Monthly Archives: September 2010

B. A. Baracus Says “Ich Bedauere den Dummkopf!”

I must have looked like a zombie today dropping the kids off for their second day at first grade because a woman I had met yesterday smiled sweetly at me and told me it takes one day to get over each hour of the time difference. Which means I should be my normal irritable self by Saturday.

While the jet lag has been a bitch — even the usually indefatigable Jessica has been dragging and the boys are wired at midnight — everything else has been (knock on wienerschnitzel) great. Our first two nights at the Swissotel were fun: The kids had an adjoining room and became enthralled with an hour of the classic 1980’s “The A-Team” dubbed in German. We breakfasted on cold meats and fishes and mueslix, and Jack and Adam loved visiting the gym. We showed them how to use the bike, threw an exercise ball around and took turns on the rowing machine, with me screaming “Row! Row!” as Adam and then Jack showed Head of the Charles potential. We were a tornado of family excitement in the empty gym until I saw a half-naked man lying on a chaise lounge behind a divider, basking under the warmth of a tanning light. His eyes were closed but I had a hard time believing he was relaxing, especially as Adam gleefully claimed responsibility for perfuming the mountain-laurel and cucumber spa air with his flatulence (recall his breakfast). The Americans are here!

We moved into our apartment the next day. It’s the top two floors in a hundred-plus year-old building across the street from an amazing park (a cafe in the center for daddy’s needs, and plenty of playground equipment and green grass for the kids). The apartment is wonderful: Big and clean with high ceilings. The boys have claimed the single huge room on the top floor  — a child fantasy come true. It has cathedral ceilings rising to twenty feet, a huge skylight, endless space and it’s all theirs. Downstairs we have two bathrooms, a modern stainless steel kitchen, our bedroom, a small guest room, small office and living room. There is a view of the spire of a classic church out the office window, and trees and five-story stone residences from the other windows. The water in the shower is hot and we have a washer and dryer. Paradise.

Well, almost.

The church bells ring every 15 minutes.

One load of laundry (wash and then dry) takes four hours to cycle through.

The freezer is tiny, holding about four Ben & Jerry’s containers (at $9.95, this won’t be a problem).

And… there’s a woman right below us who looks to be in her 80s. We have waved to her from the street and had a conversation in an extremely broken German/French/English mix up three stories, but have yet to swing by and say hello formally (we are thinking Saturday morning). She watches lots of German TV. And I can hear it. Which naturally drives me crazy.

On the first night, I could hear coughing and what sounded like death moans emanating from below.

The sounds are not loud, and can only be heard from our kitchen and bedroom. Jessica assures me they can really only be heard by me. But it is something for a neurotic obsessive like myself to focus on. Still, these should all be worst things about the apartment.

Debbie Does Dallasplatz

Forget Rosetta Stone, language immersion or university classes. I have a fool proof way to easily and happily learn German: Hard core Franco-Prussian pornography.

This is not my idea.

My Israeli friend chuckled when I told him the only German I know: Schnell. It means “faster,” and I learned it from Hogan’s Heroes, the 70’s (actually, 1965-1971) TV show that I watched religiously. So my mom and dad’s negligent TV babysitter approach to parenting actually was a brilliant way for me to learn a new language. I can barely remember the six years of school Spanish, but I can “mach schnell!” (much faster!) with the best of them.

Language acquisition is easiest, of course, when we are young. Experts say that children’s brains are plastic: They have the capacity to change and grow in remarkable ways. This is how kids learn, and the brain flexibility allows for their quick uptake of new information and the ability to process this data swiftly and then apply it to the outside world. The time when scientists believe plasticity slows and then stops keeps getting pushed back: It is now around 22-years old.

On the other side, the slow decline of the brain with aging, there is also the notion of plasticity. Studies show that the more we exercise our brains, the slower or even arresting of our cognitive decline. Crossword puzzles, using your nondominant hand for common tasks such as brushing teeth, being social and continuing to learn, writing and reading in challenging ways all contribute to exercising the brain. Learning a new language fits perfectly into this scheme.

Which brings me back to German porn. My Israeli friend said he learned his German from weekends in the army. The guys would sit around and watch German porn movies. And learn schnell, schnell. Which was a real asset, he told me, if you also happened to have a German girlfriend.

So an announcement to my wife and everybody else: That hard core German porn that I will be watching in Basel is in the service of learning the language, bettering myself as an ambassador for America, becoming an international citizen and giving my brain one hell of a workout. Use it or lose it.

The Babysitter Report

A new sitter, Rickie, was with the boys. Here is her report:

Babysitter Question to the boys: Do you want a wife?

Answer: Ask me when I’m older, please. — Jack

Q: Do you want kids?

A: No babies… no one, two, three, four, five year-olds. I want them when they’re six and older. — Jack

That is the best idea. — Adam

Q: Do you want to adopt?

A: I’ll just make one… I’ll need to find a wife, though. — Jack

That’s hard because you still have to kiss your wife, even if you see a beautiful woman on the street. — Adam

I’ll definitely need a hot wife. — Jack

One so hot it’ll burn my hands! — Adam

Q: What’s different about you two?

A: We don’t have vaginas. — Adam

In Star Market, Jack turns to Rickie: “Why hello there, beautiful lady.”

And so goes another day with a sitter. Has the sitting turned into dating, at least in the guys’ minds? Are they cutting their teeth with flirting?

Kinder Koan

Something from Jack to ponder over the Labor Day weekend, the dividing line between the slow days of summer and the hustle and bustle of Fall:

When you cut a piece of paper, where does the paper in the middle go?

(All answers will be given full credit.)