I’m having one of those synchronicities again. A column by a local writer in my local paper today refers to Ray Oldenburg’s old idea of a ‘third place,’ an idea that I first remember reading about sometime in the 70s in, I think, an article in Psychology Today. Then I check in on b!X and find this reference to a new site, blogs.salon.com, which might or might not turn out to be something worthwhile.
Twenty years ago, when I really got excited about the idea of a third place as a public salon, an activist lawyer friend of mine and I went and looked at an historic building that was for sale in Albany. (As a matter of fact, it’s the building where they shot the nightclub scenes in the movie Ironweed, written, btw, by a another friend with whom I’ve lost contact — Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Bill Kennedy. He did a great jitterbug in the old days.) Anyway, there was federal money available for renovation, and we had this dream of buying the building and turning it into a social justice center/cafe-salon/dance hall. I know that sounds weird but we both were ballroom dancers and were always looking for non-bar places to dance. As it turned out, our own personal and professional lives were just too complicated and too busy to take on the project.
So, instead, I tried inviting people over for salon-type evenings, but that didn’t work out either because there was no spontaneity. It was just like throwing a regular party and inviting your favorite people. Fun, but no salon.
In the 80s, I hung around a bar that had a big dance floor where many of the dancers I knew would stop in several nights a week for some socializing and exercise. So, I had spontaneity and connections, but no chance for any kind of interesting discussions.
And now here we all are on the Blog. Almost the perfect third place. Poets, activitists, philosophers, passing acquaintances, good friends — they’re all here whenever I stop by. And I don’t have to worry that my hair looks like a fright wig and I’m sitting here in my nightshirt with a cold pack over the right side of my face where my eye feels like a toothache. Third Place. Salon. Without the physical constraints of time, place, and putting on clean clothes. Although I still wish there were a place to dance when I wanted to.