E-book update & release

The novels Cynicism Management and Pendulum Pet have both been updated and released in most e-book stores. Pendulum Pet, previously exclusive to Amazon, has now been removed from Amazon out of solidarity with my new U.S. publisher River Boat Books, and both novels are now available, in electronic form, in most e-book stores except Amazon. The price of both books has been set to $ 3.99. Find the universal book links that will take you to the lists of all the stores the novels are available in below each cover.


Available in the following e-book stores


Available in the following e-book stores

Announcement: Tit Augmented

I must admit I’m normally not a big fan of music album reissues, remixes, remasters, reboots, reduxes, super duper deluxe editions, and so on, as they – at least to me – often feel like money grabs that don’t have much “added value” to offer. However, for quite some time, I’ve nevertheless been itching to do exactly that with Cynicism Management’s first album, Tit: eventually release a new version of it, because it was originally recorded in painfully annoying “no-budget” and “no-decent-equipment” circumstances that, at the time, prevented me from recording “real” acoustic drums and forced me to resort to electronic drum pads instead. For me as a drummer, this was the most disappointing aspect of the project, quite difficult to put up with, even though it was just one of the many annoying compromises we were forced to come to terms with as a band due to the chronic lack of resources. Additionally, my own musical equipment as well as expertise and experience as a music producer have improved significantly in the last decade (or, at least, that’s what I like to believe). Consequently, I’ve been having a hard time listening to Tit, regardless of how happy I was when the project was completed in spite of all the obstacles. Don’t get me wrong: I still think that the songs are pretty good; I still like them and stand by what they represent even today; but, unfortunately, I’m unable to enjoy them very much the way that they are. Instead, I can’t help imagining how they could and should be. Therefore, eventually “remaking” these tracks and reissuing the album, maybe in some convenient circumstances, has been one of my (admittedly vaguer) ideas that’s been gathering dust on one of the more forgotten shelves of my mind for years. In fact, predicting that I might eventually decide to go through with this, I took the opportunity to record the coveted “real” acoustic drums for this album already when my wife and I still lived in Izola, Slovenia – while we had the fortune of rehearsing in a friend’s fully-equipped music studio that allowed for such a thing. I then shelved these recordings and let them gather dust as well.

Fast forward almost a decade… And here we are: I have recently found myself in a situation that actually warrants such an album re-release, and I have finally started working – for real, now – on a thoroughly “renovated” version of Cynicism Management’s first album, Tit. From here on in, we shall call this reissue Tit Augmented, simply because the new version of the album will be much more than a simple “remaster”; it will also not be a “remix” in the usual sense of the word; it will definitely not be an extended release with any new (or live versions of) tracks; and the collocation is sort of fitting. The artwork will be different as well: this time we’ll use an illustration conceived by my nephew and budding artist in his own right, Matevž Praper, which toys around with the record’s title a little:

The reason behind the decision to start working on this project now is extremely simple, but in order to explain it, I need to recap a little.

The Cynicism Management scheme was hatched more than ten years ago, towards the end of 2008. Disillusioned by our previous musical endeavours, we (my wife Monika and I, I have to admit) devised a “literary musical” experiment, initially just for fun: the idea was to write a novel featuring a fictional band called Cynicism Management and record music to go with it. Both parts of the project were eventually completed successfully. Cynicism Management went so far as to become a real band (even a live act – initially a six-piece line-up and later a quintet – for a while); and it released its first album, poetically titled Tit (a small bird of the Paridae family) back in 2011, well before the novel. Meanwhile, Cynicism Management – the novel was first published published by a UK e-book publisher that vanished a couple of years later, and subsequently reissued as an e-book on most e-book platforms.

The last live incarnation of Cynicism Management – the live line-up was disbanded in 2012, when my wife and I decided to leave our native Slovenia and move to Berlin, Germany. Nevertheless, we kept working on the musical part of the project, though mercifully without the exasperating complexities of struggling to maintain a rather large and complicated high-tech prog rock act in the morbid quagmire that passes for today’s music and concert scene. Thus the band once again reverted to its studio-based form, and it currently consists of only three members: Monika Fritz on vocals; the first-rate Slovenian blues/jazz/fusion guitarist Jure Praper, who’s in charge of all those pesky odd-time guitar solos; and myself. (Yes, I have a large family that even sort of gets along most of the time, and in some ways we are a bit like the Cosa Nostra, I suppose.)

Cynicism Management – the band went on to release the single Opus 0 in 2012; the EP Shadow Chasers in 2013; and the second full-length album Pendulum Pet in 2015. On the other hand, Pendulum Pet – the novel was published in 2016 as well – as the second book in what was gradually turning into a sort of a (loose) series. What ties the novels together is the actual music by the band Cynicism Management, referenced in the novels, while the stories are – in spite of certain characters appearing in both novels – self-contained and can easily be read independently.

In 2017, while I was still writing my third (and at this point still unfinished) novel titled Dog Days and composing the music to go with it, Monika and I decided to raise anchor once again and move to the Canary Islands, the remotest part of the European Union that we could think of and much more pleasant than the ever more expensive and increasingly gentrified Berlin with all its hustle, bustle, and six-month winters featuring eternal darkness, constant drizzles, bone-chilling Siberian winds, and hence an overabundance of doom and gloom. The move resulted in my two-year hiatus from writing and music, as I focused on other things, mainly flat renovations, chilli pepper cultivation, and nature. This sabbatical has recently been interrupted by my unwavering friend Rick Harsch, who has kindly invited me to contribute to his experimental “communal” novel The Assassination of Olof Palme. Shortly after that, when I had already started writing again, I was utterly honoured that the publisher River Boat Books saw fit to include my debut novel Cynicism Management: A Rock & Roll Fable in its list of new releases for the summer/autumn of 2019. Due to this remarkable development, I can now once again envision finishing my third novel as well, because nothing could motivate me and spur me on as thoroughly and decisively as an outstanding publisher and a marvellous community of fellow writers.

The book’s publication, ultimately planned for February 2020, is also an excellent opportunity to “pre-release” Tit Augmented, which will initially be intended for the readers of the book exclusively: for a while, the new version of the album won’t be downloadable anywhere else but a password-protected sub-page on my official author website, and the songs will only be streamable from our SoundCloud page. The password will be stated in the introduction to the physical, paper version of the book only. Roughly a year later, in 2021, the album will finally be – on the tenth anniversary of the original Tit – released for the general audience as well. In the meantime, the new and improved (augmented) versions of songs will be appearing on the password-protected page, one by one, until the whole album consisting of twelve tracks is done… After which the whole collection will be made available to the River Boat Books readers free of charge.

I would hereby like to thank my dear friend Rick Harsch and writer and publisher Peter Bellis, who gave me the well-measured kick in the butt I desperately needed to go through with this… As well as Matevž Praper, who has envisioned and drawn the augmented tit. The other contributors to this project are as follows:

Monika Fritz: vocals
Jan Urbanc: guitar
Borut Praper: drums, keyboards, programming, bass, guitar
Aljaž Tulimirović: guitar and bass on Iniquity; guitar on Herbal Haze; guitar, e-bow guitar and kazoo on The End of the Vilewood Road
Stojan Kralj: guitar on Herbal Haze
Jure Praper: lead guitar on Four-Circle Penile Substitute

All tracks written and arranged by Borut Praper, except Iniquity co-written by Aljaž Tulimirović
All lyrics by Borut Praper
Recorded, produced and mixed by Borut Praper
Vocals co-arranged by Monika Fritz
Mastering by Andrej Hrvatin

Recorded in Studio S.U.R., Izola (http://sur.si/)
Additional material recorded by Stojan Kralj in Juice Plant Studio, Maribor
Drums recorded in Yan Baray’s studio in Izola in 2013

And now, without further ado, here is the first “renovated” track as well as the first song that’s referenced in the novel: Touring My Backyard (Augmented):

SUR albums now on streaming platforms

As of this month, the “main” albums (but not soundtracks for theatre performances and audiovisual works – those are available from our Bandcamp page) by one of our former bands, SUR, should be available on almost all streaming platforms like Deezer, Spotify, etc., as well as in most digital stores. The first album by SUR, “Na jug” – which also happened to be the first time that any of my music was published on a “real”, tangible, physical CD – was 15 years old this May! Holy crap, how time flies…




Tilting at Windmills?

A few days ago I pulled my books off Amazon in solidarity with my new publisher’s anti-Amazon campaign, which you can read about – and possibly contribute to – on GoFundMe. Tilting at windmills? Possibly, but I believe it is still a good cause, and all the reasons for it are explained in the River Boat Books Anti-Amazon Statement, so no need to repeat them here.

For me personally, the decision to join the boycott was not particularly difficult: after all, Amazon has single-handedly destroyed bookstores and publishers all over the world as well as literature in itself, or at least completely polluted its e-book segment: rabidly profit-driven, it has ensured the global domination of an endless deluge of cloned (pseudo-)fantasy, (quasi-)sci-fi and romance scribblings of the pulpiest kind, as everything that doesn’t get consumed instantly by vast numbers of readers – thanks to aggressive (and expensive) advertising, paid reviews, marketing tricks and schemes, etc. – is sentenced to instant oblivion, ensured by algorithms that keep pushing only what sells best and burying everything else under mile-deep piles of dregs. While that is perfectly understandable and completely unsurprising in the world ruled (and ruined) by rampant capitalism of the worst kind, it is also exactly what I so frequently rant against in my own novels. Therefore I had already felt like a hypocrite for selling (or, rather, attempting to sell) my books through such a malignant transnational corporation even before my publisher, River Boat Books, initiated their openly anti-Amazon campaign.

However, the last and most hilarious straw for me was that some time ago, Amazon arbitrarily and with no explanation or warning at all categorised my debut novel Cynicism Management as erotica – probably because some tender soul, possibly belonging to some terminally-embittered housewife, complained about the couple of rather explicit sex scenes that the novel indeed contains. Fine, so in Amazon’s opinion, any book containing a (semi)vivid description of anything carnal automatically means that the book is porn. Classifying my novel as “erotica” might not even have been so detrimental if it, in fact, was erotica… But, as it happens, it is actually a sci-fi satire with elements of cyberpunk, and the cover displays a cyborg cockroach. I doubt that anyone in their right mind would find that particularly sexy, and the actual sex scenes in the novel probably take up about five to maybe ten pages out of approximately 450. I dread the potential review by anyone who’d buy this thinking that it truly is erotica, but (fortunately?) the book had been concealed under a million of books about witches, fairies, werewolves, and sexy vampires already before this fiasco, so it hasn’t seen any sales whatsoever for ages, anyway.

So, yeah: obviously, my decision to pull my novels off Amazon would have certainly been harder had they actually been selling… But since they had already been largely ignored and increasingly “undiscoverable” with each passing day (as they sank deeper and deeper into the bottomless abyss littered with hundreds of thousands of long-forgotten e-books), this boycott is, I admit, no skin off my back. That much is true. Nevertheless, I’d hate to subscribe to my publisher’s “manifesto” and then do the exact opposite behind their back, so I hope this decision still counts as a valid expression of solidarity.

And now for something completely different!

It now appears that the “slight possibility that my first novel might soon(ish) get released on paper, as an actual, tangible, physical book” that I mentioned in my previous (longwinded, as usual) post will become a fact after all. Here’s an inspirational quote for this occasion:

The whole jeremiad that is Cynicism Management (the novel) is going to be published by River Boat Books this summer – where else than on the banks of the Mississippi River. Hell, maybe NOW the devil I keep looking for might appear to me at those fabled crossroads after all, so that I can finally sign the infernal contract…?

Reanimation & exhumation

The last time I had a good look at my two websites after one of them had been hacked (my fault, I haven’t been updating them promptly enough), I was shocked to realise that it’s been a year and a half since I’ve posted anything here (or on the other site). This wasn’t intentional or planned – it’s just that real life took precedence over all of my “less crucial” interests (which, unfortunately, included all of my ongoing musical and literary pursuits). Due to my relocation from Berlin to the Canary Islands and all of the issues this has involved, what I had once almost thought of as a “calling” of sorts was swiftly downgraded to “hobbies” as soon as reality kicked in. I spent many months fretting over this, especially as the third full-length Cynicism Management album (which had been almost finished by that time) and my related third novel (also well on its way to completion) had screeched to a painful stop. I had no choice but to gradually get to terms with the unplanned hiatus and stop nagging at myself: I figured that music and writing would once again become more important to me once I settled down properly.

The problem is this little adverb, “properly”. While I did set up a small improvised studio in the flat as soon as the renovations had been completed to at least some degree, this did not happen until about a year into the move. There was simply too much to do around the apartment first. However, the improvised excuse for a studio was such a bummer after the relative luxury I had enjoyed in Berlin (where I had been renting a decently-sized room in a highly secure building dedicated solely to rehearsal rooms and studios, and where I had all my instruments including drums and microphones set up and ready to go at all times) that I was simply unable to muster the energy and motivation required to work on anything very seriously. To avoid inevitable frustration with the abysmal acoustics of my temporary workspace, the inability to mix anything at a reasonable volume without headphones, etc., I restricted myself to mere “tinkering”.

Currently I am still at the “tinkering” stage, but at least I can see the light at the end of this particular tunnel now: after many failed attempts to set up a studio elsewhere (rent a basement or a garage somewhere or whatever), my wife and I are now once again resolved to simply build a room in the abandoned basement of our apartment building (a failed attempt at a car garage, don’t even ask) – in spite of some pushback from the neighbours who, obviously, dread the prospect of having someone banging on the drums down there. I’ll clearly have to invest in some serious sound insulation – but that is self-evident, anyway. The place where walls should come up eventually currently looks like this:

The very decision to start cleaning out the mess from the basement and start transforming a section of it into something useful – the place (currently used for nothing but dirt storage) is huge and I only need the part that theoretically goes with our flat – seemed to reanimate at least some of my unfinished projects and bring them back from deep hibernation.

While I still can’t record properly, I’ve decided to finally exhume the material for the potential 10th-anniversary reissue of Tit, the first Cynicism Management album. So I started reworking the songs that are almost a decade old by now (unbelievable…), simply because I still love them and I’d like to finally make them sound as they should have sounded a decade ago. I am not talking about a “remix” or a “remaster” or some “deluxe” version of the album, as is usually the case, but rather about a complete reworking of the songs complete with drum replacement. As it happened, ten years ago, when we were making the original Tit, I was unable to record acoustic drums the way I wanted to… But I managed to record them a few years later, while I had unprecedented access to a suitably-equipped studio. I have stored the recordings carefully ever since precisely for this possibility.

On the other hand, I have also started mixing the upcoming Dog Days album and preparing the material for the last missing ingredient: the vocals, which Monika, the Cynicism Management vocalist upon whom all of the new songs hinge heavily, can record as soon as our real studio is eventually up and running.

On the literary front, Dog Days, my third novel, remains at a standstill (yes, it carries the same title as the album, as the text will contain or refer to audio tracks once again, just like Cynicism Management and Pendulum Pet).

However, my good friend, the US American writer Rick Harsch, has recently invited me to take part in the creation of his next novel “The Assassination of Olof Palme“, which will include contributions from many other writers. The book will be published by River Boat Books and is slated for the summer of 2020. We shall see how the project turns out, but the very prospect of being able to participate in such a nutty undertaking has been enough to make me write again. I must say I like it immensely – especially as I’ll be able to associate and link this work with my own third novel as well as the fourth one (if I ever manage to finish either at all). Ideas abound, but now for the hard part: to make them a reality.

Speaking of literary endeavours… There is now a slight possibility that my first novel might soon(ish) get released on paper, as an actual, tangible, physical book. While I will not reveal anything else until I am sure of it, one of the “byproducts” of the preparations for the potential “paper version” includes the release of a new updated electronic version of my debut novel on Kobo and other e-book platforms. The most recent proofreading/editing run was done by Rick’s friend Larry Riley, who did a fantastic job finding a heap of leftover typos and suggested a ton of much-needed improvements. So even if the book ultimately does not get published on paper, I am profoundly thankful for Larry’s insight – he has contributed a lot to a much-improved electronic version of the novel.

Apart from that, I’ve finally decided to release the three “main” albums by SUR, one of my former bands that would now be 18 years old if it still existed, on the current streaming platforms shortly. While I haven’t seen any reason to do it in the past (as nobody gives much of a damn about such an exhumation), nowadays I don’t see any reason not to do it. These albums will by no means be remastered or remixed or whatever. They will simply be reissued, in their original form, on the new platforms – solely for the sake of making them available to all three potential listeners that may still remember this band at all… But, more importantly, to ensure their continued existence in the form that people, especially the former SUR band members, can actually use. Indeed, we’ve come to the point where CDs have become terminally obsolete. What will I ever do with those boxes full of ’em now that I don’t even own a CD player anymore…?

That’s about it. I probably won’t disappear for a year again after this post, though, because I’ll be releasing Touring My Backyard, the first “augmentation” from the Tit album that I am reworking, as soon as I’m done reconstructing it. Working on that has been all sorts of annoying, I admit… But it certainly brings back memories!

Grumblin’ Ole Geezer’s Volcano Lair: Part 11 – Conclusion

We’ve now been here for two months or so, and we’re both sure the move – however gruelling it could get at times – has been one of the best ideas we’ve ever come up with. The weather in general is fabulous, and it will only get more fantastic during the winter; life is slow and cheap; we have already met quite a few great people; and we already have many plans in the works (after we complete the most crucial tasks of renovating the flat and building a music studio, that is).

Downsides? Houseflies, an occasional cockroach and – contrary to our expectations – mosquito. We blame the latter on the damn water reservoirs nearby, but the situation will be under control once we take the time to install netting in all the strategic spots. Not that it’s much of an issue as it is, really – in comparison with the exsanguination experts of Izola, Slovenia, the local mosquitoes are, quite surprisingly, of the NON-tiger variety; rarely encountered; and not nearly as bloodthirsty or abundant, especially not during daytime. Cockroaches, on the other hand, can be absolutely repulsive, and I’d like to see how happy all the loudmouth vegans – I’m not talking about dietary choices here, but rather about people who can’t shut up about their veganism and about them and only them being life-preserving and enlightened, unlike all us evil non-vegans – would be about sharing their beds with one of these:

Unfortunately you can’t tell from the photo, but this plump specimen measured around 6 or 7 centimetres. But what’s a wee little cockroach or three in comparison to a Berlin winter…

The flat renovations are taking a while, mostly because we’re doing almost everything ourselves; and now that we have completed the most urgent tasks (renovating and furnishing the bedroom, bathroom, and especially kitchen, which was a massive pain in the behind due to all the odd-angle corners involved), we are no longer in an extreme hurry to get it all done. Of course, some things also tend to progress relatively slowly due to the infamous Canarian time warp, as well as because it’s simply impossible to get everything in one place – which is why we have, among other things, also become experts in locating this valve or that screw in a variety of local hardware stores. Thus one is often forced to become an angry shopper for entire days at a time instead of pretending to be a plumber/electrician/painter/builder/carpenter/whatever. But it’s all good – after a bit of hard work (and some annoying shopping), the results are all the sweeter: every little thing we accomplish around the flat is ours to enjoy, not some landlord’s. (And I’ve also managed to lose quite a bit of weight, to boot – but worry not, I have quite a few kilos to spare.)

Another issue has also been turning out well. Namely, when we saw the apartment building for the first time, we noticed that the planned car garages in the basement were unfinished and abandoned (and would definitely remain that way due to the access ramp that’s even hard to navigate on foot, let alone in (or on) a vehicle of any kind – don’t ask what they had been thinking, I don’t believe anyone knows, really). Thus the basement, accessible from the back of the apartment building, is currently empty, horrendously filthy, and in total disarray. However, we immediately saw what must have been (fortunately for us) a massive turn-off for any potential buyers before us as a potential chance to “appropriate” a part of the abandoned underground and turn it into a music studio. It turns out we were right, because most of the residents cannot wait, in fact, for someone to clean up the mess beneath the building and close it off in order to keep out the naughty kids who occasionally use the deserted “dungeons” as a nice “reverby” place where they can set off firecrackers (and get up to who knows what sorts of mischief). By now we have “attained” several allies in the building, including the guy who’s actually in charge of it as a sort of caretaker, so after he speaks to La presidenta, we should be able to start cleaning the place and building several rooms for everyone involved to use. If everything turns out the way we’re hoping, I’ll soon be able to get up in the morning and meander down to the studio in my underwear. After braving the eternal darkness, rain, and bitter winds of Berlin for half an hour every time I wanted to get something “musical” done for the last five years, that’ll be a massive improvement.

Speaking of music… Fortunately, everything we’d had shipped arrived here about three weeks later, and it was all undamaged, which was a massive relief:

Needless to say, I was extremely happy with the movers and can only recommend them to anyone facing similar logistical quandaries involving the transportation of sensitive equipment from Germany to the Canaries (the company is at http://www.en.mobiltrans.com/).

As for the rest of the bureaucracy… First of all, the matter of the real estate agent claiming we had somehow miraculously succeeded in short-changing the bank. Nocturnal Attorney reviewed the documents related to the purchase of the flat and told us the following: “Sure, give the real estate agency another 3000 euros – if you’re totally nuts. Just don’t speak to them anymore, and if they contact you, refer them to me. But make sure to claim all the documents as soon as you can.” Instead of charging us for the advice, he told us to buy him a beer when we get the chance.

Getting our paws on the final documents took a while, but not due to any menace on the part of the agent we had hired to get everything in order. The delay was apparently mostly caused by heat and the persistent local distortion in the space-time continuum: in the end it took the agent in question several weeks to produce the papers. But finally she did produce them – after shrugging off any complications that the real estate agent had been hinting at, as the real estate agency could no longer lodge any complaints. After all, the real estate agent had stated the “accidentally reduced” price on all the relevant documents, which we had then verified with Nocturnal Attorney; all the paperwork had gone through at the notary’s months earlier; and a month or two earlier the agent in charge of the documentation had already paid all the taxes and fees in our name. As we had already expected, it turned out that the real estate agent had made a mistake herself on the very first document she produced, after which everyone involved kept replicating the error – until it had already been far too late. Apparently – as she never called again – the real estate agent must have eventually realised that there was nothing to be done, not even if we all wanted to: it was now impossible to cancel the contract, as the whole process had been completed long before somebody finally spotted the problem. We did feel bad for the real estate agent, who probably lost her commission in case of this sale; but, truth be told, it had been nobody’s mistake apart from her own. Besides, as I may have already mentioned, I certainly don’t harbour much sympathy for real estate agencies, let alone banks: they have all been involved in skewering people and screwing them out of their life savings for ages, especially during the last “financial crisis”, and I really doubt they’ll lose any sleep over some petty change they might have misplaced along the way. Hell, it’s incredibly fortunate for us that they happened to come up with a special unintended discount in our case – not only because our budget was so limited, but also because judging from the stories we’ve heard around here it’s usually the other way around.

Anyway, in the end we bought our apartment for EUR 45,000 plus 3,000 in taxes and about a thousand in other related fees. The monthly instalment for our loan is significantly lower than our rent in Berlin had been. Needless to say, the price was far lower than it would have been for any comparable flat in Slovenia, let alone Berlin (not to mention that its location is slightly more favourable). Furthermore, as we had expected, the local real estate prices are still climbing rapidly, and a few weeks ago we noticed that a bank is now selling another flat in the ground floor of our apartment block. It’s the same size as ours, but without the two terraces, obviously; completely empty and in dire need of renovations as well; and they want around EUR 76,000 for it. I don’t know if they’ll actually sell it for this kind of money or not, but I suppose we’ve even managed to pull off a nice investment, especially if we ever decide to sell what will by that time be a completely renovated flat – simply due to quite a bit of luck and some common-sense prudence, I suppose.

AH – and, last but not least – we’re getting fibre optics in a few weeks. Supposedly it’ll be a radical 300Mb/s symmetrical connection, which is simply insane and should definitely prevent me from ever bitching about the lousy local internet connections ever again.

This brings my longwinded intercontinental relocation tirade to its end. I know it’s a “tl;dr” wall of text that not many people will ever bother to read, but my main intention was to jot down these things mostly for myself, before I end up forgetting everything… And if some of the yammering somehow in any way helps anyone who might be thinking of doing something similar, all the better. I will probably keep posting occasional “updates” from the Canaries, but I’ll come up with another series of blog posts: the “Grumblin’ Ole Geezer’s Volcano Lair” series is hereby concluded.

Oh, before I forget: here are some photos…

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Grumblin’ Ole Geezer’s Volcano Lair: Part 10 – Farewell, Warthestrasse

The few weeks in the beginning of June were the last time we would be staying in Berlin for any considerable duration. Of course we would probably still visit occasionally, as we’d made some very good friends during our (almost) five-year stint there, but there would be no going back. Not really, once we gave back the keys to our apartment – as these days getting a flat in Berlin is nearly impossible. Should the force happen to be with you to the degree it takes to actually be able to rent one, it’ll most likely be ridiculously expensive.

The final leg of the journey before heading to Canary Islands for good was also the most critical and exhausting. First of all, we fidgeted nervously while we waited for the Houseverwaltung (the owners of our apartment) to come to a decision regarding our Italian pal, who was eager to take over our flat. Fortunately it all turned out well: they did increase the guy’s rent by a hundred euros or so, but he was still happy to take it, as it nevertheless beat the hell out of any other options. Secondly, one of the most critical issues, at least for me personally, was to finalise the arrangement with the intercontinental movers and pack up the studio.

Importing things to the Canaries can be an issue. Theoretically, Canary Islands are a part of the European Union, as they are an integral part of Spain; but they are an autonomous province and, as a remote region, subject to specific fiscal and economic arrangements. They are in the eurozone, but not in the VAT system. Instead of VAT, there is a local Sales Tax (IGIC) with a general rate of 7%, an increased tax rate of 13.5%, a reduced tax rate of 3%, and a zero tax rate for certain basic need products and services. Used household goods and personal items can be imported to the Canaries free of any customs duties and taxes, provided that they have been owned and used for a minimum of six months, and the importation must take place within one year of registering a residence on the Canaries and no later than three months after one’s arrival there. Furthermore, the “the items must correspond to the social and economic status of the client“, which probably means that you can’t import truckloads of expensive gadgets if you’re otherwise broke, as the customs might find that slightly suspicious (more information: http://webportal.atlasintl.com/Customs%20Docs/spain.pdf).

In order to pull this off, I had to prepare a detailed list of everything that would be transported. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem and would simply consist of jotting down “dishes”, “pots & pans”, “books”, “clothes”, or whatever… But I did own about 3.5 cubic metres (yes, we measured the heap) of relatively expensive musical instruments and electronic equipment for my studio, and I was obliged to state every microphone on the list. Thus I finally headed to the studio one day and spent eight hours packing everything and including it on the list. After packing my wee collection of instruments, cables, microphones, computers, electronics, and hardware that weighs a ton in the oppressive heat that had been known to invade the city in the summer, I was utterly spent. I also prepared all the invoices I could still find after decades of collecting my precious assortment of musical “toys”, just in case (though the movers said that would most likely not be necessary, but better safe than sorry, I say, especially in case of malevolent bureaucrats).

To say that I managed to obtain a nasty case of muscle soreness would be an understatement, as I could barely stand on my feet the next morning. Nevertheless, we had to go to the studio one last time, as my fellow co-tenant there procured a confectioner’s van (I kid you not, it’s just that the guy works at a confectionery) in order to help me lug all of this crap to our flat. Monika, our pal and I managed to stuff everything into the van, measuring roughly four cubic metres, and the poor vehicle was almost full. All the stuff made it to our apartment in one piece and we filled a part of our bedroom with it:

Then Monika and I packed the rest of our personal effects and waited for the customs personnel to arrive: the movers had told us that we might receive a visit from the customs, and customs officers did indeed schedule an inspection… But these bureaucrats, at least, turned out not to be all that malevolent at all: apparently they ultimately decided that they didn’t really find the rather extensive list suspicious (or simply preferred to go for a beer instead of dropping by). The list made me quite nervous, though. Yes, these were my personal items and the vast majority of them were indeed older than six months; but I doubted that the customs were used to people importing four cubic metres of musical equipment and electronics to the Canaries every day. Nevertheless, they were completely disinterested in the whole affair and simply stamped the list without actually dropping by and checking anything. So far so good.

In a few days the movers showed up as promised – only three or four hours too early, so we were still packing the last of the stuff while they were already lugging it all to the truck. I was very anxious about the whole affair: after all, some of my instruments are rather expensive and most of them are precious to me personally. It would be a severe blow if anything got damaged. To make matters worse, due to our budget constraints we chose not to succumb to paranoia and pay for extra insurance, even though I couldn’t afford to buy hardcases for everything (I would have needed about twenty hardcases, which would have cost a small fortune), so most of the instruments were in carry bags that aren’t really meant to serve as decent protection against impacts. The movers certainly weren’t happy about it, at least initially, while we had still been discussing it all on the phone and via e-mails… But in the end, once they saw the vile heap, they reassured us that everything would be in order. Instead of complicating, they just charged us for a couple of cubic metres more than they actually transported (my estimate was approximately 6 m3, but they believed it was more like 8 m3), mostly because they wouldn’t be able to fill the transport ship container from bottom to top by placing the fragile items on top of one another, at least not without installing some supports. Mind you, this is no complaint at all: the movers were superbly professional and I do recommend them wholeheartedly to anyone moving from Germany to the Canaries (link: http://www.en.mobiltrans.com/). Apart from merrily paying for one or two cubic metres extra, I was more than happy to tip the poor guys quite generously as well (they gave the bass drum – filled with clothes, to make matters worse – and the horrifically heavy hardware bags an occasional evil eye as they sweated rivers down the stairs). They told us our crap would be arriving to the Canaries in a couple of weeks, said bye-bye, and drove the truck to Hamburg where they proceeded to dump everything on a transport ship – on their own, without my fidgety supervision, which, admittedly, did not sit particularly well with me, but it was what it was. The total price for intercontinental maritime door-to-door shipping was a hefty 2300 euros, but screw it – I’d never seriously considered not taking my precious earthly musical possessions with me, though I did toy around with the idea a few times. However, Monika told me not to even joke about this, as I’d probably go insane without my heap of music-related crap… And she was right: of course selling the equipment or storing it in Slovenia would have been a horrible blunder.

After all our stuff was gone, we finally really strayed into the twilight zone: camping in an empty apartment in Berlin with only a couple of suitcases, as we were in fact on vacation somewhere, was completely surreal, and without actually realising it I kept looking for this gizmo or that doodad around the flat that now reverberated with the sound of emptiness. As the weather in Berlin was beautiful at the time, we spent most days outside, chatting with our friends before leaving for good. During this time we also cancelled our German freelancer statuses and wrapped up the rest of the loose ends (except for our German bank accounts, which we would leave open until this September or October, purely for practical reasons: we’re currently still paying for German health insurance, while we’re waiting for a “strategic” change of legislation to come into force in Spain, after which we’ll register our business on the Canaries, cancel the last of our remaining German obligations, and close the accounts).

The twilight-zoney atmosphere was compounded by the fact that a few days before our final flight, Monika was contacted by our real estate agent, who claimed that we had short-changed the poor, poor bank and actually paid EUR 3000 less for the flat than we’d been supposed to. She threatened that they’d annul the whole procedure, but judging from all the documentation in question we believed that would be pretty much impossible: all the paperwork had already gone through, supposedly; but unfortunately we hadn’t taken possession of it all yet, which was a problem. Furthermore, we had indeed been aware of the 3000-euro discrepancy between the list price and the price on all the relevant paperwork, but after checking that with Nocturnal Attorney we had been positive that this was either due to the difference in gross and net price (the taxes and related fees corresponded to the difference pretty much to the last euro) or because the actual final price differed from the one initially listed in the advert. Monika informed Nocturnal Attorney of the complication immediately, phoned the real estate agent, and told her we would by no means be discussing this further until we arrived to Tenerife personally and spoke to our lawyer. As soon as she heard the word “lawyer”, the real estate agent stopped threatening us and started whining about this in fact being her mistake – which had already been obvious to us. So for the next few weeks we would be oscillating between feeling bad for the agent and the “fuck real estate agencies and banks in particular” attitude. Of course, the issue would keep weighing on us until we could clear it up.

On the morning of 21 June we finally bid farewell to what had formerly been our street, clutching a couple of heavy suitcases (including precious digital archives on a bunch of hard drives that I’d been unwilling to dump in a transport ship container, as they contained several years’ worth of unfinished musical projects), laptops, sandwiches, passports, and one-way plane tickets. As we walked down Warthestrasse for the last time, I would have reflected on our time in Berlin and all the fascinating people we had met and hanged out with during our (almost) five-year stay, had I not been paying so much attention to canine landmines that might be lurking on the pavement and fantasising about greener (and cheaper) pastures.

In the evening of 21 June we arrived to Tenerife for good. FINE, let’s not be overly dramatic and settle for “until further notice“…

Grumblin’ Ole Geezer’s Volcano Lair: Part 9 – Expedition to Slovenia

My cousin, his girlfriend and their canine companion arrived in a fancy new VW van that I couldn’t wait to try out. It turned out that driving it was so enjoyable I had no choice but to appropriate the wheel for most of the ride from Berlin to Slovenia. My cousin, who was somewhat sleepy due to the few days of relatively moderate merrymaking in Berlin, had no objections. Cruising swiftly and comfortably through the plains of Germany as well as over the Alpine parts of Austria got me thinking that I certainly wouldn’t have anything against owning one of these things… But then again, I don’t really need a van, nor do I find the idea of paying almost as much for it as for our new flat on Tenerife particularly attractive. Unless I just bought one and lived in it, like so many people in fact do on the Canaries. Anyway – thanks to my cousin’s local connections, renting the VW van for a couple of days was very affordable, so this leg of the whole epic “quest” went through smoothly and without making too much of a dent in our budget.

Unloading the junk we wouldn’t need on the Canaries was not the only thing we had to take care of in Slovenia. We had already “exited” the Slovenian system a while ago, but we still had to inform the Slovenian authorities and tax administration of our new address, which we could now do with the newly-acquired Spanish documents.

What had seemed like a couple of run-of-the-mill bureaucratic chores began with a hilarious (or severely annoying, depending on how you look at it) affair of inscribing our new address into our passports. The fact that our address now contained a tilde over an “n” caused premature balding, greying, and nervous fidgeting in an unsuspecting administrative unit official. After a multitude of calls to higher-ups, consultations with the police, and a prolonged coffee break, the official confirmed what I had already suggested at the very beginning: that the horrifyingly unnerving “ñ” should simply be transcribed as “n”, because otherwise, supposedly, “the scanners wouldn’t be able to make sense of the address”. It was completely beyond me why anyone should optically “scan” anything in a biometric passport; or how foreign authorities are able to scan the Slovenian č, š, and ž; or what Slovenian scanners make of, say, Norwegian diacritics.

When the passports with the necessary changes came back a day or two later, the poor official realised she had made a mistake of overlooking a stray ñ in the relevant forms, which resulted in our passports now containing what was (theoretically?) considered a “scanner-incompatible” address. The official then proceeded to suffer a minor nervous breakdown: unsure what to do with our newly improved (or invalidated?) passports, she succumbed to panic instead of proposing any solutions, but we told her that we’d take the much-needed documents as they were, as I was completely sure that we’d never ever have any problems with anyone gazing upon the infernal tilde and immediately foaming at the mouth. Needless to say, of course we haven’t encountered any problems with that to date: if the authorities do ever scan anything at all, then they surely read the damn chip with the relevant information. After all, what’s the purpose of biometric passports otherwise (let’s leave the collection of more or less plausible Big Brother conspiracies aside for a moment)? Besides, who cares if the address contains a “ñ”, a “đ” or an “ø”. In fact, the Slovenian alphabet doesn’t contain any xyw-s – or ü-s or ß-s, for that matter – and nobody has, to my knowledge, perished or been prevented from entering Slovenia because of these evil letters to date. But yes, I do imagine how orthographic diversity might present an insurmountable glitch in the rather restricted programming of bureaucrats.

Fortunately, neither the official at the tax office nor the clerk at the bank, where I had to update my address as well, didn’t even blink as they simply typed “n”. For crying out loud…

With the newly-improved documents and a forwarding address registered everywhere that it had to be registered by law, we were now once again free to vacate Slovenia, which we did merrily after visiting our families, attending a really great (if somewhat belated) get-together with my oldest pals and fellow musicians in Maribor, and staying with a friend in Ljubljana for a few days.

The trip back to Berlin did not go smoothly, though. We booked an airport shuttle from Ljubljana to the Treviso airport (with the GoOpti airport transfer service, which I can only recommend wholeheartedly), because for some reason all low-cost airlines had cancelled their flights to Berlin from the Austrian Klagenfurt and Graz airports, which would have been much more convenient for us. Unfortunately our van got stuck in two monumental traffic jams on the Italian highway: the first one was caused by a truck spilling wheat all over the road; and the second – the two-hour stop – resulted from two trucks crashing into each other immediately after the first mishap (probably both drivers were distracted by all the gluten a few kilometres earlier, which must have caused spasms, anxiety attacks, or near-death experiences in the multitudes that are so suddenly stricken down with gluten intolerance these days).

Needless to say, six of us who were travelling to Berlin missed our flight. One booked a room and decided to stay near Treviso, while the driver took the remaining five of us to Venice in time for the next Easyjet flight (which was very kind of him, as rescuing us was certainly not his duty). Unfortunately that flight had already closed, but we did get tickets for the first available flight – which would depart early next day. Thus we had no choice but to spend a night in Venice. As cheesily romantic as that sounds, four of us chose to simply stay at the airport, as nobody apart from a particularly adventurous Macedonian with extra energy left in his batteries was particularly eager to lug the luggage onto a boat to “actual” Venice, only to potentially screw something up yet again and even exacerbate the situation. The adventurous Macedonian did head “downtown” (or downsea?) in order to spend some extra cash, but returned exhausted in the middle of the night without having anything worthwhile to report (apart from the fact that beer there was no more expensive, but not cheaper either, than at the bar nearest to the airport). Meanwhile, the four of us just loitered around the airport building and its immediate vicinity, passing the time by chatting, sniffing out electrical outlets that actually worked, as well as locating a suitable bench, carpet or any quiet spot where we could pass out without being trampled on. Late in the evening I even got some translating done, while laptop batteries lasted (no, we had not found any unoccupied electrical outlets that worked), after which I had the fortune of dozing off on a marble bench with my head stuck in a flower bed. The night smelled like a chapel of rest. Good times!

Next morning, trying to shake off the whiplash, the five of us finally arrived to Berlin. Monika and I sleepwalked home and took the day off to catch some much-needed shuteye after all the sleepless nights back in Slovenia and then the bonus misadventure at the Venice airport. All the boxes that we had yet to pack did in fact wait without complaining too much.