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In New Delhi, we didn’t really have public playgrounds—at least not when I was growing up. Around 5 p.m. each day, the kids in my neighborhood would spill out into the streets and claim territory: a swath of grass, a section of the parking lot, the alleyway behind the apartment complexes. We’d play unattended—free to transform the sole big Banyan tree into a whole enchanted forest; the parking lot into a professional badminton court; and the alleyway into an “obstacle course” to race our bikes through.

The American playground, when I first visited as a child, seemed a strange contrast. I remember walking tentatively onto a rubberized floor of the one near my parent’s friends’ house in Long Island and wondering if I’d stepped onto the skin of a basketball.

It was fascinating, therefore, to write about the pushback against cookie-cutter playgrounds. Child development experts, parents, and play activists around the world are questioning what “risk” looks like in play spaces, and whether kids benefit when it is completely removed. Check out the story here and let me know what you think at tmisra@theatlantic.com.

What we’re writing:

The selective Singapore of Crazy Rich Asians. ¤ What’s so crazy about this politician from New Zealand biking to the hospital to give birth? ¤ The New York Public Library unveils Instagram novels! ¤ “The all-white bikes, placed at locations of fatal crashes, serve as an infrastructure of grief—part memorial, part protest symbol.” ¤ What the future of Aretha Franklin’s Memphis house looks like. ¤ Unpacking the roommate relationship. ¤ “If someone asked me five years ago whether or not I thought the open-concept floor plan would still be popular, I would have said no.” ¤

(Janice Chang)

CityLab contributor Feargus O’Sullivan wrote a beautiful essay about how an evening class he took changed the way he experienced his city:

I can’t pretend that my life in London has changed beyond recognition since starting the course—I haven’t even officially graduated yet—but something has shifted. Not only did it expand my community, it expanded my willingness to finding more of it in unexpected places. I didn’t discover a specific space as such; the shift for me has been more about an attitude of openness. Now, when people talk to me in passing in the street, I let myself linger and listen. When some new opportunity comes up, as an experiment, I say yes. Above all, I look at the people around me differently, being slower to jump to what I now see as essentially mechanical, learned suspicion or judgement.

What we’ve been taking in:

A sample of background music at various New York City spots: bars, subway stops, electronic stores, and more. (New York Times¤ “H Mart is the bridge that guides me away from the memories that haunt me.” (The New Yorker) ¤ Writer Jesmyn Ward on returning home. (Time¤ Watching urban planners play SimCity is so satisfying. (Fast Company) ¤ “North Carolina very well could be a very different place—one where more people live longer and are not constantly on the edge of sickness and poverty.” (Splinter) ¤ The upside of getting bedbugs. (Vice) ¤ The wild, wild churches of Kerala, India. (Arch Daily) ¤ “This is the result of a lifetime spent chewing paan, a substance that occupies a space somewhere between a snack and a drug — a space left vacant in the West.” (Popula) ¤ What this repository of propaganda comic books tells us about South African apartheid. (Africa is a Country) ¤ Giving directions in a changing Brooklyn. (Places Journal) ¤  “Why did so many cities I visited feel so damn similar?” (New York) ¤

And here’s a recommendation from one of our new fellows, Nicole Javorsky:

This summer, writer Patti Smith dropped me through a portal and I came out on the other side into cafés in cities around the globe—from New York City to Mexico City to Tokyo. Her book, M Train, relishes the sweet-somber feeling of reading at coffee shops. I admit: I actually cried at Peet's Coffee in D.C. when I read the final pages. If you're someone who feels blissfully achy when sitting at cafés alone, Smith's words will give you camaraderie.

What you’ve been taking in:

Here are some recommendations CityLab readers made via Twitter:

¤ On life in Alaska.

¤ Home, through cups of tea.

¤ How Chinatown’s architecture is rooted in American ideas of China.

¤ Excavating inequality in Atlanta.

View from the ground:

@urban_cat89 captured the roofs and colors of Oslo through the trees; Your city’s park probably doesn’t live up to the one in Sioux Falls, which @joshnh4h shot at dusk; You can stare at a city, but @kurgae showed that it can stare right back; @tlaloc1977 documented a low-traffic intersection in Havana.

Tag us on Instagram with the hashtag #citylabontheground!

Over and out,

Tanvi

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