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The King of Gossip

The Heart of Shenyang's Old Industrial Legacy


Surrounded by a dozen shops specializing in construction materials, the lazy 14th Latitude Street is a testament to Shenyang's past. Door-sized planks are scattered haphazardly, and hopeful laborers sit curbside, advertising their services on large, red and green placards. Each sign, bearing white lettering, meticulously details the range of jobs they can undertake - from bulk cement supply to renovating old buildings and installing radiators. In the winter's sunlight, their shadows dance upon the pavement, set against the backdrop of six-story gray residential buildings that house the spirit of the neighborhood.

At the heart of this daily symphony is Mr. Huo Yuchai, affectionately known as the 'King of Gossip,' a truck driver by profession--"If everyone in our generation lives as long as her," he remarks with a wry smile, "the Communist Party will be in for a long ride." He reflects in this way, on a 90-year-old lady that passed by - a recipient of retirement funds since she turned 55.

Mr. Huo Yuchai dons a weathered gray coat and a timeless blue cap, his gray-tinged hair peeking out from beneath. He stands at the intersection like a sentinel, an outsider to all events, yet the custodian of all things related to this vibrant community. A prominent nose and lips that occasionally curve with a hint of sarcasm complete his distinctive appearance. His hands rest idly in his pockets, symbolizing his role as an impartial observer, ready to pass judgment on the tapestry of occurrences that transpire on this lively street. In a world characterized by constant movement, Mr. Huo offers a glimpse of constancy.

Before long, others join him - fellow truck drivers from the world of commerce. They discuss the adjacent boiler factory, the trendy bar next door, and the ever-changing landscape of their neighborhood. Like Mr. Huo, they engage in this side hustle, waiting for a chance to be part of these animated conversations. As Mr. Huo stands at the crossroads, he imparts his wisdom and observations to those who gather around him. He remarks about an ambulance rushing into the nearby boiler factory, a clear harbinger of the impending heating season's challenges.

As one truck driver pulled over and came off the truck with an electricity light in his head, the group mused about the future of energy. Mr. Huo decided it was the perfect moment to spread his gospel on solar power. With a mischievous glint in his eye, he proclaimed, "You know, folks, we're living in the era of change. Energy is the name of the game. Did you know you can have your very own solar panel setup for just 80 yuan? Yes, you heard me right! The government's chipping in too. With one of those, you can power your devices from 1 PM right through to midnight."

As he spoke, the crowd's expressions ranged from amused skepticism to intrigued contemplation. Mr. Huo's promotion of solar energy, amid China's ambitious energy transition, had a touch of jest, but his underlying message was undeniable - the future was changing, and it was time to embrace the sun's power.

The neighborhood's heartbeat continues, pulsing with activity. When one of Mr. Huo's companions receives a phone call, beckoning him for another haul, he promptly enlists the help of those who were sharing tales just moments ago and disappears into the labyrinth of streets. The intersection regains its tranquility, leaving Mr. Huo Yuchai as its sole inhabitant.

14th Latitude Street’s essence is undeniably intertwined with the legacy of the industrial hub of Shenyang. It serves as a vital nexus, playing multiple crucial roles beyond being a mere crossroads for construction material transport. It not only forms a symbolic connection between Shenyang's Tiexi Industrial District and the city's urban economy. In this vibrant setting, Mr. Huo Yuchai and his fellow truck drivers serve not only as carriers of goods but also as conveyors of changing information and aspirations. The intersection represents a microcosm of the past glory and the economic future of the Shenyang city, preserving the toil, creativity, and dedication of its industrial workers as a living museum etched into the asphalt.

This place also thrives as a spot for the gig economy, offering energetic individuals a chance to earn additional income. Here, people engage not only in buying and selling construction materials but also share their life experiences in this corner of information exchange. Here, every person's journey converges and diverges, carrying new experiences and memories, but they will always remember this as a place that connects the past, the present, and the future.

As Shenyang grapples with the ever-shifting tides of change, these modest streets stand as a testament to its history and the people who continue to shape its future. In the midst of transition, one man stands firm at the intersection, earning the title of the 'King of Gossip,' reminding all that history is not forgotten, even in the face of progress. As the last acquittance of Mr. Huo waved goodbye at him, he replied, “Go ahead, child. I'll always be right here at the crossroads.”

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Raven Cao

Raven Cao is a junior student at NYU Shanghai. For now, her greatest wish is to document the geographical, historical, and cultural transformations of every city she visits. She finds great joy in navigating streets and alleys, for she believes that street corners are the fingerprints of a city, concealing its past and future. 

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