Monday, November 11, 2013

Chinatown and Pier 39

This morning, after hot-tubbing, we jumped in the car and headed to This morning, after hot-tubbing, we jumped in the car and headed to Chinatown. My goal: a jade-inset ring, and a nice Mah-Jong set. Spent two hours walking blocks of low-end and high-end shops. Saw two rings that came close to what I wanted, but not so close that I had to assess their 'real'-ness. I saw a number of sets of Mah-Jong tiles, up and down Grant Street.

Indulge me. This is a tale.

I used to have a sub-middle-range set of Mah-Jong tiles in a nasty vinyl case. I developed a habit, of some 15 years standing at this point, of looking every so often for a new set--and not an American set. I wanted nice tiles. I love how they clack. I love how they look, when they have contrasting backs. So I have shopped Mah-Jong sets on craigslist and eBay, a lot. It's one of my most frequent searches and has been for years, even before I lost the sub-middle set. Oh...I stupidly brought that set into the classroom. B'bye.

On today's search, all except three sets were housed in the same grotty vinyl cases. The others: a nice-ish, fabric-covered case (blue and red), sub-par tiles, sun-bleached fabric; a so-so red-lacquered wooden box, sub-par tiles; and a so-so gold-lacquered wooden box, sub-par tiles. I don't care for red, so: gold? One sad, black vinyl case, priced at $50, held middling quality, ivory-hued tiles. I went back for it, a bit dejected. The tiles did not have contrasting backs. None of the tiles I had seen today had that detail, except some tiny plastic knockoffs (and I had those already, plus the Mah-Jong cards!).

Back in the store where I'd seen the black case, I couldn't find my way to the shelf with the games. Disoriented, I turned around...and there it was. Thrown on a rack below sundry items, as though rejected. My set. In a GREEN, fabric-covered case! I opened it and turned over a sealed tile set. They had bamboo backs! I closed it and scanned. No price tag.

I knew, from years of searches, that the bamboo backs were going to be at least a hundred bucks. And I was in Chinatown...tourist central. Markup city. I gulped and approached a young, an impossibly young salesperson. "Excuse me, how much is this set?" I'm thinking, how high do I go? If the price is up near $200, do I pay it? The response: um, $69?

You have never seen such rapid payment. I had to get out of that store before anyone realized that a mistake had surely been made. Surely. Five minutes later I found the same set on eBay for nearly twice the money, Buy It Now. Bidding to start at $89. I think I got a deal!

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