I have been scanning Craigslist Paris on a daily basis in hopes of finding a really adorable, really affordable place to live in the center of town with a large balcony and lots of windows and plenty of space to store my clothes and shoes and house any and all visiting friends. This has proved to be a moderate challenge.
The most common response that I get from would-be renters is… none.
Also, and you may have heard tell of this phenomenon, but Craigslist is full of clever Nigerians known as “scammers.” It’s sort of easy to tell when a posting is a scam, with the poor grammar, the too-good-to-be-true rent, the assurance that the renter is praying for your well-being and your honesty, and their location in, say, China. But, alas, I am holding out hope that I actually WILL find a too-good-to-be-true living situation, and so I consistently fall prey to their sales pitching.
Today, I received a response that added a whole new level of intrigue to this apartment quest. I sent an inquiry in for an ad for a studio in Montparnasse: an innocuous enough advertisement, nothing overtly strange. Miraculously, they responded, and at first glance this e-mail seemed, well, normal: proper grammar, pricing information, a person with a real name, no requests for bank transfers… though the request that I send them a picture of myself if I was still interested seemed peculiar.
Then I clicked on the link they included, and HOLY SHIT. What is this place?? (answer: “a semi-commune dedicated to artsy poverty”). If you don’t read the whole article, here are a few choice excerpts:
“From the outside, that structure is near-invisible. Inside, it is seemingly endless, a rabbit warren jerry-built out of tin, ductwork, gaffer tape, plastic sheeting […] [the] dwelling began as a hole in the garden covered with boards, later augmented with found materials, like pieces of parquet floor from the renovation of Versailles.”
And stranger still:
“To live in the Territory, one must follow 135 rules, which include elaborate habits of communication (via walkie-talkie) and egress (everyone must master exiting in one minute, with passport, laptop and pants), so that no one will ever be harmed in a fire. Other rules encompass kitchen etiquette, the management of the “strategic reserve” of 300 frozen salmon and the necessity of obeying the Art Class Alarm, which draws together the Territory at any hour, night or day, for an art project.”
At this point, my fascination was such that I had to research further. And I found that, like all poverty-stricken artist enclaves, The Territory has a facebook page.
The page enumerates more of the rules of the Territory, and answers some Frequently Asked Questions, such as:
17. How long has the Territory existed?
Over ten years – and since time immemorial in the collective unconscious.
18. How many people have worked on the Territory over it’s ten years of underground existence?
Hundreds, hundreds of Territory victims….
19. How can I join the Territory?
How can you join the Territory? How can you join the Territory? How can you join the Territory ? How can you join the Territory?
20. Is it true that the Territory has rules?
Yes, there are nine pages with 156 rules. Here are a sampling:
#23: NO DEEP FRYING or cooking in a fire dangerous way
#45: Do not touch the lamp inside the fridge
#34: No drugs. Drug addicts are a fire hazard
#134. Burying dirty dishes in the garden = Territory banishment for three days
#132. Urinating in the sink is forbidden.
#135. Using the common sponge as toilet paper = no internet
21. Can you give me directions to the Territory?
Yes – head towards the Eiffel Tower and make a left……twice.
Alas, despite a solid two minutes of Google searching (that’s a long time when you’re as good at the internet as I am), I could not find photos to really represent the space. So it’s up to me and my overactive imagination to try and picture what in the world this place looks like, and this is what I’ve got:
Honestly, so far… this place is my best option.