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Jack Kerouac Gravesite Adventure Edson Cemetary, Lowell

October 16th, 2016 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales


Satori in Lowell   —

The Intentional Nothingness of Everything


Every year the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival is five blissfully crazy days of non-stop events from early morning to late night — from David Amram performances and other concerts to movie screenings and art shows to walking and bus tours to guest speakers and pub crawls — and there’s not much time to get off the Beaten path.

So when I finally checked out of the Motel Six Gallery on Tuesday, Destination One was the one sacred site I’d yet to commune with this year — Jack’s gravesite.



I got there at high noon and didn’t leave until after the gorgeous orange sunset behind the blazing orange trees of a beautiful shorts-&-t-shirt New England October day.

The first thing I do whenever I get there is clean the heck out of the joint — cigarette butts, bottle caps, empty booze bottles, all the obvious garbage.  But this visit, since I spent all day there, I went crazy to the point of even chipping out little dime-size pieces of broken glass and other detritus from the peaceful October Earth.

And then — there were all these long grass blades and dead weed stems harshing Jack’s mellow stone.  And preferring not to rip life out of the ground, I suddenly remembered I had scissors in the car!  The Manitoba farmer in me bloomed back to life, and next thing I know I’m down on my hands-&-knees meticulously snipping unruly blades and errant stems one-by-one with paper scissors.

Being there six hours, if you know anything about pruning, you know new stuff keeps appearing even after you’ve been looking at it for hours.  Which I did.  And by the end of the day I was back down on my knees with a little baby twig scooping out tiny white pebbles the size of a half a grain of rice from inside the carved letters leaving nothing but the beaming memorial in the breathing earth Jack is resting in in his Golden Eternity.


But the satori of it all came from having the entire day to hang without anything on the schedule — unlike every day for the last several months.  Intentional nothingness.  No plans for how to spend the day — and that was the openness I occupied and embraced.

The pacing.  The time.  The writing.  The time.  The Being There.  Time.  The no-one-else Alone-Time.  The composing on the laptop on the hood of the Blue Bomber looking Jack-way time.



Riffing with no one but God and Jack and the technicolor trees of old Lowell in October of the Railroad Earth . . . pacing the millennia . . . reflecting on the mania of LCK just wrapped — an arc from the Worthen opening Thursday to the Worthen closing wrap party Monday.


Oh, and I brought Jack a cup of coffee!  😀 


People are always bringing and leaving booze bottles — which is okay, because it did give him “ecstasy of mind” as he described it.  But it was also what killed him.

As he wrote in a letter to his best friend Neal Cassady immediately upon finishing the famous scroll version of On The Road — “I wrote that book on COFFEE . . . remember said rule.  Benny, tea, anything I know none as good as coffee for real mental power kicks.  Remember!  COFFEE!  (try it, please).”

The white (Sal) Paradise Diner cup was courtesy of the Wizard of Wonder — the senior Merry Prankster of the beatitudes who made it here all the way from heartland Indiana — thanks to coast-hopping Beat bro Philip Thomas who I first met at the Beat Shindig in North Beach last year.  Oh and we asked the son of the owner who was working at the diner and he confirmed it was always called the Paradise at least as far back as the 1930s, so this could have been at least one of the reasons Jack had the word in his head when naming his character in On The Road.


But the real satori of the day came from the flipping between the sacred silent solitude and the steady stream of the devoted and searching who continued to fall in, all fall day long.

They ranged from 20 to 75 years old — from lifelong Jack readers to bright-eyed students just discovering him — from dreadlocked Berners to bearded Thoreauians — from middle class couples to traveling vagabonds.

Apparently there’s a woman professor in town who’s teaching Jack in a couple different courses at the community college here.  And she’s got her students so fired up they’re making pilgrimages to the sacred site on their free time — at about the same age I made mine to Boulder in 1982. (!)  And all day long I was the greeter at the shrine — welcoming them, reading Jack aloud for some of them, telling them backstories, and directing them to other local sites.  I should get a piece of the action at the Worthen I tell ya!

Over the six hours, there was rarely a 15 minute stretch where I was alone.  But I’d take advantage of each one — pacing and thinking and talking and riffing and writing and soaking in the extended solitude moments and finding peace in the open-ended day at a sacred spot.  And that’s what it takes to find inner peace — timelessness.  Nowhere to be but right here right now.  Forever.




Oh and a P.S. to the story — apparently the students I met told their teacher about me and the next day they played my Carolyn Cassady tribute video in their class!  😀 



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Here’s a story from last year’s Lowell Celebrates Kerouac.

Or here’s the 2015 Adventure of getting into the Pawtuckville Social Club.

Here’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” that I read from at my show on Saturday and with David Amram on Sunday.

Here’s what some people think of the book.  Or here’s what more people think.

Here’s a piece I just wrote on Jack’s book “Pic” — which I performed a chapter from at the Worthen on Saturday.


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Jack Kerouac’s novella “Pic” Reconsidered

September 25th, 2016 · Kerouac and The Beats



I Pick Pic


Thirty years ago I remember saying to my Beat brothers at the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village that I thought Vanity of Duluoz was right up there with Jack’s greatest works.  And they all looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Yeah, but nobody else thinks that.” 🙂

Years later, Duluoz has gotten its due.

What I’m sayin here is — Pic is better than conventional wisdom has it.

If you don’t know — this novella was a key moment in the evolution of one of America’s greatest writers.  It was written over the summer / fall of 1950 as he was struggling to get his On The Road vision on the page.

Shortly after writing it, in Dec. 1950 he received the now-legendary “Joan Anderson/Cherry Mary” letter from Neal Cassady that broke open his storytelling narrative voice which led to the famous Scroll version three months later.

I know it sounds crazy, but I think the oft-dismissed Pic is one of Kerouac’s most fun (and quick) books.  Everything Jack wrote was a thinly-veiled version of himself.  This is the only time he ever wrote as someone else entirely — a precocious, adorable, funny, adventurous, wide-eyed 10-year-old African-American boy from North Carolina.  

His whole oeuvre, his whole raison d’êtra, his whole “Duluoz Legend” (the breakthrough idea of telling one epic story of one person’s life at his particular point in history) was about writing in the real first person.  Pic is Kerouac’s very first work written in first-person (after the third-person Town and The City, Orpheus Emerged, The Sea Is My Brother, et al) and the only book to step into another skin entirely — a key evolution in the author’s expanding execution.

I’m not saying Pic is Road — but it does contain many scenes he either used (in a different form) in On The Road or in the Scroll version or elsewhere that never stayed in the published editions.  There’s the longest take of the Ghost of the Susquehanna; there’s the Prophet of Times Square and other vivid New York scenes; there’s the most detailed bus trip description of his many times riding in one; and there’s the whole story of two “brothers” going “on the road” together.

This is the only time this stunningly gifted writer ever branched into another voice.  And boy, I love it!

And just to clarify the “stunningly gifted writer” part if anybody doesn’t get it, and I know some don’t:

What I might suggest anyone do is read the On The Road Scroll and Old Angel Midnight and The Dharma Bums and Big Sur and get back to me.  Kerouac captured a compassionate vision of the world, and an embrace of all peoples — black, white; gay, straight; rich, poor; city hipsters and country farmers.  He articulated the wanderlust that so many have, whether they act on it or not.  He wrote prose like a poet, and novels like a storyteller sitting next to you in a bar (as he himself described his goal as a writer).

His output was a herculean effort in a very short 47-year life that was filled — except for about one week in 1957 — with mostly rejection.  There’s a body of work here that’s rivaled only by his fellow giants.  Besides being a novelist, he was a chronicler, an historian, a poet — a visionary in the sense that he saw the future and knew the value of what he was doing — and that people are still devouring what he created is proof he was right.  I mean, You’re reading about him Now!

It was a Van Gogh-like commitment in the face of all rejection.  And God-damn-it that hard booze and insulting dismissals mowed him down in mid-life.

And in this whole massive masterful output, Pic has not gotten the props it deserves — just like John Lennon’s “Sometime In New York City” didn’t.  As a Lennon fan, I was always perplexed by the accepted conclusion that this album was no good.  I had it.  I listened to it.  I knew it was great.  In fact, it rocked!

And so, like everybody else in Jackland, I’d dismissed Pic (until I reread it recently) because … it was dismissed.  It’s barely touched on in any of the biographies.  Sure, it’s unfinished, sure the dialect may not be a perfect linguistic transcription, but this is his Catcher, his Huck — his comical, colorful young-person’s voice and story.

I’ve said (as I’m sure others have) that On The Road was Huckleberry Finn in the 20th century.  In fact, even Jack described this early attempt at Road as, “a kind of Huckleberry Finn of today.”  Only thing is — Huck was written in dialect, and Road wasn’t. 

This is the only time this monster talent tried a long-form dialect piece.  Besides the Midnight / Sax / Vanity variety of voices he captured . . . here he is a thousand miles out of his comfort zone — not writing in his native French, nor his mastered English, but actually “becoming” the black American he confessed to wanting to be in On The Road —  At lilac evening I walked with every muscle aching among the lights of 27th and Welton in the Denver colored section, wishing I were a Negro, feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough night.

And there’s this neat symmetry how this first first-person novel perfectly mirrors the last one he wrote (Vanity of Duluoz) in that they’re the only two books addressed throughout to one person — Pic to “Grandpa” and Vanity to “Wifey” — the most direct one-on-one communication from author to imagined reader.

I’m not sayin Pic is Toni Morrison or James Baldwin or Langston Hughes — but I’ve never read Norman Mailer or Tom Wolfe or Hunter Thompson even attempt this kind of range.

It’s a testimony to his creative courage and ear-to-hand gifts that he went there long-form — that he inhabited this other place.  Whether he caught every phrase just right, I don’t know or care.  I “got” it.  I was there with him.  I was that kid.  Going On The Road.  Discovering New York.  Digging the Ghost of the Susquehanna.  Savoring all of America that he was gulping in for the first time.  Appreciating how this was Jack’s Road vision . . . just before he Scrolled it.

And he had (wisely?) returned to it in the last months of his life — dashing off a quick ending that doesn’t satisfy but at least didn’t leave it mid-tale.

Which brings us back the goddamned tragedy of him dying.  Alcoholism is as much a biological disease as cancer.  I’m so sad John Lennon was taken from us by a mental disease, and Jack by a physical one.

Where would he have gone as an author?

I like to think Pic was a hint of one of the places this master storyteller might have taken his readers in the decades he and the rest of us were robbed of.





For a whole Jack Adventure book written about going On The Road — check out “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.”

Or here’s some people’s reactions to that book.  Or here’s a bunch more.  😉

Or here’s a story of being in Manhattan the night John Lennon was killed.


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Gary Hart rally 1984 Washington Square

September 11th, 2016 · Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales


How Rock Concerts Led To Politics


For most of ’80s I lived in Phyllis & Eddie Condon’s palatial apartment on Washington Square North.  The NYU Program Board from where I ran the concerts was in the Loeb Student Center on Washington Square South — about a 3-minute walk away — if you didn’t dawdle in the continuous circus that was Washington Square Park.  I halfway lived over there in what was my first “office” — and could do anything I wanted.

At this point I knew very little about American politics or how government worked at all, having grown up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

The first time any of this entered my fort-building hockey-playing childhood was the Watergate hearings that preempted all four of our TV channels that summer of ’73.  Then there was the newsflash of seeing the giant “NIXON RESIGNS” headline in a newspaper box in as big letters as the “WAR IS OVER” or “MAN ON MOON” headlines I’d seen in books — and realizing this was the first historic event of my young conscious life.

We were taught virtually nothing about American politics in Canadian schools.  Prolly about as much as Americans were about Canada.  I knew they had Presidents, and George Washington was the first, and 1776 was a big deal for some reason, but that was about it.

Unlike all my friends in Winterpeg, after reading Rolling Stone and other music magazines, I knew I wanted to live in America — a universally unpopular opinion in a small Canadian prairie town.  As soon as I finished my mandatory service in high school, myself and a couple buddies loaded up the van and drove to Californey with visions of bikini beaches and waving fields of pot dancing in our heads.


The First Presidential Candidate

At one point on that crazy trip we were down in San Diego and climbed over the wall to sneak into their famous zoo there.  Just after we got inside, who should come walking right past us in that spring of 1980, but Presidential candidate John Anderson!  The white-haired bespectacled Republican had just started running Independent as a counterpoint to Reagan’s ultra-right-conservatism.  But we weren’t really too hip to the details.  All we knew was he was throwing a monkey wrench into American politics and that was good enough for us.

My fellow Canadian runaway, I’ll call him Joey, was about the only other person I knew who was really into American politics & culture, and of course we’d never seen a real-life American Presidential candidate in the flesh before and rushed right over in our 18-year-old enthusiasm and shook the hand that shook the hand of P.T. Barnum and Charlie Chan.  Even got me a bumper sticker from his entourage of maybe a half-dozen people — my first bone fide campaign ephemera!



World War III

A week or so after that, we found ourselves in yet another first — hanging with a real-live Vietnam War veteran — something that just didn’t happen in Winnipeg.

We were at his house somewhere around L.A. on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.  It was only 5 years since the end of that failed war, and a few more since Watergate and the Pentagon Papers, and we all knew the government lied to us and was up to no end of nefarious no good.  This vet was much older and wiser than us, and had fought in the heart of one of their most heinous lies, and he was filling our impressionable young minds with fresh sinsemilla and juicy details of the latest conspiracy theories.

He kept all the lights low as though he was still hiding in the dark in the jungle.  And as he was regaling his wide-eyed captives with elaborate tales of how the world really worked, the silent flickering rabbit-eared TV in the corner suddenly broke away from the regular late night broadcast with Breaking News of a secret rescue mission to free the American hostages in Iran that had gone horribly wrong.  Or was it really an invasion?  Helicopters crashed, soldiers were dead, and another war maneuver by the U.S. government had ended in death and disaster.  We sat up for hours in a pre-CNN world manually flipping the round channel knob to get any information we could.  We were sure, in our vividly stoned Everything-Has-Meaning minds, that there was a grand “reason” why we were hanging with a real front-line war soldier the night World War III started.


The Reagan–Carter Debate

A few months later — fall of 1980 — was the Presidential debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Rayguns.  In more Le Grande Synch Dept.:  It just so happened their one and only debate was scheduled on one of The Grateful Dead’s only two nights off during their 8-show run at Radio City Music Hall — which I was attending pretty much all of.

I knew I had to experience this because it seemed to be a very big deal in this new country I found myself — a month into what would become a decades-long Adventure in America.  And I was determined to understand this place.



I went to the historic counterculture Judson Church residence hall on Washington Square South and watched it in the common room full of smart young politicos making observations so far beyond me that I realized I was an utter neophyte in a very complex but exciting world.  I still remember where I was sitting — on the right side, half-way back — as I listened for the first time to a roomful of funny, wise-cracking American college students with politics and history surging thru their veins.  I’d never been immersed in that culture before — or even knew there was such a culture!  Politicos — in the flesh!  “So this is what that world’s like!”

I barely had a clue who the candidates were — but I knew if that crazy right-wing guy got elected things were gonna be really bad.


And that was about it.  1980 thru ’84 was a sex drugs & rock n roll frenzy in college in Greenwich Village — while still pulling off 13 As and cranking out NYU in 3-and-a-half years insteada 4 so I could pay them less money and get out into the real world sooner.  During those years I rarely spent any time thinking about politics.  Reagan was President, yuppie greed was cool, and it was all pretty depressing.  Plus, I thought the whole science of politics was as far beyond me as chemistry — and it seemed like something we had no control over anyway.  Turns out I was wrong on both counts.


The Moment Everything Changed

One day in early 1984 — yes, that “1984” that living under Reagan really felt like — I was finishing up some stuff in the office on the main floor of the Student Center, when I heard someone talking through a loudspeaker coming from LaGuardia Place — the little sidestreet off Washington Square South.  But loud speakers and loud noise were pretty much the norm around Washington Square Park — there was always crazy shit going on.

Then all of a sudden there were huge cheers for something — bigger than normal.  So I got up from my desk and walked into the lobby — which was about 8 feet above street level — and through the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows I laid eyes on my first political rally.

There was a man standing on a little stage at the end of the street with his back to Washington Square Park, facing south down the urban canyon packed with enthusiastic faces.  I can’t remember if he was on a trailer or if they did some quick stage set-up or what — cuz I don’t recall anything being there when I walked into the building.  But now the whole block was filled with excited, fist-pumping rock n roll people.  And they were cheering for what some guy was saying — not what he was playing.  But it sorta made sense cuz the dude looked kinda Kennedy-cool and was riffing with some cocky Mick Jagger confidence.

I’d been working in rock n roll since I was 15.  I knew this scene.  The stage, the PA, the crowd, the cameras, screaming fans.  Done.  Except I was looking at somebody who could be running the country.

This was the same crowd — the same energy — the same showmanship — as everything I’d ever done in my life.  It’s showbiz, man.  But this was for the man who could be the leader of the free world.  That’s even bigger than The Rolling Stones!

Turns out the guy’s name was Gary Hart.  This was not the “Monkey Business” campaign — that was 4 years later.  This was his first — which was actually a lot like Bernie Sanders’ in 2016.  He was a little-known Senator from a non-major state who galvanized the young while going up against the obvious party favorite — Walter Mondale — who’d been Vice President 4 years earlier and was the de facto nominee.

I got swept right up in it.  The underdog’s struggle.  The new ideas.  The new voice.  The challenge to the system.  The volunteers of America.



Looking out that window, on that unexpected sunny spring afternoon in Greenwich Village, my life changed.

I walked down the steps into the cordoned-off street in open-mouthed awe taking in something I “knew” but had never experienced.  Like Judson Church, I remember exactly where I stood against the building next to the old guard I knew who let me stand there, as I looked left to the rock star on the stage, or right at the block-long crowd listening and cheering.  This was rock n roll.  This I understood.

These people had the same passion in their faces, the same guttural thrill in their cheers, the same intangible electric energy as all the best music shows I ever worked or attended.  It’s a buzz that can also be felt in a large sports crowd when the home team scores.  Or in a Baptist church on a Sunday morning.  There’s a few places to experience this collective positive-minded celebratory energy.  But a political rally is definitely one of them.

And I’ve been actively participating in every primary and Presidential election since this unplanned karmic sign of a life-changing-moment.


As I riff this reflection in September 2016, a new alternate reality of this energy has manifested in rallies by the most prominent bigot since George Wallace or David Duke (who supports him).  I’ve even heard some scary seething in some Democratic ranks this campaign.  This fear-based conspiracy-centric vitriol may have been part of the political world in every cycle since forever, but it’s never been this extreme.

We’re living through an existential crisis as a nation — and there’s no grand simple quick fix.  But one place we can start is — not being part of the problem:  Focusing at least equally on positive things — and not the negatives about somebody you hate.  Being pro, and proactive.  Not no, and not active.  We gotta change the vibe in the room.  We’re better than this.


And this politico / historian / storyteller’s long-range viewfinder tells me a year from now we’re gonna be in a much better place.  I’m already living there.

And 50 or 100 years from now every voter alive is gonna wish they’d lived through this Shakespearian campaign.  So soak it in.  Be part of it.  Live it.  There’s never gonna be another one like it.  And we’re gonna win in the end.  😉 



Holding up my hand at the swearing-in as I became an American citizen.


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For an update on the Adventure circa 2016 — here’s my report from a Bernie Sanders rally in Bloomington, Indiana.

Or here’s my final report from the Republican convention in Cleveland this year.

Or here’s a crazy story from the 2004 primary — the Al Franken–Howard Dean story!

Or for what happens when we win — check out these Inauguration Adventures from Obama’s first.

Or here’s the night in Manhattan when he first won.

Or here’s what it was like at the first Clinton Inauguration.

Or for a whole Adventure book written in this same colorful language about a slightly different subject — check out “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.”

Or here’s some people’s reactions to that book.  Or here’s a bunch more.  😉



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How the 2016 Election Will Play Out

August 9th, 2016 · Politics



The 2016 Presidential and Congressional elections will be a win for Clinton because . . .

— Trump continues to be unhinged for the next 3 months;

— his racism / bigotry comments & viewpoint continue to reappear;

there’s a 3-month continuous drip-drip-drip of negative Trump business stories;

the Republican party will not fully employ its party-based ground operations due to Trump’s negative perception with voters and within the party brass;

Trump’s rally yahoos aren’t really registered active voters;

moderate Republican voters stay home;

moderate Republican women secretly vote Hillary;

independents and swing voters turn out en masse to stop Trump;

independents and swing voters break for “the first woman President;”

Democrats turn out for a third Obama term and second Clinton administration;

Obama’s favorables stay above 50%;

the debates will be a slaughter, and he’ll be humiliated worse than Ford in ’76 or Quayle in ’88;

Trump’s tax returns are leaked;

the voter suppression laws recently struck down in 5 states (including swing states North Carolina and Wisconsin) result in many more Democratic votes . . .

if those things happen — not one of which is far fetched and all are, in fact, quite likely — November 8th will be a hell of a night!  😀 

Even ConspiracyBoy won’t be able to say it was rigged.


How Trump could win — (meaning a higher voter percentage than either Romney or McCain received) 

he’s significantly under-polling due to respondents not willing to admit (even to anonymous pollsters) to voting for a known racist;

a serious non-debatable negative Clinton revelation appears (about either Hillary or Bill);

Trump hires and then actually follows the advice of top strategists and pivots to a traditional general election campaign for President;

he becomes a reasonable, stable, convincing centrist — ie; he becomes / plays the character of a President, and people buy it;

the Republican establishment comes around and strongly supports him, including delivering their ground game votes / organization;

he finally launches an air attack (TV & radio ads) that turns out to be effective;

with the aid of local redneck Mike Pence he catches on in the economically depressed rust belt;

he’s somehow perceived to win one or more of the debates;

Obama’s favorables drop below 50%;

there’s a series of terrorist attacks at home and/or abroad — but again, this could help her as the more experienced, sane & stable candidate.


And just as I said above of the Clinton wave — how none of those events are far fetched — frankly, all of these are far fetched, or at least unlikely, or are external events Trump has no control over.


If Gary Johnson gets 3% of the final vote or Jill Stein gets 2, it’ll be almost news.



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Here’s my Obama ’08 election preview/predictions.

Here’s 2012.

Here’s a beautiful gathering of Hillary and Bernie supporters at a Democrats Abroad debate-watch gathering in Toronto.

Here’s what it was like when I met Bernie Sanders at his rally in Bloomington, Indiana.

Here’s how and when I first got involved in politics.

Here’s a wild Adventure with Al Franken at a Howard Dean rally in 2004.

Here’s what it was like being at Obama’s Inauguration.

Here’s where Woodstock creator Michael Lang put some of my Obama coverage in his book about the festival.

Here’s a story I did on Bill Clinton’s first Inauguration.

Here’s arriving in Cleveland for the Republican convention in 2016.

Here’s Opening Day in Cleveland.

Here’s Day Two when things start to turn a little dicy.

Here’s the conclusion of the Repugnant “Shitshow.”


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Republican Convention first-person account

July 22nd, 2016 · Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales


“This is a Shitshow”


When I tried starting this story last night immediately upon arriving home around 4 AM . . . this was all I got writ —

Republicans are loons …


But boy, I just had the greatest time!  Sheesh!  This was like the 4th of July for a week!  As I said before — now I know why they’re called political parties!

Somehow the definitive moment for me was dancing at night in the fountain at the Public Square, led by a super-skilled drummer named Freedom who I just became friends with a couple days earlier.


It was right before Drumpf’s speech on the final night and security had secured the week, done their job & it was pretty much over, and Freedom picked right up on the freedom and started a tribal, festival-like, Grateful Dead dance party at the very heart of the city.  Just one of the many people I met here who I’ll probably be friends with for life.


The post-drum circle group hug – courtesy of the great photog Jeremy Hogan

Another definitive moment was experiencing Trump’s speech on 4th Street, which was interestingly/ironically being broadcast by MSNBC.

You could read into this that Fox didn’t set up a giant screen viewing area to broadcast their party’s words to the city.  But MSNBC thought people should see this!   😉

4th Street is a one-block-long narrow former (Kerouac?) alley that’s evolved into a pedestrian street lined with bars & restaurants on both sides.  It’s the coolest block in the city and was the go-to place for everyone not in the arena.


The street was pretty much packed from one end to the other, and what was funny/striking was how unenthusiastic and non-responsive people were.  The paid prop poobahs inside would cheer and applaud each line on cue, but outside it was mostly falling on deaf ears.  In a street full of Republicans.

Here’s one’s reaction at the table next to me . . .


And these two were standing in front of me for a bit . . . reading their phones . . . 



This should have been like being in the crowd at a home team’s victory — like Cleveland just celebrated last month with the Cavaliers basketball team bringing the first national championship to the city in 50 years — but instead it was like being at a home team loss.  The silence was deafening as the applause-track from the arena played to nonplussed indifference.  In Cleveland.  To Republicans.

These conventions are like the Woodstock of politics.  Every star in the political world is here, there’s non-stop “shows” on multiple stages all over the festival site (city), and people are partying like there’s no tomorrow.  Which, in the Republican’s case, is true.



Instead of smiling I was busy telling Chuck Todd how he was Tim Russert’s living legacy.  And boy did he appreciate that.


Mika & Joe


Me on MSNBC behind Al Franken 🙂


Van Jones doing a beautiful riff with the crazy Infowars guys.


Fellow Canadian David Frum — who observed Cleveland is like Toronto in the ’60s and early ’70s … lakeside city with great old architecture, and relatively untouched.


And another David spotted in the mix


John Lennon’s guitar he played Revolution on as well as The Beatles’s last gig on the Apple rooftop — at the “Louder Than Words” politics & music special exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame


Another reporter captured in the afternoon sun-speckled wild


With Hugh Hewitt.  Fraternizing with the enemy  🙂


Another smart young political reporter whose name I can’t remember, but I never forget that face.  p.s. – just remembered – Olivia Nuzzi.  🙂


Joy Reid having a good time on 4th Street


With Robert Smigel and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog


MSNBC host Chris Hayes – taken by the great Beat photog Jeremy Hogan


The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza


And the Post’s Dana Milbank

Meeting all the Washington Post writers, I had a good entry line with, “I’m a big fan and longtime subscriber …” which always seemed to buy me extra time and a genuine connection.  These guys who can stay so focused and get the story with new angles and insights and deadlines day after day, year after year, impresses the hell out of me and makes me laugh every time I see someone dismissing the MSM.

Others seen on the scene but unsnapped — Rick Santorum; NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt; their super-professional campaign reporter Hallie Jackson; former RNC Chair Michael Steele; Jonathan Capehart; Howard Fineman; Campbell Brown & Dan Senor; Politico’s bespectacled Mike Allen; Mother Jones writer and breaker of the Romney 47% story David Corn; Republican strategists Mike Murphy, Barry Bennett, Jack Kingston and Alex Castellanos; Roland Martin, Larry Cutler, Ron Fournier, Joan Walsh, Tucker Carlson, Samantha Bee, and that enormous Repugnant pig Frank Luntz.

One thing I found for sure — every writer or senior Republican operative I talked to all week saw the same writing on the wall.  More than one of them used the phrase “This is a shitshow” to describe what was happening, and the party chairman of one of the largest states in the union put it simply — “We’re fucked.”

This was the demise of the Repugnant Party I came to witness — and boy, the Donald did not disappoint!

Plagiarism, disconnection, disloyalty and dictatorial were the words to sum up each of the four days in sequence.

I’ve been in a lot of crowds at a lot of awe-inspiring concerts & other large-scale events over the last 40 years and know what happy fans look like.  The delegates and others leaving the arena looked like they were walking out of a funeral.  They should have been dancing in the streets after their team just put on the greatest show on earth . . . yet they were stumbling as though they just wanted to get home and bury their head under a pillow.


I’ll add more photos (and thoughts) to this as time & energy allows.  Took a Jack notebook fulla notes and 500 snaps.  I’m sure there’s a couple good ones in there.  🙂

And I just have to mention — from his countenance on TV, I always thought David Frum was some depressingly dour frump.  But he was prettymuch the friendliest, funniest, most talkative, interesting, coolest guy I met from the other side in Cleveland.  It just goes to show ya — people aren’t always what they seem.

And a shout-out has to be made to my Beat brother Ken for not only hosting my 24-hour madness for a week, but being an Adventure Buddy and cameraman-in-a-pinch!


Ken, Freedom & me, in the fountain in the Public Square, 10PM Thursday night



Here’s Part 1 of this story covering the two days leading into the convention.  And that’ll lead you to each of the other stories in sequence.  😉 

Here’s where you can read about more Adventures like this — in my book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

Or here’s what some people have been saying about it.

Or here’s the Adventure Tale of a Bernie Sanders rally in Indiana including shaking his hand and looking into his eyes at the end.

Or here’s how I first got started in politics.

Or here’s an account of the most jubilant night in the history of New York — check the Election Night 2008 Adventure

Or here’s the most excellent real-time Adventures at Obama’s Inauguration.

Or here’s my story from Clinton’s first Inauguration.

Or for how Woodstock promoter Michael Lang used my reports in his book — check out how Obama’s Inauguration was like Woodstock.

Or for the kind of creations that got us across the historic finish line — check out my poem and video for Where Wayward Jekylls Hyde.

Or for an on-the-campaign-trail adventure — check out the physical altercation I was in the middle of with Al Franken at a Howard Dean rally in ’04.

Or here’s my 2012 election predictions.

or the 2008 projections — in both, I’m over 98% correct.  😉


Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you want to also follow things there —

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Repugnant Convention — Love and hate

July 20th, 2016 · Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales

Republican Convention — Day 2 — Tuesday July 19th 


As the crazy circus rolls on that is the Repugnant National Coronation of their favorite racist bigot who is now their official “standard-bearer” after years of less obvious assholes — the playful sense of humor of many sensible and silly Americans is still on display.  In places.

Multiple Uptight Citizens Brigade Theatre-like groups have been staging sketches and songs on the streets all over town.




And another group brought hundreds of tennis balls to protest the convention banning them (!?) while allowing people to open-carry guns.

As you can see by this photo, as is pretty much always the case, the cops outnumber the protesters about 10-to-1.  It’s the strategy of “overwhelming force” — so nobody even thinks of doing anything wrong.


Note the pink & yellow tennis balls being held high
Beeg protest (!)

There has been nothing I’ve seen resembling actual violence or real threats by any civilian in Cleveland, but the cops have been overhired with our tax dollars and get all dressed up in their hot & heavy Play War gear every morning, and after a couple days of smiling and playing nice, they’re now ready to crack some heads and kick some ass.

Check out these stormtroopers!



What was once a cool, friendly, welcoming scene has devolved into an over-policed aggressive unfriendly vibe.



Do you know who Robert Smigel is?  He created the TV Funhouse cartoon shorts on Saturday Night Live, and the puppet character Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, and he and I spent some time together at a Kerouac event at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery many years ago where he absolutely killed making fun of us as Triumph.  Really funny guy.


He’s been out on the campaign trail at Trump rallies (for instance saying to a heavyset Drumpf supporter, “I think he needs to build a wall between you and McDonalds,” which made even the guy laugh) and doing his level best to keep people lighthearted during this ugly period in American history.

He organized a comedic parody of a protest at the Public Square — one of the designated gathering places in town — with such inflammatory protest signs as . . .


And positively positive absurdist messages like “God Hates Morning People” . . .


We were there for this, and it was obviously a really funny joke “protest” playing on the Jesus freaks [who are everywhere here] and other peaceful sign holders.

But the cops obviously missed the joke.  The Square was peopled with nothing but Smigel fans, curious bystanders, and about a bunch of official (and non) reporters with cameras.  Again, maybe because they feel like they have to do something since there’s 50 million of them everywhere doing nothing but standing around in the 80 degree sun, they called in reinforcements and systematically cleared the entire square, pushing people back using bikes, riot gear, and barking voices.


On the stage platform was a satiric comedy routine.  A gag.  A goof.  But they brought in the armed forces.  Although they didn’t fire, it was painfully reminiscent of the peaceful May 4th protests at Kent State, the site of which I just visited Monday.  This was authorities in uniforms not at all understanding what was happening in front of them — and overreacting.


I guess they got all dressed up in their war gear and had to show these pranksters their muscle.

And a very strange sub-set among the citizens-assembled are both young and older mostly males walking around filming what they see and describing their strollabout.  If you overhear them they’re describing things as though everything in front of them is terribly nefarious, and disaster is about to strike.  They’re narrating their reality as a death trap, and damn but they’re going to have their cameras rolling when Armageddon hits in the next few seconds.

But besides even the cops and camera loons, if there’s one thing that’s killing the buzz in downtown Cleveland it’s the Jesus freaks with bullhorns yelling at everyone.  I didn’t know the guy, and neither did anybody else know, but he seemed to be generally about peace & love, not unlike a lot of his other fellow longhairs.  But listening to these bloviating blowhards he sure sounds like some mean judgmental fascist dictator who was telling everyone they weren’t as good as he was.  The whackjob extremists yelling about him seem to have gotten The Bible about as wrong as some Muslims have gotten the Qur’an.  It’s no wonder so many people are turned off religion these days.


As a Christian friend of mine said of these assholes, “Welcome to the U.S. ‘Christian Right’ … aka anti-Christ.”

Me, I’m not losing my religion.  I learned everything I need to know about life from these guys


And there’s still beautiful people like this doing nothing but spreading the gospel of Love.



Watch this space and your choice of others because the next couple of days are only going to get hotter in Cleveland — both in temperature and vibe.


Here’s the next and final dispatch from the Cleveland front.



Here’s Part 1 of this story covering the two days leading into the convention.

The story of the first full day of the convention can be read here.

Here’s where you can read about more Adventures like this — in my book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

Or here’s what some people have been saying about it.

Or here’s the Adventure Tale of a Bernie Sanders rally in Indiana including shaking his hand and looking into his eyes at the end.

Or here’s how I first got involved in politics.

Or here’s an account of the most jubilant night in the history of New York — check the Election Night 2008 Adventure

Or here’s the most excellent real-time Adventures at Obama’s Inauguration.

Or here’s my story from Clinton’s first Inauguration.

Or for how Woodstock promoter Michael Lang used my reports in his book — check out how Obama’s Inauguration was like Woodstock.

Or for the kind of creations that got us across the historic finish line — check out my poem and video for Where Wayward Jekylls Hyde.

Or for an on-the-campaign-trail adventure — check out the physical altercation I was in the middle of with Al Franken at a Howard Dean rally in ’04.

Or here’s my 2012 election predictions.

or the 2008 projections — in both, I’m over 98% correct.  😉


Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you want to also follow things there —


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Cleveland Republican Convention Opening Day

July 19th, 2016 · Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales

You can read about the two days leading into the convention here.

Monday July 18th


Holy shit!  What a first convention night in Cleveland!  This town is throwing A PARTY!  Wow!

I mean, the cops and all levels of security are being so freakin nice!

At one point, ’round midnight, I needed to know if this certain exit from the Quicken perimeter was the only one, and I go over, and this Secret Service agent spends 5 minutes figuring out the answer for me.


I’ve seen police forces here from California, Michigan, Texas, Georgia …

and there’s armies of them!


After three days at the core of it, tonight, once, I heard the only cross words spoken between two people.  It was between a local and a Republican supporter.  And frankly, the guy on my side was out of turn.  He was just taking out his anti-Repugnant anger on this one guy.  But I’ve been around thousands of people, maybe tens of thousands, for days, and have only heard this one angry exchange between any two people.

How many huge political gatherings can you say that about?


Bizarrely and depressingly, I decided to start my day by visiting the nearby site of the Kent State massacre in 1970.


When people talk about how bad things are in our country today — at least the National Guard aren’t shooting unarmed student protesters.


The university has done an amazing job of honoring the fallen, with the spots where each of the four died permanently marked off, and interpretive signs all over the area that walk you through each step of that terrible day, plus an entire museum dedicated to it that’s spectacularly tastefully and effectively rendered.  It brought me to tears.  And I can’t have been the first one — because look what they have for viewers in the film room.


And it seems like the lessons have been taken to heart.  I had a lengthy discussion with the Deputy Police Chief about all things security, and at the end when I asked if I could get a picture with him, he asked if I minded if he put his arm around me while we take it.


Which was proceeded by hanging with leading alternative / anarchist presidential candidate Vermin Supreme.


And me and my convention buddy Ken even got some quality one-on-one time with the Donald himself!


Where there had been really no protesters to speak of during the entire weekend leading into the convention — when the town was as full of delegates and reporters as it would be during the convention — by Monday all the characters and costumes were out in full color.


And the thing of it is — this is Prankster protesting by committed Groucho Marxists.  Abbie Hoffman would be proud.  I mean, there was even a Kesey-like psychedelic Thunder Machine.


This is not a rocks and Molotov cocktails crew — it’s more your flowers in the ends of gun barrels.  And comical condoms.


The convention and city have become a giant art show with installations all over town — both official —


and un —


There are characters . . . 


and clowns . . . 


The real (insane) Roger Stone, backed by the real intrepid “Roger, stoned.”

I mean, at times I couldn’t tell if I was hanging with Pranksters or protesters.


Or exactly whose convention I was attending.


At one point I said, “I think there’s more Democrats in this town than Republicans.”


Ken, Panther, Freedom, and your friendly Beat peacenik


But for sure there were the best political reporters and minds in the country — including the great John Stanton who knows more about the details and machinations of American politics than I’ll ever master in a dozen lifetimes.  This guy is such a hero of mine — and I’m so glad I got to tell him so!


And besides us writers on hand, the whole scene is being captured and broadcast live to the world on things like this $100,000 steadicam.


But of course nothing says “democracy” like miles of steel fences . . .

and platoons of cops with cameras on their heads!


As our two friendly Beat reporters on the beat capture the corner table at the corner bar at the key corner in all of Cleveland — 4th & Prospect — ending the night like the Fourth of July with fireworks, calliopes and clowns.


More as it develops. 😉



Update:  You can read the next installment here.



Here’s Part 1 of this story covering the two days leading into the convention.

Here’s where you can read about more Adventures like this — in my book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

Or here’s what some people have been saying about it.

Or here’s the Adventure Tale of a Bernie Sanders rally in Indiana including shaking his hand and looking into his eyes at the end.

Or here’s how I first got involved in politics.

Or here’s an account of the most jubilant night in the history of New York — check the Election Night 2008 Adventure

Or here’s the most excellent real-time Adventures at Obama’s Inauguration.

Or here’s my story from Clinton’s first Inauguration.

Or for how Woodstock promoter Michael Lang used my reports in his book — check out how Obama’s Inauguration was like Woodstock.

Or for the kind of creations that got us across the historic finish line — check out my poem and video for Where Wayward Jekylls Hyde.

Or for an on-the-campaign-trail adventure — check out the physical altercation I was in the middle of with Al Franken at a Howard Dean rally in ’04.

Or here’s my 2012 election predictions.

or the 2008 projections — in both, I’m over 98% correct.  😉


Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you want to also follow things there —

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The Republican Convention, Cleveland, 2016

July 17th, 2016 · Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales



Lesson One going into the streets of Cleveland — as hipped by my poli-warzone-brother Mitch — If you hear fire crackers, don’t assume they’re fire crackers.  Get behind cover.

Roger that.

Mitch and I met in 1983 thru him being a music reporter in Winnipeg and me managing to some success one of the local bands he loved.  What usually happens with relationships is — they stay in the realm they were formed.  He and I shared that rock n roll crazyworld … but gradually learned we were both history buffs … and hardcore politicos.  We’ve spent a thousand hours talking and arguing politics in person and over the phone from Toronto to New York — and that was before the internet!  I was calling him with payphoned reports from D.C. during Bill Clinton’s first inauguration — a quarter-century ago.  Then we roomed together within eyesight of the Lincoln Memorial through the week of Obama’s inauguration — he making his newspaper deadlines, me making my email dispatches — which you can read here — and Michael Lang even used in his Woodstock book! — and now here we are together again — 30-something years after our first crazy Prankster Road Adventure began — with the perfect recent rainbow arc from the beginning of Obama to the end of the Republican party.


This is one of the three great elections in my lifetime.

’92, ’08, and now ’16.

I first came of political age in the fall of ’83 . . . while running the NYU concerts … when one day outside the Loeb Student Center was a Gary Hart rally.  I’d never cared for, or understood, American politics before, but suddenly here it was in front of me — cheering people, a star on stage, big production, camera crews — it was like the rock shows I was producing — except with a person who was going to potentially govern our land.

Suddenly I got it.

This is rock n roll — except about everything else I give a shit about.  I love dancing and all that … but this is how government is decided.  And I’ve been part of it ever since.  Back in the ’80s and ’90s I was registering more people to vote than anybody I knew.  And they were all like, “Why is this Canadian the one doing this?”  

Eventually I got married, became an American, and proudly vote and participate in every election in both my countries.

DAY ONE IN CLEVELAND — Saturday — July 16th


Somewhere in New York State on the drive down from Toronto I suddenly got passed at 80 mph by the local Toronto news crew CP-24!


A good sign that Le Grande Synch was already locked in.  😉



And then damned if I don’t end up right next to my Toronto brothers again, zipping through the city!  😀



BREAKING BOOZE!  The hosers are in town!

I love this place.  And have had nothing but a good time here since I first hit it with John Cassady to go to The Grateful Dead show at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame . . .



Here’s John at the exhibit listening to one of his dad’s raps from an Acid Test …


So this has always been my touchstone in town and the obvious first place I went to get grounded with the newly-landed landed gentry of Republican delegates.

With the minor modification of the streets being filled with police and skies filled with surveillance helicopters.


And there was something else you couldn’t miss circling in the sky all day . . .



I started talking to a nice couple from Kentucky who’d just left the Rock Hall and were beaming in the beauty of it all.  It was a soaring jam on the Beatles, Elvis, the Stones, and how great the museum was.

I just got back from a month in Greenwich Village and Woodstock, and before that nearly another month with the Merry Pranksters in Wonderland, and I’m quite used to strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand, as Robert Hunter put it.  People who greet each other with a hug and not a handshake.  People who get the Grand Prank of Life and are surfing the ripples of light.  It’s the enlightened, as I see it, that one should soak in by the lifetime.

But suddenly this seemingly lovely Kentucky couple, obviously mistaking me for someone else, segue from Elvis on Ed Sullivan into, “Mike Pence is a great V.P. choice. (!)  He adds a lot to the ticket.  He’s got a lot of experience and has been fighting for all the important stuff for a long time.”

And suddenly I realize – “We’re not in Woodstock anymore.”

Kansas is in the house.


But not many other people are!

On the Saturday leading into the convention — downtown was a ghost town.



And this is right at the main Public Square in the center of town . . .


And these streets are not blocked off!



And speaking of dead roads . . . this town is the freakin’ poster child for the decimation of the infrastructure in this country!  With the Repugnant congress blocking anything that’s good for the country in hopes people will blame Obama, and a Repugnant Ohio Governor toady who goes along with their bullshit, a lot of sidestreets here are like driving through a war zone … right after the war.  There are pot holes you could hide a keg in.


And all the news crews are here to cover it . . .

Including my favorite —



And CNN has certainly planted their flag loud and high . . .



And in just about the best news from my first day’s recon — besides learning that my shuttlecraft bike is the way to get around town — is that the best single block in all of downtown Cleveland — Positively 4th Street — is just outside the security perimeter.  (!)  This one short narrow block has nothing but bars & restaurants, reminiscent of the French Quarter or Greenwich Village or North Beach.

And who should I find occupying it, of course, but my other favorite news network . . .


I can’t believe my favorite network has taken over my favorite street in Cleveland. 🙂


I wonder if ol’ MSNBC’s outside of the security perimeter, like me, because they were not credentialed for this auspicious embarrassment.  😀

I can tell this is going to be the block I’ll be spending some considerable time on.  😉 

In other news — I talked to cops, state police, & secret service, and even in their buzz-shaved heads and starched-stiff uniforms they were as friendly to this longhaired biking freak as could be.  Even told me I could ride on the sidewalks!

I don’t intend to be storming the Bastille or jumping any fences, because they’ve deputized an army of out-of-state cops and cleaned out their jails for miles around and are prolly just itching to fill the new vacancies.  But all the ones I talked to were as friendly and helpful as a concierge in a 5-star disaster.

Mind you, the expected protestors haven’t really started to make their presence felt.  In fact, these were the only ones I saw in a whole afternoon and early evening of biking the entire downtown . . .



And here’s Willard Park, with its giant FREE rubber stamp, that’s expected to be one of the gathering spots, but as you can see, protesters seem to be holding their fire for now.   🙂


And here’s The Mall park, with the Fountain of Eternal Life, in front of the Key Tower (behind me) — the tallest building in Ohio that you see with its pointed top in every skyline photo — and it’s completely dead despite the name of its fountain.




The Key Tower

Then damned if I didn’t run into the CP-24 guys again!   🙂


Went up and talked to them and confirmed it was them blasting past me on I-90 and that they were indeed the only such vehicle covering the event.  We said we knew we’d meet again. 🙂

And until we do, dear reader, it’s time for this cowboy to get back on the horse — my faithful bike, Ranger — and ride into the sunshine.



Day Two — Sunday — July 17th


Even with the overlay of 3 more police officers being killed in Baton Rouge, the streets of Cleveland remain calm, controlled and festive.  Locals are celebrating summer, delegates are being feted at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, and the police are being applauded.


Positively 4th Street (where the above cop shot’s taken) is the obvious go-to strip — and may end up looking more like Mardi Gras by week’s end.  But as the convention begins, it seems like there’s more journalists and police here than there are people to protect or report on.


I mean, they’re so desperate for anyone to talk to, they’re even talking to me!



And a beautiful thing to these eyes is that all the protests I’ve seen so far are about Love — and would make John Lennon proud.


“Love can heal what hurt divides”

Or check out this billboard of Donald and Ted on one of the main streets downtown . . .  😀 


And as crazy as it may seem to some of us, there are people here proudly out of the closet for Trump.


But me, I’m just digging on the people, the political buzz, and the architecture . . .


One hand on the new Key Tower, the other on the old Terminal Tower

At one time (the 1930s), that Terminal Tower (on the right) was the fourth tallest building in the world!  And I heard tell there’s an observation deck at the top that you may see pictures from before this Adventure is over.


And check out the front of their gorgeous main library — complete with this brightly colored temporary art installation of various animals that’s over town . . . and Ranger my trusty steed hitched up to the front rail.  🙂 


But besides the great architecture and city, there’s also all the best political reporters in the country.  I was super stoked to get to spend some time talking about writing with one of the journalist pillars in American letters, The Washington Post’s Dan Balz.  And like the natural consummate reporter he is, he ended up asking me more questions than I did him.  🙂 


And here’s this bar/restaurant on 4th Street The Post has turned into their headquarters for the week.  Wonder if they let in subscribers?


And here’s political hound dog Chris Matthews waiting to go on the air.  I was definitely in the background of some of his broadcasts yesterday.  😉 


You can see him on the right below.


And here’s a cool action shot of the anchor turnover — as Chris Hayes is coming in and Chris Matthews is checking out.


I even got to go for a little walk with the TV & radio host Michael Smerconish who I’ve long loved for his honest, logical, centerist, non-ideological way of thinking.  I told him about Jon Anderson being on his show years ago.  “The singer from Yes!” he exclaimed, brightening right up.  And I mentioned how he riffed “Smerconish” into an improvised song that day, and Mike goes, “Boy, you’ve got a good memory!”  😀 


But the very best reporter I talked to all day was Mitch Potter from The Toronto Star!  😀   


We finally got together about 9PM . . . and did nothing but power-riff politics until 2 in the morning.   🙂

And then another day in paradise began . . .

Which you can now read about here.  😉   



Here’s where you can read about more Adventures like this — in my book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

Or here’s what some people have been saying about it.

Or here’s the Adventure Tale of a Bernie Sanders rally in Indiana including shaking his hand and looking into his eyes at the end.

Or here’s an account of the most jubilant night in the history of New York — check the Election Night 2008 Adventure

Or here’s the most excellent real-time Adventures at Obama’s Inauguration.

Or here’s my story from Clinton’s first Inauguration.

Or for how Woodstock promoter Michael Lang used my reports in his book — check out how Obama’s Inauguration was like Woodstock

Or how I first got involved in politics.

Or for the kind of creations that got us across the historic finish line — check out my poem and video for Where Wayward Jekylls Hyde.

Or for an on-the-campaign-trail adventure — check out the physical altercation I was in the middle of with Al Franken at a Howard Dean rally in ’04.

Or here’s my 2012 election predictions.

or the 2008 projections — in both, I’m over 98% correct.  😉 


Brian Hassett  —   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you want to also follow things there —



→ 11 CommentsTags:

Going Furthur film review

June 3rd, 2016 · Merry Pranksters, Movies


On The Bus and On The Road




Put your good where it will do the most,”
…….. as Ken Kesey said, and Wavy Gravy recounted in the luminous new documentary, Going Furthur.

This movie is really funny — and not in a you-had-to-be-there way.  A huge part of the Merry Band of Pranksters’ essence (as Ken Babbs first dubbed them) was their playfulness and sense of humor.  The Pranksters were pioneers in a lot of ways — and one of them was being the first people to not take Pranksters seriously.

Lord knows we’ve all seen lots of Merry Prankster documentaries of various stripes over the decades, and except for the actual Key-Z Productions coming out of Ken’s barn, none of them were made by bone fide Pranksters on The Bus.  And yes — “bus” in relation to Furthur is always capitalized — because it’s the capital, the captain, the first Bus that inspired it all from Magical Mystery Tour to what’s filling festival parking lots all over America this summer.

This film crew didn’t just show up for a couple days and collect some footage.  They lived on it for three months, start to finish, on the 50th anniversary tour in 2014, celebrating the historic Neal Cassady-driven trip across the country in 1964.

And something happens to you when you’re surrounded by Pranksters morning, noon and night.  First of all, distinctions like morning and night stop being relevant.  It’s recess all the time.  It’s improv theater every waking hour.  It’s play time whether your eyes are open or shut.  And what a play it is!

This is a movie of a road trip worthy of Jack Kerouac, the author at the core of everything the Pranksters did.  They went On The Road alright — embracing that wanderlust that Kerouac so passionately first captured — but taking it Furthur.  And on boy, did they.



Besides everything else — anyone who’s a fan of filmmaking is going to be dosed with several hits of Wow! watching this.  The cinematography, the editing, the sound editing, the collages of images, the characters, the costumes, the soundtrack, the settings . . . this is as 21st century storytelling as you get.

This is the cinema vérité of madness that was captured and pioneered in America by the Maysles brothers and D.A. Pennebaker — but as edited by Darren Aronofsky on a Terry Gilliam adventure.  This is not “chaos cinema” but it’s certainly cinema of chaos.  It’s filmed improv with kooky characters a la Curb Your Enthusiasm or Christopher Guest movies — except it’s all on the road and with an even wilder storyline.

“Went fast because road is fast,” Kerouac wrote Cassady immediately upon finishing On The Road, and these two Canadian and one American filmmakers applied that same aesthetic to telling this Road story.  Zoom!  But it also wisely takes the uninitiated on a vivid ride through the backstory.

There’s vintage footage of Neal Cassady, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, the Acid Tests, The Trips Festival, prototype Grateful Dead, getting crazy at Kesey’s house in La Honda, and what psychedelic light shows were like when they were first being invented — all seamlessly blended in and out of current-day footage of Wavy Gravy, Ken Babbs, George Walker, Zane Kesey, Anonymous, Lee Quarnstrom, Alex Grey, Sam Cutler, Peter Shapiro, Furthur guitarist John Kadlecik, the Wizard of Wonder, and all in locations like the Woodstock reunion at Yasgur’s Farm, the Gathering of The Vibes, Phases of The Moon, the nation’s capital, Manhattan, and Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts.

The unsuspecting viewer’s taken on a helluva trip — from Kesey’s first dose in Menlo Park to the Burning Man desert full of today’s raging rangers — from hand painting the first Bus with their hands to wiring the new Bus for bands — melting ’60s footage into contemporary scenes being goofed and pranked from New York to San Francisco.  And boy does it work!

There’s George Walker expounding on the participatory philosophy behind the first Acid Tests.

There’s original Prankster Roy Sebern explaining how he first misspelled Furthur on the front of The Bus.

There’s Wavy Gravy talking about hanging with Neal Cassady — “The man is doing ten things at once and nothing twice.”

There’s Sam Cutler reminding us with a twinkle and thick British accent, “What’s the meaning of enlightenment?  The ability to lighten up.”

There’s performance artist Alexander Polinsky sharing, “If you’re as open to playing as the Pranksters are, you’re gonna find that friends are everywhere.”

There’s the spirit of everything Ken & the gang were about
……. playing out
……… in real time, in the present time.

And besides all the Prankster background and foreground — the film takes a trip through the “festival culture” that’s exploded in North America in the last few years.  It’s not about simply going some place to hear a series of bands on a stage — but in direct lineage from the Pranksters — it’s about participation, and breaking down the barrier between performer and audience so both are one, as Kesey first scripted with the Acid Tests, and is now playing out every weekend in hundreds of locations by thousands of people from teenagers to octogenarians.

Then the film trips through the power of psychedelics, which is very timely with all the new scientific research coming out on the positive effects that people like Kesey knew about a half-century ago.  Ken also used to carry around a giant ball of hemp to public appearances — often saying, “The first state that legalizes it will have a huge jump on the rest of the country” — as the state budget directors in Colorado, Washington and Oregon are learning just how right he was.  I wonder how much longer until governments catch up with psychedelics and what millions of people have known for decades?


As I wrote of The Bus in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac —

“Jack writ The Road — but this is The Road writ large.”

This movie is not just a Jack & Neal road trip buddy picture.  This is a huge ensemble cast of disparate people each having their own personal breakthroughs.  You can take acid, or go to a Tony Robbins weekend, or have a child.  There are a lot of paths to new self-awareness.  But throwing yourself onto a psychedelic Bus with a bunch of strangers under madhouse conditions visiting crazy festivals is — as proven in this film — a sure-fire baptism by fire.  No one in this movie came out the other side the same person.  And the tears shed and hugs long held upon departure showed the heart of this scene.

Just as Kesey’s first Bus inspired generations to have wild collective Road Adventures — this film will carry the torch Furthur still, and light the way for those who could use a flash to spark their flame.  As Kesey said, “I’d rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph.”  And the light he’s been pulling towards him for 50 years is shining out through this movie screen and illuminating a very colorful and beautiful world we are currently living in.





Going Furthur will be on the festival circuit and featured in special screenings around the world throughout 2016.  Check the website for screening details.

Or via their Facebook page here.


Caveat disclaimer / full disclosure:
I was interviewed for this film, but otherwise had nothing to do with it.



Here’s a related video riff — opening the 2016 Prankster Reunion —


Here’s the story behind the reunion summit that video opened.

Here’s the first Pranksters In Wonderland in 2015.

Here’s The Pranksters at Woodstock — when The Bus went to Yasgur’s Farm on the 50th anniversary tour.

Here’s where you can check out The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

And here’s people’s reactions to it.  Or a bunch more reviews here.



Brian Hassett

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Merry Prankster Reunion

May 15th, 2016 · Merry Pranksters, Real-life Adventure Tales

A Secret Space of Dreams




Somewhere in the Universe, Pranksters are gathering.

It’s fireworks, calliopes and clowns,
And everybody’s dancin’ . . .

On fifty acres through country woods, with ponds and trails and fields and split-rail fences and immaculate stables and barns in fresh but classic rusty red . . .


Now designed for 2-legged wild wooly wanderers,


in a cluster of buildings with labyrinths of interconnected rooms that you can never really figure out how they tick-tocked jam-rocked together . . .


Offices and bedrooms and kitchens and lounges with stages and spaces with nothing but lights and screens and projections and bands and dancers to fill the air.


Characters in masks … Jackson Pollock splattered costumes … faces in flowing colors . . . 


Days and nights and daze and knights,
and strangers stopping strangers
just to hug them tight.

As more and more Pranksters fall into the scene,


From wherever they’ve been —
A communal gene.


Twanging & twinkling — tootling & toasting — 

30 people put on a play.


30 musicians play all day.


30 buses from far away.


And 30 photos in this tray.  😉

As a Prankster drone captures an uncapturable krewe . . . 


With women pirates capturing the island.


“Our women pirates are the finest to ever sail the seven seas,” sez the Wizard of Wonder with authority.



As a UFO comes in for a landing . . .


And there’s a micro-bus that could fit inside the first bus’s pocket . . .


And there’s a Wizard behind it all — and that’s all you need know.

There’s Canadians . . . Jacksters . . . Dawgz . . . & cats
from Lewis Carroll to Shakespeare’s acts.

Doctors and lawyers and chefs and sculptors . . .

Cooking with gas in their midnight threads . . .

Smiling faces in swirling spreads . . .

Colored lights casting circles of rainbows . . . 

And jammin till dawn in the Gathering Room
with rock players, bluegrass, country, and blues . . .
Sculpting in air with many a muse . . .

13217170_10209045340831974_7742320600816044551_o (1)


A 30-second walk though hallways and doorways of the mystical labyrinth into . . . a big barn jam! 
With top-of-the-rock bandleaders, becoming one band, and taking a trip without leavin’ the land.


And there’s that UFO again!


There’s that girl you met at the Bernie rally.
There’s that dude you met in Chicago.
There’s that ongoing conversation about the greatest movies ever made.
There’s the kitchen krewe with more mouthfuls of magic, 
As more beer & ice tumble in coolers.

Around the corner, back out to the tent,
Off in the distance, who knows where we went.

There’s buses galore, and RVs and Airstreams . . .


There’s Jerry above us in the hovering dreams . . .


. . . now a cat . . . and a rabbit . . .


and you know where you’ve fallen . . .



As another new ensemble rips up the stage . . .
one more one time lineup . . .
with a sax wailing in the jewel eye center . . .
then 3 drummers take off on a cascading riff …
as the room rides the rapids in a stage-front shift . . .
into a jammin’ 10-minute 10-piece Shakedown Street that shakes down the house at 3AM . . .


And there’s the filmmakers from tour … premiering their vision . . .


and the Oregon light show twisting the noodles . . .


as the psychedelic string artist spiderwebs up the landscape . . .



“There’s a whole lot goin’ on that I don’t know anything about,”
I remember thinkin’ slurpin’ Slurpees flippin’ thru Rolling Stones back at the 7-11 in Winterpeg in the mid-’70s.
And here it is.
That world come true.
That family gathering
of like-minded Adventurers . . .
The ones who don’t fit where the pace is slow . . .
The ones Jack described as “Go Go Go”
Who live by the hug, the only greeting they know.

Blissful adults channeling joyous children . . .
“The hardest working hippies in show-biz . . .”
Evolved players evolving evolution . . .
Dancing bears in peaceful revolution . . .
Nothing as expected around any corner . . .


Surreal is real.
Surprises status quo.

A box becomes a boat.
A stage becomes a movie.
A dancer becomes a butterfly.

Now suddenly it’s a barn stage peak —
People kickin’ up dust, raising up Spirits.
One More Saturday Night

Transportation provided.
Into that other world.
Not this one.
The Other One
With Cowboy Neal at the wheel
Dancing in Never-ever Land.






For more fun — here’s last year’s Pranksters In Wonderland.

And here’s where it all started — The Pranksters at Woodstock.

Or here they are on a Mission on New Year’s Eve.

Or here’s a review of the new Prankster movieGoing Furthur

Here’s where I first met Ken Kesey — as recalled in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

Here’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

Here’s some reviews from it.  And here’s sumore.


Or here’s a video of the opening blessing benediction performance of the weekend 🙂 —


full_cover12 copy


by Brian Hassett


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Bernie Sanders Rally Bloomington Indiana

May 5th, 2016 · Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales

Front Row for The Revolution



Photo by Jeremy Hogan


It all started waking up on New York et al election day in Ken Morris’s house in Cleveland the day after we pre-scouted the city for the upcoming Republican Implosion.  I mean, Repugnant Convention.  There were 3 different messages in my in-box about a just-announced Bernie rally tomorrow in Bloomington — where I just happen to be heading for a major Merry Prankster reunion.

A month ago I had hipped the Wizard of Wonder, who was hosting these blooming festivities, that a Bernie rally might happen when we’re all together, as Indiana was the only state on the primary calendar that week.  Sure enough.  Boom!  It’s the one day before we all decamp to the site of the 3 day Acid Test. {story on that forthcoming 😀 }

Merry Pranksters are pretty much all Berners, and I tell them when I arrive that tomorrow will basically be — just get-up-and-go.  Doors open at 5PM, and it’s in this smallish but gorgeous old 3,000-seat theater.  We’ve all seen Bernie’s arenas-full of supporters, and Bloomington is a giant Greenwich Village, an Austin, an S.F., a packed and passionate town of progressives on the prowl.  So this venue’s gonna be way too small and this thing’s gonna get crazy.  Gotta be there first thing.

True to my woird, I jingle-jangle in the morning maniac music, believe me, but then the ol’ Gets Things Done brain kicks in and I get the hell out of Wonderland and over to said site.

And as I arrive near it around 11AM, the car in front of me is from Missouri.  Then a car cuts in at an intersection from Florida . . . and we’re all in this super-slow line to the only parking lot on the Indiana University campus — and I’m thinkin, this does not look good.

But The Spirits are with me, and I bolt around the parking lot that I got to know when I was here with John Cassady and Walter Salles for the Mid-Western premiere of On The Road, and sure enough there’s an open spot right in the key corner closest to where I’m going.  Boom!

Outta the car quick-as-a-bunny, and power walk to The Auditorium, which I also knew cuz it’s the building right in front of the theater where On The Road was screened.  And this morning there’s all this steel fencing for the incoming crowds, and it’s actually two lines, one going each direction away from the front of the building.

Everybody who arrived, starting with the first person at 7AM (!) had lined up on one side, and there’s maybe 50 people in it as I’m arriving at around 11:15.  But the remarkable thing is, there’s about 6 people just starting to sit down at the front of the other empty fenced-in line.  These two hip chicks, Taylor and Allie (known for the most beautiful eyes this side of Zooey Deschanel) have figured out that this line is equal to the other line, except nobody’s sitting in it yet!  I come right up just as they’re plunkin’ down, and they gimme the lowdown how this gate’s gonna open at the same time as the other — ‘cept there’s nobody here but us!  Boom!  Done!  I’m the 7th person in line for Bernie in Bloomington!

Then a few other people arrive on our side, and pretty soon we got a pretty cool little crew in this 8-foot wide steel-fenced pen, and we’ve got the whole front of it to ourselves.  Of course I start talking to these friendly Berners, and I’m tellin’ ol’ 21-year-Zac beside me how I’m in town hanging with the Merry Pranksters, and how they helped form The Grateful Dead, and how I’m expecting a bunch of them to come to the rally in full costume.  But he’s never heard of them, or Ken Kesey or anything.  Super smart guy, computer programmer or sumpthin, I think he called it Informatics, but I might as well have been tellin’ him Civil War tales.

But then all of a sudden these two 19-year-old babicious freshmen, say, “You talkin’ about The Grateful Dead?!  We like them.”  And then the cutest one holds up Bob Dylan’s Chronicles!  Like — she’s got it with her in line!  And she’s taking a course in Bob Dylan.  Which is coming right on the heals of her “History of Rock” class!  Kids these days!  And her friend is sitting there reading Naked Lunch!!  I pull out a couple copies of my book to show them, and they freak out.  And while they’re sitting there reading them, the really cute one gets on her phone and I figure I’ve sort of lost her attention pretty quick, but then a bit later when she gets up to hand me the book back, she says, “I just ordered it on Amazon.”  🙂 


And then at some point, me and Jim Canary get together — the guy who preserves Jack’s original On The Road scroll — and he tells me about this huge exhibit happening in Paris later this year and that I really must go to.  Here we were together again riffin’ Jack at the very place we first met — the world-famous Lilly Library as it was co-hosting the On The Road premiere.


And then somewhere in here the freakin’ Secret Service show up.  Word probably got out that Hassett & Canary were in the same place at the same time.


Or maybe it was that Presidential candidate — cuz the next thing you know they’re hauling in metal detectors.


And ol’ Zac sez  — “They can’t be very secret if it says secret service right on their clothes.”

And in this rainy, stormy weather these bastards later confiscated everyone’s umbrellas as we entered! — like the Secret Service couldn’t handle a freakin’ umbrella attack.

And all this other stuff was goin’ on, including these college kids playing cards.  I mean, physical 52-card card cards.  They asked me if I knew how to play Euchre. (!)  They’re all digitally wired and haven’t watched a TV show on a TV in their lives and have phone screens the size of bread loaves — but were sitting there playing with playing cards!  Two different groups of them!

And then there were the light-saber kids fighting around the fountain . . .



. . . and this official Bernie merch tent was set up out front . . . 


with unquestionably the coolest political buttons and shirts that have ever appeared on the campaign trail . . .




And they set up a big screen and speakers for the overflow crowd outside — with the coolest slogan — 


. . .using the postal abbreviation for Indiana . . . 

. . . as the line continued to form, all around the fountain square, then all the way down the street, then around the far corner, and down the hill, and back up the far side, then around the tennis courts, and people were still arriving!  I’m guessing maybe a tenth? of these people got in?


And I’d keep goin’ off on my observational roamabouts . . .


and circle back and hang some more with our killer crews at the front of the line …


That’s brother Zac with the yellow top holding his new merch score with a bunch of his krewe . . .


And here’s the new loveofmylife, Eliza the Dylanhead, with her two besties, front of the line, top of the day.

And on a deeper level, we’re having this debate about what’s gonna happen to all the energy Bernie’s mustered should he not get the nomination.  Will they stay inspired and mobilized and work to elect like-minded Democrats to the House and Senate and continue to steer the party to its proper place on the left? . . . or will they Bern out and fade away.  I’m concerned it’s going to be the latter, and I challenge all of them to not make it so.  But sad proof that I may be right was when the Bernie volunteer coordinators came by, like this woman with this super-cool shirt — 


trying to recruit volunteers from the hardest of the hardcores at the front of the line, and not a single person ever responded to two separate appeals for help.  Mind you, it was finals time on campus.

And then there were the proudly beaming faces of the white supremacists.  I mean, Trumpsters.


x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

After nearly six hours of having the most sidewalk fun I’d had since hanging outside Abbey Road for an afternoon, they finally opened the gates and we dashed up the stairs to the indoor security phalanx — the whole airport security empty-the-pockets / metal detectors / magnetometers wand-scanning routine, including making you hold any buttons you were wearing in your hand to show them (?!), and then as soon as you’re thru that, it was this kind of crazy “festival seating” rush of democracy-loving kids that flashed me back to KISS concerts in the mid-’70s — where as soon as we had our ticket torn at the door — ahh, simpler times — we ran like hell for the front of the stage.  But here we are doing it for a Presidential candidate!

I love life. 🙂

Eliza and her two friends had come through one of the metal detector shoots right at the same time I did, and “Oh, Great! Hey! Ya made it!” as we’re laughing in giddy joy and running to the promised land.  Apparently the ushers had been sending the first arrivees into the theater off to the far side aisles, and as I came in I could see there was absolutely NO ONE down at the front of the stage yet. (!)

I don’t know how the hell it went down exactly in the flash of the moment — but I noticed the direction lady usher at the top of the center aisle got momentarily distracted, and I just blew right past her and ZOOMED straight down that muthrpuckin aisle, Dead center, just like I did at Radio City when I snuck into my 2nd ever Grateful dance in 1980.  BOOM!  And Eliza’s keepin’ right up with me, and her two too, and ZOOM!  We make it!  Front row center!  I grab the aisle seat, as is my wont, and they fall in right beside me, and voila!  Front Row for the The Revolution!


And in one of the coolest moments of the entire endeavor, Eliza asked her friends to move over one so she could come sit beside me. 🙂

Image (1)

And now it’s the whole pre-show hang . . . in a comfy-seat in a poor-man’s Radio City, but they’re tryin’.  And over the PA they blast Neil Young’s “Keep On Rockin In The Free World” — not once, but twice!  And this fellow Winnipeg Kelvinite is fist-pumping the air to the Beat, knowing that everyone behind me looking at the stage can see this energetic arm punching out the rock that is the core of this revolution.

They also play Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” … twice, refraining the great visual ad from earlier in the campaign; and Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” which always evokes Jack to this booksmith, as Eliza’s telling me about seeing Willie and the now late-great Merle Haggard together in this very venue just a few months ago.

Then somebody texts her that they just saw her on CNN, which, since we were fairly inseparable, might mean I just had my 5 seconds of fame right there and I missed it. 😀

On one of my many walkabouts, I checked out the media row along the mid-house horizontal aisle — and, I know it was the day after his devastating New York loss, but still . . .



there were a lot of empty seats where there shoulda been a reporter.

Shortly before showtime, they brought in 5 rows of people to fill the bleachers behind Bernie’s podium.  I’d seen the bunch of them gathered in the lobby on one of my surveillance scoutings,


and they told me they’d simply been picked out of the crowd as they came through the lobby.  I was there when they were taken through the back door into the theater, and there was absolutely no arranging of them according to age or race or gender.  It was just in whatever way they filed through the door, with no manipulation of who sat in the front row, or right behind Bernie, or in what pattern of faces.

And while on one of these reconnaissance missions, a middle-aged woman came walking down the aisle toward me, looking at me kinda strange, and said, “Are you one of the Merry Pranksters?” (!)

I don’t know how in the hell this world works, but it sure works fast!


Showtime — on the rail

There were only two warm-up speakers — the main student organizer; and the head of the Dems in Indiana, who was a middle-aged black near-Baptist-preacher who did a riff on how he wasn’t into Bernie at first.  But then he looked into his history of fighting for the little guy, “And I started to feel the Bern,” [big cheer], then I learned about his position on banking reform, “And then I was definitely feeling the Bern,” [bigger cheer].  And he does about ten variations on this, and then “I saw him winning 17 states and having the longest line for any event in I.U. history, I now I’m feelin’ the Bern all over!” he says as he shivers n shimmies [crazy cheering].

And finally, about 9 hours after I left the house this morning on this mission, The Man appears!  White hair and all!

No teleprompter, just a variation on a campaign speech he’s been givng daily for the last year.  The only time he’d look down at his notes was, for instance, sharing the specific stats and names of businesses from Indiana that’ve moved to China or Mexico since certain trade deals.

I keep thinking of and referring to his “speech” as “a performance” or “a show” because it really was one.  Including a lot of audience participation. “27 dollars!”  He had the place in the palm of his hand from the standing ovation when he first walked on stage.

The guy has it down.  There was either a laugh or an applause line roughly every minute of the nearly 90 he talked for.

And I have to say it was a helluva speech — a colorful articulation of pretty much every Progressive position.  And in most cases, I’d like every one of them to be the Democratic platform.  Sure wish I could have seen a Hillary speech right after this to compare & contrast.

And speaking of Hillary, at the first and every subsequent mention of her name, a loud boo instantly arose from the assembled.  😀  By about the 5th time, it had become a joke, and people were booing and laughing at the same time at our goofing on our cue.

Bernie’s got the timing and delivery of a professional comedian, and has a lot of sure-fire laugh lines that have prolly worked in every city he’s appeared.  Of Hillary not releasing her quarter-million-dollar speech transcripts — “Getting paid that much, that must be a pretty fantastic speech!  That must solve all of America’s problems.” (laughter) “That must be some Shakespearean prose!” (bigger laughter)

“And then there’s my good friend Donald Trump,” (laughter). “My wife and I were never invited to his wedding.” (bigger laughter)

“Trump has come up with a whole new way to deny climate change. He thinks it’s a hoax . . . created by the Chinese. (laughter) I would have thought he’d think it was caused by Muslims or Mexicans.” (bigger laughter)

“I have a major announcement to make here tonight.  I am now going to release the transcripts of all my Wall Street speeches.  Here they are,” as he dramatically throws an armful of nothing in the air. (big laughter) “They never offered me $225,000 for a speech.  I’ve got my cell phone on.  I’m just waiting for a call from them.” (bigger laughter)


Bernie throwing nothing in the air

But this also kind of manifests one of the problems with his speech / campaign.  Members of Congress are prohibited from accepting money for speeches or any kind of appearance.  He keeps saying it like he’s some pure guy — but since he left Vermont, for the last quarter century he’s held a job that prohibited him from giving paid speeches.  There was this and a lot of other holes in many of his two-paragraph-long diagnoses of our ills and how we would fix them.  That’s definitely a downside I can see his non-supporters seeing.

On the other hand — he rattled off more real and important things that need to be changed — and at least some ideas of how to fix them — than any other candidate I’ve heard over the last year: including passing a law that if a corporation needs a bailout, the CEO is prohibited from getting bonuses; and that marijuana should be reclassified as a schedule 2 drug, and not in the same class as heroin. (big applause on campus 🙂 )


Purchased at the official Bernie merch table

And he talked powerfully about our incarceration problem — and how we have the most imprisoned people of any nation on Earth — spending $80 billion a year to keep 2 million Americans behind bars.  “Criminal injustice is a crime in America,” he Ginsbergianly put it.  And of course this gets another standing ovation.

He talked about how we’re the only industrialized country to not guarantee healthcare for all its citizens, and how seniors are having to split their pills in half because they can’t afford them, and this whole very real plight of the uninsured elderly brings Eliza beside me to tears.


Women are making .77 cents on the dollar that men are . . . public colleges should be free like they were when he went to them in the ’50s and ’60s . . . we have money for wars but not inner cities . . . immigration reform must also include Native Americans . . . we need to live with nature and not destroy it — because it will destroy us . . . (and at this point I can hear Kaiya, Eliza’s friend, sobbing her eyes out) . . . we should be making solar panels mandatory on all government buildings . . . and every one of these points got a separate standing ovation, anywhere from 10–100% of the audience.

At one point during a smidge of silence, what sounded like a 5-year-old girl, squeaked out, “I love you, Bernie!” that got a huge laugh and more applause.

And the whole thing built to this sermonistic climax — “Families looking out for each other always trumps greed.  Love trumps hate.” —> into a jumping-up standing ovation.


This was John Lennon as a politician.

Which I never realized until I sat in front of him for a whole sermon on the trail.  What a religious experience.  Certainly delivered, received and perceived like a prophet.

Even by me — a political pragmatist.  This guy’s special.  I really haven’t seen this before.  He’s got Jesse Jackson or Obama’s oratory skills, albeit in a completely different style; combined with a Lloyd Benson or Joe Biden maturity; a Ralph Nader or Jerry Brown philosophical approach; an early Howard Dean or Gary Hart fervor; an essential Paul Tsongas or Bob Kerry sense of humor; and a Bill Bradley or Dennis Kucinich appeal to college students.

It’s quite a blend.  And I love a good blend.

see, also: Dead, Grateful



The speech is over, and people flood the front of the stage because he walks forward and not to the wings.  And I’m right there, “on the rail” as my live concert practitioners say — and the whole front-of-stage area becomes packed with people who rushed in to feel the Bern, not unlike the joyous sardine end of any great rock concert.

Bernie comes down into the orchestra pit and walks the wooden rope-line barrier, and I actually get to shake his hand at a nice slow long pace, giving him the double hand wrap around his one, and looking right through his glasses into his eyes, telling him, “Thank you, brother.”

And within moments I’m singing, “I shook the hand, that shook the hand, of Abbie Hoffman, and Charlie Chan.”


And right after he passes, and heads back up the stairs and waves a final farewell, the guy we were hanging with in our front row foursome is suddenly bawling his eyes out!  Apparently Bernie not only shook his hand but gave him a bit of a hug, and the guy’s totally losing it, sitting and shaking face-in-hands on the orchestra pit divider, with his girlfriend consoling him, and I’m kinda like, Whoa!

That made it all three out of the three people sitting next to me being overcome with emotion to the point of tears.

It really was that good.  I wonder if three out of three people next to me at a Hillary rally would be moved to tears?


And in the It’s-Not-A-Real-Adventure-If-You-Don’t-Get-Chased Dept.:

As I’m looking at my three new BFFs in their hyper-dramatic state, this security woman I’d interacted with earlier, and had been standing along the side wall with the other various types of cops, was suddenly leaning over the orchestra barrier into the open space of the pit about 15 feet from me, with two tall white uniforms behind her.

“Excuse me, sir,” she says, leaning out into the open pit to catch my eye and pointing full-arm directly right at me.

These were the last words I’d ever heard anyone say to me for quite a while . . . . . and they’re still echoing.

I’d had my eye on the wall-hanging Blue Meanies who had their eye on me as I was, clandestine as I could, shooting the hell out of the show with my you’re-not-supposed-to-use-it camera.  I knew there was every chance they were gonna come for me at the end . . . and at minimum erase the pictures — or maybe worse.

But there was no way I was gonna let this night end badly!

Without saying a word of goodbye to my linemates, I grabbed my coat from the seat, and booked it up the aisle, with a kinda slight crouch to make myself smaller.  I got half-way up and hit the back end of the exiting crowd that were snail-inching their way out.  I lingered and pretended like I was just gonna hang there in the line for a while . . . feeling their surveilling eyes and approach behind me; and as I know so well — do not turn around and look behind you.  Pretend like you don’t know they’re after you.  Then after a few seconds fake-out delay in this aisle, I cut over thru an empty row to the next aisle to the left, and snail along with those people for a few seconds, again acting that I’m just naturally slowly leaving, not running or anything, suddenly stuck in the cattle-call crowd.  Then I break and cut thru another empty row, now getting to the nearly last aisle, which is fairly open, and speed-walk it to the top of the audience bowl, and Boom! — spot the lower hidden exit in the dark, zip down those steps cuz now I’m in an unobservable tunnel, thru the next doors, into the lobby with hundreds of other departing Berners.  Again — don’t look back to any other exit where they might be coming towards me, but power-walk thru the lobby to the nearest exit to the outer lobby, and finally see the nighttime darkened glass doors, with one last line of black uniformed Secret Service staring us down as we leave.  I listen for walkie-talkies’ going off — “Stop that long-haired guy in the jean jacket!” — but I hear / see / feel nothing, and just blast past the bullet-proof jest — into the blooming raining Bloomington night, heart racing a thousand miles an hour, and heart beating even faster for democracy.



Here’s a whole book with these kinds of Adventures — although with a more literary rock star bent — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Here’s the story of the last super-exciting election night — at Barackefeller Center.

Here’s some more Adventures in Democracy — at Obama’s first Inauguration.

Or here’s a piece I had published years ago on Bill Clinton’s first Inauguration.

Or here’s the part where Michael Lang quoted my Inauguration coverage in his book about Woodstock.

Or here’s how I first got involved in politics.

Or here’s another primary story from 2016 — with the Democrats Abroad in Toronto.

Or here’s a poem about Wall Street greed — The Ballad of The Profiteers.


by Brian Hassett


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Democratic Party Unity in 2016

April 17th, 2016 · Politics


Restoring my Faith in Democracy
The Democrats Abroad Toronto Debate-Watch Party, April 2016




Attending the Democrats Abroad debate-watch party in Toronto this week reminded me how we are so much better than the memes and mean comments I see on social media or news opinions every day.

“Democracy isn’t something we have — it’s something we do,” as the great Granny D put it.

In a couple roomfuls of a hundred or more American Democrats here in Toronto — which was split about 2-to-1 for Bernie supporters — we just had a helluva party.

There was no animus, no hatred, no division.  Yet it was like a sporting event with supporters of both teams in the room.  I never heard a “boo” all night — but I did hear applauding and cheering for both, and in fact saw Bernie supporters applauding Hillary comments, and Hillary supporters applauding Bernie’s answers.  It was a bright-eyed manifestation of how I see and experience politics.

Maybe it’s the anonymity of being online, of being isolated in one’s own world, that’s a factor in some of the unfortunate things that are said and passed around.

But it was my experience, being in a room full of Democrats from all over America, that we actually got along.  Quite well.

I engaged in I-don’t-know-how-many wonderful conversations and mid-debate joke riffs with Democrats strongly in favor of one candidate or the other.  There wasn’t a bad word exchanged by any of us all night during nonstop back-and-forths between people 100% committed to one side or the other.

It was the greatest thing I could ever hope to experience.   I mean, in a Democratic primary sorta way. 🙂

The smiles, the joy, the energy, the engagement, the understanding, the knowledge that these people have — it’s like legend tells us Congress once was — people of different philosophies respectfully debating the issues before them.  Imagine!

I just saw it play out among Democrats one border removed.

I started talkin to this couple, and a first question often is, “So, where’re you from?”  And they answer Chicago.  Apropos of little, I say, “Oh! I was just there for the Dead shows!”  And they light right up!!  And as we riff along the tune, eventually the guy tells me he was at Winterland for the shows they shot the The Grateful Dead Movie at.  (What!)  Of course he bought a copy of my book and now weir all besties for life.

And there was another brilliant moment where I was sitting in front of this guy who looked a helluva lot like Bernie and was supporting him, next to a woman who didn’t look unlike Hillary … and was supporting her.  🙂 

And I just listened in awe to the two of them riff the light fandango — smart as hell — SUPER friendly rapid-fire back-&-forth.  I never understood that Carville–Matalin marriage — but here I was watching it play out live in front of me.  With Love.  And Respect.

What I’m saying is — for all the family-feud in-fighting I see so unfortunately playing out on television, Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere — to quote Bernie Sanders, “Hillary Clinton on her worst day is a hundred times better than any of the Republicans.”

In a hastily-called gathering in Toronto, with Americans from California to Florida to New York to Kansas, we celebrated the hell out of the candidates.  It was all real and randomly assembled Democrats — Bernie and Hillary supporters — taking over multiple rooms of a former mansion in maybe the coolest bar in downtown Toronto — and it was a love-in!  We applauded, cheered, fist-pumped, toasted, laughed, high-fived — and the room was totally split.  And it was the most contentious debate of them all!

We Dems Abroad have the same energy at Presidential debates in the fall — but to see us all doing it April in the thick of a close primary — so … together — it was a beautiful thing.



CTV News was there with a camera crew covering it, and the bartender and I were laughing about how hardly anybody in this massive establishment was watching the hockey playoffs or baseball games on the other TVs — and the cable news channel was causing the loudest cheers and thickest crowds in the joint.  🙂 

Democracy isn’t something you have — it’s something you do.

And boy — were we doin’ it up in T.O.!

These kinds of engagements are happening all over America, and all over the world.

Connect with any Dem / Bern / Hill group of your choice — but get out and join them.

Live this.

This is the 9th Presidential campaign I’ve been involved in — and it’s the most wild crazy unpredictable beyond-fiction one ever.

Get out and have as many public experiences of this as you can.  Get involved.
All the way through the Inauguration.

I love being a Deadhead.  I love being a Prankster.  I love being a Beat.  And I love being a Democrat.



The core crew of Democrats Abroad in Toronto.



Here’s how I first got involved in politics.

Here’s the story of The Grateful Dead in Chicago.

Here’s where you can get the book the Chicago Democratic Deadheads bought.

Here’s some insanely raving reviews of it.

Here’s a piece I had published on Bill Clinton’s first Inauguration.

Here’s the Adventures in Democracy from the first Obama Inauguration.

Here’s election night in Manhattan at Barackefeller Center — one of the most celebratory nights in the history of New York City.


by Brian Hassett



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Rolling Stone Book of The Beats, Power of The Collective

March 6th, 2016 · Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters

Floating Universities  —

The Power of The Collective in Art


Give me your befuddled masses,
Your rejection slips, pink slips, verbal slips, all;
Knock down the gates, throw open the bars,
The artists are havin a ball.

Teach me, show me, let me in;
Challenge me, push me, help me win.

Athletes have their team
And suits can wear the firm,
But making art keeps you home alone,
And the tavern’s the place you turn.

Solo suffering totally blows,
So into the sea you dive,
Searching for soles who swim like you
And act at least vaguely alive.

With deep sea wails you plunge the depths,
With freshwater poets you school,
With coral reefers you spark the sea,
Drinking in dreams from the pool.




Out of the one grow many, and out of many grows the One.  The “It.”  The Ahhh.  The ah-ha!  The Unspoken Thing.  And from this desire for oneness, togetherness, the whole, artists from the Beat poets of the Fifties to the women songwriters of Lilith have collaborated, cajoled and consoled each other into movements and generations.

The “so-called” Beat Generation — as some members like to say when push comes to interview and now that it’s carved into history — may never have had a single unified voice any more than Generation X does, but their range of harmonies ended up blending into a pretty inspiring choir.

The term was coined by Jack Kerouac, expounded upon by John Clellon Holmes in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, and endlessly championed by Allen Ginsberg, partly because the prior “generation” of disaffected visionary American writers had come up with the convenient “Lost Generation,” thanks to Mama Stein.  Hemingway — another pretty shrewd self-promoter — dropped her phrase as an epigraph to his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, and suddenly F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hart Crane, John Dos Passos, e.e. cummings and et al were no longer a bunch of struggling writers, but a generation.  “Yeah, that’s it, we’re a generation!”  We’re talkin’ ’bout my g-g-generation.  Suddenly lone 1950s authors joined a team, and instead of remaining disparate spindly voices drowned out by a raging torrent of daily fads and fixations, each of their challenging visions became buoyed by the others.

And in this supportive spirit, a loosely defined Beat community became a very interdisciplinary affair as they freely mingled and collaborated with Abstract Expressionist painters, jazz musicians, Living Theater actors, playwrights, photographers, cartoonists, dancers, mystics and poets from other New York Schools.  In smokin’ Greenwich Village joints like the Cedar Tavern, the San Remo and the Artists Club, something more than ideas were being exchanged.

“We were sharing the holy light,” said composer David Amram, Kerouac’s principal musical collaborator.  “The Artist’s Club was a beautiful get-together run by artists for artists, with talking, philosophy, arguments and discussions by the hour by serious and brilliant people.  Then afterwards we’d all go over to the Cedar Tavern and continue the rap.  It was like a floating university.”

The Cedar Tavern, now woven vibrantly into the quilt of New York City history, was the collective comfort zone for Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Larry Rivers, Frank O’Hara, various art critics, and the Beats as they emerged on the scene.  Located originally on 8th Street & University Place, it was a tiny tavern with no jukebox or TV, deep in the heart of the Village when it still was one.

“We had a lot of love and a gigantic extended family of friends,” Amram says of the Cedar scene.  “You could sit at any table and hear the most inspiring conversations about art, theater, music, baseball, everyday living.  It was an oasis, a mecca.

“There was a communal sense; we all helped each other rejoice in the struggle rather than despairing, by always encouraging and paying attention to each other, and trying to give that love and respect and interest, and also honest opinions and criticisms.”



Nowhere is this more visually animated than in the 1959 film Pull My Daisy, the single most illuminating Beat collaboration.  Narrated by Kerouac’s best 28 minutes on tape, captured in early cinema verité by evocative still photographer Robert Frank, playfully scored by the classically trained David Amram who also appears as the friendly French hornist Mezz McGillicuddy, and starring Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky as themselves, this Lower East Side home movie is the only existing footage of the Beats in their prime other than a few scattered TV clips.  Co-produced by painter Alfred Leslie and shot in his canvas-filled loft, featuring painter Larry Rivers in the role of Neal Cassady (who was sadly imprisoned in San Quentin at the time), with art dealer Richard Bellamy as the bishop antagonist, and financed by Wall Street libertine painter Walter Gutman, it’s a film made by painters about poets narrated by a novelist.

Another inspired collective on the path were the writers and artists of the Black Mountain College of North Carolina, an experimental Appalachian art school whose faculty included poets Charles Olson, Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan.  Flourishing between 1950 and 1957 (when the school went bankrupt), their manifesto was Olson’s 1950 essay “Projected Verse” which emphasized the transferral of energy between a poem’s creator and reader.  Their influential Black Mountain Review was one of the first regularly published collections of the wide-ranging free-verse voices of the new American poetry movement, with Creeley, William Carlos Williams and Denise Levertov appearing alongside Ginsberg, Kerouac and Gary Snyder.  In 1952 the Black Mountaineers produced Theater Piece 1 — America’s first “happening” — which teamed Olson’s unfettered poetry with the work of artist Robert Rauschenberg, avant-garde musician John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham.



Also dancing in the klieg lights of collective freedom was the Living Theater, the iconoclastic company founded by Julian Beck and Judith Malina, who began their playful, interdisciplinary association in Greenwich Village in the late ’40s.  In their first years of production (1951-1952), they staged plays by such diverse contemporary artists as Pablo Picasso, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Kenneth Rexroth and John Ashbery.  Rather than acting within the confines of conventional theater, they practiced street theater, confrontational theater, interactive theater, wholly living theater.  As longtime member Steve Ben Israel described their method: “When you’re an actor, you’re waiting for a playwright to get an idea, or a director to do a play, or a producer to produce a play.  And here we were, actors creating all of that — producing, directing, writing and acting it together with our specific message.”



This same blessing of community has been felt by artists ranging from the High Renaissance in Florence to the also fairly high Poetry Renaissance in San Francisco.  Most of the resident groundbreaking geniuses of Florence circa 1500 belonged to some regimented guild or patron’s stable, so, many of the artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo, Filippo Lippi and Rustici, along with architects, storytellers and poets, would also gather in their own mock confraternities.  In one of the more wacky images in art history, picture several of these blazing masters meeting as they did in their Company of the Cauldron, for lively drunken dinners around a giant cooking pot in one of their sculpture studios where they’d begin creating murals not with paint but with the chicken legs, sausages, cheese and jelly. Even though their quarrels were nearly as colorful as their art — never has a generation of artists advanced their media so quickly.  “Hi! I’d like you to meet my friend, David.”

In San Francisco in the 1950s a community of poets began a similarly inspired coffeehouse collective, meeting and reading in the nooks and bookstores of North Beach.  Embracing the Platonic adage, “To good men’s parties good men flock unasked,” the cultural outlaws from around the nation who’d gathered in this traditionally liberal port city were starting to notice the same faces on the same stages night after night.  Poets like Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert Duncan, Kenneths Patchen and Rexroth, assemblage artists like Bruce Conner and Wallace Berman, and filmmakers like Kenneth Anger and Harry Smith all began an enthusiastic crossover of interdisciplinary collaboration that was breaking society’s birdbrained habit of pigeonholing artists.  A lush flower garden had burst into bloom and it wasn’t long before the psychedelic paisley ran wild.


Acid-Test-poster-1965 - Version 2

In a sunshower of Day-Glo paint, Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters had a great notion to take the collective to an even higher level.  Incubating in pools of acid on the edge of Stanford University, Kesey was forming an ever-expanding coterie of authors and intellectuals that would eventually encompass Neal Cassady, the Grateful Dead and cherry KoolAid.  As Intrepid Traveler Ken Babbs put it, “The Pranksters are a collective of that American spirit that’s been passed on from the founding fathers through Melville, transcendentalism, Whitman, Faulkner, the Beats and zoom into the Pranksters where it took a wild turn of spontaneity in tribal dance, uninhibited jazz, nonsensical word raps and any other unfettered reaching of the spirit toward newfound freedoms.”

A healthy dose of this Prankster ethic came from the pranksterish Dadaists who were trying to overthrow not only the rigidity of the fine arts in the 1910s and ’20s, but civilization itself.  By staging pranks in public places like cathedrals in the middle of a service, this gang of offbeat artists and authors had a collective effect on history rather than simply getting arrested as solo psychos.


And out of their inspired playfulness grew the more serious subconscious exploration of the Surrealists.  Founded by the psychologist and poet André Breton, and including Salvador Dali, Joan Miró and René Magritte, the Surrealists strove to fuse our dreamscapes with reality, creating “an absolute reality, a surreality.”  Blending psychology, poetry and painting into a collage of the subconscious, the Surrealists were on a dedicated search for the meaning of life in the mysteries of the mind that Freud had only recently begun to unveil.  Their direct channeling of the subconscious through trance-like states and automatic writing appealed to many artists of the time.  Painter, occasional William Burroughs collaborator and regular cut-up Brion Gysin joined the Surrealists in Paris, as did future Beat poet Philip Lamantia in New York, who also helped edit their magazine View.  But joining this group had a disturbing caveat: Namely, you could actually get expelled from it by Breton — as both Dali and Gysin were — for hanging with the wrong people or changing your mind, which is a curious condition for a mind-based movement.

But along the way, the group had a lot of fun poking a carrot in the eye of the snobby Parisian art world as they painted green apples on faces, and eyes in the middle of baked hams.  Now picture Monty Python’s cartoons of a head popping out of a foot, or a naked man playing an organ in a field.  The Surrealists expanded on the illogical juxtaposition of thought earlier espoused by the French poets Apollinaire and Lautréamont and the line of their legacy is still being doodled.

And that’s the great thing: As much as these cool collectives were happening in the recent past, many are thriving today.  From communal artists’ hearths like New York’s Nuyorican Poets Cafe and Knitting Factory to attention-getting rock fests like Lilith Fair and the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, groups of likeminded people are still working together for the collective better.

“It’s good for the soul, for one thing,” Sheryl Crow said of joining the Lilith tour.  “I mean, it’s what religion’s based on — that commune, the community, the solace and the fellowship of people who have a kindred spirit.”

Whether it’s painting the walls with dinner in Florence, or breakfast in bed for 400,000 at Woodstock, coming together stretches the horizon beyond the sun of its parts.  And you don’t have to be half-a-million strong.  As George Harrison put it of his much smaller group, “That was the good thing about being four together.  Not like Elvis, you know.  I always felt sorry for him later ’cause he was on his own.  He had his guys with him, but there was only one Elvis and nobody else knew what he felt like.  But for us, we all shared the experience.”

Being together counts.  Even a collective of two.  Supporting someone who is supporting you is the seed of a generation.




Here’s another essay from “The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats” — Abstract Expression: From Bird to Brando.

For more on the modern day Merry Pranksters collective — here’s where I met up with them at Woodstock.

Or here’s what doing New Year’s Eve with the Pranksters is like.

Or here’s what happens if you go down the rabbit hole with Pranksters in Wonderland.

Here’s some pretty killer reviews of my new “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

And here’s a whole bunch more.  😉

Here’s a great radio interview where I go into a whole bunch of similar Power of The Collective ideas.

And here’s a joyous riffin’ print interview that explores the meaning of “Beat” and how it impacted culture at large and fits in the world today.

Here’s where you can get the book in the U.S.   Or in Canada.  Or in the U.K.




Brian Hassett

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Rolling Stone Book of The Beats excerpt

February 29th, 2016 · Kerouac and The Beats

Abstract Expression: From Beat to Brando


Fire lights and smoking nights
And splashes of dripping paint;
Jazz explosions and constant commotions
“Leave It To Beaver” this ain’t.




It was the halftime show of the century!
1945 to 1955.
“We’re gonna rock the rock in the second half.”
Or we’re all gonna die.


Life was pretty uncertain after two world wars and two atomic bombs in too little time.  By 1945, it could go either way and everybody knew it.  Edward R. Murrow had been on the wireless delivering graphic nightly accounts of the bombing of Europe.  Centuries-old nations were tumbling by the month. Blackouts, rationing and depression were a way of life.  The end was surely near.  But leaning forward into this tension wind were some courageous artists transforming their media into gloriously honest expressions of the furthest and sometimes most beautiful reaches of our mind.

Through a door opened by Freud and into a room lit by Jung, Reich, Stanislavsky, Breton and others, the expression of the subconscious self, the center, the soul, the truth, became the new goal of artists all over the world, some who happened to be drinking together, and others who were drinking alone.

During the same years that Jack Kerouac was blowing apart the novel and Allen Ginsberg the poem, Jackson Pollock was exploding canvases on Long Island, Charlie Parker was breaking the sound barrier on 52nd Street, and Marlon Brando was ripping his chest open on Broadway.  In nextdoor Midtown, it was television’s “Golden Age” with Your Show of Shows inventing live sketch comedy, and Kraft Television Theater live weekly drama.  Surfing the last of the vanishing vaudeville nightspots, Lord Buckley and Lenny Bruce were cutting their teeth before cutting the edge of stand-up comedy.  And several new publications began appearing, from the Village Voice to Playboy, all bringing the edge to the middle of the country.

In 1945, Jackson Pollock moved away from the nightly Village bar scene — with Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Frank O’Hara and roomfuls of other boozehounds — and out to the seclusion of a farmhouse in Springs, Long Island, to begin his dripping live action paintings.  Where he came up with the idea is anybody’s guess since the tormented alcoholic abstractionist was notoriously uncommunicative about his process.  His sculptor-friend Constantine Nivola could at least explain the lead-up: “It was the Surrealists, such as Breton, who had the idea of releasing the tension in painting without any preconceived notions, letting the spontaneity do the actual painting.”  Pollock just took the idea to outer space.  Or inner space.  If you stand in front of one of his dripping paintings and stare into it for a while you can take a long strange trip without ever leaving the gallery.  Somehow in the subconscious rhythms of Pollock’s trance dance he created a mirror of our mind, patterns out of chaos, and motion out of stillness.

“It was great drama,” filmmaker Hans Namuth said of watching him work.  “The flame of explosion when the paint hit the canvas; the dancelike movement; the eyes tormented before knowing where to strike next; the tension; then the explosion again.”

“When I am in my painting, I am not aware of what I’m doing,” Pollock once said.  When another brilliant Abstract Expressionist Hans Hoffmann asked him about the use of nature in his work, he answered — “I am nature.”

It was this firm belief in the natural flow of self that was propelling so many of these daring young artists in their flying seat pants.  And remember — this was when gray was the national color, vanilla the flavor, conformity the goal, and McCarthyism the disease of the era.  The slightest deviation in hair length or hemline meant you were a communist to many in this newly military-trained generation.

In November 1945, the same month that Pollock moved into the barn on Long Island, Charlie Parker moved into the WOR Studios in Midtown Manhattan to lay down some abstract expression of his own in what Savoy Records not unjustly called, “The greatest recording session in modern jazz.”  The first session ever under Parker’s own name featured a little combo including Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis on trumpets and Max Roach on drums.

What Monk, Parker, Dizz, Miles and others had been working on the last few years of Monday night jam sessions at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem and the clubs along 52nd Street was the first big break in jazz since Louis Armstrong stretched the solo in his Hot Five and Hot Seven sessions in 1926.  By improvising a new melody line based on the existing chords of 32-bar popular songs like “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” and “How High The Moon,” and often playing at double the tempo of the rhythm section, these bop-blazers created an unprecedented “skidilibee-bee you, —oo—ee, bop sh’bam,” as Doctor Kerouac so accurately diagnosed it in “The Beginning of Bop.”

Considered “almost telepathic” even by reserved jazz journals, Bird’s frenetic speed carried him into the unknown every night, relying on the same subconscious instinctual current that Pollock was channeling.  And this complete commitment to intuition was about to revolutionize American theater.

Get this: When Chekhov’s first play The Seagull had its original production, it bombed so badly he vowed to never write another play.  Then a young director named Konstantin Stanislavsky came along with some wacky new idea about actors improvising from their own experience to fully convey the psychology of the characters, and he begs Chekhov for the rights to re-stage the play.  This pivotal production heralds the birth of both the Moscow Art Theater and the Stanislavsky “Method,” and gives the playwright Anton Chekhov the encouragement to go on and write a few more plays you may have heard of.

Flip ahead to December 1947, New York City, and A Streetcar Named Desire with Marlon Brando is opening on Broadway.  This pivotal production by Elia Kazan heralds the birth of both the Actors Studio and the Method in American theater, and gives the playwright Tennessee Williams the encouragement to go on and write a few more plays you also may have heard of.

Stella Adler described Streetcar’s lead and Greenwich Village resident Brando as “the perfect marriage of intuition and intelligence,” but she could have been talking about any of these ice-breakers of the American art-ic.

Stanislavsky’s tenet was: “You must live the part every moment you are playing it.”  Like Bird, Jackson and Jack. Rather than perfect diction or posture, actors were encouraged to channel the center of their soul.  The frame of dialogue was only a canvas to fill in from the actor’s own experience.

And this same self-reliant philosophy was taking hold all over New York City.  In 1950, with network television barely five years old, Sid Caesar and a few friends came up with this wild idea to do a funny 90-minute skit-driven comedy show on Saturday night live on NBC.  For the next four years, televised sketch comedy was being pioneered on Your Show of Shows, with writers like Woody Allen, Neil Simon and Mel Brooks first getting their pens wet.

That same year, Lord Buckley, the wailinest Beat comedian there ever was, was getting ready to hit the road after five years of developing his improvisational hipster style in New York’s dives and dying vaudeville halls.  Telling stories in his hipsemantic rap he’d “recast incidents from history and mythology into a patois that blended scat-singing, black jive, and the King’s English,” as biographer Oliver Trager summed it.

“Lord Buckley’s a secret thing you pass under the table,” Ken Kesey once explained of Buckley’s lack of name recognition, even though his influence ranges from George Carlin to Jerry Garcia.  “Lord Buckley and Grateful Dead philosophy merge in a certain irony of viewpoint,” Garcia told Trager.  “The way he did his show was very dramatic.  It would start off like a regular stand-up routine, but it really turned into kind of a primal experience.  A very powerful style with a lot of magic.  You can’t act it.  You have to think of yourself as ‘Lord Buckley.'”

In December of the same year Kerouac received “The Letter” — Neal Cassady’s famous 13,000-word Joan Anderson/Cherry Mary epic (brought jazzily to the screen in 1997 as The Last Time I Committed Suicide) — which would change Jack’s approach to writing.  “I have renounced fiction and fear,” he wrote Cassady right back.  “There is nothing to do but write the truth.”  And within a few months he’d finished On The Road in a single twenty-day stretch on a single roll of tracing paper in a single paragraph.

To describe where his technique was coming from, Jack honored his friend Allen’s request to write his “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose” and “Belief & Technique For Modern Prose”:

“Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, ‘blowing’ (as per jazz musician) on subject of image. . . . Begin not from preconceived idea of what to say about image but from jewel center of interest in subject of image at ‘moment’ of writing, and write outwards swimming in sea of language to peripheral release and exhaustion. . . . Write ‘without consciousness’ in semi-trance (as Yeats’ later ‘trance writing’). . . . Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind.  Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better.”

And speaking of seeing better — that same year the revered Brave New World author, Aldous Huxley, first took mescaline and wrote a vivid and valuable account of it in “The Doors of Perception.”  Louis Armstrong was an old teahead of time, Bird a heroin addict, Jack, Jackson and Tennessee hard liquor drinkers, but this was a whole new trip.  Huxley’s detailed and “inexpressibly wonderful” account of exploring the amplified mind opened The Doors for the psychedelic revolution that was shimmering just around a corner on Haight Street.

In 1953 yet another scholarly study appeared that would spark an even better revolution — Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Female — whispering in science that a quarter of all married women had extramarital affairs and most women had multiple premarital partners.  Ozzie was aghast and Harriet blushed, but the secret was out.  Sex was happening.  As part of his research, Kinsey even met with Tennessee Williams, went to see Streetcar, and studied the actors’ sexual backgrounds.  He also interviewed the Beats’ number one hustler Herbert Huncke, and in fact used him to round up subjects.  Too bad Cassady lived in San Francisco.

In 1954, a 19-year-old Elvis Presley passed through the doors of Sun Studios, and the whole world snuck in behind him.  Brando won the Oscar for On The Waterfront the same year he was appearing in theaters all over the country as the leather-clad leader of a motorcycle gang called The Beetles in The Wild One.  The possibilities of what was commercially acceptable were changing forever.

By ’55 the rockets of the renaissance began going off like fireworks —

James Dean’s disaffected hipster goes drag-racing with trouble in Rebel Without A Cause; Rod Serling’s “Patterns” wins an Emmy as he begins tweaking the summit of our imagination; the Village Voice and a new journalism appears; Chuck Berry goes cruisin’ with Maybellene;” Little Richard lets everybody know he’s Tutti Frutti all rootti — and Billboard begins tracking its first “Pop” chart; Marilyn’s white dress goes whoosh in The Seven Year Itch and the first birth-control pills start being sold; Jack writes Mexico City Blues in a month, giving it the inscription, “I want to be considered a jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jam session on Sunday;” Burroughs starts nibbling on his Naked Lunch, Ferlinghetti snaps a few Pictures of The Gone World, Ginsberg begins to Howl at the Six Gallery reading — and the On The Road fame train is still two years away.

From Pollock’s swirling strokes to splashing color screen-savers — from Brando reaching New York audiences with A Streetcar Named Desire to Bravo reaching nationwide living rooms with Inside The Actors Studio — from Jack’s punctuation-liberated prose to the abbreviated brevity of online language — from Ginsberg freely howling to Richie Havens howling Freedom — the commitment to spontaneous subconscious expression during this pivotal mid-century decade intuited our new millennial lives in ways still being improvised.



Here’s a poem about Bird I wrote that was turned into a song — Smokin’ Charlie’s Saxophone.

Or here’s another piece on the Beats and art — the review of the huge Whitney Museum of Art Beat Retrospective.

Or here’s a story about last year’s epic Beat Shindig in San Francisco that was another similar blending of mediums.

Here’s a great radio interview where I go into a whole bunch of similar stories and ideas about the genesis of creation.

And here’s a joyous riffin’ print interview that explores the meaning of “Beat” and how it impacted culture at large and fits in the world today.

Here’s some killer reviews of my new “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

And here’s a whole bunch more.  😉

Here’s where you can get the book in the U.S.   Or in Canada.



Brian Hassett

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Bill Clinton’s First Inauguration 1993

January 20th, 2016 · Politics



Originally published in Interchange Magazine, and TransForum Magazine, Jan. and Feb. 1993.


“We march to the music of our time.”
……………………………………….Bill Clinton at his Inauguration


Little Dorothy Washington slowly snuck up to the Iron Curtain of Oz, and peaked behind the screen. Her eyes popped when she discovered only a hungry old woman hunched over on a stool, pulling what levers were left of The Evil Empire.  It was kind of embarrassing.  You spend half a century and all your money preparing for battle, only to find your enemy’s a broken down old matron.

And Dorothy was pissed.  Four-Star Ike, Dick the Magic Dragon, John Wayne Raygun, and Stormin’ Norman George suddenly looked worse than silly.  There was no “there” there, and the paying customers were talkin’ refund.  There were riots, poverty, and incurable diseases at home, while they’d sat spellbound at the feet of the their elected monarchs listening to tales of tigers in the jungle.

You should have seen the look on their tiny faces when the curtain peeled back and they discovered they’d been sitting out in the cold (war) for decades while last year’s losers were all in school attending class.

“Those damn foreigners were sitting around getting smart again while I was listening to Bonzo’s bedtime stories.  Am I ever stupid!” Dorothy whined, hitting herself upside the head with a ballot box.

The Grand Pendulum reached its apex during the hundred hour ground war in Kuwait, and the recess bell clanged for change.  Dorothy was picking at a daisy, wondering, “Uhmmm, if Iraq has the third biggest army in the world and can’t even last longer than a long weekend, what are we doing this for?”

Enter:  the swing era, the sea-change, electricity, spring in the step, new life, blinding fireworks, cascading karma, oh my god — Elvis is in the White House!

“What a weird dream!” Dorothy says, waking up.


Those crazy Americans have done it again.  They couldn’t be content with a Paul Tsongas or a Bob Kerrey or some other respectable guy in a suit.  No.  They had to pick a pot smoking sax player from a state most of the country couldn’t find on a map.

As an expatriated Winnipeger who’s been caught in the gears of America for years, I decided to rent a van, convert it into a jack-proof mobile fort, and drive to Washington to witness the passing of the spliff.

The nugget of the whole week was the concert at the Lincoln Memorial on the Sunday before the swearing-in.  It was televised on HBO, so check local listings.  (It cost them a bundle — they’ll repeat it a lot.)  It had the first all-star performance of “We Are The World” since Live Aid eight years ago, including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Aretha, and a cast of many who I think just sort of wandered out there.

But it was the spirit of this very black and white audience that transcended.  Kids, grand-couples, middle class families on blankets — and everybody in a really good mood.  And no idiots.  When was the last time you were in a crowd of half-a-million people and there were no screaming idiots?

So there you are, and there’s these giant TV screens, and there’s James Earl Jones reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to the point where, when he reaches the climactic line, singing America in his rich baritone, and stressing the words “the people,” half the crowd is just bawling their eyes out:

“That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from this earth.”

Then Jack Nicholson strolls out and the crowd starts howling and laughing and falling over.  His hair is blowing straight up off his head like his toe’s stuck in a socket, and he’s reading Lincoln all serious-like but the whole field is just roaring and laughing along with His Freakness.

Then Aretha Franklin comes out, the queen of living soul, and man, can she still hit it.  She sings “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” and the whole time you’re going, “Yeah, this is cool, but I wish she’d sing ‘Respect.‘  Not quite the gig, though.”  Then Boom!  She does it!  Aretha’s honking on “Respect,” and the whole crowd of America starts shaking its collective black ass under a clear winter sky.  It was so funky you forgot you were at an historic event.

Then, whoops, Dylan appears out of nowhere!  And by his reaction, it’s even a surprise to Clinton.  He wasn’t even rumored.  You can see Bill on the giant screen just bopping in his seat like a little kid, and he’s hitting Al Gore, going, “Hey Al!  Right on!  It’s Bob!  Haw-haw.  Did you set this up?!  Pi-i-i-ig whiskers!”  And Dylan’s up there massacring “Chimes Of Freedom.”  Brilliant song choice, Bob.  Too bad no one could understand a fucking word you mumbled.  The screens that were showing the large text print of what was being said/sang, started scrolling ahead, and then back, trying line up some syllable they could identify.

Jack.  Aretha.  Dylan.  These are the artists that the President of the United States identifies with!?  Jack “Here’s Johnny” Nicholson?  Aretha?  The touring soul goddess of love?  Dylan?  The poet laureate of the music of revolution?  The guy didn’t even show up at Woodstock, and here he is inaugurating a President?  You think the times have changed?  I mean, is this possible?  I don’t think so..



What Were Once Motifs Are Now Symbols, to update the Doobies.  Saxophones — and shades.  Okay, who wears sunglasses?  Hip people, right?  “Symbol of,” anyway.  And where did that come from?  The ’50s Beats — used to cover up stoned red eyes.  “Originally employed as a drug aid — now handy as a presidential metaphor.”

And the saxophone.  Not the clarinet.  Not the bass.  Not the grand piano.  The guy has to wail on the saxophone — Charlie Parker’s engine.  The rock horn.  The horn that was too wild for big band jazz.  The human soul pipe.

Let’s review:  The sax.  Shades.  Jack.  Aretha.  Dylan.

Open discussion question: What type of person has these five things on the back of their baseball card?



Then out on The Mall, there’s two days of open tent free concerts featuring Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead and thousands of twirling Deadheads at the foot of the Capital building.  Then, Los Lobos.  Little Feat.  Michelle Shocked.  All officially invited mind you — playing on the Great Field of America, surrounded by Smithsonian museums, and literally in the shadow of the Washington Monument.  Wynton Marsalis.  Robert Cray.  McCoy Tyner.  Four on-going sound stages.  For two days, besides the Lincoln concert.  Taj Mahal.  Linda Ronstadt.  Blues Traveler.  Food stands from 50 states.  It was Folklorama, Yankee style.  And these are the official functions.

Back in the alleys of D.C. lay copious dens of iniquity and schmoozing that were churning in overdrive.  Refurbished warehouses, old banks turned into decadent lounges, TV screens everywhere, CNN, C-SPAN, open bars, here a schmooze, there a schmooze, everywhere the camera’s snap.

It’s out of control, of course, but there’s 12 years of pent-up frustration just bursting to get out.  Or maybe it’s 30 years, or longer.  The children of the Ozzie and Eisenhower Conformity Generation, who briefly blossomed during Kennedy’s spring of freedom, have finally grasped the reigns of power they had only dreamt of in the adolescence of the sixties.

The psychological spirit of America was born in 1945.  That second world war victory established them as a true empire, greater than the old ones of Europe who were unable to curtail their own cancer within.

It was awoken by a splash of Jackson Pollock’s Abstract Expressionist painting, trumpeted by Charlie Parker’s be-bop musical revolution, and its journey narrated by Jack Kerouac singing Whitman’s song in the modern age.  The young nation flowered, dreaming in the immensity of it.  It was the Age of Aquarius.  The Summer of Love.  The Woodstock Nation.

But as a few of its heroes dropped, the optimism of youth disintegrated into cocaine-dosed debauchery of the ’70s.  The country got sucked into the great temptation pit, like Adam, Achilles, Macbeth and Milkin.  “Make me Big.  Bigger.”  Schwarzenegger.  Schwarzkopf.  “Bigger, Bigger. Kill. Kill.”  Transfixed by its own muscles and glued to the mirror, it belched, “I love myself.”

America has rounded the corner of middle age, and put away its childish things.  The hopeful intentions of the songs sung from the stage of Woodstock in 1969 were echoed from the stage of the Lincoln Memorial in 1993.  America came home from the wars last year, and found that her family had split up while she was off becoming champion of the world.

A country rooted in Jefferson, Lincoln, Whitman and Thoreau, had somehow degenerated into Nixon, Quayle, Trump and Tyson.  Not even America liked what it saw.  So it changed.  No matter how dramatic and funky and symbolic this Aquarian Coronation was, it’s only a reflection of a much bigger change that’s taken place in the mind and body of America.











For more writing like this — check out The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

For the tale of Obama’s first Inauguration, check this out.

Or here’s where Woodstock inventor/promoter Michael Lang quoted me about the Inauguration in his memoir about creating the legendary concert.

Or here’s Obama’s election night in Manhattan — the greatest party there ever was in that town.

Or here’s how I first got started in politics.

Or here’s the story of a wild altercation between me, Howard Dean, Al Franken and a heckler on the 2004 campaign trail.

Or here’s a piece I wrote a long time ago that addresses the recent Repugnant anti-immigrant hate-speech — Great Americans Not Born In America.

Or for another story with Bob Dylan in the middle of it — check out The Day I Heard The Tambourine Man.

Or here’s one of his Bobness showing up at the Bruce Springsteen concert at Shea Stadium.





Brian Hassett

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“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” reviews and reactions

December 15th, 2015 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters



David Amram, Jami Cassady, Al Hinkle holding the book,
Levi Asher and the author after the Cassady Family panel
at the Beat Shindig in San Francisco

This is an excellent book about Uncle Jack, and also a heartfelt outpouring of love for Mom and Dad, and the Grateful Dead, too.  I just got done reading the section about Mom.  Very touching — made me miss her.  Thank you for writing this.

Jami Cassady
Neal & Carolyn’s youngest daughter, and “Jack’s favorite” 🙂 


Brian Hassett… Your book rocks.  I read it in spurts so everything has a chance to sink in … it really is good, you know!!!!

I am lovin’ it it’s written to hold a reader’s attention.  Thank You.  

And p.s. — You were quite popular during the conversations at the Prankster reunion!!

Anonymous (original Merry Prankster)



Mountain Girl — just after she’d been given the book
by Jami Cassady at the Prankster reunion


I’m reading your book and enjoying it immensely. Surprised and enlightened.

I am still laughing from what I read last night.
Laughter is the best medicine, and you gave me some big howls. ‘Harpo’ Orlovsky got the biggest one, and the altercation with Gregory Corso. I really liked him.

The repartee is so well rendered, and your Ken Babbs descriptions are right on. And very funny.
The general mayhem aspect is also spot on.

Thanks for the rerun!  I was there for part of it, with Barlow.

Congratulations on creating an awesome read.

And thanks for the blast of light!  You rock!



If you have read Kerouac, and are interested in his life and work, and the movement he and his friends inspired, and the effect it has had on our lives since, I suggest reading Brian’s fine book.  If you have not read Kerouac, I suggest you do so.

George Walker, premier Merry Prankster, and the guy who prolly put in more miles on the road with Neal Cassady than anybody else 


A tremendous author.  The writing in this book is fantastic.  This is a phenomenal work.  If you’re wanting to expand your consciousness and you’re trying to become more enlightened, I can’t recommend a better book.

Jake Feinberg – Powertalk 1210 AM — full interview here.


Here’s another cool interview I did recently with that big Blues site out of Greece that goes into everything from the meaning of life to the meaning of Beat.  🙂


Or here’s another positive interview about how the Beats and the Pranksters are alive and thriving today —


Wow what a book!

This past June I took a copy of author Brian Hassett’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” for a three month road trip with Brian and his cast of characters.  By starting at the start of summer I knew I’d have time to enjoy it at a leisurely pace, and I kept the book in my knapsack for three months.  Many had spoken of the work with praise so I knew I was in for a bit of a ride.

I found myself savoring it like a comic book when I was a kid — saving the reading of it for when the time was best, because it was that special.

For anyone who’s into the Beats, Bohemia and all things hip — this is a must-read.  With the energy of youth, Hassett has gone on the road to enlightenment and cool.  Basically, a book about a literary conference in 1982 has morphed into a commentary of who we are now and how we got here.

With thirty years to reflect on the experience, the author has composed a road-wise and all-encompassing picture of that trip along with a wealth of archival information on the Beats, the hippies of San Fran that grew out of them, and the culture they catalyzed.

His chapters can be read individually, and that’s how I chose to experience it.  I had to lay the book aside a number of times because the insights provided sent me on tangents that took days or weeks to explore and absorb.  If I look at my google search history it will follow this book like a sub-map.  I was under the surface like a fiend, looking up every little thing and nuance of interest to me.

One great example was the chapter and sections on the Grateful Dead, whose Farewell concerts occurred as I was reading the book.  I could segue for a week in any direction before returning, including reading, listening to music, absorbing documentaries, and watching the most-watched Pay-Per-View concert of all time with millions of others, while the author was in Chicago saying Farewell from right in front of the stage.  Then I would come back to the book, ready for another hit.

And the hits kept coming.  Subject matter ranges from synchronicity — a concept that this book has rekindled in me — to the final chapter-in-verse that Jack would have dug the most.  In between, it’s a sensitive, deep and educated look at the Beats and the culture they spawned, by a true scholar.

The whole Meeting Your Heroes thing is so real — especially with Holmes and Huncke.  I’ve always thought of them as being warm people, and this vividly confirmed that.  By the time he takes us to the Chautauqua Lodge porch I’d lost track of time and felt the stories were current.  I found myself thinking in the present of 1982, as the writer must have while writing the book.

Then there’s the San Francisco adventure that sounds like it’s told by the long lost son of Bill Graham, the lover of the hip, the hippies and the hippest.  There’s City Lights bookstore where I took my ten-year-old son and had a similar experience in that shrine.  Then the historical reverence of Vesuvio’s, and that alley in between where so many giants of the counterculture roamed.

It is fitting that it closes with the chapter Song of The Road I Sing. Storytelling poetry.  It’s a style all its own — sort-of classical rap — tasteful words with meaning, chosen wisely, wistfully and willfully — all with a Beat — the words strokes on the canvas of the mind’s eye.

For the finish — the “Dessert” — the chef in me loved that way of describing not an Appendix but a digestive.  Something to help you process what has been consumed.  Scotch, Cognac, Brandy …… Books, Films, Where Are They Now ….

All of these final tidbits helped this hitchhiker find the next road.  Just the five documentaries shot there are going to keep me busy for some time.  It provides an excellent path from the book to many other interesting places.

The whole thing is both an easygoing guide for the uninitiated, and a rich text of new insight for long-timers.

For a writer to take on the title “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouacrequires some bravado when it comes to guiding us to the true king of the Beats and the Road.  And the goods are delivered.  Hassett has the credentials and the balls for the task.  The author has fully researched and archived the works of Kerouac in a way that informs and excites the reader to open other books, see other videos and truly appreciate the blossoming of the Beats that has occurred since this gathering happened.

Probably most refreshing is Hassett’s choice of grammar, syntax and structure.  He plays the words and versing to create art which can’t escape from getting laughs and “oh wows” along the way.  From the first paragraph riffing on Kesey’s work to the last paragraph of poetic prose — playing with words and touching the soul at the same time — this book is a creative force to behold.

Good art can stand on its own, just by the rite of its own beauty.  This work goes beyond even that.  It inspired me to hit the road, to connect with my heroes, and to open new doors.  Great art — like this — can do that.

Brian Humniski.


12322372_10205574948033146_1369597809053779134_o - Version 2

John Allen Cassady — photo by author on one of their adventures
cited in the book


I just finished from first to last page of your Hitchhiker’s Guide.  It’s a remarkable tale of getting yourself going to goneward.  Made me laugh, and overstand your estimations of the so manys I’ve known, crossed paths with, smoked and drank and listened to or reasoned with and agreed or dis on who or what they are-were.  Some of I wished was there and others not, but you was, and that counts on the real when-then.

Very glad you got it in print and I have it in hand.

Gerd Stern
Poet and multi-media artist, who did NOT lose the Joan Anderson letter



Loved Brian’s new book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac  — a Kerouacian account of his experiences attending the On the Road Conference in Boulder in 1982.  It’s a mighty river of reminiscence, taking the reader along like Huck and Jim on a raft down the Mississippi of his mind.

How did you do it, Brian?  I know you’ve always been a notebook jotter, like Kerouac, and you had your cassette tapes and all the subsequent published records — but still, after thirty years to plunge us willy-nilly into these vivid moments of that distant time stream!

We are there!   We live this immersion in history-in-the-making, this turbulent Gulf Stream of personalities that live on the page: that first encounter with Ginsberg on the stairs; Kesey in freeze motion; that stroll with McClure; that actor you bump into in Vesuvio’s in San Francisco ….

Everyone is a soulmate on the same journey — this heartfelt hitchhike we call life.

I especially liked his own rich thumbed journey across this massive country, and his magnificent rendering of a Grateful Dead concert.

This is the book Brian was born to write.  It has all the color and verve and excitement and passion and wonder of a young kid discovering life, told in the hushed innocent voice of that young kid.

When Brian and I huddled over a pitcher of golden beer in the Grassroots Tavern on St. Mark’s Place thirty years ago, not long after he had had these experiences, I had no idea what an epic lay dormant in the convolutions of his brain!

It’s all fireworks, my lad, all fireworks to the last sparkler.

Prof. Carl Patrick



More than a writer, you are a worldwise, lifewise storyteller of the highest order.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide rocks with diamond halos, and rolls with musical glee.  A Beat bridge between then and now, and now and then.  You are indisputably a genuine part of Beat history my friend.  You carry the torch forward and see to it that it burns brightly.  A living link.  Honored to be on the road with you; mad to write, mad to live.  We read your book, and everyone goes awwwwww ….

S.A. Griffin
Beat Poet Laureate and Senior Raconteur of Los Angeles   


This is great writing!  You really captured it.  We musta crossed paths somewhere during the conference.  I love the two days of Dead tripping — then waking up and realizing you were running the projector for Kesey and Babbs.  Really funny and good.  I enjoyed the hell out of the whole trip, in fact.  There are no slow songs.  And the road poem as the coda really worked for me.  Great job.

Dan Barth
Poet Laureate, Mendocino County


Babbs_Roy_Denise_Brian's Book

Another Prankster gets his wings.  I mean, his book.
Cap’n Babbs, with Denise “Mary Microgram” Kaufman and Roy Seybern.


Brian is the horse of a different color you’ve heard so much about!

The Wizard of Wonder


You are one of those very unique people in this world who is truly “free,” not held back by all the many restraints and pressures most of us endure.

Your take on this event is authentic with that wonderful sense of humor and insights.  This is a real treat and a true education.

Deanna Waters, actress and teacher


Brian, I am loving the book!  It is bringing back memories of the event, and it’s almost like being back there

I’ve described Allen exactly like you have! It’s weird! If it hadn’t been for him, the Beat movement would have been much less significant than it is.

The bit about Trungpa is exactly as I remember it. He was drunk out of his mind and I don’t recall him ever showing up on campus again, although I did see Allen ministering to him over at the Naropa building on Pearl Street.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know how much I love the book! You did a great job!

Lance Gurwell, photographer, Boulder ’82


What does “Beat Generation” mean today, 60 years after Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder & Michael McClure rocked a San Francisco crowd with a world-changing poetry reading, and 46 years after Jack Kerouac’s wan and befuddled death in St. Petersburg, Florida?

All I know is that the the legacy of Beat literature feels like a continuum.  Many young people are still drawn to the legacy today, not because it belongs to the past but because this particular past is still connected to our present and our future.  There was a low-point when Beat literature seemed cold and dead during Reagan’s ’80s — yet it was during those very years that I first wandered curiously into a midtown Manhattan auditorium to hear Allen Ginsberg read and sing some poems. It was a knockout performance (for a tiny crowd).

Brian Hassett’s rollicking, delightful memoir The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac takes us back to those lost years of the 1980s — 1982 to be precise — when the hippie movement was replaced by disco and new wave, and we were all supposed to get excited about stock market booms and MTV.  The author, a 21-year old former junior roadie for the Rolling Stones and Yes who is looking for his life’s next turn, wanders into a bookstore and spots a poster promoting a “Jack Kerouac Conference” in Boulder, Colorado.  He heads in that direction, and that’s what this book is about.

Hassett showed me an early draft of this book, and I’m extremely proud to have been one of the first to say to him, “Hey, Brian, this book really works.”  The challenge of a road trip memoir is to capture the elation of an unpredictable adventure in all its raw ecstasy, and Hassett pulls this off with humor, honest emotion, and bursts of wonky literary information.  It happened that the Jack Kerouac Conference he wandered towards was an absolutely epic gathering, allowing his book to tell stories about William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Jan Kerouac, Diane DiPrima, Ken Kesey, Abbie Hoffman, Paul Krassner and (playing some concerts at nearby Red Rocks) the Grateful Dead.

The conclusion after all these people and all these events is — the inspiration is still all around us, still inside us, always evolving, always alive.

Levi Asher — LitKicks


At the Shindig at The Beat Museum in San Francisco.


It was with great anticipation and pounding heart that I tore open the latest shipment from state side, knowing my copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac was in the box of boat parts and other wonders sent from America. I am sitting on my boat, Furthur, named after the magic bus, cruising in the Philippines. I have been “on the road … or seas” for the last six years.

As I blasted through the pages I was transported to the times and events that shaped my life — putting me where I am today. That long strange trip was spawned from my older cousin passing On the Road and the Dharma Bums to me when I was fourteen years old.

Now reading the account of the famed conference — the players in the genesis, the primal ooze of our culture — rang a bell in my old hippie soul.

Reading this was akin to reading a firsthand account of the Last Supper or the writing of the U.S. Constitution. The account transcended history and moved into the realm of the sacred. This was the wellspring of life, the source.

Brian captures not only the events but also the writing style and the linguistic twists and jumps of the Beat authors he is witness to. This is not an accounting made by a nonpartisan observer. Brian is a believer, a squire immersed in awe and reverence. He did his homework and journalistic duty all while being awe struck. That is not an easy task, but he got the job done, and done in a way that pays homage to the greats.

Capt. Brian Calvert, M/V Furthur



To everyone.

Anything you heard good about Brian’s book.

It’s True!

It’s amazing.

It’s adventurous.

It’s historical.

It’s reflective.

It’s philosophical.

It’s fun.

It’s a masterpiece.

For reals.

And I don’t like much.

For example, I hate the Grateful Dead.

Brian Hassett?

Have to quote Kerouac.

Crazy Madcap Saint of the Mind.

— TKG – LitKicks.


In the summer of 1978, I made a Jack Kerouac-like trip across the U.S. and back, even spending a few days in the mountain town of Boulder, Colorado. I only mention this, because just four short years after my visit, it played host to a remarkable event — a 25th anniversary conference cum festival celebrating the publication of Kerouac’s 1957 novel On the Road, a get-together I would truly have loved to attend.

This magnificent birthday bash attracted virtually all of the Beat Generation writers (only Gary Snyder of the surviving inner circle failed to make the bill) and also drew a much younger admirer, an aspiring penman by the name of Brian Hassett, a hyper-energetic college kid with an impressive track record as an organizer of live events and even as a manager of rock tours, who found out about the Boulder hoedown and immediately offered his services as a general runaround for those trying to make the occasion run smoothly.

His offer of assistance accepted, Hassett spent the next couple weeks rubbing shoulders with his literary and musical heroes, for the Grateful Dead not only provided financial backing for the celebration but also played gigs close by during the event.

The junior Hassett gathered enough experiences, garnered enough adventures, to turn it into a book and, an extraordinary 30 years later, he has finally pulled together all his memories, all his interviews, all his encounters, from that remarkable time to produce an account that vividly recaptures a golden moment in the Kerouac chronology.

Written with a frenetic pace and utter passion, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Jack Kerouac, is a Beat-inspired odyssey, its words, its sentences, its paragraphs, a rolling cascade of highway incidents, late-night conversations, offbeat meditations, woven together in a quite intoxicating mix, as Hassett heads out from his homeland of Canada for the American West following his heroes Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, the fictional figureheads of Kerouac’s greatest novel, by sticking out his thumb and absorbing every moment of the rollercoaster that follows, whether meeting strangers who give him a ride from state to state or the poetic stars – Ginsberg, Kesey, Corso, Burroughs and many others – who are the headliners at the countercultural convocation.

If you haven’t read a book by Kerouac or the hip penslingers who were his friends in the 1950s, why not start by picking up Brian Hassett’s picaresque jamboree to give you a unique flavour of the Beat scene?

If you have read Kerouac, then this Hitchhiker’s Guide will give you a fresh and furious, flip and funny, feisty yet always philosophical take on why that late novelist still counts and why Boulder in 1982 was such a blockbusting, book-minded buzz, a beatific blast that put Jack and his extraordinary legacy back on the map.

Simon Warner, author of “Text, Drugs and Rock & Roll”


Just about read your whole Hitchhiker’s Guide To Jack Kerouac in one SWELL FOOP!
Writ on a roll, heavy on the details, light as a feather in joy, deep in your voice, poetry in motion.
Bravo my frang!

Jason Eisenberg, Lord Buckley channel


Brian Hassett is the Dan Brown of the Beats!  With this new book, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” he takes us back to the Beat Round Table in 1982, capturing the time when the most Beat Knights and Maidens would congregate around the legend of Jack Kerouac.

He painstakingly lays out for us the Beat Rose Line, or should I say the Road Line (Beat Royale), that long yellow stripe that cuts across the North American Continent.  In the United States we can trace this evolution back to at least the transcendentalist of Emerson and Thoreau.  Brian takes us along on his own personal grail quest, the treasure hunt for the Beat Code where we find Neal Cassady as the American Jesus Zen man, Carolyn Cassady as Mary Magdalene, the disciples of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Huncke, Kesey, Burroughs and Corso.  This Road Line continues when Excalibur is passed on to the Grateful Dead, Dylan, the Merry Pranksters, Deadheads and the many other descendants.

My first Dead show was in 1984 and unfortunately I didn’t get to the Beats until much later.  However, I always had a tacit understanding that I was traveling along a road made up of much more.  This road is our personal mythology, the vibrant infrastructure that informs our life whether we are aware of it or not.

Brian has helped me become aware of my personal collective origins.  When I walked into Warby Parker for the Beatnik Shindig pre-party on Hayes Street in San Francisco, I half drunkenly pointed a knowing finger at Brian and he flashed back a quizzical “Don’t I know you?” smile.  We didn’t know each other but at that moment we did.

There is one mind common to all individual men.  Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same.  He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate.  What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand.  Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign agent.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “History,” 1841

Philip E. Thomas




Horst Spandler, Germany’s foremost Beat scholar.


Your book has been on the road with me around Denmark and Italy, and we’re travelling together to the Canary Islands next week.

Per DeVille


WOW… what a wild ride!

I just finished this book, and it far exceeded my expectations.  I enjoyed it immensely, and it is now etched in stone as a part of Beat scholarship.

There are only a handful of people with Beat and Prankster cred walking around, and Brian Hassett is one of them.

This book, like the trip it describes, just keeps getting better and better as it rolls along through the American counter-culture mindscape. Hassett takes us on a wonderful, easy drive that puts the reader in the shotgun seat of a slew of hitchhiking adventures, and backstage at the very important 1982 Kerouac conference in Boulder Colorado, then lets the reader unwind with him at the homes of Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs, two icons whom Hassett, like Kerouac, finds and paints the inner beauty and human side of. Bravo to the author for realizing the importance of these events and recording them, and then taking his time to embroider it into a beautiful tapestry when the time was right.

Richard Marsh



With the book on a scroll in Brianland


This book was amazing!!!  Brian better keep writing because I’ll sure keep reading!!!!  He has an amazing way of telling this adventure story while teaching you so much about the Beats and the hippies!!!

This book makes you want to get out there and meet people, meet your heroes, get On The Road and keep going Furthur!!!  I will be reading this book again and again!!!  Keep them coming Brian!!  I love your style!!!

Albert Hoffman


A brilliant read, brother.  Jack would have been mighty proud of the influence he had on you.

From one Beat to another — you completely understand what they were all about and why it is still very important today.  Without the Beats we would not be who we are today.  Keep writing, please!!!

Mark Smith


A fun ride that’s well worth the trip!

5 stars

Holy smokes – what a ride!  Reading Brian’s book is like reading a modern day Alice In Wonderland.  Not only does it explore the Jack Kerouac Conference in Boulder, but it also explores the culture of the Beats and the hippies, and if one doesn’t know of the connection and the extent of the influences, this book is a great way of seeing how it’s all connected.

How — as Brian puts it in quite lovely fashion — it is one massive family, spanning generations.  I thought I was caught up on that schooling, but I still had to have my pen out, writing names and titles down from time to time.

The language of the book reflects this culture — there’s references of lyrics borrowed from familiar artists that get you (me) nodding your head smiling, and it flows with the theme and the reader’s pace.  The language is friendly, excited and fun.

Reading it is similar to Brian sitting beside you, beer in hand and verbally explaining his adventure to you.  Kerouac would have loved such a form of telling and so would many of the other Beats as well.  But this book is for more than fans of the Beats — there’s a lot here for fans of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, to the The Grateful Dead, to the wonderful art of hitchhiking.

But to me, an aspect I truly enjoyed of the book was Brian’s own observations from his experiences.  He has added his own perspective, experience and personality to an already library full of works, and he fits in with all of them.  This book can also stand on its own, of course, as a tale about a dedicated fan who got to get up close and work with his heroes.  This special opportunity is rare, especially with someone who can acutely describe the experience and the knowledge gained in such simple yet mind-blowing fashion.

So sit back, open the book to page one and go along for the ride, like a hitchhiker with a thumb in the air and a big wide smile and hair against the wild wind.

Jason Henderson



with Furthur’s John Kadlecik at Bear’s Picnic


My fellow Pranksters — There is a must read book out there — Brian Hassett‘s Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.  I’m marginally well read when it comes to the loosely defined “Beat” genre, but after reading this book I am more enlightened to this art form.  I thoroughly enjoyed it (and am reading it again).

The book is really well structured.  Brian encapsulates the personalities and character of the authors he was able hang out with and interview during a once-in-a-lifetime gathering for a Kerouac writers conference in 1980’s Boulder, CO.  Please get yourself a copy!

Deven Brinton


Everyone “On the Bus” or “On the Road” needs to read this book.

It brings to life so many of the characters that helped create our counter culture, and reads like an enthusiastic road trip through the heart of Beat literature with a side trip to a Grateful Dead concert!

Gubba Topham


After reading this great book, it continues to pop up in thought.  Much like “On The Road” did back in the day.  I felt like I took that journey with you.  You are the real deal, Brian, as a writer and a person.  You conveyed that in your book beautifully … now I tell everyone I know to buy your book and rekindle the love of Beats and fine writers.

Spike Smith


I finished your book an hour ago and am still trippin’.  I do sound and stage manage shows and would love to include your most excellent voice.  You really light it up.

Richard Grace




Well, why shouldn’t Brian Hassett’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac [The Adventure of the Boulder ’82 On The Road Conference — Finding Kerouac, Kesey and The Grateful Dead Alive & Rockin’ in the Rockies; introduction by John Allen Cassady; published by Get Things Done Publishing, USA, 2015] read like a breathless telephone call or letter, a cassette-tape transcription, an inventory, itinerary, annotated bibliography, since it’s all of these — a fifty-four-year-old catching up on his own twenty-one-year-old’s [on-the-] road trip, a teen & twenty out of rock ‘n roll, and his reader, such as I am here on the cusp of seventy, happily hooked on the spirals of my own life story, and always knew it as story, even my first pages from 1963 of manuscript so grateful I haven’t lost entitled JOURNEY as ‘writing’ seemed to transcend ‘autobiography’ — thus my fellow-feeling for the young guy, Brian Hassett, forever younger, unembarrassed by the notion of heroes & hero worship, the Beats his hearth gods & goddesses, his pantheon, thus another way into history, what I call intersections —

utterly at home with his thinking aloud, reportage, fast & free, as I cant or won’t let myself completely be, devoted to British English’s musicality, both street talk & literature, its textured ear, the more so as it collides with one’s parallel love, the American colloquial, particularly the post-literary, the journalistic, the epistolary & journal-ism — except that I conjure a ‘literary’ which swallows it all, spitting it out, compelled to truth, thus clarity however close to blurting’s effluvium, adjacent to effulgence, humorous, true however knowingly comic, without spoiling or obscuring the candid, naked, generous moment!


B.H. of Vancouver, teenage veteran of touring with Yes, The Rolling Stones, Cheap Trick etc, gets himself a gig back in ’82 with the staging of the first Jack Kerouac Conference — could say, gets the gig for the rest of his life.  Of course he’s already a reader — Ken Kesey one of his stars, & Kerouac . . .

Hilarious story of the frustrations of trying to find a copy of On The Road to inspire his girlfriend’s sister, finally locating it at a store which has — “this giant [Kerouac conference] poster on the wall and there in large print — ‘KEN KESEY’ And in tiny print at the bottom — ‘partially funded by The Grateful Dead.’ !!!  Right away I got on the phone before I got On The Road.  The conference cost about $200 or something, which is like two million today, so I told them I was a show person and could help them stage it from a production standpoint, and the coordinator said, ‘Yeah, we could use you.  Come on down.'”

Having hitchhiked from Canada to Colorado — and how familiar his description is to anyone who’s stuck out a thumb, hoping, praying, cursing — though he’s the lucky one, scoring rides with like-minded drivers — and upon arriving he falls among friends, Kit & Arthur Knight for example, lends his ear to J.C. Holmes, Michael McClure, Herbert Huncke et al, clicks with one & all, and immediately starts scribbling in his own, let’s say it, holy notebooks, which were lost or hidden or unattended for all the years until the day in 2013 when he sat down to write a remembrance of the conference, which grew like Topsy —

listed in the book as Some of the ingredients in the kitchen, to wit, “Two different road notebooks from the trip; three hitchhiking logs; typed post-trip Log Notes; multiple cassette recordings made at the conference and on the road/; an inch-thick folder of papers from the conference including schedules and newspaper clippings and to-do lists; other Beat folders full of gems; my 1982 datebook; my Grateful Dead set lists and show notes; photo albums; Cliff Miller’s photos and memories; letters and postcards home; letters to friends during and after it; recent conversations and emails with fellow attendees.”


Welcome to the Fan-ily!  A comment from Neal & Carolyn’s son John Cassady says it all: “For some reason, Brian ended up in the middle of our family, and we were never sure why, but maybe he reminded us of someone who was always part of it.”  And the fan from NYU & rock & roll promotion, who aggregates the intel, surrogate chronicler, quasi historian — fan as devotee, implicitly democratic therefore as to how & where his interest falls, affectionate to main & bit players equally — undergrowth as fascinating & instructive as the grand stand, the nub of local history, indeed the invigorating factor of history per se, the proximity that makes it bearable, demystified because tangible, present.

Kris Hemensley – Collected Works Bookshop, Australia



with Dead keyboardist Jeff Chimenti


As much as I have written about and read Kerouac, I had not at all connected him to the Dead, so I have that big revelation for which to thank you!!  (“long backseat nap in the sky” a great phrase, by the way)

I had great fun reading this.  Your style is perfect for the telling of the tale; great imagery, colorful and engaging… Took me there… and I wish I had been!

Your word choices were aswirl with the energy and real zeal of the tale, and you really do have a great tale to tell and your voice is perfect for it!

It was nothing less than revelatory for me to think of the connection between Jack and the Dead … of course, I’ve seen films and read about Cassady driving Furthur … but I just somehow never thought of Kerouac as part of the scene … him being so ill and anti-hippie (in that long, rambling awful interview from the Wm. F. Buckley show, which I know you’ve seen) … but your wit and your language surely did captivate and win me over.  Keep on truckin!

Definitely born to be “on the bus,” so hope Weir keeps driving it Furthur!!!  Like many others, I’m betting, I must be a Deadhead who just doesn’t know it yet…

June King


It felt like I was whisked away to the actual event!  This is all written so clearly and participatively (is that a word?!) that’s how I read it so quickly — it felt so much like I was there that I couldn’t close the book ….

The Kansas Kid


I was there in ’82.  What a trip!  Thanks for taking us back.  I love that you have the gift to keep the history of these things alive.  … an ancient tradition.

Andrew Endre Szanto



Swapping tales of the book with Paul Kantner at Caffe Trieste in S.F.


Man I’m sitting hear wiping a tear away from my cheek as I just finished your book.  Your voice is soft and clear.  Truly wonderful.  I enjoyed the ride all the way.  I feel dizzy.  So much of myself in there (which I am sure you have heard from others), including my dreams.  I feel such an affinity with you, my brother.

Phil Thomas


Beatitudes — your book says it like it is . . . so smoothly.

Philippo the Mexican artist


Just finished Brian Hassett‘sThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.”  Loved it!  Left me agog.

This book is great stuff for a Beat addict.  Thank you for sharing your memories!

Born in 1964, in a small town in Belgium, I sadly missed the Beat Generation decade and the sixties.  Neal drove the bus “furthur” into NY two days before I was born.  When I was 5 years old, a “Belgian Woodstock” took place 7 miles from our home (Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa & Gong among the artists) …

Back then, in 1982, at the time of the “Boulder ’82 On The Road Conference,” I was 19 years old (about the same age and as the handsome boy on the cover).  I read a translation of Howl from the local library (by Simon Vinkenoog, the Dutch translator and friend of Ginsberg) and bought Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.  So that was a pretty good start for mind travel.  Could have been worse.

The interest in the Beats never waned, but slumbered.  A few years ago, the sparks became a raging fire.  So I read everything I could find about them.

Until this book appeared, I was more or less ignorant of the “Woodstock of the Beats” that took place in Boulder.  No doubt about it — this author was very happy to meet all those Beat heroes.  Luckily, he has a great heart and wanted to share it all with us.

What you find is a treasure of facts, anecdotes, and passionate stories.

Well documented and accurate (the dialogues came right down from tapes he recorded) and written in the frantic spontaneous prose Beat style.

Read all about them — all those great beat figures, the Grateful Dead, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, side stories about Van Morrison or Alan Watts . . .  The Beat Generation decade and the sixties come alive again.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” is great stuff for a Beat Generation addict such as myself, and a must-read for everyone who wants to know more about Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation.  Beware: after reading, “a Beat addiction” may not be far away!

Johan Deruyck


Johan Deruyck with the book in Belgium


This book really changed my outlook on the Beat Generation and how much they have affected our scene today.  After reading it I became a Beat freak.  Brian really opened my eyes to all they did.  Thanks for this!!!  Much Love!!!!

Daniel Morse


I absolutely love this book!  The author certainly lived the life many of us wish we had led.

I’ve been a huge fan of Kerouac’s since 1960.  Reading Brian’s book was a special treat for me, as it would be for any lover of the Beats, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and Ken Kesey.  And to think Brian actually was a friend of Kesey’s, knew Ginsberg, Burroughs, and most of the Beats, and has a background soaked in the culture that helped give the U.S. its soul at a time when we needed it most.  Without any hesitation, I recommend Brian’s wonderful book!  Heartfelt, humorous, and enlightening — it’s a complete winner!

Larry Shaw


“You know our love will not fade away” — what a grand finale last night in Chicago!  During the intermissions of the simulcast I read your book with Grateful Dead music in the background.

Oh man!  You’re not a good writer …. you’re a GREAT writer — and you made me feel like I was in the car with you during your hitchhiking adventure!!  Bravo amigo, bravo!!

Alex Nantes



Jami Cassady recommended I check out your book after I told her I had been underwhelmed by the last few Dead/Kerouac books I’d read.  I thumbed through yours and read a few passages and was pretty sure it would be better .…

Which, of course, it is!  Great job!  I thoroughly enjoyed it — really cool stories and memorable word-for-word discussions, and just fun to read.  And I totally appreciate the constant weaving of Kerouac and Dead allusions and quotes into the writing, like a jammin’ musician.  It all comes off like someone writing from a seat on the bus ….

Props to you on a life well-lived … and still going furthur, of course…!

Jeff Zittrain




Reading the comments in the beginning I’m starting to trust myself because so many of these are things I’ve said to you already ….

Lovin it so far … just Great!!!  The way it reads is perfect for the “non-reader.” 🙂
Thanks, Mr. B.

Megan Reese


Love the writing style — takes me back to the psychedelic days.  Lots of colors, patterns, rhythms.

Marc Spilka 


If you like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, The Grateful Dead, etc. this book is a must-read.  Brian’s writing takes you on the journey — it feels as though you are listening to a once-in-a-lifetime adventure from a dear friend that is visiting.  Kudos to this amazing Beat writer.

Mary Jo Hicks-Sullivan


I want to be you when I grow up.

Joe Reed


Or there’s a whole lot of audience reaction is this video . . .

Opening the Prankster’s Family Reunion in 2016 . . .





For more check out this first round of Hitchhiker’s reactions!


Or here’s some excerpts if you wanna take the ride . . .

Meeting Your Heroes 101 — Allen, Gregory, Holmes, Burroughs & Huncke

Who all was there … of which John Clellon Holmes said, “More of us were together than had ever been in one place at one time before.”  And it never happened again.

My best pal and my best gal — Edie Parker and Henri Cru, with Allen Ginsberg sandwiched in the middle.

Meeting Ken Kesey for the first time.

Arriving at The Grateful Dead shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre during the summit in ’82.

Or here’s a bunch of performance videos of various excerpts, and some great radio interviews.

Or here’s where you can buy prints of the best photos taken at the Jack Summit, including some seen in my book — from the Lance Gurwell Collection.

full_cover12 copy


Here’s where you can get the guaranteed latest version direct from the publisher (also where the author gets the highest royalties 🙂 )

Here’s where you can get the book in the U.S.

or in Canada

or in the U.K.

or in Germany

or France

or Italy

or Spain

or Mexico




Brian Hassett

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Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac videos

November 16th, 2015 · Brian on YouTube etc., Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Music, Real-life Adventure Tales

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Here’s some video from various “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” appearances . . .


The first time the book appeared on stage —
at The Pranksters in Wonderland — Saturday, May 2nd, 2015 —
The “meeting the original Bus” scene . . .


“A Song of The Road I Sing” —
at Pranksters In Wonderland — Sunday, May 3rd, 2015 —
with Jojo Stella — video by Jeremy Hogan


The Professor In The Park scene —
at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac — Saturday, October 10th, 2015 —
with The LCK All-Stars at The Worthen — the oldest tavern in Lowell


The same Professor In The Park scene —
at Jack’s gravesite the day before — 
October 9th, 2015 — Lowell, MA — video by Philip Thomas


Opening the Prankster’s Family Reunion in 2016 . . . 
Besides Hitchhiker’s, there’s also some Rolling Stone Book of The Beats, and other stories and poems . . . 


“This was the Super Bowl of the Beats — and the Grateful Dead were playing the half-time show.”

Here’s the Dead at Red Rocks scene — in a Red Room and ad hoc improvised in chaos like an Acid Test with a rock band.

with The Mark T Band at the Crimson Room in Toronto, and special guest Raina — Oct 23rd & Nov 13th, 2015.


And here’s the excerpt from the book that sets up that Grateful Dead Red Rocks performance in ’82.


And here’s a killer, wild-ranging radio interview with Jake Feinberg — Saturday, Nov. 14th, 2015 — the day after the above performance … and the host opens raving about that very Dead show!

Listen here:


Or here’s another pretty great interview published in the major Blues site out of Greece:

1 Brian Hassett, SF, June 27 2015

(The Beat Shindig in S.F., photo by Jim Musselman)


Or here’s some Jack himself . . . 

The “San Francisco epiphany” part of On The Road — 
with Kerouac’s principal musical collaborator David Amram —
at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! — Sunday, October 11th, 2015 — 


Or here’s a pretty in-the-zone version of the “Hearing Shearing” part of On The Road with the Still Hand String Band — wildally improvised an hour after I arrived on Friday night at Bear’s Picnic in PA, August 7th, 2015 — video by Prankster Ollie


Or here’s a riffing story-telling tribute to Carolyn Cassady that seemed to come out pretty well . . . 🙂 


Or here’s a crazy moment — first time I ever stepped on stage with The Mark T Band — at the Crimson Room in Toronto — doing Jerry Garcia’s tribute to Kerouac —> Jack’s “Hearing Shearing” from On The Road — August 21st, 2015 — video by Trevor Cape


Coming soon . . .

The Beat Shindig in San Francisco —
The largest gathering of the Beats in 20 years — put on by The Beat Museum —
June 28th, 2015

Lone Star Dead Radio interview with Eric Schwartz —
on the air since 1983 — the longest continually-running Grateful Dead radio show in the world —
aired live June 12th, 2015 


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For a more complete collection of various Brian videos, go here.

For reactions to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac, check this out.

For a whole second round of readers’ reactions to the book, check out these!

Or here’s a ton more of the raves that came in from all over the world.

You can order a copy of the book here or here or here or here.

For an excerpt — check out the Meeting Your Heroes part here.

Or here’s some background on exactly who all was there.

Or here’s another except — about Edie Kerouac Parker and Henri Cru.





Brian Hassett



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Pawtucketville Social Club Kerouac Story

October 13th, 2015 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales


It’s Alright.  He’s Kerouac.”


I’m currently sitting in the dark in Kerouac Park writing what just happened . . .

I came to Jack’s hometown of Lowell with lots of hopes and anticipation of magic sacred spots and moments.  The top dream I’ve always had was getting inside the Pawtucketville Social Club — the very private bar that Jack went to and his dad Leo was a President of for a time.

But I know there’s no Pawtuckin way you’re getting in there.  I learned about social clubs living in the Village in Manhattan. There’s a reason they’re private — and that means — Don’t Even Think about Crossing The Threshold.

I never made it over there during JackFest cuz things were always too crazy.

Monday morning I’m debating whether to check out of the hotel or stay one more night.  I decide to order one more round.  (I think this is actually the key to life.  But I digress.)

Then it’s off on a mission to find spots I hadn’t hit during the high time of the fest — and I Neal Cassady the city all afternoon rackin’ off stuff like …



At 4PM the final Bill Walsh / Steve Edington walking tour was supposed to be returning to The Old Worthen, and I stop in there to hang but nobody’s home, so I go hit sumore hotspots — until the continuing Adventure-surfing had me whoosin’ back by the Worthen once more around 5:00 — and sure enough! — there’s Bill, Steve and Rick (who I hadn’t seen since Michael McClure) — the last standing soldiers in the Kerouac Army.  Scout Hassett reporting in.

We riff n rap, and I ask ’em for some recon details I hadn’t tracked down yet, including where the Pawtucketville Social Club was.  Before they even tell me the location, lifelong Lowellite Bill Walsh makes sure I realize, “NOOOObody gets in there.”

Understood, old boy.  After the info and hugs get exchanged, Reverend Steve actively kicks me out of The Worthen Gardens to go work the last hour of daylight.

Boom boom boom — next thing I know I’m parked beside the Social Club — and then across the street taking some shots . . .




As I’m taking them, two guys come out of the propped-open front door and start staring at me.  The sidewalks are empty — I’m the only guy in the sunset hood — and they’ve got their eyes on this photographing stranger in a strange land.

I hesitate where I am — I don’t want to get close to these guys — they look scary as shit.  One’s a brush-cut muscle-shirt Republican redneck type, and the other guy looks like ZZ Top’s long-lost uncle who’s been living in a cave for the last 50 years — Tom Hanks at the end of Cast Away — like a grizzled Hell’s Angel, but with a Godfather vibe.

I have to cross the street to get back to my car, and they’re staring straight at me, side-by-side like sentries blocking the drawbridge.  It’s O.K. Corral time with nobody on the street.

I think, “Fuck it — just go for ’em.  Do or die.”

So I cross the road right at ’em — thinking at least through the challenge I can peak over their shoulders into the place.  And I draw first. “Hey!  I just came by here cuz Jack Kerouac used to hang out here — and I think his dad was the president at one time.”

And they nod slightly and silently in the affirmative, but just keep staring at me like I’m, maybe, a second away from a painful death.  So I riff some lifesaving more — “I’m in town for the Kerouac festival . . . always heard about this place . . . it’s like, an historic site . . . “

And somehow through the riffing innocence of experiences they’re not telling me to fuck off.  We have a bit of an actual exchange, and after a while, I say (what the hell, they haven’t killed me yet), “Could I possibly just … see inside?”

And the crewcut weight-lifter immediately shakes his big tough head saying with his expression, “No fuckin way, kid.” But ol’ ZZ Top backhand taps him on the bicep and says — It’s alright.  He’s Kerouac.


I’ll never forget that line the rest of my life.

He meant, of course, “The guy’s a Kerouac fan” or some such.  But he said — “It’s alright.  He’s Kerouac.” 😀

And thus he ushers me across the forbidden threshold . . . into the front just to have a peak.  And it’s exactly as I pictured it — an ancient, dark, cluttered, history-stacked bar — like a man-made old-growth forest.

He tells me it’s the second oldest drinking establishment in Lowell after The Old Worthen.  And it’s fulla scary ancient people, lemme tell ya!  The Four Seasons this ain’t.

And they’re smokin up a storm in there — cuz ya still can in a private club.

And after an appropriate time smoking it in, I mean soaking it in and appreciating what I’m seeing, but not overstaying my welcome, I ask the big question — “Are there … pool tables here?

The second to last film footage in existence of Jack is of him shooting pool here in 1967.  It was home-country CBC that came to town doing a show on him and his French-Canadian roots, and as the story goes, they came by this place to get some background footage of his haunts — and Jack just happened to be in there shooting pool!!

And Godfather Grizzly goes — “Yeah.  It’s in the back,” and points in that dark direction.  And then God Bless The Universe — he starts walking there for me to follow!!


We pass through the crazy bar past everyone, who are definitely eyeing me like “Who the fuck is this guy?”  But I’m with ol’ ZZ Top so I seem to be not getting shot.

Then he leads me into some dark room . . . and I’m like, “Uh-oh … Pesci in Goodfellas . . .” . . . then — Boom!

— he turns on the lights — and there it is! — Jack’s pool table!

And of course I’m freaking out — but don’t want to totally let on.  But I bet I did a little.  And I know this place is super private and secret, but I just go for it, what the hell — “Do you think you could take a picture of me here?”

And scary Grizzly Adams goes . . . “Yeah, sure.” (me:  ahhhhh!)  “Wanna get some balls out and grab a cue to make it look like you’re playin?” (ahhhhh!!)

“Yeah!!” sez I, barely holding on to functionality during this out-of-body-experience.  And he starts cupping balls out of the pockets and rollin’ them out on the table.  I look for the white cue ball but don’t see it anywhere — and I’m not about to get particular.

And as I hand him my camera, he goes, “I don’t know what this is.”  I tell him how it works, and he goes, “Alright . . .” and looks at it some more.  . . . Then . . .  “Send this to the Kerouac people,” he says as he lifts it up to shoot.





I’m thinkin, don’t push it — don’t ask for more than one.  But suddenly he becomes Annie freakin Leibovitz and starts walking around the table — “You want one from here? . . . What if I shoot from the end?”

“Yeah, that’d be fine,” says the radiating adventurer.



And then we just start hangin in the pool room, and I mention how papa Leo was once president, and he says, “Yeah, that’s right.  I’m the current president.” Whaaat?!?!  And he says his name and sticks out his tanned weathered hand for a shake just as his girlfriend comes in wide-eyed at this complete non-one-of-us suddenly in the inner sanctum.  She can’t take her eyes off me — like I’m an alien being . . . talking to her boyfriend like we’re brothers.

I’m quite sure all three of us were freaking in agreeance at how completely weird this was.

And he tells me the whole history of the place — how the pool table is definitely the Brunswick here since the ’50s and the one Jack played on — and how the club was originally just the bar part, and there were a couple other stores that were part of the building, but they gradually bought each part until it was nuthin but them.  And how the pool room used to not have a divider but was big enough for two tables — and you could see the other dark pool room through a open window in the new dividing wall.  He shows me the giant back room that was built after World War II for the returning veterans.  And I’m looking around freaking out at the old Lowell characters, men and women alike, smoking, playing cards, talking, and now not giving me a second glance because apparently the Prez sez I’m okay.


Best extra night in a hotel room I ever spent.





For more on Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2015, you’ll love the opening day story.

For more on the Boulder ’82 Kerouac SuperSummit check out Meeting Your Heroes 101.

Or here you can check out Who All Was There.

Or to get a copy of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” you can order it here.

full_cover12 copy

For loads of reader’s reviews and reactions check here or here

For another 2015 Kerouac summit Adventure Tale check out the amazing Beat Shindig story.

For a huge online photo album of the event check it out here.

Or here’s a reading of “the San Francisco epiphany” part of On The Road with Kerouac’s principal musical collaborator David Amram from the closing Sunday of LCK 2015

Or here’s a crazy impromptu staged reading of part of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” riffed at one of Jack’s old drinking holes, The Old Worthen, as part of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!


by Brian Hassett

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Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2015

October 8th, 2015 · Kerouac and The Beats, Poetry, Real-life Adventure Tales

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Adventure 2015

The first time I came to Lowell in 1985 you couldn’t find any indication Jack ever lived here.  I asked all around and finally found a bartender who said the only guy in town who knew about him was his old Reverend.  The afternoon barkeep even looked up his number in the Lowell phone book for me, and I called him from a payphone and was surprised he sounded just like the French people back home in Canada.  He said he couldn’t come out that afternoon to show me around, but gave me a detailed description of how to find Jack’s almost unmarked grave in Edson Cemetery.

Today, not only is there a giant headstone and commemorative parks and parts of libraries named for him and walking tours and festivals, but even the Reverend I was talking to on the phone has got a street named after him!



When I was checking into the Motel 6 on this visit, the woman behind the desk quite proudly said of my room, “You’ve got a view of the pool!”

In some insane world, that I’m coming to learn is Lowell, this is the pool she was referring to:



Mondays with Michael


Gettin’ Things Done in Lowell




First thing, I immediately zip over to the AAA to pick up some local maps — until the young clerk says AAA just stopped making Lowell maps and they can’t get any more.  What?!

Then this older woman overhears what we’re talking about and goes, “I think there’s one more left,” and pulls out a drawer, and I go, “Alright!  Perfect synch!” and give the air a victory punch.  And then she goes, “Oh, no, it’s gone.”

Aaaahhhhh …
So close!

So I ask the young clerk about any waterfalls in the area, and she says, “You should talk to Julie,” and nods to the woman still digging through the drawer.  “She knows this area better than anyone.”

So I go over to drawer-diggin’ Julie who’s flipping through file folders n shit, and she says, “Why?  What are you doing in Lowell?”
“I’m here for the Kerouac festival.”
“Ohhh — that’s one of my favorite things to do every year!”
“Yes — I got my degree in English — love him.” (!)

Suddenly — “Oh look!  Here it is!”  As she pulls out the last copy of the last map of Lowell from the bottom of the drawer!  

Then on top of that she starts raving on about the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) festival for the next ten minutes!  We realize we’ll be seeing each other again in a couple days, so I grab the last chance map and bolt out of there to head over to UMass for the Michael McClure reading — his first appearance anywhere off the West Coast in years.

Get there — small visitor parking — the only non-permit lot for miles around, and would you believe me if I told you I got the very last open parking space on the campus?  It’s true!

And now it’s a nice sunny afternoon Moosehead walk through a classic tree and architecture rich American campus to the Allen House!  Yes, of course.  We’re going to celebrate Jack at Allen’s house with Michael.

Right off the Beat bat there’s Stan the haiku man, the fellow crazy-early arrivee who says he’s been coming to these LCK fests for 15 years.

And there comes Aaron Lantz, The Kansas Kid, who flew all the way from there to Boston just for this McClure show.  And not only that but the guy holds the land speed record for reading my book — start to finish in 3½ hours!  And he’d been askin’ me all these questions about Michael so I thought — here’s your chance, kiddo.  And boy he leapt at it!

And there comes Steve “Erudite” Edington, one of the Founding Fathers of all-things-Jack in the Lowell—Nashua corridor.  And he’s beaming his perpetual big smile and sporting a handful of hot-off-the-press LCK programs and seems as giddy about the doin’s as the first-timers he’s guiding.



And then we realized we were standing in the middle of the new Jack exhibit that isn’t even scheduled to have it’s ribbon-cutting opening until three days from now!  Boom!

There’s his old writing desk . . .



There’s his chotchkies . . .



There’s his handmade cat carrying cases for his beloved furry family . . .



There’s an old manual typewriter, the same make and model as Jack’s last instrument . . .


And I’m typin’ away on the thing, and trying to fix the right margin that doesn’t seem to want to adjust, and along comes this woman who also grew up with these instruments and the two of us work on it for a while but can never find the lever to move the margins.  Turns out the woman I’m collaborating with on this writer’s recovery job is none other than Judith Bessette, the new Prez of LCK! — on what will hopefully be just the first of many collaborations.

And there’s the room where Michael’s going to be addressing the assembled . . . 


. . . students and scholars and pranksters and roadsters who’ve made the pilgrimage from across the campus or across the country.

Then the man of the hour shows up and whaddya know delivers what may be my favorite appearance by him of the so many I’ve seen!  He’s come up with a whole kinda lecture thing called “On Kerouac, Shelley and Mountains” !!


Usually he’s just reading his poetry — often with that late great Keyboard of Perception — but this was storytelling improvisation with a structure — and loads of Jack, plus Shelley, plus the power of nature, which was always something he and I shared a passion for.  He read the opening of Shelley’s “Mont Blanc” then segues that directly into Jack’s “Desolation Blues,” and then into his favorite choruses of “Mexico City Blues” including one of the last ones, 239, which he called a Buddhist love poem.

And all the while and in between he’s telling stories like about the first time he met Jack at the legendary Six Gallery reading, and how he couldn’t believe Jack’s level of understanding of Buddhism after he’d read “Some of The Dharma” in manuscript form — because Buddhist teachings were so hard to come by in the ’50s — he couldn’t fathom how Jack had learned all of this.  And he tells the story of how he happened by the lion enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo with Bruce Conner, and he performed some of his human beast language poetry, growling sounds of life eternal.

And then it ends, and I’m talkin’ to Judith and it’s the usual end of show schmoozethon, and The Kansas Kid is just standin’ around next to me.  I tell him, “Hey!  Get over there and talk to Michael!  This is your cue, Kid!”

After a while I head over to where the lion’s holding court, where he wasn’t that swamped since it wasn’t that big a scene, and I just move right in and start riffin’ away with him as The Kansas Kid is still holding back in his Midwestern shyness.  It takes Michael a minute before he remembers me, then we’re off, talking about our mutual love of the Earth, and how cool it was that he made it a central theme of his talk today.  I asked if he was doing anything for the sixtieth anniversary of the Six Gallery this week — and he goes,  “It is?  I had no idea.  I’ll have to drop Gary a line.”

And I tell him about my new book about Boulder ’82 and how his chapter is one of the most popular among readers, and I’m finally able to give him his own copy.  At some point I say, “Hey, we should get a picture together — we never did before,” and he goes, “Oh, I’m too old for pictures anymore.”  Which was an echo of Carolyn in her later years.

After we had a nice memory lane run, I tell him about The Kansas Kid who’d come all the way from his home state just to hear the lion roar, and both of them couldn’t be happier as they met and took off talking about the difference between projective verse and free verse and metric verse, the young poet looking for and getting answers from the octogenarian vegetarian.

And as others mosey in for an autograph or question, Michael keeps thinking of new tips and books for Aaron to read, who’s now become the center of the collective conversation.  It was so nice to see the old bard taking an extended proactive interest in the young cub, and since they seemed to be getting on so well I decided to go say hi to Amy, Michael’s longtime partner.

She tells me she’d been looking at us talking and thinking, “Who is that guy?  I know him …”  I hand her a copy of my book and she looks at the front cover and after a second starts tapping the chest of my picture going, “That’s the guy I remember.”

full_cover12 copy

And we start having a good old chin-wag like we always did which always made for good hangs with Michael cuz her and I would be just as happy to riff all night while others were basking in the light of her rock star husband.  And on this day, as all the autograph seekers and young and old fans eventually drift away, it was just the four of us left in the big empty room with the glass doors that filled it with bright afternoon light and we all sat down for a comfortable post-show chat, the two Kansans on one side, me & Amy swappin stories on the other.  When I told her about The Kansas Kid comin’ all this way to see Michael, she said with a big smile, “Oh, isn’t that lovely.  Well we’ll just sit here for as long as that takes.”

She asks about Boulder ’82 and how it came about, and when I mention the part about Allen getting the Grateful Dead to fund it, she said it’s just like the time they were hanging in New York with Allen when he unexpectedly blurted out, “We have to go see the Grateful Dead tonight.”  One of the original Beats was in a bad way, and Allen had to talk to Jerry, and there they were in the dressing room after the show, and by the end of the hang Jerry calls some guy over and tells him Allen needs $10,000 and that was that.

And a wonderful thing was — for this whole long hang, there was never anybody standing around waiting to kick us out or move us along.  Both pairs had an eternity of afternoon sunlight to explore the unexplored, and that’s just what we did.  And it was funny — after it was over, Aaron told me Michael kept bringing their conversation back to political engagement.  Another reason I luv the guy.  It’s not enough that you enjoy or study or write poetry — what’s important is if you’re engaged in the world and working to make it a better place.

Here was Michael spending this important time with his young acolyte challenging him to be involved and to not spend his life with his nose in a book.  I almost pinned on my “Abbie Lives!” button before heading over — and after hearing this I wish I had.

Eventually it all winds down and we watch from the majestic Allen House stoop as Michael & Amy drive off into the sunset and their visit to Walden Pond tomorrow.  And of course ol’ Aaron is just beaming after a whole afternoon with his hero.  Then I suggest in the giddiness of the moment we go prank about and explore this old 1854 mansion before we leave the hill . . .



The night prior, he and I made a sunset dash to Jack’s gravesite with its new headstone . . . 


and tonight at exactly the same time we made a mad dash to the Kerouac Commemorative Park so he’d have that under his memory belt before he left town tomorrow.  And as we arrive, raging against the dying of the light, I spy the only open parking spot in town which also happens to be the closest possible spot to the park and pull a mid-traffic U-ey to snag it, prompting my navigator to exclaim, “This is a time the Gets Things Done sign should be on the front window.”

It’s so cool hanging with someone who can make jokes referencing your own book!


The Kansas Kid ready to quick-draw his six-shooters

And we each got to pick our passages to be photoed by —


Aaron at Mexico City Blues,
which Michael had been reading this afternoon



Me at The Scripture of The Golden Eternity


And on the corner of the park is the classic Sal Paradise Diner!


But sadly this Paradise is mostly Lost — only being open 6AM till noon daily.



As Aaron’s trying to find the location of Jack’s Grotto on Google, I decide to bolt us over to his famous library where he learned the words of the world.  We get there and I se somebody comin’ down the stairs and realize it was still open, so we dashed up two at a time in order to see the new Young Prometheans section they’d just recently set up in honor of the Dead Poet’s Society type group-of-the-mind that Jack and Sebastian Sampas had imagined themselves as being part of as youths.


Which is right next to  . . .



And not fer nuthin but — this library is freakin’ gorgeous!


No wonder Jack fell in love with books!

Discovering the library’s open till 9, we dash back out past the poster for this week’s JackFest


to soak in the final red rays of the red brick town of the railroad earth




The City Hall clocktower

And all of a sudden there’s this spectacular sunset goin down . . .

But I gotta get elevation . . .

Can’t catch the sky from the sidewalk . . .

and I’m suddenly running around downtown Lowell looking for anything I can climb on!  I try a green recycling container but the lid starts to cave in while I’m on it and I jump off just as it’s cracking to my death.  Boom!  Dash around the corner, lookin for perspective . . .

Run around the back of some giant building into a schoolyard, trying to get the obstacles out of the way, when . . .


A fire escape on the back of some big-ass church er sumpthin!  Boom!

Climbing those creepy creaking century-old iron slats, watchin carefully for them to bend or break — up to the first floor — take some shots — creep up to the second — take more shots — the windows behind me all seem closed so sneak up to the third — may as well get hung for a sheep as a lamb — yeah baby — so far, so good — snap snap, scurry hurry — race, race against the dying of the light . . .




Then, of course, it became a mission to the missions — Find out what those two churches were outlined on the skyline.  Wandering through the yards of the redbrick row-houses we come out at the base of the dome of the Hellenic Orthodox Church of The Holy Trinity — to which encyclopedic Aaron immediately recalls that Sebastian Sampas going to a specifically Greek church in Lowell and thinks he remembers Holy Trinity as part of its name.

Then anothur furthur wander and we’re outside the pointed gothic spire we’d spied and sure enough it’s another old St. Patrick’s.

Since we hadn’t been able to find Jack’s grotto on Aaron’s phone, and we’d spotted what looked like a cool room on the second floor of the library, we decide in the now-dark night to return to the light.  As we stealthily enter the majestic second floor reading room and are making our way to its center to take in its full grandeur I hear someone say quite distinctly, “Hey Brian … ” and think how funny it is that someone else here at the library is named Brian.

I start looking around to see what this alternate me looks like — and there walkin’ through the middle of the room right towards us is — Tony Sampas!  And the first words out of his mouth — “Glad you could make it!  Here, let me show you the motherlode.”  🙂

Motherlode?!?!  And he takes us over to the massive Jack stash!


A HUGE section of books you can take out, and another huge section you can only read there.

And on top is another nice plaque with a mock-up of his library card.


And he proceeds to give us the whole history of the place since he’s been workin’ there for years and loves his history.  The building opened in 1893, and it was really built as a monument to the local men lost in the Civil War, only over the decades has the library grown from its first home in the basement to eventually taking over the whole building.

And wouldn’t ya know it but they have wall-size action paintings of none other than good ol’ General Grant!  My favorite battlefield figure of the war!


“President Lincoln, I have to inform you General Grant has been seen drinking on the job.”
“Well, whatever he’s drinking, serve it to the rest of the troops.”

And since Tony’s excitedly telling us stories, and I’m excitedly asking questions, and this is technically a reading room not a talking room, he suggests we adjourn to the hallway / foyer / balcony in this gorgeous palace of a building.  And I’m like, “Oh wait — while I gotcha — is that Holy Trinity Greek church the one Sebastian went to?”  And he sez Yeah.  And the Kansas Kid strikes again!

And Tony offers, “Those two churches, that’s where Jack described Sebastian as walking between them and pointing to each, saying, ‘Gothic immensity — Byzantine sensitivity.'”

As always, Jack capturing the poetry of his friends.

And then I remember — “Hey — where’s Jack’s grotto?”  And he proceeds to draw us a map.  And says the local waterfalls I’d been asking him about a few days earlier were right near there.  What?!

Then I remember ol’ Tony’s a pretty serious photographer so I tell him about the crazy adventure up the fire escape to capture it, and our local guide promptly informs me, “You’re lucky you didn’t get shot.”

“Yeah — but I got some great photos!”

“I was shooting it, too — out the window here.”

“Nice! . . . Wait a minute . . . you were shooting the sunset out the window?  I was shooting the sunset on the library — gawd — wouldn’t that be cool if I caught you at the window in a shot?!”



And with that, the Canadian Cowpoke and the Kansas Kid hit the trail again — this time armed with a hand-drawn Sampas treasure map to hidden hollows and thunderous falls!

After a quick pit-stop to grab some cold you’re-not-going-to-believe-the-name-of-it beer —


it was on to Jack’s grotto at night . . .




One of The Stations of The Cross

Then we drive around to look for the potential waterfalls, and Aaron’s saying “Maybe this is something you should do tomorrow.”

And I’m like, “No. It’s right here.”  I knew it.  I could sense it.  I could hear it . . . I just couldn’t see it.

And we go out on the busy dark bridge and look over … but there’s nuthin.

Then I notice even in the dark that the water’s goin’ downstream on this side — and insist we sprint like mad hares through a momentary break in bridge traffic and land on the other side and look over and BOOM!  Waterfall and rapids as far as you can see!

And ol’ Aaron from flat Kansas is duly impressed and givin’ some rare Wows to the universe!  And then ol’ Gets Things Done is spying down below at some sorta lookout spot . . . part of the gatehouse or whatever of the bridge, and I’m like, “Let’s get there.”

And of course everything’s all shuttered down but I spy along the concrete walls back by the shore a white picket gate . . . that with a goodly push in just the right spot — pops open! . . . and now we’re climbin’ down some cement stairs along a canal in the nearly pitch dark . . . and cross some little bridges and I spot about an 18 inch wide “sidewalk” going along the outer rim over the water hugging the building . . . and insist young Aaron go first for the unencumbered view of the upcoming Adventure, but he thinks I’m insisting cuz I think it’ll collapse and he’ll fall in first.

Out we roam into the unknown . . . water raging beneath us . . . until at the end of the walkway we get to a little open balcony hanging right over the falls.


The perfect place to debrief on the arc of the day and night . . . and how Aaron flew all the way from Kansas to meet Michael who gave this fabulous colorful wide-ranging reading and talk — and their whole long private yak afterwards.  And then I’m like — “Wait a minute!!  The McClure chapter in my book ends with a waterfall!!”  Ha!!

And the Grand Synch we’d been surfing all day came perfect circle.

Getting Things Done in Lowell, Day One.




For another grand LCK escapade, check out the Pawtucketville Social Club Adventure.

or more on the Boulder ’82 Kerouac SuperSummit check out Meeting Your Heroes 101.

Or here you can check out Who All Was There.

Or to get a copy of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” you can order it here.

Or here’s a bunch of performance videos of The Hitchhiker’s Guide …” 

And here’s a bunch of reactions to the book.

Or here’s a whole second round of the raves that came in from all over the world.

For another 2015 Kerouac summit Adventure Tale check out the amazing Beat Shindig story.

For a huge online photo album of the event check it out here.

To read my keynote essay from “The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats” on the decade that birthed the Beats — go here.

Or also from “The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats” — here’s my riff on The Power of The Collective.

Or for a video featuring several fellow Roadsters at this very Lowell celebration, check out this group effort bringing part of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” alive in Jack’s old hometown bar . . .

Or here’s a video of reading “the San Francisco epiphany” part of On The Road with Kerouac’s principal musical collaborator David Amram . . .


by Brian Hassett

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Uta Harnisch 1942 – 2015

September 16th, 2015 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales


“Life is good.”




A few years ago I became friends with this cool 70-year-old German woman who lived a few doors down.

It was one of those:  recognizing each other from the moment we met — another member of the tribe — kindred travellers – explorers – pranksters – leprechaun twinklers.

And as the trip unfurls . . . turns out, her favorite author is Jack Kerouac!

And not only that — she’s got a shelf-full! — from Town & The City to Book of Dreams — front & center in her living room — the only author in her entertaining social center of the house so honored.

I mean — I live in a sleepy little out-of-the-way town . . . and 3 doors from me is this little wiry full-of-energy living ruth weiss . . . with a shelf fulla Jack!

So we hung, and talked road, and her adventure life out of Germany, and having the wanderlust — which is of course a German word — and how Jack spoke to her, and how he got her on the road and was the voice that inspired her — The Dharma Bums, Desolation Angles, On The Road, she even liked Satori In Paris because it was the one book set in places of her youth.

And I got to show her an advance proof copy of my “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” — but I knew she was a super literate reader — who was actually already reading e-books over print — and so I had to wait to get her a finished copy after the big week-long book release party in Indiana — that turned into a 3 week book release party!

She had the keys and was checkin on my house n stuff — and because I’d been so focused on producing the book, I hadn’t even thought about actually performing it — but had jotted down a few notes on what parts might work — then left town without them.  Once I realized I was expected on stage (!) I had to email her to go into my mad writing studio and find a specific note in a specific pile in front of a specific lamp — and find it she did!  and typed it out and emailed it to the site and the writer got it just in time and dashed to rehearsal in the Bertha Bus and turned in a performance that is truly dedicated to her because without her it never woulda happened!



And she was planning a book release party for me at her house — and everything was going along fine — and then all of sudden — early May — I’m still away on this same trip — when I could tell everything changed.  It was a rockin ride up to that point — her and I as exuberant and pro-active as teenagers — both of us bouncing in our seats at a combined 120 years.  And then it stopped.  The emails, the phone calls — and it was one of those rare times you hoped it was something you said.

But it wasn’t.  And I knew it.

And shortly after came the call she was in the hospice.


I’d just gotten back from 3 weeks On The Road — Marin, S.F., and Chicago for the Grateful Dead’s Farewell — where I’d written this quote into the story I wrote about it that I knew she’d lived — and I thought of her when I included it — and I read it to her on her deathbed: 

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one well preserved piece, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out and shouting, ‘WOW! What a ride!!’”

To which she was smiling, from before I even started reading it and all through the set-up cuz she knew … she knew where I was going with this — I almost didn’t have to read it — it was such an obvious articulation of what we both already knew — and lived — and just seeing the joy in her face . . . one week from her body saying No More — there she was beaming at the truth of The Adventure — the whole point of life.

“That’s it,” she said.  “Enjoy every day you’ve got to the max.  Life is good.”




And then her daughter Karen came by, and we had this challenge of tryin’ to track down Uta’s friend from Quebec — and we finally Get It Done — but her husband tells us she’s out at The Rolling Stones concert!

So — here’s one of Uta’s friends sitting beside her just back from three Grateful Dead shows, and her other friend’s out dancing to The Rolling Stones!


And then there was the part where she couldn’t drink alcohol once the cancer was diagnosed, but in her fridge she always had alcohol-free Beck’s, as well as regular for visitors.  And she’d be hip to crackin’ ’em at the crack of noon!

And so was her brother!  One day at the hospice, he and their sister were arriving from Germany at the same time I was from Bronte.  And among other things, I explained to them how the communal fridge works, and how I wrote Uta’s name on a buncha the real McCoy Beck’s I brought over cuz she wanted ’em now that there was no turning back.  So I take Homes over and show him the fridge and beer, and he goes, “You give me one now?”

“You want one now?” I ask in noon nursing-home hospice disbelief.

“Yes,” he says, in that German-English way, where it goes up at the end.

And Boom — we’re off!  Sis is there.  They’re working out shit.  Talkin’ in German a mile-a-minute.  I’m in the corner on the laptop surfin hospice wifi — the ball boy at the tennis match, the “runner” in showbiz, on hand for whatever needs doin’ — as they keep riffing tales in their native tongue, the three siblings united.  And every once-n-a-bit old Otto or whatever his name was, wanted to go out for another smoke, and we’d cluster with beers n butts at the creek-side gazebo and he’d tell me stories about how she was always different, and they knew she’d never stay grounded at home, and she never did, and how she was always the big sister that they watched in amazement at all the things she was doin’.  All life long.  “Life is good.”




Her son-in-law said to me at her memorial — Uta was one of those people who always saw life as the glass half full.

I corrected him.  “No — she saw it as three-quarters full — and she was topping it up while you were busy asking the question.” He liked it so much he put it in the center of his eulogy. 


And then . . . the most amazing part was . . . her family wanted me to have her Jack books!

And thus, beatifically — this German Adventurewoman who ‘got’ and lived Jack will live on as these are preserved and celebrated in her honor.  And if a young Uta should cross my path, and I see the same sparkle in the eye that’s there from youth to sign-off, I can pass on these secret sacred texts, the Road map, via Uta, to the young ones following in her path just as sure as she did Jack’s.






Here’s an ode to another AdventureWoman – Carolyn Cassady

And here’s a tribute to yet another AdventureWoman – my Mom, Enid E. Hassett

And here’s one to my AdventureDude Dad, Vernie V. Hassett

Or here’s one done in video . . . 


by Brian Hassett

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Best of Enemies film review

August 30th, 2015 · Movies, Politics

When Conflict Television Was Born

or . . .

“I’ll sock you in your goddamn face.”



1968  —

The year so much changed . . .

Martin and Bobby . . . 

North Vietnam’s Tet Offensive galvanizing Americans’ opposition to the war . . . 

The Beatles open their Apple Core . . . 

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test . . . 

The Prague Spring and Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia . . . 

2001: A Space Odyssey . . . 

Johnson says he won’t run for re-election . . . 

Hair opens on Broadway . . . 

Madison Square Garden opens on 33rd Street, and the Fillmore East on Second Avenue . . .

Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In debuts on TV . . .

* And that was all before the political conventions hit! *

And boy – did they hit!


Although the three television networks were broadcasting in color, almost no one had color sets at home — it was still an absurd luxury — B&Ws continued to outsell colors until 1972.

And of those three networks, late start-up ABC was so far behind the others, as someone joked in Best of Enemies, “They would’ve been 4th, but there were only 3.”

To try to do something different than the rote “gavel-to-gavel coverage” of Huntley & Brinkley on NBC and Walter Cronkite on CBS, the new kids came up with the smart low-budget idea of putting talkative spokesmen for the right and left in chairs next to each other and let them go at it for each of the two single weeks covering the Republican and Democratic conventions.

This decision was to become as legendary and transformative in its field as Dylan plugging in at Newport a couple summers earlier.  But sadly, just as that gutsy maneuver led to Ted Nugent and comedically adolescent showmanship, this initially admirable and bubbling-with-possibility idea similarly led to a lowbrow Crossfire hurricane of right-left hate-speech that’s dominated American political coverage for decades.


This now-famous tete-et-tete between two reigning intellectuals on either side of the ideological spectrum has taken on a sort of Lincoln-Douglas mythological status.  But just as a transcript reading of those 1858 debates reveals — they were both far from civil or high-minded.  In fact this more recent Great American Debate Legend was bitter, petty, vicious, uncomfortable, conniving, mean-spirited — and absolutely riveting live television.

ABC’s ratings spiked through the roof — even as the roof of their cheaply-built “studio” at the convention hall in Chicago literally collapsed on their heads.  But network television, much like Hollywood, is nothing if not a rip-off-and-replicate industry.  And thus the no-budget Point/Counterpoint style of belligerent blowhards yelling over each other was born.


And this documentary — made by the same team as the magnificent recent Academy Award-winning 20 Feet From Stardom — time-travels you back to the summer of ’68, but with 21st century perspective from the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Frank Rich, Dick Cavett, Andrew Sullivan and loads of erudite others.  And it’s really fast-paced — running through the whole set-up, ten “debates” and the aftermath in less than 90 minutes.

The entire movie is just smart filmmaking — opening with dramatic old aerial footage of the Italian coastline that looks like unused B-roll from To Catch A Thief  taking us to where pondering Gore Vidal lived and paced for decades — and ending with a machine-gun-collage of clips of shows that were born out of this television summer of ’68 — from Jon Stewart telling the Crossfire hosts, “You’re doing theater when you should be doing debate,” to, presciently, this summer’s talking-head star Megyn Kelly.  They use the ring of a boxing bell to start each round of “debate,” and a perfect piano and cello-based soundtrack by Jonathan Kirkscey that sounds a lot like Philip Glass at times.  In fact, there’s a real harmony here with Glass’s work on another great documentary, The Source (1999) by Chuck Workman, about how the Beat writers changed history.

And speaking of the Beats … who are these guys and why do they keep following me?

Not seven minutes into the film do we get Buckley walking and pontificating next to a four-foot-high photo of Allen Ginsberg! — wearing the “Pot is Fun” sandwich board, no less!  Which then goes into a slow “Ken Burns pan” up the photo until it’s resting on Allen’s face (!) as Buckley’s voiceover spews his dopy Ayn Rand-ian gobbledegook, “As long as liberalism suggested that it could bring happiness to the individual, then people tended to look to government agencies for those narcotic substitutes for a search for happiness and contentment which they ought to have found in their religion, in their institutions, and their culture themselves.”

And of course on the streets outside the Chicago convention hall where Buckley and Vidal were debating, Allen was leading the crowds with chanting and other non-violent protests, alongside Jean Genet, Ed Sanders, Terry Southern, and William Burroughs who was there covering it for Esquire.

And then Allen shows up again when he was a guest on Buckley’s Firing Line!  And of course any casual Kerouac fan knows of the author’s legendary appearance on that same show — which was — get this — the very first episode the next week!  Immediately after this historic smackdown that would define Buckley’s television career (much to his chagrin), Kerouac was in the Vidal seat taking the flamethrower’s heat — and as he told his agent Sterling Lord afterwards, “Buckley kept kicking my shoes and telling me to shush.”  (And the Ginsberg episode was on just 3 weeks after this!)

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 3.08.10 AM

Then of course there’s the part where Jack wrote in The Subterraneans about meeting Gore Vidal at the San Remo in the Village in the summer of ’53 — when they either did or didn’t have sex, depending on whom you ask.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but Gore says they did, and Jack says they didn’t.  In fact, Jack wrote his gay pal Al shortly afterwards, not raving about some rapturous night together but dismissing Vidal as “such a pretentious little fag.”  And he wasn’t too keen on his writing either! — penning Allen the year before their 1953 encounter that it was “so ugly transparent in its method” and “regressing to sophomore imitations of Henry James.”

And there’s not just Beat cultural references.  

This particularly inclusive & colorful doc also features Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, Muhammad Ali, Sunset Blvd., Aretha Franklin, The Flying Nun, Norman Mailer, The Best Man, Woody Allen, Playboy After Dark, Henry Gibson, Ben Hur, Paul Newman, Saturday Night Live, John Lithgow and Kelsey Grammer voicing the authors’ respective left / right writings . . . and on and on appropriately appropriating mass culture into this political news philosophical debate story because it really was the beginning of the blending of the two.


Prior to this, television news was formal, staid and nonpartisan.  Yes, there was a time when journalists reported news objectively.  But this was televised New Journalism — just as was being invented in the literary form at the same time by Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, Norman Mailer and others.

ABC’s slogan for their unexpected hit broadcast was “Unconventional convention coverage” — and this documentary captures every part of it — from the executives’ initial decisions to the carpenters rebuilding the studio roof that collapsed just before showtime.  It sneaks inside the minds of both the two prize fighters in the ring, as well as those in the rings of repercussions rippling out from the splash in still waters these two giants made.

Aaron Sorkin (of West Wing, The Newsroom and The American President fame) has signed on to write a feature-length dramatization a la Frost/Nixon, and every network has pledged to give you the same on-the-verge-of-violence “debates” for the next 18 months of Presidential campaigning.

Make sure you see this movie soon or I’m going to sock you in your goddamn face.





For more film fun check out this Festival Express review.

Or here’s a recent one on the Johnny Winter doc.

Or here’s the On The Road premiere in London.

Or the other recent Beat movie Kill Your Darlings in Toronto.

Or here’s a Complete Beat Movie Guide to all the dramatizations.

Or here’s the surreal Dylan interpretation I’m Not There.

Or here’s the great Turtle Howard Kaylan’s My Dinner With Jimi.

Or if you’re diggin on the political stuff — here’s some Inauguration Adventures from Obama’s first swearing in.

Or here’s a page with a bunch of my own videos and “movies.”

Or here’s a whole book that’s a similar exploration of another historic event a few years ago — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac


full_cover12 copy





Brian Hassett


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Beat Shindig San Francisco June 2015

August 16th, 2015 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales


Shindig Sutra


aahhh — San Francisco — home of everything holy.

Home of the Beats, home of The Dead, home of the wild.  The United States of San Francisco.  The city that makes its own rules . . . and that’s that.

Of course we’re coming home.  To the Museum that Jerry built.  Cimino, that is.  The Beat Museum.  Of course there has to be a Beat Museum.  How could there not be?

Just like that other Jerry from San Francisco started another institution that never died — Jerry 2.0 has finally put brick-&-mortar to an idea that was always in the air there.

The Dynamic Duo – minutes after first arrival
Photo by legendary S.F. photographer Dennis Hearne


And just as The Museum was his lifelong dream — so too was having a summit a la Boulder ’82 that he almost came to but missed by a hair.

And like a fat book that reads really fast, the million events and people in this weekend orgy of words and ideas passed in the blink of some beautiful eyes.

First there was the pre--opening party.  I mean, it was all about the parties, let’s face it.  And a company that accents beautiful eyes — Warby Parker — the high-end glasses shop named for a couple different character names the Jack-loving owner’s noticed in Kerouac’s notebooks at the NYPL show — decided to throw us a Welcome-to-Town Party complete with jazz trio and poetry readings and a typewriter to riff your own spontaneous bop prosody.


Mutt n Jeff, Hilary Holliday & Tate Swindell


But things really kicked into gear Friday night with the official Opening Night Party that took over the entire 2 floors of this action-packed Museum, with all the wine and craft beer you could drink.  Tom Waits, the Dead and ’50s jazz played from the speakers in every ceiling corner.  And filling every floor corner were Beats new and old.

There’s ruth weiss!  Finally!  Never met her before — with her blazing blue-green-tourquoise hair — an idea she got from a movie called “The Boy With The Green Hair” that she saw as a 20-year-old — and was still dancing on the balls of her feet and bopping with more energy than the 20-somethings.

There was Gerd (pronounced Gaird) Stern — the man who did NOT lose The Joan Anderson Letter — who I was hosting his talk tomorrow and had just met a couple days earlier on this secret sacred houseboat The Vallejo which he lived on at one time and was still in the same harbor he called home in the ’40s & ’50s.  And there’s him and ruth seeing each other for the first time in 50 years!


And there’s Big Al Hinkle!  Who’s not quite as towering as he once was but is still a giant of a man at 88.  He was of course a star attraction — “The Last Man Standing” — the only guy who was in the car On The Road who’s still here to tell about it.  And tell about it he does with a great memory and all his faculties and senses with him.


with Al Hinkle and Jami Cassady

And there’s Jami “Jack’s favorite” Cassady and husband Randy who are keeping the family torch burning bright after losing the matriarch just a couple years ago.  Jami’s the most friendly, easy-to-smile, Spirit-filled being you could ever hope to meet.  Growing up with Neal & Carolyn and Uncle Jack and Uncle Allen she’s seen it all and then some — so she always remains beatifically tranquil in any kind of maelstrom of madness.

And Next-Gen Merry Prankster Moray brought the original Anonymous who got On The Bus in Calgary as a 15 year old after having just read On The Road and, as she says, she was born “on the bus” — and was as tickled to be hanging with the Beat Founders as any of us.


There wasn’t even a bridge between the Beats and the Pranksters
it was just a loving embrace.

And there’s Levi Asher — my old brother of the Greenwich Village Beat scene shows of the ’90s and 2000s — who I helped produce the big celebration for his web-pioneering LitKicks — their 5th anniversary at The Bitter End in 1999 with a symmetrical 9 hours of non-stop show . . . from a drumming sage-burning opening to John Cassady leading an all-star jam closing at 4AM.

And this weekend was the same damn thing — non-stop from Friday til . . . Tuesday, to be perfectly honest.

And there’s long-time Beat Neeli Cherkovski in the role of Gregory Corso — the portly disheveled poet always surrounded by a coterie of confederates on some mischievous mission of madness.

And there’s Chris Felver workin’ the room — the unofficial official Beat photographer and one of the five who were here in 2015 and there in ’82.


And there’s Dan Barth another of the Boulder ’82ers who read there at Allen’s Oracles on the closing Sunday night and became the Poet Laureate of Mendocino County and travelled down from The Great Green North to spread his Zen Beat poetry in the city lights.


And if you’re wondering — David Amram and Dennis McNally were the other two ’82ers — but they wouldn’t appear until tomorrow.

And there’s Hilary Holladay who founded the Kerouac Studies program at U. Mass. in Lowell, and just wrote the Huncke book, and brought out a bunch of her students from Virginia who were smart, polite and Beat to their core.

And there’s Tom Galasso who lived with Edie Kerouac in Detroit and is one of the few around I can swap first-hand stories with of Jack’s first long-term love.

And then Tom Lake appears — the major Beat player online … known the guy for years … never met ‘im … until I hear somebody say, “I’m Tom Lake,” and I turn around … and it’s the blind guy with the white cane!

Wait — what?  The guy I’ve been interacting with online for years … is blind?!


But yes!  And we bond like brothers and he ends up being a playful prankster sidekick for this entire Shindigian Adventure!

Which also included of course hangin’ at the Hudson . . .


and getting him to take photographs . . . (!)
a blind guy’s photography . . .
making art that he can’t experience
except by hearing other people’s reactions to it.

And there’s my Wight brother Orville, another longtime onliner I’m meeting for the first time and who’s been On The Road forever, dancing on both sides of the Jerry–Jack fuzzy line …


And there’s the beaming Shelly Musgrove who I first met over photos from Vesuvio’s and has been on a crash course in Beatlandia, including devouring my book in one sitting, and traveling halfway across the state to be here.


And this whole packed-Museum opening-night cocktail-party is running effortlessly because of beatnik-clad show producers Otto & Baby Doe, who’ve been doing off-Beat events for decades, and have rounded up an army of volunteers and liquifying sponsors, and weaving it all seamlessly in with the Museum’s inner cabinet of Brandon the visual design guy, and Bob the poetry organizer, and E.T. the novelist from another planet, and Niko the sharp-dressed man disguising the nature-loving poet revolutionary that all these Museumistas seem to be.

And all the first-time meetings and long-time reunions by so many segued naturally into a late night hang at Vesuvio’s across the street in a dance of interactive eye-blazing joy and story sharing across the universe.


Saturday — the first full day — was huge:  Dr. Philip Hicks, the psychiatrist who Allen credits with giving him permission to be himself, spoke in public about that landmark diagnosis for the first time.  Current San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguía riffed his imagistic word magic as a harmonizing echo of Kerouac’s paeans to The Mission’s downtrodden.  The brilliant funny modern-day Lenny Bruce / Mort Sahl of contemporary North Beach — Will Durst — laid down his political and cultural stand-up routine.


When I told him about the hitchhiking adventure of the book, he looked me deadpan in the eye and advised me — “You’re crazy, you know that?”

Director Heather Dalton screened her new “Neal Cassady – The Denver Years” film in its West Coast premiere.  Local Beat authority Jonah Raskin brought the history of the city to life in a multimedia show.  The perpetually beaming Tate Swindell and his brother Todd made sure Jack Micheline and Harold Norse made it to the Shindig through film clips and audio recordings and first-hand stories.  Neeli held a poetry workshop.  Felver riffed on Ferlinghetti.  And Amram performed his patented Jack music & storytelling revue.


3 of the 5 Boulder ’82ers — me, Dave Amram & Dan Barth
with Mike Wurm, Jerry & Levi


And sitting outside in the secluded Fort Mason enclave that we took over along the northern shore of the city with Alcatraz in the distance were a bunch of late-’40s Hudsons bringing the material machines into the mindful mindfields of poetry and prose.



Inside the main building was this giant party room with a poetry & jazz stage;  and all sorts of bookstores with tables of cool stuff;  as well as the Cassadys set-up with Carolyn’s easel and paintings and stuff;


and there was a bar selling perfectly cold beer and wine.  Across the outdoor atrium was an excellent cafe / restaurant with all sorts of healthy California delights to stay or go.  What I’m sayin is — we were set!  Self-contained.  You could take a hundred trips without leaving the farm.

I hosted the Gerd Stern talk — of Joan Anderson letter fame — The Holy Grail by The Holy Goof — the letter that blew open the doors for Kerouac’s writing and did NOT blow off a houseboat in Sausalito — like Allen Ginsberg pinned on Gerd sixty years ago when in fact Allen had submitted it someplace and just forgot!


Howling with Gerd

As I say, I first met him a few days earlier on this famous giant historic houseboat called the Vallejo that was home to Alan Watts and all sorts of interesting people over the decades and where I had to sign a non-disclosure release just to step on board that said I wouldn’t tell anyone where it is or even take any cell phone pictures that might reveal its location by GPS.


We got along like two buds in a joint right from the git-go — jammin out the crazy storyline of his crazy life, so when we hit the stage that afternoon we were already makin’ beautiful jokes together.  We went through the whole sequence of what happened, when and where, from his first meeting Allen and Carl Solomon at the Psychiatric Institute in New Jersey in 1947, and how he gave the manuscripts back to Allen in ’53, and his thoughts on why the story came into existence, and the whole yak was videotaped so that’ll be out before long.  It was a packed room — and Jami Cassady was in the back beaming through the whole thing, and Levi Asher was in the front nodding in grooving agreement the whole time, and by all accounts it was a joyous jam.



As soon as this was over I had to bolt upstairs to the main theater to be part of the Cassady Family Panel with Al Hinkle and Jami Cassady, who asked me to be on it cuz I was pretty close to Carolyn n all.  Brother John was supposed to be there, and we kept thinking he’d suddenly come bursting through the curtain and onto the stage but it never happened.



Good ol’ Levi was hosting, which I thought was great since we’d known each other for 20 years — until I realized — Al’s known Jami since her birth day!  He’s seen her grow from a baby to a child to a mother to a grandmother . . . so he really knew the whole arc of the Cassady clan . . . and was the first person any of you ever heard of who met Neal!



And get this — he & Neal were actually a circus act for a while!

When they were both around 13, they were going to the same YMCA in Denver.  Both of them were uncommonly strong for their age, and “that Y had the only high-wire circus act program in the country,” Al said.  “The big net, the trapeze, the whole schmear.  And I found out later it had been donated by the great uncle of Hal Chase. (!)

“I thought it would be fun.  The first thing you had to do was climb up and jump and land in the net — on your back if possible, so you’d bounce right up.  And then they taught you how to roll over and use your hands and get off onto your feet.  Then they had us swinging on the trapeze and dropping to the net.

“They said to me — because I was almost six feet tall then, and I was thin and had a little muscle — they said why don’t you hang from the trapeze by your knees and see if you can catch somebody.  They have a rope to the trapeze, and they pull it back, and get you going, and then they have another trapeze going the other way, and they’d have a guy there, and the only one that could do it was Neal.

“And then they wanted him to somehow do a flip, a roll, and then I’d catch him . . . and it seemed like that was pretty easy to do!  We’d catch each other’s wrists.  He’d catch my wrists and I’d catch his — and it seemed like … we could do it!  And we practiced and practiced and got so we could do it most every time.  And they had some other acts — I don’t remember — they had a tumbling act, and a human pyramid, I remember that because I was on the bottom of the pyramid.

“So . . . we put on two shows.  And people’s parents were there.  And we had a dress rehearsal type thing.  I was supposed to catch Neal twice in each show.  And I did on the first one — I caught him both times — and I missed him once at the second show.  I think he came out of the summersault wrong or something, and he just went down — Boom!  But he landed good.

“And then when summer was over, he was going to one school and I was going to another.  I didn’t even know his last name.  We lost track of each other, and I never saw him again until we were both about 19 years old, and Jimmy Holmes, who was an old high school friend, he introduced us at Pederson’s pool Hall.  

“I was just back from the Merchant Marines, and one day I’m walking down the street and bump into Jimmy.  I had a 1936 LaSalle convertible with a straight-8, and Jimmy had me come pick him up one Saturday, and I parked about a block away from the pool hall.  And of course Jimmy knew everybody there, and we played a game of pool, and he was practically running the tables, just kinda showin’ off, and we’re just hanging out there, and then who comes in the back door, but Neal!  And I looked at him, and he looked at me, and it didn’t register at first.  And I kept thinking about it, and I guess he was thinking about it, too.  And then we finally made the connection.

“Then at some point I made the mistake of saying I have to go move my car, and right away he went, ‘You’ve got a car?!?!'” and Al laughs heartily at the memory.  “Now I’m his best friend!”

“He says, ‘Would you mind if we took a drive to the drive-in?  My wife works there.’  On the ride over we reminisced about the circus together.  Anyway, we get there and LuAnne’s working as a car-hop.  And I’m thinking, ‘Boy she is a beautiful girl! . . . but really young.  I guess she was 16 at the time … and they were married.  And we have a Coke or something, and then we go back to the poolhall, and Neal and Jimmy start playing pool, and then these two girls come in the back door, and Neal goes over and gives one of them a big kiss, and introduces me to his girlfriend!!

“Those were the first two times Neal and I hung out together.”

And all sorts of stuff like this is going down.  And once again the whole thing is on video, and as soon as I get time I’ll get it out there.


But then the deal was — John Cassady was supposed to be on the panel — then we were gonna drive-like-Neal from there to the Dead show in Santa Clara — basically back to San Jose where he lives.  . . . But the guy never shows up!

And I dunno how this happens — just the magic of the universe — but I’m in the post-show hang with people in front of the stage and mention to somebody I gotta get from Levi’s panel to Levi’s Stadium . . . in a hurry.  And this girl overhears me and says, “I wanna go there, too.  You don’t have an extra ticket, do you?”  Well, as a matter of absent-John-fact, I think I do.  “Well I’ve got a car.”  BOOM!  Dun and Duner.  And Weir outta there in Flash!

Just like ’82 — The Grateful Dead are playing smack in the middle of this Big Beat Conference.  Who are these guys, and why do they keep following me around?

So we have this whole massive insane Adventure . . . the Dead’s opening night of their Farewell to home-base California — prophet on the golden shore and all that — but it’ll take about two days to tell you that whole story … I mean, bunch of stories, sheesh!!  If you really wanna hear a Farewell Dead riff, here’s a Grate story about Chicago.

And while yer at it, you prolly don’t wanna miss The Phil Lesh Story.  😉

But get this — not only did this girl wanna drive from the Cassady Panel to the Cassady Band — but she was staying in frickin’ Chinatown!! — so was driving all the way back to about two blocks from where I was staying in North Beach!!!

I dunno, but sometimes the lights all shinin’ on me . . .


Anyway, next thing you know it’s Sunday Sunday Sunday — the day of the big “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” show.  Thank god, ol’ Bill-Graham-Jerry moved it to the 4 PM slot so there was time to recover n all.

But first in the day — I mean it was unreal — there was Jerry doing a show with Dave Amram with the usual colorful storytelling and all that jazz.  And the authentic rare living Beat poet David Meltzer was there doing his funny poetry and mesmerizing storytelling.  And there was the great Beat filmmaker Mary Kerr screening her movies from North Beach in the ’50s.  And the artist Eric Drooker who did all the animation in the movie Howl putting on a whole show.  And Brenda Knight who did The Women of the Beat Generation book among other things — and there was more stuff to do than any one person could.

Plus!  Dennis McNally was there! — who I still think wrote the best biography of Jack, Desolate Angel, not to mention The Official History of the Grateful Dead, and he’s riffin on the great Wally Hedrick who I’d written about fairly extensively in my Hitchhiker’s book.

Which led me to meeting this poet / professor, David Rollison, who was good friends with Wally, an artist who vociferously shunned the spotlight.



And it was David who set me up on a whole other series of adventures just before the Shindig happened — including taking me to the very house I stayed in on the Marin detour in the Hitchhiker book,



And turning me onto the people who live in the Dharma Bums house where Jack & Gary Snyder stayed for a while,


Lying down in front of Jack’s old headboard.

and all sorts of other sacred and weird places in Mighty Marin.



And a cool thing had developed by Sunday where this area outside the main front doors became this perpetual groove center — where everybody went in or out . . . but there was me and whomever else at any given time just hangin on the loading dock landing that looped around the entire building — and in a way this was the most fun time and place of the whole Shindig Shabang.  Besides our late nights at Vesuvio’s, this was the most Beat scene of the summit.

I of course arranged for us to go to the nearest cold beer store and come back with four armfuls loaded for bear.  And we could smoke jazz cigarettes in the cool San Francisco Bay breeze, and there was this constant flow of people, all of whom would stop for a while, and some of the most interactive subject-leaping conversations of the weekend took place on that stoop.  Coulda been New York in the ’50s.


One’a the Stoop Groups – TKG, Levi, yours unruly, James Stauffer, Dan Barth

There was the great S.F. poet James Stauffer who I finally got to meet after we tried to put together the huge “Holy Fools” festival in the Mid-West about 20 years ago . . .


and that colorful Beatific artist Philippo LoGrande from Mexico who’s been floating around all conference drawing me and all sorts of other people in the ongoing jam of it all . . . 


and there was Dan Barth, my Boulder ’82 brother, finally with time to hang and groove in poet’s grove down by the docks of the city . . .


and Tate Swindell and Jerry and Gerd and Levi and James and . . . 

. . . holy shit!  — I still have a show to do!

And then this crazy thing happens where — everything had been going perfectly — but sometimes I get these fainting spells where if I don’t get horizontal as soon as I feel it coming on, I’ll black out and drop like a stone.  And sure enough, I hadn’t really ate much (or slept much after the Dead Spectacular) and when I picked up a box of books to help somebody move — BOOM it hit! . . . And this was 45 minutes before I’m supposed to be “on” — and there I am lying on the floor seeing stars behind the Cassady’s table . . . !

Way to go, B!  You’re passing out 5 minutes before showtime.  What? — you trying to pull a Kerouac?  I know yer into the guy — but do you really have to be unable to stand before you go on stage?!  I don’t think that was his strongest attribute, I’m thinking, as the ceiling’s spinning like a merry-go-round.

I very gradually rise to the occasion, and frailly and slowly make my way to the room with the help of Dr. John Wight — and there waiting for me is the unspoken superstar of the conference, Brandon from The Beat Museum setting up to do the visual show with the laptop.  And there’s a whole room fulla people! . . . as I’m one wrong breath away from falling over.

So . . . it was a wild trip.  But as people noticed, including me, I was gradually gaining strength as the hour-and-a-half show progressed . . . and about half-way through it started to feel like I was coming back.  It was cool talking to people afterwards . . . that the audience could see this happening . . . almost like a Dead show where the first half / set was basically warming up, then the second half killed.  I was actually up and running around the stage, and at one point, I don’t know what the hell story I was telling, but it required me running across the stage and smashing into the far wall!  I have no idea.  But I do remember hitting this wall and seeing the paint microscope-close to my eyes and thinking, “Well, I must be feeling better.”

Anyway, the whole thing’s on videotape — and this is starting to feel like Steve Goodman’s song coming to life.


But at least I was a hundred percent for both Gerd and the Cassadys, and that’s what really matters.  Honoring your elders and extended family.  Which is really what this whole conference was for all of us.

But of course it was no where near over yet!

After my show’s done, a bunch of us encamped on the stoop again, and hung there in a most festive space until it got dark, then hung sumore.  And then ruth weiss came on for the final performance of the conference up in the main theater where we did the Cassady Family show the day before, and we all went up and man, she was great!  She had an upright bass, sax, and her partner on a drum, and she read this very Beat stuff … as in, with a beat, the same kind of breath lines as Jack blew, and about finding freedom and yourself in a sea of blandness and conformity.


And very cooly, she pulled out all this stuff from her repertoire that dealt directly with Beat subjects — poem-stories about meeting them, and about their lives together back in the day.  I know she’s continued to write since the ’50s, the more recent of which is what she normally performs, but for this shindig she specially and thankfully selected all her original Beat-based material and quite rocked the house — with more energy than I’ve seen in performers a quarter her 80 years.

And this was naturally followed by more jazz cigarettes and cold Sierra Nevadas on the stoop while everybody mill-valleyed about, and by now me and ol’ Blind Tom had become a somewhat inseparable duo — he was so observant — and I convinced him to not leave the next day but stay for the aftershow glow when everyone’s relaxed and radiating with the meter off and it’s Vesuvio’s time. 😉



And so ol’ Blind Tom wisely does this, and we have a whole day’s Adventure . . . 


And I’m encouraging him to write up his Shindig story cuz he’s about my age when I did the first one and it would be so amazing to read how he perceives everything — how he can’t see but he’s all ears — and the way he so highly functions and learns geography and is so self-reliant and Getting Things Done is just mind-blowing.

And we happily bop all over North Beach, including hanging with Paul Kantner at the vividly historic Caffe Trieste and I tell him about staying in his old house in Marin, and he sits there reading that whole section of the book just like Phil Lesh couldn’t put it down a week earlier …



But the coming night was one of those Classics you play for.

It began with the official debriefing hang with the core crew at Vesuvio’s — just as I had prophesied to Jerry we’d do months ago — that beaming lingering evening when we’re no longer looking at our watches after months of planning and deadlines — Bill & Chet, as he & I started jokingly calling ourselves, honoring the two great San Francisco promoters — and debriefing we did! — including with old show-producing New York partner, Levi Asher …


. . . taking over the best booth in the best bar in town — right on the street, right on the corner, right under the Kerouac Alley sign, right inside the door, everything wide open and wild!

And off we riffed on the vibe that was pulsating from the opening night party to the closing night stoop;  on how so many people met each other for the first time;  how Gerd and ruth were like two playful kids even in their 80s;  how cool the Prankster presence was and how natural the blend was with the Beats;  how effective the big party room was except maybe we should have the poets’ stage somewhere else so it’s more focused;  and how taking over Fort Mason was so perfect, giving us our entire own world in the middle of downtown San Francisco;  how glitch-free everything had rolled;  and how everybody got home safe.

And suddenly I remembered — “Oh Wait!  There’s a super-important scene in the book that takes place here!  I sat in here in ’82, right above where we are,” I pointed up.  “This exact spot, except on the second floor!  We gotta go there!”  So I Pied Pipered the crew upstairs just before they closed it off for the night, and we took over the very table where me and Croz met that actor!  (ch. 27)  Another one of those sites from the book I hadn’t been to in 33 years!


And dig — right under Levi’s chin you can see the Kerouac Alley sign outside!
That certainly wasn’t there in ’82;

but the historic Tosca Cafe above my peace sign certainly was.

And after a few more rounds, responsible Bill Graham bids us adieu — and it’s pretty much a wrap on the wrap party.  And outside in the aforementioned Kerouac Alley, Levi and I have a perfect fare thee well moment, where the giant arc of the rainbow came down just like it did over Levi’s Stadium, from East Coast to West, from our first deciding to do this and getting together for the first time in years for this perfect Adventure in Beatlandia, and now the rainbow arc ends in Kerouac Alley between Vesuvio’s and City Lights — the bar and the bookstore with Jack the bridge — the only two Shindiggers who did both the conference and the Dead shows hugging goodbye, so much happier than Dean & Sal at their sidewalk farewell in On The Road.

And now there were three . . . amigos in the alley . . .

And I figured we had to figure out once-and-for-all exactly where that famous Robbie–McClure–Dylan–Allen photo was taken.  And ol’ wiz-bang Brandon pulls out his smart-phaser and beams up the photograph and zooms in on the doorframe and a-ha!  GOT it!  Nailed it.  Know it.  Now.

So we gotta take the fer-sure pictures in the fer-sure spot — and so Yes!  We reprise the Blind Tom trick and have him take the photo!


Outside the door in the Dylan-Beats shot.
Photo by Tom Lake.

And eventually brilliant Brandon bolts for the boonies, and I walk my new Brother Tom home — this Beat conference’s Brother Tom, reprising the real-life character so central to the first one — back to his Green Tortoise Hostel a half-block from The Beat Museum — in itself one of the coolest places in North Beach — a center for off-Beat Travelers and Adventurers since the mid-’70s.



After the drop-off, I was still way too jazzed n burnin’ to remotely sleep, and there was a whole city left to explore!  Suddenly I was on my own, no direction home, free to roam under the starry dome.

I hung a right up some little alley next to The Beat Museum towards The Saloon — since 1861 the longest continually operating bar in San Francisco and home to all the desperadoes since Jack London and Jesse James.  Or something.  But by now it’s already past the last call for alcohol and they’re not lettin people in the door.  But I look closely and there’s ol’ Per (pronounced “pair”) — my Danish Deadhead brother who’d flown here from Copenhagen for the Fare Thee Well shows — and actually was at the historic Tivoli show on the Europe ’72 tour!  We’d been beaming all over North Beach ever since we both arrived about the same time, and together we could do a lot of damage.

So I see ol’ Per sittin there, and this seems to be enough for the Wild West Saloon cowboy doorman to let me slip through the swinging doors, and ol’ Per’s just laughing his Danish head off that I found him, and of course it’s time for another Adventure.

We pour outta there, and fall in with this whole German crew who are similarly prowling the streets of No Good, and head round the corner past the closed Trieste and back out to Columbus where we got caught up in the whole strip-bar scene with these hookers and whatevers and guys & dolls of all ages and ethnicities working the hungry sidewalks for a mark & a buck, the full-on hustle of end-of-night scores and hook-ups and tricks and trades and what a circus!

We linger in the swirling scenery of barkers and colored balloons — because life is a carnival, two bits a shot.  But then we remember our mission for beer and continue back to Broadway where the Danes and Germans hold a curbside summit to determine the next drinking hole.  But it takes this Canadian to break the news it’s a hard 2 A.M. cut-off in this town — and if Vesuvio’s and The Saloon have had last call on a Monday, there ain’t nuthin more late-night than them.

I looked at the deli on the corner and the watch on my wrist and told ol’ Per — “That’s the last beer in town, mate.  And it closes in 15 minutes.”  He doesn’t wanna believe me, so we sit down on these iron bolted-in bus stop chairs they have, and have a smoke to think about it, watching the open deli door as the minutes tick by.  And sure enough, since ol’ Per hasn’t come up with a better plan, at 1 minute to, we grab a half-dozen Rolling Rocks, which Per has some crazy elaborate backstory on about how he discovered them on some mad mission in America way-back-when and they hold some special power for him — secret energy juice — and I’ll go along with anything for a night.

So we happily load up my road bag and head for my office — this outdoor patio place just down Columbus at Kearny — the perfect setting for the sunset of the trip.

As fate and geography would have it, we had to pass Specs on the way — the other historic hideaway bar in North Beach that’s been there forever.

I get us to swing left sweet chariot on ol’ Saroyan Alley to the tiny bar you’d never know was there . . . unless you did.



And sure as you’re born — the door’s standing wide open.  And as I start to walk in the empty space, the barkeep calls out, “We’re closed!”

“Yeah — I just wanna look around” I say, all wide eyed I am — and completely knowing the play I’m playing.

And he lets us wander in . . . and I stay in character . . . the scholarly studious student of history . . . appreciating said bar . . . painstakingly exploring every inch of the framed history on the walls . . .


. . . buying time . . . showing interest . . . while Per goes over and starts talking to the last lingering local at the end of the bar . . . who I actually happen to already know as he’s the sometimes doorman at Vesuvio’s, the guy who told me how the scene around North Beach had changed so much for the better with the announcement of the Dead shows . . . their first in 20 years . . . and how he, as a street barometer, had noticed a visible change in the hugs and love of strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand that had been missing for a long time in this Times Square of Bohemia.

And so, with everyone duly occupied, and me tossing out the occasional inquisitive question to the clearly erudite bartender . . . the desired bond seemed to be developing . . . and as the last of the now-drinkless locals wafted out the door . . .

. . . sure as you’re born I hear The Magic Words:
“Could you go close that door and lock it?”



Where everything changed


BOOM!  DONE!  In.  The coolest tiniest bohemianest bar in S.F. . . . the greatest POSSIBLE moment and place to be . . . the old The-Bar’s-Closed-And-The-Drinks-Are-Free Routine.



And it turns out this bartender, Michael, is a doppelganger for the comedian Colin Quinn — accent, heritage, looks, mannerisms, humor, thoughts . . .

And he re-fills my pint without asking whenever it’s thirsty, and as he’s putting everything away and cleaning up, he says more than once — “If you were 5 minutes earlier or five minutes later, this wouldn’t have happened. . . .  But you came in right in that window.”  We both knew the routine, and were mutually happy to have worked it together.

And boy, was he smart.  A classical music and film scholar, he starts playing all these obscure movie scores that are positively Vivaldian!  And as he’s putting stuff away he stops and POUNDS out the beats on the bar like a teenager does rock n roll — and fist-pumping the air at the crescendos.  The guy got his B.A. in film, minored in religion and African studies, and one of the refrains our many-pints-long conversation keeps returning to is — “respect your elders.”  And it was that I respected the history of the bar that was my pass into this world — as he reverently tells me about the legendary eccentric owner nicknamed “Specs” who was a jukebox of one-liners — “If I’m not in bed by midnight, I go home” —


and how he made their business cards double purpose that can also be used to protect female customers . . . 



The place is like the original Kettle of Fish in New York — just a bar — no TVs — no frills, no nuthin ‘cept music and people and drinks — because what else do you need?  I search for the authenticity in everything — the real, the core, the truth, the root, the undoctored, the natural in both the outdoors and the indoors — and this place is bona fide, certified, Beatified real.


With Per — the Wavy Gravy / Chet Helms / Ken Kesey of Copenhagen
at the legendary Table of Tyranny in Specs

And after we have this glorious perpetual-pint-refilling classical music class and North Beach history lesson, ol’ Michael’s about finishing his chores, and I can read music on the wall and knew this score was coming to its natural resolution, and knowing not to overstay our gracious welcome, I suggest to my Danish Dangerman that we continue on to my office, cuz we’ve still got that 1:59AM purchased six-pack of Rolling Rock to play us through the nocturnal groove-down.

Back on the desolate angel streets of deserted North Beach, America, the only two Beatniks still beating the conversational adventure drums on this sleepy Monday night in June, euphoric in our score of an after-hours bar that looked so impossible when we were last roaming these empty streets of newspapers blowing . . . as we whooshed around the corner to my corner office with a view.



Quite ecstatic in the ecstaticness of the 4AM universe — we’ve pulled it off!  From slipping into the closed Saloon to find him hours ago, to the magic moment in the coolest Kettle this side of 1957, we surfed the waves of this Beach like masters of the never-bored.

And as you can just barely see in the picture, I’ve pulled out my notebook . . .  and am readin’ my notes and writin’ new ones . . . cuz if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s — you gotta write it when it happens.

As me and Per are taking the talk for one last loop around the track, I know I got work ahead of me.  Gotta get this down.  Now.

So we walk back to the hotel weir both staying in and met over Grateful Dead t-shirts in the lobby, and bid each other goodnight.

Now, ya see — when I’m burning, I smoke.  And I gotta have a space to write and burn.  Normally it’s the street — but this is crazy half-lawless North Beach at 4 A.M.  When I write, I leave the planet.  But one needs to be alert and monitoring the radar systems when you’re out in war zones.  And I could not leave earth and be safe with my instrument on the sidewalks of this crazy.

And then — ol’ Levi came flashin’ back.  Of course, as The Grand Fates had it, I was hanging out front when this brother-from-another-mother arrived to stay in the same joint.  And having experienced Brian in New York, Levi asks as I’m walking him to his room, “What’s the roof like?”

I say, “There’s no way up.”

He goes, “Whadda you mean? There’s always a way up.”

Now, A) he’s not right about that, but B) the moment he says this, we walk past a hallway with a window at the end . . . and a fire escape ladder going up . . . hmmm . . .

The conversation immediately leapt to another subject, as he and I are wont to do, but the snapshot was logged at CentCom for future reference.  “Roger that.”

Back to the room — download everything — meaning leave in room everything you don’t need;  pack for Adventure:  laptop;  cold beers from mini-fridge, replaced with the last Rolling Rock;  glasses for long range optical enhancement;  camera so I can see what we captured from tonight;  notebook for retrieval;  I.D. because I’m anticipating being caught, and have the whole honest play in my head — “I’m just a writer visiting from Canada and it was my last night, and gosh, I’m sorry, but there were no signs saying you can’t take the fire escape to the roof.”

BOOM — like Batman, I’m climbing up the side of the building, in the 4AM dark of Big City, America, and sure as shit, it takes you right up!

POW!  On the roof!  Scout it out.  Walk softly and attract no attention.  

It’s a bit cold, but I’m puckin here!  And to prove to anyone maybe watching me from higher buildings, I go and sit and get right to work on the roof hatch cover — the only “seat” on the roof, coming up from a locked room and locked hatch below.

Safe on Heaven’s roof.

I’m freaking out I’m here — but I got shit to do.  And I start writing the story you just read.  But it’s really hard cuz the Coppola Building is hauntingly hovering above me, and Coit Tower’s beaconing on the horizon, and Washington Square Church is looming right in front of me . . . and I’m on a roof in North Beach . . . so it’s all happening, but I’m forcing myself to get the story down — no hope for full sentences — just exact images — I’ll weave ’em together later — as I look around again — surveying the two fire ladder routes to the roof — the only two access points for any enemy to appear — and they’re both a long way away — as the city lights are painting moving abstracts on the fog — “So this is where psychedelic light shows come from!” — and . . . “quit lookin around” — Boom — back to the flashes of story images in sequence — get it down, get it down — even though it’s also see-your-breath cold — and see your life-flash-before-your-eyes visual — and the computer screen’s fogging with unreadable mist in this rainforest San Francisco Bay moisture — adverse conditions at their best — but write on, muthrbruthr, write on . . . .

And then suddenly — Oh Shit! — I’m interrupted by — the pitch black beautiful sky beginning to turn . . . a smidge off black . . .

Oh no — it’s getting light . . . “



Which quickly gave way to … “Oh my God!  It’s getting light!!”



And thus The Shindig Sutra ends . . .








My corner office from above







H……… With a toast to all the new days.



For the original conference Adventure check out The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

For reactions to that AdventureTale check out this raving page

Or this one

For another Kerouac Adventure with the Cassadys check out The Northport Report

Or here’s some storytelling videos about some other Beat Adventures

For my keynote essay from “The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats” on the decade that birthed the Beats — go here.

Or also from “The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats” — here’s my riff on The Power of The Collective.



Brian Hassett


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July 26th, 2015 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac 


Reviews, feedback, and other buzzes over the transom . . .


full_cover12 copy

Brian Hassett had the presence of mind to pack a good old cassette recorder in his rucksack back in 1982 when he was alerted to the Jack Kerouac Conference being staged in Boulder, Colorado.  The real spark to get him travelling across country to be there was Ken Kesey and The Grateful Dead.  Brian was 21, knocked out by Jack Kerouac’s writing, and the Beat Generation as a whole, when he hitched his way there, thousands of miles, having incredible luck in obtaining lifts as he went.  He blagged his way into being part of the conference set-up — there seems to have been a little Neal Cassady-ish conning going on — but it got him at close quarters with all the major participants at the event, presented by The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

There was Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, John Clellon Holmes, Herbert Huncke, Ken Kesey, Anne Waldman, Timothy Leary and hordes more.  Panels, discussions, debates, films — it went on for ten days.  And Hassett was at the centre of it all, recording on his cassette player as he went:  Kesey recalling his regret at being in England while his father died;  John Clellon Holmes telling the real story of the birth of On The Road – who knew because he was the first person Kerouac let read the scroll version.  Holmes explained the true genesis of it all.

The book is a youthful memoir with all the never-to-be-recaptured frantic zest of a young man.  Everything is wonderful in the Hassett world, even bad luck.  Every cloud he sees has a silver lining.  This attitude takes him far as he finds himself pals with Allen Ginsberg and Ken Kesey.  Kesey’s wife Faye tells Hassett as the conference winds down that her husband thinks Hassett is a great guy.  Bursting with happiness, and the thought that Kesey rates him, sustains him.  Especially given the fact that he idolizes Kesey like no other.

It’s the sheer unbridled enthusiasm that pours from Hassett that is so engaging.  His close up portraits of Kesey, Ginsberg, Holmes, Huncke, Gregory Corso, Ken Babbs, Jack Micheline, Michael McClure, and others salvaged from his cassette recordings in themselves are wonderful on-the-hoof artifiacts, as the Beats relax outside the formal panel discussions which were the staple of the conference.  Because they’re so important, you forgive the eager young Hassett the sometimes intrusive ‘cool’ slang he uses throughout the book.  He hasn’t airbrushed it out to his credit.  That’s how people often talked.

This is the Beat Generation colliding with the rock world of The Grateful Dead.  I wasn’t aware that the band helped finance the event and were willing participants in the ten-day jamboree.  They all knew of Kerouac, he was part of their history.  They knew him through Neal Cassady, whose ex-wife Carolyn was there — as was Jack’s daughter Jan, and his first wife Edie Parker.

Then there’s the story about possibly being given a lift by Steve Jobs … or was it Bill Gates?

This is a brilliant read.

— Hilary Finch, Beat Scene magazine (out of England)


Knowing where it’s at and being there is a gift for you.
That you are such a fine writer and take us with you is a gift for us.

Chris F.



“You’re crazy, you know that?”

— Will Durst


Here’s a rollicking-good wide-ranging radio interview I did for The Jake Feinberg Show —


And here’s another wildly-riffing wide-ranging one in print for that Blues site out of Greece that goes into the meaning of Beat and the meaning of life.


Or here’s another interview about Beats and Pranksters in the present day with the cooly named Sunflower Collective.


I just finished a cherished early printing of this book … and it is a mind blower!

Brian has both the credentials (he spent time with ALL the Beats that were still around in 1982), and he has the chops!  He not only writes about the Beats … but he is the best “Beat writer” I have encountered in a long timeriffing from page to page like a wild be-bop jazz musician.

Brian’s story is about attending a pivotal Jack Kerouac conference in Boulder Colorado in 1982.  Using his experience with concert promoter Bill Graham the summer before (on the Rolling Stones 1981 Tour of America), he segues from being a conference participant to a job helping stage the event.  For him it is like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.  He finds himself accepted into the core group of his heroes — and he brings us along on his wild ride.

My favorite chapter came as a surprise.  It happens to be 17 which is a number with much significance in this book!  It’s a conversation he had with Michael McClure on a stroll after a screening of Robert Frank’s Rolling Stones documentary.  The discussion wanders between poetry and philosophy and brings incredible clarity to the question of what impact the Beats had on today’s culture.  It goes on to a very serious discussion on drug use from a man with a depth of personal experience, who has lost many friends to a wide variety of substances.  The youth and enthusiasm of Brian, plus the wisdom of age and experience from Michael, make this chapter alone worth the price of admission, particularly for anyone looking for words to talk to kids about drugs.  Not heavy folks … just wise!

For two days, in the middle of the conference, Brian attends Grateful Dead concerts at Red Rocks.  This puts us all in that scene, running with the Deadheads!  But it all fits.  The Dead do a show honouring Jack and their buddy Neal who of course drove Ken Kesey’s bus.  “The bus came by and I got on / That’s when it all began.”

Brian connects more dots than anyone before between our beloved popular culture and its roots in the Beat world.
Anyone interested in Jack, Neal, Allen, Bill and the gang needs to read this riveting account of chance meetings and lifelong friendships with so many of the principals in the movement.

He draws lines between Jack Kerouac and much of the pop culture that he influenced over the last half century!
This book is the best addition to Beat literature in many years!

He IS a Beat writer … not just writing about the Beats.  Riffing like Dizzy and Bird!!!

Hoping to get my copy signed in the near future.

— Dale T.


This is good stuff.

Zane K.




Here’s the part where Phil Lesh couldn’t stop reading it.



“This is top level.  It’s breezy and friendly and fun to read.  It’s naturally gripping stuff, full of personality, and it works.  There’s a nice rhythm – chunky, meaty, bouncy, like a good Grateful Dead road song.  Plus, the book is offering valuable original material.”

Levi A.



As an avid reader of the Beat writers I was a bit dubious regarding this title.
How do these subjects correlate? Another wannabe? Another boring perspective? Another academic trying to prove something? WRONG!
I was attending a gathering where this author would be present so I thought I should read it.
First off, the writer knows his stuff.  Very informative.
What happened to this generation of people?  Read on ….
How do all these things tie together?  It’s in here.
This book is not the tedious standard fare re: Kerouac et al.

The writer takes you on an interesting adventure, with a wonderful cast of real characters, while somehow making you feel like you’re along for the ride.
Hassett’s prose is lyrical and refreshing.

A hands down must-read for Beat fans.
I enjoyed the whole book in one sitting.
And I walked away smiling.
Thank you, Mr. Hassett!

— Shelly M.



My hero you are.

Mitch D.


What’s so significant about book is that — there are a lot of very good books that come out about the Beats, Jack, Allen etc. — but this IS a Beat book.

It’s an addition to the Beat canon.  This is not only a book about the Beats — it’s a contribution to the literary legacy of the Beats.

It is a Beat book.  It’s the perfect merging of subject matter and author.  The two come together so naturally.  And it reads as though you are in the room telling the reader the story.

Prof. R


“It reads wonderfully. The stories of your adventures are always intriguing and fun. Despite what’s going on in the moment — you have an outlook on the world that is just joyful.  And I love your play with words ”

Jerry C.


I blew through it in one weekend, and came out the other side with a new appreciation for this eternal Prankster and his visions of Jack and that natural progression to Kesey (and The Bus), to the Dead, and the ideology that continues to bring in the Tribe.

I need to take the trip all over again.

This is action writing as Jack Kerouac intended.

And Hassett is certainly no bench jockey!

The energy, desire for experience, and the ultimate in “living” while in constant movement makes this book a must for anyone that wants to know and understand what Jack so eloquently stated about “the ones that never say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn ….

The anecdotes, the life on the road, the Boulder Conference, the Kesey farm visit, and the characters and heroes in between reads like some wicked dreamscape of Beat-Hippie Nirvana.

This book is past the point of a professorial doctorate dissertation.  This effort is what happens when an intelligent, no-holds-barred, experience-soaking sponge comes out on the other side after decades of looking for, chasing after, and acquiring the elusive “IT”.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide is first rate storytelling and a very important addition to that sagging bookshelf called Jack Kerouac.

— Ken M.



“A Wonderful Ride”

5 stars

This amazing story is, on the surface, about a crucial Beat conference in Colorado in 1982, but in reality it is about the entire history and spirit of the Beat Generation writers and how they passed this history and spirit on to Ken Kesey, Jerry Garcia, Abbie Hoffman — and Brian Hassett, who here takes his rightful place as a true carrier of the torch.

Once you hear Hassett’s unique voice you won’t want to stop reading — and laughing — until the book, unfortunately, comes to an end … but you will have had a few new worlds opened up to you before it does.

— Walter R


My granddaughter is RIGHT NOW reading YOUR book!!!
My son visited yesterday (first time since the Beat Shindig).
He saw her reading it and took the book.
After looking at it asked, “Who is this guy?” 
I knew he was a Dead fan but had no idea he knew all about Neal!!!
His best bud was at the concert the same night you went.  And his last name is Cassidy. (!)
Telephone calls fly back and forth between them.
Picture of your book sent.
Both ran out to get it!!!!
My granddaughter tells him I met Jami Cassady (thank you!)
Craziness ensues.
The energy level in this house is knockin’ on heaven’s door.
Thanks to Jack.
Thanks to you.

— S.M.



I find it remarkable that you can write of your life’s journey with such joy and detail with such a lack of ego!!

The facts of the trip speak for themselves, you relate that whole process.  For those of us that have not journeyed physically across country, etc, it’s sheer fun to read about.  And of course, the conference, the spontaneous meetups, etc.  I think my favorite part is the personal conversations.  The fact that you taped a bunch of that stuff, wow!  I mean, there is no guessing as to what was said.  It’s kind of like Visions of Cody, you know?  And your descriptions of people you interacted with — really fun — and I can see those people.

I dug the book!  🙂 I truly did.   It’s sitting on my little table next to my dining room sofa waiting to be reread.  It’s that kind of book.

And you’re right — it’s meant to be read in a big gulp.  Next time I’ll try to do that.  

I hope you sell heaps and heaps of this fun and thought-provoking book.

That poem at the end and your reading it with the band — I love that!!!

— J.M.


THIS is a great book … loving it!  Great job . . . fantastic!
Just read the first 133 pages in one setting.  Can’t put it down.

I found myself saying “Yup” to myself a whole lot.  And I dug Cassady’s foreword … sounds like John.

This is making me realize why I love Kerouac so much.  It’s a great read … I’m loving it so much … bringing back so many great memories … you have NO idea … but then again you know because we’re both on the same Kerouac/Cassady/Burroughs/Ginsberg/Kesey and all the rest wavelength.  You really made me realize again why and how much I love Jack and Neal.

I can’t thank you enough for writing this book.  It was a God Send.  It really was.

Your book made me want to write again.

Here’s what I posted to Amazon . . . 

A fantastic book … for any fan of the Beat Generation, this is a must read.  Mr. Hassett has a way with his words to make you feel like you’re right there hitchhiking with him, on his way to Boulder, CO.  You will meet Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs and all the other characters that Jack Kerouac spent so much time with.  You will journey with Hassett to Ken Kesey’s farm and feel the warmth of the ole bus, Furthur, as the author takes it all in.  Again, a fantastic trip … a great journey … a must read book.

— John D.


Magnificent stories and insights on the Beats

5 stars

This book is incredibly good.  The author attended the big Kerouac conference in Boulder in 1982 as a young man.  He got free entrance for volunteering.  Brian took along his tape deck and finally made a fantastic book albeit 30 years later.  He saw the Grateful Dead play Red Rocks midweek and has some vivid recollections.  Loved it!

Grateful Dead Books



Just got this yesterday and read the whole thing, and it is more than fascinating.  It’s a great book!  400+ pages of excellent memories, and he sounds just like a friend of yours.  

It’s a great mix of Beat writers, Grateful Dead folks, Canada, Colorado, Manhattan, all over the map, Merry Pranksters, road stories, tips and tricks for higher living skills, advanced literary shenanigans, and a most interesting life trajectory.  I went through it pretty fast.

I’ve written four non-fiction books myself, and I greatly appreciate the amount of thought and effort that it takes!  You should be very proud of this remarkable achievement, especially as it provides so much really absorbing insight into so many important topics and fascinating people — really a road-map of modern thinking in not only the Beat and music worlds, but also of great interest to anyone with a brain and a heart.

Sam S.


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“You made lightning strike.”

— Brad K.


Started the book around 5PM, and made it thru chapter 5 still in the sunshine … read the rest that night in one long uninterrupted flow!!!

Loved it!  A fantastic, exciting and informative tale of adventure, inspired by and written in the style and soul of the Beats themselves.  No doubt Kerouac himself would approve!!

Hassett is the real deal, having begun a love affair with the Beats at such a young age back in 1982 and following through with an epic trip “on the road” to attend and participate in the Jack Kerouac Conference in Boulder, Colorado.  We soon find out that Hassett is not only there but throws himself into it head on, and ends up actually helping organize and run the event itself.  Making contact with everyone from the main participants, relatives of Kerouac and Cassady, to fellow “road” travellers, he takes the reader on a magical journey covering thousands of miles, a detailed account of the conference, Grateful Dead concerts, mishaps, adventures, and the amazing face to face meeting with the King of the Merry Pranksters Ken Kesey.  It’s all a wonderful read.

The spirit of Neal and Jack hover over every page of this epic adventure!!

Joe M.


“I think you nail Herbert perfectly.  I can hear him say those lines in my mind’s ear.  And nice job on Edie and Henri.  This book might help give them the credit they deserve.”

Tim M.


If you’re a fan of Jack Kerouac, The Beat Generation, or The Grateful Dead, then you’ve probably heard stories — legends even — of the great Jack Kerouac conference of 1982, in Boulder, Colorado.  You’ve probably heard stories like “Jan Kerouac was up on the panel! …. That’s a sight I’ll never forget.”  Or, “Oh yeah, Corso was at it again!!!”  Or, “The Grateful Dead played at the Kerouac conference …. What a trip!!!”

But unless you were one of the lucky few who had the good fortune to be there, you just flat-out missed it.  Either you weren’t born yet, or were too young to appreciate it, or too far away, or too tight for cash, or too busy, or you just didn’t know about it until it was too late … whatever it was, you missed it, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.  The biggest, grandest meeting of the Beats plus concerts by The Grateful Dead all rolled into one rollicking adventure!!!  But you missed it.  Or did you……?

Here’s the thinga mad scientist genius angel poet by the name of Brian Hassett has recently invented a time machine to transport you back in time, just before the convention started.  Even cooler, this brilliant alchemist has cleverly disguised this time machine as a book, and it’s really easy to use!

All you have to do to get the time machine started is open the front cover.  This will immediately engage the system and you’ll be transported back to the summer of ’82 where you will encounter a young man who will accompany you on a wild ride, hitchiking from Canada to Colorado for the conference.  He will gladly show you around all the different lectures and panels.  He will introduce you to the likes of Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg puttering owlish over his schedules and list, and running around shouting contradictions to the skies.

He will show you the magnificent allure of Anne Waldman as she holds the crowds in awe.  He will point out William Burroughs mumbling on the sidelines.  And he will take you to the concert of The Grateful Dead.  You will attend every one of these lectures, every one of these parties.  You will have conversations with Herbert Huncke.  You will be gifted with advice from Michael McClure.  You will witness facets of Ken Kesey’s character rarely seen before, and experience the grandeur of Carolyn Cassady alive and shining with the brightest of stars.

I won’t say any more here, so as not to spoil too much of what’s ahead, but if you have a touch of road fever, then there’s nothing more satisfying and exciting than to pick up this book and to read it in one delicious blazing eye burning whirlwind reading tornado.  You will not be disappointed.

-A. Lantz




You have left me breathless, speechless and totally smiling.  Way way more than excellent…… Absolutely Wondrous!!!!!!

— Carol D.


Loved the book …

Besides your voice — which I’ve dug ever since the first short story I read back in ’84-ish (about you helping someone move) — I remember saying to you then that you’d already developed a unique voice for a narrator … and you’ve never lost it — you’re just painting on a much bigger canvas now

What I liked best about the book is how you skillfully wove everything you’ve learned about the Beats SINCE 1982 into the story of the summer of 1982 so that the effect is seamless.  We never feel that a 50-year-old narrator is commenting on a 20-year-old adventurer …

in other words your perspective now on what happened then and your memory of how you felt then merge beautifully.

This book should be the definitive statement for all Beat lovers and scholars on a definitive Beat event.

This is the book you were meant to write.  No one else could have written this. Your 30 years of accumulated knowledge shines through.

I thought (at first), as an English professor, that the structure was wrong and it should have ended on the big Saturday night at the conference.  “Oh no — there’s another hundred pages – what’s this?”  But then I was surprised I didn’t not like it — and in fact did like it.  It was honest and what really happened — like Jack wrote.

And I loved that you didn’t romanticize Kesey.

It’s just so alive and fun to read.

And the expository chapters were great — they were what the book was about.

You hit the ball out of the park.  

And you’re a damn good writer.

— Dr. R. 


Just finished the book and totally dug it!  I’m still processing it … and my reading list has just gotten longer.

Practically had a flashback during the Red Rocks chapter.  And the class with Holmes … Go, man, Go!  You’re lighting my fire!

Hell, I might even read it again!  What a trip!  I was totally into Kerouac and the Beats around that time (’82) … brought back so many memories … felt like I was right there with you.

— Bob B.


1:07 PM – Just started reading it from the beginning … no jumping ahead…..  Man — the way you set up your “17” paragraph — Brilliant!!!

2:01 PM – On page 86 …. this is making me feel alternately even more furious than before that I wasn’t around then — yet elated that the writing is so clear and realistic.  You were around my age when this all starts — and this really gives the reader the feeling of being present for all this amazing stuff.

4:31 AM – Finished, in one blazing, eye burning read.  Great book!  Spectacular.  Lots of cool accounts of these remarkable writers!
After reading about this event I now feel like I was there myself — couldn’t be cooler!

Also you’ve got a great, clear prose voice, man, like Jack’s.

— Aaron L.


I dip in to some of my copy every single day.

— Karen N.


I’m knee deep into your book and I’m fascinated with your story.

You are an incredible writer and you capture every essence of the Beats.

I have been a songwriter for 35 years with my band, Change To Eden.  I come from the School of Jack Kerouac, Jim Carroll, and Taoism.

With that as my reference, I can truly see how much you ARE the Beats — and a big thank you for keeping the stories vibrant and alive.

It matters greatly, and you’ve done a magnificent job of capturing your experience and the grander picture of it all.  I admire and respect you greatly, Brian.

I hope to hear you speak some day soon — and just know the kindred spirits out here are paying attention.

May your journeys remain magical and profound!

You keep writing and I’ll keep reading with a voracious appetite for your stories.

Mark S.




This book is awesome Brian!  I’m really enjoying it.  The screenplay for the movie should be next!

— Craig M.


Ah, I loved this book!

It has the inside scoop on the 1982 On The Road Boulder Conference which united the Beats with the Grateful Dead, those joyous jammers.

Written by a young man who was there for the whole conference and had the foresight to bring his tape recorder.  This is important, because he got to have fascinating conversations with the poets, writers, movers and shakers who were present at the conference, due to his working as a production manager at the event.

He starts his story with how he found out about the conference and how he gets there, hilarious tales of hitchhiking.  When he arrives and talks himself into the managing gig, we are along for the ride with him, able to feel his exhilaration and appreciation of all the inspiring people he gets to meet.  And the private conversations are some of the best parts.  After-hours parties, etc.  You get the drift.

This could have been a name-dropper book, with a morsel of gossip here and there.  But it isn’t.  It’s a fun ride … oh yes it is.  Lots of humor and A-Ha moments.  Coincidences — but are they really?  It has a bit of that, “Wow, am I really experiencing this?!” kind of vibe.

This is a book with great heart and positive thoughts.

Jeanne M


Happy Earth Day, Brian.  This is a true gift to the planet.

David W.


Having just binged on yer book I had to write and tell ya … your writing makes me smile.  Best Jack impression I’ve ever come across.

Thanks for the insights into where his world revolves these days.  One step higher than Ann Charters … and I can’t pay it a higher compliment.

Many of us look around each day and are amazed by the fact that Weir still here … and … tellin stories.

You spin a nice tale in a warm way.

Dennis O.


“I don’t want to give you this book back.
I’ll give you $20, but I’m not giving you this book back.”

— Manley




I’ve dabbled in some reading about various Beat generation luminaries, but I’m certainly not that well versed in the literature.

Nevertheless, I found Brian’s memoir of his trip to the Boulder ’82 “On The Road” Conference made for compelling reading.  He recounts hitchhiking to the conference, becoming immersed in helping to run the conference and meeting many of the Beat icons (too numerous to name).  He even spent time at Ken Kesey’s farm in Oregon on the way home.  Brian saved all his notes, photos and cassette recordings from the trip and they’re used to complement the text as you read along.  He interviewed many of the participants at the conference and also did research with archival materials.

Brian tells his story in a casual friendly style.

Something else I really liked about the book is that the type size is nice and large.  It makes for easy reading.  Your eye floats effortlessly across the page.

A wonderful achievement, and great reading.  Highly recommended. 

— Sharry W.


Best book I have read in a long time.  Thanks Brian!

I’m so stoked to be getting back into some good reading after being reminded of all those old books that started my crazy adventures.  

You’ve rekindled my love of well placed words!

— Sunny D.


It was 1982 when the 21-year-old narrator was in a Vancouver bookstore buying a copy of ON THE ROAD for a friend’s birthday and spotted an event poster that “changed his life.”

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When he saw the poster, Hassett got on the phone to the coordinator.  (Neal Cassady’s family nicknamed Hassett, “Gets Things Done.”)  He had no money, but he had a long list of production credits and he heard the magic words, “Yeah, we could use you. Come on down.”

A bus, 17 rides, and two days later he was in the midst of 300 participants and 3,000 attendees.  At one point he says, “It was the Super Bowl of the Beats, and The Grateful Dead were playing the half-time show.”  He describes the panels, interviews, and just plain hanging-out with those who touched Kerouac’s life.

Hassett took along his cassette deck, and his readers get 1982 conversations taped verbatim.  Among the many are Herbert Huncke, John Clellon Holmes, Ken Kesey (who invited him to the his farm after the conference), and a crazy, fun encounter involving Al Aronowitz (who introduced Dylan to the Beatles), Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Micheline.

The Guide isn’t limited to Beats and counterculture figures.  We’re in the passenger seat listening to many drivers who pick him up; for example, a cab driver (or a cab thief) in a New York City Checker with a gorgeous babe, who might have been a working girl, in the backseat smoking a joint.  Later going to Kesey’s farm, he gets in with an “Ernest Borgnine-looking guy” going to Cheyenne who snarls, “Are you a hippie? You look like a hippie.”  When Hassett says he’s from Canada, the guy says, “Canada?  What the hell is there in Canada.”

Some chapters are written with the non-stop enthusiasm of the 21-year-old that Hassett was in 1982.  In others his voice is that of the thoughtful man he is today whose love for the Beats has not diminished.  And there are some 60 photos throughout.

The book ends with Dessert: “In Memoriam,” (the departed conference participants).  “Love the Living in Your Life” (surviving participants and what they are doing now), and The Five Documentaries Shot at the Summit.


Mary E.


“What a fresh light you’re shining on the Beat Scene. And in a loving, lyrical style. Showing, in a way no one has before, how those around Jack influenced him and helped preserve his work for us. Your book will be an important addition to the ongoing Saga of Jack.”

Cor v.d.H.


Your timing is perfect.  Things couldn’t be better lined up.  Prankster events — the Beat Shindig in S.F. — Dead shows in Chicago … with the band that personified “On The Road” … it’s just all right.

The world is so ripe for this book. It’s like people went to Yellowstone as a kid, and now you’re taking them back as an adult.

You’ve baked a delicious pie and put it on the windowsill — and there’s a hungry world just waiting for something like this.

And it’s not some scholar-sounding university dissertation with big words and a bad attitude.  This is a romp … it leaves no one behind.

You deserve everything that’s coming to you.

Wizard of Wonder


1 Brian Hassett, SF, June 27 2015


First and foremost, Brian Hassett, is an outstanding writer and you feel you are a part of this legendary journey.  He is a brilliant storyteller.

The presence of Kerouac is felt throughout this book.  You can sense his wanderlust and the impact he had on so many of us in the post-Beat era.

Somewhere in the mist, Jack sits quietly, nodding his head in approval. All the Beats are widely recognized and discussed in this book. You’ll have to read it to get the whole picture. Just know the picture is accurate, profound and presented with the insight of a young man who knows his Kerouac.

Hassett delivers a tasty and exquisite tribute to the movement, writers and poets that changed America.

The Beat philosophy is alive and well — and we are all much better for it!

Spike S.


This is a book that had to be written.

Sylvia G.




And here’s a whole second round of these raves that came in from all over the world.

Or here’s some excerpts if you wanna take the ride . . . 

Meeting Your Heroes 101 — Allen, Gregory, Holmes, Burroughs & Huncke

Who all was there … of which John Clellon Holmes said, “More of us were together than had ever been in one place at one time before.”  And it never happened again.

My best pal and my best gal — Edie Parker and Henri Cru, with Allen Ginsberg sandwiched in the middle.

Arriving at The Grateful Dead shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre during the summit in ’82

Or here’s a bunch of performance videos of various excerpts, and some great radio interviews.

Or here’s where you can buy prints of the best photos taken at the Jack Summit, including some seen in my book — from the Lance Gurwell Collection.





Here’s where you can get the book direct from the publisher (where the author gets the highest royalties)

Here’s where you can get the book in the U.S.

or in Canada

or in the U.K.

or in Germany

or France

or Italy

or Spain

or Mexico


full_cover12 copy




Brian Hassett


→ 8 CommentsTags: ····

Grateful Dead Farewell in Chicago

July 11th, 2015 · Music, Real-life Adventure Tales



I saw the best minds of many generations,
dancing, hysterical, naked …
at the Farewell send-off of the Gratest live band in history.

While The Grateful Dead were breaking the all-time attendance records for Soldier Field stadium in Chicago — I was seeing them in a small venue from about 5th row center.  I was so close I couldn’t get all the band members in a single frame of my camera, and had to turn my head from left to right to watch Trey signal Hornsby and Bruce receive it.

I’d “won” the mail-order lottery — a 1-in-10 chance — and had requested pit / orchestra tickets for opening and closing nights, and then an expensive side seat for the middle July 4th show.


I’d just finished two weeks in the Bay Area — everywhere from the Kerouac–Snyder Dharma Bums house in Marin to the “Dear Jerry” show in Santa Cruz, while also headlining 3 appearances at The Beat Shindig put on by The Beat Museum in North Beach, and catching the opening Santa Clara show — with some carefully-timed discipline, on the Thursday leading into the final weekend shows I stayed grounded and writing and in transition.  There were non-stop incoming calls & messages going off like a blinking Christmas tree promising grate presents in the presence of my GD and Merry Prankster families arriving from all over North America, but I paced myself knowing there were entire days of non-stop standing and dancing coming up for this 50-something geezer who had to actually practice walking again just to be in shape for this very real 3-day-long Acid Test in Chicago.

And the opening day it was even worse in The Distractions For Fun Dept.  Everybody was gathering everywhere around this massive ancient coliseum of warrior Soldiers, and everywhere was a song and a celebration.  But I had this idea — “What if I went in as soon as they opened the gates?  Maybe there’s a chance I could actually get somewhere good on the floor … get to know the people around me … and see it from someplace I could see it.”

I went ahead and got in the early-entry line while my phone was still going off with “Meet me here” messages — and scootilee-doo — I end up inside the stadium well before the 70,000 other people arrived.



The open chair-free floor was divided in half at the 50 yard line — the back half being TicketMonster General Admission floor tix, and the front being the mail-order winners.  The front section was also divided in half down the middle of the field, and I first went over audience right (formerly Jerry side) and immediately realized I wanted to be Phil side, so I went to the back of the soundboard where there was the only passageway between the right-left sides, and motored my way up to the still nearly empty front of floor.

Deal was — if you bought the expensive I’m Special tickets, you got to go on the floor before us plebes with regular tickets, and these Special folks had laid down blankets and such to commandeer the front-most space.  The first roughly 20 feet from the front rail was taken up by these seated picnic basket types eating grapes — but what I was able to do, being a solo flyer, was weave my way between the patchwork floor tapestry and find some place to stand just a few feet from the front rail that wasn’t really on someone’s blanket.  If I’d been traveling even as a duo, this wouldn’t have been possible.  But since it was just skinny little smiling me, I was able to insinuate myself (to use Keith Moon’s phrase for joining his band) into the picnic basket crowd and immediately start talking to whoever was there … making you, by accepted conversation, one of them.



And following shortly behind me were the rest of the regular Pit ticket krewe, often in groups, who would get to the outer edge of the blanketed floor and stop there.  Once they stopped and stood, the people coming after them would stand behind them.  So right away there was this dividing line of packed-in standing people, and sitting down blanket people.  And I was sure on the right side of that divide — in front of stage right, at the right time.  By the time the band came out at 7:30 and blanket nation stood up, I was effectively 5th row center for opening night (!) . . . with tons of room to dance!


Once the show started, if someone tried to crash into where we comfortably and spaciously were, we knew they weren’t one of us (after our two hours of being there) and the improvised leaders in our improvised community would tell the interlopers to go back where they came from.

And another cool thing was — this was not a high stadium stage as used to be the design choice.  In fact my eyes were about exactly even with the floor of the stage — which, in cool thing #2, was not set very far back from the front audience rail.  Suddenly I was standing maybe 20–25 feet from the front line of musicians I’d flown to Chicago to see.

Except for the width of the stage, this could have been the Village Vanguard or Bottom Line.  I like to see the visual interaction between musicians in a band — especially one that’s good enough to improvise as they play entirely different shows and every song live (as this incarnation) for the first time.  I don’t know if I was hearing the stage amps or what, but I could look at any player and zone in on an iso audio of their lines.  It was the most fun, perfect thing I could imagine.  It felt like I was sitting on the stage — watching that freak of nature Phil Lesh conducting the orchestra with his six-string bass — the first ever played in rock n roll that I know of.  I remember thinking, “I could read the time on his watch if he’d just turn his wrist a bit.”


And there was the brother-like relationship between Phil and Trey.  They both came out of dressing rooms on audience left — the rest of the band audience right — with Bruce & Jeff in one room, and the Core Three in the other.

And on the first night there was obviously serious tension between Phil and Bobby — Phil just wailing away and having the time of his life, and Bobby scowling and with a sour face playing discordant chords as a way to voice his displeasure — a detached self-isolated sourpuss all night.  There was Trey and Phil signalling right past him, cueing the keyboard duo stage left, who would respond with popped eyebrow solos whenever stage right tossed them the look — including the memorable moment where Trey called an audible during Franklin’s Tower and gave Hornsby the solo for the last song of the night — a player who’d been way-ignored musically to this point — and for the first time we heard a Franklin’s that was piano-based and not guitar.  And everafter, Hornsby and Jeff became infinitely larger parts of the shows than they had been thus far.  In fact, this exchange during Franklin’s felt like the moment they really became a band.

Or seeing the playful bond between Mickey & Hornsby.  Or between Hornsby and his protege Jeff Chimenti (on Brent’s old B3) — who, not incidentally, is so much more coherent, grounded and versatile than the GD’s final keyboardist ever was.


Note the reflection of the audience in the shiny Steinway.

But mostly it was the ability to hear any instrument at any time.  And except for the keyboardists’ hands and Billy being somewhat hidden behind his kit, you could watch-to-hear whatever they were doing string-wise, vocally or percussively.

And the music was as complex and interesting as it gets — jazz soloing; polyrhythmic patterns you could follow any one of while two or three others played simultaneously; soulful vocals that literally brought tears to my eyes more than once; in-the-moment interactions as players were racing all over fretboards at breakneck speed but still locked into one another in a unified whole made of 7 very different parts.




One odd thing:
I’ve been in the audience for all the different band incarnations since Jerry died, and never do I remember really missing The Voice and The Tone and The Soul … until this version.  Maybe because those were all known to be new ensembles taking it furthur — and this was so much … The Grateful Dead.  Chicago was more of a reflective look back and celebration of where we’ve been than a progression into the future.  And although Trey carried the day and was as adept and well-studied and playful and energy-infusing and able-to-handle-it a guitarist as you could find, for the first time since hearing a re-birthed Dead post-’95, to these ears, there was very obviously someone missing.



But two things that were actually better than the Jerry days were Drums and Space.  Although Phil’s an even better player (and now a bandleader) than he was back then, the instrumentalists who have really taken their gig furthur were the drummers.  Particularly the first night in Santa Clara (where it clocked in at 22 minutes!) and the middle night in Chicago, Drums became a wildly expanded percussive exploration — and for the first time the audience was able to watch it via a robotic HD camera flying above The Beast, as well as roving handhelds surrounding them.  And Mickey, being a smidge more of a ham than the rest of the flannel & Birkenstocks band, played to the cameras at times like Jagger — but all in the service of punctuating the music.

And throughout the show it was interesting to see how often Mickey used wide-fanned brooms (thick stemmed brushes).  And just like the way the band started, Billy was totally The Beat, the rock n roll kit drummer who drove the engine, as opposed to much of their career when it was largely both of them.  Now Mickey’s not even on a kit, has no cymbals, stands the whole show, and works this array of toms with the versatility of a large orchestra’s drum section but with the passion of a Latin combo at Carnival.


And then Space — which was always performed on a pitch-black stage — was now filled with a subtle but illuminating white light — and especially from my 5th row center spot I was able to see how they worked the non-musical sounds as an ensemble — the three guitarists gronking out whale cries and wolf howls while the drums and keys kept a close eye and added their subtle fills in response.

By the end of that first night, I felt like I’d lived that quote, “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one well preserved piece, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out and shouting, ‘WOW!  What a ride!!'”



The middle night — July 4th — I was 11 rows off the floor with a view of the whole spectacle including the massive fireworks they set off not just that night but to open the second set of the final night as well.


The sound and mix in the stadium was as crystalline as it gets — once again the Dead pioneering live sound reinforcement — but instead of the Wall of Sound it was a Circle of Sound — as they employed true 360° surround-sound that added to the surreality of an already very altered space.

And the video screens!  Oh my!  There were the huge digi hi-def images of the players (on both sides and above the stage) but also a dancing fractal morphing rainbow visual show that was the colors and undulating images of a Grade A acid trip.  In fact, the visionary Candace Brightman came out of retirement to do the lights, and she incorporated the original Joshua Light Show era gel projections as part of her palette.  No matter where you were in the 70,000-person stadium you were hearing the show like you were wearing earbuds and seeing it in technicolor like you’re on 5 hits.  And frankly, these guys don’t get enough credit for discouraging drug use by creating acid trips without the acid!  … although, when you do put them together  . . . 



For the third and closing night, I figured my front-of-floor routine was a long-shot since everybody else would have figured it out by now — but I went for it anyway — and sure as shootin’ got right to the same 5th row-ish spot Dead center (!) and saw several of the same 1st show peeps  . . .  and once again  —>  
I was experiencing the Dead’s farewell in a small venue!!

And by this 5th show (and even by the 4th) the band had really gelled into a unified collective.  Whatever internal conflicts that were so obvious at the first Chicago show were happily gone, and the keyboard’s background-singer-status had been elevated to full participating players.  
Y’know — if these guys just stuck with it, they might get somewhere.

From this vantage point — the many-hours-long fond Farewell was beyond my fondest dreams.


And another funny thing — back in my run of a hundred-sumthin shows between 1980 and ’95, every time I saw them they played at least one song I’d never heard them Dew before.  But with this very limited 5-show Gratest hits retrospective finale there’s no way they’re gonna play anything you haven’t heard even once over the entire second half of their career … right?


The first night in Santa Clara, they played not one, not two … but five songs they hadn’t performed live since the ’60s (!);  the first Chicago had two;  the second Chicago had The Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion) which was actually the very first Grateful Dead song I ever liked (!) from when I bought their greatest hits “Skeletons From The Closet” album as a curious 14-year-old in 1975 — a “hit single” song they (naturally) never played live again after 1967!  And the final night I was absolutely floored on the floor by a 14-minute Mountains of The Moon (!) — that Middle Ages Canterbury Tales-meets-Lewis Carroll ballad written for harpsichord that they played famously on Playboy After Dark in 1969 and never since!


And all that’s not even getting into the scene!  which is what made this a Grateful Dead experience and not just a Phil & Friends / Ratdog / Whatever.  It always was about the natural mixing of the band and the audience that made Dead shows special, and there’s no band (or anything else) in history that created a friendly party on the scale of the Dead.  From every brief elevator encounter in a hotel miles from the venue to the stranger dancing next to you for 5 hours, we were all instant old friends, where a rightly timed smile could convey volumes of truths you’ve both internalized.

And this party went on for miles . . . from the front of the pit through every corridor and seat of this giant stadium;  from the grass hills outside to the Shakedown parking lots down the way;  from the underpasses with massive drum circles to Grant Park-facing Michigan Avenue that was unabashedly taken over for block after block after block;  from Hunter Thompson hotel rooms to the giant Buckingham Fountain in the park in front of The Congress … it was “strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand” all over town.


Around 2 AM outside the Hilton on Michigan Avenue.


And another beautiful thing was that the crowd was almost evenly split between those who’d experienced the Jerry Dead and those who’d missed it but who’d somehow internalized and manifested everything that journey was about.  And both were an equal joy to share it with — the veterans who knew the score and how to run it up, and “the kids” who were clearly having the time of their lives and gushing with a Christmas morning orgy of rapture.



If Phish was once a cousin band to the Dead, the two became siblings this weekend.  Deadheads gained respect for the very respectful Trey, and Phishheads I talked to had studied the entire Dead repertoire in the months since the announcement.  Every player on that stage will continue making live music, and this was just a roundabout in the road that will slingshot each of them into some reinvigorated orbit backed by generations of new listeners.

And how interesting they chose to not include a single “guest star” after being the biggest (by number of members) band inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame, and probably had more people sit in with them than any other band in history — and certainly any that sold out stadiums!  But the Farewell didn’t need gimmicks or distractions.  It was just some cats playing music — complex “electric bluegrass,” as Crosby calls it — with nary a hit song to their name — but who ended up breaking the all-time TicketMonster record for one event, as well as the most people to watch an online or music-based pay-per-view event in history, while setting a new attendance record at Soldier Field … then breaking it each consecutive night!

And all this while being the most overtly unprofessional act in show business!  They start their concerts with the Bang of tuning up for two minutes.  The few quasi-hits they have – they almost never play in concert.  They wear what appear to be rumpled Goodwill clothes on stage.  They never say so much as “Hello” to the audience all night — until Phil comes out after it’s over and asks for your organs.  They flub lyrics and cues all over the place … and laugh about it.  They take one hour intermissions … and the audience doesn’t blink an eye … about that or anything else — because the music and the high and the vibe and the energy is So Overwhelmingly Positive and Powerful.

And the other thing — this was all one-take stuff.  Other than their anthemic Truckin’ that they played once in each city, and Cumberland Blues, which they did once solo Bob, and once group vocal, there were 80-something different songs played once and one time only.  Everything one take — just like rock n roll was invented.

This sure has been a long strange trip — and this was one helluvan encore!






You might also enjoy the time I met Phil Lesh about two weeks before these shows.

Or here’s when — The Grateful Dead Played My 30th Birthday.

Or here’s a Grate review of Furthur playing Madison Square Garden a few years ago.

Or there’s this excerpt from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac about going to a show at Red Rocks in 1982.

And you can buy a copy of the book here (in the U.S.) or here (in Canada) or here (in the U.K.)

Or here’s The Highest Peaks from RockPeaks — the live music video site I wrote for for years.

Or here’s the feature story on Festival Express that appeared in Relix.


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by Brian Hassett


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The Phil Lesh Story

June 24th, 2015 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Music, Real-life Adventure Tales

Getting My Phil at The Crossroads



It’s the Father’s Day weekend, 2015, and my bassist bud Al Robinson tipped me that had its countdown clock to the next Phil show indicating Sunday night.  That was the only lead I had.

I was out in the Bay Area where, a few years ago, Phil bought a nice large restaurant and performance space in San Rafael, calling it Terrapin Crossroads.  Conferring with my local live music confrère Adrienna, we were able to put the two-and-two together of his son’s band, Midnight North, and their Father’s Day booking at his father’s club, and guesstimated that was the spot.

At the time, I was staying down the coast in the Capitola / Santa Cruz area with the Cassadys, but wanted to do a few days in Marin, so it seemed like Father’s Day was the perfect time to transition from Adventures South, to Adventures North.

I stopped in at John Cassady’s in San Jose on the way up, left there about 5:30, and made it to Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael in an hour and 15 minutes. (!) “You could have been waiting in the line for the [Golden Gate] bridge for an hour and fifteen minutes!” locals later told me, in near disbelief at my Cassady-like road time.



Terrapin Crossroads (TXR for short), is a very large multi-room family-style seafood-leaning restaurant right on the water of the San Rafael harbor, and just a couple blocks from the band’s legendary office / rehearsal space on Front St.  It has a separate “Grate Room” for larger shows, but every night (and often daytimes too) bands play on a small, low stage in the main restaurant / bar room.

This being 7PM on a Father’s Day Sunday there was a long line of people waiting to get in.  Having never been here before, I thought they were in line for the Phil concert, and I’m like, “Is this the ticketholders line?”  To which I got strange responses, cuz, see, there are no tickets … it’s a restaurant, you tourist.

The dining tables were all full, but right in front of the tiny stage were a few high bar tables and chairs, and one of them was empty, except for a guy named Cliff.  And if you’ve read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” you know that’s a sacred name, a guiding light, in my AdventureLife.  Soon weir joined by a guy named Jeff, with this table looking right onto the stage.  I asked these regulars if they think Phil is going to play tonight, and they point out there’s no big bass rig on the little stage, so they doubt it.  “But you never know.  We could be sitting here and Phil could come walking right through that door.”

And not three minutes after he says this — it happens!

Here comes Phil, with his wife Jill — and they go sit in a large open unused area up a couple steps behind the stage.

I’m kinda freakin out.  There he is.  The Man himself.  Just a regular dude in a restaurant.  About 30 feet away from me.

I’ve already told Cliff & Jeff about my book and how I’d love to talk to Phil and maybe give him a copy.

And pretty much right away, Jill leaves the table they’ve encamped at, and as he’s just sitting there, Cliff says to me, “This is probably a good time to go talk to him.  He’s all alone.  It’s only going to be busier later.”

Five minutes earlier it looked like a long-shot he would be here, and now, with no prep or no liquid courage to speak of yet, I was suddenly “on.”  It was showtime.

Luckily, blessedly, perfectly — a lightning bolt across the skull hit me — a-ha — what I could tell him — how I could start talking to him . . . I had an angle from an angel . . .

With Coach Cliff pushing me into the deep end, I grabbed a copy of the book and jumped off the diving board into sumthin I couldn’t turn back from.

He was sitting with his back to the far wall, facing into this large unused extra room, and could see me coming from the moment I crossed the threshold.  I just went for it.  Cliff was right.  It was early, things were quiet, and this was the best shot in what might become a long, long, crazy, crazy night.

“Hey, Phil.”

“Yes,” he looks at me, not unfriendly.

“I have a story for ya . . . ” I said with a Prankster twinkle, as I dropped down comfortably in a chair facing him.  “I just wrote this book about the ’82 Kerouac conference in Boulder where you guys played Red Rocks as part of it, and I actually go into the connection between the band and the Beats more than any other book ever, including Dennis’s or anybody’s,” and I’ve definitely got his eyebrow-arched attention.

“I’m friends with the Cassadys, and was hanging out with Neal & Carolyn’s son John a couple days ago — ‘Neal’s kid’ as you guys called him,” I said, pointing to him and smiling, and he’s nodding yes yes, totally with me.  “And … did you know that the very last question Jerry was ever asked on film … was about Neal?”  And he makes this “Wow! I didn’t know that!” face.

“John didn’t know either, so I read him — rather dramatically — the answer Jerry gave about his Dad, and it was so moving, John actually got choked up and started almost crying.  It was unreal.”

Here’s the part I read to John —

In fact, the very last question in the very last interview Garcia ever gave on camera (to the Silicon Valley Historical Association), was about Neal Cassady. “I got to be good friends with him.  He was one of those guys that truly was a very special person.  In my life, psychedelics and Neal Cassady are almost equal in terms of influence on me.

Neal was his own art.  He wasn’t a musician, he was a ‘Neal Cassady.’  He was a set of one.  And he was it.  He was the whole thing — top, bottom, beginning, end, everything.  And people knew it.  And people would be drawn to it.  He was an unbelievable human being — the energy that he had, and the vocabulary he had of gestures and expressions — oh boy he was funny.  Phew!  I really loved him.” … were the last words Jerry Garcia ever said on camera.


And John was sitting there shaking with emotion and trying not to totally lose it in front of his friend.

“And then, a while later,” I keep tellin Phil, “Something reminded me of what you wrote in your ‘Searching For The Sound’ which I quoted in my book — you wrote so passionately about Neal — it was so beautiful — so I read John that part — and this time, John started crying almost from the moment I began reading, and so much so, that I started getting choked up … ”

Phil devoted much ink in his memoir to this milestone moment in his life [Neal’s death], including, “It hardly seemed credible that a life force like his, so generously endowed with the rhythm of motion through time, could be smothered and shut down at such an early age. . . . Neal’s death had hit me harder than I knew; I’d been obsessing on the loss of one of the most inspiring people I’d ever known personally. . . . I vowed to myself that in the future I would live up to Neal’s inspirational example.”


“… and I could barely finish reading it … and the next thing I know we’re in each other’s arms hugging and shaking and crying together.”

“Wow!  That’s . . . beautiful!” he says, laser-beaming me in the eye.  “Thanks for sharing that with me.”

“I just thought you should know. … You wrote so passionately about Neal … I thought Johnny should hear it,” and we both looked into each other’s eyes in a prolonged moment of respect and reflection.

And with that, I gave him a copy of the book, and said Thanks for making the connection to history like he did, and left him to his privacy, as I walked back out of that room, eyes bulging out of my head that this just happened!


Back at the high bar tables in front of the stage, where we had a direct view straight into this wall-less room where I’d just talked to him and the guys had been watching me, I was freaking out.  I bought a round for the table in gratitude for their coaching, and I felt like my life was now complete.  I’d finally written a book about how the Grateful Dead connect to the Beat writers … and had passed on copies to both the Cassady family and the main guy in the Dead.


And as we sat there, eventually I realized, “Geez, I prolly shoulda gotten a picture with him.”  And ol’ Cliff says, “Well, he’s still just sitting there.  I could take it for you if you wanted.”  And I looked over at Phil, but he seemed all immersed in something, and I didn’t want to disturb him asking a dumb favor.  But after a few more moments of reflection and sips of frosty liquid courage, I figured I better do it now — again, while it’s early, pre-show, quiet.  So I said Yeah to ol’ Cliff, “Let’s do it.”

And as we walked up the couple steps into the extra room where Phil’s the only person there, I see he’s bent over reading something … and I’m like, “No! . . . there’s no way . . . ”  And sure as shit — Phil is sitting there reading my book!  I couldn’t believe it!

It certainly made it easy for me to ask, “Hey Phil, can I get a picture with you?”

And he looks up with the biggest smile on his face!  “Yeah, sure!” he says with genuine enthusiasm!

And he jumps up for us to do it, then goes, “Wait,” and reaches back to the table and grabs the book and holds it up front and center!


Couldn’t believe it!


And then the night rolls out, and his son’s band plays their first set — a mandolin–electric–guitar bluegrass–rock amalgam with Grate 4-part harmonies — and luckily for all, as a vocalist, the son did fall far from the tree — as Pops comes and sits right behind us for the set.


Generally speaking — I’m thinking — “This must be heaven; tonight I crossed the line …”

I’m just a beaming Brian, floating on the golden road at the end of the rainbow, with a stage-side seat to some fantabulous music, surrounded by new friends, and a photo with Phil on my camera!

And then during the set break, Jill and some other people come and join Phil at their kinda private table in their kinda private room, basically right in front of our field of vision, and I’m sorta keeping an eye on him every few minutes.  And then I notice, he’s not talking to the other people at the table.  He’s sitting there, looking into his lap.

“No! . . . no way . . . don’t even think it … ” . . . but I do.  And I get up and go to where I can get a clear view of his lap . . . and sure-a-gawd-damned nuff . . . on Father’s Day, with his son’s band in the house . . . on a non-work night out with his wife and their friends . . . he’s sitting there at their table … reading my book!


And then more crazy shit goes down, there may have been some jazz cigarettes involved, and another set of smokin’ bluegrass–rock-n-roll, and another round of — get this — Prankster beer!!



And we’re talkin at the table about all sorts of stuff including my book, and this other author named Sandy Troy is there, and Merry Prankster Adrienna, and dancin’ cowboy Harri, and it’s a very High Time with some very hardcore cool Marin County cats, and at some point the jam rolls around to one of the photos on the back cover …

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from Halloween night, 1980, right after the final Radio City Dead show — and how I only asked to have the picture taken because I’d just found Molson Canadian in a deli for the first time since moving to America a month earlier!

And … I’m actually wearing a Phil Lesh button in the photo!

Brian-on-Howloween - Version 2


And then I realize — Shit, I should tell Phil this.  He’ll never be able to see that that’s him on the button.  So, sure as heck, being well-primed with some well-placed Prankster beer, I decide to go over one more time — which, y’know, is verging on being a pest.  But when I walk up to his now full multiple tables of friends, he looks up, and as joyously as could be, goes, “Oh, hi Brian!”  And this is a guy who back in the day had a reputation for sometimes being a little less than friendly to people.  But he was just as nice and open and into-it as a person could be.

So I go on one knee beside him with the book on his lap and point to the picture and start to tell him the story about Halloween Radio City, and he goes, “What year was that?”  Kinda blew my mind that he played this historic run at Radio City Music Hall, made two double-albums and one movie from it … and doesn’t have a clue what year it was!

Anyway, I tell him the funny story about why I had this picture taken and the only reason it exists — because this Canadian was just so jazzed he could get beer from the homeland in New York City — and Phil, being an old Heineken man himself, obviously appreciated a good beer story, and as soon as I told him, he popped his head back and let out a huge laugh, and totally got it.

Not only was I not being a pest, but he completely dug why I was telling him this vitally important background.

And then a few days later — while in the middle of another Beat conference — I joined him and 75,000 others at Levi’s Stadium, as this beer-and-book-worm played his band’s Farewell to California . . . including their song about Cowboy Neal at the wheel of the bus to Never-Ever Land.

Because that’s when it all began.




For more GD fun — here’s the Grateful Dead in Chicago story.

Or here’s when The Grateful Dead Played My 30th Birthday.

Or here’s an excerpt from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” about the GD at Red Rocks.

Or here’s a ton of other people’s reactions besides Phil Lesh.

Or here’s a whole nuther round of rave reactions from around the world.

And here’s where you can get the book in the U.S.

. . . or in Canada

. . . or the U.K.

Or here’s a bunch of performance videos of various excerpts with numerous different line-ups.

Or here’s a great radio interview where I go into a whole bunch of Grateful Dead, the Beats and other stories and ideas.

Or here’s a joyous riffin’ print interview that explores the meaning of “Beat” and how it impacted culture at large and is part of our world today.

And for Facebookers — there’s a photo album of the whole “trip” here.



by Brian Hassett


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