When Yogi Berra was offered a job as manager of a baseball club, he was asked if he wasn't worried, since he had never done a minute of managing before. Yogi didn't hesitate in his reply, "You'd be surprised how much you can observe by watching." For three decades, I have been watching Moe, and have observed a great deal.
Economics major, actor, picture framer, musician, activist, self-proclaimed anarchist and nihilist, bookseller. For more than three decades we knew each other, from the day he opened his first store on Shattuck Avenue off of University (cramped quarters, almost claustrophobic) to his emporium on Telegraph Avenue. Early on he threw himself into bookselling, willing to take risks, adopting Mark Twain's advice, "Put all you eggs in one basket— and watch the basket."
The character of Moe's life cannot be adequately described without noting the intensity of his human concerns and convictions, his humaneness, his social compassion, his utter honesty, and yes, his marvelous (even contagious) irreverence and iconoclasm, his combative questioning spirit, his sometimes quiet rage, his not so quiet rage. He used his playful wit, his skepticism to unmask hypocrisy and to expose pretensions (no matter their ideological bent).
In the age of the corporate bookseller, Moe was an individualist, and I will always value the passion, commitment, and love he brought to selling books— and to shelving books. He made our lives in Berkeley much richer for the vision he came to realize at 2476 Telegraph. It's hard to believe he's gone but as Moe would have said, "The trouble with immortality is that it lasts forever." Moe was a unique individual. If he hadn't existed, it would have been hard to imagine him. I will miss him. Berkeley will miss him.
I would leave you with two more thoughts from Mark Twain I think Moe might have appreciated.
"When we remember that we're all mad, the mysteries disappear, and life stands explained."
"If you can keep your head when everyone else around you is losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation"
Leon F. Litwack