Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
Sometimes I’m so worried about the Big Stuff—climate change, etc.—that I forget to register the small sources of joy in my vicinity: a weird-looking bird, a melodious busker, a zany fellow commuter, or the pretty pattern of my subway seat.
I realized this after looking through the many responses to my colleague Feargus O’Sullivan’s recent call-out on Twitter, asking for examples of unique, colorful fabrics on public transit. Feargus was in the process of writing a story—since published—about the history of the beautiful textiles found on London’s public transportation. His wholesome Twitter thread contains responses from all around the world and is worth a scroll. If you’d like to send me your favorite transit pattern for a future edition of Navigator, you know where to find me!
What we’re writing:
Queens, New York: an architectural destination. ¤ Nairobi, after the bomb. ¤ Why people still buy food IRL. ¤ The little figures in architectural renderings are the stars of a new book. ¤ “A new History Channel show, The Ride That Got Away, puts this pervasive bit of Americana on full blast, one human-car bond at a time.” ¤ The White Flight from football. ¤ Designing playgrounds for the most vulnerable kids.
What we’re taking in:
The motorcycle shrine of Jodhpur. (Popula) ¤ “Past the faceless concrete housing projects, the kebab joints, the corner stores, the bus stops, and the tramlines of the city of Saint-Denis in metropolitan Grand Paris, the sheep snatch at plants on weedy strips between the sidewalk and the street.” (New York Review of Books) ¤ The country’s first woman- and refugee-owned clothing co-op is opening in Chicago. (Block Club Chicago) ¤ The “queen mother” of Nashville hot chicken. (The New Yorker) ¤ “Our story is set in this salon in Houston, Texas, but is by no means confined to it.“ (adda) ¤ When anarchists and doctors hobnobbed at Chicago’s Dill Pickle Club. (WBEZ) ¤ The libertarian roots of SimCity. (Logic) ¤ “Before Disney sprinkled corporate fairy dust over Times Square and turned it family-friendly, Josef and I worked there.” (Longreads) ¤ An exhibition featuring, like, Valley Girls. (The New Yorker) ¤
What You Wrote:
In last week’s edition of Navigator, I asked readers what their relationship to stuff was and whether it had changed over time.
Stephan Monteserin was in the process of moving out of his parents’ house in Oveid, Florida, when he read my prompt. In the last seven years at this residence, he saw his family weather the aftermath of the recession and the loss of his mother. So as he reflects on his relationship with the objects in this house at this new juncture, it leaves him with memories of his mother and the childhood she worked hard to provide. Here are some snippets of his poignant email, lightly edited:
I have a collection of typewriters, bolo ties, many hemmed pants and altered shirts that she expertly touched, art supplies, cameras and books and kitchenwares, instruments, and journal full of memories, as well as everything that she packed away from my entire childhood, in her attic … To part with these feels like erasing her, but I have too much stuff. Two full houses. The objects become imbued with her memory and I am at a loss.
I connect with the idea that joy can be the motivating factor when deciding whether the stuff stays or goes. But what if joy is not the only motivator? Can the loss motivate? Or pain? Can the idea that these things we accumulate become witnesses to the breadth and depth and complexity of the story that we collectively live? As I wrestle with the choices to part with the past, I find myself motivated to preserve the objects as artifacts that speak to the story. They allow me to visit the archives and examine the narrative as I now understand it.
View from the ground:
@a_gusseinova captured the quaint seaside of Dover, Kent. @_unplanned admired the sunset from the Manhattan Bridge. @homageproject