Diffusion Center | Dissident Voice

Wish you were here, we could talk. The proprietor reminds me that there’s no substitute for talk. Places like hers have been springing up and getting banned and spreading for five hundred years. From Constantinople and Mecca and Damascus, war carried them to Europe, where they disturbed the serenity of La Serenissima, then spread civic and intellectual ferment to Oxford and London and throughout Europe. The Café de Foy sparked the thought of storming the Bastille. The Café Durand gave birth to Zola’s “J’accuse.” The Café de Flore was Sartre’s soapbox.

They crossed the ocean to this country’s migration portals, gestated Beatnik subversion, and when the Vietnam War began to rankle at home, coffee houses brought antiwar sedition to the gates of Fort Bragg and Fort Hood. At a coffee house in Cleveland Philip Durachinsky twiddled his thumbs in philosophy club, allegedly hatching his plans for nicking titillating personal information, Department of Energy data, and who knows what else.

I came late to the historic coffee houses, Florian, the International, Giubbe Rosse, Café A Brasileira, when they had long since settled down as romantic institutions. I never encountered a coffee house in the florid subversive stage till this one, with its freethinking connoisseurs of the psychotropic bounty of the plant and fungus kingdoms. This third place of mine is one too many for the government authorities among my few attentive readers. I’ve been blinked and…

Read more