The Third Man (A Thin Man Story)

Dateline Singapore. Friday, 16:25:

The Thin Man met the accountants for an early drink at the Alligator Pear as promised. They drank Mojitos, a ridiculous drink that is invariably watered down. The Thin Man had a vodka and soda, a safe choice ahead of what could be a long night.

The mood of the men swung between giddy and glum. One of them was on an app, choosing an escort for later on. The men advised him on his choice with the surgical precision of serious professionals. The Thin Man hoped that he could be as precise in his own operation tonight.

“Did you folks get wristbands yet?” a waiter in his early 20s asked. They hadn’t, so they did. Yes, the event security is poor, but to be fair they all looked the part of party goers. And so they were. All going to the party.

The party must have been paid for weeks ago because all the stops were turned out. A full bar, lobster tails, sushi, fondue, steak tartare, champagne. Sometimes the best way to look prosperous is to look prosperous. The guests were high in no time. The future was unwritten, terrifying. All they had was tonight.

Nursing only his second vodka and soda, the Thin Man scoped out the scene. Anderson was not present, nor was Rink. The highest ranking Green Grouper seemed to be a regional vice-president called Lewis. It was he that gave the toast, “to a glorious future, the Green Group!” Salut. Lewis was in his early 40s, too young and too on the spot. The Thin Man needed someone older, someone with less to lose.

The Cigar Smokers:

Outside on the pool deck a group of three men had lit up cigars. This was surely against regulations, however a payment must have passed under the table, either that or tonight was one of those nights were regulations just weren’t in effect. Regulations are like that, even in Singapore. They are human created and human maintained. Or, in this case, not.

Cigar smokers, mused the Thin Man. Cigar smokers tend toward the genial and the venial. Toward the cynical and the amoral. Toward the reckless and the egotistical. In that moment, he loved cigar smokers. Cigar smokers were excellent. The only problem was he might have to have one too.

He approaches the group a little gingerly. The move here is a little different than cozying up to the accountants. There he wanted to be taken in as a peer and forgotten about. Here, his role is of the acolyte, the younger man. Now which one is our mark? Individual one appears in his mid-sixties, and sports a brown jacket that is at least three years past its prime. His feet are shuffling an alcoholics’ shuffle. No thank you. Individual two is in his 50s dressed in a tux. Hair slicked back with pomade, a little glassy eyed. A greaser who got lucky. No.

The third man, however, is of a different type. Also in his 60s, he wears a pale red sweater over a tieless pink shirt. He is handsome for his age, white hair adding a touch of distinction. He is slightly overweight but in a way that suggests ease not sloth. The Thin Man cages a cigar from brown jacket, lights it, and stares into the middle distance. A few puffs later he casually turns to the man in the red sweater.

“Jack,” he says, “quite a view eh?”

“Marcus,” says the man, “view of the end of the world if you ask me.”

“The company? The rumors?”

“Rumors? Boy, ain’t no rumors about it. We’ve got a ringside seat on the Titanic.” His laugh was actually merry. The Thin Man was elated, an emotion he subsumed into wide-eyed curiosity. He willed himself to look 10 years younger, like we said, an acolyte.

“I heard Rink is making his move by Monday,” said the Thin Man. He had heard no such thing, it just made sense in context.

“Made his move already. Anderson is bleeding like a stuck pig. Rink will announce the coup on Monday at the latest. The wires may have it before then.”

The Thin Man was getting warm. He gently turned to face Marcus, cutting off communication lines with the other men. Drink in his right, he stretched his left arm out part way as if he was about to put his arm around the older man. But not quite. It’s all in the mechanics. Marcus took a few steps away from the edge of the pool and toward a padded bench for two.

“Can I get you another drink, sir?” asked the Thin Man.

“You sit with me boy,” said Marcus. “Drinks are his job.” He gestured to the young waiter. “Two Gibsons, and make ’em strong.” They sat, and the Thin Man channeled “boy.”

“So Rink will really pull it off eh? That should get us right back on track.” Fishing.

“Balls boy. Back on track! Anderson siphoned so much money out of the company that Rink will have to go hat in hand to Company X. Won’t have a choice.”

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Her Arm Ached

Editor’s Note: Today we are honored to have our first guest post on thekyotokibbitzer. “Her Arm Ached” is an exciting entry from a young writer who has chosen to go by “Mrs. T.” No relation, I assure you. The piece is a close reading of the push and pull that takes place in any intimate relationship, and it is honest, dead honest. I like it, and wouldn’t publish it otherwise.

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Her arm ached. She tried to switch positions but couldn’t find comfort. Then it occurred to her why. She opened her eyes. The windows were fogged over, hazy white light shown on the synthetic red sleeping bag surface, red snow, red clouds. It looked so comfortable on the surface. Alex wasn’t awake yet but she felt Gorgias shift. He lifted his chin and nodded at her.

Beyond his head, his eyes now closed, chin resting on his paws, she saw the sparkle of the lake’s surface. The sun made a glittered effect on the rippled edges. The windshield was clear, though the side windows stayed hemmed in. Trying not to disturb too much, she moved her arm under her head to prop herself up and blinked in the light. Beauty could be such a simple thing.

The rhythm of life breathing in and out of the two boys in the car was the only sound. The water looked so active, the water and the sun rays, and yet she couldn’t hear their movement. Her mouth was dry. Her tongue felt wanting, and the inside of her lips were rough against her teeth. What was the beauty for? She understood the breath inside the truck, but what of the beauty that filled her sight?

It had been dark last night when they stopped. The road had been bumpy and her tired body in its limp state felt each bump rather than absorbing them. Had Alex known how close they were to driving into the lake? What trickery had the cloudy night sky played on the view? It was foggy, she remembered that, and dark. The headlights had only illuminated the clouds in front of them. No street lights, no moon, no other cars. Rather than face the uncertainty as she would have in the past, she relaxed against it. He would have control. Her fear would have only been a hindrance.

The lake filled the entire lower edge of the windshield. About halfway up, the other shore swiped across like a fat paintbrush stroke, a dark dull contrast to the glimmering water. Above, along the top of the window, light blue, no evidence of fog, waited. The sky seemed to her utterly distant, further than usual, and though the entire picture was beautiful, she wondered at the sheer difference of the nature in front of her. The water was active, irregular and begging for attention. The shore was stagnant, uninteresting, but in charge.

She relaxed back down into the pillow, closed her eyes. The question ran through her head again, incessant questions.

Would she rather do something bad or suffer the consequences of it? It was so strange. She had only ever viewed her choices in light of avoiding suffering by choosing right. Why would someone have to suffer if they had not chosen wrong? Or was it that you suffered because you chose to do what is right? If so, it was awfully pessimistic and suggested that what we have decided is “right” is not what is right for the individual, only what is right for the group. No, not right. There must be two “rights.” What is right for the individual and what is right for the group. These needed their own terms or there would be no making sense of it. So what could she call right for herself? Desire? And what then would be right for the group? Justice? If so, then there are four readings of the question.

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Pain is Deeper

Pain they say is deeper than the grave

I’ve heard that too, and if it’s pain you crave

Six feet under won’t do the trick

Sixty, six-hundred, six-thousand feet thick

Might be more your style

Don’t mind me; I’ll be here a while

Pain is a palliative for the soul

They told you different but the toll’s the toll

Pain is deeper than the grave

There’s only one soul you’re trying to save

Good luck I say, through the veils of tears

I know you’ve been at it for thousands of years

Quick Thoughts on Some Airports

I spend too much time in airplanes
Eating peanuts and getting high.
Dean Wareham

Generally speaking, airports are more pleasant than airplanes. I don’t mind airports. And despite my once upon a time claim that all airports are essentially the same space, well, that’s more of a metaphysical than a practical contention. Practically speaking the experience of airports does differ. What follows is a totally unsystematic, entirely anecdotal, non-ranking of some airports I’ve been to.

I am currently in LaGuardia (LGA) in New York. Pleasantly surprised. Clean, minimal but sufficient food options, phone chargers in the seats, proximal to Manhattan. The folks at the coffee stand messed up like 15 orders in a row, but that’s OK. I forgive them.

Verdict: LGA is fine.

Newark Airport (EWR), on the other hand, is terrible. If I had the choice of sleeping in an outhouse or spending a day at EWR, I’d take EWR. But not by much. It’s a pit.

Verdict: EWR is terrible.

Seattle Airport (SEA) is poorly run. There’s been news about it. Compared to Portland (PDX), and admittedly smaller airport that is solid, or even SFO, an operation of greater complexity, SEA struggles. Maybe they’ve turned things around, but I doubt it.

Verdict: SEA sucks. PDX is solid. SFO is decent but could be cleaner.

The best experience I’ve had at a U.S. airport is Tampa (TPA). Now this is not a major hub, however I found it super convenient. I stayed in a hotel right in the terminal, security was a breeze, everything was efficient and sound. When folks say that U.S. airports suck, relatively speaking they are correct. Omit TPA from the list though. I like it.

Verdict: TPA is excellent.

O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago exemplifies the fall of the U.S. Basically. It’s not BAD, it’s just faded. Faded glory. U.S. public infrastructure is weak and everyone knows this. ORD is a case in point, but it’s survivable.

Verdict: ORD is OK.

The Los Angeles Airport (LAX) was under construction for like two decades. It’s probably still under construction. LAX is far from everything. It is not a destination airport, although it is major.

Verdict: LAX is f***ing far.

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Airports Outside the U.S.

Let’s get out of Milwaukee and we’ll talk about it.
Michael Clayton

The Singapore Airport (SIN) is everything it is cracked up to be. Singaporeans have an inordinate about of pride in their airport, but it’s totally justified. I find SIN tranquil in the extreme. They’ve got butterflies. The’ve got Indian food. They’ve got a great attached hotel. They’ve got nap rooms, showers, a gym. Security is omnipresent and unfelt. Sure you can call Singapore a soft-authoritarian state if you like. I could care.

Verdict: SIN is the best.

The Bangkok Airport (DMK), on the other hand, is not pleasant. Sinage is bad. Information is thin. Food options are minimal. It’s simultaneously packed and cavernous. I have not enjoyed my time here.

Verdict: DMK is bad.

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Andrea Turns Out the Lights, e.g. a Mix-Up

Dateline Seoul, Wednesday 10:17 AM:

As Andrea luxuriated on the 17th floor of the Lotte, the opening banalities of the industry conference wafted through the hotel. The organizers had gotten at cross-purposes with talent; one Lord Duncan, some kind of a minor royal somebody or something, had been promised a major speaking slot at the conference opening, which was rescinded on account of his financial ties to one of the sponsors. Someone saw a conflict of interest, and the Lord’s press agent is seriously pissed. He’s been relegated to a couple of introductions, reduced to a laugh line. No less than three conference people had tried to explain the situation to the agent, three poor souls, three different stories. The agent is chewing her nails, chewing her nicorette. The Lord is putting a brave face on things, puffing and posing, Lord this and Lord that. Blah blah blah. Andrea’s in bed.

Now there are a number of other people from her firm at the conference, and a name list, so she’s going to have to put in an appearance at some point. She decides to roll down about 40 minutes before lunch. This way she can drop into a session, stroll the floor for a bit, and beat the lunch line. Eat some SOUP.

Area man’s plan to stay home all weekend and play video games goes off without a hitch.

Like the area man, Andrea’s plan is foolproof in its simplicity. Before leaving her room she tucks the key in her valise, just in case.

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Lexical Interlude:
A valise is a small suitcase. If you’re carrying a valise as you climb onto a train, you’re probably heading off on a short vacation or a weekend trip to visit a friend. The noun valise sounds a little old-fashioned these days, but it’s still a good way to talk about a satchel or overnight bag.
In other words, a valise is a suitcase. Andrea carries a valise.

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She puts on a black dress, tasteful but not demure, and black heels. Dressed to kill and ready for soup, she takes the elevator.

Wednesday, 15:45:

The soup was pumpkin, of course. Pumpkin soup is the staple of international hotels everywhere. Most pumpkin soup is so-so; today’s was at least decent. Her hunger is sated, but that’s about the only thing about her that is. She’s bowed and scraped to a dozen industry veterans and talked trade with the guys from her firm. She’s been seen.

Today’s closing remarks are underway and the conference, 1100 strong, is packed into the main ballroom. Andrea circles to the back to the sound and light booth. This is the nerve center of the room and the man with his finger on the buttons is Mouse. Mouse is a known quantity–he is sound man to the world and works events just like this one 280 days a year around the world. He used to work full time for Bausch and Lomb before going freelance. A total pro, but he has a weakness. A weakness for Andrea.

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Poem for a Friend

Ann belle princess of the isles

The orbs whisper your name

Even if you’ve gotten piles

Of if you’re on the game

Buxom barmaid or bellicose barfly

Begs the inevitable question

Booze improves the poet’s eye

But ruins her digestion

Her uncle made a fortune

Cold calling clogs

And swamped a shocked surburbia

With plasticine polywogs

Downstream from the trust fund

You wile away your day

On alert for the bloke in the cummerbund

Who’ll provide the perfect lay

We desire to be known, desire to be seen

It’s the deepest human condition

I don’t know where you are, much less where you’ve been

All that’s left, babe, is volition

Crushes and Crushing with Bad Moves and Swearin’

She said what do you do
I said get specific
In the long run I grow old
Elliot Murphy

What am I doing? Get specific. OK, basically I’m on east coast of the United States seeing bands. I am connecting with my roots and connecting with my heart. I love live music; I love live music fans; I love the whole scene. So that’s what’s going on.

This piece is about two young bands making waves this year. First is Bad Moves, who I saw open for The Hold Steady last weekend at the Brooklyn Bowl. Their record is Tell No One (2018, Don Giovanni). Second is Swearin’ who a music geek introduced to me as a top five record of the year. Their record is Fall Into the Sun. (Swearin’ is not actually a new band, just new to me. Their 2018 release is the first in five years.) For some reason listening to both bands brings to mind Dirty on Purpose. Their best record is Hallelujah Sirens (2006, North Street Records, for some reason not on Spotify). What happens to a band like Dirty on Purpose? Does anyone remember them? I do–they are way underrated. Huge props go out to Dirty on Purpose and here’s “No Radio” for you (super low-rent video btw!):

Let’s play a game that we live in a world where a great record by a band like Bad Moves or Swearin’ would produce radio hits. I want to live in that world. So the first single from Fall Into the Sun, and perhaps the standout track on either album we are looking at, is Swearin’s “Big Change”. Check this out:

The best years of our lives
Were spent in some stranger’s basement
Medley made of empty cans and ex’s
And that radical romantic conversation
And how we are like mutants
Who found each other by chance through rock n roll music
Clenched fist, eyes wild
Scream over the records, you artfully complied
While I put my bad faith into practice
Sit at home on Saturday night
Ease into my false sense of superiority
No art degree, no conservatory
Just Katie and me
And whatever we are drinking
To diminish our diplomacy
If you can’t appreciate the art
Appreciate the air conditioning

That’s high-level awesome. “No art degree, no conservatory/ Just Katie and me”–“who’s better than us” is the refrain of DiLillo’s Underworld. If they can do it, why not us? Fuck ’em, and if you don’t that it, appreciate the air conditioning. That’s what attitude looks like kids, take notes.

So “Big Change” is my single from Fall Into the Sun. Any record worth it’s salt will have at least two singles; three is a bonus. And, we’ll do a “sneaky favorite.” I’m all about sneaky favorites, on all levels.

For Swearin’s second single I’ll go with “Grow into a Ghost.” It opens with a chugging guitar riff with an almost Krautrock drum line. The song is a perfect 3:10–in and out. Do you know anything about lost love? Swearin’ does–here’s verse 2:

I write you ceaselessly and abstracted
I hang our with old friends
And they unknowingly remind me
Of who I was before we met
You were somewhere out in the desert
You frame the natural light perfectly
Will you come back soon and
Let me love you completely

and the chorus: “I watch you/ I watch you grow into a ghost.”

I’ll save the sneaky favorite for later.

Bad Moves I gotta say rocked my world. First, the star of the band (and I know they are a collective, I get it, but my world is my world baby) is Katie Park.

Before the show Katie was at the merch table selling…magic eye! Magic eye! That she made by hand. And what did it say? The magic eye said “Bad Moves.” Obviously. 20 minutes later she and the band were crushing it. It’s only a snippet, but check this out:

The single here is pretty easy. It’s “Crushed Out.” The band released “Spirit FM” as the single, which is also excellent. But for me, “Crushed Out” is the single. Maybe “Spirit FM” is more immediately catchy? Possible. So maybe it is the single. But “Crushed Out” has more lasting power in my opinion. I’ll bow to the band and take “Spirit FM” as single two. “Crushed Out” is about exactly what it sounds like. It has a basically perfect power pop structure with a killer hook, a classic bridge, and a theme at once super obvious and super deep–the power of a crush.

It was a strange infatuation
I couldn’t place it at the time
But now it seems as if my mind
Was all stopped up with you
I had no sense of aspiration
I didn’t know, I guess it’s fine
But now it seems so obvious
Did it seem so obvious?
Through all my fits of desperation
Sharing looks and passing notes
What did you make of what I wrote?
What could I ask of you?
The weeks of strained communication
Could you read between the lines
Or was it just so obvious?
It was a strange infatuation
I didn’t have the words to say yet, to be fair
Crushing out that way
It would be years before I’d face it
But it was just so obvious

Baby, if you are crush-prone that power never goes away. Bad Moves knows this–it’s kind of what the record is about. Crushing out that way can be pretty obvious–do you think I’m, crushing out on Katie at all? Nah, this is just a piece of music appreciation.

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The Thin Man on Assignment, Part II

Read The Thin Man on Assignment, Part I here: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/11/15/the-thin-man-on-assignment

Dateline Singapore, 17:08.

Groups of male drinkers are highly permeable. Groups of female drinkers are also basically permeable, however, for various reasons that you will be aware of, somewhat less so than their more devolved counterparts. With these truisms in mind, the Thin Man prepared his cover.

He selects the largest of the group, ruddy complexion running to seed through a noxious combination of hotel living, corporate ineptitude, and nature, and opens with the most anodyne possible comment. “That’s a tough one,” he says extending his hand. “I’m Jack from marketing, over here from London. You wouldn’t believe what happened to me today.”

The men give him a quick once over. This is more than enough. “You wouldn’t believe what happened to US today” says the big man. “Jesus what a day.” He sits down and “Jack” is established. Just like that.

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Three hours later and the Thin Man has learned the following:

i) “Bill” is Bill Wetherington, Head of Accounting for the Green Group Asia. Aristocratic name, upper-middle class title, garden variety courage.

ii) The drinkers are also in accounting.

iii) Green Group is under internal pressure based on intensifying rumors of shady financial action at the very top. The current CEO, Anderson, is being challenged by a new board member, Rink. The rumors are rampant yet unproven, and the three men know relatively little about what is going on.

iv) Bill’s absence means that the men have no one to take their cue from re their stance on the firm’s political climate. Predictably they have been drinking for days. They are easy marks, too easy, but they don’t know enough. The Thin Man will have to attend the party tomorrow and scout an insider.

v) The men drank whisky alternated with beers and the occasional shot, tequila or vodka, which always came with roars of achievement and slaps on the back. The Thin Man gave himself to the role; he slapped back.

Eventually one of the men did circle back to Jack’s role in the firm. The Thin Man kept it vague, of course, claiming to be a kind of internal consultant and using a lot of words. A small amount of information communicated verbosely is a sure recipe for boredom and soon enough the men moved back to their own woes. It was a quarter after midnight when the Thin Man had heard enough and he bid them goodnight. By this time they were fast friends, and had agreed to meet for a pre-event drink the best day. The event space is pre-permeated; the reception folks don’t stand a chance.

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I’m Reading Anais Nin’s Diaries

63C63FA0-BFB7-4149-8162-DF4ADB674C84.jpegSo basically I’ve been on hiatus after a decent spurt of fiction.  I apologize. In advance.

I could manufacture a list of excuses for the lack of content and all would be relevant. But the thing is, I’m reading Anais Nin’s 1947-1955 unexpurgated diaries called “Trapeze.”  That’s what I am doing.

Anais Nin is high level. Anais Nin is a dangerous writer. Anais Nin is fucking excellent.  Here is a little bit:

“One handles the truth like dynamite. Literature is one vast hypocrisy, a slant, deception, treachery. All the writers have concealed more than they have revealed.”

“My father died mad. He did not understand what happened to him. I want my suffering to be useful. I want the novel to teach life. I want the novel to accomplish what the analyst does.”

“Great lovers never trust each other.”

And…

“The diary cannot ever be published.”

So that’s it.  I’m reading Anais Nin. New material is on the way.

Works Cited/ Referenced:

Nin, Anais.  Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diaries of Anais Nin, 1947-1955