Monday, September 8, 2008
The Bargain Store
Part of China's obsessive effort to put its best face forward for the Olympics(or what it assumed to be its 'best face') was, in addition to closing down select live music clubs, installing air-to-ground missiles outside the Bird's Nest and Water Cube and "security watch" retiree block captains on every street corner, evicting the homeless etc, was a crackdown on vendors pushing pirate merchandise.
It was remarkably successful. My trusty local counterfeit DVD mom n pop shop was torn down overnight with the owners gone as if they'd never existed. Ditto for elsewhere throughout many parts of Beijing. My son in Denver had been extolling the glories of Dark Knight and Iron Man, neither of which has been released here, though I knew I'd normally have been able to score copies easily so we could bond. So much for family values. Ditto for pirated Olympics merchandise which was seemingly non-existent also, to the dismay of many visitors who'd hoped to save a few bucks on souvenirs.
But last Sunday it was clear to me that Beijing is slowly getting back to normal. I was near the old American Embassy area, outside a French bakery and a Friendship Store when an elderly woman with a stuffed rucksack approached me and began her hustle.
"You want Olympic watch? Hat? Olympic sock?" She began pulling a treasure trove of bogus Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) merchandise out of the sack. An Olympics "Rolex" commemorative pocket watch, "Nike" Olympics socks in four colors, enameled pins, baseball caps in three colors, phony fuwa (Smurfs on mescaline) mascots, DVDs of the opening and closing ceremonies ... everything but Michael Phelps autographed Speedos.
I eyed the merchandise, especially the baseball caps, and asked about more DVDs. She signaled to a guy I assumed was her husband who hustled over with copies of, yes, Dark Knight and Iron Man.
Praise jeebus and all the fake Fuwa! The Pirate Olympics Closeout Sale had begun. Some intense bargaining followed and I left with five hats and my desired DVDs for 60 yuan, or about $8.75, went home and slid Dark Knight, to find it had been seemingly shot underwater by a palsy victim with a North Korean Super 8 camera. Buyer beware. But Iron Man rocked and I've got some friends who'll look spiffy in the caps.
Posted by Justin at 8:33 PM