@ Jonathon Lipsin
All my life i have used cafes as my haunts . This is where i have plotted adventures,wrote incessantly ,met muses while i scribbled poetry thoughtfully,encountered bodisattvas in the guise of world travelers and sages and used as my office long before the computer era. I come by it honestly. My grandfather Alter,that irrepressible two fisted socialist,Yiddish poet ,one time hobo hopping freight trains across America and honest house painter and mandolin player would hang out all his life in cafes. I always knew where to find him when i was a kid of 9,10 and i would case out several of his favorite haunts in the Snowdon area of Montreal and when i would finally find him he would wave me in and buy me a coke and introduce me to everyone.”This is my grandson he would say proudly as he puffed on his pipe wearing a Russian sheepskin hat or a workers cap. Bens Deli in downtown Montreal was a regular haunt of his and he would hang out there with other poets like Leonard Cohen and Irving Layton eating smoked meat sandwiches and drinking cherry cokes.
Jews have had a long history with cafes and coffee .In fact there is evidence they introduced both to Europe.
In the centuries before home coffee machines, most people drank the new beverage in coffeehouses, which first opened in Constantinople around 1550, then in Damascus, Mecca and Cairo. Yes we invented the cafes….lol so no wonder i feel so much at home !”
It was a Jew who exported the new kind of drinking establishment to Europe, opening the first in Livorno, Italy in 1632. In 1650, a Lebanese known as “Jacob the Jew” founded the first English coffeehouse in Oxford. Sephardic Jews, many of whom also became coffee traders, soon joined with Armenian and Greek merchants to bring the coffeehouse to the Netherlands and France. . Meanwhile, in post-medieval Germany, authorities attempted to restrict the Jewish coffee trade altogether, according to the late Israeli historian Robert Liberles, because they feared the new beverage threatened their flourishing beer industry. “My people must drink beer,” proclaimed Frederick the Great.
By the 19th century, coffeehouses in Berlin, Vienna, Budapest and Prague were at the forefront of societal change. Vienna’s “café culture” became an incubator for the Jewish intelligentsia: Luminaries such as writer Stefan Zweig, psychologist Alfred Adler and the young journalist and playwright Theodor Herzl were among those who sipped coffee in the Austrian capital. Zweig once described the scene as “a sort of democratic club, open to everyone for the price of a cheap cup of coffee, where every guest can sit for hours with this little offering, to talk, to write, play cards, receive post, and above all consume an unlimited number of newspapers and journals.”
I have travelled the world and made several cafes my second home,some of them my first home,come to think about it. Cafes must be about history ,they must kindle a passion in life. It is a tall order that and i choose carefully. The coffee must be the best and the atmosphere must be keenly felt. More like an old shoe. Comfortable and well worn. The waiters must be simpatico and even saucy but never condescending. They must know if the writer is working his feverish passion so as not to intrude upon the train of thought. The muse is sacred and must be respected.
Coffee used to be a sacred beverage, drank ritually …
The origin of coffee is firmly rooted in Ethiopia’s history.
Their most popular legend concerns the goat herder from Kaffa, where the plants still grow wild in the forest hills. After discovering his goats to be excited, almost dancing on their hind legs, he noticed a few mangled branches of the coffee plant which was hung with bright red berries. He tried the berries himself and rushed home to his wife who told him that he must tell the monks.
The monks tossed the sinful drug into the flames, an action soon to be followed by the smell we are all so familiar with now. They crushed the beans, raked them out of the fire, and distilled the stimulating substance in boiling water. Within minutes the monastery filled with the heavenly aroma of roasting beans, and the other monks gathered to investigate. After sitting up all night, they found a renewed energy to their holy devotions.
The rest, as they say, is history
I love drinking coffee and cafes . and i am doing what my grandfather perfected in his life ,the art of hanging out……
My life is a cafe !
Among my favorites around the world are Cafe Santropol in Montreal where i once studied Hebrew presaging my immigration to Israel and my entry into the army there. I once spoke perfect Hebrew to the Quebecois server telling him exactly what i wanted much to his befuddlement as i realized i had slipped into Hebrew by mistake.
Whenever i am in town i slip in and take up a seat outside in the garden weather permitting.I
n Marin County near my home is Book Depot in Mill Valley. I have been coming here since i was 17 and i can tuck myself in a corner and people watch the rich and famous and i can jump in my car and in ten minutes i am in San Francisco just across the Golden Gate Bridge. Mt Tam hovers around me and Stinson Beach where i used to live is not far away over the mountain.
In Israel it is the Little Prince and i am known here. I gleefully trundle up old stairs in a pre 1948 musty building that hails from the British Mandate days. The history climbing these stairs are a marvel in itself. it is like a movie set from the Pianist.Think Europe , Poland before the war. The door opens to a large room lined by second hand books and big oak tables and a large veranda where i can sit and watch the Carmel market below with it’s noise and din .Another favorite in Jerusalem is Hillel Cafe on Jaffa St. Great shakshuka and a perfect spot to watch the world walk by.
In San Francisco it is Cafe Trieste ,that old dowager of the Beat generation. I have imbibed a hot latte here since i was 16 ,my first time in this city and have written many poems here . Francis Ford Coppola wrote the Godfather screenplay here at the back table and Dylan once got thrown out for being obnoxious. I am always at home here
In New York it is Cafe Reggio another Beatnik bohemian haunt . I have been going here since i was probably 4 with my father and mother on journeys to the City in the summer .Here too Dylan and Dave Van Ronk and Abbie Hoffman would hold court as well as every radical NY writer worth their salt. It looks exactly the same .
Paris is Les Deux Magots,The Two Mandarins in the St Germaine de Pres where Sarte and Hemingway would hang. The people watching is overpowering. Here history was made and is still felt.
Back in Sebastopol it is Coffee Catz where a sculpture made out of a wheelbarrow of me used to hang created by the famous fellow Montrealer artist Patrick Amiot.Now it hangs outside my house.
On the coast my favorite place is Cafe Aquatica near Jenner where i can sit on big chairs and watch seals and bald eagles as i sip a coffee.
When i am on the island of Formentera in Spain my cafes of choice are Bar Central and Can Toni .Both are 100 years old and both serve excellent coffee .Both greet me like family and many of the locals hail me .Bettania my friend is the server at Bar Central and it stands right across from the 17th c church in San Francisco town and from here the beauties of Italy parade back and forth and titilate the senses. There is no need to be on the computer believe me.
Ambience is important in cafes. It is everything actually…You must choose your cafes carefully.
Those are my main haunts .Life is a cafe if you think like that and i do.
When i die stuff me and hang me in a cafe .