The View from Where I Sit is Actually Much Better than Expected

The Café Compadres, Don and Ed, from WDVR-FM

For someone who has spent more than his fair share of time over the past 48 years comfortably perched on a barstool, I thought the lack of accessible tavern seating during the pandemic might drastically impact my wellbeing. But much to my surprise, the same eyes that so often basked in the sublimity of a field of vision filled with gleaming taps, dusty bottles, and neon signs are now quite content to gaze upon open fields, village greens, and backyard gardens as this newly ordained outdoorsman raises a pint or two. While I may not express that same appreciation for Mother Nature’s pub when those cold winds of December freeze the foam in my IPA, I still won’t be as quick to move the festivities indoors. COVID has caused me to look at people and places in a very different light.

Recently, I heard an NPR interview with Ron Finley, known globally as the (Gangsta Gardener). This Los Angelas based artist and fashion designer has, for the last ten years, made it his mission to bring beauty and sustainable agriculture to the inner city. He has successfully transformed narrow swaths of urban environments into food gardens for those populations that often would not have access to or the resources to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. The model is simple yet effective–better nutrition fosters better outcomes in both the health and education of our children–and those outcomes foster better communities in our future. But there is also another aspect to this idea of the greening-up of urban America.

Our ability to cope with and overcome life’s challenges can be as much about geography as it is about genetics. When I walk out my backdoor, I step into a world of flowers, trees, hills, and an abundance of wildlife. I could not imagine having to have faced this pandemic and the current political and economic upheaval in an environment wherein even in the best of times, there is little to soothe the troubled soul.

Please don’t take this as a knock on city life. As a former Manhattanite, I find nothing more invigorating than immersing myself in a day of urban culture and architecture. But the beauty and benefits of gentrification seldom reach the steps and streets of those poorer neighborhoods that unfortunately make up a disproportionate part of the American cityscape.

So on this warm autumn afternoon, I will a raise glass to the Gangsta Gardener as I tend to my own flowers–and I will raise another to all those among us who bring beauty and hope to those who cannot find it on their own!

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Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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