The male trailing spouse is officially in mourning. A great friend recently died in Bangkok. This is my testimonial to Michael "The General" Bollinger. A man who typified the rugged image of the American hero; honorable, direct, caring, larger than life and twice as ugly!
|Michael "The General" Bollinger 1948-2013|
In Bangkok, an expat city of rogues, wastrels and bullshit artists, Michael Farrell Bollinger was one of the few good men. With his neat, white hair, polo shirt, pinstripe trousers, wingtip shoes and walking stick, he was a feature of daily life on Soi 22 for three decades.
We first met outside the Moonshine Pub in early 2004. I was shooting the shit with Suntory Simon when he came barnstorming into our conversation.
"You guys are English ain't you, what the Hell is wrong with you people? You should be supporting your Prime Minister (Tony Blair) instead of trying to get rid of him, what is it with you limeys? You got to support your leader in wartime, like we do."
And then, without uttering another word, the bombastic American did an about turn and limped to the bar. Suntory Simon looked me. Agasp.
"Do you know that nutcase?"
"No," I said, "I thought you did."
"Of course not," he said, "he's a fucking psycho. You don't walk up to perfect strangers and talk to them like that."
Simon was right. And wrong. Mike was a stranger to no one.
The second time we met, he had just arrived for happy hour in the Moonshine with his old buddy, Jay. Mike was sober, Jay was tipsy. And a little bit obnoxious.
"Don't mind Jay," he said, "he just hates English people."
Our third meeting was at Daeng's Place a haunt for every crazed expat in the city. It was one of those rare moments when Mike was having an alcoholic drink (a large bottle of Chang beer). He was complaining about "soccer." He thought it was "a sissy assed game only played by girls in the USA," and considered "grid iron football" far superior to "that fag pastime you like in Europe and them other places no one gives a shit about."
"That's the trouble with you Yanks," I said, cheekily winding him up, "you lot don't wanna play ball... same as your politics.
Mike slowly got up from his bar stool and fixed me with rattlesnake eyes. He was sizing me up for the kill. It didn't happen. He stormed out the boozer, shouting anti soccer obscenities all the way back to his flat above Ampa Salon (his wife's business) at the end of Soi Sai Namthip.
We became firm friends soon after and spent many hours, days, weeks and years discussing life, death and politics. Mike had a ferocious intellect and he did not suffer fools gladly. He was an outrageous conversationalist, a provocative debater, an informed observer but, above all, a Southern gentleman who knew when to stand his ground or concede a point.
I will never forget the conversation that he had with my wife the first time they met.
"I was gonna join the KKK when I was a teenager," said Mike, "but a nigger saved my life in Vietnam. And that's what's great about America, you can be a nigger, a kike, a wetback, we're Americans, no distinction, no class, we're all the same man and woman under the old red, white and blue."
She was mortified.
"That man is a complete redneck!"
"I know," I said, "but that's what I like about the guy."
That was Mike in a nutshell. Always out to shock, always out to test. He reminded me of another great American, my Father.
|Stanley Reynolds in his Guardian days. Yes, he really is J. Jonah Jameson.|