Moe Moskowitz, the co-founder of Moe’s Books in Berkeley, was known for a lot of things: his omnipresent cigars; his appalling dancing (sometimes to Cab Calloway on the store’s turntable); his political activism; and especially the way he held court at the cash register, riffing like Jackie Mason at a Friars Club podium.
The more you know about Moskowitz (1921-1997), who opened the store in 1959, the Beatnik era, with his wife, Barbara, the more you want to know. He was brusque and a bit of a slob. He drove his sports car like a maniac. One of his former employees has written about his “famous flatulence.”
He was a natural-born agitator. Born in New York City, he realized he missed certain eats while out West. He’s been given credit for bringing real bagels into Berkeley after founding SAWBABA, the Society for the Advancement of Water Bagels in the Bay Area, in 1962.
I spent a fair amount of time in Moe’s looking through his bargain, used books. Snyder, Patchen, Borges, Ram Das, LeGuin, Heinlein, Trungpa, ceramics. I’d go up the block to Cody’s to sit on the floor & page through their fine selection of out-of-my-reach art books.