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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Who's the Man? Part 2

A while back I made the acquaintance of Bob and Doug, two finance pros who were trying to make good in Japan. Later I hired their boss, who I call The Man. Whatever you may think of me, favorable or not, multiply it by ten for The Man. Part 1 is here; now for part 2 of the story:

Doug is waiting in the hotel lobby at the Grand Hyatt. He knows that Mr. F came in at Haneda off a Global Express from Alaska where he had been sport fishing with some potential investors. Investors who can fill entire countries with money. Doug checks his tie for drool.

His attention wanders to the scene in the lobby; the newly elected Governor of California has arrived with an entourage — all smiles and biceps, a model is hugging a long-haired movie director, a few other women, perhaps escorts, are waiting in seats by the strikingly lit curving staircase. Bob openly gawks at some women — his right as a gaijin — the model catches him doing it and winks. Doug checks his pants for unseemly bulges.

The Man calls. Bob is on three-way conference, on his way in a taxi. The Man is in BVI. Bob is saying that it’s difficult to formulate a strategy given such little information. “Just check him out,” growls The Man. “Find out what he can do; find out he wants; find out what kind of guy he is. It isn’t rocket science, dammit.” Doug checks his shirt for sweat stains.

Soon enough Bob arrives. They call up and are told to come up to Mr. F’s suite.

It’s Show Time.

Mr. F has VIP treatment at the hotel. A concierge escorts them to his suite, oozing obsequiousness, and asks if they know the billionaire family owners, too. Doug mines her for information, without success. Meanwhile Bob checks his tie for drool.

The door is answered by a striking Caucasian woman in a rather sexy business suit. Bob can’t tell if the skirt is indecently short or it’s just that her legs are indecently long. Mr. F walks in from an adjoining room. Doug suddenly recognizes the two of them from downstairs: he’s the “movie director”; and she’s the “model.” The one that winked at him. Doug gapes, stumbles a bit through the introductions. Meanwhile Bob checks his pants for unseemly bulges.

Mr. F explains that his assistant was just hired away from Soros in Russia, and her job was to make sure that Bob and Doug “weren’t morons who wouldn’t rate a deal for a McDonald’s Happy Meal.” He went on to explain that she helped ensure that he didn’t waste his vocal cords on idiots. Bob checks his shirt for sweat stains.

The next hour passes in a haze. Afterwards Doug isn’t sure that he wasn’t drugged, the experience was that surreal. Mr. F’s conversation jumped from topic to seemingly disconnected topic, and then would try to tie it together. It was like watching Jackson Pollack paint. Mr. F had a Bluetooth earplug stuck in one ear. He explained it was giving him Russian language lessons in preparation for an upcoming trip to Moscow, but not to worry because their business conversation was processed by the other hemisphere of his brain. The blue blinking light on the earplug was surprisingly distracting.

And there were other distractions. The woman was gorgeous and sexy, but she would make vague comments that would throw him off balance while he tried to figure out what they meant — they could be insightful or vacuous, but, by God, she was a protégé of Soros! Doug knew that Mr. F did not speak Japanese and the girl was obviously European, but when trying to make some private comments to Bob in Japanese, she turned to him and told him, in fluent Japanese, “Be careful in what you wish for; all is not as it seems.”

Mr. F’s assistant would alternate between business questions and serving Mr. F: she made exact duplicate plates of food for Bob, Doug and Mr. F. If Bob took a carrot stick, she would add one to Doug and Mr. F’s plate. Bob was going crazy with a desire to ask why, but had to keep on target. And even more bizzare, every food or drink item placed before Mr. F first went into her mouth for tasting. She would sip or nibble a small bit of it before giving it to Mr. F. It was oddly distressing to see perfectly identical plates for all of them, except for Mr. F who would have one tiny little bite taken out of all of his food, and the woman, who would have nothing at all in front of her.

And to top it off, she seemed to be always on the verge of laughing, like whatever Bob and Doug had to say was the funniest joke she’d ever heard. Added to that was the sense that, occasionally, there were some kind of coded semaphores going on between the two. An unnaturally raised eyebrow with an odd hand movement, or tug on the earlobe, or a deliberate rotation of a glass over an exchanged look.

It was the strangest meeting he had ever had.

After the meeting Doug consulted with Bob. Bob’s verdict, “He’s smart, but crazy. He’s tough, but weird. He’s sociopathic, but charming. He says brilliant things and nonsense. He must have ADD, Ausberger’s Syndrome, bipolar disorder, God, everything in the book, but he’s obviously functional. Negotiating with him will be difficult because I can’t follow him half the time. And the girl, I don’t know what the fuck to think of her other than thinking of fucking her.

“I don’t know what to tell The Man... we’re hosed!” concludes Bob.

Doug sighs, and slides open his phone. Not every day is a good day.

It’s time to call The Man.

(continued in [part 3])


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