Coming in Third
we’ve all got work and home, but Eau Claire is the perfect ‘third place’
The notion of a third place has always enchanted me. The concept – and I am in no way being original here – is that our lives are anchored to home and work which are our first and second places. The third place travels beyond those two. It is a place where we feel centered and connected with both our friends and those joyous things that make us human. Eau Claire has become that place for me in a way I never imagined.
That is not something I have arrived at easily. I’m pretty sure I speak for my generation when I say for many of us our first and second places are, by necessity, transitory. They usually represent where you sleep and where you work. We have all lived in several places (mostly awesome, some trashed) and worn the smocks, polyester shirts, and name badges which declare our lots in life to the public.
And we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Those gigs are pretty rad when you are rocking out the workday with your co-workers (who you really know are your friends). Since we are all Midwesterners in one way or another here, “rocking out” means actually trying to do a good job. There something in the idyllic waters in these parts that makes us all predisposed to that.
This makes the second place so central to our lives. For me, and this is complete narcissism here, I’ve always had a hard time believing the record store counter, sound booth or A&W deep fryer continued to exist after I worked so hard to make their processes flawless. And yet they do (although, I don’t know if the A&W deep fryer will ever see a fast food magician such as I again).
In the morning, when I walk my dogs around these streets, I can’t help but look around and think, “That’s the spot where the confluence flooded and we snuck a midnight swim and totally didn’t get caught” or “Right there is where we realized we couldn’t balance four Blizzards each while riding our bikes from DQ to the Joynt.”
Eau Claire amazes me because those kinds of experiences happen for so many people simultaneously year after year. This is a microcosm where thousands of people are building relationships with their friends and their city; connected and disconnected though only a degree or two separated.
My transition from being a college guy to working dude has made me so happy to call Eau Claire my home. It is not just that this place is ridiculously postcard picturesque; it is also that this artistic landscape carries the deep brush strokes of those who live here and of those who have moved on to their next stop in the journey.
Those are not just memories: They are something deeper implanted in my love affair with this place.
Reflections like these are so strong because you attach them to both the person and the place. The connection with people will always be deep regardless of where those people currently reside. But the place, that is literally always going to be there. That’s what makes it special.
Eau Claire resonates within me more than the smooth jazz playing on those new Barstow Street speakers. The beauty of our city is that there is space for learners to flourish and people can ease into happy, healthy adult lives. We do that interchangeably with one another in an amazing dance of lives being held daily.
More and more, I have the privilege to learn that this happens because of the efforts of so many people to make this a really good place. This is a city where people want to make the best things transpire for Eau Claire because they value it deeply. In a way I can’t even appropriately articulate, we really do think this is a special place.
It’s that intrinsic teamwork that makes Eau Claire my third place. Everyone here seems to want to rock out and make sure our processes are solid. We are all a team even if we have differences of opinion. Our goal is making this joint a little better than the shift before us – even if we were on that shift, too.