Sunday, December 28, 2014

We're ALL in This Together

Watching CBS Sunday Morning's memorial compilation to those we lost in 2014, I'm struck by the thought that those remembered had an opportunity to use full lives to impact or contribute to the betterment of society. When juxtaposed to the news of drive-by slaying last night in Milwaukee of a 1-year old boy, it demonstrates the tragic loss and outrage we all should feel when a life is cut so short.

No opportunity to contribute. No possibility to learn. No chance to love and feel love. 

I don't know what we can do--there appears to be no easy answer--but we should be tireless in our pursuit to bring an end to this senseless violence that is tearing our country apart.

No dialogue unfettered. All means considered.

We're in this together. All of us.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Post with Caution, IMO

Screenshot from

Wow, right? I know neither of these fellows, though I do believe I met Mr. Klemm once.

Another thing I know nothing of is how the grudge between Mr. Camacho and Mr. Klemm was started.

However, what I do know is that, based upon these comments alone, I am much more inclined to give Chef Robert's new employer's restaurant--Madison's Ale Asylum's new Milwaukee establishment--a try before I dine at a Potawatomi eatery.

If Mr. Camacho wishes to comment, that's his right, but knowing that he is the LEAD CHEF at POTAWATOMI HOTEL & CASINO and is making these accusatory and inflammatory comments about a new business in Milwaukee is not in good community character. Let Ale Asylum management conduct their own business affairs, Salvador, just as you'd prefer to have your creations judged objectively and independently. Your pointed commentary subtracts from all of your employer's efforts to market themselves as a good corporate citizen and purveyor of quality and taste.

Personally, I wish you both success. A rising tide floats all boats, as the idiom goes, and besides yourselves, the diners of Milwaukee also win.

Cheers and Happy New Year, boys!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Oh No, Not Another Top 10 List!

Dubai, view from Burj Khalifa
It's that time of year when everything is in list form. There's the best album lists, the people who left us lists, the worst dressed lists... I believe I even saw a list listing the 10 best lists!

Well it's time for a list of my own. 2014 for me, will be a year noted for travel--particularly international travel. In one 3-week span I visited four continents. Definitely a personal record!

So without further delay, here is my list of my favorite, new-to-me cities I visited in 2014:

10) Riyadh, K.S.A.
Colombian countryside outside of Bogotá
 9) Querétaro, Mexico
 8) Cali, Colombia
 7) Guadalajara, Mexico
 6) Dubai, U.A.E.
 5) Manchester, U.K.
 4) Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
 3) Vancouver, Canada
 2) Paris, France
 1) Bogotá, Colombia

It was challenge to try to put this list of interesting cities in order, but I asked myself this question: which city would I most like to visit again?

Beautiful Puerto Vallarta
You may be surprised that I've placed Bogotá over Paris, but during my two visits to Bogotá I found the city's frenetic energy intoxicating. It's a little bit intimidating, but everyone I encountered was friendly and the rural areas outside of the city are astoundingly beautiful.

Puerto Vallarta is the only place on this list that I visited voluntarily, i.e., not for work. After having visited numerous warm weather vacation spots (Cabo, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, etc.), Puerto Vallarta is my favorite. Not only is it beautiful, but it's got a charm and energy that are unique. It's a great place to stretch your legs, get off the resort and explore.

Here's hoping 2015 presents additional opportunities for worldly experiences, for me and for you!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Leaving Walker's Point *sniff*

(For maximum effect, cue Sheryl Crow's "Leaving Las Vegas" at the bottom of this post first.)

I'm not going to lie. This week, I have a very heavy heart.


From 1990 to 2005 I was employed by manufacturing companies that made in their homes in the 'burbs. Franklin, Sussex, Waukesha... I worked 'em all. Then, in late 2004 an opportunity arose for me to work in Walker's Point neighborhood. Once I decided that the role was a good career fit, I was delighted to accept a position that permitted me to work daily in the city of my birth: Milwaukee.

It was perfect. I had a job for which I was well-suited, I was comfortably near my Wauwatosa home, and I got to work in the burgeoning and gentrifying neighborhood that is Walker's Point.

While the job had its occasional shortcomings, working in the 53204 more than made up for it. To be gainfully employed in Walker’s Point was a benefit that never would appear in the employees' handbook: eat at great local restaurants, take mind-clearing walks to The Milwaukee Public Market, lunch daily (if you wished) on marvelous Mexican food, happy hour on Wednesday nights at Steny's with coworkers, lakefront runs after work and on and on.

I have loved it. And along the way (not entirely separate from the advent of social media), I have made and fortified some great friendships.

However, my nine-year run is about to come to an end. The business for which I work is moving to Pewaukee. This Friday will be our last day at 201 West Walker Street.


And I'm really gonna miss it.

If you haven't been paying attention, Milwaukee is where it's at. It's not only my hometown, but it's the place I want to be. It has so much going on and it's been fun to be a part of its rebirth as a modern 21st century American city.

Here's an example of one of the things that I'm really going to miss: coffee. Oh, not that I still won't quaff voluminous amounts at our new corporate home, but the availability of good coffee from our city's fine shops will be stunted. When I drive eight miles from Wauwatosa to Walker's Point in the morning, with only the slightest deviation from a straight-line, I can hit the following:
My new route will take me straight west through Wauwatosa along North Avenue. Fortunately, there is a Colectivo at 92nd Street. After that, well... I do remember seeing a PDQ somewhere out on County F.

Me, west of Hwy 100. Imagine that. For the last nine years you had a better chance of seeing Elvis eating a banana split at Leon's.

To get through the week, I'll focus on the good stuff: our business does need modern facilities and the building that we will inhabit was built to our specifications. That will be nice and I am definitely looking forward to the updated facilities.

But dang, it sure would be nice if Cielito Lindo would drive that taco truck of theirs out every once in a while.

Plus, just a thought .... Steny's West. ;)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Very Short Thought on Tony Stewart

As a boy and a young man, I had a wicked temper. When I was mad or upset, I became completely
irrational and knew that, in my blind rage, it was very possible that I could hurt someone.

That said, I was always a fan of highly competitive and temperamental athletes, e.g. John McEnroe, Charles Barkley, Bobby Knight, etc. I knew that if I were in their situations, I'd be known for throwing the exact sort of conniptions for which they became famous.

Like those athletes, I mellowed with age. I made a conscientious effort to try to not let myself get too worked up.

Breathe deep. Relax. Think of puppies.

Which brings me to the tragic incident of Tony Stewart and the death of fellow racer 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. Like other famously temperamental athletes, if I watched a NASCAR race, I'd root for Stewart. However, this time he went too far. He did not stay in control of raw emotion. He may never be charged, and clearly Ward Jr. should have never left his vehicle and taunted Stewart, but I believe this was an incident that could have been avoided had Stewart kept his anger in check.

I don't think he intended to hit Ward Jr., but it appeared that he tried to throw him the racer's version of a brushback pitch. Rather than drive low and steer clear, he passed near Ward Jr. and accelerated. It's the acceleration that tells me this was rage-flash moment.

I'm not certain how all of this will play out--it's too early to tell, but I definitely can say that I'll never root for Stewart again. If he doesn't land behind bars, at the very least, he should get some help.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

How to Spend an Entire Day at the Wisconsin State Fair

Milwaukee is chock full of Summer festivals and fairs, but there’s none bigger and more fun than the Wisconsin State Fair. It’s the only event that can be enjoyed from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and at least once a year I make an honest effort to enjoy it for 15 hours straight!

Here’s my suggestion for the best way to make the most of a day at the Fair. Start at the north end but skip the midway. Meander slowly through the barns and exhibits while taking in the sheep, horses, goats, pigs, cows, rabbit, chickens and ducks. This is a cool area to meet some Wisconsin’s next generation--I always marvel at these hard-working kids from all over the state who make the annual pilgrimage to Milwaukee to show off their best efforts.

One place where you can easily lose an hour is the Farm & Family Building. With a group of other adults and kids we watched a chick hatch from its first peck at the shell until she walked up to the glass wall of the bulb-heated incubator and said “Hello!” to the world. This was a little bit like watching grass grow, but it was well worth the wait when the exhausted little bird finally broke completely out of the shell to cheers of “Happy Birthday!” for all that waited for her arrival.

If you plan your route just right, by the time you make it out of the barns it’ll be lunchtime and time for a beer (well, maybe it was time for a beer a few hours earlier, but we all have our own choices to make). There’s always the weird, gross and exotic foods to try (bacon-wrapped deep-fried Oreo on a stick? No thanks.) and I’ve tried them a bunch, but for my buck, I stick to the classics: an Italian sausage sandwich slathered with peppers at the Wisconsin Products Pavilion, jerk chicken
sandwich at Tropics or Mexican corn at Margarita Express.

By now you’ve made your way to the heart of the Fair--my favorite part. This is where one can really lose themselves. Find a place in the warm sun, refresh yourself with Milwaukee’s favorite adult beverage and sing along to some cover band absolutely nailing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” (As far as you care, anyway.) Hours can slip away quickly here as you engage in a friendly game of State Fair Bingo. As in, tank-topped mullet guy at 6 o’clock. B! and pregnant woman smoking a cigarette. I! It doesn’t take too long to spell BINGO at least 3 or 4 times in an hour.

Meander properly and you’ll soon find yourself at State Fair’s favorite watering hole: The Micro. The Micro is sponsored by one of Milwaukee’s longest establishment dedicated to the art of craft brewing: Benno’s. Enjoy one or two here but heed warning: these are stronger ales than you’ll get elsewhere at the fair! (Trust me.) And if you’re lucky enough to get the last beer out of a barrel, you’ll be awarded with a KEG KILLER t-shirt!

After leaving The Micro, you’ll be feeling fine. Where to go from here is a wildcard. You could head further south to the Exposition Center where hucksters are shilling mops, metal polishers and knives that can cut a

coffee table in half. I like this area, but it can be crowded and I have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it.

For us, however, the place to go at 6 o’clock is back north to Saz’s where every night the incomparably fun Bobby Friss Band plays every night. Oh man, I’ve rocked away the hours here. Mr. Friss IS the guy that nails every song that he covers. You’ll be holding your beer and singing “What a Whole Lotta Love” like you’re in the front row of a Led Zeppelin reunion concert (like that’ll ever happen). Too. Much. Fun.

By the time Friss rocks you, you’ll be quite exhausted and it’ll be about time to call it a night. Use your Uber or Lyft app to call for a ride and make your way out of the park. Along the way, don’t forget to have a deep and meaningful conversation with a goat. They’re pretty good listeners and there are a few goats currently living in Shiocton that know more about me than my own family. (Hey, it’s been a long day!)

The 2014 Wisconsin State Fair, enjoy it!

P.S. - a full album of my unedited pictures from the Fair can be viewed here.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summerfest Haters, Stop It Already

I'll never understand Summerfest haters. Oh sure, it's a lousy place to see a band you enjoy, a tad spendy if you're the drinking type and parking can be a bitch, but if you adapt and do it right, It's an absolute joy.

We went down yesterday afternoon with no plan but to enjoy our long-awaited Summer and discover something new. It didn't take long! We were immediately captivated and drawn in to an energetic, young band out of Charleston, South Carolina--Stop Light Observations. Not certain we'd like a whole album of their songs, but they sure put on a great live show! Next we made it over the KNE New Music Stage where my first encounter with Madison's Lords of the Trident "The Most METAL Band on Earth!" was to be slashed in the belly by the leather-clad lead singer's plastic cleaver. For the next twenty minutes we were highly entertained by cheese-metal madness--Lords of the Trident rock hard with humor and energy. Too fun!

Lastly we ambled over to the Harley Davidson stage where we were delighted by Milwaukee's own Naima Adedapo. I did not have high expectations, but wow, she put on a great show! Her Summerfest story is compelling: as a youth, she was a grounds crew worker sweeping up garbage and cleaning toilets. She took a moment to ask us to say "thanks" to the blue-shirted crew when we spot them on the grounds. It kind of put a lump in my throat, but that was nothing compared to her most excellent finale: performing with the Ko~Thi Dance Company for which she has been involved since she was a youth. It was fantastic. She'll be performing at Tosa Tonight on August 27th. I highly recommend attending this show!

Naima's show ended right around 9 o'clock. Summerfest's witching hour, the time when all the drunk crazies enter the grounds to see the headlining acts. Now this part I can agree with the haters--Summerfest is the WORST place to see a band you like. Knowing this, we left the park, beat the traffic insanity and were back home in Wauwatosa early enough to enjoy a nightcap and get a good night's rest.

Kay and Bobby Friss
We are very lucky to have this festival in Milwaukee. Next year, when the schedule rolls out, look at it and grumble (everybody grumbles, "Hmph. There's no good bands.") and then throw it in the trash. Instead, go to the fest in the afternoon and let your ears do the walking. Without question, you'll find something rapture worthy. Whether it be a cover band that absolutely nails it (related: Bobby Friss) or a band out of Butternut, Wisconsin making compelling original music (Hello, Hugh Bob!), Summerfest is truly Milwaukee's shining star of music.

Enjoy it.

Now some music...

Stop Light Observations

Naima Adedapo

Lords of the Trident "The Most METAL Band on Earth!"

Bobby Friss nailing Stranglehold

"Blame Me" Hugh Bob and the Hustle

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What's In My Beer, Steamworks Brew Pub?

Me and my colleague's entire "tour" of Vancouver, B.C. yesterday consisted of three pub visits and a nice walk along Water and Alexander Streets in the area known as Gastown. Everywhere we visited was quite nice and we certainly wished we could have spent a bit more time there ... maybe even next time with our wives.

Fortunately, one of our stops left an indelible impression on my tastebuds--and it wasn't the highly rated and deservedly so gastropub Alibi Room, with their delicious food and 50 draft beers (though we enjoyed our visit there plenty). No, the place we stopped first, Steamworks Brew Pub, left an unerasable trail of hops and jalapeño right down my throat to my heart.

After a day of travel; authentic, awful, and authentically awful Canadian/Chinese cheeseburgers; and an intense 2-hour meeting that surpassed 3 hours, a cold beer was exactly what we had on our minds. We set our GPS to downtown Vancouver and hoped that this would be the place that we would find our beer.

It was.

When we spied Steamworks Brew Pub's sign, we found the nearest parking ramp and proceeded to make our way their. They had a wide selection of draft beers on their regular menu, but there were two that were off the menu. One was described as "Belgian style with a sweet start and spicy finish. Like what you'd like on a good date!"

"Set my up with that one," I said. "That sounds like something I'd like to try."

Upon first sip, I thought it tasted like a more potent version of Wisconsin's own Spotted Cow. I liked it well enough, though I admit, it would've been hard for any beer to not to have tasted good after that marathon meeting. But by the time I got 8 ounces into my true pint glass pint, I noticed a pleasant back-of-throat burn, like the kind I enjoy in a spicy bowl of phở. "Where was that coming from?" I asked. There was no presence of jalapeño taste when the beer was in my mouth, but no matter, I dug the burn!

I wonder what they did to make the beer impart that heat? That's a pretty powerful combo--the more you drink, the more the burn, the more the burn, the more you drink!

Sly devils, you Steamworks Brewers you, but I commend your efforts. I want to return soon for more of that delectable burn!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Conversations in Bogotá

Here's an example of conversation that happens at least 10 times per day here in Bogotá:

Me: Please ask the driver how many kilometers it is to the hotel.

Translator: "Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?"

Driver: Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur.

Me: What did he say?

Translator: He says it's raining.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Hellloooo, Karma

It's my lucky day. Upgraded to first class, Sky Priority for my flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

What a treat, but it also makes no sense. My boss, a Delta platinum card holder with over a million miles in his account, is stuck back in the cramped and crowded seats of coach. 

*** Please excuse this brief pause. The attendant is here to take my in-flight dinner order. (The roasted chicken with morel mushroom sauce sounds lovely. I'll have that. Thank you.) ***

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I talking about my upgrade to to first class. What a surprise. I wonder if our travel booker messed something up?

Or maybe it's karma. Yes, of course. Karma. I'll go with that. 

Remember a few weeks back when I posted about accidentally leaving a baggage loader a $50 tip? I was in Bogota, Colombia and I mistook two $50,000 peso notes for $50 peso notes. Later, when I looked for my pesos, I couldn't figure out where all of them went. Only upon Wikipedia-ing Colombian currency did I discover that the 50,000 note drops the triple zeroes and adds "mil" in the zeroes' place. 

Lesson learned. Always study the currency and the exchange rate before traveling to a foreign country. 

Someone who read my blog post replied, "It's karma. Something good will happen to you soon because of this."

So this MUST be it, right? My $50 tip has resulted in leveraged karma of an approximately $1500 seat upgrade! (I'm guessing, but coach to first class must be at least that much, don't you think?)

*** Please excuse another short break, the attendant has returned for my drink order. (Wine, champagne, orange juice or a Heineken? Hmm, good choices all. I think I'll go with the champagne. After all, I only ate breakfast an hour ago! *slaps knee* *laughs out loud* *The attendant says, "Good one, Mr. Collins!"*) ***

Or if not karma, maybe just the Almighty is showering her good graces upon me for the all the hardships I've lately endured. 

Oh sure, those of you who follow me know that I've been jet-setting around the globe this past month. Mexico, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, England.  You're probably thinking, "Hardship? What the hell is Collins talking about?! That guy's one of the luckiest stiffs I know, traveling all around the globe like that." But the truth is, these trips have been for work. In fact, they ARE work. You don't see the meetings and the countless hours spent traveling and waiting and the stress. 

The stress. Oh, yes. So, so much stress. 

But another hardship is damage to my health. On my fourth day in Saudi Arabia, strong winds rolled in and blew fine grains of sand dust into the air. Everywhere there was an auburn fog. At one point, I inhaled and the dust entered my lungs. Since that moment, my body wants it out. I've been a coughing, sneezing, phlegm producing machine for 5 days. My nose is raw from the fibers of coarse hotel tissue paper and airport towelettes. I excuse myself constantly for fear that I'll soon look like a 3-year sledding in January, with nose slime running down over my lips and no mom present to wipe it away. Eww gross, right?

Or maybe it's compensation for so many terrible and smelly flights. There was that first flight, albeit a short one between Milwaukee and a Detroit, where an older gentleman who was no longer mobile (poor fellow) urinated in the seat next to me. The smell was so piercing and acidic that I could not breathe. And I can't forget the Riyadh to Dubai leg--another smelly affair. The person next to me smelled like a combination of curry and body odor covered up by a sickeningly sweet rosewater-type perfume. Horrific. I adjusted the air jet to shear the air just in front of my face to attempt to minimize the putrid stench. Lastly, the crying babies. There's always at least one, but on the Dubai to Manchester stint, a chorus of screaming cherubs filled the cabin space for all of eight hours. My head was about to explode by the time we landed. 

So I'll take this seat with no guilt. Nope, none at all. I deserve it.  It's mine and it's time. I'm large and in charge. I'm a man with a plan. No one can stop me. 

Oh look. Here comes the flight attendant again. I bet he's bringing me a steaming hot towel so that I may refresh myself before we take off. 

What's that, mister flight attendant? There's been a mix-up? This is supposed to be my boss's seat? Okay, okay. I'll head back now, but may I please at least finish my champagne? No? Sorry, sorry. No need to get all pushy and stuff. I hear ya. I'm going now. Sheesh. You sure are a crabby one. 

Nevermind. You remember that saying about karma? It's true. 

Karma is a bitch indeed. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

One Week Sans Beer in the Kingdom

Day 7.

My throat burns. My eyes feel like a teaspoon of Aluminum Silicate have been placed under each eyelid. Digestively, I'm a mess--man wasn't designed to wash down pizza with hot tea. My liver ponders its purpose. (Why am I here? What is my duty? I'm unloved. I'm ugly.) My head, it strives for creativity, yet falls short. It cannot disengage from the myriad of pressing work tasks at hand. Coffee, sitting idly by, wonders, "Where is my dear nighttime friend? What have you done to him?! Will I ever see him again? I'm lonely. I am so, so lonely..."

Man, I sure hope I can finally get a beer in Dubai.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Milwaukee to Riyadh, Expressly

Whew. This post is being written from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. I'm not here to visit Paris. No.
I wish. I'm here on a layover.

Milwaukee to Riyadh. What a grueling day of travel.

Get this:

One hour -- Milwaukee to Detroit

Three hours -- Detroit layover

Seven hours -- Detroit to Paris

Three hours -- Paris layover

Six and a half hours -- Paris to Riyadh

Two to three hours -- immigration, customers, get bags, find driver

Two hours -- transport to my accommodations

Total transit time: over 25 hours. Also note ... "accommodations." Not a hotel. Accommodations. I bet I get a good night's rest there.

Writing this, I'm only half-way through and I'm already tired as heck. I can't imagine what I'm going to feel like by the time I get to my destination. Probably like this guy!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nicely Done, Southwest Airlines

Very cool,  Southwest Airlines. I like what you did there during the flight between Milwaukee and Tampa. 

Traveler William turns 9-years old today. His family is taking him to Disney World. Upon discovering that William's birthday is today, the flight attendants invited him to the cockpit where he meets the pilot and copilot. (This was while the plane was still at the gate in Milwaukee.)

You'd think they'd be done after that, but no, they stepped it up a notch. As we approached Tampa, they asked that those of us with window seats to pull down the shade. They then asked us all to turn on our attendant call lights (birthday candles!) 

The last step was having the entire plane sing Happy Birthday. 

Very sweet. Not only was it nice for William, but it gave me a little faith boost in humanity too. 

Bravo, Southwest. Bravo!

Saturday, March 15, 2014


One of the perils of International travel is understanding foreign currency. Seldom will you find the value of the U.S. Dollar equal to the value of the country you are visiting.

For example, as I write this, the value of one U.S. Dollar is as follows:

0.72 Euros
13.24 Mexican Pesos
6.15 Chinese Yuans
1.11 Australian Dollars (close!)
2,042 Colombian Pesos

Did you catch that last one? Two thousand and forty-two. That's the one that really knocks me for a loop. Early this week I took my first trip to the South American continent and I visited Bogota, Colombia where I got to realize the perils of foreign currency exchange firsthand.

See, while waiting for my luggage at Bogota's El Dorado International Airport, I spied lines of people at the nearby foreign currency exchange. Since the baggage carousel had not yet started, I thought, "This would be a good time for me to go exchange a few U.S. Dollars for a few Pesos so that I can, at least, pay the taxi driver."

Note 1,930 instead of 2,042
I handed the teller three twenties. After investigating my passport and requesting a sign an exchange document, he handed me 115,800.00 Colombian Pesos. "Whoa," I thought. "I'm rich!!" That's a lot of moola!!

By the time I made the exchange the carousel was moving and I immediately spied my luggage. I grabbed it and headed straight for the Salida (Exit; see? I learned some Spanish!). Unexpectedly quickly a lady asked, "Taxi, Sir?"

"Si. Por favor." I replied.

Within 10 seconds she had a cab at the curb and she hoisted my heavy luggage into the trunk. While this was occurring, I fumbled through my wallet to find an appropriate tip.

I spied a 10,000 Peso bill. "Nah. That's too much," I thought.

Fingered a 5,000; thought the same.

All I had was a few U.S. $20s--I wasn't going to give her one of those.

"Oh. What's this? A couple of 50 peso bills?" That sounds about right. I'll give her those.

I hop in the cab's backseat and I'm whisked off to my hotel.

Once there, I open my wallet so that the cabbie can expect my pesos. (A high risk proposition, but what do you do? He speaks no English; I, little Spanish. You just gotta put your faith in humankind and hope that he doesn't steal you blind.) He looks at my 5,000 bill. No, Senor. My 10,000 bill. No, again, Senor. My 5,000 PLUS my 10,000 bill. Lo Siento, Senor.

Finally I show him one of my U.S. twenties. Si, Senor! Si!!

I handed him the twenty and proceeded into the hotel wondering just what the hell happened? I mean, I just cashed in sixty U.S. bucks, why didn't that cover my trip?

I met a few of my associates at the pub and we discussed this. All I can figure, at this point, is that the teller at the exchange didn't give me the proper amount. We even table all of the pesos so that we can expect them. There were 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; and 20,000 bills. In every case, the amount was in thousands as indicated by the string of triple zeroes.

I started to think about those two fifties I handed the taxi caller. "Did those say 50,000 and not 50?!" I wondered.

No. I was positive. They only had a 5 and a 0 in the corner. "I'm certain of it," I reassured myself, but once I returned to my hotel room, I logged on to Wikipedia and searched Colombian currency.

Ta da!

There it was. The bill that has likely messed up many a foreign traveler to Colombia before. The 50,000 peso bill. And sure enough, it only has a 5 and a 0 in the upper corner. However, what sets this bill apart from its brethren is that rather than indicating the thousands values by a string of triple zeroes, this little beauty substitutes the word "MIL". MIL meaning thousand.

I gave the taxi caller approximately $50 just for lifting my luggage into the back of a taxi cab!!

She must have thought I was one big spender and went home to her family to celebrate!!

Crap. Fifty bucks, down the drain.

Well, one of my associates reassured me that this mistake will likely result in some form of good karma that will someday come my way. At least I got that goin' for me.

So take this tip from me (pun not intended), before traveling to a foreign country, look up a little about the value of the currency relative to the dollar and examine the appearance of their cash.

It just may save you fifty bucks.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pollo or Pasta?

"Pollo or pasta?" Delta Flight 980's attendant (Bogota to Atlanta) asked. 

Pasta, por favor. Gracias. 

No sooner had Marc Anthony (the attendant--he was a dead-ringer for Latin American sining star Marc Anthony) handed me my foil-wrapped plate of warm pasta, he jumped back and dove across the lap of a man sitting in the aisle seat one row forward. A young woman, a girl, was jumping about in her seat. Her mother, in my row, was sitting to my left. The girl was frantically trying to get her mom's attention. 

She was choking. 

Marc Anthony wrapped his arms around her torso and dragged her across the lap and tray of the man sitting along the aisle. Once in the aisle, the both of them faced the rear of the plane. Marc Anthony behind her and with his arms gripped tightly around her abdomen. 

The Heimlich. 

It began. One sharp pull upwards. A second. A third followed. 

I was in shock taking in so much in only a moment's time. I looked into the girl's eyes. 

Pure fear. 

The upward pulls continued. I lost track of time or how many maneuvers occurred, but I was not enjoying my front row seat observing the asphyxiation of a young woman. 

"C'mon, Marc Anthony! Dislodge it already!!" and "Hang on, girl!" I urged in my mind. 

Then, finally, a plop of partially chewed poultry landed in the aisle--just an inch from my left foot. 

The girl gasped and drew in large breaths of compressed cabin air. 

Then tears.

Tears of relief. Tears of fear. Tears of gratefulness. I'm not sure what kind of tears they were, but I felt them too. And I also gulped air--I don't think I breathed as long as the incident occurred. 

I had sat there, still. Watching. Like a statue. Not breathing. 

The girl and her mother were then whisked to the front of the plane where the attendants administered additional care. Ten minutes passed. The girl and her mother, with their still tear-streaked faces, returned to their seats. 

Another minute or two passed and the attendant returned to his normal duties. He returned to my row and said, "Pardon me. Now where was I?"

All I could reply was, "Well done, Marc Anthony. Well done."

(Except I didn't say Marc Anthony, but I sure was thinking it!)

Delta, please find a way to acknowledge the quick and precise life-saving technique of Douglas. I didn't catch his last name, but if you've read this far, you know who he looks like. ;)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thank You, People That Say "Thank You"

Yelping is a fun expression and hobby of a few of my favorite things: writing and eating, but it's a total bonus when you hear from a business owner who thanks you for your patronage and honest review.

I was fortunate to get two of these this week.

The first:

Thanks Mike for the nice and cleverly written review. We are so happy that you enjoyed the food and service. Hope to see you and your wife again! Just last week we introduced 'smokeless hookah,' another touch of Middle Eastern culture that you might find as much fun as pronouncing our food! :)

The second:

Thank-you so much for your honest, complimentary review. You always hear the bad things so its nice to hear the opposite side once in a while. I printed your review up and posted it for all employees to read. Really appreciate everything you said about my bar. Hope to see you again soon....if you are..ask for Ryan. I'd like to meet ya! Cheers!

Now they're not always that nice. One business in particular was not very happy with my review of their terrible restaurant. They proceeded to tell me it was my fault that me and my colleagues did not like the food and terrible experience.

That one gave me a sleepless night. Was I wrong? Was I too tough? Should I remove my review? Edit it to be softer?

But then after considering the owner's obtuse and scathing rebuttal, I thought it best to leave my review just the way it was.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Use Yelp for Self-Help

Last week I authored my 100th Yelp review. It's rather a surprising and shocking number for something that started out so innocuously.

It all began by enjoying some place so much that I just had to tell others about it. Or, as the name would suggest: I had to YELP about it.

Having heard enough about Yelp by 2012, I figured this was the place to post my review. I can't recall what place inspired me so--I'm too lazy to look it up--but it must've been good. The desire to Yelp again might have ended right there if it wasn't for my requirement to travel a lot for my job. Soon I found myself in strange towns wondering where, besides another stinkin' Applebee's or gosh darn Chili's, I could find a good place to dine. Something unusual, somewhere a local would frequent. That's when I discovered Yelp's true power.

So I kept Yelping. My main focus is to highlight places that deserve to be highlighted. Or, in rare cases, warn where a fair warning is called for. My wife and I both really enjoy finding a place in Milwaukee that we'd love other Milwaukeeans to visit. 

One place that we both love and have written glowing reviews for is Oscar's on Pierce. Oscar's serves a seriously delicious burger and fries in a friendly environment with some good local beers. If you know anything about my wife and I, you can easily see that this is our type of place.

Well today I had a surprise. My company had visitors from a major US company. They flew in last night
from a variety of places: Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles; Wichita; and Cincinnati. Most of them stayed at hotels near the airport. While making small talk when they arrived at our offices this morning, I asked them where they dined last night. I was surprised to hear them say "Oscar's on Pierce. Great burgers!" 

What surprised me most is that Milwaukee locals still don't know about Oscar's, so my next question was, "How on earth did you find out about Oscar's?"

The reply (you should be able to guess) came back, "Yelp. We checked it out for places with good burgers and it seemed that everybody liked Oscar's, so we figured it was a can't miss!"

Wow. I wonder if my review was one of them they read? I don't know, but my favorable star rating definitely would have contributed to Oscar's 4.5-star rating after 200+ reviews.

So I think that's pretty cool. That this varied group of people rejected the comfort and familiarity of fast food and chain restaurants near their hotel and embarked on 10+ mile drive to a strange and "scary" part of Milwaukee on a frigid January Wisconsin night to dine at a place they read about on the Internet is a striking and true testament to Yelp's power.

I'm only a small player in the enormous Yelp community, but I'm glad to have seen the network work exactly the way it's supposed to.

I'm also wondering, if you live in Milwaukee and haven't yet been to Oscar's on Pierce, just what the heck you are waiting for?


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Beer Freezie Pop, Anyone?

Nineteen years.

That's how long a vintage, collector's 6-pack lasted in our garage.

A commemorative 6-pack brewed by Pabst to honor the 100th anniversary of the American Bowling Congress survived all these years in our garage until a certain Polar Vortex came along and plummeted Wauwatosa's temperature down to 20 below.

This morning, when I walked out to start up my car, I noticed a bottle of Armor All on the garage floor. "Hmm, I wonder how that got there?" I wondered. As I bent over to pick it up, there, under my car, was a can of Turtle Wax.

"What the heck? Damn raccoon!" I figured, but then I examined the cupboard that automotive ointments fell out of more closely.

Sure enough, there was the culprit ... a beer explosion!

I knew that leaving this 6'er outside for so long was a risk, but after previous cold winters, I got used to them persevering, so I never moved them into the basement.

Clean up ought to be relatively simple ... as long as I do it before Saturday, where temperatures are predicted to finally move above freezing.

This makes me worried, too, for the quarter keg of Fat Tire which is still in the kegerator. This thing could go off like a bomb!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Roger Goodell -- the NFL's Luxury Box Commissioner

So the Packers finally sold out their Lambeau Field game for Wild Card Weekend.

Thank God. I am so tired of hearing media say "What?! Packers fans aren't selling out Lambeau? And here we thought Green Bay Packers fans the best fans in the league!!" Reference this comment from the Business Insider's Jay Yarow: The Green Bay Packers are struggling to sell out their playoff game. As are the Bengals and Colts. The only team that didn't have this problem? The Eagles. Philadelphia fans are the best sports fans in the country. They actually go and support the team. So, next time you hear some crap about them being jerks, or bad fans, remember the good people of Green Bay don't even want to watch their team.

Screw you, media, and you in particular, Jay Yarow.

We're fans, but we're not dumbasses. And, Roger Goodell and the NFL, I'm not so sure I can't say the same to you and your strong-arming tactics.

As I write this post I am in a perfect position to attend the game on Sunday. I live in Milwaukee, but I'm "up north" for the weekend and have to drive through Green Bay on Sunday. My mom lives one mile from Lambeau and would welcome me before and after the game, but let's break things down here:
  1. A playoff game is not an inexpensive proposition. I logged into Ticketmaster to look at the price of a pair of tickets, I was at $231 and change before Ticketmaster added their fees. And if you've ever purchased a ticket through Ticketmaster, you know these fees are not insignificant.
  2. Sunday night. Look, NFL, you like to market how Green Bay is the "smallest market in the NFL." We know what you're selling ... and we like it. But don't kid yourself, this is just as much Appleton's, Madison's, Wausau's, and, most importantly, metropolitan Milwaukee's team. Short notice arrangement of travel plans for fans in these cities is just not possible. Maybe it would be if we were granted a Saturday game or the Sunday early game, but we've got the last game of the weekend. Not exactly the easiest game for us to make arrangements to attend yet still get home at an hour reasonable for work on Monday morning.
  3. It's gonna be cold ... REALLY COLD. Again, NFL, I love the whole "Frozen Tundra" marketing scheme, but the forecast cold is serious business (schools are already cancelled throughout the state on Monday morning). I've gone to games down to zero degrees, but a high of zero frankly frightens me. I just don't have clothing that will allow me to sit in a stadium at 10 below for three and a half hours. I recall going to games at Lambeau as a youth. I had chopper mitts, ski mask, snowmobile boots and snowmobile suit ... I could handle temps down to zero for an hour or so, but sub-zero temps? No. I don't have the gear and it would cost me just as much as a pair of tickets to procure these duds.
  4. Are you sure you needed to sell 72,928 seats?! A quick Google search tells me that that is Lambeau's capacity. I bet that's the capacity for those sporting t-shirts and shorts in early September, not those garbed like Nanook of the North for a January 5th playoff game. Those that attend are going to be wrapped thickly in wool, cotton and blaze orange. It will have an affect on the seating capacity of a row. I don't know what the total number would be, but at least one seat should be eliminated per section/row to allow for bundled Packers patrons. That's likely to shave a thousand or more off the seating capacity right there. (Didn't think of that, did you? Trust me, it's real ... it's going to require more than those 16" per butt that you normally allow.)

Anyway, I'm very glad that Wisconsin corporations anteed up and bought the last remaining 3,000 tickets and put an end to those dubious accusations. I'd like to suggest, for the future, that any game subject to blackout in Wisconsin should be required attendance by the NFL's Commissioner. He or she should not be privileged to view the game from the confines of a luxury box or suite, but should be forced to enjoy the game from the stands ... with the real fans. If they can do that, then they'll have justification to blackout our team's game.

One last thing, Yarow. The metropolitan population of Philadelphia is 6,018,800; Green Bay's is 306,241. Philadelphia is nearly 20 times larger. You think Eagles fans would sell out Lincoln Financial field if it seated 20 times more than its current capacity (1,370,640)? 

Probably not, is my answer.

Go Packers! Beat the 49ers!!