Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Aimless Reading: The O's Part 15.17 (Charles Olson)

Olson, Charles
Letters For Origin, 1950-1956

Purchased at Rust Belt Books.

I must have bought this quite a long time ago, as I have recollection of reading it at the old Cybele's cafe in Allentown. When I first moved here in 1997, I rented a lower flat in a two family home on Cottage St. It was about two blocks from Allen, which is a historic district. Allentown is also home to numerous bars, restaurants and boutiques. It has gentrified a bit since I first moved here, but it still retains most of its funky, artistic air. I chose to live there originally because it was the only neighborhood in Buffalo that reminded my of the East Village, where I'd been living for the previous five years.

(Note: we just moved back to Allentown after a ten year absence, and are happy to be back!)

Anyhow, in the spirit of replacing like with like, I immediately set out to find a funky cafe where I could sit and read and smoke and eat and drink every day, as was my habit in NYC. This was it.

Cybele's, in its original incarnation, was a small storefront on Elmwood Avenue near the intersection with Allen St. 'Small' is a generous description. 'Cramped' comes closer to the truth, but that's not quite it, either. Oddly designed. Maybe that's it. It had a small dining area that, behind the counter, included a residential kitchen stove to cook the food.

I seem to recall they had an adjoining room that was sometimes open. In summer, I sat in a metal table on a lovely brick patio that faced Elmwood Ave. In winter, I often sat on a dais near the front window. I always ordered bacon and eggs, or a bacon egg and cheese croissant. They made strong coffee, which I liked (and still do).

Eventually, they moved across the street to a building housing Rust Belt Books and the restaurant on the first floor and the studio of artist Peter Fowler on the second. The owner eventually got into some financial trouble and ended up in jail for sixth months, effectively ending the restaurant's run. They had terrible service, but great atmosphere and delicious food. Nothing has really come along to replace it.

I recall thinking that when I read these letters that Olson was really bullying in his treatment of Corman. I should go back and read the letters again to see if that impression holds true.

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