Dogfight in Chinatown

This week, Chinatown is at its liveliest. In the pre-Chinese New Year frenzy, everyone is trying to sell everyone something auspicious, delicious or... salacious?

Sex Education, anyone?
check out the last movie: Starring Angelina Jolie - not. You wish!

J and I wandered into Chinatown tonight after work. And as at most of these larger and more well-organised bazaars, we witnessed the highest forms of sales(wo)manship at work - the Chinese auctioneer and the Thai/Chinese "monk". But who was the better of the two?

So friends, Ampulets Theatre presents...the auspicious, the, not very salacious Dog Fight in China Town! (warning: this is the lengthiest playscript ever on this blog.)

1. The Auctioneer: a middle-aged woman who, judging by her accent, is from the middle kingdom; and who, judging by the hoarseness of her voice, has been at this for some nights already. She is surrounded by 2 "walls" of pictures and 3 tables full of carved stone kirins.

2. The Medium ("Monk"?): a bespectacled and very skinny middle-aged man, wearing a white shirt and with an orange monk's robe/shawl draped across. He has for his backdrop 2 banners (see pic below)

3. The judges: J and Y

Bruce vs GoldenDragon

The Battle Begins
Auctioneer: And I've got here "Fortune and Prosperity" - this is genuine jade from china. Look at how lovely the peonies are, how fine the carving. And the wood - that goes without saying - fine wood. Where else can you find such a treasure? I'll start at $10. $10 going once. $10 going twice. $20 - thank you Ma'am. $20 going once. $20 going twice. $30. $30, it's yours! [her assistant quickly hands her another picture]

Medium: Today I've got 38 very special treasures that I'll share with everyone. But before I do that, remember the curse? I'm going to show you how Argento (edit: er, that's what I heard) will remove the curse. Then I'll show you the 38 treasures. This is a good day. [He turns back to play a CD of chants, joins his hands together, silently mumbles/chants. He picks up a bottle of powder, and scatters it before him, then picks up a large brandy glass filled with some dark liquid.]

A: I tell you, this is a good one. "Smooth sailing all the way". When you hang this in your house, it'll be smooth sailing for you all the way. This is the best soochow embroidery and silk. Yesterday, even chinese tourists from xi'an bought 4 of such pictures from me! You give me a price! Anyone with a price, once. Give me the price you like. Once, twice, three times. OK, I'll keep it.

Now here, this one here is a beauty. "Cherry Blossoms bloom, the flowers radiate" - another fine piece of Soochw embrroidery on golden silk. I tell you, even the frame itself is worth more than $10. What a beauty. I'll just let you give me a price. $30? Good! $30 going once, $30 going twice. "Cherry Blossoms bloom, the flowers radiate" for the new year! $40! $40 going once. $50. $50 going once, twice - $50 to that handsome man there!

M: [He chants, raises the large brandy glass and swirls it gently. The dark liquid slowly, gradually lightens...until the liquid is all clear. He places the glass aside and turns to stop the CD player. The chanting stops abruptly.] Ladies and gentlemen, you can see, Argento's powers! He was staring at the glass [gestures at the bronze statue of a seated monk] and his sight alone has removed the curse. Such is Argento's powers. If you believe, the buddha will clear your curses. This is the best thing for all you pretty young ladies - don't be afraid of people placing curses on you - it will keep you safe. Not only young ladies. Gentlemen, safety is important. Protection as you work.

A: And now, here is something worth waiting for. I have many pairs of kirins with me. This is a mythical Chinese creature. Pure, genuine jade stone. Yesterday I sold hundreds of these kirins. Everyone wanted one. Place them in your house, they will bring wealth, fortune. It's a good sign. I'll start with the smaller pairs first. "The Fire Winged Kirin". Please take a look. Look at the carving. You place them anywhere - just not above your TV. They will open up the path of wealth for you. "The Fire Winged Kirin", ladies and gentlemen, $38? Yes, going once, $38 going twice, $48, going once, $58, going once, $58 going twice, $58! That lucky gentleman sitting there. Lovely kirins.

Next I have the "Mighty Riding the Wind Kirins". This one is special. I'm giving away a free gold cup with this....

M: And now, the 38 treasures I will share with you today. Because today is a good day. I take out 38 treasures. Not everybody will have one. It is all up to fate. it is a good day, and maybe it is your fate to have this treasure. After all, there are so many of you here. And I have only 38 treasures. So how can I choose? How do I know who is fated to be with this treasure today?

A: This pair is special. "The majestic three-horned magical kirin". This one is specially for men. [Y nudges J, winks. Three horns mah.]. One of my male customers, he bought this kirin. And the next day he randomly bought a Toto ticket and won $90! He has never bought Toto before. Feel free to take a look - $58! OK, handsome man, $58 - anyone else? $68! "The majestic three-horned magical kirin!" $68 going once... [J and Y look around for that handsome man who needs a kirin with an extra horn...]

M: I tell you, we are buddhists and buddha does not like to talk about money. So those of you who know you are fated to be with one of these 38 treasures, in your heart you know, just give some to charity. Argento here has a temple in Thailand with 59 monks. It is fate that you do charity... [J and Y walks away, mostly bored but also dismayed. Not only by the sad superstition but the appalling salesmanship! The guise of charity is lousy.]

The Winner
Bidding 101
excuse me, but my name is not kristee, also not sordabee, ok?

The verdict? Of the 2, it is this auctioneer (though still not the best auctioneer we've seen). She got us 2 tired people standing there listening to her for at least 30mins, wondering who will bid higher and for the most items...and I confess, I actually considered raising my hand to register a $10 bid for a silk picture of 8 cows!

But by the end of that evening, the real winner was neither of the 2 dogfighters. Rather, it was the stall next to the auction which was selling all kinds of Chinese New Year decorations and trinkets. There, I parted with some real money (80cents) for a little golden cat.


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