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Thursday, July 19, 2007

To Bloomington, Indiana this week, to score an apartment for EGA. During her campus visit last spring she met another prospective student, and they agreed that if they both decided to attend they should find a two bedroom flat to share. As luck would have it, that's how things shook out, but EGA's fellow wizard lives in California, and wasn't able to come out to hunt so the task of finding the place fell to the more closely situated EGA. This ramped the pressure up a little, but I think it worked out well.

As is typical of EGA, she'd done a fair amount of preliminary spade work. Oddly, the university doesn't have any sort of off-campus housing office, or even a centralized place for listings or postings. The magical interweb made some of the early research simpler than it would have been, and an established grad student helped out with some tips. The campus is huge-- I'd guess that it is about as big as the town itself, and this complicates the real estate question somewhat for us. Because neither EGA nor the housemate will have cars at first, finding something close in was a priority, and most of what we looked at on the first day was not really in walking distance. There seems to be pretty good bus service, but reliance on mass transit can be a frustrating thing when you are in a new place. We finished the first day with one reasonable place about a 20 minute walk from the east side of the campus. The apartment itself was a bit on the dreary side, but the location seemed workable.

On the next day we had the lay of the land better established. We started working the classifieds, and that turned the trick. The first flat we saw was much more attractive than the leading contender from the day before, and the second was perfectly situated right downtown a couple of blocks from the school. It is unmistakably grad student housing, but the rule is location,after all and I think it will work out well for them.

It has been some time since I've been exposed to realtors-- I hold them in pretty low esteem generally, but it was interesting to see how personality plays into it. The leasing agent who showed us the last two places is an itinerant, and was a real ball of fire. Dark haired and olive complexioned, tall and stylishly turned out in a light dress and, memorably, a pair of open-toed, chrome yellow patent leather heels that looked like something Minnie Mouse might wear. Her personality didn't close this deal, but it might have closed us on one of the places we looked at yesterday. As we stood outside her office, just before going in to deal with the lease and what all, A. asked her something, and the conversation turned to food. Her eyes got big, and she stood, her legs apart, feet slightly pigeon-toed, her arms and fingers spread and exclaimed, "Dude, the food in Bloomington is the best anywhere-- they have everything! Turkish, Tibetan, Chinese, Moroccan-- you name it! I spent my first two weeks here eating everything I saw!" It's true, too. I was concerned that here in the heartland it would be all Applebee's all the time, but actually the town is full of cool restaurants. Even better, from my standpoint, is that the beer selection at the package store we located the first night surpasses anything I've ever seen. Shame it's a nine hour drive-- I'd like to shop there more often.
I like Bloomington, and I especially like the campus, which is both bucolic and grand. It's all Indiana limestone, of course, but there is a fair amount of architectural variety, and variety of scale as well. It is summer, so things are quiet. There are bicycles everywhere, which I suppose I'd expected, but it was still nice to see. Folks here bleed Crimson and Cream-- red is a staple color in just about everyone's wardrobe.

Our grand tour of the Midwest continues tomorrow. In typical fashion we have crammed too much into too little time, and we will be proceeding to Holland, Michigan to retrieve LCA from the Terpsichordian retreat where she has been passing the last two weeks. A true son of the Empire State, I am often surprised by how many places in this country I haven't been to. This has been my first trip to the Hoosier State, and I'm glad I've liked it this much. It's funny how this sort of thing goes. None of us thought that EGA would be sleeping under a bridge, but it feels much better knowing that she now has a fixed address. A source of anxiety has been eliminated, and since EGA practically wanders around yowling like a Siamese cat when she is anxious, I think we will all feel much relieved.

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