There are ready and simple victories in residential alleys less known or described, where neighborhood is there for the taking
Real neighborhood experiences can provide a meaningful gloss on current discussions about how to make cities better and increase shared places for all.
On Saturday night, in response to an email, I went to the movies by walking 100 feet from my home. Admission was free. And it was not in the comfort of an isolated home or downtown space, but among some 20 neighbors in an everyday place, hidden and in plain sight: Monica and Michael's alley entry, against Anne and Jerry's retaining wall.
Our last "alley movie night" of the summer was an important reminder that a city neighborhood can experience community without really trying -- an "urbanism without effort" that needs no thought leadership nor sound bytes -- and is as natural as European street life in places we sometimes wish we were.
We can try awfully hard -- sometimes too hard, in my opinion -- to extol the virtues of the city by proselytizing and debating ideas and opportunities. In particular, the potential for American urban alleys remains in the spotlight. This attention, often aspirational, is well-deserved given the raw alley palette for remade narrow streets in the organic European tradition, pedestrian in scale, narrow, interesting, and a natural focus for greening street life and new small businesses.