The Couth Buzzard

The Couth Buzzard

The Couth Buzzard seems to have come up with a device that ensures its survival - combine with a very cool coffee shop and bring in live music once in a while. My friend Jim Page is a strong supporter.

The write-up here is over ten years old and I haven't been back since I moved from the neighborhood. So this is that rare combo of travel guide and reverie of days gone by. They have moved into new digs, so I don't know if the smell or the deals are the same. I hope they kept the "mythical bookshelf" and the saucy chicken. But if Jim still likes it, I know the love of books remains.

This is how it once was. If you're in the neighborhood, drop in for an update.

"It’s almost impossible to walk by The Couth Buzzard without walking in as well. There is a community bulletin board posted outside the shop with posters for the Peace Concert Series, yoga classes and lectures. A wooden graphic has a mythical bookshelf painted on it, with titles like To Grill a Mockingbird, The Belle Jar, and Oh, To Be Jung Again. The green door sports a saucy chicken chirping Book, book, book, book, book. So, you look over the browsing stand and then wander on in the door.

"The first thing I noticed was that musty old book smell that speaks of books from decades past dredged from basements and attics and that back room where you tossed all the books you didn’t have shelf space for. The children’s section is to the left with lots of comfy chairs and well-worn stuffed animals, puzzles, games, and, of course, books. To the right, past the long checkout counter, is a sitting area with two cozy couches, a parakeet, and an old banged-up upright piano. We had to move it out from against the wall, said the manager. The kids like to come in and bang on it and the neighbors were complaining. The art and music books are in this corner.

"Old school maps hang from the ceiling. The place has the feel of a living room in a very old house. It is a sort of community living room, said the manager. Folks drop in and talk or sit around and read away the afternoons.

"Beyond the living room section begins the shelving of over 100,000 books, all in 6-foot, well-labeled bookshelves. The stacks are littered with chairs and footstools for checking out books on the spot or reaching volumes on the top shelves. The store is loosely organized into hardbacks on the right, paperbacks on the left. We keep everything organized. Everything’s very tidy, said the manager. I’ll print that, I said. You’ll chase away all our regular customers if you do, he replied.

"The organization breaks down a bit toward the back of the store. There are books piled in boxes along the back wall and between the rear stacks. I saw a huge mystery section. History is broken down by geography, then by year. There is a section of vintage paperbacks. The more rare, first editions are kept in glass cases, which front the checkout stand. There hangs a sign describing their credit system: You bring in books. We give you credit for ½ of what we sell them for. Then when you buy a book-àyou pay ½ cash and ½ credit. A shelf six to eight feet long holds notebooks of customer accounts.

"The Couth Buzzard has been buying, selling and trading books since 1989. May it live long and prosper."