Saturday, March 20, 2004

"Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name."
Meet China Southern United, Inc.'s merchandise director: "Justiu Mitchell." That's what the business card says, complete with typo. Justiu's the name, furniture's the game. No, the slogan wasn't on the card, but my latest scam as a foreigner-for-rent had me playing that role at an annual furniture expo held in SZ this weekend
I don't think Hank - or Jake Jabs, Denver's furniture pitchman and king - did it this way, to badly parapharse Waylon Jennings on a completely different topic. But how could I refuse?
K, a friend of Peter-the-SZ-fixer has some scam going involving grandiose export plans and the southern China furniture design and mfging. market and he needed a handy foreigner who could walk the walk, if not talk the talk.
K tried cracking the expo last year but discovered that vital information, such as manufacturer catalogues, prices, availbiltiy and volume quotes and even the show's overview catalogue were off-limits to native Chinese, though disemminated freely to anyone with white, black or brown skin who appeared to fast talk English and had a business card identifying them as connected with the sofa et al trade.
"I'll order your card, you dress up a little and I am your translator. I will tell you what to ask, you ask, then I translate," instructed K. No problemo. After a little brainstorming, we created a biz card and had 100 copies - only 10 of which I actually wound up passing out - made at a quick-print/photo shop housed between a barber shop-by-day/whore house-by-night and a noodle restaurant. Of course they screwed up my name, though my Lousiville, Colorado address and phone number - vital to the "U.S.A" connection - was right.
"Is that a western sounding name, anyway?" K asked after he gave me the cards 15 minutes before we arrived at the expo.
"Not really. More Chinese sounding. But it might work: ' Just-you' " I rolled it around my tongue for a moment. "Just you and me. Just you and me and my classic cherry wood fiber veneer side tables, baybee. Gimme 200 for our outlets in Fort Collins and make it fast!"
The sad fact is that I actually became obsessed with my new ID and found myself scoping out stuff like Italian leather sofas for $650 US and goosedown, silk covered embroidered pillows for only $20 US when all K wanted to do was find cheap furniture sets with traditonal Chinese designs - of which there were precious few.
The unholy spawn of a Jetsons-Fliintstones coupling meets Marie Antoinette in a Danish trailer park circa 1956 was more like it.
I played my part, though and acted as K's ventroloquist dummy as we wandered from exhibit space-to-exhibit space in bldgs. A and B1-3.
"Where do you sell in the United States?" I asked with some of K's prompting as I traded business cards with a naive manufacturer eager to unload his bedrooom and dining room sets and mass produced paintings to places he'd only seen via dubbed televison and movies.
"Miami, Florida? No! It isn't where it's happening. Have you heard of Adams County, Colorado? Perfect for these particle board beds and mass-produced, sofa-sized paintings of hermaphrodiitic jesters!"
And if I was too bored there was always the 8-page expo promo magazine with articles like: "Analysis of abnormal phoenomena in furniture design in China" and descriptions written by companies who'd paid for ad space that extolled the virtues of "Zhenrong Furniture: No unpleasant smell at all" and went on to add that their furnishings "combine product with healthy and occasional life."
Honey, the easy chair is getting occasionally frisky again. It was licking my instep...

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