IN Central Park, there's a whole vibrant society of those of us with dogs, especially during the off-leash hours before 9 a.m.and after 9 p.m, when I let Regan lead the way and the people I get to know are appendages of the dogs she decides to wrestle with.

They're not chosen by some social-media algorithm, sorted by income level, screened by political affiliation.

Which is to say that these communions are gloriously out of step with the times, over the past decade, I've watched more and more Americans retreat with greater and greater efficiency into increasingly homogeneous enclaves.

I've marveled over our fine grained tiers of affluence and our micro-climates of privilege, which are reflected in and reinforced by the neighborhoods that we settle in, the vacation spots that we flock to, the exercise fads that we embrace, the schools that we send our children to.

And technology both speeds us to people who think precisely as we do and filters out anyone who might challenge us.

We can click, scroll, sweep, share, like and favorite our way into a meticulously tailored and reliable validating tribe. There's no real surprise, no true spontaneity, no actual serendipity.

But when I am out and about with Regan, there's all that and more. There's mutual courtesy and reciprocal generosity, for heaven's sake. I'm not in the in the habit of asking random New Yorkers for freebies, or of responding cheerfully when some random New Yorker asks me for one, but I'm frequently cadging or gifting poop bags.

When you're about to bend down an scoop up your beloved's odoriferous bequest, there's no snobbery and timidity, only solidarity.

My interaction in Central Park are partly about having a dog but just as much about what the big dog encourages, even compels : spending time in public spaces that are open to everyone and well situated and appealing enough to guarantee that people from all walks of life cross paths.

Even before Regan came along, I found myself more drawn to such spaces than I'd once been and more conscious and appreciative of them as antidotes to the fragmenting of American life.

I regularly visit Austin Tex., which I love, and its open spirit is inextricable from the primacy of  Lady Bird Lake, which is the name for a damned stretch of the Colorado River  that wends through the very center of the city and has a 10-mile trail for walking, hiking and biking that loops around it.

The trail has been continually refined and improved over the years, with the addition of a boardwalk that juts out  over the water and a beautiful manicured pedestrian bridge that reminds me of New York City's High Line.

There's no private analogue to this public treasure, which tugs the city's residents out of whatever customized coons they may inhabit and into the light.

I've put hundreds of hours there - and fussed over scores of dogs.

This brilliant piece of writing, by Students Great Favorite, Journalist Frank Bruni, continues.


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