Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fußless Moose

I wrote this post some weeks back. Notebook lets me get some thoughts onto paper that I can bring to you later through the glories of cut and paste. It does, however, mean that posts don't necessarily reflect how I am feeling this instant, which is shockingly enough, ok. Subject to change with about 4,5 seconds notice.

Well some people gave me a great deal to chew on over the past few days. One, because it sounds like she's got some things sorted out and is happier for it - and that is fabulous, and I wish her much continued success. Another, because she pointed out that despite a great partner and tremendous talents, this expat cosa nostra is a hard, hard row to hoe even after many, many years.

We just celebrated our first legal anniversary. Beating the German state into acknowledging you on any level is an achievement - so it's worth celebrating. My guy is great. I got such a deal, but work has continued to be unspeakable. It probably isn't as bad as I am making it out to be, but my job went from the monster that at my evenings and weekends to a place where there is nothing to do. I envision the axe over my head and the replacements lined up for hire, although this may not be a reflection of reality.

I left the best job ever - a job with its problems, like any other job, but I job I was really proud of, and I came to Germany for some other guy, who though still my friend, decided that I wasn't all that and a bag of chips. I still won't hear anyone talk smack about him, but I have come to believe he was right and been glad that he was brave enough to make an unpleasant decision. He also hung around long enough for me to get my life in order, for which I am also eternally greatful.

But here I am with a job I can't be proud of and can't enjoy. At least if I worked in a cafe, I could enjoy it. And people who love me advising me to leave the career I worked so hard for so long and tutor or something and I feel completely at sea and I wonder when I will get my footing again (Fuß fassen).

The thing to do is to get up off my proverbial you-know-what and face the pain of potential rejection by finding some more companies to apply to. Why can't I wake up as Pollyanna?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Haustier Peeves

* I have things I love, too, but we'll get to that later.

What is it with Germans and bathroom doors? They never, I mean -never- knock first. Of course, I always lock the bathroom door now, but have often had the experience in public restrooms where even the locked door is viewed more or less strictly as a suggestion, and repeated, ever more forcible attempts are made to open the door. I am usually too shocked to respond in a timely manner - "WTF??!!" being the only thought running through my mind as I cower on the other side of the door.

By the by

(This note is not a criticim of someone with furniture in the basement. You've got to store it somewhere. I have less patience with organizations spending millions of tax-payer euros putting some of their most sensitive systems in the one location most likely to get wet.)

A little advice for the world (as if they drop by to read it). If you build/redesign your facility in a flood zone, would you please, please stop putting all kinds of crap you care about in the basement. Ya know, like the expensive stuff. Like your hvac unit, or your computer server, or your security system, or your state of the art kitchen, or your laboratory. Or, for instance, priceless art treasures that have to be painfully and expensively dragged hither, thither and yon every time it looks like it might rain too much.

'Cause, there was like no one who knew that there was a potential for this, or this, or this when all ya'll decided to install all of that below the floodwater line. The stone marker on the front of your building with the historical highwater might just be helpful in determining just where that is.

Thank you for your attention.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Today* we are 33

* Date written, not date posted.

While I would like to offer some profound reflection on aging and becoming an age which I once considered impossibly old, my thoughts today are altbau thoughts and architect thoughts and thoughts of getting together tonight with a new friend and an old friend and a bottle of wine, but we'll see if we get the details ironed out over the course of the day.

We went, laser measuring devices in hand, to remeasure the apartments last night. Most of our pencil calculations were correct, but there was a big difference in one room which made up for most of the missing quadratmeter (square meters). The rooms are the right size (3 m difference is within the acceptable range). The apartment on the first floor is low tech to be sure, but better than I had thought it to be. The tiny WC actually has a proper wall and door, it's not just an open cabinet in the kitchen.

So now, we have to clear out conerns in areas where we are not in a position to judge ourselves. Can we put in the rooftop terrace? Is it technically feasable to put in balconies? (Both important for me, because the garden is so small).

The big questions -
  • The beams - are the spongy or ok?
  • Can we put in a staircase to connect the two apartments. (Raumspartreppe)
  • Does inspection of the basement point to any problems?
  • Are the walls ok?

And then, there are the questions no one can answer for you:
  • Is this what we want for the rest of our lives?
  • Is this bad neighborhood what we want for the kids we might have? Are the chances too high that they would fall in with the wrong crowd in the grundschule and ruin their lives? (School post still pending.)
  • Will the drunk people and grafiti get me down?
  • Are we actually exposing ourselves to higher levels of crime? - We don't know.
  • Are we crazy becoming landlords?

I am at a point where I can't think logically about it any more. I thought about putting in a woodstove and it was over for me. I imagine myself and my bookcase, my coffee, and the fire in the woodstove on a winter Saturday afternoon with kids playing (They're not fighting; this is where you know it bears no relation to reality, right?)

Mr. Moose is excited that there is a zoo nearby (500 m). He has fond memories of going there as a child and is thrilled by the prospect of annual membership and taking his kids there every weekend.

Monday, July 16, 2007

World. fast. spinning. {wretching noises}

Positive - Mr. Moose and I do oodles of talking every night about what we want out of our lives, and I have a feeling we are going to look back on this time very fondly. M.G. is fab.

This following points all re: 1880's house 4apts in not the greatest part of town.

Negative - So the apartments aren't 90qm. They're 78 qm. AND the owner hasn't been paying his house dues for the past 6 months. We're furious with the realtor. We knew he was slimey, but really. This is huge because it meant that the already ridiculously low rent has to be lowered 12%! Argh.

Postive - Downstairs neighbors have made heaven on earth out of their apartment and seem to be lovely people.

Negative - Our potential balcony would darken their kitchen - no go. Putting in a terrace for us might be complicated. Umm, and they seemed to be under the impression we would be overtaking all of Mr. X's unpaid house dues. Not happening. We'd be taking on our undesirably high percentage of it and that's that.

Positive - some of the estimates the "neighbors" had gotten from contracters were lower than we had planned with.

Negative - very cool couple are going to hate us for raising the rent of "our" tenants and kicking the one lady out. It's unsozial - and to be honest, I have thought a bit about the moral implications of it all.

Positive - "neighbors" have good relationships with other tenants of building

Negative - story about garden becoming property of studio apartment - bogus, but we can't go back an make an offer for just the two apartments in which we were originally interested because then Mr. X is still in the game and not making payments towards the facade and roof repairs which we all want to see done soon (2 or 3 years).

Sooooo - What does it say next to "You are here" dot in my life?

Wait for a counter offer from evil-bank/realtor/owner, Wait for response on offer from couple re: cute little apartment. Do not pass go. Do not spend X00,000 Euros.

How much progress can one Moose take?

When we last left the adventures of Yours Truly in Southern Germany, I was lamenting our lack of house/apartment/rental property aquisition. And so it remained, until some time the week before last.

The world has started spinning very fast.

First, we stumbled back across a smaller apartment that we had decided not to look at earlier because it would be a less than 10 year deal. It would be very tight with two small children and should there be a third, you would have to be out before you were out of the small children phase.

The apartment is darling and what we would be looking to take off the asking price is not unreasonable (edited, ok maybe it is). Negatives: streetcar noise, garage rental a must, front facade needs work, 4th story walkup, bathoroom in need of a makeover and a new water heater, bathoroom vents only through terrace access (lots of cold air in the winter). Positives, (mostly) bright airy rooms, several with wooden flooring (yey), a floorplan that works, cute building garden, access and view over huge complex garden, good transportation connection for us both, generous basement. Mixed blessings: discussion of re-doing back facade expanding balcony, no installed kitchen.

But we would definitely _have_ to move out in the plannable future and we worry about being able to find space for a family. Would we be able to sell? We're not sure. We could rent, but having your capital locked up is not so nice. Plus real estate just doesn't seem to appreciate much around here, and Mr. Moose has already started in on the - "Do we really want to renovate X, if we're going to have to move out in Y years?" We wouldn't make our new home perfect because by the time we were throught, it would be time to go and we couldn't recoup what we had invested.

Then came Mr. Moose's dream. An old building (nothing wrong in principle with an alt-bau - preferable, actually) with 4 apartments for sale. We wanted the two apartments directly on top of eachother. One to live in, one to rent out until we need it. Here, the list of negatives. Get a cup of coffee; it's looooong.

I will do a separate post on the school district. There are private school alternatives.

  • Across the street from Sozial Wohnungen. Group of drunk people/drinkers hang out across the street in front of the Plus store. (The are good natured enough- we don't percieve them as a threat.)
  • Major, major facade work.
  • Can't move in for 9 months.
  • Needs at least
  1. new windows
  2. new floors - although these you can live with for the time being
  3. new heating system to replace the single gas ovens - opportunity to do Fußboden-heizung.
  4. roof terrace - would require a building permit
  5. balcony
  • Garden is tiny and in shadow
  • No parking

Good points-
  • price
  • lots of space
  • option to move into studio apartment for parents or for us when steps get to be too much
  • train connection is good for me
  • we could do a lot to raise the value of the apartment. some hope of getting some money back out.
  • could put in dream things (fancy bath or wood oven) becasue one is staying
  • street in front is quiet
  • bathroom WC together, but big

We made and offer for 3 or 4 apartments, and the bank counter-offered 5k more than we had offered for all 4 apartments. The fourth aparment is worth practically nothing. The third we would need to guarantee access to the little garden, although we would rent out the studio apartment right next to the garden.

Facade will be pretty when completed.

A lot to think about.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

There were bells on the hills. . .

but I never heard them ringing, no I never heard them at all, til ...

Nach Hamburg wollen in den nächsten Wochen Niedersachsen und Baden-Württemberg ihre Gesetze verabschieden. Dort soll die Gastronomie sogar schon am 1. August rauchfrei werden. Das Hamburger Gesetz tritt erst in der kommenden Silvesternacht in Kraft - wie in den meisten anderen Ländern. Dort wurden die Gesetze ebenfalls schon von den Regierungen abgesegnet. Jetzt müssen nur noch die Landtage darüber abstimmen.

Following Hamburg, authorities in Lower Saxony and Baden-Württemberg want to pass their [anti-smoking] laws in the coming weeks. It is expected that restaurants and bars there will be smoke-free as early as August 1rst.

All that and the Motu Proprio in one week. Pretty cool. The article has a lot of the usual blah blah "The reactionaries are coming; the reactionaries are coming!" to it. For purposes of disclosure, I am not a huge fan of the Traditional Mass in practise, but I have lived plenty of places where there was demand for it and the bishop thought that once a month on Thursday night was "generous" permission. I also have friends I'd like to see more clearly at home in Rome and this might help. And isn't there something ironic about the bishops being circumvented because there was a problem complaining. If he thought you were correct in your assessment of the situation Your Eminance, there wouldn't be a motu proprio to issue in the first place, so put a sock in it.

This I didn't know and will have to look into:
An indult was granted in 1971 by Pope Paul VI after a group of English luminaries - including Graham Greene, Kingsley Amis, Agatha Christie, Kenneth Clark, William Rees-Mogg, Malcolm Muggeridge, Ralph Richardson, C Day Lewis and Iris Murdoch - complained to him about the loss to civilisation and culture that the suppression represented.

** The Agatha Christie Indult - Huh,who knew? The kids at The Shrine, no doubt, but really, wow. Your religon may have cool meditation techniques (not that Catholicism doesn't), or encourage a healthier diet, or do Liturgy better (high church Anglicans), but until you've got an Agatha Christie Indult, you are missin' out.

It is pouring AGAIN. Not that it's better in the States. My sisters chat status = "humidity". She cracks me up.