Michael A. Sisti

Author, Lecturer, Consultant

Hello

A Golf Experience

Tom and I played at the Laem Chabang International Golf Course yesterday, and it was truly international. The foursome in front of us were surly Pakastanis, and the group behind us were from the Philippines. The couple we played with, Lee and Helena, were South Koreans.

Each golfer had his own cart, driven by his caddy (all female – at least we think so). My caddy, Dienne, was the most experienced, having done this for 18 years. She was excellent at giving distance in yards, and reading greens. And she was very protective of me, catering to my every need. This included water, ice, napkins, snacks, etc., plus selecting my clubs for each shot.

Our playing partners, Lee and Helena were delightful and fun to play with. He complained about his age causing him to lose distance on his shots, and comparing my youth with my long drives. When we learned that we were both 76, he was as surprised as I was. Helena was a good golfer, despite her lack of distance. She was making incredible chip shots to save strokes, scoring a better hole than Lee. At one point I went up to her and said, “Helena, I am so very sorry. I had assumed that Lee was the better golfer. But you are too good for him.” She expressed shock, and then couldn’t stop laughing, trying to tell Lee what I had just told her.

The girls were obviously trained to take every opportunity to touch us with gestures. I think it’s supposed to increase their tips. When Lee was in a sand trap, his caddy came up behind me, grabbed my waist and held me, saying, “Careful Mr. Mike. Lee hit ball not good.” Tom’s caddy kept fanning him, and they all found reasons to fondle his arms, waist, back, etc. To them, he was bigger than life. Early in the round, Dienne grabbed my arm, pulled me to her ample breast, and held me there. I turned and looked her in the eye, and said, “Dienne, it’s too early for sex.” “No, Mr. Mike. Golfer hitting ball at you now!”

DienneCaddies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Fan Helena, Lee

Truth Be Told

Our first excursion in Pattaya took us to the Sanctuary of Truth, an incredibly ornate building decorated with the most intricate carvings I’ve ever seen. We entered the property atop a cliff that looked down to the temple, which was situated inside a parapet wall at the water’s edge. A set of wood steps with rope railings wound down to the entrance of the complex.

As we stood at the base taking pictures and watching the sculptors and craftsmen refurbishing the façade, a guide came up to us and asked if we wanted an English-speaking tour of the property. We accepted her invitation, and she brought us to a small building with a model of the temple. This beautiful, Catherine Zeta-Jones lookalike introduced herself as Om. There she explained how the entire structure was built of wood, without any nails or other metal fasteners.

We found her Thai-accented English to be excellent and her wit sharp. It also didn’t hurt that she was stunningly beautiful, with expressive eyes and a warm smile.

As we toured the many chambers of this huge building, we kept guessing as to its age. And we were stunned when we learned that construction on this ancient temple actually began only 35 years ago using wood that was over 100 years old. And we wondered where you find artisans in this age to create the detail of these beautiful wood carvings.

In the center alcove of the building was an alter atop five steps. There, Om explained that the steps represented the five laws of Buddhism, similar to our Ten Commandments. Within the five laws, she noted that there was none about coveting. Once we learned that, Tom and I found ourselves uncontrollably lusting for Om.

At the end of the tour, which took over an hour, Om showed us a brief video on her iPad. It was a story of a little Asian girl and the conflict caused by her love for her father and his efforts to support their family. The message of the video was “truth” and it reinforced the symbolism within the temple that our host had described. When she clicked off the iPad, we stood there holding back tears, and began to ask her about her life. Tom asked if she was married, and if she had kids of her own. She hesitated, smiled and said, “I must always tell the truth. I am a lady-boy.”

Sanctuary of TruthTemple Side Temple Entrance

 

 

 

 

 

Wall Carving Temple Exit

Welcome to Pattaya (Paradise)

We left the smog, oppressive heat and interminable traffic of Bangkok and drove to the smog oppressive heat and interminable traffic of Pattaya. The entrance to our hotel, The Baron Beach Hotel is on an alley that is no more than 10 ft. wide. But that width is shortened by all the street vendors lining one side of the thoroughfare. On the other side of the alley is the largest mall in the city, and it sits as part of the huge, luxurious Hilton Hotel complex. After parking in front of the hotel to unload our luggage, Tom had to back into the alley, teeming with bikers and tuk tuks, and then back down the alley to get to the entrance of the garage. He did an outstanding job, taking down only two pedestrians, and side-swiping one motorbike.

Our hotel, which is rated about 12 stars less than the Hilton, was jammed with guests trying to check in. Instead of fighting the crowds, we went to lunch, and booked in when the lobby was empty. The Concierge came over to us and greeted our arrival with a complimentary  drink. He was carrying a tray with four glasses containing an orange liquid of a color that simply does not occur in nature. Our host explained that it was made from the berry of the rare and exotic Esophagus tree. This elixir was guaranteed to extend life, reduce wrinkles,  moderate weight loss, and have a dramatic effect on libido. With that explanation, we all gulped down the wonder drink. And Maggie turned to me and said, “It’s Tang.”

Super Bangkok Bowl

Everybody wake up. It’s Super Bowl Sunday, actually Monday. Game time is 6:25 am.

We got up at 5:15, got dressed and went down to the dining room for breakfast and to get the best seats in front of the TV. Breakfast, as usual was great, but no football on that TV. So we rushed back to our rooms and put on the game there. No football on those TVs either. So I searched the Internet to stream the game, but it was not available for streaming in Thailand. We quickly left the hotel and went to JW Marriott where we were sure to catch the game at that upscale hotel. No football there either. We then went around the corner to Bully’s American Bar. Although it felt awkward to walk into a bar at 8 am, it was OK. They had the game on six different screens. As we walked in, the manager standing behind the bar shouted “21-0. Oh F–K! I bet the Patriots and I’m going to lose 5,000 bahts ($150). We watched the game, along with several dozen, mostly Americans, alternately cheering and booing, depending on who they were rooting for.

The manager told us he was born in Thailand and educated at Washing State. He loved running this bar as it was frequented by lots of Americans. And despite having lived for several years on the West Coast, he likes Donald Trump. His name is Ay (meaning older brother) and when the Patriots pulled out the extraordinary win, he went bonkers shouting and whistling. You would have thought he won $5,000, instead of $150.Super Bowl At Bullys

Bull

Accessory to a Crime

We were advised that on weekends traffic is much lighter in Bangkok. So we booked a cab to take us to see some of the Buddhas and the temples. We almost immediately hit traffic, so the driver switched lanes and made an illegal u-turn, right in front of a police traffic stop. We were pulled to the curb, past several uniformed police standing on the sidewalk. One officer carrying a clipboard walked over to the driver and asked for his license and paperwork. We got nervous, as we weren’t wearing seat belts, and didn’t carry our passports. After a long exchange between the driver and the cop, the driver turned to Tom, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, and asked him for 100 bahts. Tom handed him the cash, and he turned and gave it to the cop. You wouldn’t believe how deftly he slid that 100 baht note under the clipboard. The officer then poked his head into the van and smiled at the four Americans who just got scammed. As we drove away, Tom told the driver he was deducting the 100 bahts from the fare, which was 300 bahts. After begging and grovelling, Tom relented and said we would pay him 250 bahts. The rest of the outing was uneventful, but the temples were extraordinary.

BTW. 100 bahts equals $3.00.

Lying BuddhaLying Buddha Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerald BuddhaSitting Budha Pix

Carrying Too Much Baggage

As mentioned in the previous post, some of the luggage did not make the flight from JFK to Beijing. Of course, we didn’t know that ours was in that category until we arrived at Bangkok airport. After standing alone at the carousel for an hour, we came to that conclusion. Now here’s the fun part.

We’re sitting in the Lost Baggage Office, looking lost after 36 hours of travel. And for the third time I explained our predicament, this time to a pretty young Thai lady who barely spoke English. “Yes, we checked two bags at the Jet Blue counter in Tampa. That’s in Florida. Yes, in the USA. No, they did not give us baggage claim checks. No, we did not keep our boarding passes from the first two flights. Yes, we have identification and we can describe the two bags. Yes, we have name tags on the luggage. No, we don’t have the correct phone number on the bags.”  “Mr. Sisti, how you to expect for us to find your luggage? We will do the best. You expect our call. Have a fine day.”

Two days later, I find a note under my door from the night manager of the hotel. “Dear Mr. Sisti, You will be pleasant to learn that airline has located your luggage. You will have to report at airport with passport identification to recover your property. Thank you. Mr. Itchi Sophtas.

That morning, Tom and I went to the airport to recover the two suitcases. We wandered around the cavernous building for half an hour before we were directed to the office that checked my passport, and approved my entry into the baggage claim area. Tom was not allowed to accompany me, but an armed security officer stayed with me every step. After again showing my passport at another office, they then searched the bin for my luggage. He couldn’t find it, but I saw the two bags immediately through the glass partition, and kept pointing to them. He finally looked up, saw where I was pointing, and brought out the bags to me.

We learned a lesson about documentation from that experience. And we also learned, that despite what you hear about clothing bargains in Thailand, it’s not true. All the knock-off brands are the same price as what you’d pay at home for the real merchandise, except the quality is grossly inferior.

On a Wing and a Prayer

The first leg of our flight was a breeze, flying from Tampa to JFK in New York. We arrived at the early stages of a snowstorm that soon grew into whiteout. We arrived at Terminal Five, and had to take the shuttle to Terminal One. The shuttle, which ran outside each building, linked all the terminals. Unfortunately, the shuttle cars are not heated, and since I was only wearing a lightweight long sleeve shirt, and light cotton pants (Canadian winter attire), I found the ride uncomfortable. When I touched the handrail with my tongue, it stuck.

Terminal One was the first departure facility built at the airport. I believe it was completed during the Great Depression era. And now 75 years later, when you enter it, the depression returns.

They told us at 4:30 that our 3:30 flight was delayed. Here is the Chinese announcement:

我们正在遇到航班延误。飞行中的公告类似。所以我们不知道发生了什么。这包括宣布,有些行李不
会使飞行从FK。除冰两次后,我们在下午6:45起飞。我们到北京的航班是在一个古老的747,我们有一
个连接飞往曼谷。北京机场,像往返火车也没有加热。我们有一个三小时的中途停留。冻结是一个更
好的描述。我们直接沿着喷气机飞行,在严格的溜冰之前进入。除了我们去JFK的第一站,整个36小时,
门到门的伤害都在黑暗中发生。穿过12个时区,我们从来没有见过白天。你有什么想法对你的心灵有什
么?

The English Announcement:

We are encountering a flight delay.

The in-flight announcements were similar. So we had no clue as to what was going on. This included the announcement that some of the luggage would not make the flight from JFK.

After de-icing the wings twice, we took off at 6:45 PM. Our flight to Beijing was on an ancient 747, where we got a connecting flight to Bangkok. The Beijing Airport, like the shuttle train also was not heated. And we had a three-hour layover. Freeze-over is a better description. We literally ran down the jet-way to get on board before rigor mortis set in.

Except for the first leg of our trip to JFK, the entire 36-hour, door-to-door ordeal took place in the dark. Traveling through 12 time zones, we never saw daylight. Do you have any idea what that does to your psyche?

Passengers began to randomly line up at 2:45 pm, 45 minutes before the scheduled boarding time. The delayed boarding actually started at 5:30 pm. In the meantime, all passengers were in the queue, regardless of seating number, and the line ran all the way down the terminal. The photo shows only about two-thirds of the line. The rest is behind me.

Trekking to Thailand

As we travel around Thailand, I will publish a series of posts that relate to our activities. Enjoy the ride through our eyes.

The Key to a Good Beginning

Having awakened at 5 am, completed the last-minute tasks and packing my laptop when at 6:15, the doorbell rang. Our driver was here to pick us up.

As the driver put the bags in the van, I grabbed my glass case, mouse and keys, raced out the front door, and locked it. Since Tom, Maggie and Sara were already in the van, I got the jump seat. Releasing the second seat to climb in the back, the armrest bumped into my arm and nearly knocked the still unzipped backpack from my grip. On the way to the airport, I reorganized the contents of the backpack, realizing that my keys were missing. Remaining calm, I waited until we got to the airport and checked the van, being certain that they would be lying on the floor or seat. No luck.

While we sat in the Terminal A lounge sipping our wake-up beverages, I called my neighbors, Terry and David Goldbloom. Surprised by my unexpected call, they asked if I need help. I said, “Yes, can you walk my dog?” “But you don’t have a dog.” “Oh, you’re right. Then can you look for my keys when you walk your dog? I must have dropped them in the driveway when we left in the dark.” “I just checked. There are no keys in your driveway, front walk, or in the door lock.” “Thanks for nothing. I’ll call the van company.”

“Hello, At Your Service Limo Service? This is Mike Sisti. I think I dropped my keys in the van this morning. Can you have the driver check the back seat, and let me know if you find them.” “When he returns, we’ll check and call you Mr. Sisti.” “Thank you.”

At that point Sara grabbed my backpack with me trying to hold it back, and said, “Let me look, because you’re not a good looker.” And presto, within 10 seconds she was holding my keys with a big smirk on her face. “Now call everyone back and tell them to stop looking.” I hate when that happens. (And it happens a lot.)

Moon Landing

Our destination was Angel Mountain Lodge in Ellijay, GA, at the foot of the Appalachians. This beautiful four-bedroom residence sits atop Angel Mountain, but you can’t find it with any navigation system. So we were delighted when we got directly to the house following the rental agency’s lengthy directions*. Our relief quickly turned to angst when we tried to navigate the steep driveway. It was a quarter mile long and had the same pitch as the Palisades Cliffs along the Hudson River. And to increase the challenge, it was graded with crushed stone that had settled into a series of potholes a foot deep. But after an agonizing ride of slipping, sliding, bottoming out, wheel spinning and near stalling, we got to the top without rolling down into the 300-foot ravine.

The Sistis, the Lopez’s and the Mardens all arrived within an hour of each other between three and five PM, and were delighted with the rugged beauty of the huge house and the surrounding mountains. This left only Maryanne Harmsen among the missing. Sara called her to determine her location and ETA, but she wasn’t in the right state. She was actually in a state of anxiety. She was just crossing into Georgia near Clayton, and was nervous about arriving before dark. She became borderline panicky when Sara warned her about the driveway. Now she knew it was imperative that she arrived during the daylight hours. So she hit the gas pedal and started blowing by all the rednecks on the road driving in their pickup trucks.

But back at the house we had our own issues. Lulu used the bathroom off the kitchen and locked herself in. As Hugo grabbed an ax, and prepared to tear the door down, cooler heads prevailed. Chip walked up to the door and opened it from the outside without effort. It was definitely time for cocktails. By the time Maryanne showed up at 7:30, the lasagna dinner was ready and everyone was beyond mellow.

The trip turned out to be a great experience, where we enjoyed the beauty of the Georgia mountains, and the colorful local population. Even the attractions were different. For instance, there’s a park where you can rent a tank and crush cars and anything else that gets in your way. We also noticed that everything had a strange name.

*Landmarks encountered along the way: Cherry Log Mountain, Hayfield Cut, Swamp Creek Road, Split Rock Pass, Dam Road, Dead Mule Track, Bytemyass Landing (OK. I made that one up.)

A Kick in the Ass

Warning! Graphic Content. (What does that mean? As a graphic designer, I always wonder if I have to put that disclaimer on every ad I create.)

I just had a prostate biopsy taken, this the third one in my short time on this planet. Over their lifetime, most men will experience this procedure at least once, so I thought I’d share what happens. While prostate cancer is a scary and prevalent outcome, I reflected that we are so much luckier than women. When Sara had her biopsy, they had to penetrate her breasts. We have this opening that leads directly to the gland. Doesn’t that make you feel better? So, here’s the inside scoop on how it works.

First, as I’m sitting in the exam room in my tighty whities, Nurse Hardasse comes in and greets me with her usual, “Hi Big Guy.” Then she starts to giggle. I hate when she does that. It makes me feel so inadequate. She offers a tranquilizer to make my brain a little fuzzy. I refused, explaining that my brain is like that without the meds. She then tells me to lie on the examining table on my side facing the wall, in a partial fetal position. Once there, she raises the table to a height that almost allows me to touch the ceiling, explaining that the doc likes to work standing upright. She hands me one of those paper wraps that slide off with your first move, and as she leaves the room tells me to put on the sheet and remove my shorts.

I unfold the wrap and lay it over my bare body, and as I go to pull off my shorts, as expected the sheet falls to the floor. And there’s no way I’m jumping off the table to retrieve it. So, lying there with all this anxious energy, I take my shorts and toss them to the chair that is stacked with my other clothes. My exuberant toss from this height causes them to hit the ceiling fan and get hung up on one of the revolving blades.

As Doctor Goldfinger, the male gynecologist, and his team, come into the room, they are greeted by my blushing bare cheeks, et al. Ms. Hardasse looks around and says, “Hey Big Guy did we miss the keg party?” Giggle, giggle. She then introduces me to her assistant, Crisco Galore, who begins to lubricate my butt with axle grease and inserts a high definition studio camera in a place where you never thought it would fit. Since I am facing the wall and the strategically placed TV set mounted on it, I am now looking at the inside of Carlsbad Caverns.

At that point, Dr. Strangeglove wedges a Daisy BB rifle into the orifice and begins firing away. OK, so maybe it was only a cap pistol, but it felt like a BB gun. He shot 21 needles into my highly sensitive, albeit numbed prostate. During this assault, I felt a warm liquid oozing onto my thigh. Looking down I saw a small pool of blood. Becoming alarmed, I feared that one of the needles had gone clear through my boys, causing permanent damage. Fortunately, it turned out to be just some of last night’s red wine that had leaked out. And now I understood why you should never drink alcohol before any medical procedure. And finally, after all this uncomfortable, dignity-deflating activity, I heard the latex gloves snap, and I knew I had survived the ordeal.

Well, today I got the good news that all the tissue samples were clear, except for the gunpowder stains. And at least for the time being, I won’t require a permanent Viagra/Flomax/Depends dependency. And that’s better than a kick in the ass.
But, like you I wonder, with all the negative indicators and no sign of cancer, what is wrong with my prostate? Self-diagnosing my problem, I’m convinced the problem is either virus or bacteria borne. And to prove my theory, I’m sitting here naked waiting for it to sneeze.

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