I know what you’re going to say. “Seven, if you think the CIA cased you out in Patpong, please give me some of whatever you were smoking.” But I’m serious—it happened. And it wouldn’t be much of a stretch, since Patpong was a Mecca for spies a few decades back. Here’s the tale:
About seven years ago, I was sitting in Electric Blue watching my favorite gogo dancer put on a clinic when I suddenly became aware of someone watching me. I felt him before I saw him. He was one booth over to my left and I could almost see him in my peripheral vision. Now, because I’m something of an enigma in the red-light, what with my popularity among the girls and the liberties I take, I’m accustomed to being stared at by dudes, out of jealousy or curiosity or both. But what this guy did was different. The vibe was, for me, a unique feeling. Like he simultaneously knew me, knew I knew he was watching me, and didn’t care that I knew. And just as that thought dawned on me, he moved over and sat down right next to me. I inhaled enough breath to say “Just what in the fuckity fuck do you think you’re doing, weirdo?” when he cut the tension with about the one thing he could’ve said to alleviate my discomfort.
“Do you think she’s smiling at you or me?” he asked. American accent, probably from the West coast. The only reply I could manage was, “…Eh?”
“The girl you’ve been staring at. In the black tank top. She’s smiling at one of us but I can’t tell which one.” “Ummmmmm…” I replied, “…well I bang her on a weekly basis, so it might be me.”
The dude let loose with a gregarious, infectious laugh and stuck out his hand. “I’m Dan.” “Seven.” “Let me buy you a beer, Seven.”
Now, if you’ve read my previous blogs, you’d know that I hate talking to other dudes in the gogo, to the point that I usually pretend to not speak English. But this guy caught me so off-guard that all my usual modi went right out the window. He was so easy to get along with, I never once felt uneasy. Which should’ve been a red flag from the start. He asked how long I’d lived in Bangkok and whether I preferred Electric Blue to Bada Bing. I said I did. He suggested we go to Bing together and compare notes, which for some reason I wasn’t abject to. He also insisted on buying me another drink. Then he called a girl over to sit between us. “Feel this chick’s tits.” We sat there drinking, feeling her tits, and he asked me a series of seemingly innocuous questions that were just interesting enough to keep me talking. Where was I from, how’d I end up in Thailand, what do I like best about the city, which red-light is the best. He told me he was from San Diego. Not my hometown, but close enough to be something of a kindred spirit. He said he preferred Cowboy and was interested to know why I liked Patpong better. Everyone likes to talk about themselves, especially as it pertains to their favorite topic, which in my case is Patpong. It was then that I realized I hadn’t asked him a single question.
“Do you live here?” I queried. “No, but I visit often.” He visits often. So, maybe he’s retired or works international. “What do you do for money?” I asked. He paused and looked at the ceiling. “I work for the Department of Defense,” was his reply. I stared at him blankly. “……I’m an independent contractor. I liaise between nations, helping them choose how best the United States can meet their needs.” I blinked. “…..Basically I work with governments behind the scenes. That requires meeting folks on neutral ground, so I spend a lot of time in Bangkok.” The more he explained the nature of his work, the less I understood. Then I remembered reading something about an infamous CIA black site in BKK where they took members of Al Qaeda and the like. I was about to mention it when he interrupted and said “Hey, I heard about a new club that’s opening tonight. It’s supposed to be awesome. You want to go check it out with me? I can get us in for free.” This was normally when I’d make up some excuse and bail, but for some reason I can’t put my finger on, I agreed to go with him. To this day, I don’t know why I went.
We hopped in a tuk tuk and motored over to Sukhumvit Soi 21. He led me into a parking garage and to a lift at the back. We went up several floors, and when the doors opened we stepped into a long hallway with a large arched entrance at the other end. I could see strobe lights, and loud music was blasting. As we approached, a farang in a suit appeared near a podium. Dan pulled a card out of his pocket and showed it to the man who nodded and tilted his head toward the strobe lights. In we walked.
The place was huge. And empty. Dan and I were the only ones there. A DJ was spinning tuned atop a large platform. Bartenders and wait staff loitered. A few women in dressing gowns lounged on sofas. We got a cocktail, and Dan asked if I enjoyed my job, which at the time was a TEFL certification trainer. I said it paid the bills and afforded me the opportunity to remain in-country. Then he said, “Y’know there are lots of other things you can do that will keep you in Thailand.”
“Like what?” I asked. Then he pulled a card out of his pocket and handed it to me. There was a Thai phone number on it and the name “Bangkok Case Office.”
“What is this, government stuff?” I inquired. “Sort of,” he said.
“I have no experience in this area,” I told him. “It’s not like that,” he replied, “They’ll give you an aptitude test and then train you up and place you in a job based on your skillset.”
“OK but, like what kinds of jobs do they—“
“They need all different kinds of folks to do a bunch of different jobs. For instance, if you’re good at talking to people, they might put you in a consulate or put you on a team…a lot of it is just information gathering.” I tried to picture myself in a dark suit behind bulletproof glass talking to members of foreign governments, and at that point, my brain hazed over and I stopped listening. And I think he could tell, because he got up and said, “This place is a dud, I’m gonna go get a massage. What’s your number?” We exchanged numbers. He told me to give him a call the next day so we could meet up at Cowboy.
But the next day, all I could do was wonder to myself why I hung out with the dude in the first place. So I went to the Pong and forgot all about it, until years later when I read an article about a CIA agent who was recruited right off the street in Bangkok. The way he was approached, the things the recruiter said, the vibe, all nearly matched my experience.
So was it an attempted recruitment? A failed assessment? Or maybe just a random dude who wanted a wingman for one night? I can’t say anything definitively. One thing I do know is, I would’ve made a terrible spy. I’d fall for the honeypot every time, with no exceptions. I’d probably betray state secrets in exchange for beer. Better to remain an anonymous gogo hound with no responsibilities, thank you very much. Plus, don’t spies need to be in shape? Fuck that.
Anyway, that’s the story of when a guy who may or may not have been a Company Man took up one of my evenings. Now you know what to look out for. Until next time, keep your record clean, your eyes peeled, and cheers to all those extra-governmental employees keeping the world safe for democracy. Peace out.