Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Isla Vista Yahoo Group

There's an interesting thread going on currently at the Isla Vista Yahoo Groups site, which also invites new members for those of you who would like to write about Isla Vista on a more frequent basis. The thread excerpt, below, is just a portion of the current discussion:

> In a message dated 1/9/2006 4:43:45 P.M. Mountain Standard Time, writes:
> I remember Borsodi's (sp) Coffee House as the first coffee house I ever went to...poetry readings, guitarist/singers doing actual folk music...interesting place!

Borsodi (I can't remember his name) died a few years back, living in New Orleans. I think it was lung cancer. I think Linda left in the late 1970s? I remember they had this great mural on the inside ceiling that was the view from the center of the Bank of America the morning after it burned down, looking straight up, with the smoldering wood timbers sticking up on every side and the blue sky in the middle.

It occurs to me that if we put together a list of people and their estimated birth dates I could check my Social Security Death Index and find out if any passed on. It wouldn't be definite as in some cases there would be multiple people with the same name and birth year. More help if we had place they were born in but that is probably not known.

I told Dave that Joyce Roop passed away in Boston sometime in the past few years. I taught her massage (she lived below me at the Campus Crusade for Christ on the south side of the 1st block of Pardall (6504?).

Gotta stop. Could go on forever.

> I am SURE concerts have changed! We held them in People's Park, before and after they built what was easily the world's goofiest amphitheater! I remember we "sold" beer to raise money for the IVCC. Actually, people "donated" for the beer. We kept it cool (as in "proper" not chilled), and the Foot Patrol never gave us any trouble, because the way we ran it, there was never any trouble! By the way, the statute of limitations HAS passed on this, correct???
> Having caught up a bit with Ed, I was saddened to hear of the death of several people I knew, and delighted by good news about others.
> Isla Vista: It was an intense experience, that is for sure!
> I could go on for pages about life there in the '70s, it was indeed a very special place!
> Dave Pye
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1 comment:

  1. Here's a couple articles regarding Robert Borsodi. I've kept in touch with his son, my close friend Christopher, over the years since being one of the little kids that spent many hours underfoot at the coffehouse. Christopher and his family have relocated to Porland OR, his Mother, Linda is also there.

    Wiley Thrasher-


    Cancer pain drives free spirit to suicide

    Coffeehouse owner jumps from bridge

    Monday November 03, 2003

    By John Pope
    Staff writer

    Hours before dawn on Oct. 25, Robert Borsodi awoke for the last time in the Uptown bohemia where he had reigned for a quarter-century.

    Without disturbing his partner, Karen Rittvo, Borsodi dressed and parted the hanging sheets of cotton fabric that separated his cot from the cluttered Soniat Street coffeehouse where he had brewed coffee, staged plays and poetry readings and, on special occasions, made croissants.

    Borsodi, 64, paused long enough to grab a scrap of paper towel and dash off a four-line poem about Maddy, his and Rittvo's hefty cocoa-colored dog. Then the gray-haired man with the trademark wispy beard that hung nearly to his waist climbed into his dark-blue Nissan truck, painted with flowers, and was gone.

    His next stop was the Hale Boggs Bridge over the Mississippi River at Luling. Parking on the shoulder of the southbound lane, Borsodi walked to the middle of the span and jumped. His body was found four miles downriver on Wednesday, said Maj. Sam Zinna, chief of detectives in the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office.

    "When I saw the truck had gone, I knew," Rittvo said.

    Although the autopsy said the cause of death was drowning, Rittvo and other close friends had no doubt that the suicide was a response to untreatable cancer. It had spread throughout his body, including his bones. The pain was so acute, friends said, that Borsodi recently had gone from one friend to the next, asking for help in killing himself.

    "He wasn't grandstanding. If he was in pain, he probably was thinking of getting the job done the best way possible," his friend John Koeferl said.

    Borsodi's suicide, friends said, was a consistent act for a man who had spent his life well outside the mainstream.

    "Robert constantly said that he belonged to slower times," said Christina Miller, a former companion. "He really felt people have forgotten how to communicate with each other. That was his thing: To communicate with each other on an intimate level is something profound."

    Borsodi eschewed such modern trappings as air conditioning and e-mail and seldom bought anything new. He grew a beard, Rittvo said, because "he just got sick of shaving when he was 45."

    Those who knew Borsodi trace his eccentricities to his childhood. He was the grandson of Ralph Borsodi, a self-taught philosopher whose antidote for the Depression's economic misery was a series of small, nearly self-sufficient communities.

    Ralph Borsodi brought up his grandson after Robert Borsodi's parents divorced.

    Borsodi prepped at Choate, a New England boarding school, and had a Yale degree in drama, but made a point of downplaying this pedigree. When he applied for work as a carpenter to help him keep a string of coffeehouses open in California, Washington state and, finally, New Orleans, Borsodi, who was right-handed, filled out the forms left-handed "so people would think he was an illiterate Joe and not overqualified," said Linda Cicada, his companion for 11 years and the mother of his son.

    Borsodi operated coffeehouses on Danneel and Freret streets before buying the Soniat Street duplex in 1993. He never advertised for the coffeehouse known as Breezy's, and never charged admission for the plays he staged in a tiny, sunken area Rittvo referred to as the "Theater in the Hole."

    "It was a warm and very welcoming atmosphere," said Peter Cooley, who participated in several of Borsodi's poetry readings.

    Cooley, a Tulane University professor, said Borsodi was a unifying literary force because he brought together white and black audiences.

    "It was a place everyone went to," he said.

    During summers, Borsodi hopped freight trains, staying on the road for months at a time and sending back hand-drawn postcards.

    And when it was time to move on, Borsodi did just that, regardless of whether he was heading for the freight yard or walking out of a relationship.

    "When he left me, he walked out in the middle of the night and left me a note: 'Linda -- Had to go. Robert.' " Cicada said. "He didn't tell us where he want. He had to go, just the same way he had to jump off a bridge."

    He and Christina Miller were living on the West Coast in the mid-1970s and hating it when, Miller said, she suggested moving to New Orleans, a place she had liked to visit while growing up in Florida.

    So they drove across the country in a station wagon named Queenie, arriving in New Orleans during a storm "when the sky turned green," Miller said.

    Borsodi opened his first coffeehouse at 5104 Danneel St. and his second at 5104 Freret St. During his first 15 years in New Orleans, Borsodi made enough money to buy a former crack house on Soniat Street and convert it into a coffeehouse, his friend Brad Ott said.

    That last establishment, in a prim row of duplexes, would look familiar to anyone who went to college in the 1960s or '70s. The floor sags, and the dark walls are covered with postcards, street and business signs, yellowing business cards and concert schedules with edges so old they curl. The only indication that the year is 2003 is that some of the newer additions to the collection of business cards have e-mail addresses.

    Also stapled to the walls are quotations Borsodi liked, coming from such diverse sources as the writers Isak Dinesen, Edgar Allan Poe and George Bernard Shaw and the rock band Little Feat. Just inside the door, written in fading ink, is Borsodi's statement of purpose for his coffeehouse: "There should be some common ground somewhere, after all, where free spirits can gather and not seem peculiar and out of the way."

    "He just had his living room," Ott said, "and he welcomed everyone that would sit down."

    A memorial service will be held, probably in late December, but the date and time have not been set.

    . . . . . . .