Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Blood test and breakfast

The thing I hate most about a blood test is not the needle nor is it the prick. It is not being able to eat in the morning. Anyone who knew my father well or knows my daughter or me, knows when we are hungry we morph into something between Mr. Hyde and the Hulk. My friend Barbara kids about keeping a piece of meat handy to throw to me, something like you would do to a charging lion. It is not unlike the crackers I usually had with me when my daughter was young to prevent her hungry horrors from turning into a rush for the nearest toilet.

However, this morning I was at the lab at little after seven. The nurse had a grey crew cut and cheekbones that we chipmunks can only dream about. Although I had brought a book, there was no waiting.

The owner of the lab does the blood work and I go there because he is so skilled. He was dressed in his T-shirt with the labname written where otherwise a logo would go. He's a bit on the chunky side that was more muscle than fat. He reminds me of someone who pound the mat of a boxing match and yells at his fighter to keep his fists up, but he is as gentle as the stuffed giraffe he keeps on his cabinet.

As soon as he hears my accent he switches to English. I tell him his accent is wonderful, and it is having the sexiness of Montand, Chevalier or Reno.

He blushes. “I sound like Arafat.”

“Mais vous n’êtes pas mort,” I tell him.

His laugh goes to his toes whether at my remark about his being alive or the joy of being alive, I don’t know. It seems if the giraffe is laughing too.

He is finished. I wasn’t aware that he had taken blood, but four vials are in the technician’s hand and I head home to breakfast.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wonderful Women, Femmes Formidables

I was up early this morning. With the cool temperatures I was raring to go and before nine I had the place clean and the ironing done. I also had lunch made. Elaine, an English friend is coming: she is one of my Wonderful Women or Femmes Formidables. Nice that the alliteration works with the translation.

Who are my WWs and my FFs? They are women who independently live life on their terms, taking whatever risks are necessary to reach their dreams. When they don’t succeed, they try another route, but they don’t give up. They will change countries, start businesses, put themselves into situations that shake them up as they enrich themselves.

There’s Christina who after never working and left a widow bought a hotel and started an art centre, or Magali, who having survived a number of bad relationships, began to paint. Two of her works are on my walls. She had lived in a farm house that was a center for animals and children as she painted. The house bristled with creativity and laughter. Only when she moved did I realize that she had lived without hot water for years. Or there’s May who is walking the St. James de Compostela trail. Or Valerie who gave up a job she hated to start her own business. It still isn’t going well, but she’s looking for alternatives.

These are women who think nothing of suddenly going to Africa on their own and don’t worry about language or even alphabets. Much of their money or lack there of comes from their own hard work.

All of them, despite setbacks, are happy people. Yes, they have downtimes, but overall they have found that to be happy is to celebrate what you have not mourn what you don’t. They see the pleasure in the route not the destination.

What I also notice about all them, money is only the tool to their goals. None seem to care about material possessions for their own sakes, but they really care about the experiences they have.
This doesn't mean they don't have nice homes, but it there are homes are made with love first not stlye.

I am lucky to have met them all.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Schlepping toothpaste

Forty-five cartons of toothpaste were due to be delivered to my friend. Each contained 45 tubes. It isn’t that Barbara is a dental hygiene freak, but she has a business selling this special brand. The toothpaste saga is too long to go into here, but the paste, which contains copper, does slow down gum problems.

Barbara also back problems, so friends and neighbors were alerted. Fifteen minutes outside of town, the truck driver called for exact directions. Her squad of schlepping volunteers showed up. A half hour passed. Nothing. An hour, nothing.

Finally the driver called. His truck was too big to get up the narrow medieval street, he said.

“How many wheels?” she asked thinking eighteen.

“Quartre.” Four.

A four-wheel truck drove by as she talked on the phone. Ascertaining where he was she sent Greg, one of the schleppers to meet the truck and guide him in. Within minutes he was there.
Doug, the basktetball-height Canadian and Roy, the Englishman, ambled by. Chris, the set designer, came out of his house, joining Greg, Valerie and I. Ptah II, the cat was dispatched to a sealed room so he wouldn’t get out.

We worked the line, boxes were shifted from hand to hand to hand, in the front door, up the first flight of stairs than up the second flight of stairs.

Later in the day, I checked to make sure her back was okay. Barbara was sitting at the table pasting labels on the tubes. She’d done about 10. I left her to it.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Capturing Joy

He didn’t stand two feet high. His little blue shorts covered his knees leaving a small band of skin before his legs were hidden by grey socks that matched his T-shirt. His blond curls told of a mother not quite ready to relinquish her baby to little boyhood by taking him for his first haircut.

No matter how much the mother might want to keep him a baby, this child was ready to be a boy as he raced up and down, up and down, up and down, his legs looking like pistons in a speeding car with boys of seven and eight as they chased a white and black round football. In all their heads, I suspect, they were playing in the coming World Cup.

Despite the speed the older boys didn’t knock the little one over. By some miracle, the ball ended up his feet. Still unaware of the rules of the game, the child picked it up. The meaning of glee could never be better defined than on that child’s face.

He held the ball to his chest. The older boys paused. The little one threw it as hard as he could, but it only dribbled a few feet to where one of the boys put the ball back into play.

The little boy raised his hands over his head and resumed running a scream of exultation thrust from his heart.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Throwing out Gourmet

When I moved my things to Europe in the late 1980s, I moved a stack of Gourmet magazines from 1985 to 1989. For years the magazine made lunchtime reading or rather rereading when I ate alone. Not only did they conjure up memories of my mother reading her Gourmet with lunch, but of my daughter bringing up the mail and debating throwing the magazine away to prevent me from whipping up some concoction that I had discovered between its pages.

Over the years I realized that many of the dreamed-off European destinations featured in the magazine I had visited and they were no longer exotic but ordinary.

Then in the last year, the pile sat there untouched. I didn’t try out any recipes. I knew them almost by heart.

So with my spring house cleaning they were consigned to the trash without the ceremony that they probably deserved.

When I was cleaning out my mother’s house after she died, I came across decades of Gourmets. In my goal of making it possible for my daughter to rid herself of all my personal property within a morning (or less), she will not be bothered by these memories of either my reading them, cooking from them, or her own desire to rid herself of them. However, I have no desire to make this clean out necessary for a long, long time.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Old Friends

I saw a lot of old friends the last two days. They were not human but my spring and summer clothes which I exchanged for my winter clothes, although it may have been a bit premature considering the cool temperatures.

Some I had forgotten like the red dress with the uneven hem and the matching jacket, but I was looking forward to seeing the blue Pakistani two-piece pants and tunic.

I washed them. I listened to two discs of Notre Dame de Paris as I ironed. Frollo cursed being in love with Esmeralda as I finished my blue and white provincial skirt. As she pined for Phoebus I ironed my floral pants. Quasimodo, Phoebus and Frollo all sang about her beauty as I steamed creases into my white pants.

Instead of a chore, it became a pleasant day, even more so, because as I filled my closet in category then rainbow order, I realized that I was indeed lucky. I have more then enough of clothes that I love, that I don’t need to buy anything new this year.


It has always amazed me how we commercialize ordinary things so to do something that people have been doing since people became people. One thing I thought was exempt was walking. WRONG.

Walkers now need to buy “batons” two ski poles like sticks. They cost about 50 CHF and I see people wakjing with these sticks. The American church in Geneva was promoting a group walk and people were reminded to bring their “batons”.

Often when I walk in the woods, I find fallen sticks that work perfectly. Why would anyone in the right mind no matter how rich spend money to buy batons is beyond my comprehension.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

RIP Clarabelle

Clarabelle the clown is dead. That won't mean much to anyone who didn't grow up in the US and watched Howdy Doody. My father claimed to once have ridden in an elevator with the clown. He never spoke, just honked his horn. If it were a French or Swiss obit it would read, "Clarabelle has honked for the last time."

Did Bush hire the KBG and Stasi pros?

Everyone who knows me, knows I am a news junkie. I scan papers from the US, Canada, UK, Israel, Switzerland, France, India, Pakistan and Australia almost daily. I also get google alerts on certain topics around Iraq and the military.

I do know each source has to be taken with a grain of salt as proven by the US papers accepting the Bush administration’s WMD claims while some like Scott Ritter were jumping up and down and saying, they aren’t any, there aren’t any. He was more or less ignored. Editor and Publisher does a fairly good job on reporting on reporting.

The following came from Al-Jazeerah's webs site. Although the West decries the station as being anti-American most of my Arab friends refer to it as a CIA tool, which makes me tend to give it a bit more credibility since both sides question their independence.

“It should be noted that on March 17, 2003 Bush hired "the former head of the KGB (the secret police of the former Soviet Union), General Yevgeni Primakov," as a consultant to the US Department of Homeland Security.

"Primakov joined another Russian, Oleg Kalugin, KGB (Ret) with the Department of State Security, also as a part of Homeland Security. On January 1, 2005 Kalugin was replaced with the infamous and sinister Silver Fox himself (his former CIA code name), Gen. Markus Wolf. "Wolf was the head of the international intelligence gathering arm (HVA) of East Germany's Ministry for State Security, or Stasi.” This went a long way toward perfecting the spying and wiretapping of the entire USA, and insured that Americans would become the next victims of State Terrorism ala the USSR and Communist East Germany.”

I don’t know if it is true to not, but I did mail it to a number of liberal reporters, senators and congressmen. With the new revelations about the NSA and ordinary American phone records anything is possible and someone should look into it.

America is probably safer from terrorists at this point than it is from its own government. It is probably safer from terrorists than it is from its water, pollution, and health system.

I picked up an interesting quote the same day. It said Congress should resign and let the immigrants take over because immigrants do the jobs Americans don’t want to do. As far as oversight and protecting the American people the Congress isn’t doing its job with or without the KBG and Stasi.

Killing Time

I had four hours to kill while my laptop was being fixed. It made no sense to make the trek back to Corsier so I decided to…

1. Eat Tex-Mex food.

2. Sit on a bench in the sun and read the IHT and listen to the sounds of a sax drifting down from a window above the square where I was sitting. According to the stone on the building a sculpture and a writer once lived there.

3.Go See Marie Antoinette which was blazoned all over the movie theatre. Sadly in small print was the real movie Keeping Mum, but I paid anyway and was the only one in theatre.

4. Pay some bills at the bank. There are lobby machines for making transfers and the forms are nationalized for all banks and for the postal accounts.

The computer was just finished as I walked back into the computer. Not a bad day.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Tears ran down my cheeks

I wasn’t crying from sadness but from the beauty that was attacking me from all sides.

My housemate and I were in the mountains of Valais where she has a chalet. Part of the weekend was to relax and part was to escape the party her son was planning with his friends to celebrate their finishing their exams for the “Bac” the exam all kids need to take to show they finished their high school studies.

Les Marécottes is a tiny village and a ski station, but with only one hotel. It lacks the chichi atmosphere of Gstaad. No Hermes stores are here and you couldn’t find an Yves St. Laurent anything if your life depended on it. Most of the chalets are occupied by real Swiss whose families lived here for generations. One tiny chalet even looks like Heidi’s grandfather could be occupying it and I half expected goats to be nibbling at the lawn with Peter following behind. Much of the wood in the chalets is old and smells of sunshine and caramel.,de,SCH1/objectId,RGN1584ch/home.html

My morning’s walk was out of the village into the forest. Trails all over this country are marked by 18x4 inch yellow arrows giving the name of the next town and the estimated time it takes to walk there. My first night in Switzerland when I was searching for the company flat in Môtiers I thought the time was for driving, but I learned the real reason quickly when I arrived in 10 minutes while the sign said 40 and I wasn't speeding.

I chose the trail to Les Granges. Within minutes the village was replaced by woods. Although I could still hear cowbells, there was no sounds of cars. The wind rustled and bird song kept silence at bay. All kinds of birds were chorusing. One gave a come-here baby whistle while another did the ha-ha-ha-ha of a soprano warming up for her performance at La Scala. They were accompanied by the drumming of a woodpecker or woodpeckers.

I passed a stream racing down hill over rocks. The water from melting snow added its music to the birds as it tumbled and fell to the valley below. I dipped my hand into it, and was instantaneously taken back to Maine waters where skin turns blue in minutes. The taste was the imagined freshness in the adverts for bottle waters that never quite live up to expectations. This water surpassed expectation.

As I looked up through the trees the soft yellow of the beech trees intermingled with the dark green of the pines I saw tan/brown pine cones that still hadn’t fallen from last year and the deep blue of the sky. When I turned in another direction, I saw a snow-covered mountain through the vista of trees.

Grey boulders, some the size of chalets, some more like pieces of furniture were in between the trees and the leaf covered ground. Moss added yet another shade of green to the scene.

Along the edge of the path dandelions, miniature daisies and buttercups bloomed. I am not good at wildflower identification, but there were also flowers that looked like lilies-of-the-valley only painted a deep yellow. Mingled in between were light purple flowers on a stalk. Flitting between them all was a white butterfly with the edge of its wings painted like a woman would line her eyes.

That was when I found myself crying. There was too much sun, too much colour, too much fresh air too much naturalness to not be swept up in a tsunami of feeling. A feeling of great fortune that not only was I experiencing this moment, but I lived close enough to it that I could recapture it with a small car or train trip. I didn’t have to plan a holiday for months and save up airfare. I was here.

Not quite jaded yet

In many ways I’ve been museumed out. Having had a membership to the Museum of Fine Arts for years, been through most of Boston’s museums, many of London’s and Paris’s as well as visiting special exhibitions in New York, Boston, London, Paris and Geneva I have seen the work of all the great artists. Not all the work, but enough. This does not mean that I don’t appreciate their work, nor does it mean that I will never go to another museum. It is just the excitement of standing in front of a Renoir, a Picasso or a Rembrandt is no longer a novelty. A Chardin can still excite me, however. For some reason if there are a 100 paintings in a room I will be pulled to one of his.

And give me an unusual museum such as the Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh, the Olympic Museum in Lausanne or a patchwork quilt museum in Roussillon, or the Cluny Museum in Paris, and I can get shivers.

However when my hostess in les Marécottes suggested we go down the mountain to Martigny to see the Rodin and Claudel exhibition, I was content to go, not excited but definitely pleased.

One of the things that spoiled me in having a membership at the MFA and being in walking distance that it was possible to go in and look at just a few things and really absorb them rather than be inundated with the entire art world.

I had been to the Rodin Museum in Paris. Besides the art work I saw Lionel Jospin strolling in the garden while photographers snapped his photo that later appeared in Paris Match. He still lost the presidential race to Le Pen who lost to Chirac. In the eighties I’d enjoyed the film Camille (pronounced Cammy by the French) Claudel with Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu. I had seen both sculptors work in the Musée D’Orsay. Even for a person museumed out, their work was certainly worth a look-see.

The Musée Pierre Giandana is built on the site of Roman ruins. Although it is small, its exhibitions are of world quality. This was no exception. Despite a large crowd, there was milling around room. I've given web sites below.

I’ve always thought Claudel the better sculptor despite her subsequent madness. What I didn’t realize that she had done a number of small sculptors that made me think of her as the Mary Cassatt of stone. One was a woman in front of a fireplace, a second showed women gossiping and a third in green marbles had frolicking naked bathers about to be washed away by a wave. All three washed away any jaded points of view. They were breath stealing.

When I was at the Fragonnard museum in Grasse, I preferred the paintings of his daughter which were more homey than his grandiose classical ones. And then I realized what I like in art, including in Chadin is the homey, the woman cutting, bread, women sipping tea anything that shows daily life.

I have often wondered how art would have developed without Christianity. Okay we would live in a Madonnaless world (with the exception of the singer). And I am sure battles would have been painted and portraits. But I wonder if there would be a greater understanding of how people lived throughout the ages captured on canvas.

Walking to the Wolf Hole

The sun shone despite the pouring rain the night before that made it cozy to stay inside the chalet and watch a stupid television program about 50 things that shocked the French, none of which I found that shocking.

My hostess suggested a walk. As soon as we turned the corner and looked up the mountain we could see where new snow had fallen while we slept. She led me through the forest paths, mostly up leaf-coated paths. We picked our way between boulders and stepped over roots.

To our left when we were about half way to the snow line we came across a man-made hole with rocks lining its sides. A moss covered bench was near the edge and the stump of a tree had a piece of paper sealed in plastic saying it was in that hole in 1826 that the last wolf had been caught and killed in Switzerland.

It is funny to know what happened on a certain day in a spot 180 years ago, especially when it is not a historical (except to the wolf) event that would ever end up in a history book. I am sure some of the descendents of the wolf killers are living in the chalets of this tiny village.

I wonder if the owners of the cows and goats held a celebration that their animals would be safe. What happened to the skin? Why was it the last wolf and what had happened to the rest of the pack? Was it a male or female wolf? These answers will stay unknown as will much of the lives of people fade into the past. But walking back I still imagined the villagers with the body of the wolf tied to the a stick and the stick balanced on the shoulders of the bigger men. I heard them whistling as I made my way back down the mountain.


In one advert four hockey places are skating stark naked. Their hockey sticks or legs cover there private parts and makes me wonder how many shots had to be taken for everything to be so strategically placed.

In a second advert two naked women are fencing.

The product?

Condoms. The copy says there are things you don’t do without proper protection.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Visiting Richard

The mist fell along the country lane. We had passed a big beige stucco farmhouse with gingerbread balconies like the kind found on jigsaw puzzles that used to be sold at Woolworth’s. As a child I never thought I would see the real Switzerland with out the jagged lines of a puzzle running through the scenery.

A stone wall was hidden in the underbrush to my right with an unbroken field with grass ready for haying on the other side. On the left were trees their leaves bent from the water.

If it were not for the lilacs and wisteria turning part of the world purple, it would have seemed more like late October or early November thanks to the chilled air.

The dirt path dipped past a cemetery.

“It’s hard to believe a village as tiny as Céligny has two cemeteries,” my writer friend said.

The second cemetery was tiny, less than 50 graves spaced in two rows sheltered by trees. We pushed the grey metal gate open. The sound of a small river could be heard in the distance.

I stood in front of one with the arm pit high menhir cut in half. Already the jagged stone was moss covered. This was the reason we came.

“The stone if from Wales,” my friend said.

There was a pot of red flowers and a second mud-splattered pink pot with greens. Pine boughs were piled at the front of the grave. Someone had laid an orange plastic heart next to the pots.

The name was in simple metal letters: Richard Burton with the dates of his birth and death. Hard to believe it was 22 years ago. Hard to believe a man that lived with such flamboyance and pursued by his own demons was buried in such simplicity.

He and Elizabeth Taylor had made this tiny village their home for many years. Stars like Switzerland because the Swiss don’t bother celebrities. Burton could stand in line at the pharmacy along with everyone else and no one would ask for an autograph.

I have always liked visiting graves of famous people. Years ago in Westminster Abbey standing by the tombs of Elisabeth I, Mary Stuart and Mary Tudor it was as if I had a personal introduction to these three strong women.

I’ve a stone next to my computer that was touching Collette’s tomb as a talisman to help me write. She is buried at Père La Chaize in Paris as is Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Jimmi Hendrix.

Years ago when my daughter was studying in Germany, she and her friends went to Paris and ended up at Père La Chaize. They stopped a guard to ask for Chopin’s tomb. The guard was thrilled. These teenagers wanted something other than Jimi Hendrix. Neither my daughter nor her friends wanted to ruin his joy and tell him that they had just come from Hendrix’s tomb.

We didn’t spend a long time in the cemetery. Instead we opened out umbrellas and walked back avoiding the puddles. In my mind I could hear the deep Welsh voice saying, “watch your step.”

May Monster Madness

Switzerland is a conservative place where people do not want to stand out. Therefore walking down the streets of Nyon, I was surprised to see a young person come towards me in a gorilla costume, although the head was under his arm. Soon, punks, dancers, fairies, skeletons, a highlander in kilt, the Hulk and people in weird make up filled the small pedestrian center.

Even if the weather matched that of Halloween, it was still early May. The youngsters had to be early or late for trick or treating which is a relatively new phenomenon in Switzerland.

My writer friend explained that one of the schools had a costume day around exams to lighten the heaviness of studying.

May Monster Madness can be fun.

Protection is more than fighting terrorism

President Bush talks a lot about protecting Americans from terrorism.

However, there is so much more that Americans need to be protected from than terrorists.

1. Food. The standards and inspection of meat is below what other industrialized countries do. The results of GM foods are not known, but GM foods have gone into the regular diets. The long-term effects aren’t known.

2. Job losses. With outsourcing to other countries Americans are working more, earning less and afraid of complaining because companies can get their labor cheaper elsewhere.

3. Overwork. Americans work more than any other industrialized countries even Japan. Often they need to work two jobs to make ends meet.

4. Illness. No country can protect illness, but with 46 million uninsured for health care the health of the country is at risk. Despite claims that American is number 1 in health care, the World Health Organization rates America 35th. Cuba is 8th. France is 1st.

5. Chemicals. People are surrounded by chemicals with long-term effects not known. What are hair sprays, Teflon, plastics and hundreds of other contaminates doing to us. Europe is beginning to require testing.

6. Medicine. Drugs are no longer properly tested or monitored. Vioxx is not an isolated case. HRT once hailed as an answer for every woman is now being looked at again.

7. Truck drivers. No truck drivers are not rampaging but with the lessening of standards and the methods of free-lance hiring they can now drive to a point where they can present a hazard to themselves and others on the roads.

8. Air pollution. Standards for clean air are being diminished
Pollution. Standards for other pollutants in our ground and in our water are being lessened.

9. Credit. Americans have been so encouraged to spend that their personal finances are the worst in the industrialized world. Their savings have now gone into the negative numbers. One recent article claimed a percentage of all Americans owe more than they make in a year.

10. Being born. CNN just reported that America has the second worse infant mortality rate in the developed world. Latvia is the only country with a worse rate.

11. Child Poverty. Here we are number two again. Mexico is worse

12. Old age. With pensions being reduced, savings almost impossible and Social Security being attacked, will a little old man of 90 be expected to run a steam shovel?

13. The government. Spying on Americans can go beyond terrorism. It can discourage any dissent.

14. Dishonest or irresponsible companies. Since co-operations have the legal rights of people they should also have the responsibilities. Fines for misbehavior need to carry weight. A perfect example is the mining disaster in West Virginia compared to one in Canada which followed stringent standards. In West Virginia, people died. In Canada they lived.

15. Global warming. I can guarantee more horrendous weather this year. I won’t guarantee a terrorist attack although it is possible.

President Bush doesn’t seem to want to protect my friends and family from any of the items listed above which are far more likely to happen them a terrorist coming through

Monday, May 08, 2006

What's in a name

My daughter Llara blames all her faults on the fact that she was deprived of a Scooby stuffed animal during her childhood. No matter that as an adult she has a small collection of the beasts, she says the damage was done.

Her second laying on of maternal blame is on her name, mainly the double L. Having had a common name I wanted to make sure hers was an original. However, she has had to put up with being called Llama, Clara and Yara. Even when she sends for things that have her name on them they often come back wrong.

An article in the Swiss magazine Femina discusses how names identify us and can almost be a predictor of success. For example if two men with identical credentials named Charles and Robert, Charles (Pronounced Sharl in French) the Charles/Sharl will be more likely to advance up the corporate ladder (there are other factors like their army status but that wasn’t mentioned in the article).

Names were also considered an example of economic/social status. Côme (aristocracy) would never marry Beverly (non aristo), because they wouldn’t move in the same social circles so they would never meet, the article claimed.

Although I was never thrilled with my name, I will be forever grateful to the writer of a film that my mother saw a few nights before I was born. I was to be named Bonnie. The writer had called a cocker spaniel Bonnie. I am so un-Bonnie. My name as well as the name Bonnie are too Anglo to figure in Francophone name research.

Of course there are in-names each year. This year the most popular girl’s name in Switzerland is Sarah with various spellings and Matteo for boys. The popular of Sarah is attributed to the popularity of Sex and the City. Lara with one L was number 4. As my daughter suggested it is probably because of the Belgian singer Lara Fabian.

Men and laundry

In Neuchâtel there is a course for men on how to do laundry. Twenty men attended. They were asked why they wanted to do this.

Philippe, 41, says women learned how to do laundry from their mothers. Men didn’t.

Gilles and Claude, 65 and 73, never did a load of laundry in their lives nor wanted to. However when Gilles was asked to take things out of the dryer he was confused. He wanted to know how to do it. Claude thought he should learn in case… He didn’t say in case for what.

Fifty-five year old François wanted to learn how to do laundry in case his wife was in an accident.

It has always amazed me that any man capable of earning a living sometimes in highly complicated fields, can’t run household machinery or even manage to put a towel and his underwear in a basket.

A fish story

One of my more stupid thoughts as I was moving to Switzerland almost 16 years ago was how much I would miss fish. With major lakes scattered around the country, finding fresh fish is NOT a problem.

One of the national dishes is filet des perches, with several of the little critters laid out a plate. It is possible to get them fried, poached, cooked in butter, or done with various sauces. Tons are brought out of the lakes each year and grace the menus of most good restaurants. One of my favourites is in walking distance of the house and the other is only a couple of bus stops away.

However, this is May. No perch can be caught. They are busy making babies. I wonder if they breathe a sigh of relief as they go about their reproduction. Do they say to their dates, “Hey, let’s swim to Yvoire. No nets for the month.”

Regardless, I wish them fertility.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

T-shirt politics

In between the American Library Spring Book sale and the Indian Festival in my old commune I had time to kill so I settled down in my beige favorite leather chair in a corner. The library is small, but has more reading matter than I could possibly keep up with. The staff is friendly and going there is almost like a visit to a well-loved relative.

“Oh, I love your shirt,” I heard the librarian say.

“It’s great,” the other volunteer on the desk said.

I heard other comments about it from the stacks.
Then he came by and I saw what they were talking about it.

It said, “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kerry.” I added my appreciation of it.

This is the new version of the popular bumpersticker during Watergate “Don’t blame me I’m from Massachsuetts” the only state NOT to vote for Nixon.

It makes me wish that Gore had been allowed to take office. There would be far less national debt, there would be more concern over the environment and over 2000 American soldiers would be alive and many more not traumatized or damaged from the violence they have had to wrought.

Also, if Gore had been president the man wouldn't need his T-shirt.

Colour coordination and eye rolls

If gold medals were given for eye rolling, my daughter would take the gold, especially if the contest were given for any discussion of colour. Llara accompanies the eye rolls with the words “Mother, Mother, Mother.”

Colours bombard me and I see patterns and shades that other people ignore. Therefore, I can match a miniscule stripe in my couch to five cross stitches in The Lady and The Unicorn tapestry Llara did for me.

I half wished she were on the Zürich-Genève train with me as I sat in the Elvintino dining car to have some Ceylon stick tea( for a photo) and a croissant. As I took out my 10 CHF note, I noticed that part of the patterned yellow squares was exactly the same shade as the table cloth. I even folded the bill to hold them together to allow for the difference in material, paper and cloth. The yellow was a soft lemon with white and a touch of beige added. In my imagination, she was rolling her eyes across the ocean.

The waitress slammed my tea in front of me sloshing water out of the clear glass mug. The croissants were in a wicker basket saving her the work of having to give me one. She made no offer of butter or jam. I may be mistaken, but I thought I heard a growl.

A man in his late twenties or maybe early thirties, his hair slicked back, carrying a laptop asked me if any of the other three places at the table were frei. Ja, they were. I only chose a four-seater table because all the other eight tables were occupied.

The waitress deigned to take his order and slammed his coffee down. The meat on his meat and cheese breakfast platter almost did a Mexican bean jump when she put those down. He thanked her. She ignored him.

His eye roll would have rivaled even my daughter’s best. Maybe she had a bad morning, I said. He rolled his eyes again as he nodded. For a second I wondered what would happen if they had children. Eye left-up-right-down,left-up-right-down for eternity.

Friday, May 05, 2006

War Stories

I understand why veterans like to get together to talk about old times. We were three former colleagues and current friends who don’t see each other that much and we sat and had a meal of gaspacho, veal with a tuna caper sauce, and misc. desserts each more evilly caloricfic than the one before. And we hashed over our memories of an over-controlling boss intermingled with life that has gone on in the thirteen years since we worked together.

The normal “do you remembers” abounded with appropriate “oh yeahs” that would not have been out of place in a gospel service.

Despite the bad working conditions each of us have gone on to do what we want to do and if nothing else we all were able to move to Switzerland because of those days. O H Y E A H !

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I lost Einstein

It is hard to understand how a St. Bernard puppy that comes to my hip can be misplaced, but I did it. This is a good size apartment in the mountains, three bedrooms, double living room and several balconies.

I was writing but periodically between paragraphs and P-runs I would check on the dog, make sure he had a cuddle or two.

It was cuddle time but the dog wasn’t on his rug. I called. Nothing.

I checked the bedrooms. Nothing.

I checked the balconies. Nothing.

I checked the kitchen and dining room. Nothing

I looked in the two bathrooms. Nothing.

He did not respond to my increasingly frantic calls.

Since he isn’t a jumper I wasn’t worried he had jumped over the balcony. He is a lover not a climber.

The front door was closed, but when we came in from the last P-run the phone had rung. Had I left the door open and he had left and then the door closed by a breeze.

Telling his mother who loves him to a point that if she lit candles and incense by his mat I wouldn’t be surprised was not something I wanted to do. Shooting myself, going on the lam for the rest of my life would be preferable.

He wasn’t in the hall. I ran down the five flights of stairs. The front door was open. No Einstein.

A group of pre-teen age boys on their Easter break were lounging around on mopeds.

“Haben Sie Ein Grossen Hundchen sehen,” I asked trying to remember my more than rusty German as well as the German name for St. Bernard. It is the national dog afterall. I held my hand to my hip. They guessed the breed. “Er ist nicht mein. Er ist ein baby." They took off in different directions yelling, “Einstein.” They made bigger and bigger circles. Nothing.

He is such a beautiful dog visions of dognappers danced in my head.

I ran to the biggest road but thank God, there was no body.

I walked back upstairs waiting to make the dreaded call to my friend, who I suspected was about to be my ex-friend if I was allowed to live. I told one of the boys in German and French (we determined that as a backup language) that I was on the top floor if they found Einstein.

I walked back into the apartment. I glanced at the bathroom. In the doorway Einstein gave me, “so where were you” look.

Where was he?

Later he went missing again. This time I found him hiding behind the bathroom door.

As I write this up, he is asleep half in the sun and half in the shade. It is a beautiful sight as is the fact, that I don’t have to hide out and bare the guilt of losing a good friend’s beloved pet.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The toilet installer spoke Italian and German. I speak French and English and much of my German is buried deep in my database.

However when he finished, he gave me a guided tour of the new electronic toilet and I understood, Ich verstehe.

1. It senses when you sit down and turns itself on.
2. There are controls both by the toilet and it has a remote.
3. A special button flushes it.
4. Another button causes a metal hose to descend to a strategic location and spurts water.
5. Temperature, flow and pulse of the washing device can all be controlled by buttons.
6. Seats go down automatically.

Now I have to admit I miss the hose for washing that goes with each Syrian toilet I used. And I do like the water conservation of many toilets here that you can choose either a big or little flush.

I’ve heard people refer to toilets as The Throne, but this throne would impress even the most imperious of monarchs.