Friday, January 30, 2009

Thanks, Andy!

It's been five years (tomorrow) since I last skied.

Five years ago today, a bunch of us guys went to Gstaad for a ski weekend. The first night, we just had a group dinner and stayed up into the wee hours. The next morning - a beautiful, sunny morning - we got up early and hit the slopes. The first run went fine. Then, everything changed.

To make a long story short:

Andy and I ride up the chairlift for our second run.

Our bindings get tangled up as we get off the chairlift.

My one leg goes one way, and the other leg goes the other way, and I feel a sharp pain in my right knee.


Andy thinks a helicopter rescue may be necessary.

I shrug off the helicopter rescue and tell Andy I'm fine.

Andy and I snap these pictures of each other (yes, I was still heavy back then) on what turns out to be my last day of skiing...EVER!

I end up skiing the rest of the day.

The next morning, I wake up with pain in my right knee which is now the size of a honeydew melon.

I am dropped off at the Gstaad train station for the long, solo train ride back to Basel where Mrs. TBF meets me on the train platform.

I hobble around for a few weeks (I never did go to the doctor), and make the decision to hang up my skis for good. The glass knees just can't take it.

Do I miss skiing? No. I wasn't very good at it, and I just didn't enjoy it enough to make it worth the hassle. Plus, I found skiing in Switzerland rather...intimidating. I wasn't scared, but I wasn't exactly in my comfort zone either. It's one thing skiing at Wilmot Mountain in Wilmot, Wisconsin with a vertical drop of a few hundred feet, and quite another thing skiing in Switzerland at several thousand feet, thin oxygen, potential for avalanches, etc.

Skiing at Wilmot? Maybe a broken leg.

Skiing in Switzerland? Maybe...death.

Thanks, Andy! You did me a favor by "taking me out" (that's how I always refer to it)! I think I'll celebrate my five year anniversary this Sunday by soaking in a nice hot bath with a martini in hand.

...much easier on the knees!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy 250th Birthday, rrrrrrrrrrRabbie Burns!

Mrs. TBF and I participated in our first-ever Rabbie Burns supper this past Saturday night.

Who is Rabbie Burns, you may be asking if you live outside of the U.K. & Ireland?

Widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, his best known contribution to the world (at least as far as I'm concerned) is his poem (and song) Auld Lang Syne. Every year, people throughout the world, celebrate his birthday (January 25th) with the lethal combination of: poetry, haggis with neeps & tatties, and a nice sampling of fine whiskeys.

This year was extra special since it was the 250th anniversary of his birth. So, Jeanette (a real, honest-to-goodness Scot), Mrs. TBF, and I converged on Mark and Lisa's apartment for a Rabbie Burns pot-luck dinner.

We enjoyed some fine wines and whiskeys, cock-a-leekie soup, the aforementioned haggis (tip: Haggis pairs well with Rioja!) with neeps & tatties, cranachan, and... can check out the pictures for yourself right here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Four Years...

...and still counting.

Time...keeps flowing like a the seaaaaaaaa.

That song kills me, I think I'll download it.

It's been four years, people! That's right. We moved into this apartment four years ago today. It seems like just yesterday that I was looking at our lease agreement and asking Mrs. TBF:

This is a two-year lease. Are you ABSOLUTELY SURE that we're going to live in Switzerland for at least two more years?!?!?!?!

We signed the lease, and FOUR YEARS LATER we're still here. Hmmmm... How did she know?

The people in our building must be thinking that we're due to move because a couple who lives two floors below us saw me walking out of the building last week as they were walking in and told me:

Please let us know in advance when you're going to move because we would like your apartment.

I told them that it wouldn't happen for at least another year, but that I'd let them know as soon as I knew. Our apartment has always been rented to expats who have never lived here for more than five or six years, so I guess the neighbors think it's only a matter of time before we're gone.

We'll see.

I wrote about our move, and posted some pictures, two years ago. But here are a couple of new photos, never before seen on this blog, from that cold time in January, 2005. We had a lot of boxes to unpack, but Dominique absolutely refused to help. King was in hiding because he didn't want to help either. And judging by my size, Mrs. TBF was probably in the kitchen cooking the copious amounts of food I required back then.

It's hard to believe that this May we'll have lived in this apartment for longer than we lived in our first apartment in Reinach.

Who woulda thunk it?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More Guilty Pleasures...

It's approaching a year since I dropped the bombshell about my love for Kelly Clarkson's Because Of You, so I guess the time is about right for me to come clean regarding my latest obsession: Leona Lewis - Run (Sorry. YouTube has disabled the ability to embed the video.).

Yeah, I know it's a cover tune. And yeah, I know the video is completely over-the-top melodrama, but she has the VOICE OF AN ANGEL...with a little brown sugar sprinkled on top. I LOVE IT!

There...I said it.

Now, not only am I totally in touch with my feminine side, but I'm also in touch with my pre-teen feminine side - my eleven year old niece loves Leona Lewis.

I'm scared!

Maybe I'll just try to balance things out by listening to the original version by Snow Patrol. Yeah...that's it..

OMG! Who am I kidding? I like the Leona Lewis version better! (**sniff**)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Flashback: Five Years Ago & 35 lbs. Heavier Edition

Every now and then I like to take a little wander down memory lane and see what there is to see. Yesterday, I decided to see what was going on five years ago this month, and I uncovered this golden oldie.

Jo - the mother-in-law - had just been in Basel for a visit. After she left, I went up to the guest room to strip the bed, and I discovered that she had left one of her fleeces behind in the dresser. Sensing potential photographic gold, I stripped down to my birthday suit, squeezed into her several-sizes-too-small fleece, and snapped this self-portrait on January 7, 2004.

On my next visit to Chicago, I returned her fleece. Of course, I waited until I saw her wearing it before showing her the picture. Aren't I a great son-in-law?

Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen her wearing it since then. I wonder if she still has it?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Cold In Basel!

In unison: HOW COLD IS IT?

It's been so cold that...

Mrs. TBF has actually been going to work wearing long underwear under her skirt! I hope she hasn't been forgetting to take it off once she gets to the office.

It's a little warmer today, but it's been consistently below freezing for the past couple of weeks. It even reached -8˚C/18˚F, according to our thermometer at least, last week. It rarely gets that cold in Basel. In fact, I'd say it only gets that cold around here for one or two days (if any) per winter. Actually, I don't mind the cold because it's been cold and sunny. I'll take cold and sunny over warm and dreary any day!

Plus, if the cold gets to be too much, we can always just look at our Amalfi puzzle that's sitting on the "puzzle table" in our office. Yeah, we finished it nearly two weeks ago, but I haven't put it away because it's nice to look at it and think about warmer days ahead. Hmmmmmm...

I think I'll book our hotel for Amalfi for this September right now while I'm thinking about it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

You Are Now Free To Move About The World!

My "get of jail free" card (as Mrs. TBF has been calling it), just arrived via registered mail.


I am VERY happy about it! Not only am I now able to venture outside of Switzerland, but I am also now all set for my trip to the U.S. at the beginning of next month.

It's funny how little things like getting a new passport are now big issues for me. When I worked, and had a zillion things going on, something like getting a new passport was a no-brainer. I barely gave it a second thought. But now, since I don't really have that much going on, I semi-obsess over things like getting a passport. No, I don't lose sleep over it. NO, I don't really worry about it. But...I would say that it kind of "weighs" on me.

Last month, the day after getting back from London, Mrs. TBF and I took the train to Bern so that I could drop off my passport application at the very low-security (at least when compared to the fortress that is the American embassy) Canadian embassy. When we arrived, we had to wait out front for a few minutes because THEY WERE CLOSED FOR LUNCH, but at about 1:01 p.m. we rang the doorbell.

Embassy lady (over the little speaker): Hello. May I help you?

TBF: Hi. I'm here to drop off my passport application.

Embassy lady: Please...come in. The four foot high driveway gate slides open.

We went into the lobby (nobody was there except for us), I submitted the application, paid the fee, and...that was about it. Oh...we both used the lobby bathroom. So, since I think entering the embassy meant that we were both legally in Canada, I can proudly say that we both peed in Canada that afternoon before walking back out into Switzerland. Fortunately (for the embassy's janitor), I was over my stomach flu (before coming down with it again a few days later) by that point.

Pretty exciting stuff, eh?

Actually, I guess there was one bit of excitement on the way back to the train station: we were both asked to show our tram tickets by Bernese tram inspectors doing a random inspection. Yes...OF COURSE we had valid tickets! I think I was only inspected three or four times during all of 2008 in Basel, and then were inspected in Bern on the one day we rode their tram. What are the odds?

After a quick, exorbitantly-priced pizza lunch at the Bern train station, we hopped onto the train for the return trip to Basel. As you can see, I was elated that I could now cross "submit passport application" off of my things-to-do list and focus on things like doing laundry, shopping, cleaning King's litter box, and vacuuming.

I'm guessing that I had pretty much the same look on my face this morning right after signing for my passport.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Flashback: Fleeced Edition

I've decided to make room for some new clothes. For whatever reason, I've been holding on to two polar fleeces that I bought wayyyyyy before I lost weight and they're both wayyyyyy too big for me now. They're both just like new (does fleece every really wear out?), but I just can't bring myself to walk around in these tents anymore; they're both going in the charity bin.

I decided to go into the photo albums to try to find out just how old these fleeces are. The first one, according to this picture from December 1995, goes back at least 13 years. Mrs. TBF took this picture of me in front of our garage right after I had arrived home after having surgery to repair my deviated septum. The surgery itself wasn't very painful, but the miles of gauze stuffed up my nose....AWFUL! I don't need any memories of that event lying around.

The fleece goes!

The second fleece I'm actually giving up with some regret because I've always liked it. It's orange - my favorite color - and really comfortable. However, it's even bigger than Deviated Septum Fleece (DSF), so it has to go. Unlike DSF, this fleece actually brings back pleasant memories.

I found some pictures of me wearing Big Orange Fleece (BOF) when we came to Switzerland as tourists in March of 2000. I seem to recall buying it shortly before going on that trip, so that would make BOF only about nine years old - a relative youngster compared to DSF. This picture was taken by Mrs. TBF after a train ride up to Kleine Scheidegg with Simon, Rosemarie, and the kids. Just look at me: all fat and happy, without even the slightest clue that two months later our house would be up for sale and we'd be preparing to move to Basel.

I've already ordered replacements for DSF and BOF from the L.L. Bean catalog, and they're being shipped to my mother-in-law's house so that they'll be waiting for me when I go to Chicago early next month. Who knows? Perhaps I'll still have them both thirteen years from now... I approach 60!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Should I, Or Shouldn't I?

I'm in a rut.

Not in a rut, rut - more like a musical rut.

I've felt for some time now that I've been listening to the same stuff for years...and years...AND YEARS! Yeah, I buy the occasional CD and download the occasional stuff from iTunes, but I'm feeling the need for a big change. I think the main reason for my musical rut is that we no longer have a car, so I don't really get a chance to listen to the radio as often as I used to and hear "what the kids are listening to" on a regular basis.

So...what to do? What TO DO? Here's what I did: I decided to turn to my year-end issues of Blender and Rolling Stone for some guidance; pages and pages of "Best Albums of 2008" and "Singles Of The Year"!

I went to iTunes and listened to some albums; things I've never heard before - TV On The Radio, My Morning Jacket, Vampire Weekend, etc. I have to admit: none of it really got me that excited. Am I getting old? It all sounded the same to me and nothing really stood out from the pack. I ended up downloading the new Kanye West CD and "Lollipop" by Lil Wayne (cue: Mrs. TBF rolling her eyes up into her head), but that was it.

Then it hit me. Maybe albums aren't the answer. Yes, that's it! Singles!!!

I turned to the list of top-100 2008 singles in Blender and listened to a few of them. I'd never heard most of them before, but that's no surprise. I've never even heard "I Kissed A Girl" by Katy Perry, for God's sake! Needless to say, I'm feeling really, REALLY out of touch. Time for drastic action...

I'm thinking of downloading ALL of Blender's "Singles Of The Year" exceptions. And I mean NO exceptions. I'll even download "viva la vida" by Coldplay (#9) despite the affiliation with Gwyneth Paltrow which, in my opinion, makes them a chick-band and should immediately disqualify them from a spot on my play list. Others on the list include: MGMT (is it M-G-M-T, or management?), Blitzen Trapper, Lykke Li, Conor Oberst, Jonas Brothers, Cat Power, Sigur Rós, M.I.A., The Ting Tings, Ra Ra Riot, The Knux...

Wow! Wouldn't I just be the coolest ever???

Should I?

Yes...I should!

I will!

Thanks for your help!

Updated later: I did!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Not The Best Holiday Season Ever...

It's 2009*, and not a moment too soon. Here's a quick recap on my life between the middle of December and now.

Mrs. TBF and I left for London on the 19th and returned to Basel on the 22nd. All started out well. We ate at some really nice restaurants, took a nice walk through Hyde Park on Saturday, and then things began to take a turn for the worse on Sunday when I began feeling really sick at Harrod's.

Yes, I had a cold when we left for London, but on Sunday it developed into a full-on flu. We ate at one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants that night, ordered a seven-course tasting menu, and I was only able to force down a couple of bites of each course. That night? Well, I won't get into the details, but let's just say that I was REALLY sick. Fortunately, I felt well enough late Monday morning that we were able to go out for lunch.

I think my illness affected my limited photographic skills because my photos from London pretty much suck. But in case you're interested, here are a few of the ones that are halfway decent.

We got home on Monday night, and then I seemed to be on the mend. I was ok through Christmas and Boxing Day, and then I came down with the flu...AGAIN! It was even worse this time than it was in London. I slept under a blanket on the sofa during the day wearing a fleece, hat, and gloves because I was so cold. Then, I'd wake up drenched with sweat. We went out for New Year's Eve, and I was ok, but I didn't dare stray too far away from a bathroom.

Today, I feel well enough to go to the gym...for the first time since December 18th. Hopefully, that's it as far as illnesses go for me during Winter 08/09.

*Isn't it about time we started saying twenty-oh-nine instead of two-thousand and nine? I mean, we say nineteen-oh-nine, eighteen-oh-nine, and even ten-oh-nine...don't we?