William Raspberry is retiring, which saddens me, as I wouldn't hesitate to name him as my favorite columnist. I first read his columns in journalism class and have been hooked ever since. His most recent column, Our Civil Disagreement, summarizes many of the reasons why I enjoy his work. Few columnists present a viewpoint that is open to disagreement. This is a very different notion from inviting disagreement, which seems to be the fashion of current news shows.
His second-most-recent column, Where to Now?, references to Oldenburg's "Third Places" in a way that makes me appreciate having Dana Street Roasting Company around the corner.
One helpful friend to whom I put the dilemma pointed me to Ray Oldenburg's 16-year-old book, "The Great Good Place," wherein he laments the loss of what he calls "third places" in American life. The first place, of course, is home; the second is work. Third places, in Oldenburg's taxonomy, are those informal gathering spots where one finds not just escape but camaraderie, conversation, friendly argument and pleasant conversation with regulars.
I rarely make it New Years resolutions, but for 2006 I'll declare one to be that, as I engage in conversations in my own third places, I be open to disagreement. You're free to test me next time you run into me at Dana Street.