Toad in the Hole

May 10, 2006

Aw Nuts

Cody's on Telegraph is closing.

Outside Powell's in Portland, this is my personal bookstore icon, the Mothership. You knew they'd have it, and they'd find it for you. They'd find it even if it was on a fairly abstruse topic and you couldn't remember the title or author and told them it had been reviewed the wrong week in the wrong publication. (Yes, personal experience.)

People visiting town, even from San Francisco, would ask to work it into the schedule. I've visited the Harvard Coop, and Cody's is better. Was. (Maybe it's the combination of Cody's and Moe's that's better, with Shakespeare's as a dollop of cream on top.)

I can tell you why "no night traffic" was one of its problems. The city muthas have made parking harder than it had to be -- e.g. with a succession of weird and whimsical pay arrangements for the handy parking garage -- and for all the anti-car pieties they never got around to arranging reliable transit from anywhere not already strung on the two major bus lines that intersect there. Riding the bus is at least as dangerous as walking the street anyway, particularly since it involves waiting immobilized at a bus stop. There's a perception that Telegraph Avenue itself is scary, but I never felt threatened or uneasy there; it was the intervening half-mile of neighborhoods between here and there that made me hesitate to take the walk at night. (In bad weather, forget it.) We do stroll over there now and then just to visit bookstores, and I generally sneak in a side trip to Tienda Ho!, and we'll still do that because of Moe's. Telegraph is just a fun street to walk, for me.

It's not just another empty retail space, though there are too many of those here too. Good gods, Berkeley is losing its biggest bookstore. We're also arguing over whether to plunk a regulation baseball field, bleachers and all (they say no lights, but you know that's bullshit, a temporary concession until people get distracted) in the middle of a midtown neighborhood, so the highschool jocks don't have to go an extra mile to play their games. The other side of the argument is for a smaller, "multi-use" sports field, that soccer and softball players and runners and the like could use. You know, not just the team jocks. Somehow "For the Children," already the last refuge of scoundrels, means at least half the time "For the Jocks."

So if we work really really hard at it and march resolutely down this path, Berkeley can become another suburban wannabe second-rate overbuilt all-American town. Whoopee. Maybe we can finally have an Olive Garden of our own. Or a Tarjhey.

Cody's closes in mid-July, so anyone who wants to cram in a visit has that long.

Posted at May 10, 2006 03:16 PM


That is heartbreaking!

Posted by: Janis at May 10, 2006 06:14 PM

Lest you forget, Berkeley's already got the Tardjay, down at the bottom of Marin/Buchanan, with easy access off of I-80. Two floors of shiny, plastic, non-durable goods.

I'm saddened by the loss of Cody's. Its 4th St. location isn't as comprehensive as the Telegraph location, and frankly, parking down there is worse than Telegraph.

Posted by: LDee at May 10, 2006 08:55 PM

Ouch. At home, there are still a few good independant bookstores left, but a lot of the problem has been really poor management. I dunno if you've heard of Ruminator (or Hungry Mind like it used to be called), but that was the flagship indie bookseller of the Twin Cities for a long time. And the owner just ran the thing into the ground by refusing to do what he did best: sell limited amounts of books (mostly local fiction and liberal-interest social theory and history), based on employee recomendations. Product creep had them trying to sell stuff they had no business stocking, and the money flew out the door. The old store is now a freaking Patagonia, a monument to over-priced personal image management.


Posted by: sly civilian at May 10, 2006 10:54 PM

Oh, no. This is way too sad. When I was out there last fall, I went to the ginormous new Cody's in SF and assumed everything was well with the Universe. Damn. They promised me when I moved away that NOTHING IN BERKELEY WOULD EVER CHANGE! Liars.

Posted by: Vibrating Liz at May 11, 2006 04:12 AM

Shit shit shit shit shit shit SHIT.

Posted by: Pica at May 11, 2006 02:27 PM

Pica, Janis, that's pretty much what I said, by turns. Pica, feel free to come down for a farewill visit; we've found a better Ethiopian restaurant just a few blocks from Cody's. And a nice Caribbean one, same spot.

Liz, yeah, there have been lots of changes and many I regret. But this is a biggie. I haven't been to the SF location, but Joe has and he says it's indeed big and comprehensive.

LDee, the SF one has more stock than the Fourth Street one. A friend of ours who had told us a month or three ago that Cody's Telegraph was on the skids financially has also shaken his head over the Fourth St. store's prospects. There was a followup piece in the Chron this morning, allowing as how Telegraph Avenue in general is in trouble, has empty storefronts, etc. But Shattuck Avenue, the other other downtown, has more and bugger empty storefronts, some of them new and shiny. And Tupper & Reed, a music-instrument store that's been there forever, closed down around Xmas.

I've actually been to the Target you mentioned, to scowl at its impingement on the creek. There's one not far from that one up San Pablo Avenue, too. I'd feel bad about outsourcing our tacky stores except I do remember the Albany cops' habit of picking up panhandlers and dropping them off on our side of the Berkeley-Albany border.

And sly', I certainly have heard of Hungry Mind. I used to pick up its newsletter at a bookstore in the Elmwood neighborhood. (That bookstore is gone, but I rather like the one that replaced it.) I mourn its passing, too. Damn trenditude anyway.

Posted by: Ron at May 11, 2006 07:23 PM

'kay, but you should join us for a refugee trip to Powells....

Posted by: Pica at May 12, 2006 01:22 AM

Field trip!!!

Posted by: Ron at May 12, 2006 09:27 PM