Nothing mind-bending here, but a recent LA Times column by Gregory Rodriguez (which has unfortunately fallen into some kind of archival black hole and rendered itself unlinkable) mentions Ray Oldenburg and his theory of Third Places, which Rodriguez fears will be the next victims of the tanking economy. The suburbs have already dealt a massive blow to this much more vibrant way of life, which is probably why the very thought of them sends deadening chills down the spines of most urbanites.
“In the absence of informal public life, living becomes more expensive. Where the means and facilities for relaxation and leisure are not publicly shared, they become the objects of private ownership and consumption.”
“What suburbia cries for are the means for people to gather easily, inexpensively, regularly, and pleasurably -- a ‘place on the corner,’ real life alternatives to television, easy escapes from the cabin fever of marriage and family life that do not necessitate getting into an automobile.”
“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."