Haresh Shah

That’s Just What I Needed To Be

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Between my hasty arrival in Munich and the hastier departure next day to Düsseldorf, there wasn‘t much time to think of or look for a permanent place for me to live in Munich, which is where I would be based. The most practical thing for me to do would have been to move into Gerrit Huig’s apartment  from which he had already moved out and established himself in Milan. I was his replacement in Germany with editorial based in Munich and production in Essen near Düsseldorf. Eventually I would have preferred  a pièd à terre in both cities, but having taken over Gerrit’s apartment gave me a temporary reprise and perhaps a permanent one if  I so wished.  But soon it became apparent to me that it wasn’t a right place for me for more reasons than one. Just within the first few weeks I was awoken by the loud and harsh ringing of the phone early in the morning. On the line was Frau Westerholz – my landlady – hysterically screaming at me. She had just received the telephone bill in the amount of a couple of hundred deautsch marks, listing frequent calls to Chicago and also to Milan and Paris.

At the time, if you rented a place anywhere in Europe, you made sure that it came with a telephone already installed.  It wasn’t easy to transfer it to your name and/or easily ordered and installed in a day or two like in the US.  When renting a place, you just agreed to reimburse your landlord the phone charges. Took me first to shake myself awake and then assuming a milder tone, I calmed down Frau Westerholz.  Telling her that soon as she handed me the bill, I would immediately transfer the funds to her account. But even otherwise, the apartment wasn’t something I aspired to. The neighbors were unfriendly, if not outright nasty. Parking was a big problem.

Hearing of my frustrations, Rainer’s wife Renate kindly offered to help find a new apartment. In Chicago I had lived in a brand new lake front apartment on the south side. A spacious one bedroom place with the glass walls and wonderful panoramic view of the South Shore Country Club and the Lake Shore Drive. It came with a swimming pool, the penthouse party room and  underground garage.

‘There are many new buildings, I am sure we can find something as good for  you.’ Renate assured. She made up a classified ad for me, something to the effect that  a young American professional  just having moved to Munich was looking for a specious two bedroom apartment.  She placed the ad in Süddeautsche Zeitung, and the phone on my desk began to ring incessantly and insistently.

I must have spoken to at least half a dozen potential landlords. The rent most of them quoted was not a problem, in fact they were lower than DM 1000.- I was paying for Gerrit’s apartment.  But in the end, none of them wanted to rent me their places. The composite conversation went something like this.

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