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Close Talkers

Image #1: The closest of the close talkers in the Marylebone area of London

Remember that Seinfeld episode about the close talker? How our ideas of too close have changed! I find myself backing away from neighbors in conversation when I feel they are crossing that imaginary six foot line, wondering why do they keep walking towards me? And if I keep backing up will the keep moving closer? This is Miami where strangers greet you with a kiss on the cheek and the Latin culture has turned gringos, like me, into more touchy feely kinda people. Staying apart just doesn't feel right.

But now I find myself reminiscing about places where people did get too close. Crowed parks and benches on that first perfect day of spring (or winter if you live in Miami) and when the sun first peeks out or that dreadful heat breaks here in sunny Fla. I feel very fortunate to live in a place where sheltering in place means long walks outside, waves and chats with my neighborhoods at a safe distance and standing at the seawall at the edge of my street to look at the water. But with parks closed and cool pop-up events on hold, let's remember some of these places where close talkers were socially acceptable or at least an acceptable annoyance! Here's to the good times.

Image#1: A crowded bench in the Marylebone neighborhood of London. Strangers just piling up onto this round sidewalk bench. The people watching was fantastic.


Image # 2: Take it to the Street

Aix en Provence's main drag attracts droves of people. Why? Let's deconstruct the photo. Obligatory fountain, rows of full shade trees, big stripped crosswalks and bollards (those small metal poles along the sidewalks edge) to keep bikes, mopeds and cars off the sidewalk. People on foot only please.

Image #3: Courtyard park in Le Marais district of Paris

An oldie but goodie, this photo shows the carefree ease of Parisian living with ample grass, designated paths for walking and, of course, the obligatory fountain. The buildings around the park make it feel cozy and the row of manicured trees and iron fence protect the space from cars and motorbikes. Are you seeing a trend with the French?


Image #4: Fairs + Special Events

Art Basel, Miami's largest event sets up temporary outdoor spaces like this one for eating, looking at the water, people watching and close talking. Movable chairs let you really get in close to your friends so that they can hear your every word. You can't get this kind of close on the Zoom call.

Image #5: Pop-Up Events

This outdoor dining event served about 400 close talkers- communal dining at it's best. A street in downtown Miami was transformed into a car-free public space for one evening. Tables and chairs, music, lighting, landscaping, outdoor games and semi-permanent seating.


Image #6: Food Halls + Eating

Once vibrant spaces with people bustling about, food halls area a kind of high end version of your childhood mall food court where you get top notch restaurant food and the privilege of serving yourself when your beeper buzzers and busing your table at the end of the meal. The beeper offers a bit of 90s nostalgia, pre-cell phones (yes there once was time before mobile phones).

Image #7: Playground in New York's Hudson Park

This playground is full of life with splash pad, fountains and lots of shaded seating. There is a hierarchy of space- inside the fence for children and outside the fence for onlookers. You can do all the close talking you want within the confines of the fence. Circle of trust.


Image #8: Times Square

The quintessential image of a bustling street filled with close talkers. What makes this space so engaging is the wide open spaces and the larger than life e-billboards against the backdrop of sky high buildings.



Image #9: Leisurely Strolls + Walk up Takeout

This is what I miss the most. Strolls in my favorite neighborhood and casual dining at the food truck take-out counter. No one worried about keeping their distance. All I thought of was what to order for lunch!


Paris beach

Image #10: Pop-Up Beach, Paris

Creative outdoor spaces like this "beach" on the Paris Seine River make me smile.

Lessons Learned

Our cities are resilient. Our cities are adaptable. Our cities are innovative and our cities are full of wonderful people with terrific imaginations. If there's one thing I've learned through this quarantine, it's to adapt and reinvent. Our cities will do the same.

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