IT WAS A JUXTAPOSITION OF CONTRADICTORY IMAGES. A colorful banner declaring that Cody’s Books was “Now Open” hung above the store’s awning while a photocopied note on an 8.5x11″ piece of paper informing us that the store had closed for good was affixed to the window below with Scotch tape. Passersby on Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley kept on trying to get into Cody’s. As I waited to do my sidewalk reading, I saw at least five people attempt to enter the store. They jiggled the door, found it to be locked and then saw the Xeroxed sign and kept on walking down the street. Who knows where they eventually spent their dollars. The Ross Dress for Less and a few other stores in the neighborhood had also recently folded. Shattuck Ave. is hurting folks.
Now Closed – The End.
The eerie thing about Cody’s was that it still looked like a bookstore. It appeared open and functional. The books were all there, neatly on the shelves. Bestsellers and staff picks were clearly visible through the shop’s glass front. Since the venerable bookstore’s abrupt closure on June 20th, no bitter employees had ransacked the place upon suddenly getting their walking papers. Nobody had even bothered to muss the place up a bit. The rats hadn’t moved in. I wondered if there was a box of copies of my book somewhere in the backroom that had been ordered for my previously scheduled June 30th reading there. There probably was.
Still could be selling books.
At about 10 after 7, I began my reading from Beer, Blood and Cornmeal on the sidewalk in front of Cody’s. A small group of friends and librarians gathered to watch me. People walked past me as if nothing was going on. It was Berkeley. I was just another nutjob with a fringe jacket standing on a street corner and spouting off about something. I began the reading by saying something about not feeling so resigned but the words didn’t come out right. Reading about Sasquatches going crazy and wrestlers cutting each other up with razor blades seemed to do better for me. Some hippy kids stopped and watched me for a while but then moved along. A homeless guy seemed to pay attention. I sold a couple of books. The books were supplied by Green Apple. At least one independent bookstore made some scratch from me being there.
Just another nutjob in a fringe jacket.
You know the Cody’s in San Francisco still has its sign up. It was supposed to be transformed into some atrocity called the Ferrari Store in Spring. We’re well into summer and the Ferrari Store still hasn’t opened. One failed business has been piled on top of another in a monument to our nation’s retail slowdown right there in San Francisco’s financial district. The sign for the Telegraph Avenue Cody’s is also still there. Nobody has moved into these pieces of commercial real estate since the bookstore’s game of musical venues. I should do a tour of all of the closed down Cody’s Books. I’ll stand there on the street reading from my weird wrestling memoir as wouldbe shoppers pass me by vainly searching for a store that’s actually still in business.
Special Thanks to Dave Clarke of Hellavision and Heidi from Fora.tv for filming the event. I’ll let everyone know when the video of the reading is posted. All pictures by Rosie Picado.