From a review I have just written in the Wall Street Journal:
As a young radio journalist in Jerusalem in 1972, I would come off the night shift at 8 a.m. and go to breakfast at Café Alaska, where orchestral players were kvetching away the half-hour before rehearsal. As the musicians filtered out, the place filled up with black-gowned lawyers reading their briefs before court opened. Their seats, in turn, were taken by actors dropping in to read reviews and by frazzled mothers in need of a shot after leaving the kids at school. Café Alaska was not so much a place of refreshment as a carousel of human comedies spun around the noisy grinding of coffee beans and furnished with a rack of polyglot newspapers on the far wall.
The best cafes, I learned there, were the ones that the old-timers sighed over, the Herrenhof in Vienna, the Romanisches in Berlin and the Garden Cafeteria at 165 East Broadway, on New York’s Lower East Side, where Isaac Bashevis Singer weaved his tales. The best cafes, in other words, exist in a mist of aromatic memory to sustain our weakened civilization through cardboard slurps at Starbucks….
Read on here.