Have you ever heard someone talking about “third place” in a context that has nothing to do with competition? I’ve heard the phrase and sort of gathered the implied meaning, but the origin is from a book called The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community by Ray Oldenburg. I’m sharing more quotes than I generally would because I haven’t actually read the book. This comes from the Project for Public Spaces.
“Most needed are those ‘third places’ which lend a public balance to the increased privatization of home life. Third places are nothing more than informal public gathering places. The phrase ‘third places’ derives from considering our homes to be the ‘first’ places in our lives, and our work places the ‘second.’”
“The character of a third place is determined most of all by its regular clientele and is marked by a playful mood, which contrasts with people’s more serious involvement in other spheres. Though a radically different kind of setting for a home, the third place is remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support that it extends…They are the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy, but sadly, they constitute a diminishing aspect of the American social landscape.”
It reminded me of the need I’ve been feeling lately to be part of the literary community. Is there a bookstore (probably an independent one) near you that hosts authors and informal gatherings where you can put aside everything else and enjoy company and conversation? Sometimes you don’t even have to take part in the conversation to be part of the community. This is where things really happen. If you want to see something change in your community, this is where you meet people and talk about it all. You make plans, or you just let yourself be there.
Remember the bookstore I told you about right across from the apartments I want to move into? It’s one of those places for me. Do you have a “third place”? (I guess technically it would be my second place since I don’t work.) Where is that place for you?
I also believe that those spaces can be virtual. Sometimes they have to be when you’re stuck in a place without access to transportation or you’re too physically ill or tired to go there. Facebook is probably mine. Do you have one? I wish I knew how to make this space a “third place” for those of us who care about disability and community. Is there such a place I don’t know about? Let me know if you know of anything.