This past December I went back to Beijing for the first time in more than four years, and among other adventures went to look at my former apartment building, Douban Hutong (豆瓣胡同 or “Bean-Sauce Alley”). The trip was great because it let me see things with fresh eyes that I had started taking for granted by the end of my four-and-so years living in Beijing, and good ‘ole Douban was no exception. I found myself thinking: “What a crazy-looking monstrosity! Why is this building PURPLE? Oh my god, have they painted half of it PINK now? Why is it PINK?”
I took the elevator up to my old floor, and noted that there were now a lot more ads stamped all over the walls, but that the old upside-down “luck” character (福) was still pasted to my front door.
Then, for lack of anything else to do, I stepped into the stairwell, and found myself taking the stairs down, just for fun. Going down, I noted that, as usual, each landing was crowded with broken furniture and plants and old mattresses and other junk that various households apparently couldn’t let go, but also couldn’t fit into their apartments. (Side note most of the apartments in Douban are two-bedrooms, usually with a married couple in the larger bedroom and a child in the smaller one.) With my fresh eyes, this struck me as interesting for the first time. In a typical American town, it was the equivalent of getting to see into everyone’s garages or basements. And, having also skulked around a few buildings in Manhattan Chinatown, I was amused at how similar the two settings felt. So, once I reached the first floor, I turned around on a whim, took the elevator back up to the top floor, and photographed each landing. Herewith, for no reason, is a photo series entitled, “Junk Being Stored on Every Floor of Building 2, Entryway 1 of Bean-Sauce Alley”:
And here we are back on floor 1. Goodbye!