Okay, weird evening/night.
I arrived fine in Suzhou and it's a fairly nice city, though it seems to be struggling to decide whether or not it wants to remain old-school or give way to Chinese "progress" and modernity.
I checked in at the hostel, fairly centrally located, and then wandered a bit. I hit an internet bar since these two computers here were occupied. Got in touch with Nicola here in Suzhou, and it looks like we'll work out a way to get together tomorrow afternoon (just got an email back from her).
Then, having only eaten crackers this morning, I went in search of inexpensive food. It wasn't happening. I hit Guan Qian Lu, what is supposed to be a nice snack/market area, and it's just inflated prices. I'm really starting to get sick of China. Or maybe I'm just a fucking moron visiting the places I've been choosing to visit. Ugh. I made do with some sort of bun cut in half and stuffed with mystery meat for 5 yuan while I searched. Walked past a bar I thought might be alright... til I looked inside and there was a metal detector. Metal detectors in clubs in China - not a good or healthy sign.
So I carried on, and wound back the way I'd come, though didn't go down the side alley I'd wound north on. (I almost wish I'd done a "side alley" tour of China - if only my Chinese was better.) Saw a bar/restaurant with really inviting seats, and decided what the hell. Went in and I was the only one.
Here's where the title of this post becomes relevant. The owner started asking me about regulation height and throwing distance for a dart board. I had no clue, but I seemed to recall from Nick talking about his that it's 1.6 meters high, and 2.4 meters throwing distance. I haven't looked it up, because that's what I said and I'm fairly certain I'm wrong. No use fudging the truth here.
Ended up talking to the guy for a bit. He invited me to try the dart board, saying he'd give me a free beer if I scored over 50. I said fuck it and gave it a whirl. Got 86, so a free Corona came my way. After I had a fantastic if somewhat pricey burger ("That's one tasty burger!"), he sat down with me and we chatted. He said he wanted a few suggestions for his restaurant.
I mean, this place is Western and pretty upscale. I said, "Alright, give me some paper, a pen and your menu." Off we went. Here's what we covered: specials and nights-of-the-week specials (2-for-1s, half-priced this if you buy that), various festivals that he could have special nights for (New Year's Eve, Halloween, St. Patty's Day, etc.), a promo with the dart board involving buy a beer and take a shot at the board to win a free second bottle, music he could buy to maintain the atmosphere (Al Hurt, Pete Fountain, B.B. King, etc.), how to re-vamp his menu to make it more options-friendly, a script for the dart board promo, a training script for his new staff, placement of signage (he wanted to block the windows, I suggested a sidewalk blackboard placard). Tonnes of stuff.
Just crazy. He just kept pumping me with Tiger draft beer, pint after pint, and Corona. I think I paid for the burger and one Corona, and got 2 free Coronas and 4 pints of Tiger out of it. By 10pm, he was deferring to me with everything, as customers were coming in! It was quite funny. A British patron thought I was the owner and was asking me all kinds of questions about where expats hang out in Suzhou. (which I will come to, by the way, but you might not like it........)
It was awesome. I went through everything with him. He wrote it all down, and the look on his face... he was so happy. I mean ecstatic. He thought it was fantastic. All I did was think of Canadian pubs and introduce to him the idea of using specials and deals on nights when he wasn't regularly busy to up the clientelle on those nights. Everything from "buy a Blue Marlin Favorite and choose an appetizer for half price" to "get a free glass of red wine with any 'From the Grill' meal" on Fridays.
It felt awesome to be working - so to speak - again, even if it was totally amateur and on-the-fly. So many marketing things we take for granted, but here they do nothing of the sort. They've heard of "happy hour" but really don't get it. Other than that, they have no kind of any promotions or advertizements. He asked how he could advertize special dates (St. Patty's day, for example) and I said "Make flyers and drop them off at hostels and cheap hotels 2 weeks in advance of the day". He started jumping up and down and wiped his brow. He was so happy he was sweating.
Quite the night. So apparently I'll do a night's worth of marketing consulting for about 3 litres of beer. Think I can put that on my resume? I told him I'd take a few pictures of the Royal Oak and other places in Ottawa to show him how they do it in the West. He said to come back tomorrow (ummm... which is now today) and he'd give me more free beer. May do that since Nicola is coming down this way.
And... on to the rated R portion of this post.
**Disclaimer: lewd anecdotes/descriptions following...**
Coming back, my mind was blown. The hostel where I'm at is on a lane off what I thought was a quaint and quiet market street. Ummm... not so. It must have turned into bar/club central by around 10pm. It was worse than Beijing's Houhai district "lady bar" hawkers. Wow. Now my only concern is whether or not it's possible for my arm to contract a STI from a skanky Chinese girl's chest. They assaulted me. I'd have warded them off if raising my arms wouldn't have put me in contact with worse things than their harpy arms and chest-bucking. I was seriously breast/chest-bucked by a 20-something, who then said if I didn't want to go into the bar, we could go shopping then go for a massage... What - the - fuck?! There were women outside of every bar, and there was a bar every third business. And they attacked - this was no passive advertizing. I can see the marks from where one woman grabbed my arm and tried to pull me inside some "pub". Jesus. I guess I'm just really naive. So much for being on a nice, simple little street. Good thing I didn't have too far to go, and the street itself, conjested though it was, provided some sanctuary. I guess they're afraid of bright lights, like Morlocks. (Started and finished "The Time Machine" today on the train.) It was a "From Dusk til Dawn" experience.
And now I know where all the old, fat expats are: on Shi Qian Lu, with girls sitting on their laps/overlapping bellies. I mean these old men had folding folds. I thought they were levitating - I couldn't see what they were sitting on and they had so much... excess... that they couldn't sit up straight. Gah. Go go power-walking. Thankfully those wenches couldn't stray far from their sources of power, like Tie-Fighters and the Death Star. (Sorry, had to try to geekify this somewhat to dull the weirdness of it.)
So it was a surreal night: impromptu marketing consultant for a posh Western restaurant then an American Gladiators-esque skank-'stacle course. I think I'm safe here in the hostel. They seem to only gravitate to neon, dim lighting and stale cigarette smoke.
I really need to sleep. As I said, my mind is a little thrown by that whole experience. I've never seen anything like it, and I never expected to on this cute little street in this city of all places. Seeing a handful of calm, pleasant gardens and canals tomorrow sounds like a great way to eliminate the foulness of this evening.
Sorry if most of this post came across as "wow, I didn't need to read that" but hey... it was my day. Oh, and my heavy back-pack fell on someone on the train. That was funny. My folding metal stool nailed him right in the head. Mmmwahahaha!! Oh man. Cheap laughs.