Memories of The Geek Beat
I’ve been working a book project on Tom Forcade, the 1970s counterculture, dope smuggling, Nixon’s War on Drugs etc. etc. etc. Anyway, in the course of this, I’m going through my old files from back in that day and comes across a sheaf of yellowed typewritten notes I made during a frenzied six-week hejira through California for Playboy in the terminal bleedout of that decade. (More on that at a later date, including the story that eventually appeared in High Times.)
Stewart, a popular author of Western novels during the Twenties, describes Los Angeles through the eyes of his Midwest protagonist, Bob Orde. Its a foreshadow of the institutionalized short con we live today–cable news, Wall Street, WalMart, televangelists, Rush and Chris and Glenn, infomercials…..
“Each extreme of costume seemed justified, either by the balmy summer-night effect of the California open air, or by the hint of chill that crept from the distant mountains. Either aspect could be welcomed or ignored by a very slight effort of the will. Electric signs blazed everywhere.
Bob was struck by the numbers of clairvoyants, palm readers, Hindu frauds, crazy cults, fake healers, Chinese doctors, and the like thus lavishly advertised. The class that elsewhere is pressed by neccesity to the inexpensive dinginess of backstreets, here blossomed forth in truly tropical luxuriance.
Street vendors with all sorts of things, from mechanical toys to spot eradicators, spread their portable lay-outs at every corner. Vacant lots were crowded with spielers of all sorts–religious or political fanatics, vendors of cure-alls, of universal tools, of marvelous axle-grease, of anything and everything to catch the idle dollar. Brilliantly lighted shops called the passer-by to contemplate the latest wave motor, flying machine, door check or what-not. Stock in these enterprises were for sale–and was being sold! Other sidewalk booths, like the those ordinarily used as dispensaries of hot doughnuts and coffee, offered wild-cat mining shares, oil stock and real estate in some highly speculative suburb.”