Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shady Side of the Street

So, after the whirlwind of the shipping company and auction house, we are down to a few choice objects, all of which now belong to family and friends who are kind enough to allow us make use of them for a few more days.

In anticipation of moving into an apartment, we have downsized into two rooms: our living room (TV on the floor, overturned bookshelf as a coffee table, couch bought by a friend's cousin for her first apartment that she can't move into until later in August, and a variety of dog toys); and our bedroom (two mattresses without bed frames, two dog beds, and a variety of dog toys).

In other words, we look like we live in a place inhabited by James Franco playing a stoner in a Judd Apatow production, or Jesse Pinkman without the graffiti and giant stereo system and blue crystal meth.

All we need to really need to complete the picture are some ferrets and empty pizza boxes. And cans of Natty Light with cigarette butts in them.

I couldn't get the television to work last night. This is not a problem for me last night, per se, as I have a big fat book I'm hooked on, but it would definitely be a problem for me in the morning if I didn't want to be awoken at 5 a.m. by a certain smallish person who couldn't watch Adventure Time. Or Band of Brothers. Or whatever it is he watches before I get-up. I know, I'm an excellent mother. I think the television was on strike from being placed on the floor. Um, I'm a decent TV. I get premium channels. I have OnDemand so that you can watch Metalocolypse. I deserve better than the floor. What is this: college? But you know what? I FIXED it. I removed all those cables that have red, yellow, and white icing-piping type attachments on them (Mike, you might want to stop reading now) and started sticking them into different parts of the tv and cable box in various combinations. And then I took one of the big cables lying on the floor not attached to anything and tried attaching it to the back of the tv and plugging it into the wall. And I turned the surge protector on and off a bunch of times. And plugged some other stuff in and took some other stuff out, and I don't really know what happened, but it started working. And the house didn't burn down from an electrical fire. So I'm pretty sure that I am now qualified to work for Comcast.

Friday, July 13, 2012

CDs, splinters, and velcro: Oh My!

My eyelids just won't open the entire way today. I think their muscles are too tired after I tried to cram a months worth of being unable to go to the gym into a half hour yesterday. I also suspect I have a splinter in my elbow from moving 72 boxes of CDs (which will undoubtedly be thrown out in a year, not unlike the 56 cases of cassette tapes we had been storing in our basement. I don't even know the last time we owned a device in which one could play a cassette tape.); and a wooden ladder into the storage unit. I think the splinter might be from the ladder. Or it may be a spider bite from all the spiders that hover around our possessions.

Or my eyelids could be heavy because of all the online shopping I've been doing in my bid to obtain a carry-on bag that can hold two laptops, three cameras,and a variety of camera lenses. Plus all the other stuff like passports and visas and socks, blankets, neck pillows, eye masks, i-pods, iphones, and a white noise machine (all of which are needed to sleep on the plane. Except the iPhone.) So far I have  accumulated three Zappos boxes that are larger than my washing machine and need to be returned. This will take three trips to UPS because I can only fit one box at a time in my car. I have to keep returning all these bags because somewhere located on each and every one, is velcro. I hate velcro. I have ruined many clothes and coats because they have been snagged on velcro. Aren't we done with velcro yet? It seems like it should be really antiquated at this point, like I should have a hard time explaining what it is to my son. Like when he wanted to call someone on my iPhone and I handed him the receiver I use and he was all, "What is this?" and held it sideways and upside down.

However, probably I am just tired because I tried to stay awake to watch Louie because OnDemand is useless at having shows that are watchable and I fell asleep on the couch with braids wrapped around my head because I was trying to look all fashionista and my hair weighs about 7 pounds and my neck was sighing and wishing it didn't have to support a hairstyle that would be better suited to someone who was 23.

So the lease was for real signed on an apartment in Rome yesterday, a mere ten minute walk to the Coliseum (which as we all know is totally the property of the mafia--those guys dressed as gladiators/Roman soldiers/chariot drivers or whatever  they are supposed to be that you can pay to get a picture with? Mafia.) so the area should be fairly safe. Apparently there was more paperwork involved in this rental than selling/buying a house and FOUR months rent upfront plus the agent's fee. Additionally, the owner wanted to see pictures of me and our son. Mike thinks it was just to be polite, but I think it was to make sure he wasn't being all American at Senior Week and trying to house 17 people in a hotel room when you have paid for only two and you spend the entire week climbing in and out a window when the desk clerk isn't looking.

Anyway, Mike and I are both 100%, non-genetically modified third generation Italians on our fathers' side. Mike, however, is tall and looks very not Italian. I may look very very vaguely Italian, but in Italy, the only time I am addressed in Italian and not English is when it is 102 degrees and I'm wearing long pants. And I'm pretty sure that has more to do with the fact that no one but Italians wear long pants and scarves when it is 102 degrees than with my genes. And when I'm in France. For some reason, the French think I'm Italian and sniffling speak to me in Italian. But that could be because they can't bring themselves to acknowledge an American.

The landlord immediately decided I was a-from-Italy-Italian who was currently living in America. And  thought that our son--who is an absolute Mike clone and not one person has ever thought resembled me in the slightest---looked nothing like Mike but was the spitting image of me. I thought this was very nice (why is it so flattering when someone thinks your offspring looks like you? Sheer ego?) until Mike informed me that with my Italian(?) look and very vowel-filled Italian last name, everyone will fully expect me to speak Italian and will grill me as to what's wrong with me when they discover I do not.

Coffee has kicked-in. Eyelids are as open as they are going to get today. Time to try and find the splinter in my elbow and practice saying, "I don't speak Italian; am ignorant American."

Monday, July 02, 2012

Renting the rental

Finding the right home is always an ordeal.We have been known to look at houses for 13 months straight before finding one that suits our needs. (Yes, our faces pop-up on realtors' screens with a big red "X" so that everyone knows not to accept us as clients.)

Now that we are able to decipher the rental-speak in Rome, we must naviagte the cultural waters of practices that would almost seem...a bit shady in other the United States.

For instance, many owners insist on having the apartment do double-duty as both a storage unit for their own things as well as a place to rent. You will not receieve a discount for the fact that you are living in someone's storage unit. And in fact, you may pay more as they consider they are doing you a favor by allowing you to live amongst the items they do not wish to have in their own home. And, no, this is not the same as renting a furnished apartment. This is the same as renting a storage unit that has a bathroom and wi-fi.

Another interesting but little known practice is that renting is not the usual  first-come, first-serve, suitable applicant basis. Standard background checks, references, proven steady income, first and last months rent, none of this is taken into consideration. This is not because the landlord suspects someone is not really a suitable renter and that at the end of the lease the apartment will be in shambles. It is because these things do not matter. What does matter is whether or not the owner's dog likes you. This will decide whether or not the owner likes you, determining if you may ask to rent the apartment.

And then comes the bidding. On the rent. Of the apartment. You are not buying it. You are not making an offer on a house which may or may not be counter-offered. You are presented with the monthly rental fee, and then you haggle to get the price down. If you do not do this because you feel the current rental price is more than fair, you will not get the apartment. Because obviously there is something wrong with you if you aren't willing to bargain.

As always, Mike's natural charm has served us well(see Getting the Visas) and we have secured a lovely place (light fixtures! stove! bed-size bedrooms!) in a beautiful area. The owner's dog found Mike delightful, as did the owner, who addressed Mike as "Carino" and he was chosen over the other potential renters. Who presumably were not carino and did not know how to dog whisper. Or fill their pockets with Milk Bones.