Muschamp Rd

4 AM Flower Girls

February 3rd, 2006
Wu Dao Kou map

One thing you quickly learn living in Wu Dao Kou is there are a lot of people in the street that want your money. Some are beggars and some are selling stuff. You get offered all kinds of things from Japanese perfume to hard drives. People whip it out of a pocket or a bag; some have entire carts full of stuffed dogs or even live dogs. Some are more aggressive than others; amongst the most aggressive sellers are the flower girls.

They hang outside the nightclubs and bars at night trying to sell single long stem roses. There is one girl in particular who is infamous for being a little unhinged. She shrieks and grabs you and blocks your path. They often prey on me outside of Madeleine bakery, which is right next to a nightclub.

Last night they were hanging out in the stairwell outside of Lush. I dread walking through them, as I have no use for a long stem rose and I’m against giving money to people in the streets for the most part. If you live in a neighborhood, be it Wu Dao Kou or Vancouver you recognize the same people over and over so I don’t like giving them money every time I see them. I’m a generous guy but even I eventually know when I’m being used.

I went to Japan for a year and when I got back to Granville Street the same girl, probably hooked on drugs was pan handling in the street. It’s like something out of a Steve Earle song. He quipped when he went back to his hometown nobody remembered him but the cops. The guy who remembered me was the guy who works late night at Fritz. I’m well acquainted with the late night Granville crowd be they salesman or beggars. Now I’m acquainted with the Wu Dao Kou crew, but not as well.

Anyway when I went back to Lush to check my email, after leaving propaganda, the flower girls were hanging out in Lush. They weren’t even harassing the patrons, I think they just wanted to get out of the cold, they had bought approximately a liter of orange juice or something to split between the four of them.

I was probably working on my blog and answering the odd email. I was reasonably drunk, but that only inspired me to reply to a UBC marketing professor’s email. I used and linked to a quotation from the Big Lebowski in my blog and while chuckling at some of the many funny lines in that movie, I attracted the attention of the flower girls.

They wanted to see what I was looking at that was so funny. They can’t read English so I showed them my blog. They liked the pictures and also the scroll wheel on my mouse. I started showing them more pictures from my website. And I don’t know how but eventually all the flower girls are crowding in and we’re talking in my limited Chinese. They start fighting over the mouse, I unplug it sometimes so I can navigate for them.

Eventually I fire up iPhoto and we look at a whole bunch of pictures. I showed them how the track pad and the arrow keys can also change pictures and they are all banging on different keys and spinning the scroll while and tapping the track pad. It probably didn’t do my laptop much good, but it’s tough enough for little Chinese girls. They were clearly having fun and even I was laughing at their antics and infighting. Eventually I tired of saying 加拿大, 韩国, 中国, 日本, and 主丹娜. So I started putting away my laptop and they were keen to help me out with that. And I knew they were suppose to be out earning money and not here surfing the web with me so I gave them 15 RMB. There were only two of them left and 15 doesn’t split so good two ways but I didn’t have any other small bills.

I then walked home in the frickin’ cold. I was pooh-poohing the Irishman and the Aussie a bit in Lush earlier when they complained about yesterday being cold, but walking home, at night, into the wind it reminded me of Yellowknife. No it wasn’t 40 below like in the Knife but the cold hurt your face and I hadn’t felt that in a while. I don’t know why I walked rather than pay 10 RMB to ride home, I’m stubborn and I was trying to clear my head. I have problems.

4AM flower girls rockin' out

I hope they remember me and give me a break next time I’m buying a cake or leaving a restaurant or café in Wu Dao Kou.

They quickly grasped the keep on rockin’ sign, which I dutifully flashed in an entire gallery of photos. Like I’ve written before, I don’t feel much like flashin’ the horns of the devil anymore.


Update March 2017

Lush was in the news recently and not for the right reasons, apparently they may have upset the wrong bureaucrat as now they are only allowed 10 foreigners in their establishment at a time. I assure you many more foreigners visit that bar in Wu Dao Kou and many many other establishments in Beijing, Shanghai, and other major cities in China. This story made the New York Times, but I think I read it first in That’s Shanghai. It even made it to Facebook as my old exchange classmates were upset at this development. A lot of foreign exchange students made Lush their hangout.

Update May 2024

I did eventually return to Beijing in 2104. I went back to Wu Dao Kou. I even went back to Lush. Then after more unsuccessful job searching I made the decision to move back to China where I taught English for four years. I could not find the job I needed so I returned to Canada. Now I live in Calgary and am once again editing old blog posts. Lush may not have survived COVID-19 their website didn’t work just now. I wonder what happened to the 4 AM flower girls. The neighbourhood was a lot different last time I visited.

My conscious is clean, I gave them some money, I taught them how to flash the keep on rockin’ sign. If you have late night recollections from Lush or Wu Dao Kou you can leave them below.

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