March 2, 2018 – Tokyo

Tokyo is getting old. And I’m maybe getting a little bit tired and cranky. End of the first week on this trip and so going in to FNM I was sleep deprived, over-worked and under-appreciated.

By the way, the highlight of this post is in the little video clip at the end.

This picture is the bartender who served up my FNM. Nice lad, as they all are, crooked bow tie and all– a rare faux pas in this land of picture perfect bartenders. But a nice night just the same. I chose the Aurora Sky Lounge which is on the 45th floor of the Keio Plaza hotel in Shinjuku. I came early, because Japan is kicking my ass. Professionally speaking. The level of dysfunction in our team here is beyond description–so accomplishing anything is enormously difficult. I may my wind up getting physically abusive with my Accenture counterpart. Which will be awkward but perhaps necessary.

So I was tired. We had a meeting from 5:00 – 6:30 that was essentially a meeting to plan for another meeting that I was not even going to be in. But I was asked to be in the meeting planning meeting. Which was a disaster. It’s when I first started dreaming about slapping around my Accenture counter-part. He and his assistant had failed spectacularly in the elementary school request to set up a meeting with stakeholders from a few different organizations. So from there, things deteriorated and we were forced to listen through long periods of finger-pointing and blaming between the 15 people who had assembled for a meeting planning meeting. By this time, after a week of 3 hours of sleep per night and long days, I was sitting numb in a sort of out-of-body experience.  I could barely keep my eyes open as the mindless drivel persisted around me.

Finally, like a grade school kid at the last bell, we were dismissed and everyone wandered from the building like zombies with dazed looks. We did not make eye contact, fearing that someone would strike up another work related conversation that would detour us from our path to the nearest bar.

I went straight to Aurora and ordered up a Grey Goose martini. It was good and lasted about 90 seconds but was greatly appreciated. Dainty as it was.  I ordered a second and finally the world started to come back in to focus. The bar was quiet. I am often tempted to break the 3-martini rule in Japan because like all things in Japan, martinis are petite by professional martini standards. But then again, the 3-martini rule surely was not established arbitrarily.

As I sat there and started out the window, I could feel the stress draining from my body. I was the sort of eye-lid drooping, petered out, wasted and fatigued, bone marrow deep, dog-ass tired that comes only when I am forced to use my brain for many hours each day for multiple days in a row. I swear I can be less tired after running two marathons than I am after some weeks like this.

Turns out I survived, thanks to two excellent martinis and some interesting conversation with a lovely old Japanese chap who sat next to me. He worked for Toshiba his whole life and retired 25 years ago. He is no 79 and looks no more than 65. He picked up the clarinet at 45, spent 10 years teaching himself to play and practicing and now played regularly with several jazz bands around Tokyo. He was lively and exuded peace and happiness that is rare in people of that age. Like his cells were still reproducing faster than they were dying–clearly not the kind of guy to go quietly into the night.

His last years at Toshiba he had done a lot of traveling and always took time to visit jazz clubs. I laid down on him all the knowledge of jazz hot spots around the globe that I knew about, which took only a minute, and we aligned on two places. Bix in San Francisco and le Bilbouquet in Paris. Both great dinner spots with a long history of good live jazz. Bix is on Gold street and I was turned on to it by my old boss Dan Braunm. I was there last around 2015 when I met the lovely Leslie Tom for dinner and drinks one night. It was like old times because we had gone a few times many years before. Last time I was at Le Bilbouquet would have been around 2010 or so because I had dad with me after we had spent a couple of weeks in South Africa and Namibia. Sadly, after more than 50 years, it appears to have closed. I was walking around St. Germain last summer when I was in Paris and it was gone. Laetitia confirmed it for me–it just closed after all those years. It was a beautiful and magical place in summer, when you could get a table on the sidewalk but the big windows were open with great views and sound from the jazz band. They had a long history of world-class jazz and pictures on the walls of dizzy and Satchmo and Ella and Billy.

Anyway, the old man and I had a good chat.

Later, after dinner, I had a whiskey and a Cohiba and listened to a little not quite so great, but very sweet little jazz combo with a young singer.


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