December 4, 2005 16:45 | Confession / Montreal

A funny thing happened on my way to...

I did a lot of walking yesterday.

At 1:15 I visited the apartment I mentioned here previously. Arriving at the address, one of my suspicions was confirmed: it was indeed the same building that an english professor of mine from over 10 years ago lives in. Matthew von Baeyer taught a course on essay writing at John Abbott College; I was not actually enrolled in the course but I became friends with him and sat in a few times. When I visited his apartment all those years ago, he showed me his grandfather's Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1905), which he had been awarded for synthesizing the color indigo for use in commercial dyes. He also showed me the small book of poetry he had self-published, all about indigo.

So I visit the place; classic Montreal apartment layout: off from the entrance are two large rooms with no wall between them (making it one big room but still considered separate), a central living room area (which is not much more than a widening or an outgrowth of the hallway, much the same way Lake St-Louis is just a widening of the St-Lawrence River), a tight washroom, a small kitchen (the stove was in a closet...) and a back room. It was... "ok". I went through the motions, filled out the application form, buying time to think about it.

This is where I spare you details about going back home and then returning to bring the landlord some contact info.

After dropping off the envelope with said details, I turn around, snap this pic, and head back home. Crossing Marie-Anne Street, I see a "À LOUER" ("FOR RENT") sign. I get closer to see the details. In shakey hand, a name (George), phone number and "4 1/2") are written lightly.

"What the heck", I think as I key in the number.

A cheerful, elderly woman's voice, heavy with foreign accent answers.
- "Oh you want to see? Come, come see!"
- "Yes, thank you. I am outside! Which apartment is it?"
- "Oh you are outside?! I come out. It is upstairs!"

Upstairs, I meet George. Mid to late 60's greek man. If it weren't so close to Christmas, I wouldn't hesitate to say he was jolly (I find out later what makes him so jolly and his nose so red... deadly homemade greek wine! hah!)

I am showed into the apartent, I remove my shoes and... I look down the hallway... and it seems to stretch from here to Papineau! "Jeebus, how big is this place?" I think to myself.

The first room, off to the left (they are all on the left), is e-nor-mous. Thanks to a large window (sadly all the windows face Marie-Anne and not the Mountain... small price), it is very bright. The following room is a bit smaller but also larger than I oculd hope for and bright. "Bedroom!" I immediately think. ;)

The third room is a tad smaller again, and it connects to a perfectly respectable kitchen, which opens out to the balcony, which runs the length of the apartment. Oh and the ceilings are all about 14". Oh and the floors have just finished drying after being sanded and re-finished. Oh and the previous tenant stripped and sanded all the moldings down to bare wood, including the antique cupboards in the kitchen which have glass doors and little latches. What a treat.

I could live without the stucco in the hallway but eh. C'est la vie.

"Dammit, let's do this." I say to myself.
"What do you need from me to make this mine?" I ask George.
"Ohhh, a small deposit, maybe $100, just to say, and come back tomorrow to meet my son who will take care of the paper stuff."
I had shown up at the first apartment with $400 cash in my pocket in case I needed to grease a palm. But I had since gone back home and left the money on my shelf. Drat I hafta go back!

So back I go, and back I drive (getting tired here...). I ring the doorbell, George greets me, I quickly try to spit out the "thank you very much" in greek my mother had just taught me over the phone from Florida. (something something para poly... :p ) Come in! Have a glass of wine with me! Let's talk a bit!


Plate of smoked pork, some bread, olives... and a glass of 1 year old home made greek red turpentine, I mean wine!

This all goes very well. Everyone is jovial everyone is happy, I am just the kind of guy they are lookign for as a tenant; I know it and they know it. The question of money and where and how I get it barely comes up.
- "Where do you work? What do you do?"
- "I work for myself, at home mostly. Iiiiiii... um... computars!"
- "Ah! Ok! ... I come here in 1954 with five dollars and not speak english!"

(Forgive me if that sounded bad. I in no way intend to portray George in any kind of joking or deprecating or disrespectful way. It was really that kind of heartwarming conversation.)

- "Ah! My father too! He came from germany. He told me that for the first month he ate apple pie everyday at the same diner because he couldn't read the menu and would just point at the pie in the glass dome on the counter..."

After having brunch (our last Sunday brunch together for probably a long time), I returned to see George and meet his son, Spiro; a hip and with it and super nice guy. They had me fill out an application form quickly, a formality.

- "Great, just come back on Tuesday, is Tuesday ok?, I'll give you the keys!"
- "And I guess I'll sign the lease then and give you first month's rent..."
- "Yeah, heh, that too."

Here I am. :D


congrats brah ! u deserve a swinging pad !

Congratulation, "efkharisto para poli", and btw, before you get rid of the encyclopedia, talk to Sop.
Next time you see Spiro, say "yassou" to him !

Jim pointed out via IM that Herr von Baeyer has a Wikipedia entry.

Jim I actually knew about him doing Dye research way back when

no way...



Chemical indigo is so close to natural indigo, that it's condsidered the same, a natural dye for carpets and such
the only way to tell the difference is by the impurities that the natural stuff has


it's pretty impressive - kind of like is someone made synthetic chocolate that was exactly the same


tragically, the first pairs of indigo-dyed blue jeans had a tendency to spontaneously explode

"but we sold the dyes to the Evisu guys anyways..."


I can always count on Jim to surprise me with something like this. And end with a joke. :)

(Evisu is a hyper-brand of japanese jeans and such. They started out by being super "authenticity freaks" about jeans and would buy old decommissioned antique looms from Levi's and special dyes etc etc. A pair of Evisu jeans goes for a couple of hundred dollars.)

This has happened to me too: go looking for one place and one another, even better one in the same neighborhood.

This is how I found my house in Jakarta. I went to look at a blah place and found instead nearby a "for rent" sign outside a little, very neat former dentist's office that turned into a great, strategic place to live.

I found my apartments in Rangoon & Cairo in other ways, though, so housing serendipity isn't something one can always count on. But it works damn well the times that it does! Congrats!