Back in the summer of ’90, I decided it was time to learn some classical Greek, so I could do Thucydides right: I signed up for Berkeley’s summer Greek boot camp. Talk about drinking from a fire hose—there was a quiz every day, so every morning I repaired to Café Milano on Bancroft, as near to the front as possible, by the open window, for a cram session. There we were, all shoveling knowledge into our heads, Thai on one side, Tagalog or Telegu on the other, perhaps even a dab of Tokharian. I always wondered: what’s to keep us from getting our wires crossed here—me learning them direct object in Telegu, say, while she picks up a new form of the Greek aorist?
I never got a straight answer to that one, but whenever I am in Berkeley, I do try to stop there for coffee and a spritz of nostalgia, maybe hoping to corner an odd subjunctive that eluded me the first time around.
Guilty, your honor: I’m one of the coffee shop people. Aside from Café Milano, I remember the place in Madrid where you bought a day ticket, and the one on the island of Spetses, where the old guys gazing vacantly out to the ocean were the same ones who just 40 years before would have been ripping each others’ face off in the Greek Civil War. More than that: closer to home, I have written just about all of one book in just one coffee shop (it’s in the acknowledgments) and parts of two editions of another in several others. Whatever it is about coffee shops, I get it.
So it is with great delight that I point you to this discovery, the work of a world-class economist who also knows his coffee.
[Footnote: Buce Jr. recommends Coffee: A Dark History. Haven’t read it, but it’s on the list.
[Footnote #2: Oh, and the Greek. Nobody told me that Thucydides is hard. I can do a bit of Homer, though.]