Thursday, September 18, 2008

Road Trip reminiscence: Telegraph Avenue

I worry about evoking too much yearning for home in Margaret but am taking the risk.

No stop in Berkeley is complete without a walk along Telegraph Avenue. I (vaguely) remember how it creeped me out when I first moved to the Bay Area in 1981. It is a total time warp experience, which was cool. It was crowded as hell and is still very busy with foot traffic. It was also much more riddled with runaway teens, addicts, and panhandlers than it is today. Had I known the word back then I might have said that Telegraph Avenue skeeved me.

Looking down Telegraph from the Cal campus

The absolutely requisite tie-dyed shirt vendor

I have not known a time when you could not get tie-dyed shirts here. There is always at least one folk singer sitting on the sidewalk and playing a guitar (usually not too well). An amazing sense that nothing has changed here in four decades.

As we passed by the folk singer on our walk, Bill opined that the city (or was it the chamber of commerce?) paid him. I mean, you gotta have one or it's not Telegraph, right?

The saddest sight of the day

Cody's Books was THE premier independent bookstore of Berkeley, a wonderfully rich place to browse and buy, always busy. Evidently not busy enough in the era of Amazon, Borders, and Barnes and Noble. Cody's is no more. I had heard something of its demise and dreaded reaching the corner where my fears would be confirmed. Sure enough, there it was, closed up, abandoned, dead.

Have you spent money at a local independent bookstore lately? (I try to, but know that I also rely on the big chains way too much for the sake of convenience. Yet we see where that leads.)

From the Cody's website:
After 52 years, Cody's Books will shut its doors effective June 20, 2008. The Berkeley bookstore has been a beacon to readers and writers throughout the nation and across the world. Founded by Fred and Pat Cody in 1956, Cody's has been a Berkeley institution and a pioneer in the book business, helping to establish such innovations as quality paperbacks and in-store author readings. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Cody's was a landmark of the Free Speech movement and was a home away from home for innumerable authors, poets and readers.

A mural celebrating (feistily, of course) People's Park

This mural is across the street, north of People's Park. Here is the People's Park web site and a Wiki article on it. It is a great symbol and an important gathering place, yet not something to be romanticized.

An fire escape staircase

I looked up and saw the rhythms of this and the light patterns and had to pause and take a picture. I recommend clicking to enlarge it.

Enjoy! More road trip pics to come.

“We are, ” they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame
Licked away their letters. So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.

The Poem of the Week features "And Yet the Books" by Czeslaw Milosz. How appropriate after thinking about Cody's and other independent bookstores. You may read it here.
--the BB


FranIAm said...

I have only been to Berkeley once and even then only so briefly. This post was lovely - introducing me to a place that holds a place in my imagination for many reasons.

The bookstore closing is so sad. So much is lost every time one of these places closes.

That blog- Poem of the Week! Gasp, I love it! And the Milosz poem, oh my, so beautiful.

The books...

PS - so loving the new header.

Paul said...

Thanks, Fran. The header pic is from the glazed tile mural in the Fresno County Library.