The Thin Man, a Birthday Party, a Guardian Angel

Note: This is the final installment of the Thin Man in Singapore. You can read earlier installments here:

Chapter 1: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/10/16/the-thin-man-walks-into-a-bar-a-wee-legend/

Chapter 2: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/11/15/the-thin-man-on-assignment/

Chapter 3: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/12/05/the-thin-man-on-assignment-part-ii/

Chapter 4: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/12/30/the-thin-man-implements/

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You clean yourself to meet/ a man who isn’t me
You’re putting on a shirt/ a shirt I’ll never see
With letters in your coat/ and no one’s in your head
‘Cause you’re too smart to remember/ you’re too smart
Lucky you
The National

Dateline Singapore, Saturday 13:06 PM

The phone rings, jarring the Thin Man out of sleep. “Where the/ what the/ who the…” Images in shards–his grandmother’s house and he is six, sun streaming through a late afternoon window. He rolls over. No by god, a bed, an adult body within. He picks up the phone. “Uh huh?”

“It’s Alejandro. Your passport will be ready tomorrow morning and you’re on an Emirates flight to Rome via Dubai tomorrow at 9 PM. In the meantime Alice is having a birthday party and you’re invited.”

“Alice?”

“Miller’s secretary. You might have heard the rumors but she’s a cool cat and it’ll be fun. 17:00 at Chijmes. Be there.”

“Seriously? I don’t know Alice and, I’d rather just rest up you know.”

“Not an option. You’re not invited, more required. From Miller directly. Buck up man and see you at 5.”

Holy Jesus, another evening. The Thin Man rises, splashes cold water on his face and when this doesn’t do the trick, fills the sink with cold water and plunges his face into the water, eyes wide open. He exhales; water goes everywhere. He dabs at it with a hand towel. Breakfast is long over–lunch is a maybe. 20 minutes later he has showered and shaved and limps downstairs.

“Lunch is still open?”

The man’s smile masks a scowl. Rolling into a buffet that closes at 14:00 at 13:46 is no way to endear yourself to staff. He takes a seat by the window, wanders the buffet. Two bowls of mushroom soup, two watermelon juices, a roll with butter, salmon sashimi and an Americano. Vague feelings of humanity follow.

On his phone the Thin Man peruses “The Essentials of Casino Game Design” as he eats. This is more out of habit than interest–he has no desire to re-enter the gambling demi-monde. Reflex is a bitch. The waiter circles, pressing his point from 5 feet away. “I got you babe,” thinks the Thin Man. He makes marginal eye contact, figures he has another 20 minutes give or take. He resolves to relax into the spacetime as fully as possible before the waiter pulls rank. He has no desire to make trouble but at the same time, a customer is a customer and soup is soup. A game for two players. Eventually, he makes his move before the waiter is forced to make his.

“On my room please, 727,” he says, with studied nonchalance. Everything takes all afternoon.

Alice’s Party:

It takes 123 drinks/ and now she’s not so frightened
It takes 4 and 5 and 6/ and then she’s sick
But in the hour in between/ she feels holy and redeemed
Blessed and blissful/ painless and serene
Craig Finn

The Thin Man has a lot of flaws but he does clean up well. That’s a skill, a blessing, a bonus. Re-showered, shaved, and an app-assisted breathing exercise later, he shows at Chijmes on time and on point. Miller himself greets him with a slap on the back.

“Mr. Bishop, your work is appreciated. Much appreciated. I heard that you will be staying with the firm. Rome is beautiful this time of year. You are a lucky man.”

“It is my pleasure to be of service.” The Thin Man is not serious, yet not unserious. The work is the work and he has no other. “Anyway, happy birthday to Alice hey?”

“Hehe, haha. Alice, yes,” salivates Miller.

Another day, another passport thinks the Thin Man. Several people he doesn’t know are there. The crew moves to an outdoor restaurant; the usual wrangling over orders ensues and Long Island Ice Teas appear. There is no drink more perfectly positioned to cause trouble than a Long Island Ice Tea. The Thin Man downs two before the Nachos arrive. A waitress circles. “White or red,” she asks. “Both please” replies the Thin Man. It’s early and he has no intention of sticking with this group after dinner. Why not make the most of the moment.

The food is a B- at best. The drinks are loaded. The sun shines in the late evening. The usual Singapore rain squall has not appeared today. 6 PM, the magical hour, and the Thin Man begins to fade into the perfect liminality that only occurs between drinks three and four.

Titters from Alice. Winks from Alejandro. Miller sits straight up, what a spine. The Thin Man is bored. Time passes; the sun sets.

“One more?” asks Miller.

“How about the hotel bar?” says the Thin Man. The sooner near home the better. Miller covers the bill and tracks are made.

The Hotel Bar, Circa 20:10:

The Thin Man and crew enter the bar and the mood is boisterous. The Thin Man feels as thin as paper. He needs an ally. As his party makes its way to a table, he approaches the barmaid. Her tag identifies her as “May.” Always approach service workers with kindness and respect–they get so little of it it goes a long way.

“Good evening May. My friends and I are looking to enjoy the bar tonight. Only, I have been on the road for weeks and I’m a little tired.” He slips her a $50 bill. “I know bars don’t love to serve water, but if you could keep an eye on me and refill my water glass I’d be in your debt.”

May looks him up and down. “No problem,” she says. “Rely on me.” The Thin Man makes it to the booth where Company X holds court. Miller and Alice’s hands dance a protracted duet. Alejandro sits a foot away, just keeping an eye on things.

A round of drinks, another. May keeps her end of things and the Thin Man hydrates, for a while. A woman called Marta had introduced herself at dinner and slides into the booth next to the Thin Man.

“How do you know Alice?” she asks.

“I don’t.”

“Oh. I have a bet with Jeffrey over there. He thinks you are on his team.”

“On his team?”

“You know,” she drops into a stage whisper, “Jeffrey likes men.”

“I see. I don’t have a team,” replies the Thin Man. “I’m a free agent.”

“Not so fast,” interjects Alejandro, who seems to register everything that is said at the table. “You are on our team. You have a contract.”

“A contract? I haven’t seen anything like that. And besides I don’t see how that would be possible. Text is dead, or that’s what I’ve heard.”

“Don’t mind him,” says Alejandro, “he likes being heavily humorous.”

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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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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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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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