The Caffe Mediterraneum was the center of my life for fifty years. The people from my other social groups, such as the Unitarian Channing Club, met there and still do until today. November 30 was the last day! The Med was dying, and December 1 would be its Memorial service.
Having been informed of the Med’s demise I drove down from Bend, Oregon, where I bought a house five years ago on 28 February 2011 and now live there with Debbie. In many ways, the move to Bend was good for me, but leaving my friends of fifty years created a huge hole in my existence. This would probably be the last chance to ever see these friends together again, so I had to drive the nine hours to be with them at the very end of the center of our communal existence.
In my first week in Berkeley, in the fall of 1960, I met Julia Vinograd and Marty Swartz, both of whom are still Med regulars. At that time we were denizens of a tiny hole in the wall named Robbie’s Cafeteria which was two blocks up Telegraph Avenue from the Med. In that venue, we lived in awe of Marty Horowitz, who if he still lived would be recognized as the “Most Interesting Man in the World,” even though he didn’t drink beer. That is saying something because both Julia and Marty became famous themselves, both for being profound thinkers and quirky. Marty is a Cal Professor and an authority on Middle Eastern history and affairs, and Klezmer music. Julia is the Poet Laureate of Berkeley. I haven’t done anything, as you will discover if you read these thousands of blog posts.
Julia was already a poet back then, but I don’t remember when she began printing up her works and selling them on the street. I asked her if she had done a hundred books yet, she said, “No. Only about sixty. But I’m still going. … Would you like to buy one?” I grudgingly did. I don’t know why, but I always felt violated when I took one of her books. Perhaps it’s because the titles were a bit off-putting.
Ted Friedman took this picture using my camera. The situation is classic Julia Vinograd … pushing her book at some hesitant person with a fiendish smile on her face. Lenny Talmy is just visible to the right side of the photo. He and I first met in 1961 when he was just moving his academic interest from mathematics to linguistics. He became known as a linguist’s linguist with a deep knowledge of how different languages handle time and space relationships.
In all those five decades I was always a close friend with Lenny, but never with Julia. My relationship with her was always a step apart, and yet many Christmas evenings when the Med was closed for the holiday, and everything was dark, she and I would stand together just outside the locked door two steps to the left in the photo and banter.
Berkeley was always like that for me, a bit distant, but a joyful confrontation in words.