A Little Lag

View from Gstaad, Switzerland and Saanen Valley from above

Palace Gstaad standing tall in the Saanen Valley

Sunday morning … well, a bit past one … and everyone’s probably wondering, What about jet lag?

Not much of a problem, really, flying west to east. But I did wake up today, successively, at nine, ten, and eleven (that would be three, four, and five East Coast time) before rousting myself out of bed to face another warm, sunny day. Having gone to bed around two (more later), this didn’t seem extreme. Given, however, that tomorrow—the first day of the Roy Emerson Tennis Week—play begins at nine (and, in that it’s Switzerland, promptness is likely seen as a virtue), we’re going to have to do better.

Tom Widmann, Lesley Silvester, E.J. Kahn III, Rob

Watch out for falling cows! From left, Host Tom, Lesley and her blogger husband, and Fantasy Baseball Mogul Rob.

Our Saturday—the second day in a row that we’ve looked briefly at our racquets, considered getting a court, and instead wound up on a beautiful terrace sipping wine and eating cheese— began with a drive into the countryside (admittedly, for 99 percent of the world, Gstaad is countryside, albeit posh, manicured, and immaculate, but when in Switzerland, do as the Swiss, etc., etc.). Our host, Tom Widmann, steered us—we have now been joined by two New York City friends, Rob and AT, who have come for wine and good cheer, not tennis—northwest toward Turbach, a village about 1,000 feet higher above sea level than Gstaad, on a road he describes as a “highway.” Perhaps something is lost in translation, but it’s doubtful that Mayor Bloomberg would approve this as a bike path through Central Park, much less a main route to a town that actually appears on maps.

Whatever, Turbach wasn’t our destination. “I want to take you to where the real, regular people live,” he said. “It’s … how do you say? … where the power line ends. Before they kill the chicken, they have to make sure there’s enough electricity to do the cutting. And if the woodcutter down the road is milling lumber, there’s no chance.” Tom paused, then added for emphasis, “They don’t have a dishwasher.” Oh, the horror!

A "highway" in Switzerland, above Gstaad toward Turbach

Don't be deceived: we've pulled into a turnoff, probably to let cows or a farm truck pass.

One instructive piece of knowledge that came from the journey concerns the sensors on Tom’s Mercedes SUV. They serenaded us for the entire journey, ranging from the beep-beep-beep that signals an approaching obstacle coming much too close to a sustained beeeeeeeep that, I have always imagined, is the last sound you hear before you wake in an emergency room. Guess what? You have more room than you thought.

Eventually, we arrived at our off-the-grid destination—a farmhouse with menus in German (mostly) and French, and cows in a pasture that was a few degrees, very few, shy of verticality. We posed in front of the cows, glancing nervously behind us to make sure none lost their footing and began a bovine avalanche. Then we tried to order. Tom explained the special listed on the wall. “Wie haben alles, was du brauchst,” he read, then translated. “We have everything you need.” He continued. “Wenn wir es nicht haben, brauchst du es nicht … If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” A drink special, at seven francs, was “I don’t know”.  We chose—surprise, surprise—wine and cheese (with a bit of meat and bread on the side). Then it was back on the highway.

***

Evening brought us back to the Palace, where Tom’s close friend was celebrating her 50th birthday with a dinner-dance. Rob, who partners with me in a fantasy baseball league in Manhattan, a squad named—again, no big surprise here—The Whine Cru, had spent much of the afternoon critiquing our team. Tom and my wife were mystified by the discussion, which centered around batting averages or the lack thereof, specifically why had our .280 career hitter gone into the tank. “Why would you want a 280-pound hitter?” Tom queried. “He’s right,” Lesley chimed in, “there’s no contact in baseball, is there?”

Rob and I decided to do at least one trade or free agent claim from Gstaad, figuring that perhaps our luck would change (it could hardly get worse), and then joined our spouses to change into evening wear. Dressing up for dinner is Gstaad feels like being part of a socially historic continuum (although so might getting drunk, and starting fistfights, if one were channeling Richard Burton), but it was unexpected to discover—as the two musicians and their computer began to perform—that pop music history was also alive and well in the Swiss Alps.

As Saturday night bled into Sunday morning, the playlist grew stranger and stranger. A Viennese waltz segued into “Let’s Twist Again (Like We Did Last Summer)”. An Argentine Tango flowed into “Teddy Bear.”

But a line seemed to be crossed when the duo hit the first chords to “YMCA.”

In the back of the room, I could see maitre d’ Gildo mouth, “What the … ?” Shortly thereafter, he left.

It was time for us to go too. Up next: Games On

About 

E.J. Kahn III—known to most as Terry—is an author, journalist, and, most recently, communications consultant. He has written Net Results with psychologist Jim Loehr, a book focused on junior tennis parenting and coaching, and co-authored the award-winning autobiography of New York police officer Steven MacDonald. As a consultant, he has worked in Washington and New York with—among others—the Postal Service, Colgate-Palmolive, the State Department, and the City of New York.

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