Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Third Place City- NYC

If another city could be your Third Place, which one would beckon you back time and again?

Perhaps it would be hard for you to choose, but for me NYC continues to woo me back, for all the same reasons that the Dunn Bros down the street continues to be my 'go to' cafe.  New York is reasonably close given our 15 minute drive to the airport from St. Paul.  The city is familiar and comfortable, with sights and smells that are nostalgic and yet still bring a thrill.  Not many cities can rival the raw energy and excitement of New York.  I can count on eating well and being witness to the old and the new every visit.  A favorite pleasure is striking up a conversation with a person or multiple people who will get my juices flowing, either through their entertaining gestures and point of view or just thoughtful friendly banter.  I even find the challenging interactions to be life affirming, a little squabble with someone who comes at the world from another angle is refreshing and keeps me on my toes a bit.  It is also something Minnesotan's generally frown upon, they would rather end any overt signs of conflict, which can be dull at times.

One of my favorite activities in NYC is looking down on it from on high, both from the plane as I arrive but also whenever I can enjoy the vista from a rooftop, a hotel room, a restaurant overlooking Central Park, etc.  That perspective makes me feel like I know the town, that it's scale isn't as daunting as it sometimes seems on street level in the hustle and bustle in amongst the noises, fumes and need to keep my wits about me.  Instead I can listen to it's unique commotion and watch it like a performance, maybe a symphony, delighting in the various players like the oboes or cellos and the crash or roar of unexpected drums.  

Queens was my home from 4th to 6th grade and we spent many evenings and weekends exploring Manhattan.  I remember some of my impressions from those days and it was wonderful for me to bring my own kids to New York when they were about the same age and watch them respond to the city.  The sparkle and gums on the sidewalks, the perfect cheesy crisp slice of pepperoni pizza late at night, gorgeous display windows, fancy waiters, climbing boulders and spinning around the subway car poles.  What a joy to relive certain memories and to share them and refresh them for myself while perhaps planting the seed for a lifelong third place for my children too.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Rotunda, Minnesota's 3rd Place

Perhaps one use of the blog format is to serve as a public confessional. The Catholics have a new pontiff this week and this leaves me wondering about what his influence will be on our world.  Although I was baptized Catholic, I was not raised as one except perhaps in a second hand way.  By that I mean that my mother was Catholic and was excommunicated upon her divorce; so like the second hand smoke I inhaled when my mother smoked cigarettes, I was infused with her religious or moral compass just by being in her presence.

Pope Francis the first has a unique opportunity and global influence and the Catholics are not the only ones with hopes and expectations that come with this major changing of the guard. Our elected world leaders seem to have trouble with leading according to a big moral picture and frame their decisions based upon the high alter of "the Economy". Many leaders refer to a religious motivation for their actions and often gain support because of these claims.  In all fairness, our politicians have many obstacles to bring about the changes they envision and they are not sequestered in marble towers studying and meditating without the daily survival requirements of family life in the trenches of the secular world.

After years of visiting Washington Square park I only learned this past weekend that a verse taken from the family Coat of Arms of George Washington was used on the Washington Arch in Washington Square park. In the sculpture Washington is flanked by a figure of Peace on one side and Justice on the other, and in the open book held by Justice is the latin phrase 'Exitus acts probat' translated in English to mean ' the outcome justifies the deed'. Perhaps some will say, yup, that's where the rubber meets the road, the difference between idealists and realists or the difference between business and elected officials versus spiritual leaders, but I wonder.  Is that the motto we really want held aloft on our monument to our 1st President's achievements?

So back to my 3rd place blog, Washington Square park is a 3rd place for so many but how many have wondered what that phrase means to them and to all of us when it comes to our leadership?  I confess that I have grown impatient with the belief that the elected leaders or for that matter religious leaders will do what is right based upon their own scholarly research and meditation. My faith is messier to be sure, but I feel called to exert my influence and education and years of reflection and meditation upon our leaders who get their moral authority from we humble citizens and our laws which thankfully can be changed as we humans grow and shape the world we want to inhabit together.  So therefore, I have been visiting our State Capital and it's beautiful Rotunda and the offices that flank it in order to claim our rightful 3rd place in the halls of power. Amen.