Magic happens at the Diesel, all the time.
The book of love is long and boring And written very long ago It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes And things we’re all too young to know” – “The Book of Love”, by The Magnetic Fields
“I could write a whole book of love centered at this café.” -A comment on the Diesel Cafe’s Facebook page, by Marcelo Vinces
In what I generously call my “archives”, there are many pictures, both in print and digital forms, spanning many years centered around the Diesel Café. There are also many pieces hidden in scrapbooks and boxes, what real archivists would call “ephemera”, that have in their origins someone who works or worked at the Diesel, or an event there or for or by the Diesel staff, whether it be a prom, a wedding, a Halloween party, a backyard concert. In the 10 years I lived in the Boston area, especially in the 8 years I lived in a loving house in Teele Square, Somerville, the Diesel Cafe was the engine of my social life. Many of my housemates worked there, and I made friendships of all sorts around the Diesel, from close friends to dance pals to no-strings-attached silly make-out regulars. I take these physical objects with me wherever I move to. Currently, they all live with me in Chicago. Tangible reminders of that important and magical era in my life, at the heart of which was the Diesel Café. I wanted to write about one of these mementos. And I chose the largest of them all, one that hangs in every home I’ve lived in since approximately 2004 (except for a 2 year gap in Belgium): the tufted carpet masterpiece rendering of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. I think it, like none other, is emblematic of the place Diesel holds in my heart and the hearts of many others.
The piece was an acquisition of one of our summer subletors at the house in Teele Square, Ann Browning. Like many who lived in that house, Ann had worked in the Diesel Cafe. She purchased the piece at a garage sale. The work illustrates a social occasion, perhaps one of the more famous in world lore, but it’s rendered in tufted carpeting, a working-class tapestry, in line with the aesthetics of the Diesel and this Diesel-fueled home.
Twenty years have passed since the Diesel Cafe opened its doors. The meaning of this place has not waned in my heart, no matter how far away I’ve moved physically. Likewise, though I never had the pleasure and honor of working there, the Diesel opened its doors and its heart to me and others around me for many loving years. And when I visit Massachusetts, the trip is not complete without a drop in at the Diesel. One time I did so, I ran into Patrick Kelly, the man who introduced me to the Diesel family. He was on a visit to town as well. Serendipity. Magic happens at the Diesel, all the time.