Saturday, October 19, 2013

Goodbye To The Slum

It all happened so quickly after not happening so quickly.

For the past few days, I'd been wrestling with boxes that EP had brought over in small quantities (disassembled, they're unwieldy, and he has to take the tram). I'd put one together, wrestling with the tape, which, charged with static electricity, would sink back to the mother roll and form a bond that was impossible to break, then spend precious minutes looking for the start of the tape to make my next seal with. With the box half-made, I'd load it with the stuff the movers weren't going to deal with and go through the whole sealing process again. I'd then usually discover that the box was overloaded, and that it was too small to accommodate the load. Tearing and bulging would result. I'd vow to do better next time, but usually as I was getting into the swing of things, I'd run out of boxes. In the end, I made a discovery: only Castorama, of all the bricolage places around, makes boxes that are worth a damn. Remember that next time you're moving within or out of France.

J came over at one point to raid my supplies of exotic groceries: Chinese and Indian stuff, mostly. She also got my fantastically-seasoned wok. I'll need to start working on another one. The disassembled apartment made her whip out her camera.

I am not really that fat. J explained that "It's the angle," and it is. 
At the point she took this, I could barely keep my head up, I was so tired, but later that day I went out and got some dinner.

Yesterday I forced myself out of bed at 6:30. The movers would be here at 8, although EP warned me that they're always late. I did some last-minute stuff, but I was amazed at how ready I was for them to come. Which they did, only a half hour late, and that because of the difficulty of getting a permit to stick their truck in the pedestrianized zone.

The crew was made up of three people: the guy who'd visited to make the estimate, a tough-built middle aged blond French guy, and a tall African guy. The blond guy set to packing books right away, the African took full boxes down and, when necessary, brought disassembled ones up. The boss dispensed sticky labels, one per box, while registering the contents on a form. When it came time to disassemble the wire bookshelves, he helped, but otherwise was a supervisor. As were EP and I, with the advantage that EP translated from time to time.

Once the office/living room was stripped of what was going, which was the main effort, the CD shelves in the hall were hauled out one by one, coated with protective paper, and taken intact to the truck. The bookshelf with the cookbooks at the end of the hall had already been taken care of. The bedroom took no time at all. I had already disassembled the bed, so they just taped the pieces together and took them. The clothes I'd been told to keep on hangers, and a couple of those nifty boxes with rods in them appeared and within seconds the clothes were loaded. It took longer to tape them up than it did to fill them. The African guy took charge of the kitchen, although not much from there was going: just my precious Allclad pans, a nice Le Creuset Dutch oven I bought myself for Christmas one year, and a few glasses that were as much souvenirs of Germany as anything. My two best wine glasses and the blender attachment for the food processor were left, because of my clumsiness, but E and J will get the glasses in return for mailing me the blender. Finally the Adolf-Hitler Eßtisch, the massive wood leaved dining table, so named because somewhere on it is a label showing its place and date (1936) of manufacture, which I understand is worth some money, but mostly is a fine piece of workmanship, and the venue of some future meals with friends in Austin.

They were gone by 1, miraculously enough. It was jarring, almost. I went over the paperwork with the boss, signed a bunch of stuff ("You must sign this one because it is pink," he remarked at one point, as rational an explanation as you'll find in the world of French bureaucracy), shook hands with the crew, thanked EP for his help, and collapsed in the desk chair just in time for Gerry to show up from Nîmes to take me to lunch. I took a quick shower, put on some clean clothes, Gerry helped me move the futon onto the floor, where I'd spend the night, and we went off to the Beehive, the English pub near St. Roch, for burgers (Gerry's wife is a strict vegetarian) and beer for him, Coke for me. Even with the caffeine in me, I was groggy from lack of sleep and release of tension, and when, after we'd parted company, I went for a last haircut from the woman who's done such a good job over the past five years, I almost dozed off a couple of times.

Finally, I came back up here and marvelled at the emptiness.

Looking into the office/living room from the front door. 

The hall, walkable without tucking in my shoulder at last!

The bedroom, its tininess not indicated by anything in this picture, which was taken from the doorway.
With all my silverware and cookware gone, I couldn't eat here, but I was also way too far gone to go out: one glass of wine and they'd have to carry me back here. I mooched around for a while, and finally went to the Monoprix on the corner and got a couple of beers, stuck them in the fridge, and then went downstairs to Hani's place (which will feature in the next post) and got a taouk platter. I told him I'd return the plate today, because I knew that just going down and back up the stairs was going to be an effort. One by one I sipped the beers (after clearing off the couch) and read a little.

I actually made it to 11, and nature helped by providing a rainstorm that kept the binge-drinking, howling, hooting students indoors. It was hard lowering myself to the floor and harder getting up, but I managed 9 1/2 hours of sleep. In a few minutes, it'll be time to start loading up the suitcase, carryon, and computer bag, after mailing some stuff to myself in the States. At noon, various people come to claim various stuff (including the office chair I'm typing in), and later I'll check into a hotel around the corner. A little more giveaway tomorrow, and that's it. The adventure has begun.


  1. Good luck on the move Ed. Remember how my 2 favorite
    expatriot writers left France. You don't want to go out like Joseph Roth. And the jury is still out on how Walter Benjamin did.

  2. So, the adventure has begun. I wish you the best of luck finding the perfect place in Austin.


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