Kajon Cermak, KCRW's beloved traffic reporter, started her career with a coin toss deciding between New York or Los Angeles to pursue acting. With a husband and child in tow, they headed west and settled in. After two more children and a disheartening experience in an audition room with child actors (and their stage mothers), she left the profession.
During the in-between period searching for her next career, Cermak inadvertently got her start in public radio by volunteering at a KCLU fund drive in Thousand Oaks in 2000. "I think I was the last of the station's effort to cultivate people from the community to use in every position at the station." The station manager offered her space in the sound booths to learn her radio voice, and in a few months, she became KCLU's 'Wednesday jazz chick'. In 2004, She fell into the KCRW's afternoon traffic and news reporter slot, and in 2005 became one of KCRW's local hosts for NPR's All Things Considered. She holds both roles today.
Her humorous, conversational tone indicating landmarks along traffic routes has become her trademark, and the base from which she continues to develop her informative-yet-entertaining style. While known for phrases like "pack a snack" and "bummer to bummer," Cermak is not all talk. Her desire to create a community around traffic problems manifested in a traffic blog called Shortcuts on KCRW's website, where people connect over the Southland's transportation issues. "Mostly, people just want to know why they're sitting there, and that they're not alone."
Cermak is cautiously optimistic about Carmageddon this weekend. As a Chicago native, she likes to think of the event as Los Angeles' version of a snow day and hopes people take advantage of the freeway closure by staying home, inviting friends and neighbors over for backyard barbecues and discovering what's in walking distance around their own communities. "Carmageddon could be a good thing. Shutting down and turning off isn't such a bad idea."
The most unusual traffic event besides Carmageddon Cermak has covered? A house blocking traffic in the right shoulder of the 101. She's also got us covered for our backyard staycations this weekend, with an adaptation of her mother's watermelon salad.
Sweet and Savory Watermelon Salad
- One medium watermelon, about 4 pounds, flesh cut into cubes
- 6 limes, juiced
- one red onion, shaved very thin
- One cup of mint, roughly chopped
- 16 ounces kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Using a mandoline, shave onion into thin slices. Juice limes and marinate the onions in lime juice. Cube watermelon, halve olives, crumble cheese and chop mint. After a half hour, drain onions and gently combine all ingredients, adjusting amounts as necessary. Let flavors combine in the refrigerator for about an hour, toss again, and serve.