16 July 2012

Guest Post: Melody introduces us to Telegraph Avenue

I am so pleased to introduce my first guest blogpost, courtesy of Melody, the genius behind the wonderful blog, Fingers & Prose, which is one of my favorite bookblogs. She is familiar with the part of the world circumscribing Chabon's new book, and though she's not participating in the pre-publication reading of Telegraph Avenue, she's been cheering us along the way.  This week she dug up this "tour" on the interwebs, that we might visualize the environs we're reading about.  I hope you find it as interesting as I did! 

A Tour of Telegraph Avenue, Courtesy of the Author Himself
(photo credit)
Michael Chabon wrote a bit for The Atlantic about Telegraph Avenue (both the book he wrote and the place he lives) and the unique quality of home.  After talking about his hometown (Berkeley) he asks, "Is your "hometown" only, ever, the place where you grew up?"

I love that question.  We tend to talk about our hometowns being the places we grew up, but reality is more complex...and the answer is likely to be somewhat different depending on the person.  In any case, I'm a fan of authors writing about what's near and dear to them, and this certainly seems to be the case with the forthcoming Telegraph Avenue.  Don't believe me? Get a hold of this description:
"The real Telegraph Avenue runs straight as a steel cable, changing its nature more or less completely every ten blocks or so, from the medical-marijuana souks of Oaksterdam, past the former Lamp Post bar where Bobby Seale used to hang out (now called Interplay Center, where you can "unlock the wisdom of your body"), past Section 8 housing and the site of a founding settlement of the native Ohlone people at the corner of 51st Street, past the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library and Akwaba Braiding and a buttload of Ethiopian restaurants, ending in an august jangle at the gates of the Cal campus, and I guess that for a guy who likes hanging around the borderlands--between genres, cultures, musics, legacies, styles--the appeal of Telegraph lies in the way it reflects a local determination to find your path irrespective of boundary lines, picking up what you can, shaking off what you can, along the way. But can you claim a home in a nameless place, at the edge of a wandering border?"  (from The Atlantic)
So that's how he describes it, but what if you wanted to see more?  If your one wish happened to be that Michael Chabon would take you on a tour of this eclectic, inspiring hometown of his, where would he take you?  Fortunately for you, he's anticipated this wish, and you'll be left in agony no longer.  (Or, to be more exact, UC Berkeley has anticipated this wish and did the leg-work for you.)  Here's the itinerary:
  • On and around … take in a show at the Fox Theater, dinner at Flora. 
  • Check out InterPlay, former site of the Lamp Post Tavern, the Black Panther bar, wish I was still young enough to hang at the Stork Club. 
  • Pick up a box of Melona creamsicles at Koreana Plaza, eat them. 
  • Mourn Neldam’s. 
  • Cut right on 40th to check out new/old arrivals at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. 
  • Marvel at the Houdini-esque splendor of the locking merchandise for sale at Reed Bros. 
  • Go to Depot for Creative Reuse. 
  • Burma Superstar! Pizzaiolo, my family’s favorite restaurant, or, depending on time of day, Bakesale Betty for a chicken sandwich. 
  • Stop in at Clars Auction Gallery to see what crazy shit is for sale this week. 
  • Admire the wistful fading splendor of the skin diver on the sign of Steele’s Discount Scuba. 
  • Consider the possibility of revolution at the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library. 
  • Then leap on up to the campus end of things, to check in on Moe’s, Amoeba, and Shakespeare & Co. 
  • If my elder son is with me, Top Dog.

Oh, don't you want to go?  And if a list of places can be so exciting and descriptive, a dose of Chabon's writing should transport you directly there.  Enjoy the ride!

(photo and text credit)
"If you ever traveled through Berkeley in the 60's, you can come back to Telegraph Avenue today and close your eyes, open them and transport yourself back in time. Telegraph Avenue will give you the feeling that time has stood still - the colorful street vendors are still in full color as are many of the locals on the street. Get yourself a tattoo or just sit outside at a cafe and watch the people - it's the best. However, Telegraph Avenue is home to some of the best book and music stores in the world - Rasputin & Amoeba as well as Cody's and Shakespeare & Co. You can even go mainstream and shop at the GAP or buy a cookie at Mrs. Fields. But, if you want a fun afternoon of colorful shopping, make a trip to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley."


  1. Melody: Thank you for all the insider research. It is really helpful and does add even more color to the book - if that's even possible!

  2. Wow - this is so interesting and I think it'll really help cement me in that world as I'm reading. Thank you!

  3. Thanks so much for allowing me to take up some space here! Reading about the real Telegraph Avenue makes it so apparent why Chabon wrote about it. How could you not? Sounds like it's been a great reading experience so far - I know I'm having fun following along. :)


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