Today the Salem City Club had an interesting meeting topic, Finding Community in Salem: Great Good Places. Six panelists talked about their favorite gathering places, which were billed as those that:
Give us a sense of belonging to a greater community, of being connected to a community – hangouts, coffee houses, public spaces, cafes, bars, parks, community centers, libraries, promenades, neighborhood stores – places that bring people together and make their lives richer.
The City Club bulletin points out a book by that name, "Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community."
Based on my scribbled barely legible notes on a tiny sheet of paper, here's a semi-complete listing of the favorite places mentioned by the panelists (hey, this is a freaking blog, not the New York Times).
Victor Panichkul, Moderator
Victor writes about wine, food, and beer for the Statesman Journal. He talked about the Boys and Girls Club bingo hall, a place his mother likes a lot. Victor also gave a thumbs-up to an asian grocery store on Portland Road whose name I didn't get, and couldn't locate via Google. Que Huong Oriental Foods is on Silverton Road. Close, but not Portland Road. Oh, well. You can always ask Victor for the name.
David is a professor and co-chair of the Willamette University biology department. He extolled bird-watching places in downtown Salem, which turns out to be almost anywhere. If you look up, he said, eagles often are visible (news to me, since like lots of other people I'm usually staring at my iPhone). I liked his poetic mention of how urban places surprise us with a "visitation of the wild," and that bird behaviors tune us into "ancient rhythms of Oregon."
Carlee Wright and Brian Hart
These guys teamed up for their great good places riff. Carlee is the Statesman Journal entertainment reporter. Brian is a producer at Allied Video. They collaborate on all kinds of creative stuff, including TedX Salem. Their go-to place is the Governor's Cup coffee house, though they said they enjoy many downtown spots -- Ventis, Table 508, Book Bin, Rafns', and more. The Gov Cup, as they called it, is where "magic happens." As a coffee addict, I agree: the Gov Cup has the best house coffee in town. Roasted on site.
Bonnie is a Salem artist who writes on two blogs, her own and one for the Lord and Schryver Garden Conservancy. Yay, Bonnie! Bloggers rule! Her favorite place is the Salem Public Library, where she worked from 1977-91, the "heyday" of the library as she put it. Now it has been downsized a bit, but still is a wonderful gathering place. Bonnie invited people to visit the remodeled Children's Room at the library, which will have a grand opening soon. She described how an artist (Kristin Kuhns, I believe) is creating some amazing works for the entrance areas.
Sarah is editor of Salem Is, a monthly online magazine that tells stories about the people, culture, and history of Salem. She wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of her great good place, the Salem Summit Company, an outdoor store. Sarah related how, after the store opened, she began to see people wearing the shirts all over. She helped organize a gathering of Salem Summit t-shirt owners at Riverfront Park, which was photographed.
I have at least six Salem Summit t-shirts myself -- most comfortable ones I've ever worn. Once you've gone with a 50-50 poly/cotton blend, it's tough to wear plain cotton again. I also agree with Sarah that the staff at Salem Summit Company are super-friendly and competent. Like her, I've shopped at REI, but I much prefer Salem Summit Co. (and avoiding ghastly Keizer Station).
Attendees at the City Club meeting were invited to write down their own Great Good Place. The pieces of paper were put on a board for post-meeting inspection. Minto-Brown Island Park was the most frequently praised place -- my choice also.
During an open mic period, another City Club member and I both talked about how wonderful Minto Brown is. I said that I was looking forward to the opening of the pedestrian bridge, as this will allow me to ride around there, then cruise into downtown on my outdoor elliptical bike and restore my depleted caffeine level at a coffeehouse.
I didn't get all of the other Great Good Place mentions by other members. They included: LifeSource Natural Foods, Hallie Ford Museum, KMUZ community radio, City View Cemetery, Chemeketans outdoor club, and the Englewood neighborhood.
Russ Beaton, a friend and retired Willamette University economist, got the last turn at the traveling microphone. He offered up some good advice: "Shop local; stay out of WalMart."