Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Yesterday was a damn good day!

Actually, it started off kind of bad because I had to try to finish some last-minute German homework before my lesson. I couldn't quite get it all done (because I felt compelled to take a shower before leaving the house), so I had to go to my lesson without everything completed. However, Carmen - my teacher - actually seemed impressed (surprised?) with the amount of homework I had actually done. The lesson went well. My favorite quote was when she told me (in German of course) that she doesn't know how I do it (huh?!?!?), but my German actually improves significantly every week. I'm done with the second level of books, and now I'm officially in the home stretch of intermediate German. So the lesson was good, and I left my German school feeling pretty damn good about myself.
After my lesson, I went to pick up the watch that Mrs. TBF bought me for my birthday. We picked out a beautiful Breitling watch at Spinnler & Schweizer - one of Basel's many fine watch stores - this past weekend. The name of the store always reminds me of the "Spinner Olsen" joke my dad tells me, but I'll leave that one for a future blog entry. And yesterday, I went back to the store to pay for it (they give you quite a sizeable discount if you pay in cash). I told the lady who helped me (Frau Pflugi) that it was a birthday gift for me from my wife, so she gift wrapped it for me. Wasn't that nice of her? Then, she gave me a gratis Breitling baseball cap which was completely unexpected. Free handouts are so incredibly rare in Switzerland that it made the watch shopping experience all the more enjoyable. I don't know what possessed me to do this, but I told Frau Pflugi the story about how when I was a kid in Little League, my father had to slit my baseball cap and sew a piece of fabric into it to make it big enough to fit my gigantic head. Frau Pflugi gave the slightest hint of a chuckle (the equivalent to choking with laughter in North America), seemed a little bit uncomfortable with my small talk, and then I left Spinner Olsen...I mean, Spinnler & Schweizer with a warm, fuzzy feeling about having had worked my schtick on Frau Pflugi.
Now, you might think that that would be all that one could handle for one day. But NO!!! When I made it back home, I found that our full SKY satellite subscription had been reactivated!!!!!!!! We haven't had the full SKY package since May due to the fact that they somehow manage to catch people who have SKY outside of the U.K. (which is technically illegal). But, Phil (the guy from the U.K. who installed the system for us) managed to get our subscription back. So now we can, once again, enjoy our M*A*S*H reruns, the U.K. Food Network, Kerrang (heavy-metal/hard-rock music videos), laugh at Fox News' incredibly biased right-wing propaganda, etc. We were up until 11:30 p.m. watching T.V. Although I'm sure it won't be long until I'm once again complaining that there's nothing to watch.
So thanks, Phil. I take back all the m---------ers and as--oles I called you over the past few months. You're my hero! At least until the next time the satellite goes out.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

"How did it feel...."

" take a shower again?" That's what Mrs. TBF asked me on Monday evening. Now, mind you, this is not typical for TBF, but it was pointed out to me by Mrs. TBF that I did not shower or bathe for....4 DAYS!!! I rarely shower at home, because I always shower at the gym after my workout (usually four times per week). When you're a retired guy like me, you can usually skip some forms of personal hygiene without offending too many people. However, last week I decided at the last minute to skip my Friday workout due to lingering muscle pain from Thursday's Power Yoga class. And, before you knew it, it was Monday. Part of the problem was that we spent a quiet weekend at home, and we didn't really go out that much. So, there wasn't really a need to take a shower before going out to dinner, or to somebody's house. It was cool all weekend, and I didn't do any yardwork - so I never really built up a sweat. I don't know...bathing/showering just wasn't a priority. I did, however, take part in minor hygiene functions such as brushing my teeth, slapping on some deo, washing my face, etc. But, no bathing or showering...zilch, zippo, nada!!! And still no stank! What these people at my gym do to bring about such a wretched odor - I have no clue.
I'm kind of proud of my achievement actually. It's a new personal best...kind of caveman-like. Although I doubt Mrs. TBF shares my feelings.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Herr und Frau Schweiz breathe in a long sigh of relief!

There was a big national referendum in Switzerland today. The Swiss rejected proposals to liberalize tough rules on citizenship. Here's a link to an article if you're interested. The voting advertisement of the Swiss People's Party, which argued against the easing of naturalization, used a "scare tactic" showing several darker-skinned hands reaching into a box with Swiss citizenship cards. I'm sad to report that racism continues to be alive and well in Switzerland.

Friday, September 24, 2004

A little lesson in sauna etiquette for all you non-Finns.

Yesterday, I was victim of the ultimate breach of sauna etiquette. Although it appeared to be accidental, a man farted in the sauna at my gym yesterday afternoon while I was enjoying some nice post-workout relaxation. But first, let's go back in time about thirty-five years or so....
When I was just The Little Finn, I once made a serious error in judgment by letting out a little toot while I was in the family sauna with my father. It was the first time, and it would be the last time, that I ever committed this Finnish faux pas. I wouldn't say that my dad became enraged, but I did detect a incredibly deep annoyance/disgust that came deep from his inner core. Yes, the sauna fart was (and is) high on his list of most hated things. I remember receiving a rather short, but stern, lecture regarding that farting in a sauna is something that just is NOT done,...and that I would have to leave the sacred Finnish enclave immediately!
Fast forward to September 23, 2004. There I was, sitting in the sauna minding my own business, and in came a stately looking Swiss gentleman of approximately 60-65 years old. First, he greeted the five or six people in the sauna with a polite grüetzi (I guess the Swiss feel that this is appropriate sauna protocol). Then, he spread out his large bath towel (one of the many rules posted on the sauna door) on the upper bench, and when he started to recline on the bench......rrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIPPP!!!!!!! I thought the sauna was going to explode. I mean, that one is probably still wafting down the Rhein River toward Rotterdam as I write. Since I felt that my German skills were not good enough to begin lecturing him, my only recourse was to grab my towels...and run for my life! There was no way I was sticking around for the aftermath of that one. And, since I was the only person high-tailing it out of there, I realized in an instant that I was definitely the only Finn in the sauna at the time, and that those left behind had no idea what their fate had in store for them. So, without looking back, I headed straight toward the reflexology pool and tried to regroup so that the day wouldn't be a total loss.
I've decided to stay home from the gym today, and I'm not heading back until Monday. I figure that four days should be sufficient time to let the stale odor of veal sausage and raclette cheese dissipate. As I said before, printed on the sauna door in German are all sorts of rules (i.e. quiet, no sweat on the wood, etc., etc.) If you ask me, they need to add one more.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

We were duped!

I forgot to mention in an earlier post, that Mrs. TBF and I watched an ABBA special on SKY last night. As some of you may or may not know, I am an ABBA fan (sorry dad, I know they're from Sweden). Considering all the hard rock and heavy metal music I listen to, Mrs. TBF thinks I'm absolutely insane for liking ABBA ("How can you like Rush, Yes, Muse, Linkin Park, and....ABBA?"). However, I still say that "Dancing Queen" is one of the greatest songs ever composed.
Anyway, I was flipping through the channels, and I found this ABBA reunion show was just beginning. Mrs. TBF wasn't too thrilled about it, but she was a real trooper and watched it with me anyway. I was immediately sucked in because they kept promising the first ABBA reunion since 1981 which was to take place in London after a showing of the musical "Mama Mia". Well, they kept teasing, and teasing, and building up the hype, throughout the 90-minute show. With about twenty minutes left in the program, Benni, Björn, and Anni-Frid had all arrived in London....and then....AGNETHA DID NOT SHOW UP!!!!!!!!!! How can this be?? This was an unmitigated OUTRAGE!!!!!! They teased us for almost the whole show, and then there was no pay-off!!!!!!! As it turns out, Agnetha is kind of a recluse, and she's afraid to fly. Anni-Frid basically just squeaked out a couple of "it's a pity"s and it's unfortunate"s, and then that was it! Shouldn't we have been told at the start of the show that it was going to be a 3/4-reunion. "ABB" didn't realize that "A" wasn't going to show up???? We stayed up until 11:30 p.m. for this???? Bastards!!!!

Fall is here!

Can you believe it? It's already fall. Where did the summer go? It seems like just yesterday that I was enjoying a German class free summer...
Speaking of German class. I've decided to buckle down on the German homework, and actually attempt to make a serious effort to learn this language. As a matter of fact, I've already done two hours of German homework today. After I go to the gym this afternoon (I'm getting over my Yoga class stiffness), I'm going to go to my German school to check the answer key for the homework I've already done. I told my teacher that I want to cover one chapter per week, and finish the chapters by the new year.
Today is also the seven-year anniversary of the passing away of my father-in-law - Frank. Where did the summer go? My God, where did the seven years go?!?!?!?!?!

Does this shirt make me look fat?

I had two ladies (my neighbor - Di, and my German teacher - Carmen) tell me yesterday that I looked "svelte" and...whatever the German word is for having lost weight. While I have trimmed down in the past month or so, I don't really think that I've lost that much weight. However, I did actually wear a t-shirt yesterday that I would normally consider to be too tight for me. Could it be that I've been wearing shirts that are too big for me? I normally wear a XXL-tall shirt, but yesterday's t-shirt was more like an XL-tall. Europeans tend to wear clothing that are much tighter fitting than what people wear in North America. Maybe my L.L. Bean and Gap t-shirts are making me look fat. I can't wait for Mrs. TBF to get home from work tonight. I'm going to turn the tables on her and ask her if my clothes make me look fat!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

September 21, 2000 - September 21, 2004...four years sans a job!!

Four years ago today was my last day of work. I haven't had a paycheck for four years, and it feels damn good! Actually, I guess I wouldn't mind having the paycheck...I just don't want the stress that goes along with having it. Mrs. TBF says that I am officially unemployable now.
Sorry. I can't write too much right now. My German lesson begins in less than two hours, and I am feverishly trying to get at least half of my homework completed so that my teacher won't think I'm a total Dummkopf! It's funny that I have so much discipline when it comes to going to the gym, but I have absolutely ZERO discipline when it comes to doing German homework. I like my German lesson and my German teacher, but I HATE HOMEWORK!!!!!!

Monday, September 20, 2004

Agnes kicked my butt today!

Who's Agnes, you ask? Well, Agnes just happens to be one of the yoga instructors at my gym. She seems like a nice lady, but she totally wiped me out this morning. Of course, the fact that I haven't had a yoga class in almost five years might have something to do with it. I have to admit that I'm a little bit sore right now, and I'm sure I'll be even more sore when I wake up tomorrow morning. The fact that I did a 35-minute workout on the cross-trainer followed by 45-minutes of lower body weights after an hour of yoga probably aren't helping my cause. But, despite the minor pain, I did enjoy my class. I'm looking forward to getting together with the fifteen or so other Hausfraus again on Thursday morning at 10:15. There's something quite strange about taking a yoga class with the teacher speaking in Swiss German...globaliztion at its finest!!! They also have Power Yoga classes twice per week at my gym, but maybe I'll just ease into it at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Thursday, September 16, 2004


My German school just called me, and tomorrow's lesson is cancelled. That means I have an additional four days to NOT do my homework!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

"...your English is excellent!"

I've been told that by Swiss peole several times since moving here almost four years ago. I guess that they don't realize that I grew up in America. Today, I was renewing my gym membership (I enhanced my membership to include unlimited classes...I begin yoga again next week after a nearly five-year absence), and I began speaking to the gym employee in German. At one point I must have looked confused, because she asked me: "Do you speak English?" I told her I did, and she repeated in English what she had just told me in German. After about a minute, she asked me what nationality my last name is, and I told her that it's Finnish. To this, she replied: "Your German is totally understandable, but your English is excellent!" I just said wasn't worth going over my life story.

We're back in Basel after four nights in Spain...

We had a really nice time in Estepona, Spain. Everything was on-time getting there (foot, tram, train, plane, and automobile), but the trip still took 7½ hours from door to door. We left the house at 9:00, and we arrived at the hotel at 16:30. The flight is only 2 hours and 15 minutes, but by the time you take the train to Zurich Airport, wait for the flight, actually fly, and then take a 45 minute car ride to the hotel...well, you get the picture. However, I'm happy to report that the journey was worth the effort. There were many highlights. We received a complimentary upgrade to a junior suite, the spa at the hotel was really nice and the treatments were relaxing, we ate at some nice restaurants both at the hotel and off-site (including Los Banditos which features Swedish & French Cuisine), we took a day-trip to Gibraltar and took a tour of the rock (I was actually inside the Rock of Gibraltar at the moment I turned 42 years old), the hotel had a very nice breakfast buffet (special kudos go to Maria Jesus the omelette maker) complete with a cat who looked like our cat King along with his little kitty sidekick politely begging for food from us everyday (they favored the liver paté), getting together with Ronnie & Geraldine (two of Mrs. TBF's co-workers who have a flat close to the hotel we were staying at) and Ronnie's daughter Janneka (I hope I spelled that correctly) AND Ronnie's mother (I forgot her name) who was one of the tiniest women I've seen in a long time. Overall, just a nice, relaxing, sunny vacation. I was going to write something on the blog everyday, but we ended up having computer password problems and I figured I'd just put pictures on my website (probably in a couple of days) at some point. So, now it's back to life...back to reality!

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Be very CAT might sue you!!!

I bought a little toy for King yesterday. I'm a sucker for those cute little cat toys. Every now and then when I go to stock up on food for the beasts, some little toy catches my eye and I blow Mrs. TBF's hard earned cash on this useless thing that will eventually end up in the vacuum cleaner cannister. Yesterday, I blew 7.50 CHF on a little Jitter Critter imported from the good old U.K. It looks like a fish, and when you pull it's tail it kind of jumps around for a couple of seconds. As the packaging says: "Once your cat catches a glimpse of the Jitter Critter, you will find them leaping, pouncing and frolicking for more! Simply pull the tail and the fun begins, they twist, shake and giggle [oh my!]! When your keen kitty captures the trembling Jitter Critter, they'll go bonkers for the tempting aroma of catnip lurking inside!" British marketing genius at its finest. I was sold. I actually took the little critter out of the bag to look at it as I was riding the tram back home. Then, I noticed in tiny little print where the Happy Pets Products Ltd. of Leicester's attorney had gotten hold of this product and had obviously developed a case of his own jitters. What does the tiny print say?

This toy contains plastic parts. Discontinue use if ripped or torn. Always supervise your pet while playing with any toy.

And to think that the Brits make fun of the American legal system with all their frivolous law suits. Really! Now I'm actually wondering if it's a good idea to let him play with it while we're in Spain for the next few days. I mean, he might decide to play with it, and I won't be there to supervise him.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

May I recommend a nice helping of Rasul de Luxe???

Mrs. TBF and I are heading to Estepona, Spain this Friday, and I've just been perusing the spa "menu". I'm thinking of going for the Face Classic Special (90 minutes) and the Rasul de Luxe (90 minutes). The Face Classic Special, according to the menu, is: Face, neck and décolletée (whatever the hell that is) massage with special ingredients completed with a regenerating mask. See???? I told you I was into skin care! Also, considering the size of my head, I think I'll definitely get my money's worth.
The Rasul de Luxe is described as: Cleansing of the body and spirit in the truly Arabian way, enriched with a body pack and aromatic steam. A total overall sensational feeling enhanced by the soft and flowing rhythms of music topped with an aroma body pack and a sensual massage. I wonder if I'll be finished-off like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm! Given the mass of my body, I'll be getting my money's worth here too. I hope they don't charge me a surcharge.
Mrs. TBF saw the phrase "cleansing of the body", and she isn't going anywhere near that one. I think she has a mental image of a person actually scrubbing her body down with a sponge, and that's a bit farther than she's willing to take the spa experience. So, she's opting for the SPA Pedicure (Activating foot bath, nail and horn-skin care, soft massage for the feet and footpack), followed by some nail polish.
Now that we've made our decisions, I better call the hotel and make some spa reservations. I've learned from past experience that it's best to call ahead. Sometimes the locals go for treatments and they take all the good slots.

Monday, September 06, 2004

"You're the only guy I know who takes a vacation to get away from doing....nothing!"

That's one of my favorite quotes from my buddy Dave (sorry...David...he hates to see his name as "Dave" in print) from the last time I was in Chicago. But let me tell you something...I need a vacation. Being retired is a lot of work.
This weekend began with John and Rammy picking us up at our house on Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. We drove up to Mulhouse (pronounced least that's how I pronounce it), France for the big weekly farmers' market. John and Rammy have been there before, but it was the first time for yours truly and Mrs. TBF. We finally made it after navigating around about fifty detours due to the insane amount of road construction in Mulhouse (I'm telling's NOT pronounce mull-house!) But, any aggravation we experienced was soon forgotten after we began walking around this massive market. Much to my delight, it had both an outdoor section AND an indoor section. Outdoors, you had your typical assortment of nice looking fruits, vegetables, herbs, blah, Blah, BLAH!!!! But inside, you had the GOOD STUFF - meat, fish, cheese, wine, etc. I bought a turkey drumstick that could choke a donkey, a turkey breast about as big as my head, and a kilo of turkey necks for some stock. It was great! The fact that I don't speak French, they don't speak English, and we were speaking in broken German did not deter me one bit. Next time, I'll be prepared - I'll bring a cooler and some ice packs.
On Saturday night, we went to Mark and Sandra's house (a couple of doors away) for a big BBQ. There were about forty or so people there, and it went into the wee hours of the morning. The police showed up at about 2:00 a.m. to tell us that neighbors had complained about the noise. When the police arrived, I was helping Markus (a professional hair stylist) cut our friend Jarl's hair. I'm not really sure how this came to be, but it ended up looking pretty good. Actually, Markus did most of the work...I just got in few snips. We had a really good time, and I didn't have to pick up even one BBQ utensil...nice bonus!
On Sunday afternoon, we had a neighborhood potluck BBQ. We call them Weberfests (after THE grill). Actually, we now pronounce it the German way...vayba-fest. We just bring a couple of grills down to a common area, and we keep them lit for as long as it takes for everybody to grill their stuff. I grilled up my mammoth turkey drumstick, and I ate it King Henry VIIIth style. That reminds me...where can one get one of those nice gold crowns with the red velvet???? Also, I ended up grilling a lot of other people's food. I guess that's what happens when you get a reputation as the "Grill Master". The BBQ wound down in the evening, and then a few of the straglers ended up on our patio for a night cap. My next-door neighbor Eli was the last to leave. I didn't really look at my watch, but I think he left around 11:00 p.m. Afterwards, I went right to bed. I was totally beat from all of the weekend's activity. I fell asleep, and I woke up at one point to Jo Ann telling me I was snoring. The next thing I knew, it was 8:40 a.m.
It's almost 8:00 p.m. now, and I still feel tired. I blew off the gym today because I figured my workout would suck anyway. I'll just hit the gym tomorrow after my German lesson. Thank God we're leaving for Spain this Friday....I need a vacation!