Radio reporter and podcast producer Jon Kalish is based in Manhattan and has been a freelance contributor to WNYC since 1980. For links to radio docs, podcasts and stories by Jon Kalish, visit his Tumblr page here.
Fish Out Of Water
Friday, January 12, 2001
Santa Monica, CA —Paul Krassner is 68 years old but he doesn't look a day older than 55. He is a rarity among Angelenos in that he doesn't drive an automobile. Never got a license.
Krassner: I'm a walker but I know how to put 50 cents in the Big Blue Bus and that helps. I'm pretty much of a hermit anyhow so I don't really need to go driving anywhere.
Krassner's wife, Nancy Cain, does drive. Krassner and Cain, both veterans of the countercultural media of the 1960's and 70's, were living on the same vehicle-free street in Venice, just a block from the beach, when they met and fell in love. After they got married, they maintained their separate homes for a while but eventually Krassner gave up his pad and moved in with Cain. Both of them were keen on Venice's rep as a haven for Bohemians and artists.
Krassner: I know one guy switched to the bank that I was banking at because it would allow him to go there with roller-skates. Somehow you don't think of that in other cities.
Krassner has found the bizarre mosaic of humanity on Venice's boardwalk to be both an inspiration and a diversion. It's a place where a guy with the parrots and a snake allows tourists to take pictures of themselves posing with the exotic wildlife, just a hop, skip and a jump from a short muscular Russian gentleman who actually balances a kitchen stove on his teeth. One of Krassner's favorite boardwalk characters is a guy known as the pacer.
Krassner: The pacer just walked around in circles for the sheer love of it until one day when he put a little card board box down on the ground and people started giving him money for his determination to walk around in circles. It humbled me because I no longer thought of him as a nut but as someone who was going to work every day and was earning his keep and he was no better and no worse than anyone else who worked for living.Kalish: And what would he do at the end of the day?Krassner: He'd just go home and unwind.
Krassner marvels at the large number of massage therapists, who set up tables or chairs on the Venice boardwalk to ply their trade. Another aspect of Southern California's obsession with the physical he's noticed is that more women here seem to have had their breasts augmented by plastic surgeons. This reporter has noticed that there sure are alot of newspaper ads promoting the service.
Krassner: L.A. I would think statistically has more breast implants than other cities. Nancy and I walk along and look: "Real, real, real, implants, real, implants. It's just like some people would look at headlights on cars like a children's game.
Krassner has also noticed that there are alot of very handsome men and women in these parts. He has a theory about how they got here.
Krassner: The people who came here to be in the movies and were pretty and handsome and ended up running gas stations and being waitresses... they all had these beautiful kids. So I think there's kind of-- not a super race-- but intimations of it. In appearance, not necessarily in content.
Paul Krassner and his wife Nancy Cain noticed that Venice is getting more gentrified and less Bohemian, so they just moved to the desert, where real estate is still a bargain. Property values in Venice have gotten so high that you practically have to be a dot-com millionaire to buy a home. One indication of the changing of the guard is that the Venice drum circle, which has been pounding those skins for close to 40 years, has gotten on the nerves of the local gentry, who have called in the cops to chase away all that percussion. For WNYC, I'm Jon Kalish, your fish out of water in Southern California.