Guest post by Mufasa

I am Mufasa, and this is my guest blog post.

It’s about time I got my own post. I should have my own blog by now. I probably have the wildest adventures of any dog you know, but this will have to do.

For a snapshot of our lives, I thought I’d tell you about last Sunday.
It was pretty good, as far as dog days go.

The new man who lives here doesn’t work on Sundays, so we go on adventures – road trips and whatnot. I like him.

Sometimes I am accosted by onlookers. It can be tough for a dog of such dimension to maintain his dignity. Sometimes I have to turn my back on my pack, no matter what they’re doing. Sometimes I even have to strike a pose that says, “No more pictures.” Like this one.
The darnedest thing is that just when I think I’ve got my whole regal and refined routine nailed, somebody pulls out food and drooling gets the best of me. Sort of like it did here. You can click on the photo to see what I mean better (if you must).

I ask you, though, do you really think he needed that last piece of melon? I could have at least gnawed on the rind a little.

We all got in the car and went for a road trip/picnic/Italian adventure… turns out Lago Maggiore is just minutes west of us and we’d never even been there. We crossed the border a couple of times as we drove up its eastern shore, stopping for a picnic just north of Luino. It was fun and warm.
Since then it’s gotten cold and rainy. They’ve even turned the heat on in the house now, and for these frugal Swiss people that means it’s cold.

This afternoon was pretty good, too. We all three went into downtown Lugano, walked all the way across town along the lake through the big park, and then went inside Mom’s favorite pastry and coffee shop, definitely the fanciest one I’ve ever seen. I felt a little out of place there. The waiters were nice, though. The marble floor was cold, so it worked out okay. I behaved myself.

That’s a little of what’s happening here. More soon, I’m sure. Happy trails and many treats to you!

One of my new favorite places

Late in the summer, we had the opportunity to go out to Isola Comacina twice in two weeks. It is a magical place — a tiny uninhabited island in the middle of Lake Como, it has a restaurant on it.

You take a traditional wooden boat out there from the vollage Sala Comacina. It only takes a few minutes and costs a few bucks per person.

The host and waiters are always the same, as is the food. It begins arriving at your table as soon as you sit down — they might even start setting it up when they see you coming in the boat.

Course after course of simple, local fare arrives as the sun sets — fresh vegetables of many varieties, whole trout cleaned at the table, roasted chickens, the most succulent hams — it reminded me of Easter… it just keeps coming and the sun sets.
Then there is the cheese. It’s a giant wheel of parmagiano; they break chunks off for eac person.
Amy can’t really eat dairy, but she wasn’t about to turn that down!
Then on to dessert — one night it was vanilla gelato with banana liquor and fresh oranges, another night it was vanilla gelato and mango. Yum.
The waiters work the place so everyone is finsihed at the same time, and then the fire ritual begins.
The host and owner of the island tells the story (in Italian or English, Italian usually) of the history of the island, how it was conquered and looted and pillaged and burned again and agin. It was cursed, then blessed. It has served as a refuge and an outpost. And every night there is a fire ritual to cleanse the place of its past and ensure safe passage for all of its guests. Or something. It’s cool… and it’s coffee with liquor he’s got lit in the bowl… then everyone drinks of it.
And then you go home. Oh, what a night! Fixd price, always outstanding. One of my favorite places. If you come visit in the summer months, we’ll go.

So Much to Share

So much catching up to do! Here goes:

Stefan lives here. This is how he spends most of his days.
The dog has decided something that goes like, “Mom, I know you love me and you’ve taken care of me for seven years, but haven’t you heard the saying? It’s Man’s best friend, Mom. Too bad for you.” He made this official during a windy storm a couple night ago when he crawled under the bed under Stefan (instead of on my side), with the giant white, no-licking cone on his head. What a noise that made. It must’ve been 3 or 4 a.m. Stefan moaned to me, “He’s under there with his hat on.” Now how do you like being his best friend?

We’ve had houseguests almost the whole time Stefan’s lived here, and have been away three of four weekends. Then we headed off to Amy’s in St. Gingolph, on Lac Leman.

Stefan worked on Friday and I took Mufasa to the *great* kennel in Bex. He loves it there. Out Amy’s window S snapped photos of the steamer ferries on the lake.

Friday night we went for an early dinner at the Creperie Bretonne in Amy’s little village, which is split right in two by the French border. Dinner was in France and was fantastic. I had the gallette (savory crepe) Provencale, which had ham and cheese and garlic inside and herbed, sauteed tomatoes on top. Yum.

The tiny little village, St. Gingolph, is lovely. We went to Lavey-Les-Bains after crepes. I won’t say too much about that because:
a) I already wrote a bunch about it and
b) my life is getting so good I might have to start being like that woman in the old Pantene hair ads, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” Only mine would go, “Don’t hate me because my life is so great.”

Saturday we went questing, which is my dad’s way of saying (borrowed I believe from a Chevy Chase Family Vacation movie) we got in the car and went touristing sort-of aimlessly. We came upon a festival in Monthey, which is Switzerland but seems like France…

After a lunch of raclette (yes, dairy-related tragedy averted) and local sausages we moved on to Montreux, where we boarded the ferry S had been snapping photos of.

That’s Amy’s house there in the middle… she lives in the lower stone part.

Then we knocked around in Montreux for a bit, including taking a nap on a park bench by the water…

We ended a damn near perfect day with a feast with Amy at the Palais Orientale, the Middle Eastern place on the Lake I’ve written about before. A good time was had by all.

On Sunday we worked (we’re both helping Amy run and build her business) and went to pick up Mufasa at the great kennel. He was in a giant fenced area with about five dogs at least as big as him. He didn’t see us at first and we watched him just lying there enjoying himself, hanging out. The owner says he’s the best Great Pyrenees she knows. Said he was just ten minutes earlier wrestling full out with a giant, black Newfoundland and it was great fun to watch. When he saw Stefan he was so excited he squealed and tried to jump the fence — which is especially funny since he won’t even jump into the car for me and I have to lift him up. I think he’s in love with his new man-friend.

The Life List

Here’s a retake on the last post, which must not have been inspirational or motivational in any way, because nobody responded! :-0

So another way to think of it comes from this New York Times article from a few weeks ago. It’s about “Life Lists.” Apparently one trend sweeping the nation (& world) and about to show up as the plotline in a Rob Reiner film is the idea of creating a list of things you want to see, do, be or accomplish in your lifetime.

Hmmm… I like it.

I think I store my life list in my head, but you know how storing things in your head goes: one day it’s all I can think about and then I forget about it for years at a time.

I decided to search around a bit for info on life lists and found this great post by a guy who thought his wife would never approve of some of the things on his.

Some of the things on my life list include:
– scuba dive again
– become a beautiful skier
– have at least two books published
– get monthly massages
– pay or raise money for disadvantaged kids to get great educations
– keep connecting people with similar interests and commitments in different parts of the world

I don’t know what else will be on it, but I do know it’s changed. Have or adopt a baby used to be on it, but it isn’t anymore.

What would go on your life list?

Dreams Deferred: Feedback wanted!!

OK. It’s getting to be crunch time now in terms of creating what’s next. And I need your collective brainpower — even you folks I don’t know but I know are out there. I’d love to get a conversation started in the comments about this one.

Here’s the thing:

The other night Mom, Dad and I were walking along the lake under the full moon. It was just so beautiful that we threw the dog in the back of the car and drove down there. Seemed like the gelato stand stayed open late just on account of the moon on the water.

So we’re strolling along and an American couple starts ooohing and aaahing over Mufasa, not realizing that we understand every word they say. So I just start talking to them. This happens a lot when we take Mufasa out. I have a regular spiel I give to Americans, “He’s a mutt from the Boulder Humane Society. Part Great Pyrenees, part Collie as far as I can tell.” Blah, blah, blah. This couple, like many couples, was fascinated that we moved here. They said they didn’t think they could do it. This fascinates me. Why not? Some people say, “I have kids.” I think, “So what?” “We have a dog back home too.” So what? Anyone could do this and so many people want to and don’t. And it’s not just moving here. Don’t these people realize they’re gonna DIE and they won’t have done the things they really want to do?

Well, to swallow a bit of my own medicine: What I really want to do is:
1. sing — nothing huge, just regular gigs here in a hotel piano bar. I already know how. I have the voice, the repertoire, the experience, just need a venue and piano player and a work permit. I’ll even do the marketing and bring people in.

2. I want to talk to people about stuff like this, like living their dreams, making things happen — through an Internet radio show, a more public blog, podcasts, training/retreat weekends, a book or three or four… and make my living doing those two things.

Do you have ideas for how to build that?
Even just getting into the hotel piano bars, getting the Web site up, getting the book done seem somehow insurmountable to me. The good news is I did write over 3,000 words today.

What would you pay for and/or want to see or recommend to your friends and family?

Could I pay you or someone you know to come be my agent in the Lugano music scene — get the piano player and the venue? Who do you know who’d be great at that?

Finally, and here’s the doozie… what are your dreams deferred? Why are they on hold? Mine aren’t even for very good reasons. I think maybe it’s just not easy and automatic, or maybe I’m afraid of what’s next after that.

Tragedy Averted… I hope

A terrible thing happened.

Or I thought a terrible thing happened.

One day when I was 29 years old I was walking into American Eagle Outfitters in Boulder’s old Crossroads Mall and the strangest thing happened in the vicinity of my stomach. I’ll never forget it. I was headed to the back of the store, straight for the shoes, my mind on a particular pair. I don’t dawdle. As I walked it felt like my stomach stood up and rolled over right there inside my belly. Not like if you’re pregnant and you feel that first little flutter, but like if you had the Ally McBeal dancing baby in there and he jumped straight up and landed. Just once.

I looked at the shoes and walked out of the store to the escalator. I was headed for The Gap downstairs. By the time I reached the bottom of the escaltor I was in so much pain I couldn’t stand up straight.

Months later, the doctor diagnosed an allergy to corn.
May you never have that.
Corn is in everything in the US.

Since then every few years I discover new things I’m allergic to. First it was eggs; I’m okay as long as I don’t eat too much. Then I was housesitting at Wendy’s and she had a bowl of plums, which I never eat. They looked so good. I ate one and my throat swelled up. Never felt that before. Now avoid plums and peaches and some melons, which have the same effect. Orange juice now makes sores on my tongue right away. Weird. Most of this is just annoying, though. None of these allergies have really caused a major problem.

And then I thought I was lactose intolerant. This is the terrible thing of which I spoke.

You must understand. On my new facebook page for religion I put, “A national cuisine with this much melted cheese and chocolate is good for the soul.”

found in fidothe's flickrstream
found in fidothe's flickrstream

And then I started noticing I didn’t feel so good. A lot of the time. I decided to test out the theory and headed to The Swiss Chalet in the Geneva airport. It is a themed shrine to dairy products, complete with personal raclette burners and chocolate fondue served in copper pots at the table. What a good idea.

I had a salad before the main event, just to assuage the guilt.

Then the young, handsome, flirty waiter (He’d said, “tres jolie” of me to another waiter as I walked in… fun!) brought me my very own raclette burner… part high school chemistry lab, part classic French cuisine… all right there next to a huge stack of slices of stinky, soft raclette cheese (and some potatoes and pickles to put it on, but they’re just formalities).

I melted and savored each precious slice. It took almost an hour. I ate as much as I could. I think in retrospect that the portion was for more than one person. It was like an eating contest for me. The waiters stood by watching.

And then, about 15 minutes later, I was wracked with sharp pains from my belly. I wished for a Roman vomitorium.  (That was the Romans, right?)

On the way home to Lugano (this was the day I flew and it was beautiful but I left this part out when I wrote that post), gazed wistfully at the Matterhorn and mourned the cheeses I would not eat.

After I’d recovered I called two friends to share the tragic news. Beth said, “Well, maybe you can eat just a little bit of cheese. Anyone who eats an entire meal of cheese might have an upset stomach. “Oh, yeah!  Like, “Moderation in all things?”

My friend, Amy, though, an expat for many years here now, imparted wisdom that gave me hope: “You drank water with it, didn’t you?!” she exclaimed. “You can’t drink water with it! That’s why they all drink white wine — it’s acidic or something and if you drink water with the hot cheese it actually turns to a hard ball in your stomach. I’ve seen it happen.”

Oh, thank god. I’ll have to try it again. This time with wine. Closer to holy communion, if you ask me.

Summer in Switzerland

Summer in Switzerland is winding down, and shoved around intense bouts of unpacking, moving in, working, creating new work and doing all our normal day-to-day stuff, S and I have been doing exactly the kinds of things one must do in summer in Switzerland… and we’ve had company:

This is Stefan’s Dad last weekend

and Stefan’s Mom

We were going up the Rothorn (a large mountain in central Switzerland) on a funicular that was so steep Mufasa suddenly slid along the metal floor! I had ahold of his neck on the leash, but there was nothing for him to hold on to and the ride was long! He’s such a trooper; he didn’t even bark.

The views along the way and at the top were magnificent. We had lunch on the top.

Can you spot the goats in this photo?

After we’d landed back along the lake, we walked its shores and found a little cafe for a snack. S’s Dad said (in German, translation not exact), “This isn’t a walk, it’s an eating experience!”

This was the view from our table…

That was last Saturday. Last Sunday we met up with my parents in Wengen (one of my favorite places) for another day of more eating-with-a-view than hiking…

Can you spot the village in the photo? It’s Murren.

All this eating, hiking and mass transit wore Mufasa out… this is him asleep on my foot on the way down. The funny thing about this is that my legs were crossed and this foot is several inches up off the ground. A perfect headrest, I guess, for a big dog.

* all photos except this last one by Stefan