I am an American technology worker who just moved to Taiwan.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Finally getting all of my travel plans sorted out

Once I came away from TECO with a sense of confidence that my visa would be ready on Tues I gave my travel group the "thumbs up" to book our tickets. I'll be taking the redeye Sat night on EVA from Newark through Anchorage on to Taipei. It will arrive Monday morning 5:55A local time, and I will somehow make my way to work to settle in; that's my plan, anyway. When travelling intercontinental, it works best for me to just go straight to work. If I try to rest up for a bit, I end up crashing out for 16 hours and it just takes me even more time to get over the jet lag.

The other reason why I took this flight is Shirley will be travelling with the cat in July and she will take this same flight for several reasons:
  • A connection in a foreign country, say Hong Kong, with the cat is just asking for trouble. I would guess that would mean more paperwork and I'd be worried about something going wrong.
  • China Airlines does not allow pets other than guide dogs so that rules out travelling with them through LAX or SFO.
  • EVA will allow you to check a pet as extra luggage. The good thing about the Anchorage flight is they only stop to take on fuel (and maybe some cargo), so there is no plane change and we don't need to rely on the cat being transferred from one plane to the next.
So I figured I would take the same flight and see how it goes. It will also allow me to get in early in the morning rather than mid-day like the Cathay Pacific flights that were available. Unfortunately you cannot fly direct from New York to Taipei.

Friends of ours threw us a going away party on Sunday which was awesome (sushi, wine, cheese and bacon-everything is better with bacon) and we got to see some more friends and family before leaving.

My HR group in Taiwan has been working to shore up my arrangements in Taipei and have confirmed a temporary home at The Spring and they got me a taxi from the airport to the apartment. Now I have to work with them on a car.

This afternoon I'm heading back down to TECO to pick up my visa.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Vegas, baby, Vegas!

We were briefly panicked by the notion that I needed to have a "legalized marriage" certificate before entering Taiwan but I actually only need it for Shirley to apply for her ARC and she is not coming until July so we have some time, luckily, because he have some issues...

There is a process by which some documents need to be "legalized" before they can be used in Taiwan and they prefer that you do this in your home country. Someone from TECO translates the document into Chinese and then notarizes it. Mark, at TECO, was very helpful and said his office can do this. When I said I needed to get a marriage licesnse legalized he asked, "Where did you get married? What state?" When I said that we had been married in Nevada he quickly retorted, "Las Vegas!?!?" Yes. I thought he was going to ask if we were married by Elvis but he avoided that one. Unfortunately, he can't help us, we have to deal with the San Francisco TECO branch as they follow jurisdiction.

Shirley got a hold of someone equally helpful at the San Francisco TECO branch who fortunately was a veteran in dealing with Vegas marriages and she quickly asked that we take the marriage certificate out of it's frame and examine the back. Upon examiniation it was apparent that this was a "replica" marriage certificate and that we need to file with the Clark County courthouse to get a certified original mailed to us. I guess not only the Eiffel Tower is fake in Vegas. This is shaping up to be a bad Ashton Kutcher movie, as if "bad" and "Ashton Kutcher" is not redundant. I wonder if we're even married. If we find out we're not...I want our marriage penalty taxes back.

So the process is, pay $15 to Clark County to get a real marriage certificate, get it in 7-10 days, mail to SFO TECO, pay ~$15 + $29 shipping for them to send it to Taiwan. Then we can file for Shirley's ARC.


Friday, April 23, 2010

more people [need to] go with Visa

I got my paperwork filed to have my company's travel dept. book our flights and the agent said she needed to get a round trip otherwise I would be denied entry. My initial reaction was quite arrogant and I scoffed to my group admin, "Just tell her to book a one way, I've been to Taiwan on a passport before..." or something equally obnoxious. In the next 15 minutes it would quickly unravel that for reasons involving me getting an ARC in Taiwan, I do need to enter on a resident visa and without a return ticket, I, in fact, may be denied entry. Luckily my travel agent knows a lot more about travel than I do.

Something was lost in translation during my emails with our group in Taiwan that handles documentation and our "IA" group that was supposed to get me a visa either doesn't exist, or doesn't care. I was advised by my HR contact in Taiwan to go see my local HR rep to get help from them in securing all the documents.

I don't want to say anything that will get traced back to me and get me fired. let's just say, if I walked into HR and they said, "I can assist you with that..." I would have quickly been on my way to solving my own problem. So...an hour of aggravation later, I was off to solve my own problem. I think I am the first one from my division moving to Taiwan so maybe I need to cut them some slack.

Taiwan doesn't have a "consulate", assumedly because of the whole Taiwan/China thing much like the US maintains a fake embassy in Taipei, but there is a TECO office in NYC which serves the same purpose. I called several times with no answer and left a message. Frustrated at the end of the day (TECO closes @ 4:30), I emailed everyone (Taiwan HR/US HR/travel agent) and said, "I'm just going down to the consulate tomorrow with or without an appointment!" At 5:05, Mark from the consulate called and even apologized for the tardiness of the call. He had all the information right away, turns out I have all the documents necessary for my visa, and he said to just come down in the morning, no appointment necessary.

The TECO is a block away from Grand Central Station so I took the train down. There are no gargoyles or iron gates like the embassies in the Bourne Identity; it's just an office building. You enter the lobby and check in the with guard who gives you an ID sticker. Head up to the 4th floor and right outside the elevator door is a clerk who asks what you need and assigns you to a window. I approached window 97 and told the female clerk that I need a "resident visa". Even the Taiwanese seem shocked every time I say that I am seeking residencey in Taiwan. What am I in for? Should it be setting off alarm bells when I meet Taiwanese living in the U.S.? Sometimes I want to ask them, "What's so bad about Taiwan that you need to live here?" I'm not sure that I can convey that with a sense of humor and I'm sure when I'm in Taiwan, locals will be thinking, "What's so bad about the U.S. that you came here?!?!"

A guy instantly jumps up and says, "Are you Michael?" It was Mark. He said, "I will have you work with the most beautiful clerk in the office!" I wonder if I'm in a KTV? We went through my documents and I paid $131 cash for the visa. She instructed me to come back Tuesday after noon and present my receipt to get my passport and visa. Awesome. Very efficient, I was out of there in 5 minutes.

There was some confusion involving needing a legalized/apostille marriage certificate before I come but that is needed only before Shirley comes in July so we have some time to work on that. We'll need the time...stay tuned for the marriage certificate fiasco.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

I can assist you with that

I've been waiting to get my travel request approved by in Taiwan so that I am authorized to have my company's travel department book my plane tickets. I emailed my HR relocation coordinator and after not hearing back I emailed my new boss' admin. She informed me that the relo coordinator is in the hospital and my req has been approved for a week.

So she sent me copies and said I should book with my U.S. travel agent. I am attempting to book a one-way ticket for each of us and the travel office said they're not supposed to book one-way tickets for international travel. I quickly remembered that in most cases when entering a country on a U.S. passport you need a return ticket. I started with, "But I have a Taiwan work permit..." and then quickly realized that I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm now thinking that a work permit and a visa have no relation. The travel group advised me to call CIBT and see what they think as we contract with them for Visa/travel issues.

After making a couple menu based selections I received a human operator at CIBT and the conversation was something like this:

Me: "I work for so and so and we contract our travel with so and so and they told me to contact you with this acct # for some help regarding entry into Taiwan."

Operator Lady: "I can assist you with that. What is your specific issue?"

Me: "I'm moving to Taiwan next Monday. I have a Taiwan work permit. I don't yet have an ARC, residency card. I need to buy a plane ticket. Do I need to buy a round trip or can I get in on a one way?"

Operator Lady: "I can assist you with that. We do not handle relocation issues, only temporary travel."

I wonder what part of "assist" I don't understand! OK, I get the first "I can assist you" but the second time was just a lie. It doesn't bother me so much that I didn't get the answer I wanted but moreso that there is a humanoid on the end of the phone that is preprogrammed to say, "I can assist you with that", apparently no matter the request.

Now that I think about, whenever I've called a company and the operator immediately says, "I can assist you with that", they always have to transfer me to someone else to actually get help. I think that's really humanoid code that translates to, "look, I just answer the phone here".

When the robots come to conquer earth and demand, "Take me to your leader!", I'll say, "I can assist you with that."


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Selling the truck

I changed the oil in the truck this weekend as I am close enough to my departure that I can offload it. I had this guy, Dave, lined up at work who really wanted it and we loosely kicked around some #'s regarding price. I even had it washed on the way into work yesterday and the car wash attendant was asking me how much I paid for it and said he wants one. I should have tried to sell it to him right there, might have saved $23 for the car wash.

I got in to work and emailed Dave and got an autoresponse that he's out until April 27th. If I was sure he would pay something reasonable for it I would hold off but I really don't want to leave Shirley with any extra work so I'd like to sell it before I leave. I listed it this morning on Craigslist.

I visited several sites when attempting to derrive a selling price. Kelly Blue Book, NADA and Edmunds had different values with KBB being significantly lower. I also scoped out some Ebay, Bargain News and Craigslist ads to get a feel for the market and listed it @ $10,500, which was very close to the Edmunds price. If I can get high 9's I'll be happy. It's a 2002 Toyota Tacoma, 4WD, which should be an easy sell around here.

In the first year of living in our house I often got stranded at the bottom of our driveway in my VW Jetta during the winter. The next fall I decided to get the Tacoma. It has served me well and has been very reliable (knock on wood). I hope it will be a quick sell. If not, I can probably fall back on Dave taking it off my hands. I wonder what sort of creeps Craigslist will stir up...


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Farewell tour

I think this week I felt an escalation of the inevitability and consequence of the move. I have to go to a wake tonight for a co-worker who died this week (way too young @ 59) and I am stopping in to visit my childhood next-door-neighbor and goombah to my sister, maybe for the last time.

I'll come "home" once a year but Connecticut is effectively no longer my home. Florida will probably serve as our base as that is where we go for XMAS and our largest density of relatives lies there. My brother and sister live in Boston and NYC, respectively, but I can envision us convening in Paris or Tokyo or Costa Rica rather than the northeast. My mom is in Canada which has geographic consequence in itself.

So begins the farewell tour:
  • Last of the regular poker games at our house tomorrow night
  • Last softball games Mon/Tues
  • Going away luncheon at work next Friday
  • Friends throwing us a going away party next Sunday
  • If I'm still around May 1, last meeting of a non-profit board of directors I've been serving on for 6 years
It will be a rough two weeks until I leave, lots of goodbyes, some people I will never see again, but that's an expected consequence. Was it Lennon/McCartney who wrote:

"You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have: the facts of life"

Friday, April 16, 2010

...this man at the wheel is my attorney

After getting that tree cleared out of the driveway it took just a bit more work to get our house ready to list on the market. Selling this house is by far the most significant obstacle in the way. It's been listed for a week and we haven't had any action yet, though the Realtor (c) open house and regular open house are yet to come.

We live in a town that is highly desirable but it is a small town and only transacts about 50 properties per year so you have to be pateint, waiting for the right buyer to come along. It's been a pain in the neck that we actually have to keep the house clean, all the time, but it's also nice actually having a clean house!

Since I'll be gone before the house transacts, I needed to assign Power of Attorney to my wife so she can sell the house on our behalf, and then move to the islands with the lawn guy. Here's how that works:

Our lawyer drafted up a document assigning her POA. It has a list of things she can do (i.e. sell a house, open up a bank account) in my name and I can cross out any or none of them. I then bring it to a notary public; my bank did this for free. The notary and two witnesses (bank employees) watch me sign it and then emboss a stamp on it. That's it. My wife didn't even have to be there.

The next issue will occur if Shirley leaves before we are able close. Then she can assign both of our Powers of Attorney to our friend, Lumpy, who can then sell the house on our behalf. In thinking of Lumpy as my attorney, I am reminded of Duke and Dr. Gonzo in Fear and Loathing..., just the notion of referring to him as "my attorney" is kind of funny. I hope Lumpy doesn't run away with the lawn guy.

Another milestone is putting our other Basset Hound, Ozzie, into foster care. We were about ready to pull the trigger and then he had a lump on his eyelid that got worse and started to infect his eye so we took him in to have it surgically removed. Now he has to wear the "cone of shame" for 2 weeks and go back in for a checkup. Once cleared he'll be off the DL and into foster care. He's absolutely miserable but once the mescaline wears off and we get that cone off he should be fine.

As of now I'm waiting on my travel request to be approved in Taiwan so I can arrange plane tickets. It's not at all uncommon for this to be done at the last minute. I wonder if the flight I want will still be available by the time it get's approved.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Your documents, please

After signing my contract with my employer the next step was to apply for a Taiwan Work Permit. I need to have this in hand when I arrive in Taipei. I guess, so I can enter as a worker and not a tourist. I filled out a simple questionnaire with my employer, provided some document copies (passport, etc) and had to provide 2 photos. I asked if I could just email my HR group a JPEG and let them print it out but, no, they wanted hard copies.

And, of course, it's not exactly the same size requriement as a US passport photo so I'm at work with a tape measure and a paper cutter trying to get the size just right. I thought about having my company's shipping department send the photos over but I don't trust them so I just put them in an envelope and went to the post office. It's just about a dollar to mail an envelope to Taiwan, but it took almost 3 weeks to get there!

They finally confimed the photos were received and I received notice about 2 weeks later that my work permit was approved. They FEDEXed it to me and I got it a couple days ago. It's all in Chinese except my name so for all I know, it labels me as communist party scum and alerts Taiwan immigration to detain me indefinitely. It's got this fancy calligraphy on it though:

I wonder if that's the part about "detention".

The next step is to apply for an ARC, "Alien Resident Card" which will allow me to stay in the country for an amount of time but is also required for many business transactions, opening bank accounts, getting loans, etc. I won't need to apply for this until I arrive in Taiwan but I've already started to gather the necessary documentation. I think I need 8 more photos for this. What's with all the photos?!?!

Also, before I leave, I have to get an International Driver's License which can be obtained for $15 from a AAA office. Then I have 30 days to pass a test and get a Taiwanese Driver's License. Would you believe there is one state in the U.S. from which you can just instantly get a Taiwanese license? No test... No international license...

Oklahoma. I wonder how Oklahoma has ANYTHING to do with Taiwan.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A boy and his dog

As if our recent run of bad luck couldn't get any worse after the Canada tire incident and the tree incident, my Mom called Saturday night with horrible news: our dog Kramer died, only a week after moving him up there. He had a stroke and Mom took him in to the emergencey clinic where he had two seizures and she did the right thing and put him down.

I've been thinking for days of what to make of a blog post about this incident and how I feel about it:
  • Confused: I don't understand why I was perfectly OK with departing ways with Kramer to leave him with my Mom yet feel a deep sense of loss over his death.
  • Relieved: That he passed without getting sick and putting a burden on my Mom to care for him and avoided pain & suffering upon himself.
  • Thankful: That my Mom was able to do this and I didn't have to.
  • More-confused: I can't fathom how any parent can send their kid off to fight in a war and die in the name of the cause.
"And they all want to love the cause,
'Cause they all need to be the cause,
They all want to fuck the cause" 
- Broken Social Scene

Yeah, I know, it's just a dog.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Obama healthcare plan for ex-pats

Once the Taiwan situation became a reality I started making some political jokes with people at work pertaining to how many things no longer apply to me. Higher taxes? Doesn't matter. Employment rate? Not worried. Falling dollar? Don't get paid in dollars. Healthcare reform? Ha! I'll have REAL national healthcare as nearly zero cost to me.

I AM supportive of the idea that in a country like the U.S., there should be some degree of coverage for all with the cost shared among many. Call it "socialism" if you must, but then call the interstate highway system "socialized", too. A friend astutely called the Obama plan a national insurance plan and NOT a national health care plan. Point taken. I thought the elimination of preexisting condition discrimination made sense but didn't feel like it particularly applied to me. While this blog at the NY Times points out that the Obama health care plan does not affect Americans living overseas since the ex-pat tax was removed from the bill, many commenters pointed out that, in fact, it does affect them.

By eliminating the preexisting condition, it will allow many ex-pats who want to return to the U.S. to do so. If I go to Taiwan and suffer a major illness, I might be unable to receive insurance coverage upon returning to the States. There are many Americans "trapped" overseas because of this reason. I wonder if the American voters will really lash out at the polls over healthcare.

Getting by with a little help from my friends

As if the flat tire wasn't enough bad luck for the time being, I came home Wed night to find a humongous oak tree lying across my driveway! The first thought that went through my head was, "Too bad it didn't fall onto the house." Luckily, it did NOT fall on the house because it certainly would not have "totaled" the house which was my initial thought, but we'd be battling with insurance and contractors just to get it sell-able, and we wanted to put in on the market this weekend.

We had a rainstorm Mon-Wed and got somewhere near a half foot of rain. The root ball had eroded and the tree came toppling over. Shirley's car was in the garage at the time so she was now stuck on the other side unable to get down the driveway. Luckily I had come home late from work that day and ended up downstream of the tree and therefore, able to still get off the property. I first thought I'd call a "tree guy" but then decided it might be something I could handle on my own, or with a little help from my friends.

It always pays to have a buddy with chainsaw. I went and borrowed it right away and decided to tackle the job the next day after work. He came by to help out but we ultimately hit a wall with a dull chain and ended our night's work with the driveway still blocked. Next day, new chain, the thing cut like butter. It's still a complicated situation: depending on how the segment you are cutting is supported, it will either tend to pinch the saw on the top or on the bottom. And then you have to watch out when branches are loaded; they can spring back in your face and then you may sever your head. We ended the night by rolling the main pieces into the woods and freeing up the driveway. Success!

Now I had to figure out a way to get the wood off the property and make it look to potential buyers that there isn't a significant chance of a 10,000 pound tree crushing them. This guy at work, Jim, had mentioned that if I ever have a tree go down in the woods, to give him a call. He's looking for firewood. I emailed him the photos and he was ready to come get the wood. He showed up on Saturday and was a bit awestruck at the sheer size of this tree. Before coming up, he suggested that he might just come up with his SUV and fill that, and, if required, make another run up with the trailer. I hinted that we'd fill that SUV up in 10 minutes; fortunately he heeded my word and brought a 5000 lbs. capacity trailer.

It was a hard day's work but we were able to roll all of the big logs out of the woods and onto the trailer. They weighed about 400 pounds each and that trailer was dragging when he finally hauled it away. There's still a pile of smaller pieces left and he's going to come by tomorrow and haul the rest away. I carried all of the brush out into the woods and the yard is looking decent now. I think we are going to list the house next weekend.

Friday, April 2, 2010

"In a perfect world, every dog would have a home and every home would have a dog."

This past weekend we set out to tackle one of the remaining milestones: getting Kramer into his new home with my Mom in Niagara Falls, Canada. We still have to find a home for Ozzie so Kramer is the first of two pets to make a departure. We packed up the Mini with Kramer's crate and set out after work. When we travel with Kramer in the car, he is usually just loose in the hatchback which typically results in a lot of restlessness, whining and him stuffing his snout in your face as best he can from the back seat. This time we actually had the crate set up back there and put him in it. He was much more comfortable and rested the best he could considering the Mini + Pennsylvania highways is not the smoothest ride in the world.

We made a pit stop every couple hours at a rest area to let Kramer out, and arrived at the border in Niagara Falls around 11PM. I had read on the internets that you just need a rabies certificate to get your dog into Canada. We had that along with Kramer's entire vet record, just in case my Mom would come to need it, but I was still wary of customs. Going through the border always results in some sort of dumb question that I must trick myself into NOT answering literally.

I think the way she phrased it was, "Are you bringing anything in?"

"Well, this here car, for starters!"

Sometimes I get, "Are you bringing in any gifts?" "Is there anything NOT coming back with you?" "Do you have anything to declare?"

So I answered, "A pound of cheese and 2 boxes of cortizone cream, apparently difficult to find in Canada (probably not as tough as tires, though). I made no mention of the 50# dog in the back but had his rabies cert in hand. She let us pass asking nothing of the dog. Not sure she noticed. Not sure "this dog" was what she was looking for in her questioning.

We got to my Mom's place around midnight. She recently got a German Shepherd puppy, "Barkley", who is a year old and probably just under a hundred pounds. I had Kramer on a leash as we went through the door and Barkley lit up when we came in. He came charging over to Kramer a bit aggressively, upon which Kramer latched on to Barkley's ear until I yanked him back.

I think this set the stage perfectly. Kramer proved that he could hold is own and he and Barkley got along very well afterwards. It was funny to see Barkley follow Kramer around with an inquisitive look. Whenever Kramer did something new, Barkley would come charging over to see what was going on. As soon as Kramer would go outside, Barkley would go charging out the door after him. Kramer got along with Dan pretty well, too, as you can see them practicing their napping skills together.

In the morning Shirley and I went down to the local YMCA which is amazing. They have a nice pool, actually two pools: one kiddie pool and one 4 lane 25m pool with a water slide. Above that there is a huge weight room, loads of cardio equipment, yoga room, spin room, basketball court and some classrooms. They let you in for free the first time and thereafter it's 10 bucks a day as a drop fee. There is also a coffee shop and library on site so I come here often when visiting my Mom. I don't think this is the type of YMCA the Village People had in mind, but you can, in fact, get yourself clean and have a good meal.

After working out my Mom joined us for a trip down to the falls since Shirley has never been. We lucked out and had great weather, albeit a little chilly. I swear it rains constantly in Niagara Falls; my Mom swears it's only when I'm visiting. I hear the same thing from people in Seattle-never rains there, either. If you've never been to Niagara Falls, I think the Canadian side is the tackiest place on Earth. Shirley thinks Vegas holds that title but at least Vegas has an authentic Madame Tussauds Wax Museum whereas Niagara Falls has the "Louis TussaudsWax Museum". Cheezy.

On the way home the check tire light illuminated in the Mini and we stopped to get air but found the air leaked out as fast as it would go in. The Mini has no spare and uses runflats, tires that you can drive on even when flat. We made it back to Mom's and I crawled under the car to find that the tread and the sidewall had become separated at the seam. This tire had seen it's share of mileage and needed to be replaced (probably 10k miles ago) along with its rear conterpart on the passenger's side. It was 6PM on Saturday and we couldn't get a hold of a tire shop. I made some calls on Sunday and could not locate a tire in that size anywhere in the vicinity. I was quoted a lead time of 10 days. There was a Mini dealer a few miles away in St. Catharines and we would have to use that as a last resort on Monday.

On Monday morning we called some real tire shops (as opposed to Candian Tire and Wal-Mart) hoping that might be a better option. Found a guy who could get us a tire in 5 days. The Mini dealer had them in stock and we bit the bullet and headed up. We wanted to avoid the highway as with the damage to the tire, it got a bit wobbly above 40MPH so we needed to take backroads which were under construction. With Dan leading the way we limped in to the dealer and were directed to the lounge area to wait for them to look at the car. Here is Shirley waiting with her blue Mini through the window in the background. An hour later they assesed the situation and gave us a quote. 2 tires, mounted...guess how much? Over $800, Canadian! So with today's exchange rate, $787. It was actually around $820CN so we broke the $400 per tire barrier. Insane! But we had no choice to get us home that day. So we waited another 2 hours for them to mount the tires and were on our way. They even washed the car, for free!

We already had to skip a day of work, keep Ozzie in the kennel another day, and have someone come up to our house to take care of the cat. The price of the same tire in the U.S. on Tirerack=$144. So we can look at it as a $500 car wash, or ammoritize the cost across the few cups of "free" coffee we drank in the dealer lounge. Warning: if you ever go to Canada, bring tires. I will forever have 195/55R16 burned into my brain. Oh, and these are STOCK tires. We don't have any wacky low profile or huge spinner rims or anything like that. Next time I buy a car, I'm checking the tire size and making sure it is readily available in places other than a car dealer.

We at least were able to leave knowing that Kramer was comfortable in his new home and had made a new friend in Barkley. I think it's more like, Barkley made a new friend in Kramer. Here is my last moment with Kramer. Not sure why he's licking his lips. The food must taste better in Canada. Either that or he secretly ate that tire to get revenge on us for deporting him.

We hit the road for home and were planning on stopping in Buffalo for chicken wings since we've never had a "real" Buffalo wing and it might be something that we can't quite get in Taiwan. My buddy Brett is from Buffalo so we asked him where to go. It seemed to be a tough choice between Duff's and Anchor Bar but when pressed he suggested Duff's. There are two places that we go to for decent wings: TK's in Danbury,CT and Frankie's in Melbourne,FL.

We each ordered a lunch special which is 10 wings in your choice of hotness and 2 sides. The menu indicates they have a scale factor in their hotness, like a "chicken wing exchange rate". They tout "Medium Hot is VERY Hot" so I ordered Medium Hot and Shirley chose Mild Medium. We asked for chili and fries as our sides and they had run out of chili and gave Shirley the last scoop. Bummer. Our wings and fries arrived. Fries were shoestring which I like and you could smell the vinagar in the air from the wings.

In a nutshell: the meat of the wings is superior to anywhere else, but the flavor of the sauce is very basic, Frank's Red Hot in butter with some white pepper and probably not much more. I thought the assesment of the hotness was pretty accurate. Duff's Medium Hot is comparable to a TK's "suicide" and Frankie's 4 or 5, depending on which cook made the sauce that day. Frankie's sauce is rated on a scale from 1-9 with each level having a moniker, e.g., level 9 is called "Dial 9-1-1". The thing with Frankies is not just the hotness of the sauce but with the flavoring; it's not just a jar of Red Hot or Tabasco but I think it has tomoto paste in it and other secret ingredients, probably stuff with a very short half-life.

I easily put down 10 Duff's Medium Hot but even one 7 at Frankie's can disable your digestive tract for days. I've witnessed someone vomit on the table at Frankie's when trying to ingest just one level 9. Folklore says they make a level 10 but you have to be "in-the-know" to get them as they are worried about the side effects and potential lawsuits. All said and done, Duff's was good, but Frankie's has the best hot wings I have ever had. I think Frankie was from NY so maybe he was originally from the Buffalo area which might add to his wing cred. Frankie died about 5 years ago. I wonder if it was in the act of researching a #11. They should name it, "Call the coroner".