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i’ve been tramping around Munich like a failed artist, resplendent in my tweed & destitution. It’s the first nice city i’ve lived in since 2011, the first i can imagine as a kind of home, at least for a few years. It is, i believe, Germany’s most expensive city – i pay (with electricity etc.) about 400 €/month for a basement room in a house full of clutter and mice, garden full of crazed dogs and kangaroos and cats and yet more clutter, for which one could rent a good-sized studio flat in a good area of Ultima Thule.
It is the antithesis of Ultima Thule, the city where everyone knew everyone else, and everyone’s grandparents had been born within 500 metres of their descendants: whereas the UT locals stare at anyone different, and fail to understand non-UT German, the Münchners accept that most people are either tourists, have drifted Munichwards from other cities or countries, or are hip or eccentric or at least not identical to everyone else. i excite no curiosity here; i am just one of many oddbods.
Very little graffiti. Ultima Thule and Kiel were infested with graffiti, of cancerous intensity – a building was renovated, painted a nice canary yellow, and defaced within 48 hours; repainted, it was defaced again within hours.
Another difference – the women in Munich dress well, with ass-hugging jeans. After 18 months in Kiel and Ultima Thule, where one could only guess at a woman’s buttocks, under baggy, functional garb, this is most welcome. They are also unperturbed by my gaze, whereas in UT and Kiel attention excited only alarm or confusion. The women here at beautiful – not any more so than the beautiful women in UT & Kiel, but whereas in UT/Kiel, the honeys were a minority (perhaps 5%), here they are the norm. It is ugly or even plain women who seem exceptional, here.
It is an almost Italian city, in that the languages i hear most are German, English, and Italian. A beggar even started talking to me in Italian in the Hauptbahnhof, and i got my money’s worth out of him by practicing my spaghettisprach before paying for his ticket (i normally spurn beggars, especially when i’m earning 1/4 of what i need to survive, but for some reason i warmed to him).
There is an easy grandeur here. Kiel and UT were small, mean little towns; this is in every sense large. Walking through the streets, past the rich folk and their rich boutiques, under great buildings, i feel a little too small, insignificant, as if i must earn 100 times my pittance, to fit here. Like a coat a couple of sizes too big. And yet there is an “almost” feeling, as if i need only grow into the place.
i ventured forth today, from my cold basement, to once more front the hounds. Again, the furious barking, the bared fangs. This time i tried Elhaz, a protective rune, not really expecting much (their rage seemed too absolute) – to my surprise, one abruptly stopped barking and wandered off, and the other (known appropriately as “Bandit”, of whom i was advised “this is the only really dangerous one”) cowered before me, then ran off to bark pitifully from a distance. i don’t generally take pleasure in the fear of others, but today was an exception. This is at least one less problem.
i am already planning an escape from the bunker. My landlady is a crude, elemental force akin to my father. She isn’t as bad as he was, in my youth, but she lacks any normal human sensitivity, respect for privacy, for example. i can’t stay here long, and in any case the basement room is already uncomfortably cold – so by autumn i fear it will be perishingly bleak. i pay 40 €/month for heating but it has so far only materialised once or twice.
Yesterday i was pondering my finances and realised that, unless i can get a good 6 units work a day, 5 days a week, i am unlikely to survive, especially when my tax demand arrives. This is the problem with working for several different schools – it’s hard to coordinate them to get enough work, as most only offer a couple of units in the morning.
i feel increasingly unperturbed. After a low week, a week of illness and pain and despair, i am starting to climb out of the pit. i left Ultima Thule because i felt my time there had ended; i came to Munich because i felt a “ping” in my mind, which i nowise felt for Erfurt, Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, indeed for anywhere else in Germany. i feel that a chapter in my life has ended and whatever is to happen will be new, not merely a continuation of my UT life; and i will be given what i need to survive, if i am to survive.
Attacked by the dogs for the fourth time today, this time it was 3 medium-large dogs who hemmed me in at the front door as soon as i opened it to leave, snarling and barking and baring their hideous fangs at me. i tried shouting at them – no effect. They came closer and were taking little nips when the Viennese handyman (who leaves soon) came round and admonished them. Even then they continued circling about me, snarling. The only dog i like in the place is the handyman’s little dog Eos – an amiable little hound, in contrast to the deranged circus-trained spawn of Satan who otherwise run the show round here.
i was awoken at 1400 or so by my landlady coming into my room, without knocking. She stared at me, shouted in German, then said, “zo you are ill, oder?” and then proceeded to open my windows, move my stuff around, and remove a chair, while i went still and quiet and wished i had died in Kiel, or better yet in 2001. i feel paralysed, unable to do anything to escape. There is no point considering an escape from this place – she will undoubtedly keep the Kaution, as is standard with landlords, and i can’t afford another Kaution (in Munich, generally more than 1000 €), plus a month’s rent, plus 600 €/month medical insurance. i should be paid about 300 € for the work i’ve been scheduled between now and May. Add to this i will soon have to pay my tax – which should be about 5000 €, at least, and i have less than half that left, and things don’t look too good. Like Taylor in Platoon, i have made a big mistake coming here.
However, i couldn’t stay in Ultima Thule, and there is no turning back. i just have to stick this out and see what happens. i considered buying a bear-killing knife in case the dogs really attack, but only out of a desire to die in some kind of combat (against deranged circus animals, hardly an ideal adversary). My will is paralysed, i lack any interest in continuing to survive; in any case there is no point considering escape – there is nowhere to go.
Now i must return to the house, hopefully the dogs will be in their cages and the crazed landlady won’t burst into my room again, screaming at me – but then, she has done this about once every couple of days since i arrived, so i am not optimistic.
My first classes in Munich today, for two different schools. A nice morning group, 90 minutes chit chat with a little grammar, for which i will be paid 50 Euros, then an evening class supposedly for 2 hours 15 minutes but only one student turned up and he had to leave early, so we chatted about how the Muslims are ruining Germany – for this i should be paid 60 Euros.
All good. However, between classes i returned home – a bad move, for on the way to the second i was for the third time attacked by my landlady’s dogs, and today was first blood as one bit my leg. i understood that they would take a while to get used to me – my hippy flatmate’s neurotic dog, in Ultima Thule, barked at me for a couple of days before she learnt to accept my presence. But i’ve now been in this house for ten days, these dogs see me every day, and if the landlady isn’t around they surge at me in a mass of deranged hatred, barking and snarling and taking little nips out of my bag and trousers (and today, my leg). So far i’ve dealt with it by freezing and waiting for her to scream at them, but evidently even immobility isn’t enough now.
i feel extremely reluctant to return or to continue living there but since i almost certainly won’t get my bond back (it’s standard for landlords to refuse to repay it), and i have almost no money left, i have no options, nowhere to go. i feel bleak and murderous and am considering purchasing some manner of stout walking stick, which would, in fact, do service as a dog-thrashing stick.
i also have rabies now.
i still don’t have internet at home and have valiantly made no attempts to acquire it. My landlady has twice burst into my room as i was trying to sleep, with just a preparatory knock about half a second before entry. i find this alarming. There is a lock on the door but i would prefer not to use it. She is totally crazy, as a woman will be after a lifetime of training circus animals.
Today, i was mobbed by her large dogs as i tried to get out of the yard. One took a little nip out of my leg and the others raced about me snarling and barking ferociously; this after more than a week of living there, and having even fed the ungrateful swine from my hands, on my landlady’s orders (so they would supposedly regard me as a friend).
i stayed motionless and stared vacantly over their baying heads till my landlady bustled over, whereupon one of the four-legged brutes even tried to lick my hand as if to say “no hard feelings, eh? Get you next time, though, you vile two-legged thing.”
Although i have found the vacant stare highly useful for avoiding violence, both human and canine, i dislike being torn to pieces by a pack of circus-trained hounds, and so i am already planning to get a flat of my own when i can. My plan to share with the Viking ended when he became increasingly disgruntled with Munich and the Municheers, and i felt he was so rooted in Würzburg, with his favourite pub and friends, that it would be a disservice to uproot him, when i had no secure job. However, to have my own flat i will need, i think, to be earning about 3000 € a month – possible, if i work lots of 20 to 25 €/unit schools, but by no means easy. We shall see.
i’ve been increasingly depressed the last week, waiting for work like Willard in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now.
My basement has almost no light and is cold when outside all is warm and joyous. i feel my will to live ebbing as i subsist without real work (first class is on Tuesday). i feel that language is so central to my being that without an active and demanding use of words, i rapidly sink into a dark hebetude. Teaching is one use of language, whether speaking or listening; writing is another. In at least three other lives, language was vital to my understanding of my self and my world, and god (or the gods), that i seem to actually physically and emotionally subsist on the energy of language.
This may explain why i so respond to the voice, why my reaction to a voice has always proved a reliable guide to character. In my bunker here in Münich i often remember Juniper’s voice, which i thought the loveliest i had ever heard. She was surprised when i told her this; it surprised me that she was so surprised, that no one had ever told her. She thinks herself very ordinary, unremarkable. In a sense she is – no hidden darkness like Morgana, no wild & exciting anecdotes of which i know – but she is nonetheless extraordinary, in her simplicity, in being so completely herself. She is devoid of artifice – hence her Jason Bourne clothing; her charm lies in her not trying to charm, in, i think, not even knowing how to charm, so what one sees is what one gets.
This is why, perhaps, animals are so endlessly fascinating. i can observe dogs or cats (or kangeroos, now i have two to hand) every day without boredom; there is something infinitely interesting about their lives. And yet, even with my closest and strangest friends, there come times when, after prolonged contact, we run out of things to say. It is because animals, like Juniper, are just themselves – their simplicity is itself fascinating.
Though i prefer it when they don’t try to eat me.
i have a job in Munich, just a few hours so far but if i can get steady work in May i should be more or less okay. i had an interview with the Director of Studies yesterday, the Munich Morgana, if you will. She used to be an archaeologist, doing digs in Luxor, where i worked about 3 millenia ago. When i mentioned the little village where i lived in that life, she knew it and said her “favourite tomb” is there. i almost said: “was it mine?”, but i imagine i was probably torn to pieces by jackals or enraged women, so no grave for Egyptian Elberry.
In this life i imagine i will be shot out of a cannon at the Muslim hordes, and detonated as an Elberry “dirty bomb”, covering them in my gore and viscera and entrails and bits of spine and eyeball. So no grave for 21st Century Elberry.
i have a room in Munich, a basement in a house i share with 13 dogs, several cats, and two kangeroos, the landlady being an animal trainer for the circus. There’s also an as yet unseen Croatian tenant somewhere on the 1st floor, and a Viennese drunk who potters about talking to the dogs. The house is large and crammed with approximately 1,000,000 pieces of junk – i say junk, as perhaps some of it is valuable but it is almost impossible to make one’s way through the labyrinth, and so for me it is junk.
It seems the room was in high demand but for some reason she took an instant shine to me; perhaps my coming was foretold of yore by the kangeroos. When i asked whether she needed the rent in cash or as an electronic transfer, she said: “Egal. It is not important. Only the human being is important.”
She strikes me as a little or indeed extremely nutty, but largely unconcerned about herself, and so not greedy like most landlords.
i don’t have internet access and can’t figure out how to get it, so blogging will be sparse. When i ask my landlady about it, she says i must make a contract with the cable company but i have no idea who to call so am reduced to gazing speculatively at the cable socket in the hope that it will, somehow, arrange itself.
So, i am in the Viking’s huge room in his farmhouse in Wurzburg (no umlauts on his Canadian laptop, sorry). He’s currently sitting opposite me singing ‘Everybody Knows’ and playing his guitar like a crazed Roman Catholic Viking. We will go to Munich on Monday to look at a WG – so far the plan is for me to get a room in a WG and after a few months, if i’m earning and he’s still willing, we’ll try to get a 2-bedroom flat for our sorcerous orgies.
i left much behind in Ultima Thule. An unexpected evening with Juniper on Wednesday, and now, 200 km apart, i feel strangely accompanied, in her thought & desire & care. So, welcome & farewell. If you think of me, sometimes, i also consider you, as i knew your grace.
Living with the Viking is disturbing and amusing. For example, we took the bus to his farmhouse and a gang of rowdy youths sat behind us, chattering and making a hullabaloo. The Viking turned around and stared at them, then grunted.
“What are you staring at?” i asked.
“Those people behind us were making some silly noises,” he said, loudly enough for them to hear.
The gang abruptly fell silent. i stared horribly at the Viking. He stared back.
He honestly had no idea. i suggested, in a whisper, that perhaps his comment had been unwise. He failed to understand. He is the Viking. He is good at inorganic Chemistry, Roman Catholicism, and flamenco guitar, but his urban survival instincts are strangely undeveloped. For the rest of the journey i was prepared for a savage ruck with the youths but German scallies are not really comparable to the English variety. As i carefully told him, “in England they would have stabbed us both from behind.” He shrugged in a “if God wills it” way.
So, if i’m still alive next week i’ll try to secure a room in Munich, and then we’ll see what happens.
Couldn’t find a 2-bedroom flat in Munich so i will drive to W___ today to crash with the Viking, and from there secure a room in a shared flat in Munich. There seem to be plenty of such rooms, relatively affordable, so i hope to be ensconced in Munich within a week. i’ve also decided to apply for a job with the Munich branch of my Ultima Thule school, as i should thereby get work quickly; but ultimately i plan to escape and get work in better-paying companies.