Uncovering a tiny street is probably one of the most precious moments of living in a city. Whether you’re a newcomer, or you’ve spent the majority of your life living in the same place, finding a narrow path that seems to appear just for you can completely change the way you interact with the streets around you.
I moved to Providence from Philadelphia in the summer of 2015 and during the transition, I surprised myself with how homesick I felt. In Philly, I had walked and biked almost everywhere for seven years, spending my daily commutes weaving between small intersecting paths, which could take infinite combinations and routes. I was excited to be living in Providence, but I had to re-learn everything, including how to move through the city. My earlier navigational ease was quickly replaced with the anxiety of unfamiliar streets, which constantly reminded me that I was no longer in a place where I knew the terrain.
On a break one day, a new friend of mine showed me a shortcut to get from our office to a nearby restaurant for a quick bite. The path, which connects Bassett Street and Elbow Street is just over two feet wide and is sandwiched between the annex for Providence Power Yoga and Spring Forth Dog Academy. The ground in the space between these buildings is punctuated by large rounded rocks embedded in grout, and the walls facing each other are bright pink and blue, both reflecting each other and illuminating the path. I can’t tell you how many times I had walked past by these buildings without ever thinking to peek my head into this narrow space. Google Maps had prescribed a method to get from Point A to Point B, and I took that route for granted. The space connects to a more informal path that moves into the parking lot across the street and brings you out to Parsonnage Street. An area, that once seemed desolate with parking lots, highways and a harsh lack of vegetation, now felt personal and warm. I now had a secret, and it was convenient and beautiful and it was fitted with textures and colors for people to enjoy as they moved through it.
After finding it, I smiled each time I walked through, feeling like I was in on a little secret that made an unfamiliar place feel a little bit more like home. It reminded me of all my past wanderings and even since I left RI to start a new chapter of my life in NY, it continues to remind me to uncover those small, hidden spaces that help make sense of each transition.
Name: Lauren Drapala
Place: That little corridor between Bassett St and Elbow St
Location: Between 14 and 16 Bassett Street, Providence RI