It's always nice not to have to show off
October 20, 2023
I'll never forget the call, but I've forgotten the year.
It was a Saturday evening in early March in the 1990s down in St. Paul.
The state wrestling tournament was over, we had a couple of place winners, and it was time to celebrate at a nearby joint with dancing and not especially pretty women.
As the saying goes, they get prettier after a few drinks.
The phone call to our Super 8 motel room at Tanner Lake was from my nephew, Wild Bill Bredesen, a senior in high school doing an interview on a journalist.
He picked the wrong guy.
I can't remember what I told him except you can enjoyably piss off people and you won't get rich.
Then I walked over and had a drink or two.
And I didn't see much of Bill after that until recently when he flew into the Twin Cities with his family from Bangkok, Thailand, in late August.
He drove up with his family in early September.
He claims that I gave him cigars and beer when he was in elementary school when he came up for a visit with my sister, Katie, and his siblings.
He was in junior high. We chewed cigars, which are a delicacy.
If he had a beer or several, it was dark and I thought he was drinking a soda pop or two."
Bill's proud of his wife, Soey, who's a helluva journalist herself and was part of a reporting team with Reuters that won a Pulitzer Prize.
"It was a story on human trafficking with the Rohingya, which is a Muslim minority in Myanmar," he said, adding that she helped locate, with a couple of other reporters, the place where they were being trafficked through.
How'd you end up in Thailand?
"I floated onto shore on a piece of driftwood."
He was laughing.
He graduated from the University of Texas in Austin with a degree in economics.
"But I worked for the Daily Texan, the student newspaper with a circulation of almost 60,000. I was writing mostly sports covering the football team."
That's a damn good start for a journalism career!
He graduated in 2002.
"I was just plowing the corporate field."
He tired of that and visited a high school friend in China.
"On that trip, I visited Southeast Asia, including Bangkok, and fell in love with it."
By 2008, Bill was living and working in Bangkok.
"I was working for the Bangkok Post, Thailand's biggest English-language daily newspaper. I was there for almost five years."
Five years later, he left to work for the German Press Agency (DPA), one of the world's leading independent news agencies.
"I got to report some cool stories for DPA - the trip Obama took to Hanoi, the Trump-Kim meetings in Singapore and Hanoi, and the Thai boys football (soccer) team trapped in that cave."
He's been with the Associated Press for three years as the editor.
"Bangkok is home now. I got a wife and two kids. I try to get home once a year."
What's great about living in Thailand?
"Bangkok is a very vibrant city and has a very vibrant street life. You can eat a lot of food on the sidewalk for less than two bucks for a nice lunch of a spicy stir fry with a fried egg on top.
"It's just a phenomenal city. It's got great energy, friendly people, and it's totally safe. It's not that expensive, and you got beautiful women - like my wife! I had to throw that in there, too."
He mentioned that everything is very expensive here in America.
"I get a better bang for my buck over there."
Please meet Jutarat Skulpichetrat, Bill's wife.
She is Chinese Thai and is talented, funny, beautiful, and a gifted journalist. Her laugh is like a kiss from above.
Her presence lights up a room.
She's an urban gal who didn't mind using the outhouse, and her kids, Charlie and Marie, are worth the price of admission.
Her nickname is Soey, pronounced Soy.
You're what? 35?
"No, I'm 42, and I was born in Bangkok and I studied at the university in Bangkok."
She said the name, and it should be in the National Spelling Bee (Thammasat).
"It's the number two university in Thailand, and I studied English literature."
What was the best English literature book you read in college?
"You know what, I didn't pay much attention in my studies back then."
Oh, that smile!
She pondered over the best book in English literature.
"Now, you're trouble," said Bill.
"Now, I'm in trouble," said Soey.
There was much laughter around the kitchen table.
"Let's say I survived in English literature. The one book I remember is Lord of the Flies."
She graduated in 2003 and noted that it isn't really 2023 in Thailand, a Buddhist country.
"On the Thai calendar, it is 2566."
Soey was born in 1981.
The Buddhist calendar began on the year Buddha was born.
She's a 2524 model.
"In my journalism career, I have to go the Western way all the time," she said as Bill explained that you have to subtract 543 years from the Buddhist calendar to get our present date.
The next time someone at the clinic asks when I was born, I'll say 2487.
"Go on, don't give me that! It says you were born in 1944."
Soey has had a fascinating journalistic career while working for the Japanese TV Asahi network, Reuters, and now the Associated Press.
They met as most couple do.
There was a mutual attraction.
Bill appreciates talent, an independent streak, and beauty.
Soey was possibly smitten with his sweetness, street smarts, and loquaciousness - the usual Olsen traits, I've been told.
Around 6 p.m., here came Bill's kin, the local cousins - Shawn Olsen and his family.
It had been decades since they last saw each other.
The real treats are Soey and Bill's two kids - Charlie 6, and Marie 4.
They're cute, well-behaved, smart, and bilingual.
My late mother, Marie, would have been envious. I was the little chump in the family's woodpile.
Charlie and Marie had a ball playing in Autumn's wheelchair (good news - she's walking with zest now after a summer of a staph infection in her right knee).
I liked to say we partied late into the night.
Age is creeping in.
Wild Bill Bredesen barely drank a beer, and we didn't smoke cigars or stay up late around a campfire.
There wasn't a campfire.
Hell, he went to bed early.
I was impressed!
And I got a good night's sleep.