I added the only Fat White Vampire short story I’ve ever written, “Jules Versus Breezy,” which also serves as a little memorial piece for my very dear friend, Robert Borsodi. To me, Bob was one of the people who made New Orleans such a fantastical, enchanting place. He had operated bohemian coffeehouses in ten different locations by the time he arrived in New Orleans in the late 1970s; he’d founded his first in New Haven in 1959, when he’d been a student at Yale, before he went into the Marines (it is so very, very hard for me to imagine Bob Borsodi in the United States Marines; but Bob, like Walt Whitman, contained multitudes). He opened his first New Orleans coffeehouse on Daneel Street, next door to what was then the Penny Post and is now the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse, a folk music club. His second, best known location was on Freret Street, about a half mile east of Tulane and Loyola Universities. It was a huge, warehouse-like space, with the espresso bar in front and a stage in back big enough for full scale plays. Bob lived in a kind of hidden alcove above the stage, with access to the building’s roof. The entire coffeehouse served as a colossal collage, an ever-evolving art installation made up of whatever Bob and his regulars felt like gluing to the walls and furniture. I first met Bob in 1983, while I was an undergraduate at Loyola, shortly after I moved into an apartment in the neighborhood. I did my laundry at a shabby little washateria next to Bob’s place, and while I was waiting for my wash to finish, I’d go next door for a cup of tea or an Italian soda and a chat with Bob. He didn’t have his beard then, and he was open during the afternoons, which he wasn’t in later years, although the place was mostly deserted before about seven at night. He was interested in Loyola because he thought his son might attend. We got to be pretty good friends over the next three years. Upon graduation, I swore to him that I intended to move back to New Orleans someday. I don’t think he believed me.
The next time I saw Bob was after I moved to Northport, New York in Long Island’s Suffolk County. Bob had taken a crew of his friends and regulars to perform one of his plays, Musk, at Theater for the New City in the East Village in Manhattan. The stage set looked just like Borsodi’s Coffeehouse in New Orleans. I immediately felt homesick. I invited Bob and his lady friend, Sara Beth, to come stay with me at my apartment in Northport. They stayed the night and walked around the harbor and the old downtown. I promised again that I would move back to New Orleans someday. Again, I don’t think Bob believed me.
Less than two years later, I picked myself up and plunked myself back in New Orleans, with no plans or prospects other than finishing my first novel. . . at Borsodi’s Coffeehouse. Bob was really the one who drew me back to New Orleans. So I have much to thank him for, since everything that is most wonderful in my life has its roots in my time in New Orleans. I’ll write more about my return to New Orleans and my experiences at Borsodi’s Coffeehouse in an essay I’m finishing up called “Lust for a Laptop, or the Madness of the Obsessive Collector.”
I wrote the little story here linked to in 1998, for Bob’s sixtieth birthday. Four years later, suffering from incurable cancer that had spread through much of his body, in unbearable pain, Bob threw himself off the Hale Boggs Bridge in Luling, about thirty miles west of New Orleans. The city hasn’t quite been itself since.