In response to occasional queries regarding the whereabouts and well-being of several of the more notable figures who traipse through the pages of Smile When You’re Lying — and to confirm to at least two e-mailers that, yes, these people do in fact exist — the last days of this Smile-flavored website feel like the time to offer a quick update. (In a month or two this site should undergo a makeover to more effectively coerce you into buying copies of To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies and the Art of Extreme Tourism, on sale December 8, with an excerpt running in Penthouse in January 2010.)
I spent most of this past July and August in Hong Kong and during this period in the East was able to convince Robert Glasser to undertake his first trip outside of Japan in six years. The co-star of chapter four obligingly flew over from his sprawling Kyushu estate for a weekend to show me Old Hong Kong in the grand Glasser manner.
We kicked off at Hutong restaurant in Kowloon. On the 28th floor of a skyscraper overlooking Victoria Harbour, Hutong is famed for what my friend Brian Brink would not hesitate to call its panty-dropper view of the Hong Kong skyline at night. As this was our first meeting since the publication of Smile When You’re Lying, I graciously picked up the tab by way of thanking Glasser for allowing me to ransack his reputation and former anonymity in the service my own greater literary glory.
Few things in this world go together better than overpriced Chinese food, lots of very cold white wine and the free-form musings of Glasser. His rambling memory of the purchase of a pair of cashmere socks in Hong Kong circa 1987 formed the basis of a running theme in the evening’s conversation. (Hard-earned wisdom: cashmere socks, high-maintenance women and electric dryers are a recipe for disaster.) I flinched, but not too badly, when the $350 check arrived.
This would have made for a fine once-a-year splurge had I not allowed Glasser to choose the venue for the following day’s happy hour.
“Martinis at the Mandarin?” he suggested in the way you or I might float the idea of the Taco Bell drive-thru.
A-hundred-and-twenty dollars later we departed the Mandarin-Oriental’s august lobby drinking chamber. And so it went. I wasn’t necessarily glad to see Glasser return to Japan — but I was able to finance pens and porridge for the rest of the month. Just.
Despite torrid negotiations, chapter-four co-star Shanghai Bob and I were unable to reconcile conflicting schedules and so missed seeing each other in Southeast Asia. Bob is recently back in Thailand after a sabbatical in the Indian Ocean — I’m not allowed to say exactly where, for Shanghai Bob reasons best left shrouded in mystery. We have, however, vowed to get together when I’m back in Hong Kong for seven weeks this fall. For those disappointed by the lack of fresh Bob news, I can reveal that the illustrious Bobster makes a notable appearance in To Hellholes and Back, in Mexico City, of all places.
Buddy Randy, from chapter two, continues to live the man’s man existence in Alaska. Returning stateside from the densely packed cubicle realm of Hong Kong I headed with Randy directly to the nearly people-free realm of the unorganized territories of the Yukon.
I’m not being disrespectful, that’s what they call the area where we put in for a 192-mile, six-day canoe paddle down the Teslin and Yukon Rivers. (And by the way, how kickass is a territory with a Malamute standing atop its coat of arms? Love the Yukon.) On the trip we encountered moose, bear, fox, elk, Germans, even a gray wolf from close range, a rare sight in the wild, assuming you aren’t sitting next to Sarah Palin in a helicopter with .270 Remington on your lap.