Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Don't worry...I had to look it up the first time I read it too.

I walked around in a jet lagged haze today. Since I couldn't get our Japan Rail passes at O'Hare on Sunday, I decided that today was as good a day as any to head off to the Japan Air Lines office in Zürich to see if I could pick 'em up there.

No, of course I didn't call ahead to find out their hours.

Mrs. TBF was flying to Singapore out of Zürich anyway, so I thought I'd just ride the train with her to the airport, have a cup of Starbucks with her after she checked-in, participate in a little PDA in front of passport control, and then take the train to the Zürich main station.

That's pretty much what I did...I think. As I said, my memory of today is a bit hazy.

I arrived in Zürich, walked out the wrong side of the train station, stared at a tram map for about two minutes before I realized that I had nearly zero ability to focus, walked back to the train station, walked out the main entrance/exit, walked to the nearest tram stop, and then hopped on the next tram. I got off the tram a few stops later, started walking in what I thought was the right direction, and hoped for the best.

I began to get frustrated with my inability to find the JAL office. Although I'm not really sure why, seeing that I don't know Zürich at all, didn't have a Zürich map, and basically just had the address written down on a crumpled up Post-It note.

Finally, I decided to get in touch with my feminine side, and I popped into a bar to ask for directions. To my surprise, I found out from the bartender that I was only about a block away from my destination. I thanked the bartender, walked into the bathroom and had a near-personal-best pee (my best is two minutes and four seconds), and I shuffled back into the clean and safe streets of Zürich for the final leg of my journey.

A couple of minutes later, I saw the JAL sign on the facade of a building, went to the door, and....LOCKED. Fortuntately, it was 1:25, and they were only closed (for lunch) until 1:30.


I hadn't spoken any German in a couple of weeks, so I decided to practice a bit by doing the whole purchase of our rail pass vouchers in German. Everything went well until I made a comment that the passes were much cheaper than I thought they were going to be. It was at this point that I realized that I was about to buy second class tickets. A last second correction was made, I paid for the passes, and I left with two 14-day first class (green) vouchers that we'll turn in for our actual passes at Tokyo Narita Airport in a few weeks.

At least, that's what I think (hope) I bought. As I said, I was walking around in a haze. It dawned on me at this point that I probably could have just gone to a travel agent in Basel and bought the damn things, but...that would have been too darn easy.

So after sleep-walking my way from Basel to Zürich Airport to Zürich Main Station to Basel, and nearly falling asleep about ten times along the way, I find myself now at just before midnight...not feeling the least bit tired.

Aaaaahhhhhhh, jet lag!

My Kind Of Town...

I'm back in Basel, and Mrs. TBF is on a plane.

What else is new?

I made it back to Basel (no delays for a change) yesterday morning, and Mrs. TBF left for Singapore this afternoon. She'll be back on Friday.

Chicago was good. Here are some highlights:

Personal business was taken care of! Nothing bad...nothing major. It's just sooooo boring that I won't even get into it.

Classic Jo Mama Moment - I: I bought a "Blades Of Glory" DVD at Best Buy for Mrs. TBF (she LOVES that movie!). I brought it back to Jo Mama's house and put it on her coffee table so that she could watch it. At one point, while I was in my bedroom, she apparently picked it up, noticed the "Made In Mexico" sticker on it, and blurted out to herself: "Made in Mexico? Can't WE make anything anymore?!?!?!"

Classic Jo Mama Moment - II
: Jo Mama told me (while we were eating dinner at California Pizza Kitchen) that she thinks the U.S. government should make sure that every single person in the U.S. has health insurance.

TBF: "Of course, you then agree that our taxes should be raised and your Social Security benefits should be cut immediately in order to fund this 'universal' health insurance. Right?"

Jo Mama: "Well...of course not! Why can't we do it like they do it in Canada?"

TBF: "You mean, the 'free' health system that is funded by 50+% income taxes and non-medical benefits that are lower than those in the U.S.?"

Jo Mama: (silence)

Chicago deep-pizza!! I took Jo Mama out for dinner on Friday night. I wanted to go to Gino's East for some Chicago pizza, but Jo Mama wanted to go to California Pizza Kitchen because they "...make the BEST chopped salad!" The salad ended up being "wilted", and the pizza sucked! Fortunately, the bro- and sis-in-law came to the rescue the next evening by ordering some Lou Malnati's deep-dish. It...was...AWESOME!

NOTE TO SELF: Don't stuff yourself with garlicky deep-dish pizza the night before an overseas flight!

Hassled by a crazy dude at O'Hare Airport: I arrived at O'Hare a good 3.5 hours before my Chicago-London flight because I wanted to buy some Japan Rail passes - for our upcoming trip - at the Japan Air Lines counter. I showed up at the counter, and...there was nobody there. After going to the information desk to find out what the deal was, I came to find out that the JAL counter is only open for a couple of hours in the morning. NOTE TO THE JAPAN RAIL WEBSITE: How about putting the JAL counter hours on your website?

Anyway...I had A LOT of time to kill, so I parked myself at a bar so I could have a couple of Okocims and watch some football. I won't get into details, but I ended up being hassled by a little old homeless/crazy dude who didn't like that I glanced over at the luggage cart containing his worldly possessions that he had just bumped into my barstool. I just ignored him until he called me a "earring-wearing faggot". Nobody, I mean NOBODY, insults my earrings, so I just told the tough-looking Polish bartender that the crazy dude was hassling me, and SHE told him to "...get da hell outta here or I'll call security!"

He ran like a sissy, my perfect record of never having been in a fight in my life remains intact, and my two-day-old manicure didn't get messed up.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Life's Landmarks...

Seven years ago today was my last day of work. That works out to 7 years, about 365 weeks, or about 61,334 hours (and counting) without a job!

No seven year itch here. I think I'll keep it this way, thank you!

Another important thing to note about this date is this:

Today, I am 45 years and 8 days old. The day my mom turned 45 years and 8 days old was...Mrs. TBF's and my wedding day. That would be like me having a son who was getting married today.


No 45 year and 8 day itch to be a father, thank you! I KNOW I'll keep it this way!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Early Morning Cuppa...

I woke up this morning at 4:50 a.m. (as I usually do my first morning in Chicago), and I heard Jo Mama (the mom-in-law) flush the toilet. Since I felt like I didn't need more sleep, I got up, sat down with Jo Mama, drank a couple of cups of coffee, and we watched the morning news.

Why is there a local Chicago newscast at 5:00 a.m.? Just wondering...

Since Jo leaves for the senior center at 6:30 a.m., I asked her if she would drop me off at the Dunkin' Donuts in town so that I could get a buttermilk donut (HEAVEN!) and big-ass cup of coffee (best damn coffee in the world!) with cream and one Sweet 'N Low. Then, I figured I'd just walk to my sister's house which is about a mile away.

"What??? Are you crazy???" Jo asked. "You can't walk there...IT'S TOO FAR!!!" I assured her that it was only about a mile, and that it would only take me about fifteen minutes.

Jo Mama: "No! You can't do it!"

TBF: "Why not?"

Jo Mama: "You...you just...CAN'T!"

TBF: "I can, and I will. Thanks for the ride."

She was still in mid-sentence when I shut the car door, so I'm not really sure what she said. I just walked into Dunk and didn't look back. A couple of minutes later, after wolfing down my buttermilk donut, I was walking down the street to my sister's house.

I was surprised to find that there were sidewalks down the main street all the way to my sister's subdivision. But apparently I wasn't as surprised about the sidewalks as the commuters were to see a man walking down the street at 6:40 a.m. with a big-ass Dunkin' Donuts coffee. At 6:55 a.m. I walked up my sister's driveway. It had taken about fifteen minutes, and I'm estimating that it was about a mile.

See, Jo? I told you!

And thus endeth my Chicagoland walking for this trip. I'll pick up my rental car at noon today.

A fifteen minute mile is pretty good...isn't it?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Calm Before The Storm...

Mrs. TBF and I just spent a GREAT long-weekend in Spain celebrating my 45th birthday. We slept, ate breakfast (which I'm just going to be calling "bacon" from now on..."What's for bacon?"), soaked up the sun next to the pool for hours on end, watched beautiful sunsets, ate fantastic food for dinner, and then repeated the process. We came back very rested.

Now begins a very busy time...

I'm leaving for Chicago in about an hour to take care of some personal business I wasn't able to handle when I was there a few weeks ago, and I'll be returning to Basel next Monday. Mrs. TBF has big meetings this week, leaves for Singapore next Tuesday, and then goes to the U.S. the following week.

We won't see each other too much for the next couple of weeks. But at least there's a lot of time for us to see each other in the next 31+ years I am expected to live according to the online actuarial tables. Thirty-one years is a long time!

...isn't it?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Naughty Librarian...

That's what I'm calling Mrs. TBF's new look.

A couple of weeks ago, while we were in Chicago, Mrs. TBF had her eyes examined by my cousin Greg.

...OF COURSE he's an eye doctor, ya goof! You don't think I'd just have some random cousin poking around Mrs. TBF's eyes, do you?

Dr./Cousin Greg's conclusion was that Mrs. TBF's eyes are remarkably stable, and he wrote out a lens prescription that she could take back with her to Switzerland.

Why not buy them in the U.S., you ask? That would be because Mrs. TBF decided that she wanted some "Swissy" eyeglasses!

We went together to pick them out last Saturday at Ramstein Optik. Along with wanting my valued opinion, Mrs. TBF was also hoping that I could act as German translator. However, it soon became very apparent that I had absolutely no clue how to say any vision/eyeglass-related word in German other than Brillen (eyeglasses). The employee came back with a tray of eyeglasses AND another employee who said: "Perhaps it will be easier if I help you so that you can speak English instead of German."

Thank God!

She brought out a bunch of different samples, and then asked us at one point if we were tourists. OUCH! At that point I had to ashamedly admit that we had lived in Basel for seven years, and that I CAN actually speak some German, but just...

Oh...who am I kidding? My German sucks!


Zip ahead to yesterday morning. A man from Ramstein Optik called, began immediately speaking to me in English (Scheisse!), and told me that Mrs. TBF's glasses were ready. She picked them up on the way home from work, and this is her modeling her new red and purple glasses right after she walked in the door. I think they look great.

Overall, other than the fact that the glasses were kind of expensive, nothing but good things can be said about Ramstein Optik. They totally rock.

But not as hard as the band, Rammstein (no relation)!

Friday, September 07, 2007

What Do You Think?

I just read this report about an art teacher in Fox River Grove, Illinois (just a few miles from where we used to live) who may lose his job because he refuses to stop teaching the students about animal cruelty and about why he's a vegan.

Personally, I have nothing against vegetarians. I actually have a lot of respect for people who choose, and are able, to abstain from eating animal flesh. And the fact that vegans also abstain from eating dairy products and eggs is a small miracle in itself. Just typing the words 'dairy products and eggs' immediately conjured up a mental image of a breakfast buffet that made my stomach growl. I guess I could become a vegan if I became convinced by a doctor that ingesting another gram of animal flesh would result in instantaneous death, but I wouldn't like it one bit.

This quote by Chris Rock pretty much sums up my views on meat consumption:
"If you are one of the chosen few people on this earth lucky enough to get your hands on a steak, BITE THE SHIT OUT OF IT!!!"

When I read the report, I immediately thought of my sister's oldest daughter. Back when she was in kindergarten or first grade, so we're talking about six years old, she suddenly started saying that she didn't want to eat meat anymore. Up to this point, she would gladly eat pretty much anything that was put in front of her, so I thought her sudden desire to no longer eat meat of any kind was rather strange. Then it hit me: the only logical explanation for this was that either a teacher at her school, another student, or one of her friends' parents was putting this idea into her head.

I'm not sure why, but it really bothered me a lot that somebody would be promoting their own agenda to a six-year-old kid. I told my sister that she should bring this up at the next parent/teacher conference to find out if it was indeed a teacher, and...put a stop to it immediately. I don't mean to just single our vegetarianism; a teacher telling children that "...the Bible says that animals were put on this earth for the nourishment of humans" would cause me an equal amount of disgust...probably more. Teachers promoting their personal views on abortion, gun control, or any other of a multitude of today's "hot topics" has no place in the classroom...as far as I'm concerned.

As it turns out, my sister never brought the issue up with the school. She handled it her own way, and I thought the way in which she handled it was absolute genius. Whenever meat was served at dinner, and my niece would ask if it was meat, my sister would just say "...it's pork!", or "...it's sausage!". My niece would eat it without any hesitation.

So, do I think that the teacher should be fired if he refuses to stop teaching the students about animal cruelty and why he's a vegan?

Yes! He can talk about these things with his own children all he wants.

What do you think?

Friday Flashback: What A Difference A Year Makes Edition...

One year ago, we were enjoying warm and sunny days along the Amalfi Coast (for a second year in a row).

This year I'm tolerating the cool and drizzly Basel weather, lugging heavy bags of stones up to the rooftop, and cleaning up King's hairballs.

What happened?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

It's Time To Play...

..."What the hay-ell is that thang???"

Any guesses?

Updated later...

Congratulations to those of you who guessed "cat hairball" or "cat vomit". Give yourselves a scratch behind the ear until your leg begins twitching uncontrollably. Honorable mention goes to Samantha's "half-melted ear of corn" because it's just so...weird!

I'm not sure if King's hairball was stress-induced as a result of my reconstruction of his rooftop "litter box", but he was kind enough to pose with his slimy creation.

Long live the King!

(I hope I didn't just jinx him.)


...like a na-tu-ral garden!

When we first moved into our apartment 2.5 years ago, I really looked forward to spending time in our rooftop garden. Three-quarters of the rooftop is made up of planted beds which I have spent the past 2.5 years "renovating" (pulling out dying stuff, planting new plants, and moving them around when I decide that I don't like their current location). Now that the "manicured" part of the garden has pretty much reached the point where there is not even one square inch of unused dirt, it is time to turn my attention to...the "black sheep" garden.

The whole backside of the rooftop is made up of what is called a "natural" garden. I'm sure that the original intent of this "green roof" was that it would be composed of native plants that would require minimal watering and care. However, ten years of neglect by previous tenants resulted in the garden becoming a tangle of weeds.

A couple of years ago, I hauled up a bunch of HEAVY bags of stones and created a little 10'x 10' area where Mrs. TBF and I could get our tans on. We've used it quite a bit, but we always felt that the area was a bit cramped. So...

Ladies and Gentlemen: Meet my latest work in progress... The first picture is from August 13th when things were still in the planning stages, and the next two pictures are from this morning.

I am expanding the "tanning nook" by spreading more landscape fabric and covering it with more stones (hope the architects anticipated the potential for extra weight on the roof when they designed the building). So far, as of this morning, I've hauled sixteen 25 kilo (55 lbs.) bags up to the roof. This is much harder than it sounds. First I have to load the bags onto a cart at the garden center, then I load them into the Jeep, then unload them out of the Jeep, carry them through three sets of doors from the Jeep to the elevator, unload them from the elevator, then carry them up a winding staircase to our rooftop, and finally around to the backside of the garden. As I see it, I probably have another fifteen to twenty bags to go.

Along with the stones, I'm also recreating the "natural" garden. The past two years have been spent painstakingly pulling out plants that I consider to be nuisance weeds while encouraging other plants to grow. To the plants that remain, I'm going to add plants (grasses and perennials) with the hopes of creating a prairie look. Fortunately, I have a couple of books about prairie plants to guide me.

No...of course I didn't ask for the landlord's permission!

...stay tuned!

I'm A Loser, Baby!

I always walk Mrs. TBF to the tram or the bus in the morning. If we walk to the tram early enough, we always see people standing outside the Migros waiting to get in when it opens at 8:00 a.m. Usually, I'll make some comment to Mrs. TBF that these people should "get a life" or that they're "losers" because they have nothing better to do than to wait for a grocery store to open. I mean, what could be so stinkin' important that you have to actually wait for the doors to open at precisely 8:00?

OK...maybe you're out of toilet paper. I'll give ya that one...

So, this morning we were walking to the tram at about 7:50, and I saw the "losers" standing at the Migros door. Realizing that I had planned to buy a few things at "the Meeg" on the way back to the apartment, I kind of hoped that Mrs. TBF's tram would take its own sweet time arriving at our stop so that...perish the thought...I'd end up standing with the "losers". As luck would have it, the tram came after a couple of minutes wait. I kissed Mrs. TBF goodbye, wiped her lipstick off my lips (as I do every morning), and walked at a snail's pace toward the Migros.

Despite the fact that had I walked any slower I would have been walking backwards, I still ended up making it to the Migros at 7:58 a.m. Two minutes later, at the precise moment that the local church bells began ringing, the Star Trek-like doors opened with a "phssssht", and I found myself in the middle of the "loser herd" being whisked through the door.

I recycled my PET containers, bought some mushrooms/tomatoes/Pepsi Light/kitty litter, and proceeded to the checkout. By the time I got there, there was not one other shopper in sight! I looked back around the store, and I couldn't see even one shopper...NOT EVEN ONE! Obviously, these people all came in for one thing, bought it, and left. "God, what losers!", I thought to myself...

Hey! Wait a minute...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Feeling The (lack of) Heat

Two years ago at this time, we were in Amalfi enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatures.

Last year at this time, we were in Amalfi enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatures.

This morning, I walked Mrs. TBF to the tram at 7:40, and it was sunny...but only 7˚C (mid-40s ˚F).

What the heck happened?

Here's what happened: we didn't go to Amalfi this year.

Yes, despite the fact that Mrs. TBF said last year that she wanted to go back to Amalfi every year for the rest of her life, we didn't go this year. Why? Well...the main reason is that we'll be going to Japan next month to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary, and we just felt that three long vacations in three consecutive months (August: Chicago/Canada, September: Amalfi, October: Japan) would be a bit too much. And...well...that's pretty much the reason.

But don't worry. We'll probably end up going to Amalfi at some point next spring. Perhaps during the "Basel Week Of Hell..." when Euro 2008 and Art Basel are occurring simultaneously during the first week of June, 2008!

All is not lost, however, regarding warm/sunny vacations. As I mentioned recently, we will be heading back to El Montiboli in Villajoyosa, Spain (one week from tomorrow) for a long weekend.

Who knows? Maybe I'll even score a "perfect day" while we're there!

...bacon, blue sky/sunny weather, cigar, marital relations, sauna, (in alphabetical order)!!!!!