I am a decades long coffee shop and bookstore devotee. Most of those years were in various coffee shops in Berkeley, California. But before that I spent my years at Washington State College, mostly at the coffee shops, and immediately after that frequented the Coexistence Bagel Shop at Grant and Green streets in San Francisco. That was back in 1958. Then after a stint in bars while in the Air Force I returned to my true love – intellectually inclined coffee shops. Fortunately for me, I left the military, because it seems there weren’t any coffee shops, only bars in that society, and had I remained in those venues I most certainly would have become a roaring drunk instead of a roaring raconteur.
In coffee shops I happily argued away my years on this planet with the most wonderful people imaginable, defending feebly, but with vigor, my misconceptions of reality. Some of those people moved on and became famous in various ways, but most, although equally interesting, didn’t. It takes a personality quality, perhaps it’s a flaw, to want to put yourself into the limelight, and most would prefer to talk about doing things rather than expose themselves to the anticipated ridicule that usually accompanies an attempt to do something publicly.
Robbie’s Cafeteria on the 2300 block of Telegraph Avenue was my first coffee shop there in Berkeley, and most of the people I hung out with there became famous in their own fields: linguistics, poetry, motorcycles and sexual freedom. But all of us stood in awe of Marty Horowitz, and it wasn’t because he was a little older than us, it was because he was so crazily interesting, and we argued with him incessantly and vehemently too. I think Berkeley’s official poet laureate, Julia Vinograd, would agree that Marty showed her the way to greatness – by example. The rest of us might hesitate to nearly go so far as he led, but he was a mighty influence.
The Mediterraneum on the 2400 block was my most consistent refuge – from reality – for some 50 years. I didn’t always go there; there were year long stints at others, The Egg Shop and Apple Press, The No-Name Cafe, The Florentine, all on the 2300 block of Shattuck and a couple of month long flights to several others. But always I kept coming back to the Med, until I just knew I had to leave, so I yelled a bit of farewell and walked out, and moved away from Berkeley, California, to Bend, Oregon. It has been a trade-off of stimulating marginally crazy people I had known for decades for a new group of much more normal and happier people with more traditional behavior. As it turns out some of my new friends here were friends of friends back in Berkeley, so it isn’t like I have fallen off into an abyss of floundering.
I am not presently addicted to the coffee scene, but I am a member of some discussion groups which are very similar to my old Channing Club. A strange and totally unexpected thing has happened here – I have become a celebrity in a few people’s estimation, and they are enchanted with my ideas. That’s quite a change from being considered a bit crazier than average, for my group’s taste back in Berkeley.
It is impossible to give a flavor of conversation in Bend, but I can give a taste of what coffee is like here, and the friendliness of the people.
Click here to see and hear Skyler serenade Debbie and I at Dudley’s.
(email just in while writing this post — Three of my favorite Berkeley eating places on 2400 Telegraph Avenue just burned! La Fiesta, the Intermezzo and Raleigh’s. That is a tragedy to link to a thousand fond memories of mine.) – (Berkeley Daily Planet reports)