Monthly Archives: September 2011

Your Man About Town: Discovering the Merkmal

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I dropped the boys off at art class and was heading towards a cappuccino at my new favorite cafe in the old St. Johann rail station.

On my way to the cafe I walked through a boutique of locally-sourced, hipster-informed items like soaps in weird shapes, t-shirts with cool designs, postcards and travel bags.

And that was when I saw It.

As some women are with shoes or handbags, I am with backpacks/travel bags. I love new designs, different material, special straps, hidden pockets, cool zippers. A well made travel bag spells freedom and possibilities and offers the ability to transport your most important possessions comfortably with maximum access to what you need when you need it. That’s more than a bag, it’s a philosophy for better living.

Basic black, cool straps, nice zipper lines. There were two plastic bars that ran the length of top of the bag, allowing it to be twisted against itself and cinched closed to make the bag smaller when you had less stuff inside and didn’t want things shifting about. The inside was old-school messenger bag yellow with a small sack built into the bottom.

I tried it on and it felt good. The material was graded for serious mountain hiking. But the good looks said trip to Paris or London.

And so I acquired my Merkmal. It turned out the company’s founder/designer has his workshop right above the store, which was a bonus.

Do many people have what I have? No. Does that make it exclusive? Of course. Will Brad, Angelina, Scarlett and others soon be spotted around the globe with Merkmals? Maybe. But I was there first.

To Get Yours:
Go for the cappuccino, leave with the Merkmal. Restaurant/Cafe Buffet and Showroom Basel. Vogesenplatz 1. St. Johann Rail Station.

Time Travel

We went to Zermatt for the weekend. It’s a 3-hour train ride from Basel, and we made sure to bring the guys’ walking sticks to get them excited about hiking.

I was in Zermatt about 11 years earlier. Jessica and I were on our honeymoon in Florence. We had been outside the city for a few days and were back, but we were disappointed in not finding any hiking trails in Tuscany. So spur-of-the-moment, we decided to go to Switzerland. A beautiful train ride later, we walked into Hotel Tannenhof in Zermatt.

As Jack and Adam and Jessica and I walked to our Zermatt hotel, Hotel Alpina, something looked familiar. Across from the Alpina was the Tannenhof. Our path took us between the two.

On the right was the past. On the left was the future. And Jessica and I, plus two little extensions, walked in between.

Zermatt Revisited

Open to New Cultural Experiences, But Possessing Poor Language Skills

It was an easy mistake to make.

I was in the bathroom at our hotel in Zermatt. On a shelf, I spied a fetchingly red packet. It had the words “Serviette Lustrante” and “Schuh-Glanz-Tuch” printed in gold.

Now, I am open to, even curious, about new bathroom experiences. And in Europe, more than the States, there is a lovely tradition of wet-naps for the butt. Any parent in the US will be familiar and appreciative of this concept, called baby wipes.

My language skills are decidedly not so global. I tend to get by on meager but passionate attempts at speaking the local language, a smile and hand gesturing. And then I speak English. By this point, I have usually convinced the person I am talking to, usually someone working in a store, that I am sincere in my attempts and, also, never going to communicate to them in their local language. They either take pity on me, want to expedite my departure from their store, or probably both. They start to speak English or bring someone over who does.

I didn’t have anyone to help translate what was on the packet in the bathroom, but I saw “Serviette” and I was pretty certain it translated as “napkin” or “wipe.” And “Lustrante” sure sounded promising. Who wouldn’t want a lustrous bottom? I was excited. It would be like a car wash for the butt: Always opt for the extra coat of fabulous. The last word cinched it: My brain read “Tuch” and it was a no-brainer to figure out it was “Tush.” It was time for my Swiss Alps High Mountain Cleansing Experience.

Until I turned over the package on my way to give it a spin. In English: “Shoe Shine Towel.”

Who knows, maybe it would have been just the thing.

Wipes in the Bathroom + Poor Language Skills = Awkward

Niche Marketing Hits Bottom

Yes, toilet paper for ladies. Discovered in a German grocery store.

Talk about niche marketing. And pigeonholing a product.

Because, let’s face it, girls and boys have very different needs in toilet paper. The company that makes this wonderfully refreshing product doesn’t tell us on the packaging why this is for the “Lady,” though pink and puppies sure let us know it’s going to be a soft, cuddly and very feminine experience.

And I can’t wait for their companion toilet paper: “Man.” I will know it is for me because it will be blue and have a picture of a chainsaw on the package. And “Man” will be spelled out in big, manly block letters. And when I pick up this product every one at the checkout line will know I am a Man with a man’s asshole. And that will make me feel good.

Toilet Paper Just for Women. Finally.

A Trip to the German Butcher

The Germans build their meat like their cars: Highly engineered. In a trip to a typical meat counter in a grocery store, we came upon vegetables embedded aspic style in meat, meat with olive eyes, meat processed to look like a cute animal (disturbing source reference implications), meat shaped like intestines to make the trip that much easier, and, perhaps most disturbing, a processed meat hot dog in a bun product that was a dead ringer for a dog’s lipstick. Care to posit how this meat reflects the German national character?

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We Get the Dinner for Free

Jessica prepared a delicious meal with an unplanned amuse bouche. At least we know the salad was super fresh and pesticide-free. Headline and caption by Adam.

We get the dinner for free

Trip to Louvre Rubbing Off

Last weekend we were in Paris for the Foo Fighters concert (awesome), and stopped into the Louvre (so casual, so European). I think the art rubbed off on Adam. His likeness of me is dead-on: tall Bert (of Bert and Ernie) + hard-boiled egg = Daddy. He even got the tiny bit of hair on my head which I point out to people makes me Not Bald. I think Jessica’s likeness needs work, but I totally dig the cute outfit she is wearing. Very chic!

Mom and Dad, by Adam