Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Move: T Minus 4 Weeks

Well, it's done. The die is cast. The journey begins with a single step. Um, probably other cliches I could come up with, but, to spare you, dear readers, will not.

Thanks to a friend with a zillion air miles, I'm flying from Paris to Cincinnnati on October 22, a mere 30 days away. After that, on my own dollar, I'm catching a plane to Minneapolis, and then another one to Austin. I'll arrive at 8:01pm, the gods of flight and weather willing, looking like something fried. Which, after at least 18 hours, I will be. A friend will meet me and help me rent a car: after 20 years in Europe, where credit cards don't exist, I have no credit. Of course, I didn't have any when I left 20 years ago, either.

I will then drive to the house of some friends who'll let me stay there until I find my own place, take my car-renting friend to dinner, return, and become one with the bed.

But before I go there, I have to get out of here. And that will be a monumental pain. Fortuntely, I knew this before I started. Not that I've started.

First, there's this problem:

No, it's in focus in real life.
This shows most of the living room/office/library. Pretty much everything in this picture will have to be packed and shipped, although I'm in the process of culling the books. Being in a situation where the books you acquire depends on a very random supply of books being offered results in some fairly silly acquisitions, easy to discard if you're moving somewhere where you can browse a real bookstore and come away with something you really do want to read. And that huge quanitity of CDs?

Almost 90º turn from previous photo. Notice that the shelves go all the way down the hall to the bathroom. 
Being salable in a way that English-language books aren't, they've been culled rather seriously, but there are still loads left.

But that's just about it. There will be some pots and pans: I dragged my Allclad stuff from Texas and I'll drag it back. Along the way I acquired a couple of Henckel knives and a Le Creuset Dutch oven, and they'll make the trip. Obviously, none of my food, nor my refrigerator, washer (broken by the oafs who moved me from Germany, and hasn't worked since), stereo, computer printer, lamps, and stuff like that'll be coming. There'll be clothes, although those, too, will be purged. The table in the above picture is an antique given me in very partial payment of a huge debt, and when I had enough space to use it, I did. That'll be coming. The desk, the shelving (except the metal shelving, which comes apart), the kitchen table, the couch, the coffee table, the chairs, all tossed. Or, rather, they go to a charity here called Emmaus that takes anything you want to give them.

So having made these decisions, a quest was entered into for a mover. Not as easy to find as you'd think, but they do exist. (It seems to me that moving to Berlin 20 years ago was tons easier in terms of finding someone to do it). I found two movers. They both asked me what the load would be and I told them. One gave me a quote. It was, well, okay. The other calculated the cubic meterage and came up with an estimate. It seemed to me that 8-10 cubic meters was too much, and he then asked me how much I did have. And I was stuck.

Now, the way this works is that these movers come to your house, pack your stuff, and take it to a warehouse where they will eventually fill a shipping container. Then they put the container on a ship, the ship goes to the U.S., they clear customs on your stuff, put it on a truck, and deliver it to your new home, unpack it, and take away the shipping waste. So the cubic-meter guy got in touch with his movers in Marseille, and next Thursday a "surveyor" will come and make a very practiced estimate and give me some tips on what I can and cannot expect them to take. Based on the previous estimate, I think this'll be affordable.

So this is my week to be unsentimental and start tossing stuff. I, uh, haven't made much headway in this. But I will! I will!

Meanwhile, I sit here and look at porn. Well, not real porn, of course. There are two real estate agents in Austin I've been in touch with (three, actually, but haven't heard from the third), and one sends me automatically-generated listings of places in my price range and preference, and I go there, click through the pictures of interiors, imagine putting my office in this room, cooking on a stove -- a gas stove, no less -- in this kitchen (and wondering what it'd be like to own a dishwasher, a thing I've never felt much need for, and cook in a microwave, which some of these kitchens have built-in; my guess is I never will use one of those). Imagine having enough space to where you wouldn't reflexively tuck in one shoulder as you passed down the hall or walked into a room!

And I think about the car I'm going to have to buy, the amount of money I'll spend in Ikea replacing my plates and desk and shelving and other stuff, the amount I'll spend at various stores getting cooking stores like flour and salt and toovar dal and olive oil. I realize that the entire mediascape has changed, and the thought of "getting a telephone" and "getting cable" and "getting Internet access" are all the same thing (I think) and wondering if I really want a television and realizing that there are all these movie-streaming services now so that "renting a movie" is a passé concept. I don't know how NetFlix works because my computer throws a French cookie and I get a screen saying it's not available in my country "yet."

And then I hit Craigslist and look at the things that people who are leaving Austin, the way I'm leaving Montpellier, are trying to divest themselves of. This might be possible. Well, hell, it better be. I may get a nice place to live, but I don't want to sleep on the floor.

And in five weeks, every one of these issues except the house will, one way or another, be solved. I begin to understand why people start to drink heavily in these sorts of situations. Unfortunately, I can't afford to do that at the moment.

The current location
So what now? Fantasy real estate? Craigslist autos? Fantasize about Mexican food? Okay: get some lunch. That, I can do. Now.

The new place? I'm pretty sure you can't see it from here. And where the hell did all those tall buildings come from?


  1. Did you mean NetFlix, or NetScape?

    Moving is always a pain and a long move, well, it may be misery.

  2. Fixed. Thanks for keeping me from looking like an idiot. Or more like one!

  3. It's gonna be fine, Ed. Just moved back to Texas after twenty years myself, it's a whole nuther country, to add to the cliches . Don't spring for TV, it's a marketing tool, get highspeed internet, and $8/mo for netflix, and Austin, you're fixed for entertainment, all books can be had on Kindle, throw those cockroach havens away and save the space, except for signed and sentimental copies. Your loyal reader for too many years to count, Elizabeth

  4. Ed, this is so exciting. I'm happy you're headed back.

  5. The view from your desk isn't like to be nearly as nice here...

  6. Reading this is like some nightmarish reliving of what I went through four months ago... With a few subtle differences, such as 3 kids and the dog, the anticipated need of winter clothing and packing our boxes ourselves (only to get them 6 weeks late and completely destroyed). Then after the move the fun hunt for cheap and free furniture, which actually made for a nice home.

    Not that it matters to you anymore, but there is a way to get Netflix in Europe. It helps to have a 16 year old who knows such things...

    with empathy and excitement,

  7. Depending on how much the moving company wants to charge you for customs clearance, you can probably do it yourself---there's a form (online on customs website ( with instructions. Main thing is you need to make a list of what you're shipping (the moving company will require that, too) but it can be X # of paperback books, X# of kitchen utensils, etc....
    The moving company will have to provide an arrival notice to you (and you'll have a copy of the waybill they'll issue), with that you can go to customs and do it while they wait.
    When I worked in the import part for a steamship agency I had a 'how to clear customs' document which helped dozens of people to save what at that time was $100 and up...depending on how reputable the company was. What you will need (avail on customs website) is CBP Form 3299
    The moving company will still have to deliver the goods to you (the units are called KD Liftvans--plywood boxes on their own pallets with one side a screw on door.
    And just because the agent in France quotes you an all-in cost, there's a good chance there will be charges from the agent in the US..those can't be prepaid...
    Hope it all goes well and yes, craigslist is great...just got an Ikea Hallen twin mattress (new $200+) for $30...they were moving, the bargains are out there. Good luck and welcome back.


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