog. This may sound like bigging myself up but I honestly don't think I'm a cunt, not these days anyways . . . and I'm sort of sad and surprised that my in-laws think I am. But maybe not as surprised as I would have expected myself to be. Things are so glum on that score at the moment - really quite bleak - that I guess they need an explanation as to why, and the pinko foreign wench poisoning the minds of their menfolk is as good an explanation as anything.

You know what . . . oh well. That's my first reaction, anyways - which is a sort of reflexive participation in this self-perpetuation of family troubles getting worse. These are people you may have noticed I don't have much time for, and when I get offended by being disliked or scapegoated by them, it's perilously easy to think through all the ways I really, really don't have time for them. But I just have to not do that. These are the F-word's people, and Godzilla's too, and I can't contribute to an alienation there. I don't even feel right sitting back and letting them create that alienation all on their own, which fuck me they are doing a good job of.

But I will thank the good Lord that they are on the other side of the planet. 

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.


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

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


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.