Saturday, April 29, 2006

Chicago II - Mr. Blue Sky

One of the things I miss the most about living in Chicago is the blue sky. The sky in Basel always seems to be hazy. Even on a cold, clear winter day there's still a bit of haze to the sky in Basel. Maybe it has something to do with all the mountains in the vicinity - I'm not really sure. I've always thought that Lake Michigan being right next to Chicago has something to do with the blueness of the sky - again...not really sure. Whatever the reason, the sky is often a vivid blue. I snapped this picture when I was leaving Jo's house one morning. Just look at that sky...DAMN, that's nice! Overall, the weather was pretty good while I was in Chicago. The high temperature actually hit 75˚F a couple of the days. God, I hope we have a nice summer in Basel this year. Last summer, the weather sucked. I NEED SOME SUNSHINE!!!

Chicago I - Overload

My first day in Chicago is always spent in a haze of jet lag. Inevitably, I wake up very early on the first day after my arrival. This trip was no different from the rest. I woke up at 5:05 a.m., and then I had some coffee with Jo the mother-in-law while watching the news and weather forecast. This picture was taken at 5:35 a.m. Wow!!! No human being should be awake at that hour. Jo does it all the time...double WOW!!!
After picking up my rental car, I drove over to my sister's house. I have to tell you that the rush hour traffic in Chicagoland SUCKS!!! The drive from Jo's house to my sister's house is four miles (about 6 kilometers), and it took...35 minutes!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT???? I ended up finding a shortcut through my old neighborhood a couple of days later and cut it down to 25 minutes. But still...major league aggravation.

As I said in my previous post, the energy of my nieces and nephew overwhelmed me. This is how they looked about twenty minutes before they had to leave for school. Just when I thought that complete anarchy was taking over the house, my sister handed me a bottle, asked me to feed the baby, and then used "the voice" that only mother's possess in order to get the kids to resign themselves to their fate. Ten minutes later, my sister and her kids were in the minivan pulling out of the driveway.
I still say, I don't know how she does it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

It's Official - I'm a P-I-G!!!

Ok...I went to Hooters. I'm a pig. However, that's not the kind of "pig" I'm talking about. I'm a pig because I've I spent the last week with a 55 gallon feed-bag strapped to my head. Man...have I eaten well! As a matter of fact, I've been so busy eating that it's really cut into my blogging time. Note to self: don't bring the computer the next time you go to Chicago. You didn't use it that much, and it adds mucho extra weight to the carry-on. Just use Diana and Colm's computer to check e-mail.
So what did I eat? Here's a sampling: Hooters' chicken wings, ribs, pizza, Italian beef (BTW...doesn't exist in Italy!), Polish sausage and Goose Island beer (happy Sal?), Saganaki and other Greek stuff (in recognition of the fact that Mrs. TBF was in Athens for part of the time that I was in Chicago), a ribeye steak the size of a baseball mit, Mexican food galore, etc., etc. Plus, I think that martinis and margaritas are still coming out of my pores.
Also, I've spent the last week spending more of Mrs. TBF's hard earned money on clothes. I came to Chicago with two practically empty suitcases and a carry-on, and...I'm going back home with two "ready-to-burst" suitcases and a heavy carry-on. I'll wear the sportcoat and raincoat I bought because they won't fit into the suitcases. I counted, and I'll be going home with TWENTY-FIVE shirts that I didn't have when I came here. That's right...25!!! A lot of 'em are just Gap t-shirts, but still impressive nonetheless. I hope all the clothes still fit. Furthermore, I hope customs doesn't check the bag with the shirts because I think I'd have a hard time explaining that one.

Customs Man: "Vaat about all zeez shirts?"

TBF: "Ummmm...I'm a heavy sweater? Yeah...that's right, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!"
I'll talk to you when I'm back in Basel....lots-o-pictures taken with my new camera!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Oxygen Starved and Alcohol Fueled Ramblings...

Here are a few observations that I made this past Tuesday during the flight from London to Chicago:

You need the proper power adaptor for the computer. The one that BA sells cost 75 POUNDS!!! Farkin' Limeys!

Raid the Larder...RAID THE LARDER!!!! (the "larder" is an area in the galley where they keep "help-yourself" snacks during the flight).

If you want the Tanqueray No. 10 from Duty Free, you need to "ask us to reserve it for you when you board the plane". Wow!!! How the hell was I supposed to know that?

Husbands who put up the fan screen to block off the wife and not cool!

Man...the drinks pour freely on BA! Wow!

The magnetic travel edition of Scrabble for Diana was "not in stock". The walkie-talkie watches for the kids were. Go figure!

I am undecided reagrding Fiona Apple. Her 2005 album "Extraorinary Machine" was in heavy rotation on BA. I thought the lyrics definitely displayed poetic genius. The music ranged from OK to unpleasant. Rolling Stone Magazine, if I recall, gave it four stars - the equivalent of the commerical death knell. I won't buy it. To me, it's kind of like when I saw "We Will Rock You" at the West End - I was impressed, but I wouldn't go see it again.

Real metal flatware in Business Class on BA. REAL METAL FLATWARE IN BUSINESS CLASS ON BA!!!

Why do the movies on BA suck? In my opinion, the service on BA far surpasses that of American or United. However, their movie selection is definitely lacking. Sleep is the option of choice.

Molton Brown hand cream - not bad. NOT BAD!

Am I the only person who cleans the toilet in the lavatory after peeing? Just wondering.

Holy shite! I only have about 4.5 hours to go.

The battery in my Mac has 3:40 worth of "juice" left. Whoopeeeeeeee!

Mrs. TBF was wrong...I am not going to sleep on this flight!


Download that Natalie Mercant song that was popular a few years back. What the hell was the title? It was the one with the video where she walked down the streets of NY taking pictures of strange people and sights. Also, download "Winds of Change" by the Scorpions.

the rambling ended here...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


By 9:00 a.m., I already felt as if I had had a day's worth of activity.
First, let me say that my trip to Chicago went well. Thanks for asking. The flights were on time, the service was good, the weather in Chicago was nice upon arrival, the ride from the airport to my sister's house was quick, etc.
Belive it or not, I managed to stay awake until midnight last night. I figured that I'd try to adjust to Chicago time immediately. WRONG!!! I woke up at 5:05 a.m. My mother-in-law (Jo) had to leave for the senior center around 6:30 a.m., so I bummed a ride with her to the McDonald's that's located about a five minute walk from the rental car place. I bought a couple of breakfast burritos and a coffee and sat down with my Chicacgo Tribune in order to kill about 45 minutes since the car rental place wouldn't be open until about 7:30 a.m.
The breakfast burritos weren't too good, but I did enjoy my coffee and Tribune. At about 7:15, one of the McDonald's girls came around with a pot of coffee offering free refills - wow...that's something they don't do in Switzerland.
As the girl was walking around filling the cups, I noticed something interesting - the early morning clientele at the Barrington, Illinois McDonalds consisted of me...and about eight silver-haired men reading their Chicago Tribunes. That's right, just us retired men sittin' down for an early morning read and a cup o' joe. Nuttin' wrong wit dat (as they say in Chicago).
At about 7:30, I walked over to the Enterprise Car Rental shop, picked up my Hyundai Sonata (they offered me a Ford Explorer, but I felt like driving a car instead of an SUV for a change), and drove off to my sister's house a couple of miles away.
I have to say that my sister and brother-in-law's house is always a flurry of activity. However, during the getting-ready-for-school time, it is absolute bedlam! The kids are 10, 8, 5, and 7 months. "Where are your socks?" "We have to be in that car in five minutes." "Stop throwing the football in the house!" "Why are shoes NOT ON?!?!?!?" "Why is your homework sitting on the kitchen counter????"....and on, and on. I don't know how they do it. It requires an unbelievable amount of skill to organize the troops.
All I can say is....WOW!!!
After everybody left, I took off and dropped off some things at the dry cleaner (God bless American dry cleaning!), filled up the car with gas (picked it up with only half a tank), bought some workout clothes at Sports Authority, went to the dentist (no cavities), and then met a couple of my ex-coworkers at Hooters. us pigs if you want, but we go there for the wings! Really!
It's now about 4:45 p.m. The jet lag is beginning to set in. My nephew Finn just picked up a spider off the ground and is holding it about three inches from my fact. I better go!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I'm so pathetic...

...and lucky at the same time. Why? This morning, TBF went to Basel airport to start his journey to Chicago, where he'll be for a week visiting family and friends, the dentist, the shops, the restaurants, etc. In his last moments at home I was running through in my head all the things he always does that I'm gonna have to do while he's gone. The moment at which I decided I am pathetic was when I realised I have to get the mail won't take the elevator by itself and let itself into the apartment. I swear...if TBF hadn't mentioned getting the mail on our way out this morning I probably would have gone all week without collecting it!!! So I decided I was a pretty pathetic case. TBF even said somehting last night that was kind of like "if I went down in the plane it would take you forever to figure out how to pay bills and sort out all the accounts". Folks...I'm not stupid...really. I'm just a little airheaded when it comes to running the house. But that's why I'm also lucky at the same time. TBF takes such good care of me that I don't have to do all those little things around the house that involve paperwork (which I hate). I'm good at feeding King, so don't worry, he won't go hungry. And, I'm pretty good at the laundry, vacuuming and anything involved in the kitchen. But when it comes to the home office...I run like a sissy! Ok ...I may be getting the mail, but that doesn't mean I have to open it, does it???
Just the thought makes me tired...I think I'll go read in bed now. Unlike TBF, I go to bed early when he's away.

Monday, April 17, 2006

It Has Been 125 Days...

...since I was last in Chicago. So it's about time that I go back for a visit.
I'll be leaving Basel tomorrow at around noon, connecting in London, and landing in Chicago at around 6:30 p.m. if all goes as planned.
Mrs. TBF was kind enough, once again, to use her BA miles to get me a seat in business class for the round trip so that I can travel in the level of comfort to which I've become accustomed.
I haven't packed yet, but there isn't too much to pack since I have a bunch of clothes I ordered over the internet waiting for me at the mother-in-law's house. I've also ordered a new camera which is waiting for me at my sister's house (I'm sure the kids have destroyed it by now). Unlike last time, I will be bringing my laptop along this time which means that I plan on updating the blog as time permits.
This is my chance to see which of friends are regular readers of my blog. I'm really not planning too much this time, so I'm going to leave it up to my friends to contact me via e-mail/comments on the blog with invitations to get together for dinner or a drink, etc.
I'll talk to you soon...from Chicago.

Prague: Final Chapter - The Dark Side... we didn't really venture that much into the "dark side" of Prague. But, we did have our moments.
First of all, after enjoying our dinner, we ventured back onto the Charles Bridge where I noticed that Daniel had a Czech "hair twin". Actually, Daniel doesn't have a mullet like this guy does, but they both had thick salt-and-pepper hair. I asked Tomas to ask the guy in Czech if I could take a picture of the two of them together, and he agreed. No problem.

No problem, that was, until the guy's friend suddenly appeared out of nowhere - ranting and raving. The guy actually looked like he was going to take a swing at me. Fortunately, this took place at the exact moment I was snapping a photo. Sure, fisticuffs were imminent, but sometimes you have to take risks for "photographic gold".
The guy, who kind of reminded me of Kyle Gass from Tenacious D, apparently thought that we were making fun of him (which we weren't). The guy's buddy and Tomas both tried to talk sense into the blob, but he just wanted nothing to do with it. At one point I told Tomas to tell the guy in Czech if he didn't back off, that I was "...going to stick a size 12 American shoe up his ass." Tomas wisely decided not to act at translator at this point, and we ended up going our separate ways - bloodshed avoided!

A little while later, when we were well into our Prague pub crawl, James and I found a guy who we decided was our long-lost-separated-at-birth Czech brother. We asked if we could take a picture with him, he agreed, and Daniel took the picture...while Tomas kept a lookout for any potentially insane friends lurking in the shadows. The photo was snapped without incident, and we continued on our way.
At one point, Daniel ended up going back to the hotel, but James, Tomas, and I forged ahead. Around 3:00 a.m. or so, the "munchies" set in. For the life of us, we just couldn't find a place with an open kitchen. Finally, at one bar, some random guy heard that we were looking for food and offered to get us a couple of pizzas. Although we were a bit hesitant, he convinced us that we would have two hot pizzas in front of us in ten minutes. True to his word, two pizzas (plus a gyro sandwhich) were sitting in front of us in about ten minutes, we paid him, and dug in.
We inhaled our food, were solicited by a prostitute (who, by the way, spoke perfect English), had a couple more beers, and then finally decided it was time to wind our way through the empty streets of Prague, back to our hotel - it was 5:30 a.m.
We slept for about five hours, got ourselves ready to leave, and then took a taxi back to the airport where we once again met up with Daniel.
Just for the record:
The shuttle van from the airport to downtown Prague = 90 Czech Crown

The taxi sitting in front of the Marriott to the airport = 900 Czech Crown!!!!

I guess you live and you learn!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Prague: Chapter 4 - Eating, Drinking, and Being Merry

Everything was going well in Prague. We had a few beers under our belts, twilight was setting in, and we were starting to get hungry. We came upon the Charles Bridge with the Prague Castle in the background, and Tomas informed us that we'd be eating at a restaurant just over the bridge. Sorry about the picture - it was getting kind of dark by the time we reached the bridge. If you'd like a better picture, check out the Prague Tourism website. The Charles Bridge is the bridge that's featured prominently in the first Mission Impossible movie, and it was pretty much the only "must see" on my list. So, I was happy that we made had finally made it there. I have to say that the bridge is pretty darned impressive. It's huge, it's old, and it's beautiful. Plus, I knew that dinner was waiting on the other side of the bridge - so I crossed it with an extra bounce in my step.

We ended up at a restaurant that Tomas recommended. If I had to go back to this restaurant, I'd be able to find it without a problem. Unfortunately, I can not for the life of me remember what the place was called which is too bad because I would DEFINITELY recommend it to people. The food was excellent and reasonably priced, the ambience was great, the service was outstanding, and I would absolutely go back. I had duck for my main course, but the starter was something I will not soon forget. It had to be the most garlicky thing I've ever eaten in my life. It was some kind of cheese, with peppers, and a garlic oil that will ensure that I have garlic breath for the rest of my life. Here's a picture of me eating it, with devil horns provided by Vanda.

After dinner, we enjoyed shots of the local Czech "fire water" called Slivovice (pronounce SLEE-vo-vitz). If I had to describe it, I'd say that it's basically a plum schnaaps. It went down easily, and then we invited our waitress to have a shot with us. Without hesitation, she poured herself a shot and joined us. While she was downing her shot in one gulp, I noticed a bit of "ink" jutting out from under her shirt. We asked her to show us, and she gladly obliged. We thought we were going to see one or two tattoos. Instead, we were surprised that she was sporting a "sleeve".
We were happy. Our bellies were full, and the night was still young. However, the tone of the evening was about to change.
We were about to enter "the dark side".

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Prague: Chapter 3 - Takin' It To The Streets!

Now that we had a good base of Czech beer, we decided it was time to hit the streets of Prague. James' girlfriend is of Czech heritage (but grew up in Switzerland), and we were scheduled to meet her step-brother Tomas (it's pronounced like To-mosh, but I can't figure out how to type the little squiggly line over the "s"), his wife Vanda, and two friends of theirs whose names I can't remember - and wasn't able to pronounce anyway. They were all very nice people, and really showed us some nice bars, and eventually, a really great restaurant. But first things first...we needed some food!
We stopped for some street food. I can't remember what it was called, but we ended up having a sandwich that consisted of hamburger buns, tartar sauce, and these big breaded deep-fried pieces of cheese. I'm going to have to figure out how to make these things. They are the perfect accompaniment to beer. I wonder how many Weight-Watchers points they are. Oh...maybe 100, or so?

After wolfing down our snacks, we basically just walked around town enjoying the incredible architecture of Prague. Let me tell you - I was impressed. It just did not end. Everywhere you turned you had some really cool looking building, followed by another one. We'd walk for a while, stop in a bar, have a couple of beers, walk some more, stop at a bar, walk some more... On and on we went, enjoying the perfect, sunny day. We pretty much had no agenda which was fine because we were happy just following our Czech hosts around town. As a matter of fact, I did absolutely ZERO research on Prague before the trip. The only thing I knew I absolutely had to see was the "Mission Impossible" bridge. And...that would come a little later...

Anyway, here is a group photo sans yours truly. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any place to clamp the Gorilla Pod. From the left: random person who decided to pose with us, Daniel, James, Vanda, Tomas, lady friend with unpronounceable name, guy friend with unpronounceable name.

Prague: Chapter 2 - American Capitalist Pigs!!!

While James and I were dropping off our bags in our room (and repairing the toilet) in our free room at the Marriott, Daniel was enjoying a beer in the Marriott bar. Daniel decided to stay at a smaller bed-and-breakfast style hotel about a ten minute walk from our big, American business style hotel. When we finally made it down to the Marriott bar, Daniel was just finishing his beer. He paid for his beer, and we headed off through the streets of Prague toward his hotel.
After arriving at Daniel's hotel, James and I decided to check out a local Czech hole-in-the-wall bar that was located about twenty meters away from the hotel entrance while Daniel was dropping off his bag. The bar ended up pretty cool. There weren't too many people in there, the bartender and his assistant didn't speak too much English, and the beer went down easily. Daniel showed up a few minutes later, and the three of us enjoyed a couple more beers.
We stuck around for a while, and we ended up enjoying eight beers between the three of us.
Total price for eight beers at hole-in-the-wall Czech pub = 216 Czech crown

Total price for one beer at American Capitalist Pig business hotel = 120 Czech crown!

Prague: Chapter 1 - Relief!

Our EasyJet flight to Prague left Basel (on-time) with me, my ex-next-door neighbor James, and James' co-worker Daniel on board. James and I stayed at the downtown Marriott. Normally, I wouldn't stay at a Marriott. I have nothing against Marriott really, but I'd rather not stay at an American business hotel when I'm in Europe. It's...I don't know...just a bit too American business-ish, if you know what I mean. However, I used some of Mrs. TBF's Marriott Rewards to get a free room, so we stayed in a FREE ROOM at a Marriott.
James and I were relieved that we were able to get a room with two double beds. One time when I went on an International Boyz Nite Out (that's the official spelling, by the way...a.k.a. IBNO), I shared a bed with my friend Paul. At about 3 a.m., I woke up and Paul's legs were draped over mine. Then, at about 5 a.m., I woke up with a strange sensation - like somebody was staring at me. I opened my eyes to find that Paul's face was about two inches from my face. thanks. Double beds are the standard on IBNOs, thank you very much.
Then, James needed some "relief" in the bathroom before our night out in Prague. Unfortunately, the toilet didn't flush. Fortunately, however, James managed to pry the panel off the wall and did a rather impressive job of repairing the toilet. Relief, indeed!!!!

Monday, April 10, 2006


It was about a week ago that I bought a new painting for our living room. I bought it on Tuesday, wire transfered the money on Wednesday (no checks in Switzerland), had it delivered on Friday, and I did the hanging today.
The painting is called Sterngucker which I'm saying is Stargazer in English. The gallery owner couldn't tell me for sure, but Stargazer is my interpretation...and I'm stickin' to it!
The painting has a lot of meaning to us because it's: predominantly orange (my favorite color), painted by a Basel artist, and painted in 2000 - the year we moved to Basel.
The gallery owner told me that The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery was the inspiration for the painting. When he delivered the painting to our apartment, he handed me a book and told me "...zat I find zee book for you in English." It was a version of The Little Prince translated from French. I was somehow incredibly touched by his effort. Imagine, the guy went to the trouble of going to a bookstore and finding the English version of the book. I think Mrs. TBF thought I had somehow turned into a real wuss...but...I was touched, DAMN IT!!!
So, here it is. I think I'll make myself a nice cup of jasmine tea, light a couple of scented candles, read my book, and stare at the painting from time to time.
Just...leave me alone, damn it!


Yes, I was in Prague this weekend. My old next-door neighbor James, his co-worker Daniel, and I took the 12:45 EasyJet flight on Saturday afternoon, partied in Prague until about 5:30 on Sunday morning, woke up five hours later at about 10:30, took a taxi to Prague Airport at around noon, and flew back to Basel on the 14:15 flight on Sunday afternoon.
The verdict? Prague now ranks up there as one of my favorite cities in Europe. It's incredibly scenic, the people are friendly, the food and drink are excellent (Mrs. TBF thought I reeked of garlic when I arrived at home!), the service is good, and it's incredibly cheap when compared to Switzerland.
I'm still kind of groggy after my nine-hour sleep, so I'll post a lot more about it later. However, for now, here are a couple of pictures...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Good News...

TBF did not wake up in a Prague jail. He'll be on his way home soon...and I'm sure he'll have some great stories and photos to share from his IBNO. Better go and get the appartment back in order before he gets here.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

All by myself...

and having a fine time thank you very much! TBF went to Prague today with his friend James for an IBNO...otherwise known as an International Boys Night Out. All you guys out there...aren't you jealous? Many men hardly ever get a boys night out...let alone an IBNO. Ok, I'll stop patting myself on the back right now for being such a tolerant wife because there is something in it for me...having the house to myself (and King I guess) for one evening knowing that TBF will be home tomorrow...unless he ends up in a jail in Prague...which I warned him not to do or I would be mad! When TBF goes to visit family for a week I miss him terribly and appreciate all the little things he does to make my life easier, but mostly I miss him and I don't enjoy all those nights by myself. night is kind of nice. First of all, I had a very productive day shopping at the Bally shoe outlet in Aarau with the lovely Di and Rammy. This was a very important shopping practice day for our upcoming IGD&NO in Milano. I scored some new shoes, a belt and a handbag ...but I'm not going to tell you how many pairs of shoes I scored as that would be rather embarrassing. Anyway, both the lovely ladies invited me to join their families at home for dinner tonight, but I declined because the thought of watching the food network, reading cooking mags and looking at my cook books without TBF getting bored with me was a bit too precious to let slip. So...gotta cooking related entertainment is calling out to me.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wannabee Italian...

...eats some faux French food!
This is our neighbor Corey enjoying some Choucroute Alsacienne (Alsatian Sauerkraut) last night at Chez TBF. Our wives were both at a meeting in Luzern, so we decided to throw caution to the wind and plow into some of France's finest country cookin'.
It's a well known fact that Mrs. TBF and I love all things French (except for their ridiculous denial of Globalization's existence). However, did you know that Corey and Suzanne love all things Italian? That's right! Italian wine, Italian music, Italian vacations, and even Corey's Italian-looking glasses. When he's talking about Italy and Italian people with Mrs. TBF (an Italian-American), he even refers to it/them as "our people" (NOTE: Corey is German-American!)
So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I decided to go French. However, since Mrs. TBF is the Italian cooking expert, I figured that my attempt at Italian cuisine would pale by comparison. So, I got out the big, yellow Le Creuset pot and created a rather superb (even if I do say so myself) Choucroute. Corey (who King refers to as "Bones") told me that he had to fight the urge not to over-indulge. I guess I didn't over-indulge either - we did manage to leave some leftovers.
All the food was washed down nicely with a little Alsatian wine and beer, and we bid adieu at around 10:30, or so.
Afterall, it was a "school night"...for Corey.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

April Macht Was Er Will!

Carmen, who was my German teacher, used to say that all the time. Well...I guess she only said it a couple of times (it would sound kind of dumb saying it in...oh...October...for no reason whatsoever), but...I remembered it. Mann sagt dieser Satz auf Englisch (one says this sentence in English...sorry about the spelling): April does what it wants. And, here's the evidence with two views out of our kitchen windows. The one view is toward the Bruderholz hill with the "beautiful" Migros roof top in the foreground, and the other view is toward the tall apartment building across the river from us where the people like to stare at us for hours when we're up relaxing in our roof top garden during the summer (...if it ever comes!). Yesterday I was planting herbs in the garden without a jacket, and today I'll be putting the winter coat back on.
You know, that little blurb I just wrote in German brings up an interesting point. I have no idea if Mann is spelled with two ns or if it's supposed to be dieser, dieses, or diese, but I'm throwing some of my broken German onto the blog for the world to see. Besides, every German speaker who reads that sentence will know what I'm talking about - and that's what it's all about. You see, I used to tell my German teacher all the time that I didn't give rip about spelling every word correctly or conjugating all the verbs properly. Most of the time, I don't know the gender of the noun. Carmen would occasionally try to ram grammar down my throat, but I'd fight it. I'd tell her that I didn't need German for a job (...thanks Mrs. TBF!), but that I only wanted to learn to speak it well enough that German speakers would understand me. So, most of the time her method of teaching me was just verbal (ok...with a little grammer mixed in so that she'd feel she was earning her keep). And, you know what? I began to notice in conversation classes that I was doing most of the talking, and that my German was usually better than most of my other classmates' German. Yup...I was crackin' jokes, pulling German words outta' my ass that I didn't know were in there, and just chirping away like a kleine vogeli. One day, I suddenly realized that the reason for this was because I had gotten over the fear of making mistakes, and I'd just blurt out whatever sounded good - kind of like a kid would do. And if there's one thing that I pride myself on is the fact that I still consider myself a big kid! Sometimes, thankfully, I'd be corrected by the Carmen or the conversation class teachers - like the time I mixed up the words scheibe and scheide (one means slice - as in a slice of cheese - the other means vagina...DOH!). Thankfully, that one happened in my private lesson. But, most of the time, my teachers would just let me ramble on and on. And, while the other people in the conversation class were taking notes, looking up words in the dictionary, and looking at conjugation tables, I was actually learning to speak German. Hmmm...imagine that.

I guess...TBF macht was er will!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

So, Whaddya Think?

...of my new Geox shoes? I know what my ex-coworker Dave would call them. He'd say that "...those are some ugly-ass shoes"! I needed some casual brown shoes to go along with some brown pants I recently bought. Mrs. TBF and I saw these at the Geox store in Basel last Saturday, and she approved. However, the store was so crowded that I told her I'd buy them during the week. My new "metro" shoes were just one part of my very productive day.
Here's what I did:
06:45 - ...dropped Mrs. TBF off at the Basel train station so she could catch a train to Luzern where she has a couple of days of meetings...

09:30 - ...spent part of Mrs. TBF's hard-earned bonus money at the Hilt Gallery on a painting by a Basel artist named Regula Mathys-Hänggi. The painting's not pictured on the link, but I'll put a picture of the painting on the blog once it's hanging on our wall in a couple of days...

10:30 - ...went to the gym (second day in a row!) where I ran into the very radiant Gretchen. I also ran into King's veterinarian's wife. Small world...

12:30 - ...a quick lunch, e-mails, paid a couple of bills, a quick vacuuming, and then off to my painting class...

15:00 - ...went to my second watercolor painting class. It's me and a few Swiss ladies. Not only do I learn to paint, but I also get to practice my German. Fortunately, the teacher speaks in high-German to me instead of Swiss-German. Also fortunately, she speaks English when I have absolutely no clue what she's saying.

18:00 - ...quick stop at the grocery store where I picked up ingredients for Choucroute Alsacienne - basically, French sauerkraut piled with various fatty meats like bacon, ham hock, sausages, etc. Corey, my next door neighbor will be coming over for dinner tomorrow night. His wife, Suzanne, is at the same meeting as Mrs. TBF, so us guys are going to sit around and eat some really fatty, gas-inducing food. MEN RULE!!!

18:45 - ...lugged a couple of bags of soil up to the roof-top garden where I'm constructing an herb garden. I spread the soil and planted a few herb plants into the garden bed that had been in pots. I think this garden is going to totally kick ass. I'm sure I probably should have asked the landlord for permission before I got started doing the work,'s always easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask for permission. So...screw it!

20:00 to now - ...ate some leftovers, watched a CSI and a CSI Miami, spoke with Mrs. TBF, and ordered some Jockey underwear online. Isn't online ordering great? I'll be leaving for Chicago in less than two weeks, and I'll have some garden seeds, shirts, pants, shorts, t-shirts, and underwear waiting for me at my mother-in-law's house. I'm also going to order a new digital camera which means that that will be waiting for me too. It'll be one of those typical leave-with-an-empty-suitcase-and-return-with-a-full-suitcase trips. I love ordering stuff on the internet. What a time-saver!

And...that's about it. It's 2:20 a.m., and I think it's about time I hit the sack.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Shirt Off My Back...

Yesterday, when I was walking from the tram stop to the gym, I saw a guy wearing a shirt that I put in the charity bin last year. I am 100% certain that it was my shirt. It was a red, Ralph Lauren, rugby shirt with yellow, green, and black stripes. My shirt had a little part that was frayed right next to the buttons on the front, and so did the shirt that this guy was wearing. It HAD to be my shirt...or, my ex-shirt.
It's funny because a few weeks ago I told Mrs. TBF that I thought it would be cool if I would see somebody wearing an article of my donated clothing in public. I even told her that I was thinking of taking some of my XXL Tommy Bahama shirts that are way too big for me now into Basel and just handing them out to people at the methadone clinic or the rare beggar one sees on the streets of Basel.
On second thought, most of the people I see at the methodone clinic when I go by it on the tram are skin and bones, so maybe I shouldn't be offering them XXL resort wear. Ummm...maybe it's not such a good idea afterall.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Now...Where Were We?

Oh, that's week ago we were in Siena. I guess I should post some pictures while that trip is still semi-fresh in my mind. Mrs. TBF and I took more than 100 pictures in about 48 hours, but I'll limit myself here to just a few.
A bunch of us assembled in Siena's Piazza del Campo for a guided group tour at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. The sky was overcast, and we had some occasional drizzle (both which made picture taking a bit challenging), but the city looked beautiful nonetheless. Siena really is a picturesque medieval city. It was not bombed during the wars, and the buildings are all pretty much intact. The streets are narrow, winding, and hilly which further adds to Siena's appeal. Another thing I like about Siena is that it appears that the government has taken great efforts to ensure that the historic look of the city is preserved. There's nothing I hate more than going to a city and seeing one ultra modern building sitting smack-dab in the middle of a bunch of medieval buildings.

Sights like the Torre del Mangia were pretty cool, but the coolest thing I saw was San Domenico - a Gothic church built between 1226 and 1340. Unfortunately, people are not allowed to take pictures inside San Domenico, which is a shame because inside is a chapel dedicated to St. Catherine which stores her preserved head...and...finger. Now, I've seen some cool things in my life, but...this...was...AWESOME! My face was inches away from this shriveled up little index finger. WOW! Plus, Catherine received many of her visions...and..stigmata (something that fascinates me to no end) in the church. SPOOOOOOOOKY!!!

The tour was worth the effort just for the head and finger alone, which was good because my incredibly short attention span caused me to completely lose interest in the tour after this point. Afterall, how could anything else on a tour compete with a preserved head, a severed finger, visions, and stigmata? I began lagging behind the group, gazing into storefront windows, counting the number of flavors of gelato that various gelaterias had on offer, etc. I became consumed with photographing things like laundry hanging outside to the drizzle, Mrs. TBF's disgust with the scaffolding that shrouded the Duomo, etc. My attention waned, my blood sugar level was dropping, and I began having visions (but, unfortunately no stigmata) of pizza and pasta while we were inside the Duomo. I pretty much proceeded to abandon the group for the Duomo's gift shop. This turned out to be an incredible stroke of good fortune because the gift shop turned out to be a treasure trove of (somewhat kitschy) souvenirs.

You may or may not be aware of this, but I LIKE KITSCHY SOUVENIRS. I have a shot glass collection that numbers in the HUNDREDS. Seriously, I think I have over 250 shot glasses. I really must count them someday. Also, I have numerous snow globes, refrigerator magnets, latest collection that I've been assembling over the past couple of years: religious paraphenalia (crosses, crucifixes, etc.) So far, the religious paraphenalia has taken a somewhat serious tone, BUT I mananged to bridge the gap between serious religion and kitsch when I came across this little diddy - my own, personal, beer-belly Jesus! The picture is a little blurry, but Jesus is clearly sporting a rather noticeable spare tire to go along with his stigmata. I'm tellin' ya that it was a steal at 18 Euros - a great addition to the growing collection.

I'm beginning to lose interest in this blog entry, so I'll just nip it in the bud right now by saying that we stopped for a nice pizza lunch at one of the Piazza del Campo restaurants, did a little shopping with Simon and Rosemarie, and then it was back to the hotel for Ronny's big birthday bash.