Monday, September 29, 2008

Have It Your Way...

...or should I say?: Имеет оно ваш путь

Help Wanted:

Young, energetic people-person.

Must be fluent in a minimum of two languages (fluency in 3 - 4 languages is a plus!).

Must be trusted to handle money and the ability to work with small electronic machinery is also necessary.

If you meet all the above requirements, then you too may qualify for a job working the counter at the Basel BURGER KING!!

Mrs. TBF and I stopped for lunch this past Saturday afternoon, as we sometimes do, at Basel's sole Burger King. It's quite the operation. And yes, it does taste pretty much the same (AWESOME!), and look the same, as it does in America. There is, however, one major difference: the people who work at the Basel Burger King all wear name tags which have flags of countries representing the different languages they speak.

The girl who served me must be a real flunky because she only spoke German and French ( English?). But the girl at the next register spoke German, French, English, and Russian. I glanced over at another employee's name tag, and she spoke German, French, English, Japanese, and Hebrew (...gonna need a wider name tag).

Ummm...why are these people working at Burger King and not, let's say, the U.N. or W.H.O.?

As I've said before, I've even been served by a young lady at this particular Burger King who speaks German, French, English, and...FINNISH! It's all quite different from the fast-food restaurants in Chicago. There, the employees mostly speak Spanish as their first language and broken-English as their second language. I guess their name tags would have a Mexican flag and half of an American flag.

Of course, the name tags here have a Union Jack to represent English which means that I feel compelled to speak with a BRITISH accent (which my British friends say sounds like a Cockney accent) when ordering my food from an English-speaking employee.

Actually, it's pretty easy for me to pass myself off as British. All I have to do is...

...complain how uncivilized people outside of the U.K. are because they don't know how to form a proper queue, mispronounce Whopper as Wah-pah, order chips instead of fries, say sorry a lot, complain about the cheese not being proper Stilton, and make my face look like I just sucked on a lemon when I find out that they don't offer malted vinegar to go along with the chips.


Friday, September 26, 2008

People Who Need People...

...are the luckiest the world!

Mrs. TBF was in the U.S. this week....for one night.

She flew in on Tuesday, spent the night, had meetings on Wednesday, left on Wednesday evening, and slept for five hours on the return flight between NY and London.

Me? I went to bed at 3 a.m. on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning because I got sucked into a couple of really bad movies. Yes, at one point I found myself watching the Ann Jillian Story and felt that the only two options at that point were to either throw myself off the balcony OR go to bed, wake up the next morning, and pretend that it was all just a bad dream.

I chose the latter.

On Wednesday evening, I once again began to hear the sucking sound of the movie channels. However, the lack of sleep the previous night caused me to begin dozing on and off on the sofa, and I eventually stumbled to bed at the more reasonable hour of 12:45 a.m.

Yesterday evening, Mrs. TBF returned to Basel (Thank God!), and not empty-handed I might add.

Along with some hotel shower gel for me to use at the gym (I rarely have to buy shower gel), and a bottle of Tanqueray No. 10 from Heathrow Duty Free, she also brought home the latest issue of People magazine. I'm usually more of an Us fan, but Mrs. TBF knows that I LOVE the Best & Worst Dressed issue.

Hours of fun!

Of course, having lived outside of the U.S. for nearly eight years now, I haven't the slightest clue who many of the people are (Kim Kardashian, Leighton Meester, Selena Gomez, Mario Lopez, Ellen Pompeo, Diane Kruger, Kristen Bell, etc., etc.). But hey, it doesn't matter. It's still good reading.

This morning, while Mrs. TBF was getting ready for work, I came across a feature called Chic at Every AGE where they showed ten celebrity women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. Suddenly, I found myself blurting out:

"You know what? Maybe I'm getting old, but I think the women in their 50s are the hottest looking group! As a matter of fact, I think I'd rank the 50s as the hottest, followed by the 40s, 30s, and then the 20s coming in last."

Of course, Rihanna wasn't included in the 20s group because she had been featured in The 10 Best Dressed section.

I don't know...Rihanna coupled with Scarlett Johansson and the also-rans that made up the rest of the 20s group would probably have bumped them up into third place....or maybe even second. And...


I just realized that...I'M OLD ENOUGH TO BE THEIR FATHER!!!!!!

Where's that balcony?

A Very Taxing Day!

Today is the day we pay our Swiss taxes. OK...they really don't need to be paid until next Tuesday, but I like to pay them a few days early just to make sure that the bank actually pays them - unlike last year.

That's right! Our bank did not approve the electronic payment I had set up (two weeks in advance) last September because the amount....EXCEEDED THE MAXIMUM MONTHLY AMOUNT ONE CAN PAY OUT OF HIS/HER BANK ACCOUNT. Maximum amount?!?!?!?! Wha' da?

Ummm...who's money is this anyway?

All was well in the end, however, after the private banker dude gave his "managerial" approval, and the taxes ended up finally being paid - ONE DAY LATE on October 1st!

Not this year, baby! The payment is set up for today, and I'll be on-line checking our account on Monday. No payment? Private banker dude will be gettin' a phone call from TBF.

Oh...and the grand total of our tax payment?

Ha! You think I'd tell you that? Of course I won't. However, here's an equation that will put it all into perspective.

The TBF's 2008 Swiss tax payment > Our first house + Mrs. TBF's first car + TBF's first car!!!

I just love it when I hear people (usually American youth who have yet to have their first real job) say "I think we should pay more taxes!" In fact, I think the I.R.S. should just add a voluntary, non-refundable extra tax payment line to the tax forms (You listening to me, I.R.S.?).

You see?

That way you could fund bridges to nowhere, wars, and financial bail-outs to your hearts' content.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Shortest Workout Ever!

I just returned from the gym. I had every reason to believe that it would just be a plain-old normal workout: I picked my locker, undressed, unpacked my gym bag, and....oh!

Instead of packing a pair of gym shorts, I packed a pair of Mrs. TBF's black pajama pants. Doh! Needless to say, there was NO WAY I was going to be able to squeeze into those things.

Oh well. I guess I didn't really feel like working out anyway. There's always next week.

And while we're on the topic of my gym...

Yesterday, I paid my annual membership...for the SEVENTH time!

I remember asking Mrs. TBF, when I first joined my gym in 2002, if we'd be living in Switzerland for at least one more year so that I'd get my money's worth out of the membership. Ha! What a laugh.

I didn't even bother asking her this time.

Friday Flashback: Last Day Of Work

This Sunday will mark the eighth anniversary of my last day of work. Just in case you're keeping score at home, that comes out to 2,920 days since I last traded my time for money.

Mrs. TBF says I am now completely unemployable. Me? I'm not so sure. I think, if I really tried, I could probably land a minimum-wage job somewhere in the world. Of course, I always have my friend Dr. Andy to fall back on. He's a VP of sales, and he's always telling me that "...we could use a guy like you!" So far, he's offered me sales positions in Paris and Moscow. But my deal-breaking demands of a mid six-figure salary, only working three days per week, and only working between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (with two hours off for lunch) on those days seems to have scared him least for now.

Here's a picture of me on my last day of work - September 21, 2000. Since I had a company car (the white Chevy Impala on the right), my boss (Randy) had to drive me home in his car. Actually, he first took me out for dinner, and THEN he drove me home. That evening I took off the "work uniform" for the last time, and I've rarely worn a tie since then. Nowadays, on the rare occasion I do wear a tie, I really have to think about how to even tie one. Back in my working days I used to do it every single morning, without even thinking about it, when I was half-asleep.

Seeing this picture now has me thinking about Randy - all 5'6 AND 1/16th" of him ("When you're as short as me, you count every 1/16th of and inch!"). I'll be back in Chicago in just over a month, and it's been several years since I've seen him. Perhaps I should meet him for lunch and test whether I'm completely unemployable or not by asking him if he'd hire me back.

Hopefully, his answer will be NO!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mother's Milk...

...still wet on your face.

You are a hero, Hans Locher! Don't give up the fight, and DAMN those Swiss food inspectors!

I've been saying for some time now that I'd like to taste mother's milk.

Yes! I'm talking HUMAN mother's milk! Are you...grossed out?

I think I've only watched a handful of Friends episodes, but I once saw one where Ross freaked out when one of the other friends tested the temperature of a baby bottle by splashing a little breast milk on his/her wrist and then licking it off. It was at that moment that I realized that I had not tasted mother's milk since I was a wee little Big Finn. I figured that...

...I gotta get me some!

I'm not really sure why I suddenly got the craving. Perhaps I wanted to see if the taste would trigger a taste memory (like a great bottle of wine) from 40+ years ago. Who knows?

I actually mentioned it to a couple of pregnant friends (naturally, with Mrs. TBF present) of ours over the years, and I was FLATLY rejected. Of course, I explained that I didn't need to taste it directly from the "tap", but I was still banished from getting anywhere near the sacred mommy fun bags.


Did I call them mommy fun bags when I asked? Hmmm....maybe that was the problem!

About a year ago, I determined that I had probably blown my last good chance. As I was playing with my two-year-old niece, I suddenly realized that I could have asked my sister for a spoonful and she POSSIBLY would have obliged just to get me off her back. Oh, I can be VERY persistent.

A couple of years too late. What a bummer!

Now, I just read an article on swissinfo that Swiss food inspectors banned a restaurant from serving food containing "human" milk. I would SO have been there.

But, alas, I guess it's not meant to be...

...this time!

*! I just noticed that the title of the article is: Breast Milk Menu Too Titillating For Diners. Is that...Swiss...humor? OMG! Stop the presses! Swiss humor!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I officially entered the last year of my mid-forties this past weekend.

Many thanks go out to our friends (and King) who held a surprise birthday party for me at our apartment upon our return from Amalfi this past Saturday evening. Thanks for all the nice gifts (totally not necessary!), and an extra special thanks for all the party prep which included some spatchcock (butterflied) chicken and an extra-special birthday cake.

I think the TBF on the cake was a very good likeness of yours truly. Let's see what our child would look like... hair?

750 Days To Go...


750 days from yesterday - October 6, 2010 - will mark ten years since I arrived in Switzerland. I have told Mrs. TBF that ten years of living in Switzerland WILL BE ENOUGH.

OK...yeah...I know, it would have been more meaningful if I had blogged about this yesterday when it was really 750 days to go instead of 749, but I was too busy getting things together for the dinner we hosted last night at our apartment for seven of Mrs. TBF's work colleagues, and I didn't have even a spare minute to blog.

Wasn't it nice of them to all come over and help me celebrate?

No, there's nothing wrong. I'm not suddenly unhappy living here, I'm not sitting in the apartment pining for America, and I don't even consider myself to have one foot out the door...YET. However, I just thought that the time has come to put a deadline on this chapter of our lives. We've been saying "...two more years" for five years now, and now it's time to say 'two more years' and really mean it.

OK, actually slightly more than two years, or...

...maybe less?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Summer To Fall... a few hours!

It was sunny and humid with temperatures in the 30s (approaching 90˚F) while we were in Amalfi. As our flight approached Basel this past Saturday, we felt our tans fading VERY quickly as the captain announced that it was 13˚C (about 55˚F) and raining in Basel.

Oh...and speaking of our flight...

Here's a note to people flying with infants:

I understand that when you make baby talk in an irritating, high-pitched voice, in Italian, with an occasional CUCKOOOOOOOOO thrown in as extra torture, in the seat immediately behind mine during THE ENTIRE FLIGHT FROM NAPLES TO BASEL, you are just trying to keep your infant grand(?)child from crying. However, at some point (after about three seconds), I assure you that every person on the plane is wishing that you would just SHUT THE HELL UP AND LET THE BABY CRY!


I'm glad I didn't pay attention to the pre-flight safety instructions because had I known how to open the emergency door (we were sitting in the exit row), I probably would have ripped the door open (after making sure Mrs. TBF was buckled in, of course) and jumped to the peaceful sound of rushing air for a minute or two...before splattering on the rocky peak of some random mountain in the Alps.


Here are some pictures from Amalfi.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Buon Giorno, Comrades!

The Russians are coming! THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!!!!

Actually...they've already come.

HUNDREDS of them!!!

We first came to Amalfi three years ago: no Russians.

Two years ago, we came to Amalfi for the second time: a couple of Russians.

This year: our hotel is crawling with Russians.

They're everywhere!!!

We chose a couple of seaside chaise lounges our first day here, and we were surrounded by people speaking Russian.

They mostly sit under umbrellas, playing cards, taking calls and sending texts on their crack-berries, and ordering the occasional fruity, frozen cocktail. Then, they all get up together and go for a communal swim in the sea.

Overall, in my opinion, a very odd people.

Yuri: And now, comrades, we go for communal swim.

Ludmila: Oh, Yuri! You are like Russian sturgeon jumping out of Caspian Sea!

Yuri: Da!! I happy to see you!

Ludmila: Damn you, Yuri! You, once again, confuse Armani hat for bathing cap!

Yuri: No worry, my little sable. I buy 500 of them. I just wear one day, and then I throw out!

Ludmila: If you buy hats for yourself, what you buy for Ludmila?

Yuri: Oh, my little chinchilla... Perhaps I buy Santa Caterina hotel, and rename it Святой Катрин...just for you!

Ludmila: Who is awful man who reading English propaganda about Russia's rightful invasion of Georgia.

Yuri: I think he called Big Finn. Perhaps I call my friend Vladimir Putin and arrange to also have "peace keepers" sent to Finland!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Eventful Week...

What's been going on over the past week?

A whoooooole lot!

I had to struggle through a few days of bachelorhood (thank God I'm married!) while Mrs. TBF participated in a mentoring program in Zermatt.

Sure!!!! While she whooped it up, I struggled to find any morsel of food to eat.

OK...that was a lie.

She spent endless hours in classes, and then worked her muscles to their absolute limit and defied death while going on a three-hour gorge "hike" which she describes as:

"...hanging-on off the side of a cliff for dear life!"

And me? I just went over to my friends' homes and ate all their food and drank all their wine.


On Monday, at 9:00 a.m., we walked out of our apartment as we left for Amalfi, Italy.

Five-and-a-half hours later, at 2:30 p.m., we sat at one of the restaurants at our hotel toasting to the good life and enjoying the local fare.

Life, and weather, are good!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Finnish Friday Flashback...

After my chance encounter with the Finnish guy on the tram earlier this week, I began thinking about other random encounters I've had with Finns throughout my life. Of course, this means random encounters OUTSIDE OF FINLAND because...well...there'd be nothing special about running into a Finn in Finland. Duh!

I think I've come across Finnish people probably about a dozen times in the eight years I've lived in Switzerland. Probably the most memorable time was when Mrs. TBF and I were in an art museum in Florence, Italy (Why can't we just call it Firenze?) and I eavesdropped on a Finnish tour guide explaining to a group of Finns that a particular painting of Jesus showed him " an effeminate pose not unlike that of a ballerina."!!!!

...Don't think the Italians would have appreciated that one.

Then, there is also the half-Swiss, half-Finnish girl who works the counter at "the" Basel Burger King. Ordering my Burger King meal in Finnish? Fun!!! Whopper comes out pretty much as VOPP-perrrri, and I tell her to "...heitä vähän juustoa ja pekoni siihen pääle" (throw a little cheese and bacon on it)!

However, probably my greatest random encounter with Finns, and the only one ever captured on film, occurred in November, 1997 when Mrs. TBF and I were in Hawai'i celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary.

Mrs. TBF and I decided to get all athletic one day by hiking up to the top of Diamond Head. After huffing and puffing our way to the top (we were both carrying a lot of extra weight back then), Mrs. TBF went to the very highest observation point to take some panoramic photos. While I stood there, enjoying the breeze and the scenery, I heard a familiar sound. I looked over and saw a mother and father speaking in Finnish with their daughter who was wearing a Finlandia vodka hat. Imagine their shock when I asked them in Finnish if they would like me to take a photo of them together. After talking to them for a minute, Mrs. TBF came down the stairs, heard me talking, and said:

"You've gotta be kidding me!"

She couldn't believe it, but she had to believe it was true!

When you least expect it, EXPECT IT!!! Finns are lurking everywhere!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

That Reminds Me...

The 6:55 p.m. tram pulled up at the Heuwaage tram stop yesterday evening, and it was crowded.

VERY crowded.

I had just finished working out, and I was looking forward to sitting down for the seven minute ride from Heuwaage to the tram stop by our apartment.

It wasn't going to happen.

The tram was filled to capacity with a bunch of people wearing name tags. They were all speaking English with each other, and they appeared to be heading toward the zoo. Why? No idea. I'm also not really sure why they were in Basel (convention? business meeting?), but I guess I didn't really care why. All I cared about was that they were keeping me from restin' me weary bones.

Then, through my ear buds, I heard a familiar sound. I turned off my iPod, took out one of my ear buds, and I confirmed that what I had indeed just heard was a man speaking English with a Finnish accent. He sounded just like my dad. I looked down at his name tag, and I saw that he had a Finnish name.

Without even thinking twice, I blurted out an enthusiastic:

Tervetuloa Sveitsiin!

The guy was a bit startled at first, but then we began talking to each other in Finnish. We only talked for about a minute since he (and about a zillion of his colleagues) was getting off at the next stop, but I have to say that it's always fun having a random encounter with a Finn.

After half the tram car emptied out and I got a seat (Thank God!), I got to thinking, and I was reminded that...


Not only that, but in that time...

I'VE BEEN TO ITALY SIX TIMES (Mrs. TBF = at least 8 times!!!).

I am, therefore, declaring that I will not be setting foot into Italy again until after WE have taken another trip to Finland!!!

Ok, OK! We're going to Amalfi next week, so let me rephrase that:


*That means "welcome to Switzerland" and I THINK that's how you spell it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Rainy Days And Mondays...

...don't always get me down.

We just had a week-long stretch of beautiful weather, but it had to end eventually. This afternoon we had a good downpour, but all is not lost - the nice weather is supposed to return tomorrow.

It's amazing (or maybe it's not) how sunny mild weather reduces my desire to sit inside and blog. Plus, I'm guessing that reading about us sitting around in the rooftop garden enjoying the late summer weather doesn't make for the most interesting reading, so no real loss.

I will say, however, that we did have a GREAT (if I do say so myself) impromptu get-together this past Friday evening. First, let me just say that Mrs. TBF is totally opposed to my T.G.I.I.F. (Thank God It's Impromptu Friday) rule: guests (excluding first-time guests) bring their own things to grill, we provide the grill, drinks, and sides. My reasoning is that "impromptu" means that it can be thrown together quickly and without a lot of advanced notice. The last thing I want to do is spend all day on Friday in the kitchen cooking up a bunch of stuff. I just keep the grill lit, and guests can eat whatever, and whenever, they want.

Mrs. TBF?

She likes to spend all day in the kitchen preparing for guests.


This time, Mrs. TBF was in the U.S. on business starting on Monday, and she didn't return to Basel until Thursday evening. In the meantime, I invited eight people over for the T.G.I.I.F., and SHE HAD NO WAY TO CONTROL THE SITUATION!!!


Sure, she tried. She tried REAAAAAAAAAAL hard. As she sat in the BA Lounge at JFK on Thursday, she tried suggesting things for me to make.

Mrs. TBF: How about...?

TBF: Nope!

Mrs. TBF: But what about...?

TBF: Nope! I have already purchased PRE-MARINATED, VACU-SEALED MEAT. I will cut open the packets at the side of the grill, and I will plop the meat on the grill, and ...VOILA!!! Dinner is served.

Mrs. TBF: You know, I am vehemently opposed to people bringing their own things to grill.

TBF: Too bad!

Mrs. TBF: How about that salad that I made...

TBF: Nope! I have already decided on SIMPLE side dishes that will be served FAMILY STYLE! The T.G.I.I.F. "master" hath spoken!
I finally relented a little bit and agreed to the addition of a Caprese salad which, I might add, I allowed Mrs. TBF to make herself when she came home from work on Friday evening.

See? I'm not totally evil!

The outcome? Mrs. TBF ended up eating some good, old-fashioned crow on Saturday morning when she 'fessed up that the T.G.I.I.F. had been a success. Not to be one or anything, but I ended up proclaiming that it was only fair that she call me "Master of the T.G.I.I.F."! I thought about it again, and then I said that it would be OK if she just shortened it to "MASTER", and that she would only have to call me that for the next 48 hours.

I should have quit while I was ahead!