People blend with their surroundings in cities. Today, in our dual pandemic world of disease and social justice (including a new tragedy in Atlanta), we see just what protest looks like against urban landscapes. The systemic injustice on display is both disheartening and tragic, through whichever lens we select to filter the view.

Through my own lenses, I’ve sought comfort through straightforward themes that might transcend protests and marches, masks, and distancing.

Many community-based discussions to follow will incorporate unjust loss of life–whether to prejudice or the disproportionate impact of COVID-19–with a broader sense of community entitlement. I believe that we are learning the basic rights of all people to live lives to their fullest. In everyday vignettes, I see an undercurrent of simplicity that illustrates basic needs amid long, now easing lockdowns.

In other entries, I have written about lockdown-flouting, adaptation, and many professionals’ understandable needs to spin expertise and solutions. Today, I’m sharing something of an update to the effortless urbanism I first noted in Puglia, Italy, and through a self-organizing alley movie night in Seattle over ten years ago.

In one showing of underlying culture, an English pub replicates in a new form

It’s not all confrontation or violence in local venues amid standard fare. A month before pubs will return with COVID-proof outdoor gardens to save the English summer, the cultural undercurrent is already on full display. Yesterday, I saw a mostly orderly, guideline-abiding queue for takeout pints, along a busy street. Most were consumed across the street, in a small green space, by an ethnically-diverse assemblage who were watching passers-by.

If sitting in a garden, or a de facto pub in public space may seem trivial in disruptive times full of critically important messages. But, beyond a naive “Kumbaya,” these vignettes reveal an underlying human relationship with surroundings and a quest for community. We need more reminders of moments people crave, whether the examples shown here or through other forms of cultural expression.

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