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A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.

Monday, September 01, 2014

How to Build Brand Loyalty (or Some Days It's Good to be King!)

Yesterday I flew across America. On my way to the airport my Hertz rental car died. Check Engine Light came on. Power steering went kablooey. Transmission would only work in low gear. I wrestled the thing off the road and called the Hertz 800 number. They informed me a tow truck would be sent poste haste. I was to be taken to the nearest Hertz office and issued a new car. This was on a Sunday morning around 7 o'clock. 

If all had gone smoothly I could still make my first flight (out of Detroit). 

Things didn't go smoothly.

They had given the driver the wrong address. He was supposed to be at my location within ten minutes. After repeated calls and corrections he got there an hour later. Not his fault. The nearest open Hertz office was in Columbus airport. They had received no notice from Hertz. The guy on duty wasn't authorized to do anything. I had to wait til 9 when the manager came in. 

Bottom line: I wasn't going to make it to Detroit.

So I called my airline. Delta. I have flown a lot these past few years and consequently I made Delta's Diamond status this year. It has it's privileges. One of which is a direct line to Delta. No messing around with computer operators. It's nice.

They were very helpful. Booked me new flights out of Columbus. I had to hopscotch my way across the country. Columbus to Minneapolis to Salt Lake City to Oakland, CA. But I would still arrive at my original scheduled time. Only cost $59 for the change. I'm happy, even though I didn't get my traditional Cubano sandwich at DTW. But hey, you can't have everything.

Here's where it gets good:

Wouldn't you know, my first flight is delayed. We arrive at the gate in Minneapolis with barely minutes before my next flight is scheduled to leave.

Minneapolis is a very nice airport. But it is HUGE! I was arriving at C concourse and my next flight was from G. Probably (and I'm not exaggerating) a mile from gate to gate. The stewardess had me first out the door, told me to get on the people mover and run. Maybe. MAYBE I'd make it. I knew there was virtually no way I was going to make that flight. I wasn't too concerned, because if I missed it, Delta would re-arrange everything. And after all, it's not like I had to be at work the next day.

But, nonetheless, I was in full "get after it" mode.

So I jump from the plane and am stepping out smartly up the jetway when I spy a women holding a sign with my name on it! I identify myself and she asks if I would like a ride to my plane. I'm looking around for the golf cart, thinking it wouldn't be much faster than me, but at least THEY thought they could get there in time.

She says no. No golf cart. Follow me. We step through a door in the jetway, down some steps to the tarmac and there sits a new Porsche Cayenne SUV.

"You can relax Mr Wigal. You've made your flight." 

We whip around the airport and pull up along side the plane. She calls the gate and tells them to mark me as "boarded." And then she took my picture. I was happily astounded.

It's called MSP Elite Services. So far as I could learn it's only in Minneapolis and only for Delta Diamond members. 

Look, flying is a hassle. No two ways about that. But when a company goes an extra step or two (or there) to make it smoother for you, you have to appreciate that. This was my best ever Delta experience.

And if nothing else it motivates me to KEEP THAT STATUS! 

It would have made the story even better if I had been upgraded to Business on that flight. I wasn't. But on the following flight I was.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Brave New World, Part 794b

Those of you who know me will agree I'm a straight guy. Old fool from the old school. I like women (as a general rule. I'm not crazy about them all the time.), always have, always will. I've had my relationships these past few years. And my record over that time is a solid 0-whatever. Battin' .000 in terms of any of those ladies willing to talk to me at present. Not pointing fingers or laying blame. I accept responsibility for the failures on my part.

Not that this has anything to do with today's topic, but I'm just laying the groundwork. My good friend Mark Schroeder and I have discussed this at length, seeing as how he is doing about as well in the relationship department as me. We have determined that the only women with whom we are able to maintain stable, friendly, tension-free relationships with are: Lesbians. It appears the absence of any possibility of sex removes all the pitfalls and bumps in the road that occur with the typical straight male/straight female relationships. 

This still isn't getting to the crux of today's topic, but I'm closing in on it. 

Now, it a relatively common thing for straight women to be pals with gay guys. And there are terms to describe that type of pairing. I won't go into them, but you know. However, to my knowledge there is no accepted term for the opposite; the straight guy and the gay woman. Not sure it's even recognized as a concept.

Until now. Or until yesterday actually. Mark and I conferred with our lez gal pal Lindsay. She consulted the handbook. And sure enough, it wasn't addressed. So with some consultation, conferring, trial and error and Google searches we have come up with a new term to describe our phenomenon:

                                                 LezBro. 

We are lezbros. 100%. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is a new coinage. We've submitted it to the authorities at the LGBT handbook.

Feedback will be appreciated.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Here's Something To Think About

My late wife Jan's uncle Joe Topolosky was a bombardier in this B-17 during World War II. On May 29,1944 they were on a mission over Germany. Two German fighters made head on attacks against the ship. Joe was in the nose blazing away. Both outboard engines were shot out. A third was sputtering and coughing. The hydraulics were gone, so no landing gear. The pilot said they couldn't make it back to England. Their only choice was to try for neutral Sweden. They were unbolting and tossing everything out to lighten the load, guns and everything. But, as you can see, they slid in for a belly landing.

The crew was interned for the rest of the war. Shot up planes from all sides were there. Allies on one side of the airfield, nazis on the other. They had to wear civilian clothes. But long story short they lived. 

Joe's son, my cousin Ray, has supplied all the information I know about this. He has posted Joe's diary of his missions on Facebook. The most compelling thing (to me) that he wrote was "I thought we were going to die on this mission." I never knew any of this when Joe was alive. Wish I had.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Retirement

People (pretty exclusively people who are still working, but not always) often ask me what do I do with myself all day long. The implication being basically "Don't you do anything?"

I never seem to have a good answer. After all, it's not like I have to be at work at a certain time for an approximate number of hours per day, filling an appropriate chunk of my life with "productive effort," and thus having a reason to live.

But after due consideration I've decided my answer is this: I do all the things you wish you could do and none of the things you wish you didn't have to do.

As my old running buddy Dave Stricklin used to say "It's a good life if you don't weaken!"

Friday, August 15, 2014

Do Celebrity Deaths Come in Threes?

The official rule (established in 4345 BCE by Poseidon, he of the sacred Trident. Hence the three thing.)  is yes, celebrities must die in groups of three. However, a little known addendum to the rule is that only two of whom must have had some form of talent.

While we mourn the loss of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall the world waits and wonders, who will go next.

Ann Coulter...SHOWTIME!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Who Won the Viet Nam War?

Viet Nam is a Communist country. One of five nominally "Communist" countries left in the world. China, Laos, Cuba, North Korea and the 'Nam. We fought a long hard costly war to crush them. And failed. So in the history books Viet Nam won the war.

HOWEVER:
Starbucks- Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon)

To paraphrase Carl Von Clausewitz: War is economics by other means. Today the VC's grandchildren are fashionably dressed, technologically savvy consumers. No Cu Chi tunnels and a hand full of rice per day for them.

In other words: Scoreboard!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Back on the Water


Six years ago I sold my beloved Dagger Crossover kayak before embarking on the Peace Corps adventure. To be honest I auctioned off everything I owned (except for the house, which took another three years. Ugh!). Oh, how I've missed that boat! But my other escapades kept me from getting another.

Until now.
Thanks to the geniuses at Oru-kayak in San Francisco (orukayak.com) I'm back in business. 
It folds out, origami style, into a twelve foot, 26 pound rig that can go anywhere; even in checked baggage.

It took me the better part of an hour figuring out the initial assembly. But with a little practice I should be able to put it in the water within five minutes. I'm back!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Wall of Shadows, near Battambang, Cambodia

In many ways Cambodia was the favorite of the four countries I visited on this trip. But the evidence of the Khmer Rouge regime's atrocities was never far away. We were going through some neighborhoods near Battambang, on our way to ride the somewhat famous Bamboo train (I never heard of it, but people seemed to think it was a big deal) when we passed by this stupa/memorial to a local killing field. Our local guide told us 10,008 people were slaughtered here. Apparently the Khmer Rouge were meticulous record keepers. Previously I posted photos of a more well known field near Phnom Penh, but this one was more stark.

The story of this field is told in some detail here.
The skulls. Always the skulls.

The depravity was in a way ingenious. 
Imagine coming up with the idea of punching holds in prisoner's hands and running rope through the holes so they can't escape.
How could George Bush et al say water boarding isn't torture?
Infanticide in order to prevent children growing up to seek revenge.
The regime determined who would marry whom. They wanted the population to grow, but with the limited diet few women could even menstruate.

From reading the history of Pol Pot, the regime Brother Number One, the goal was for all Cambodians to be equal. The only way to achieve that was for everyone to have nothing. Consequently, if you were educated in any way; if you owned anything; if you wore glasses, even if you scrounged in the forest for roots to eat, you were trying to be above everyone else and had to be punished. Pol Pot believed the Cambodian communist paradise was more authentic than China's or the (then) Soviet Union's. 

For three years, eight months and twenty days this hell existed on this earth. It will happen again. Where, I don't know. But it is in our human makeup.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Angkor Wat

Twelfth century Hindu complex. Our guide told us that at that time 1.5 million people lived there. How many cities in the world had a million people in 1100CE? Staggers the imagination.

But it's a beautiful place. The highlight of my Indochina trip (Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam was second)





Which movie? Jason Combs this is a soft toss for you.


Daybreak. Worth getting up at 4AM to see.


Saturday, August 02, 2014

I Remember When This Happened

In 1963, before our massive involvement in Viet Nam (we had "advisors" in-country) there was a series of protest immolations by Buddhist monks against the US-backed regime of Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem was a staunch Catholic who instituted many repressions against Buddhists. Thick Quang Duc set himself ablaze in mid-town Saigon. Today a beautiful memorial sits at the intersection where this occurred.

I remember the photos of this terrible event.




Cu Chi Tunnels

Initially used in the war of independence against the French, the Cu Chi tunnels near Saigon were well established by the time the US dropped in. In fact the US 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning) established their base right smack on top of an enormous complex.

Everything was connected underground.
Even this "Spider hole."

The tunnels were dug into and through laterite clay, which sets so well it looks like concrete.
Even B-52 drops couldn't penetrate them.





And then I got to unload a banana clip of AK-47, semi-git 'em and auto-git 'em. At two bucks a round it was a bargain.

Every Day I Have a New Answer to the Question, "What's the Weirdest Thing You've Ever Eaten?"

Thit Cho, the OTHER other white meat!
Tarantula, the other OTHER other white meat. Crunchy and tasty, but apparently fried in a ton of oil. Bit greasy.

Nothing washes down a helping of spider like ice cream.

The fried locusts (no photo) were delicious. But the worms didn't measure up to Southern Africa's Mopane worm. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Madness

My memory card reader for the iPad broke a couple days ago and I haven't been able to upload any photos. But thanks to Apple's international reach I scored a new one this afternoon in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Although the following few posts will be out of chronological order I feel it necessary to start with today's activities and work backwards.

After our war in Indochina we more or less lost interest in the region. Without going into the whole history of it, a guy with the funny name of Pol Pot came to power in Cambodia (which he re-named Kampuchea, Democratic Republic of). Pot rode to power on the backs of a people's army known as the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer are the traditional ethnic group with a long history in Southeast Asia.

But, Pol Pot was to write the darkest, most evil chapter in that history. You may remember the movie "The Killing Fields." Today was about that.
This is the entry gate to one of some 196 known killing fields in Cambodia. It lies about ten miles outside oh Phnom Penh.
The memorial stupa to the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Seventeen floors of skulls and bones are contained within the memorial stupa.
Tens of thousands lost their lives to this madman and his followers.
Men, women and children.
The depressions seen beyond the trees are where the bodies were thrown.
Even yet today bits of bone and cloth belonging to the victims still surface after rains.
On this tree loudspeakers were hung, playing loud music to drown out the screams, moans and cries of the victims, so the nearby farmers couldn't find out what was happening.
Children and infants had their heads bashed against this tree until they were dead. The dark area to the top right of the tree is the bloodstain, which almost forty years on remains.
Later, we drove into Phnom Penh to visit the notorious S-21 prison, a former school converted to a place of torture and death. The barbed wire across the front was used to prevent the prisoners from leaping to their deaths. A dead prisoner was worthless to the Khmer Roughe regime because they had no more secrets to give up under torture.
The rules of life in S-21.
In three years, eight months and twenty days the Khmer Rouge murdered over two million of its own citizens, one quarter of the country's population. They were finally driven out of power by neighboring Viet Nam in 1979.
One of the cells in S-21.

In the last century we've seen the likes of Hitler (6+million Jews, gypsies, catholica, homosexuals, etc.), Stalin (10 million Russian peasants), Uganda with Idi Amin, Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia, the list goes on. And before we get all smug with our American exceptionalism, remember in the previous century we exterminated an entire continent of indigenous people.

So I'm thinking: Is there any other species that matches us for this kind of savagery? Why do we humans give in to mad men and mad ideas that result in these terrible things?

We are clearly a flawed species.

Monday, July 28, 2014

No Fun and Games.

This was tough. I took no photos of the exhibits inside. Not because they were prohibited, but because they were so graphic. As the only American in our group I felt many eyes may have been looking at me, some sympathetically, some accusingly. I was not proud of what we did here. I never served in Viet  Nam, but at that time I fully expected to. And I would have been committed to the task. But again I ask, "please, someone, tell me what the point was!" Communism is/was an alternative economic theory. It was never a threat to us, most particularly in Southeast Asia. Why oh why do we allow our leaders to bullshit us into these things?!

The hour we had for this museum visit was too short. It was also too long.


The tools of our war.