There were Nazis, Nazis everywhere nor any drop to drink!
The beginning of 1966 near Venice. That was so very long ago, that the liquor store on the corner actually had a delivery service. Can you imagine? And the clerk would drive around with bottles of booze, sometimes cases for the well to do, other times a near-daily single quart of gin carried up two flights of stairs in downtrodden hotels where aging alcoholic actresses lived out their remaining days in their bathrobes.
Down the street from the liquor store, was some kind of investment place that actually had a stock ticker that was held in something that looked like a large bell jar that you could see from the window outside, with streams of perforated paper unreeling like streamers for a parade feeding into a wastebasket waiting below. The strips were punched out with strange little symbols. It looked like they were in constant production printing sets of encyclopedia for the blind.
And there were little places to stop and rest (I usually rode my bicycle around town). After seeing Scorpio Rising, I stopped somewhere at a cafe near the beach and was drinking a soda as you had to buy something to sit there usually.
The boardwalk back then was nothing like the freak show it is now. Just some pensioners playing checkers at tables near the beach. And the POP tram was still running though the amusement park that was growing day by day every bit as worndown, shabby, and neglected as its neighboring town Venice.
So I was sipping through a straw and turning the pages of the LA Free Press, when a group settled in behind me ... and they were young men just coming into a cafe and talking about stuff, but then suddenly one spoke with a thick "Chur-man ogg-zent" und after der cinema mit all the Nazi flags waving and Nazi soldiery superimposed over leather boys, this too gave me the creeps.
And I casually turned my head around, to see if this accent was a put-on or what, and the guys were beefy and well muscled and in appearance at least reminded me somewhat of the Blue Velvet boys in the movie as this was near the old Muscle Beach ... Austrian accents were everywhere in Santa Monica, but I'm fairly certain that was Arnold Schwartzenegger, you know, who used to hang out at Gold's Gym down there maybe even about that time. Later, I saw this guy come into Zucky's, a Jewish deli around the corner from me. I saw him come in as he was noticably handsome and somewhat charismatic, and I was worried lest his thick Germanic accent might freak out the staff. I'd like to think this was Arnold himself, as I'd hate to believe there were two of him.
So there were people hanging in the area with careers about to take off once they moved away from the beach I guess.
I saw quite a bit of the sights and heard the local lore. The Merry-go-Round near the pier was supposed to be haunted by the ghost of someone who had been murdered there.
Where the horse race track used to be. The canals. The old columnades in Venice proper, and elsewhere a funky kind of smoke stack. The Pillar. Stan Laurel lived in the vicinity. Debbie Reynolds mother lived in such and such hotel. People surfing at Venice Beach and riding near the pier. The wooden lifeguard stands. Rusty dumbells. Olivia's cafe. At the bottom of a steep street slightly up North in Santa Monica, there was a huge 3 or 4 storey building on the beach with Synanon painted in large letters. I heard the name "Claire" floating in the air of someone else's conversation. I met beatniks and political types. One of whom was both, and he ran a commune in town where transients and beatniks lived as well as the local Venice West Coffee House. He eventually ran for Governor of California on the ticket of a new political party in 1968, the Peace and Freedom Party which he had helped found.
I'd been there a few times in the previous years, they sold Picayune cigarettes from Louisiana and Faros from Mexico at the counter where you got your coffee. I saw the man who could write upside down and backwards with both hands simultaneously -- exactly the same sentence and the same sentence was a mirror image of itself. I'd heard poetry and sometimes music.
A few doors down, a man ran a left wing bookstore and he was something of a local celebrity, a raconteur on KPFA radio. I got to know him a bit.
I even encountered a very weird guy who owned and played a national guitar who was eventually written about by none other than Philip K. Dick, the science fiction writer, in a long letter the author had composed to the FBI:
He had the reputation even then of trying to lure young women into posing for "naturist" magazines ("nudist" beach parties scenes, or "nudists playing volleyball on the beach") and he also had the reputation in certain circles of being a light-fingered type, stealing from people whose gatherings and parties he went to and from acquaintences and friends. One person said a gun was missing after he'd been by. Other people were missing money. Some paranoid types thought he worked for the FBI as an informant. Before I learned all that about him, he had given me an 8x10 photograph of beatniks in Washington Square Park, which he autographed on the back: "To Babs, May you always be in love. Sincerely, Loveable Ol' Doc Stanley." He said he had taken the photo. At the time, I thought he meant "as the photographer", but now I'm not so sure what he meant. "Loveable Ol' Doc Stanley" was his stage name, and he even had a small folk act he performed with a blond woman where they sang old timey songs as a duet and played guitars. They were serious about that act, and even had 4x5 publicity stills made up.
I looked at that inscription once in awhile. But especially then, in that current moment in time, it was such a mock.
You know, I actually ran into him in the Bay Area a few years later when I was over in San Francisco trying to connect with Chester Anderson and the Communication Company, and he walked me around for a few blocks and showed me the very first Free Store the Diggers had brought into being.
(Everybody knows by now that not only the club called Jabberwock in Berkeley but also the Vorpal Gallery in San Francisco had drawn their names from the same Lewis Carroll poem, and the meter the poet struck often echoed that of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner ... yes? Basic stuff. And the club in Berkeley on San Pablo called the Albatross likely took its name from the Coleridge poem. Weren't people more literate then?
They sure were. A fellow I met in Venice, a car mechanic by trade, had named his piece-of-crap, sputtering, and occasionally running Fiat, the car he could never fix, "Harry" after Harry Haller in Steppenwolf.
RAND, I'd ride past RAND and sometimes hear the skirl of bagpipes as the LA police bagpipe squad marched and practiced on a large lawn near there.