Andrea Travels, Part III: A Little Mix-Up During Cocktail Hour

Dateline Seoul: The Lotte Hotel, Sunday, 10:17

As Andrea luxuriates on the 17th floor of the Lotte, the opening banalities of the industry conference waft through the hotel. The organizers have gotten at cross-purposes with talent, one Lord Duncan, some kind of a minor royal somebody or something, who had been promised a major speaking slot at the conference opening. This was rescinded at the last minute on account of his financial ties to one of the sponsors.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 have 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.

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, beat the lunch line, and 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.

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

Dateline The Lotte Hotel: Sunday, Late Morning

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.

She slides her arm under his; it’s a hello.

“How’s it going Mouse?”

“Same old same old. Drinks at 16:30. We’ll see how we are in a few hours.”

Were you dear reader in the medical tubing industry you’d want to tie one on as well. In tumult lies opportunity, thought Andrea.

Andrea hangs with Mouse for half an hour or so, asking various questions about the boards. She’s a quick study, obviously; she’s got the hang of things.

Bathroom break and Andrea bumps into the press agent. “They stitched us up, the bastards,” she rails to Andrea as they stand at the mirror. It could be anybody. Andrea makes sympathetic murmurs.

“How much were you paid?”

“17,000 pounds, bloody hell. And all he gets are two lousy introductions. It’s a total embarrassment.”

Good work if you can get it thinks Andrea. A couple more murmurs and she exits.

Dateline The Lotte Hotel, Sunday, 17:10

White wine, red wine, crab cakes, an item on a Saltine. Conference drink hours are designed for maximum intoxication with minimum calories. Andrea takes two whites back to Mouse.

“Baby I can’t drink on duty.”

“Sure you can–everything’s under control right?”

Mouse looks around, a tic. A tip for you Mouse my man, no one cares. I’m straight up telling you brother. People don’t give a shit.

He takes a couple sips and turns to Andrea. “Bingo is next–I gotta go up front and set the mic up.” Andrea smiles, “I got ya” she says, “I’ll watch the boards.” Famous last words. Mouse heads off and Andrea puts her game face on.

10 minutes later and we are bingoing. A bingo master has been trotted out, and it’s… Lord Duncan. He lets rip with a call of “let’s biiiiiiiingo” and the first number is called. There is nothing quite as captivating for a mixed audience as bingo. Bingo works baby.

Character Analysis: What do we think? I mean Andrea is a gainfully employed professional. She has a rep. And she’s not, normally, an anarchist. But there’s something in the air, some combination of boredom, stasis, and jet leg that adds up. Press that button/ your ass gonna go.

The tension mounts; the room can feel that first bingo coming. Big time action. Mouse is still up front; Lord Duncan is ripping and running. Andrea takes a deep breath and hits the light switch. The room is plunged into darkness. The conference giggles. Titters before tatters. Phase two, Andrea activates the spotlight and turns it full force on Lord Duncan. He does a little pirouette, making the most of the moment. “Lights please” he calls. Not so fast. He steps back out the spotlight and Andrea follows him. “And the next number is…” he jokes, gamely. Spotlight off. Spotlight on. His head is on a swivel, beads of sweat turning to rivults. Andrea leans into the microphone and in her deepest and sultriest voice intones: “in the event of an emergency, the nearest exit may be behind you.” Then she throws the light back on and takes three lateral steps to her right. Grabs a white from the sideboard and surges into the conference space, sidling up right next to Duncan’s press agent.

“When it rains it pours eh?” she asks?

“Jesus Christ what next?” replies the agent.

Mouse is back at the booth, wondering what in the world happened. But on some level he knows. Andrea’s a handful. He’ll cover for her–has no choice. It’s Day 1 and all will be forgotten. Ces’t La Vie partner. Price of doing business.

The bingo has been short-circuited after the disruption. Lord Duncan is guzzling wine with the agent. Andrea approaches.

“Are you some kind of somebody?” she asks.

“I’m the jester at this here party,” says the Lord, “apparently.”

“Are you in the tubing industry,” she asks, innocently.

“Good god no, I give speeches for a living.”

“Speeches about what?”

“Well, about being me dear. I talk about being me.”

“He’s the best in the business, and they treat him like this,” says the agent. “It’s intolerable.”

“Ginny is a little bent out of shape,” says the Lord, “there was a mix-up.”

“A mix-up or a muddle-up?” asks Andrea.

“Bit of both,” says the Lord. “Bit of both.”

to be continued…

Dedication: For K.I. Always.

Andrea’s Travels, Part II: The Street Guy

Never ever been a blue calm sea/ I have always been a storm

Stevie Nicks

Dateline Seoul: Saturday Afternoon

Andrea gets off the second leg of the flight to Seoul around 14:30. She has quasi-slept, faded somewhere into her subconscious anyway, for an hour and a bit. Andrea is not a heavy explorer of her subconscious, more like she knows where it is. On the flight, up there under an ocean of ozone, black window spiders jousted with a velvet gloved countess and bunches of green grapes for supremacy of the space. That was all fine, she was essentially sober, Mr. Brown had been rendered comatose by hour one, and as she rolls into customs she feels, if not exactly happy, at least ready. Ready for the industry conference and its banalities, ready for the Lotte Hotel downtown with its wall of kimchi options at breakfast, ready, even, for a puleun or two. Maybe. We’ll just have to see.

The conference “event” is set to kick off at 8 Wednesday morning, and Andrea has no intention of being on time. Events, by and large, are well planned and poorly designed. They are programmed to run and be completed, and the narrative arc conception is, well, bad. The Seoul event would be no different. “An event should be eventful,” someone once told her, and Andrea has held on to that guy like a tailsman. Also, sometimes when an event lacks eventfulness, well, you gotta inject a little of that yourself. She giggles at the thought; the possibilities were many. She got game, our girl. Watch the f*** out boys.

(Jump cut on account of a lazy writer. Sorry Andrea, you just lost several hours. That’s the breaks baby.)

Dateline Seoul: Saturday, 22:47

Andrea is on the STREET. Can’t learn it in the office, gotta learn it on the STREET. Monsieur Puleun 1 is strolling with a feathered friend on the boulavard. Site of a protest from earlier in the day that Andrea missed. Another peanut tantrum? Korean scandels are unrivaled in their bizarre and byzantine nature. And, the assassin chick of the brother of the NK head dude wore an LOL shirt. So 2017. Check the video. Check the record/ check the guy’s track record. (Le) homo sapien sapiens, them’s bizarre. Puleun 1 sees Andrea; she sees him. Opportunity presents itself–Andrea, she needs a token, a takeaway, a reminder that she was here at all.  At the “event” site no doubt volunteers are cross-stressing before cross-dressing. She couldn’t care less—that’s all paid for by the company. Event spaces are super permeable. So is the puleun. Andrea swings into action.

“My friend, do you know how to get to Sungnyemun?”

“Yes I do. Go with me?”

Andrea pondered. On the one hand, well, you know. Street guy? Seriously? And on the other, well, she is on vacation. A. B, she has her needs. Not what you are thinking brother. Andrea’s needs are a little more, well, esoteric.

“For a little while. Let’s walk.” Andrea slips her arm under his and feels him thrill to her touch. Hooking, hooking is easy. She’s a natural, it’s pretty clear.

Sungnyemun is a no. Sungnyemun can wait. Andrea steers P1 toward the Lotte, before having second thoughts. That’s not the move girl, too predictable. Someone is always watching Mr. Mulder. She needs to re-frame.

“Let’s get a room,” says Andrea. Yes, it’s a high-level cliche, up there with “what’s your number,” and “baby, what’s your sign.” Cliched, therefore effective. The effect on P1 is immediate. Where, he asks? Right here, she says, pointing to a boutique environ that looms over the couple. An art hotel. Sure.

P1 pays with a card as the desk clerk smirks. I didn’t have to come to Maui, but then neither did you. Fast feel, he feels her material. Matters progress, fast. Bloodrush, bloodbuzz, and she is not immune. And yet, Andrea is playing a deeper game, the most dangerous one perhaps. Room ingress and second base. Time for her to make a move.

“Baby, I have to use the bathroom. Freshen up.” The meta-historical language of the female has a beauty all its own. Le floraison is off for our young suitor. Sorry pal. Hit the bricks.

But it’s not that simple. Andrea’s needs have been stimulated, not met. She emerges from the bathroom, face washed, mask of determination.

“Baby,” she says, “I need to go to the shop.”

“Room service will provide.”

“Room service is asleep at the wheel; I’ll be right back.”

Famous last words. Andrea carries a a tote bag–the remainder of her belongings are back at the Lotte. In the bag rests a white robe from the art hotel as well as a sampler of cosmetics from the bathroom. Not because she needs any of these items, more like, well, she wants them. She blows P-san an air kiss, the least she could do, a good trade. P1 collapses on the bed with a sigh. You get what you get P1; we won’t be seeing you again. With her would-be down for the count, Andrea takes a final, critical, step. She pockets the key, an actual metal object (!?!), and slides out the door. Now, remember the room is in his name. The robe, the robe is gone. As is the key. These are with Andrea. And Andrea is back at the Lotte in her PJs. Someone’s always paying for that banter baby.

to be continued…

Andrea’s Travels, Part I: The Flight to Seoul

She’s got the Eye of Fatima/ on the wall of her motel room.

Camper Van Beethoven

Dateline Buenos Aries: Friday Morning

The plane eases into its docking point, 15 minutes late. Andrea wasn’t fretting; she’d been around a bit and knew that things sometimes worked. Other times, well they didn’t.

She is not on the run, not exactly anyway. Nonetheless, the 27 hour trip from Buenos Aries to Seoul via Atlanta will put half a world of distance between her and M. Azur. Welcome distance for Andrea, as the formerly desultory attentions of her blue friend have recently taken a turn for the more incessant. In short, he’s been calling her daily, one thin pretext after another. “Everything’s thin,” she mused, and M. Azur could thin paint. A classy guy who makes decisions and implements is what she needed, not some milquetoast beta-male in the medical tubing industry.  For Christ’s sake already. So Seoul beckoned, and the plane, the plane was late.

Andrea scratches her nose, adjusts her glasses. The turnaround crew would need 20, 25 minutes minimum to turn the plane over for the flight. A quick scan of her messages shows three new bleats from her would-be paramour. Pretext, text, context—still a no. She could handle herself, could Andrea. “Many apologies, I have been so busy,” she texts. “Dinner meeting is not possible this week. Tubing sales are up—talk again.” M.Azur would be a blue mist in no time. Ground staff opens pre-boarding, and Andrea, zoned in section 4, makes a lateral move into zone 3 to make sure her carry-on has the room it needed. “Who’s better than me?”

Andrea settles into 14A, a window seat. Bottle of water, headphones and a sleeping mask. Structured correctly, a plane flight can be made to feel like an undersea journey. All it requires is a little imagination.

Andrea has all she needs to swim a little up there in the ether. Her phone is set to airplane mode and the seat next to her is vacant. Bonus, she tells herself. A non-descript business traveler has the aisle. He looks more like a brown than a blue. Won’t be an issue.

Andrea is a lady, a women really, somewhere in her later 20s, probably. We won’t ask. Attractive, but no waif, she enjoys fine dining and a glass or three of wine. When she drinks her cheeks get rosy red which accentuates her dimples. The gym is not the place to find a girl of her kind; the Mr. Blues of the world are advised to try the patisserie instead. Buy her a piece of pie. Cherry, lemon, coconut cream. Pumpkin, peach, pecan. Andrea might be a little picky with her guys; her pie game is more omnivorous. Without really trying, she has the attention of a half-dozen men within a thirty-year age range, all of whom she deflects with the grace of a fencer. Buenos Aries, Rome, Tampa, Algiers it doesn’t seem to matter where she goes there will be a guy or two. Boys on board and boys on deck. What’s the opposite of a chick magnet? Andrea might not be quite that, but she has options. A passing funny thought, so she dials up an early Bitch Magnet record on her phone.  That was Sooyoung Park’s first band, pre-Seam. Little Park, big city, Korean heritage. Going to Seoul, apropos. Bitch Magnet rocks.

What does Andrea do? It’s a question she can’t quite answer herself. Broadly speaking, she is in sales, a cog in the vast machinery of deal making between multi-nationals. In other words, she is around transactions, helps to facilitate them. An “industry conference” awaits in Seoul. The Korean word for blue is “puleun.” Will there be any puleuns at the industry event? almost surely. Andrea sighs at the smallness of it all. White wine please, make it a double.

The plane is well up over the Pacific by now and Andrea is tipsy at thirty-thousand feet. Where is she really from? It would take a month of pies to get that out of her.  A month of pies and a month of Sundays. So we shall say she is post-racial, like the women in Code 46.

“In a dystopian future, insurance fraud investigator William Gold (Tim Robbins) arrives in Shanghai to investigate a forgery ring for “papelles,” futuristic passports that record people’s identities and genetics. Gold falls for Maria Gonzalez (Samantha Morton), the woman in charge of the forgeries.”

Is “topian” the opposite of dystopian, she wonders? Three drinks and an hour of Bitch Magnet in and she’s feeling a little topian herself. Andrea would be fine in the world of Code 46. Hell, she’d probably thrive.

to be continued…