Friday, September 27, 2013

The Move: T Minus 3 Weeks; The Avalanche Begins

Tossed: MacWorld Mac Secrets, 4th Edition, by David Pogue. Took a while to find it on the copyright page, but 1997. There was a reason I held on to this for so long: while a lot of the other information became obsolete, the chapter on Microsoft Word was, for years, the only comprehensible guide to using that incomprehensible piece of software that existed. Also tossed: Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, also Pogue, 2002. That one I barely cracked. The first one made me (yes, me, believe it or not) the go-to guy for English-speaking Mac users in Berlin, but the second one lost me with all its Unix talk. No matter: the practical info is easier to find these days. Also tossed: a thick packet of bank statements and telephone bills (paid) from Berlin. How did they make it here? Also tossed: my hotel bills from my trip to Japan in 2001 which somehow clung together as a unit and drifted into the same cardboard box as the rest, a dead sensor for the weather station on my desk (have to get rid of that, too: the satellite it responds to is only active over Europe), a package of Bestättingungen from various publications, prepared for the Ausländerbehördung, statements of my indespensability to these publications were I allowed to remain on the ground in Berlin. They were also for my ill-fated attempt to get a Bundespressepasse, a German-government-issued press pass so it'd be easier for me to cover stuff for the Wall Street Journal. I still remember sitting in the huge room, far away from the man at the desk who was looking at these papers, him telling me that the pass was only issued for people reporting on business and politics (which was blatantly untrue, but that's what he said). So you don't want coverage of German culture, I asked, bewildered. "No," he said, and handed me the papers back.

To Be Tossed: An awful lot of whatever else is in these other boxes piled willy-nilly for five years in this cramped living room/office of mine, if this one box is any indication. Oh, and two unopened Ikea lighting fixtures, one for the hall, one for above my sink, acquired when I moved in here, but abandoned when I was defeated in trying to figure out how to install them (me and power tools: incompatable). And, of course, anything that relies on a European power supply, like the stereo, the printer, the refrigerator, the washing machine... But the little stuff, that's what takes up a bewilderingly large amount of volume.

And there's a deadline. The guy from the moving firm came yesterday, constantly apologizing for his excellent English while blocking out the stuff I'm moving, then sitting down on the ratty couch (to be tossed) and did some quick figuring, and gave me a volume estimate, which was, as I suspected, less than I'd been thinking (but not much) and promised me a quote early next week. I counted backwards: 22nd, leaving in the morning; 21st, a day in Paris, inevitable because the plane to the States leaves early; 20th is a Sunday, so that'd be the last day here, in a hotel somewhere; 19th, the day for the cleaners, not that I'm going be the first person in France ever to get my deposit back; 18th, I hope, will see the folks from Emmaus, a Catholic charity, pick up the appliances and couch and all that, so that leaves the 17th for the movers to come and pack everything away. Twenty days from today. No wonder I'm procrastinating by writing this.

Think it'll look this neat on the way out? Hope so...

And there are details. Like, this Customs Form 3299. Easy enough to read, but do I have to list quantities of things like books ("tools of the trade," in customs lingo, but the short answer is yes), and, if so, how exact do I have to be? "Several hundred?" "Over 500?" "618?" (Just making those figures up, folks!) And there will be insurance, oh, yes. I was dipped on the way over: a box of CDs opened and about two inches removed. Can't risk that this time, not with a book, I hope, to write. Not that anyone wants CDs any more. But still.

Lord, one accumulates a lot in twenty years.

And the stuff will go onto a boat in Marseille, and, approximately 20 days later, it'll arrive in Houston, which the guy pronounced correctly yesterday, to my amazement. And then it'll go to...

Where? If the numbers I've seen are any indication, and if I get the money I'm due to get in the next 60 days, I'll just be able to buy a car and rent a house. And maybe buy a mattress. It's on the other side that the figures get fuzzy. How much for car insurance? What are the deposits for getting electricity and gas and Internet service like? Which appliances will the new house require? I know Craigslist is a goldmine for this kind of stuff, but I still have to have the dough to get it. An Ikea desk like the one I have now is about $69, and it's kind of essential. After 20 years, I have no credit history, though: how will the utility companies -- not to mention prospective landlords -- treat me?

I'm trying to take this one step at a time, which is only sane. The financial end may not be as scary as I think, for various reasons I can't go into for fear of a jinx. And I do have friends. And Social Security, unless the cretins in Washington make those checks late, or, worse, unwritten.

I've long said that planning any long-term trip is like an avalanche, that a month out, it's only tiny pebbles, but then come the larger rocks and in the end you're dodging boulders, clutching your plane ticket, running to the gate. This is worse than that. This is standing on a cliff watching the avalanche erode your support until the edge cracks and takes you along with it.

The thing is not to panic. And to stop procrastinating by writing a blog post and get back to work on those boxes.

Homeboy Jacques d'Aragon had lots of courage. Also lots of servants to help him pack.

See you next week.


  1. Hello. I'm curious to know which company is moving your belongings. I'm looking to do the reverse move, from Toronto to Montpellier, in about a year's time and am trying to take more than the 50lbs that I can stuff into a suitcase and take on a plane with me. If you could slip that into one of your blog posts, it would be much appreciated. Good luck with the purging/packing.

    1. Hint: click the words "the moving firm" above and magic will happen on your very computer. Although I don't do it as much as many bloggers, blogging is at least partially about links. Like that.

  2. Hey Ed. i'm going through a similar thing. just moved back, to Ottawa, after living in Paris for two years. So, I've really enjoyed your posts. I get the stress associated with the move. and I'm in a new place after having most of my stuff in storage while I was away. And I'm separating from my wife so we have 20 plus years of stuff that I need to go through and purge, including boxes of old Rolling Stone and Spin mags. I have work to do and I'm procrastinating by reading your blog!

  3. oh ya - All of our stuff which was moved from France was put into a crate and locked. the movers on this end couldn't cut the lock until I had the appropriate forms from customs. but that ensured nobody could tamper with my stuff. I'm surprised that is not happening with your stuff. Maybe we just had more stuff.

    1. I'm not sure it's not happening, to be honest. See the last comment on the previous post from the woman who worked at the steamship company. I'm going to ask the guy once I get my quote next week.

  4. I am insanely jealous of you, to be honest. After 12 years in Montpellier I am "over" this city. So I'm living vicariously through your blog. You write well, it's a joy to read. Hope it all goes well. One day at a time and all that.

  5. Ed, if you end up landing in Houston and staying there for a spell, I hear it's not as bad as it used to be, at least from an Austinite's perspective. Maybe that's because Austin has become more like Houston.

  6. Doh! Sorry didn't notice that you had provided the link to the shipping company. That's what happens when you read things in the morning - before the coffee takes effect. Thank you very much for the link. When I was doing my google searches for "shipping overseas", I kept being diverted to FedEx - way too expensive and I don't need next day service. Now I have a whole new avenue to explore.

    On another note, it is too bad that Montpellier did not turn out for you as you had wanted. Your posts did give me pause, as to whether or not I am doing the right thing by choosing Montpellier, but I've decided to go for it and hope for the best. I had a good experience when I lived in Aix-en-Provence - still keeping in touch with a few people I met there three years later - perhaps my luck will hold for Montpellier.


    The purging process can be very stressful, and stir up a lot of memories, so do be kind to yourself.

  7. You know, you just know, that one day, many years from now, you will need something from some German government office or company, and they will demand to see your phone bills from decades ago. Because that's how it is there.


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