Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Good Place to Live

I've been doing a lot of reading on community lately, and stumbled upon this book at the library a few weeks ago. It's called A Good Place to Live: America's Last Migration, by Terry Pindell (written in 1995). Here's a quote from the book.

What were they (the participants in the last migration) looking for that led them to their shortlist of good places?

First was…the lack of community gathering places where you can walk in at almost any time and be assured of either encountering old friends or making new ones. Such places are the balm of life to the social being, the third piece of human wholeness after the realms of family and work. Thus Ray Oldenburg in The Great Good Place calls them “third places” (after the first, home, and the second, the workplace). Other societies with more functional communities than ours are built around them: the pubs of England, the bistros of France, the biergartens of Germany, the coffeehouses of Vienna, the piazzas of Italy, and the plazas of Spain.

Unfortunately, American social history has not bee kind to the third place, from Puritan strictures against revelry to the misevolution of the American bar as a place of disrepute to the modern constriction of social life to the individual home. The convivial taverns that once spawned a democratic revolution are now tourist attractions and the small-town Main Streets that perpetuated it are deserted for malls built on the outskirts. In America the scarcity of the third place is more than an obstacle to good community, it is a threat to the democratic pluralism that we cherish, since it is in third places that people rub shoulders regularly with folks they don’t work with or invite to dinner (3-4).

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