Ray Oldenburg (1932-2022) was a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. He is known internationally for his book The Great Good Place, a surprise hit when it first appeared in 1989. He has advised cities including San Jose, Stockholm, and Osaka on community development, and often hosted friends in his own “third place,” a converted garage saloon. His latest and last book was The Joy of Tippling.
Karen Christensen grew up in the Santa Clara (Silicon) Valley and has travelled the world since running away to a commune when she was fourteen, living in London and New York as well as Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She was the senior editor of the Encyclopedia of Community and is the author of several popular environmental handbooks, which have been translated into French, German, Swedish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai. She started a popular neighborhood Google Group and before the pandemic hosted monthly face-to-face gatherings in Great Barrington, inspired by the ideas in The Great Good Place. She has also spent a lot of time in China.
They corresponded for 20 years before finally meeting in 2012. The conversations continued, and before Ray’s death in 2022 they had agreed that she would finish a new version of The Great Good Place, incorporating ideas they’d talked about and covering new events and issues. A recording Karen made when they met in 2021 is available at the Videos page. Karen writes: Ray admired the writing of Jane Jacobs, especially her first book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. In 2013, I was living a couple of blocks from the White Horse Inn and went there for a beer with my son, who took this photo of me sitting where Jane Jacobs sat in 1961, as you can see on the cover of this edition of her book.