I was having coffee (okay, iced tea, but same concept) with a friend today. We finished the TESOL course together and have actually kept in touch a little bit.
My friend has done some traveling and spent a few years in the Peace Corps in Morocco. She remarked that she misses a community element, living in our town. It's funny, because to me it feels a lot friendlier than St.Petersburg or something other big city. There are regular "characters" downtown; people just strolling around. You can always expect to bump into someone you know.
Yet, she's right; what's missing is the town square, a common area where anyone can drop in and do business or just hang out. Most of the stores in our are fun to browse, but you definitely can't "loiter" there. The coffee shops are nice too, but still meant for solitude or quiet conversations with friends. You wouldn't wander in and strike up a conversation with just anyone. We have some parks, but not much goes on there, and our climate is not the best for outside lingering during most of the year.
So where can you go to do that, in this day and age? Do we have to create a space for it, or do we need to simply take the spaces we already inhabit and approach them in a new way?