Monday, October 15, 2012

Chalet Shenanigans - Chapter 22

My Name is Bond.  Jane Bond.

This month has been ridiculous.   We took a little 5-day vacation to Morocco in North Africa, which I will tell you about in the next post, but, before I go into that craziness, I have to catch y’all up on what occurred in just the last two weeks.   Five days ago, my niece, who lives right outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had a baby, which makes me a Great Aunt.  Somehow, that sounds older than GoGo, the charming name that my grandchildren call me.

A Great Aunt is someone who wears a shawl and walks with a cane and keeps a Kleenex up inside of her sleeve to take care of random bodily emissions.  There are no “cute” names like GoGo, or Mimi, or Nana for a Great Aunt.  It is what it is.  So, I am now Great Aunt Trailing Spouse, which is fine and I have already embraced this new status but poor Mr. Big is another matter, entirely.

Me:  Mr. Big!  She just had the baby!  You are now a Great Uncle!  Look, look, here is her picture on Facebook!

Mr. Big:  I’m a what?

Me:  Great Uncle, you silly man!  OMG, she is presh in her little Polartech cap!  She looks just like Small Son in his ski hat.

Mr. Big:  Is that really such a thing?  Great Uncle?  I think you are making that up.

Unfortunately for Mr. Big, no one in his family ever lives long enough to attain the status of Great Uncle.  He has really bad genes, ergo, he had never even heard of the term.  How sad is that?  In my family, we have awesome genes, (plus, we procreate early and often), and we have gazillions of family photos of 5 generations and, occasionally, six.  Generations.  It’s true.  Nothing kills us.  Nothing.  My relatives live, routinely, into their hundreds.  If you die before you are 100 in my family, you are letting down the side.  We say things like “oh, such a pity.  Cut short in her prime at 91.  So sad.”

So, I became a Great Aunt to a little princess named Harper and my little sister became a Grandmother, which just cracks me up.  You just wait, all you young people reading this.  It is a very big deal—these are real milestones, not unlike turning 21 or getting arrested for the first time or buying your first house or whatever.  You think your rites of passage are all behind you?  Think again.  Someday you will achieve “Great” status and it is a mind-blowing thing.  And, if you are very lucky and you are borne of good genes, you will achieve “Great, Great” status and then you are really cooking with gas.

In the same week that I became a Great Aunt, I went to a Lady Gaga concert.  I am nothing if not diverse.  I am trying to be That Immensely Cool Old Gal so people have something nice to say at my funeral.   As in “well, she was a royal bitch but she was a COOL royal bitch. 

Did you know she wore a mini-skirt and went to see Gaga in her 50’s?”

Please try to picture my husband at a Gaga venue.  Oh, wait, first try to picture a bunch of Swiss people at a Gaga venue.  Yawn.  Gaga kept yelling at the audience to “get off your &^%$ing asses!  This is not a $#@%ing funeral!”  The Swiss don’t dance much and the only singing they do in public is to the accompaniment of alpenhorns and cow bells, so it was just hysterical watching them force themselves into having a good time.

 Furthermore, and may God strike me dead if I’m lyin’, but the ticket-takers hand out earplugs to everyone as they enter the concert.  It’s true.  I saved mine.  Concerts are too loud for delicate Swiss ears, hence ear plugs.  I wonder if Gaga knows they did that?

Mr. Big, unlike the Swiss, was having ENTIRELY too much fun.  He was singing completely-made-up lyrics and dancing in his spastic white man fashion.  It was appalling, really.  At one point, I had to make him stop.  Just.  Stop.  Please.  It was right after Gaga had climbed out of a 50-foot inflatable zippered vagina.  He got a little carried away.  As one tends to do in that situation.  Entirely understandable.

Anyway, if you get a chance to go to one of her concerts, I highly recommend it.  It is waaaay more than just singing.  It is like rock opera or musical theater on crack.  The stage sets, the props, the costumes, the dancers—the whole spectacle is just over the top in every aspect.  Especially the lighting.  (Hi, Mac!)  Yes, the entire reason we attended the grand event was because our friend is Gaga’s lighting guy. 

So, it was just our good luck that he alighted in Zurich and we were able to spend some time with him.  I took him out to lunch the next day and fed him some weinerschnitzel.  Somehow, I do not think that was a fair exchange.  I’m sure I enjoyed the concert much more than he enjoyed his breaded pork cutlet, but I try to do what I can with what is available to me at the time.  C’est la vie.

What else?  Well, I went back to French school after the summer break.  They put me in an advanced class with a bunch of people who already speak French.  I think I’m going to quit.  Seriously.  After the first session, I went to my teacher and told her that she was sorely mistaken if she thought I belonged in that class.  She was very reassuring and tried to tell me that that was, indeed, where I belonged.

Ooh, I promise you, Teach.  I do not belong here.  These people can speak for 15 minutes in French, non-stop.  These people are not trying to translate every word from another language before they say it.  They are just, uh, talking.  I cannot do that.  I do not know what I have done to mislead you, Teach, but trust me.   You need to GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE.  These people are scary good!

Plus, I think one is a spy.  Yes.  Monday, when I arrived in class, there was a new girl.  Her French was much better than mine and, truthfully, I wasn’t paying her a lot of attention.  In French class, my brain is 100% occupied with trying to understand what my teacher is saying and then trying not to make an ass of myself when I reply.  I barely register the other people in the class.  Yesterday, however, one of our assignments was to read a 2-page essay on the French school system and then speak for 10 minutes or so to the other students about the school system in our own home country.  Lawd, give me some toothpicks for my eyelids, right?

So, I was going last and the new girl was going to second to last.  I was COMPLETELY not paying attention to what anybody else was saying because I was silently practicing what I was going to say when my turn came around.  New girl starts talking and about half way through her dissertation, I hear the word “Iran” which catapults me right out of my fugue state.  Wait, what?  You are from Iran, new girl?  Then, of course, I was kicking myself for not paying better attention.  Was she new here in Switzerland?  Why was she here?  Good God, she could be anything!  A journalist, the ambassador’s daughter, a spy, a housewife, a spy posing as a housewife, anything.  Anything at all.

My mind was awhirl.  Am I giving away state secrets if I talk about the dysfunctionality of America’s school system?  Keep in mind that I am the only American in the room.  In fact, I am the only person in the room with English as a mother tongue.  I quickly change the course of my oral dissertation and tell the class, in French, bien sur, that the only problem with the American school system is in trying to assure that ALL students, regardless of their background, ability or gender, are afforded an equal opportunity to pursue the highest degree of education that they want to achieve.  In fact, that the American school system is second to none.

What else was I going to say with a potential spy in the room, eh?  That the poor kids in Mississippi test out to about the same level as the common garden slug?  Am I going to say that with a spy in the room?  No, I don’t think so.  Luckily for you, America, you have been saved by me to carry on another day and no one will be infiltrating Mississippi on my watch.  I am a little worried about tomorrow, though.  Suppose the topic in class is Airport Security, or God forbid, our opinions on nuclear energy.  I could really use some guidance here, so if someone from the State Department could just give me a buzz, that would be great.  And maybe send me one of those cool, little recorders disguised as a pair of reading glasses, too.  Thanks.