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Bernie Sanders’ campaign climax in New Hampshire

March 24th, 2020 · Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales

Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy excerpt

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Following the climactic election eve rally of the 2020 New Hampshire primary with Bernie Sanders at a hockey arena  . . . 

The most extraordinary thing happened when it was over.  As the thousands of kids streamed out of the arena, right next to it was a big outdoor skating pond, and in the joy of the frozen midnight moment in New Hampshire, students began climbing over the fence and figure skating on it without skates.

Here were the children of the euphoric night, inspired by a politician to dance the light fandango, waving blue Bernie signs as their batons — running and sliding, cheering and laughing, pirouetting in moonlight, and celebrating their first brush with democracy.

Bernie’s rock star rally had flashed me back to Gary Hart and 1984 — but this was taking me all the way back to my childhood in Winnipeg and going for skates in the early darkness of winter nights on a pond full of happy people in a tranquil town reveling in the simple pleasures of frozen water.

Snowbanks surrounded the ice, everyone’s breath was visible in the misty night, cheeks were turning rosy, and strangers were hugging strangers in a land where they let the children hug.  Democracy had played out for the last week in New Hampshire, and now voters were out playing in the last hours before tomorrow’s voting.

I’m the guy who spots a cool assemblage of friends and wrangles everyone together to get a group photo, but I didn’t know anyone here, and everyone was spread out all over the ice.

And then the next amazing thing happened.

You know those sprawling group photos taken at center ice when an NHL team wins the Stanley Cup?  And you know who Wayne Gretzky is?  Did you know he invented those?

It was when he won his last Cup with the Oilers in 1988 at a game in their Edmonton home town — their fourth in five years. After the players had skated around the rink hoisting the Cup above their adrenaline heads, Captain Gretzky grabbed it back and suddenly started waving the players to center ice to take a group shot with the authentic sweat and victory joy still fresh on all their faces.  First it was just the core players, but more and more trainers & coaches & managers and all the people who made the team work came running from the sidelines sliding into the group.

Well, that very scene played out on the frozen pond with this team celebrating the Sanders Cup on home ice.  First, about a dozen friends gathered for a group shot, and I ran over in the role of photographer to capture their collective joy, including because there wasn’t a single member of press present.  I was it.

And as I snapped at their hooting faces, more people saw what was happened and came shushing across the ice and sliding into them like a cartoon of calamity.  I had to keep backing up to get their ever-expanding team in the frame, and more student photographers with phones joined my press pool.  All that was missing was a big silver Cup in the middle.

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From first catching Deval Patrick in a small dark basement room in a library, the New Hampshire primary built to a massive open-air love-in of screaming joy.  This was democracy in action in real time in America.  From old folks gathering in a gym on a Tuesday afternoon to hear Joe Biden to thousands of college kids filling an arena and spontaneously creating their own escapades of Ice Capades, participation in the political process is healthy and thriving.  It’s not any one group or one voice, but a collective of choirs singing songs of joy and progress, of innocence and experience — and forever Going Furthur.

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Here’s some more Adventures like this with even more of a Kerouac feel — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Here’s another excerpt from the upcoming poli book Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy.

Here’s some Adventures from the last time a Democrat was inaugurated as President.

You can hear a recent interview with Democrats Abroad about some of the New Hampshire Adventures here.

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by Brian Hassett  —  karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there — https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy

February 29th, 2020 · Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales

FRIDAY NIGHT DEBATE NIGHT

Friday February 7th was the big nationally televised Democratic debate from Manchester.  I tried every angle to get tickets, but even longtime plugged-in politicos told me they were shut out.  Made me feel a smidge better.

The obvious thing was to go to the DoubleTree Hotel in Manchester.

Manchester’s the main city in New Hampshire — population all of 110,000 — has only one main hotel downtown.  It used to be a very cool Radisson, but Hilton took it over in 2018 and frankly it’s nowhere near as good as it was during my last primary there in 2004 when there was a massive bar with an overlooking restaurant, and it was a helluva scene.  Now it’s all different.

As I walked into the lobby to head to the bar, I noticed a long line going in the other direction.  “What’s this?”

“It’s a live taping of the Chris Hayes show.  It’s the debate-watch, then you have to stay to be in the studio audience until 1.”

“Do they serve beer?”

Awkward pause.  “I don’t think so.”

So I went and checked the lobby bar — and it was so small I had to ask if it was the only one.  The old Radisson had this great bar lined with TVs with all the different news networks on them, plus a big open restaurant space.  All of that was gone and replaced by this small airport lounge type joint in the lobby with two TVs behind the bar … showing sports in the middle of the primary!

This wasn’t right.  So I went back over to the Chris Hayes line, and found out everybody had to be registered in advance to be in the studio audience, but I went and talked to the organizers and pitched the idea of filling in for somebody didn’t show up, and they let me stand over on the side until the line when through the metal detectors and into the hall — and sure as heck they let me in!

I had no idea what to expect, but they had a free fancy coffee station and were bringing out nonstop boxes of pizza so it seemed to be off to a good start.  Apparently in the complete architectural overhaul of the hotel, they built a massive open exhibition space about an acre in size attached to the hotel that NBC had rented and turned into their “New Hampshire Election Headquarters,” broadcasting almost all their MSNBC shows from different studios built throughout it.

Going in, they’d given New Hampshire residents wristbands, and had them all sit in the middle section in front of the Chris Hayes set, so for the post-debate live show he could walk among them to get local undecided voters’ reactions to the debate.  (Amy won.)

The two-hour ABC debate was shown on a cube of giant 10′-x-20′ hi-def screens in the center of the massive room, while the All In production crew did different camera blockings and chair markings for the various segments that were all gonna go down live as soon as the debate ended.  Hanging around the perimeter were a bunch of politicos who would end up taking an on-air chair later — Michael Moore, Howard Fineman, Jonathan Alter, Lawrence O’Donnell, Joy Reid, David Corn and others.

The debate itself was the last of the civil exchanges before the gloves came off in Nevada and South Carolina in the coming weeks.  It was also the last one with ol’ Andrew Yang, and the last without Michael Bloomberg.  Newly crowned co-frontrunner Bernie Sanders finally started to take some direct challenges on a debate stage, including about what trump was gonna do with Bernie’s self-attached label of “socialist” and his history of voting against the Brady Bill and other gun legislation.  Like the experienced politician his base pretends he’s not, he deflected & pivoted with the best of them.  His co-winner out of Iowa, Pete Buttigieg, the young “debate team captain” as I like to call him, and the one who can compose complete and complex sentences on the fly better than anyone on the stage, also took lots of incoming, including from Amy Klobuchar about how he said the impeachment hearings were exhausting and how he’s rather turn the channel and “watch cartoons instead” — an unfortunate comment from someone who looks not far removed from cartoon watching age.

After his disappointing fourth-place finish in Iowa, Biden picked up his game and was more forceful and articulate than he’d been heretofore.  “We should pin a medal on Colonel Vindman not Rush Limbaugh,” he said with fire in his eyes, speaking to both the moment and the room, to great applause.

My Girl Liz has just never caught on and didn’t win many converts in this debate.  Particularly Liz, but really all these candidates, do better in the hour-long town halls that CNN and others occasionally host.  Although she’d distinguish herself by coming out swinging in the debates that followed, her attempt at being “the unity candidate” didn’t seem to be uniting voters behind her.

I don’t know what Tom Steyer’s doing on the stage.  I understand his ad buys juiced his polling numbers in a couple states allowing him to qualify, but over the last year talking politics with thousands of people I’ve never come across a single Steyer supporter.  And poor ol’ Andrew Yang.  It felt like it watching, but got confirmed afterwards — both Bernie & Biden had the mic for roughly 20 minutes each, and Andrew Yang spoke for 8.  He’s a nice, smart, funny, altruistic, forward-thinking guy — but that and a dollar will get him on the subway.

Which all brings us to Amy Klobuchar who seemed to be the consensus pick for winner of the debate.  She would be rewarded a few days later by a strong third-place finish in New Hampshire and become a poster child for how debates can change momentum.  The first thing I noticed — I know it’s absurdly superficial, but — her hair looked great!  I even mentioned it to the woman sitting next to me, about how it oval-arc around her face looked like Jennifer Aniston on Friends, and the woman about Amy’s age next to me heartily agreed.  She had a funny line about how “59 is the new 38” to Mayor Pete, and managed to get in that she had been endorsed by the three biggest newspapers in New Hampshire, to go along with the the New York Times dual endorsement of both her and Warren.  And the escalating poetry of her closing statement about empathy brought down the house — the combination of all of which is part of what spiked her up into the top tier of candidates.

As soon as the debate wrapped, the EMT-like production team leapt into action.  The woman director patrolled the perimeter of the giant studio with a headset directing the action.  Her second in command physically directed camera movements with his long arms as a visual to her audio directives, as well as clapped and cued the audience of around 200 when needed.  Chris was center stage reading the intros and outros from the teleprompter but otherwise improvising.  This is his game, his life.  He could riff this stuff till tomorrow and not run out of ideas.

At the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016
Photo by Jeremy Hogan

In the first segment, he wandered out into the New Hampshire wristband-wearing part of studio audience.  I saw a seat chart on somebody’s clipboard with certain aisle seats highlighted — I guess people they’d assessed were articulate and camera-friendly.  “Who do you think won the debate and why?” was the go-to question — and “Amy” seemed the come-back answer.

They did remote interviews with both Amy and Liz that looked like every other cross-country satellite interview — except the two rooms were only two miles apart in tiny Manchester.

The first post-debate panel was the first-line all-stars to open the show — Chris Matthews, Joy Reid, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Alicia Menendez for the Latino perspective.  And then there was another one with David Corn and a couple others it’s driving me nuts that I can’t remember their names.  And then Michael Moore came out for a fun one-on-one with Chris to close the show.

To be completely confessional I didn’t take notes on what they were saying because 1) — It wouldn’t look proper as a studio audience member to be sitting there taking notes like a reporter.  They told us “no photo taking during the taping” — that we were part of the show.  This isn’t a rally in a gymnasium — we’re on-camera extras in a live-broadcast movie.  I can respect that.  And 2) — I figured the whole show (like the debate itself) would be posted to YouTube or the NBC site or something, so this would be one part of The Epic Adventure I could relive later and not have to be committing to memory as it happened.  But I was wrong.  The one gig I thought would be preserved in hi-def in perpetuity doesn’t even have notes on paper to show for itself.

After the live show, the audience mostly left, but of course I hung and jammed with the band.  Ol’ Michael Moore was hangin’ around and we started talking about growing up in the Midwest and how that’s so different from the coasts.  And about Canadian healthcare and that Bernie was right to be saying we can do it right 50 miles from his house.  Oh and I told him with a laugh about how I loved that scene in his Sicko movie going to the teller’s booth in the hospital in England but how they were actually paying him money.  He’s a great storyteller.  And he’s on our side.  And that’s a good thing.

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And then there was the whole post-debate hang in the airport lounge bar in the DoubleTree lobby.  This was the jam.

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Here’s some Adventures from Obama’s first Inauguration.

Here’s what it was like being at the big election party in New York City on Obama’s first election night.

Here’s a Bernie Sanders Rally Adventure from Bloomington Indiana in 2016.

Here’s how I first got into politics — at a Gary Hart rally in NYC in 1984.

Here’s the crazy Republican convention Adventure in Cleveland in 2016.

 

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by Brian Hassett  —  karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there — https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Brian Hassett – Adventures in Print

January 26th, 2020 · Kerouac and The Beats, Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me

40 YEARS IN PRINT

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A CHRONOLOGY OF THE PUBLISHED REAL-LIFE ADVENTURE TALES

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1980 – April — John Anderson in San Diego – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 1980–1984 chapter –  pp: xx–xx

1980 – June — First Grateful Dead show – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac – ch. 14;  pp: 156–159

1980 – October — Presidential debate – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 1980–1984 chapter;  pp: xx–xx

1982 – June–August — Kerouac Super-Summit in Boulder & Kesey farm visit – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

1984 – March — Gary Hart rally – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 1980–1984 chapter

1987 – April–November 1988 — “Political Parties” – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 1988 chapter

1992 – March — The Tsongas campaign – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – multiple 1992 chapters

1993 – January — Clinton’s Inauguration – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 1992 chapter

1994 – May — The NYU Beat Conference – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 1996 chapter – pp: xx – xx

1994 – May — First bonding with Carolyn Cassady – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac – ch. 21; pp: 227-228

1994 – August — Woodstock 25th Anniversary Concert – Holy Cats! Dream Catching at Woodstock

1995–1996 — Life as a Temp in Manhattan – The Temp Survival Guide

1996 – April–November — The Clinton re-election – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 1996 chapter

1999 – “Be The Invincible Spirit You Are” – Beat shows in NYC – How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch. 14

2000 – November–December – the Gore–Bush election – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 2000 chapter

2001 – April — On The Road 50th anniversary of Jack writing it – shows in New York and L.A. – On The Road with Cassadys – ch. 1 & 2

2001 – May — On The Road scroll auction – On The Road with Cassadys – ch. 3

2001 – July — Big Sur reading in Northport – On The Road with Cassadys – ch. 4

2001 – September — 9/11 in New York – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – Dessert chapters

2001 – October — The John Lennon tribute at Radio City – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – Dessert chapter

2004 – February — Al Franken, Howard Dean & the New Hampshire primary – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy ­– 2004 chapter

2008 – February–October — The 2008 campaign – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 2008 chapter

2008 – November — Election Night in NYC – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 2008 chapter

2009 – January — Obama’s Inauguration – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 2008 chapter

2012 – June — Living with Carolyn Cassady in England – On The Road with Cassadys – ch. 9

2012 – June–August — Haiku for Carolyn – On The Road with Cassadys – ch. 10

2012 – August — On The Road premiere in London – How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch. 6

2012 – September — On The Road premiere in Toronto – How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch. 7

2012 – November — John Cassady / Walter Salles Road trips in Bloomington, Columbus & Cleveland – On The Road with Cassadys – ch. 5

2012 – December — On The Road premiere in New York – How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch. 8

2014 – August — “Woodstock with The Pranksters” – How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch. 9

2015 – May — “Pranksters in Wonderland” – How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch. 10

2015 – June — Meeting Phil Lesh – How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch. 4

2015 – June — The Beat Shindig at The Beat Museum in San Francisco – How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch. 3

2016 – May — Bernie Sanders in Bloomington – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 2016 chapter

2016 – July — Republican Convention in Cleveland – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 2016 chapters

2016 – October — Lowell Celebrates Kerouac – How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch. 2

2016 – November — Election Night in New York – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 2016 chapter

2017 – May — Reconnected with original Prankster George Walker & started doing shows together – How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch. 11

2018 — Published On The Road with Cassadys and did a buncha shows

2019 — Published Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock ’94 and created Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy and did a buncha shows

2020 – February — New Hampshire Democratic primary – Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – 2020 chapter

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The Temp Survival Guide — published December 1, 1996

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 published April 13, 2015

How The Beats Begat The Pranksters & Other Adventure Tales — published September 26, 2017

On The Road with Cassadys & Furthur Visions — completing The Beat Trilogy – published September 5, 2018

Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock – published May 6, 2019

Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy — completing the 5 Books in 5 Years Mission – to be published late February 2020

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by Brian Hassett  —  karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there — https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Kerouac in Provincetown

December 4th, 2019 · Kerouac and The Beats

Photo courtesy of the Hazel Hawthorne Estate
Uncovered by Inka Leisma
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How History Could Have Been Different

Kerouac’s and Otherwise

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It was a quiet day in Facelandia when my Beat / Deadhead friend Steve Silberman posted:

“Social media is amazing sometimes. In response to my posting a Cape Cod Times article about Kerouac’s time there, a woman posted a previously unseen photo of Kerouac working at his dune shack in Provincetown in 1950.”

Ka’Boom!!

A few of his friends, mostly the Ginsberg side of the family, “liked” it, but besides myself, the one other person whose jaw hit the floor was my fellow investigator at the Beat Detective Agency, Jerry Cimino, who in his spare time is also the founder/curator/owner of The Beat Museum in San Francisco.

It was all a wild harmonic refrain of when some unseen Bill Cannastra photos surfaced earlier this year.  Cannastra was the guy who had the loft in New York where Kerouac met his wife Joan Haverty and where he found the scroll paper he used to write On The Road and change history.  Same year — 1950.  Same medium — old black-&-white family photographs that had never been seen outside of the shoebox in the attic.  And for the second time in a year, the same detective and I started shooting fabulous roman candles out of the top of our heads!

The first time, we set out separately to track down the source of the Cannastra shots, and comically, both found Bill’s last living relative within a few hours of each other, and thus began an incredible series of discoveries & stories that resulted in this revealing Cannastra piece that everybody should read if you haven’t

So now . . . Brian scampers down the 1950 black-&-white photo rabbit hole of history once again!  I tracked down the family member who posted the Jack dunes shot, and thus began a series of discoveries about Kerouac’s life that nobody knew . . . to go along with the photo nobody’d seen!

This is the only photograph known to exist of Jack Kerouac actually writing at a typewriter.

He posed sitting next to one a few times, most notably for several shots in his Orlando house in January 1958 by Fred DeWitt on assignment for a February 24th Time Magazine piece shortly after his On The Road fame hit and just before he moved up to Northport for the first time.  In those photos, he’s wearing his nice flannel dress shirt and his hair’s immaculately combed, and in one of them he’s holding over the typewriter what is likely the Dharma Bums scroll that he’d just written there in November/December.  You can see all of them here.

Shortly after Jack had written the introduction to Robert Frank’s landmark book of photographs, The Americans (published January 1959), Playboy commissioned Kerouac to write “The Origins of The Beat Generation” for their June ’59 issue, and they hired Robert to go take pictures at Jack’s house at 34 Gilbert Street in Northport where he had moved in May of ’58 — and which Robert knew well, because it was he who drove Jack out house hunting for it in March (along with Joyce Glassman before she became a Johnson).  Jack’s wearing his same prized flannel “dress shirt” he did for the Time Magazine shoot the year before, and had his hair all combed nice as his old road buddy Robert took a bunch of shots, including Jack sitting at his desk pretending to write in one of his breast-pocket notebooks he’d use on the road.  In one of the photos — probably the best one — Frank shoots into a mirror while Jack is staring intently at a page in his typewriter.  Great typewriter shot! — but this was an afternoon when the writer’s friend was coming over for a prearranged photo shoot for Playboy magazine (of all things) — not an artist in the middle of creation.  You can see the mirror shot and others at the Playboy issue link here.

Similarly, in late March or early April ’64, noted author photographer Jerry Bauer went to Kerouac’s house at 7 Judy Ann Court in Northport and took over a hundred shots of the happy homebody in all manner of poses — holding his cat, lying in his backyard hammock above the melting spring snow, going through his filing cabinets, holding his unfurled Dharma Bums scroll — and yes, sitting at his typewriter.  Interesting to think that the buttoned-down man in Bauer’s photo below is who Neal Cassady picked up just a couple months later, on July 25th, and drove him into Manhattan to meet Ken Kesey and his psychedelic Merry Pranksters for the historic acid-fueled party at Madison & 89th Street — the last time Jack & Neal would ever be together.

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^ ^ THAT’S THE GUY ^ ^ NEAL DROVE IN TO MEET KESEY . . .
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From black & white to full-color crazy . . .

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There were also some shots by photographer Fred McDarrah taken in he & his wife Gloria’s Greenwich Village apartment on Dec 10th, 1959, in a room with Fred, Gloria, Jack, Lew Welch & Albert Saijo, just after they’d arrived in New York from a cross-country Road trip in Lew’s Jeep.  They all sat around drinking and calling out lines to a poem that Gloria would type on an old Underwood.  McDarrah took a shot of Jack sitting at the typewriter reading what Gloria had typed.

I’ve heard suggestions there was another more dynamic shot of Jack at the typewriter that night, but son Tim McDarrah, who spent the last ten years cataloguing all his late father’s photos, tells me nothing like that exists.  And Gloria S. McDarrah who was there doing the typing, let me know — “There aren’t any photos of Jack typing that night as he didn’t type anything.  Yes, at one point I went to the bathroom and he sat behind Fred’s typewriter and looked at what he had dictated to me.  And he may have erased something, or pointed out a mistake or two to me.  But he didn’t type.  He drank beer and smoked cigarettes and laughed and gossiped with Lew and Al about their trip.  No typing.

“I don’t think he (Jack) enjoyed being photographed all that much.  He eventually told Fred to stop with the photos.  He was polite and in a good mood, but felt Fred had taken enough.”

You can see pretty much all the Fred McDarrah photos of Kerouac here.

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And honorable mention should go to the 1959 album cover shot for Blues and Haikus (featuring Al Cohn & Zoot Sims) taken by renown jazz album cover designer Burt Goldblatt, in NYC in the summer of ’59.  Although it looks like a candid home snapshot of him sitting there writing by a windowsill, it was actually another professional photo shoot — and based on a couple other shots from the same roll, it seems like maybe it was taken in the photograph’s home apartment.  There’s a lot of background on Burt Goldblatt in his comprehensive obit in the New York Times.

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But in the newly uncovered spontaneous dune photograph — my first question was “I wonder what he was writing?”

Well — good news!  We know!

When the Cape Cod National Seashore (the National Park Service) wanted to tear down the shacks in the early 1960s, Jack actually wrote a letter to Hazel, who was one of the people leading the preservation movement, adding his famous weight to their cause, confirming to her in writing, “I was working on On The Road there, summer of 1950, and also on poems and articles.”

Hazel Hawthorne’s retyped copy of Jack’s letter
courtesy of the Hazel Hawthorne Estate

Since Jack didn’t start actually writing “articles” until after On The Road came out in ’57, and he wrote his poems by hand in pencil, that makes this not only the only shot in existence of Jack Kerouac actually writing on his instrument — but by his own declaration, he’s working on his most famous creation.  Granted, it’s not in the 454 West 20th Street apartment where he wrote the definitive scroll version in April 1951 — but it is Jack, and it is On The Road.

And just for fun — here’s a fantasy image from the 1980 movie Heart Beat of their version of that historic scroll creation scene —

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In August of 1949 Jack & Memere moved out of the famous second floor corner apartment on Cross Bay Boulevard in Ozone Park (now a designated landmark) into a full standalone house at 94-21 134th Street, in Richmond Hill, where they would live until 1955.  It was here, on July 26th, 1950 — freshly back from Mexico, Denver & The Road — that Jack would begin his Gone On The Road notebook, and in August turn it into a manuscript of the same name — one of his many pre-scroll attempts at capturing the “Road” and Neal Cassady.  This latter manuscript would later find form as a core of Visions of Cody (published after his death), which is where the words he was actually typing on that shack deck in the dunes may have finally ended up.  But they were all of a piece — they were different versions of On The Road in his mind and as he stated in the letter.

Next to Jack on the improvised writing desk is a big worn-out book.  No one knows what it is for sure, but it may be something younger readers and writers have never seen — a dictionary.  In a world before “spell check,” this is what authors had next to them as they wrote to look up definitions, variations and spellings.  Since his hostess Hazel was an author herself, it’s more than likely there were multiple weathered dictionaries in her multiple weathered shacks.

The first discovery of the photograph

One of the many things I love about this story is — it all began with the power of art — How one’s life can be changed forever by reading a book or seeing a movie or going to a concert.  In this case, it was a Finnish communication specialist and “regular book nerd from Helsinki” who happened to go to a Walker Evans photo exhibit in Berlin in 2014.  Inexplicable to her, a photo he had taken of a woman from Provincetown, Mass., “completely mesmerized” her, and changed her life.  You can see the 1933 photograph here.

The touched Finn, Inka Leisma, began a now years-long journey into telling the story of the woman in the photograph — Hazel Hawthorne — who, it turns out, was a descendant of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and also a Massachusetts novelist in her own right, including one set largely on these very sand dunes, Salt House (1934), and she was something of a Gertrude Stein of the Provincetown arts scene.  Besides the novels, Hazel also had poems and articles published including in the New Yorker, and, as Inka writes, “She is a footnote in the biographies of many literary giants such as John Cheever, Edmund Wilson, and John Dos Passos.”  Footnote or main character, everybody knew who she was.  She was referred to in print as “the grande dame of Provincetown.”  Others called her “the original Beat,” as Inka uncovered, because she embodied their ethos even before Jack turned the phrase.  And many pointed out she was an environmentalist and feminist before either term was coined.  The writer/actor/director Larry Santoro who knew her circa 1970 said of her — she “never did like pomposity, and disdained arrogance.”

Hazel & her writer/editor husband Morrie Werner also had an apartment in Greenwich Village — Provincetown South — where they socialized with many of the leading bohemian artists of the 1930s & ’40s, but it was up in P’town where she became “the Queen of the Dunes” — the doyenne of the scene, a salon hostess (even if the “salon” was often outdoors on the dunes) to the likes of John Cheever, e.e.cummings, Edmond Wilson, John Dos Passos, Norman Mailer, Walker Evans, Franz Kline, William de Kooning and countless others both famous and infamous.  It was Inka who found the photograph in a family album while she was working on her book about Hazel’s stories of characters & adventures that should be some pretty riveting reading when it’s done.  You can hear some colorful podcasts about it here.

Hazel’s two shacks were named — yes, they name shacks in Provincetown — Thalassa (where Jack stayed and the picture’s taken on its small front deck; named for the primeval spirit of the sea) and Euphoria (so-named by Hazel after she purchased it in 1943).  Supposedly Eugene O’Neill wrote his “Sea Plays” in one of the dune shacks, but probably not Hazel’s.

In July 1950 (a month before the photo) Allen Ginsberg went to Provincetown pursuing a relationship with a tall charismatic curly-haired redhead named Helen Parker — yes, a woman — and he actually lost his heterosexual virginity to her there that summer!  Jack, meanwhile was down in Mexico City with Neal living out what would be the final Adventure in On The Road, staying near William Burroughs’ place, and finally hitching or busing (it’s definitively told both ways) back to ol’ New York in mid-July.

Oh, and speaking of Allen — when asked about the Beats in P’town, Hazel’s daughter Nancy’s son told me, “Mom met Allen Ginsberg at a beach party, but he was really stoned and wasn’t communicating very well.

And speaking of Helen — she would go on to be Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s girlfriend three years later, and it was in her apartment on Bleecker Street in the Village where Kerouac would read aloud the entire unpublished On The Road scroll to her & Ramblin’ Jack over three days and nights, a story Elliott would recount on stage many times.

Also, that summer of 1950 when Lucien Carr would come up to the Cape, he would stay in a tent on Helen’s lawn in Truro, and it was there that, at Allen’s urging, a visiting 20-year-old Greenwich Village chick named Liz Lehrman (later Liza Williams) would pop her head in the tent, and shortly became Lucien’s longtime girlfriend, and into whose loft he would move right next door to Bill Cannastra’s legendary place on West 21st Street.  There’s lots more about all that in the Cannastra photo story here.

Shortly before this dunes photo was taken, in March of 1950, Jack had his first novel published, The Town and The City, and in May he went out on a “book tour” to Denver — and then with Neal went down to Mexico City to see Burroughs.  He famously got sick down there, and also The Town and The City did not have the sales or reviews or impact he was expecting, and he was a bit down by the time he got back to his mother’s house in Richmond Hill, Queens.  He wrote on July 25th in his journal (in the NYPL Berg Collection) — “This art was never more difficult.  A great weariness in my middle in my ribs.  My determination is a gnashing of the teeth.”

Since I first started down this Provincetown path I wondered — why the heck did Jack, just back from months On The Road, suddenly head up to Cape Cod where I don’t think he’d ever been before?  For two weeks?  I couldn’t picture him packing a bag and carrying his typewriter onto the subway to the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan to take a 10 hour bus trip (they’re slow and stop everywhere) out to the Cape, especially since he just returned to Memere’s safety net after debilitating dysentery in Mexico.  But as Gerald Nicosia thankfully relates in his Memory Babe biography, “to recuperate Jack drove with John [Holmes] and Lucien [Carr] to Cape Cod.”

By the summer of 1950, Holmes had probably spent more time out P’town way than any of the other core Beats.  It was really he who first extolled the virtues to the others of the natural and liberal wonderland that is Provincetown.  On July 8th, Allen wrote to Jack in Mexico telling him about sleeping with Helen Parker there — “The first days after I lost my cherry … I wandered around in the most benign and courteous stupor of delight at the perfection of nature ….”  That appealing imagery, added to how Nicosia describes Jack’s mindset of the time — “His most pressing need was for a wife,” plus Holmes’ letter from P’town about “fucking fucking up and down the dunes, lying back at last exhausted,” and that Bill Cannastra had also spent the previous summer there and had a girl (Joan Haverty) follow him back to New York, all of this — plus that John & Lou came by his Richmond Hill house to pick him up & drive him — may have been the combination that got Jack On The Road again.

How he ended up at one of Hazel’s shacks we may never know.  But both Holmes and Cannastra had done short-term summer rentals there in cabin-like holmes on the expansive dunes; and Helen Parker, who seemed to be a longterm resident and was certainly an arts scene bon vivant including nearly or actually getting engaged to John Dos Passos (accounts differ), so it’s quite likely in a town of only 3,795 full-time residents (according to the 1950 census), that one or more of them would have come in contact with “the grand dame of Provincetown” and knew she had a couple shacks that she sometimes rented and sometimes just allowed visiting writers/artists to stay in.

Now . . . these shacks . . . and that is what they were . . . rough, small, one-room wooden shacks with no electricity or running water.  There was a well nearby where you had to pump your water and haul it home.  And an outhouse on a distant dune in 1950 was gonna be pretty frickin rough.

Located in the pacific sands next to the Atlantic Ocean, one family member described them as “a millionaire’s view from a hobo’s shack.”

There are roughly 18 preserved shacks still standing along the Peaked Hill Bar, which are now so popular, there’s an annual lottery for some of them, with winners having the opportunity to rent them for a week.  Both of Hazel’s were built around 1930 by a coast guardsman named Louis “Spucky” Silva, and she bought Thalassa in 1936 for $50 (!); and Euphoria, the bigger one (16’x12′), in 1943.  Here’s a vivid account of Euphoria in 2014, with photos and video by a woman artist who had a residency.  And here you can see Thalassa inside and out in these 2015 photos.

Jack’s first shack

This may well have been Jack’s first time living in a one-room shack.  He would later famously go on to stay in Gary Snyder’s Marin-An cabin up the hill behind Locke McCorkle’s house in Mill Valley; then at the square one-room four-walls-of-windows fire watch lookout on top of Mount Hozomeen; then the shanty shack on the roof in Mexico City where he wrote Orizaba Blues among others (all in 1956); and a few years later he went and stayed in (and vividly described in Big Sur) Ferlinghetti’s one-room cabin in Bixby Canyon.

Ferlinghetti’s Bixby cabin from my visit in 2001
Kerouac’s rooftop shack at 212 Orizaba Street, Colonia Roma, Mexico City
© John Suiter All Rights Reserved.

But Hazel’s hideaway in the Provincetown dunes was probably Jack’s first shack.

And lo, it was good.

Not only did he work on On The Road there, but — he met a girl! . . . and fell in love! . . . and asked her to marry him!

Yep!  It was August or early September 1950 — two or three months before this same smitten scenario would repeat itself in Chelsea with Joan.

Nancy Ufford was her name.  Hazel’s 24-year-old daughter — the two of them pictured here some year close to the summer of Jack.

Photo courtesy of the Hazel Hawthorne Estate
Uncovered by Inka Leisma

Kerouac recorded in his 1950 journal, “Trip to Cape Cod, stayed 2 weeks with girls in shacks.”  That’s all he ever wrote about it that I (or Detectives Dave Moore or Jerry Cimino) could find.

I’m not sure what he means by “girls” plural, but in Jack’s self-compiled list of lovers as published in that opulent On The Road Trois Couleurs book (2012) that came out the same time as Walter Salles’ movie, as well as partially published in the New York Public Library’s beautiful Beatific Soul (2007), entry #65 — “Nancy dunes 10,” (right underneath Helen Parker’s 50).

By his own account — and he didn’t lie in his notebooks to himself — he was only there two weeks . . . and there’s a “10” beside her name.  This is getting into Neal Cassady territory.

Jack fell for this woman, and he had pretty good taste back in the day.  Edie . . . Carolyn . . . “Mardou” . . . those were all rockin’ women.  And I’m bettin’ Nancy was, too.

Her family told me lots about her. 

“She had a great giggle.”  “She read a lot.”  “She was beautiful, but not flamboyant or in need of attention.”  “She was attractive, but understated and humble.”  “She didn’t need to be the belle of the ball.”  She grew up in a liberal artists’ world, and “didn’t take herself too seriously.”  “She hated pretension, and didn’t stand for airs of any sort.”  She took classes in modern dance, poetry, pottery and yoga.  She was really into education — especially preschool — and earned a degree in 1948 from the early progressive ed Bank Street College in NYC, then taught in different schools over her lifetime.  She volunteered at the library and worked at a community arts center and married an art teacher and generally had a connection with the creative.

So you can see how this picture, as well as the picture above of an early-20s Nancy, appealed to a visiting author.
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Jack’s Great Wife Hunt of 1950

Sara Yokley — March / April
Nancy Ufford — August and/or early September
Joan Haverty — November — Bingo!

We all know about Joan Haverty who Jack met & married in November 1950.  And now you know about Nancy.  But the only places I can find Sara Yokley mentioned is briefly in John Leland’s Why Kerouac Matters, and a little more fleshed out in Nicosia’s Memory Babe.  Neither book confirms he actually asked her to marry him, but he certainly seemed to have been considering it.

Nancy would speak openly about her summer fling, and all the family members remember talking multiple times with her about it and the proposal, and they remember her offering a few different reasons for saying “No.”  I’m guessing it was probably a combination of all them.

“Cuz he was a momma’s boy.”
“She didn’t really like the world he portrayed in his book . . . she rolled her eyes a bit when she mentioned it” — but we don’t know if she meant The Town and The City, or if Jack was letting her read the early On The Road pages he was writing there.
“She said that they broke up due to his drinking and general carrying on.”
“She laughed it off as ridiculous.  It wasn’t realistic — just a romanticized notion on Jack’s part.”
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Nicosia shared hella details he uncovered about this Provincetown possibility — “There he met and began an affair with a girl named Nancy, but after three weeks he returned to New York for fear she would hurt him as Sara had.  Having made him jealous with another lover, Nancy confirmed his view that most women want to see men fight, and he feared that ‘the women who will hate violence and love tenderness’ might be just a phantom.”

Since old family snapshots don’t come with photo credits, we can only guesstimate as to who took the historic shot of Jack writing on the shack deck, but it seems likely that since Nancy was spending so much time with him there, it makes sense that she was in the familial to take the candid one-of-a-kind shot of her writer boyfriend at work.  Plus, the print was in her collection of photos, and has the same serrated framing as all her other family snaps of the time.

Another detail Nancy shared often before she died in 2000 at age 74 was that late at night Jack would take bongos and go out and “sit near the ocean playing to the waves.” (!)  Playing bongos to eternity.  Anybody who’s read his only book set on an ocean shoreline (like Provincetown) Big Sur, knows it climaxes with his epic poetic masterpiece “Sea” where he transcribes the pounding sounds of nature, playing with words with the waves.

And one other bizarre connection that British Jack scholar Dave Moore hipped me to — in The Subterraneans, which Jack re-set in San Francisco even though the events of the book took place in New York, when he refers a couple times to a nearby bohemian beach community that the characters went to, he changed “Provincetown” to “Big Sur.”  This is also where Jack mentions one of the few people in his books who has yet to be fully identified.  In his October 1951 journal published in The Unknown Kerouac Jack describes — “Victor, the strange Jesus Christ who’d traveled to Provincetown with little Jeanne Nield in 1950 on a beat motorcycle.”

And Furthur — in both cool coastal artist enclaves, Jack lived in a one-room facility-less shack, a very short walk to the ocean’s crashing waves.  And the real events of Big Sur happened exactly ten years to the month after his stay on the dunes in Provincetown!  And he also briefly considered marriage on that latter Adventure — to Jacky Gibson (Billie in Big Sur).  Too much!  Too much!

And in yet another bizarre parenthetical — Nancy married a man named Wally Peters, and thus became Nancy Peters — making any Beat aficionado do a double-take thinking it might be Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s longtime co-owner at City Lights Bookstore.

But what if Nancy had said “Yes!”

I love the way life and history is so full of chance moments.  Keith Richards spotting Mick Jagger on a train platform with an armful of blues records.  Neal Cassady first pulling up Ken Kesey’s driveway on Perry Lane because he thought somebody else lived there.  Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David going for a chance walk to a deli after a night at Catch A Rising Star and first harmonizing their observations about “nothing.”  Edie Parker being in the same Columbia art class as Lucien Carr, leading Jack to meet both Ginsberg & Burroughs.

But one of my all-time favorite “What ifs” in the Beat world was that Carolyn Robinson (before she became a Cassady) went to Los Angeles to look for costume or set designer jobs in TV or theater.  She never got one.  But, gawd, what if she had?  Neal was gonna follow her to wherever she was.  Carolyn had a sister up in San Francisco, and that’s why she went up there to wait and see if any of her job applications panned out.  But what if she’d gotten a job?  Or didn’t have a sister in S.F. and had stayed waiting in L.A.?  Allen and Jack were gonna follow Neal.  What if the whole Beat blooming took place in Tinseltown rather than the City by The Bay?  No Beat – City Lights connection.  No Six Gallery reading.  No Beat weaving with Ferlinghetti or Snyder or McClure et al.  Venice Beach ends up more historic than North Beach.  Allen uses his ad skills to get a job writing for movies.  The Beats follow more of a William Faulkner path than a Jack London.

So . . . what if Nancy had said Yes?

How history would be different.

Jack would not have gone to Cannastra’s loft and met Joan Haverty.  He never would have found the scroll paper that changed his art — and subsequently the world.  And Jan Kerouac would never have been born!  . . .  And who might have been?

Instead of him returning to New York . . . what if Jack stayed on the Cape?  We know he loved it — he moved there with his mother to Hyannis in 1966.  It was kind of a Lowell East and a Greenwich Village North — a lot of the same Village artists, and certainly the same open creative sensibilities — but with Massachusetts accents and cheaper prices.

Would he have had more time to write away from the city distractions?  Would he and Nancy have got along better than he & Joan did?  Would he have bonded more with Kurt Vonnegut than John Clellon Holmes?

Or what if Nancy had come to New York? 

A smart, beautiful, book-&-arts-centric young woman living through that golden time of creativity in New York City.  You can read a buncha colorful stuff about New York circa 1945-55 in this piece I wrote for the Rolling Stone Book of The Beats.  Would her & Holmes’ wife Marian have become close?  Would she have gotten a steady job as a school teacher that allowed Jack time to write?  Would she have gotten involved in the burgeoning modern dance world, as was one of her passions?  Might she have been a Hettie Jones type and spearheaded a literary magazine like Yugen?  She would certainly have become the catalyst of a cohesive Provincetown cadre within the Beats, including Holmes, Allen, Lucien, Cannastra & Helen Parker who all already dabbled in the Cape.

Oh and get this — Joan Haverty — the one who said Yes a couple months later — came directly from freakin’ Provincetown!  One Provincetown girl said No.  And two months later a different Provincetown girl said Yes!

C’mon — yer makin this up!  “No,” sez I.  “It’s true!”  Joan was in Provincetown in the summer of 1949 when she met Bill Cannastra who implored her to come to the city — as she did that fall.  You can read more about her & Bill in my piece.  She writes most vividly about her time in Provincetown in her highly recommenced autobiography Nobody’s Wife.  Jack asked two chicks from the same flock in two months!  One said no, one said yes, one flew over the cuckoo’s mess.

One of the funniest “What ifs” was shared by Nancy’s youngest son remembering his life after he became a big Kerouac fan.  A lot of us may have imagined meeting Jack or going On The Road with him or whatever . . . but not many can close one of his books then close their eyes, and think — “Geez, what if Mom had married this guy?!”

Not only history, but life itself is full of these fork-in-the-road weird moments.  What if Inka never went to that photo show in Berlin?  What if the family never shared the photo?  What if you didn’t find this story and read this far?

And what if Nancy had said Yes?

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An alternate take — #2 of 2.
Photo courtesy of the Hazel Hawthorne Estate
Uncovered by Inka Leisma

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Huge Thank Yous are in order.

First to the families of both Hazel Hawthorne and Nancy Peters who generously gave their time sharing their family history with me, as well as for allowing the use of the photos that bring this story to life.

And next, to the Finnish scholar Inka Leisma for her years of dedicated research into Hazel Hawthorne’s life, and for uncovering both the Kerouac photo and the Nancy–Hazel mother–daughter shot.  Her ongoing investigation into the remarkable Hazel can be checked out here

And for the photo share that started it all — my Beat / Deadhead brother Steve Silberman who instigated the initial post of the dunes shot, and recognized its importance.

And of course to my two fellow Beat Detective Agency investigators Jerry Cimino for telling me to write this from the get-go — “You’re the guy to tell this story.  You’ve got the knowledge and contacts and skills and way of explaining it, and your gift for connecting things together;” and Dave Moore for his combination of superhuman archaeological abilities as well as his 30,000-foot perspectives.

And a special shout-out to my new photographer friend John Suiter who captured that killer Mexico City roof shack shot!  “When you say you thought ‘some cat climbed up there and shot it’ — well, I was that cat.  And, as you know, it’s not such a simple matter.  First I had to find out exactly where Jack lived in Mexico.  Then I hitchhiked down the Pan American highway 800 miles to Mexico City from Laredo; then built up enough trust with the people who lived in the building to allow me to climb up the back stairs with snarling dogs to finally get a shot.  And now that structure is gone, no longer exists, so that image is impossible to reproduce.  This is what we do as photographers, and it needs to be acknowledged.”  This is a fellow rooftop-climbing Adventure-Prankster artist-historian after my own heart!  🙂 Check him out here.

And lastly, to all the writers & artists who captured a little of Hazel, Provincetown and the dunes life, and who left their words & images for the future to discover, including the late Larry Santoro, who knew Hazel circa 1970/71, and wrote a vivid memory here.

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There’s more like this in books like these . . .

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac
A real-life tale of meeting your heroes and dancing to the Dead.

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How The Beats Begat The Pranksters
& Other Adventure Tales

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On The Road with Cassadys
& Furthur Visions

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by Brian Hassett  —  karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there — https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Pranksters for Proactive Politics

November 30th, 2019 · Merry Pranksters, Politics, Weird Things About Me

Ken Kesey's Furthur Bus
Photo by Sky Lyons

Original Merry Prankster George Walker & author-performer Brian Hassett team up to make elections fun again.

Soon to be joined by an unlimited cast of players and Pranksters crisscrossing the United States in a new version of Ken Kesey’s original psychedelic Furthur Bus — and this one is going to go even Farthur!

After three tours together bringing Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and Ken Kesey to life on stages, this pair, along with musicians, magicians, and all sorts of additions will be pranking the primaries and electrifying the election.

As the great political philosopher Granny D taught us — 

“Democracy isn’t something you have, it’s something you do.”

This will be the site for tour appearances, videos, Adventure Tales and all the colorful co-creations that the internet can hold.

Plus watch for the upcoming book — “Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy – Adventures in Politics 1980 – 2020” — coming February 2020.

The great Prankster cousin Wavy Gravy once played with “Nobody for President!” — but in 2020 it’s gonna be about —

Everybody for President!

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George & Brian’s previous tours can be seen here —

http://brianhassett.com/2017/08/george-walker-brian-hassett-kerouac-cassady/

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Brian Hassett  —  karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

George Walker — gwalkerax@gmail.com

Brian Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

George Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/gwalkerax

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Ode to Neal

October 31st, 2019 · Kerouac and The Beats

Neal Cassady — by Carolyn Cassady (courtesy of the Cassady fam)

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From Dean Moriarty . . . to Dead immortality,

The street-kid who read . . . was a legend in bed,

But more than the lays . . . he inspired a blaze

In the hearths of the writers . . . pulling all-nighters —

From Jack with his scroll . . . to Keez with a bowl —

There’s that Cassady kid . . . driving the id

Like he drove the bus . . . with all of us,

His passengers even today.

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The abandoned pup . . . pulled himself up —

Blue-eyeing his way . . . into lives by the day

Till finally he found . . . his rock solid ground

With a brainy doll . . . who had it all —

Midwestern sense . . . while big-city intense —

Carolyn with brushes . . . fighting off the rushes,

Cassady with lashes . . . charmin’ all the lasses,

The dynamo with the laser beam . . . the minstrel show with the Irish gleam,

The railroad job with the travel free . . . the picket fence with the books and tea,

Till that weed {now legal} sent him away . . . it was never the same after that day —

Walked into jail in the darkened ’50s . . . walked back out in the lightning ’60s —

A black-&-white lock-up . . . to a full-color break-up.

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The Bus came by and he got on . . . that’s when it all caught on,

There was Cowboy Neal at the wheel . . . his golden spiels seal the deal,

Generating generations . . . in their latest incarnations,

A second wave to hang-ten surf . . . a second set on brand new turf;

While Carolyn’s holdin’ Bancroft, and Jack’s on Judy Ann . . . Allen’s back in Frisco, and you know he’s got a plan

To loop in Dylan’s ‘lectric clan . . . and Uncle Jerry from ol’ San-Fran,

To which Neal toasts – “I got this, man,” . . . and drives on over with girlfriend Anne;

Igniting Pranksters, like sparking Jack . . . changing history back-to-back,

From ’50s sprout to ’60s bloom . . . one man made the room go zoom.

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And now he’s gone some 50 years . . . but his spirit’s here synching gears,

With every “Road” and “Cody” sold . . . with every Dead show joint that’s rolled,

With every joy in every turn . . . of every trip and youthful yearn,

Neal still beckons with his light . . . spurring others to try and write

An epic life that’s worth the sharing . . . an honest soul that’s worth the baring;

It’s who he’s been since he hit the scene . . . from troubled teen to hero Dean,

He lived his life the speed he drove . . . and left us all a treasure trove

Of books and tapes and pics and tales . . . of girls and trips and friends and trails

Still followed in the railroad earth . . . that he and Jack bestowed with worth;

So thank you now and thank you then . . . for being a muse to women & men,

And reminding us when we wonder why . . . to live life fully before we die.

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Here’s a nice ode to his wife Carolyn.

Here’s one to that Jack guy who wrote about him.

Here’s one to his Road, railroad & chess partner Al Hinkle.

Here’s a whole book in tribute to the Cassadys — “On The Road with Cassadys & Furthur Visions

Here’s where you can get my “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

Here’s a book with some background on “How The Beats Begat The Pranksters

Here’s a bunch of info on original Merry Prankster George Walker & my “Jack & Neal Ride Again” live shows.

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by Brian Hassett  —  karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there — https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Ode to Jack

September 30th, 2019 · Kerouac and The Beats

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Jack fights back

from off the Beaten track

still alive

at 95

with 55

books in print

after his track star sprint  —

through the pages of history,

seeing around corners like Neal at the wheel,

knockin over grammar cops

and blowin past the door stops

to hidden darkened jazz joints

puffin on a Mezz joint

never missing THE point

of dancing with the mad ones

and singing with the sad ones

and drinking with the bad ones

and skipping past the madhouse

and steering clear the jailhouse

heading for his mom’s house

to write another epic

soaring while he’s manic

catchin’ all the magic

of mysteries dark & vast,

he channeled spirits till the last

he hitched the roads, had a blast

he wrote it down really fast.

Now it’s 50 since he passed

let’s hoist his flag up our mast

salute the work he amassed

“Have you ever seen a canon so vast?”

So let us all

take a moment to thank

the Pollard for the books

the Young Prometheans for the camaraderie 

the Columbia cabal for “The New Vision”

Neal Cassady for The Letter

Bill Cannastra for the paper

Joan Haverty for the apartment

Malcolm Cowley for the championing

Gilbert Millstein for the reviewing

David Amram for the playing

Allen Ginsberg for the . . . everything

Lowell for the Celebrating

You for the being

We for the seeing

The glowing light of the golden eternity!

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Thank you Jack for all you shone.

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= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

For more Adventures in Jack check The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Or there’s the connective How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.

Or to complete the Beat Trilogy there’s On The Road with Cassadys.

Or for some background on the late great Bill Cannastra check out this piece.

Or for more on LCK (Lowell Celebrates Kerouac) here’s a happy riff on it.

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by Brian Hassett  —  karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there — https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Woodstock 50th Anniversary in New York

August 23rd, 2019 · Music, Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me, Woodstock

A Festival of Festivals

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I said somewhere on social media leading up to the Woodstock 50th that it should and would be experienced by people in different ways all over the world. “Friends not corporations create Woodstock.” There was no required location or situation. As Jerry Garcia said of the Beats — “… it was a way of seeing.”

And in the Yasgur’s farm area of Upstate New York, there were a lot of different eyeballs tuned in to a lot of different scenes.

I’m disappointed there wasn’t a giant unifying singular one-time-ever festival (like on the 25th in ’94 that was so great it I wrote a whole book about it!) — something that drew the so-inclined from 18 to 80 like the best of the gatherings I attend attract — but what this was was a festival of festivals. Just as the modern-day fests offer multiple stages with eclectic choices all day & night, plus art installations, a million food choices, camping, and friends reuniting and all that jazz — so too did the 50th Woodstock cumulatively create a collection of different stages & events all along the deservedly legendary Route 17B in Sullivan County.

Full Adventure available here.

There was Santana playing his evolved world-beat large-ensemble super-pro act at the high-end amphitheater stage at Bethel Woods with tickets scalping for $400 . . . and there was Melanie playing solo for free from the big front porch of the very cool Catskill Distillery. There was Melvin Seals closing opening night at the Yasgur’s Road farmhouse, and Grace Potter opening closing night at Bethel Woods. There was the Puerto Rico soulman showman Fantuzzi leading his eclectic collective through a Little-Richard-meets-the-Mothers-of-Invention show with a relativistic crowd dancing in revery in front of the family stage at Arrowhead Ranch, and there’s Arlo Guthrie on the big stage at Bethel Woods with the whole front of it cordoned off for paying VIPs.

There’s the touristy t-shirt stores all along the roadway with actual non-ironic “Welcome Hippies!” signs — the opposite of the locals’ “No Hippies Here!” reaction the first time.

And there’s the master tie-dye artist Yano displaying a gorgeous 50-foot tapestry for the 50th that took 400 hours to make . . . that he did just to make people happy, not to make money.

The artists are hidden in their work.

There’s the full 180 degree spectrum of profiteers and performers; of straight-streets in seersucker and street-people in sleeping bags; of old people with canes and young people with . . . wait a minute. That was the problem — that Miley Cyrus, The Killers et al would have solved at Watkins Glen, like Cypress Hill, Green Day & such did in Saugerties at the 25th in ’94. There were no young people here. Or very damn few — but there were more at the remote satellite events. In fact — the Furthur away a site was from the original location, the more young people were there. Arrowhead Ranch in Liberty (where the Holiday Inn was that all the performers stayed at and were helicopter shuttled to the concert field in ’69) was where a buncha the under-30s went for Rose’s well-curated anniversary festival. Also at Hector’s Inn — where I never noticed a cover charge all weekend — just $10 to park and you’re in to where there were faces without wrinkles dancing around bonfires with musicians.

What it was was diverse scene-wise. You could do the VIP packages in perfect pampered conditions for Ringo Starr, Carlos Santana and John Fogerty for thousands of dollars a night. Or you could find a place in the ample woods to camp and listen to music for free for days and nights on end and meet like-minded people from all over the world.

Bethel Woods came up with this “Travel Pass” idea to scare cars n people away, and maybe it kinda worked — cuz the only thing that caused traffic delays was cars lined up at Hurd Road to check for these stupid Travel Passes!

The colors of control.

But on a heavier level, I learned from an insider they were concerned about a mass-shooting situation, and had done extensive training and planning and screening which all ultimately resulted in a Gratefully safe weekend. Somebody or ‘bodies who didn’t like Western ways or liberal mores would sure have a way to make a point in this pointed place. A friend told me her parents were worried about her coming — but not cuz of sex & drugs like it prolly was in ’69. They were worried about her getting shot.

But back on the Woodstock Spirit side, Bethel Woods was letting people in for free for Fogerty for anybody outside the gates on the last night. And they did mount a substantive & entertaining special exhibit for the 50th with all this one-time-ever stuff leant for display, including the sign that someone painted in 1969 telling neighbors not to buy Max’s milk that his wife Miriam cites as being the tipping point in him deciding to host the festival.

Above my head is the historic sign found laying in the ground after 45 years.

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Or I love how, when you walk into the first room of the permanent exhibition at the official Woodstock museum there’s a picture of none other than Neal Cassady laughing in the immensity of it.

Mind you, they don’t mention his name, or the fact that he’s sitting in the Furthur bus (that actually came to Woodstock in ’69), or that Allen Ginsberg took the picture . . . but at least he’s there in Spirit laughing through eternity.

And then there’s the part where Albert Hoffman wanted to get a Prankster wristband to Michael Lang, and hadn’t been able to meet up with him at Yasgur’s farm, so he went to where they have a participatory paper-plate exhibit in the museum, and he writes “Gives this to Michael” then pins the wristband to it and uses his nine foot reach to drop it perfectly into a Michael display in the museum.

The Prankster bracelet on the plate in the lower right.


The Pranksters strike again. 🙂

Or then there’s Yano and Ashlee stretching out their 50 foot tapestry for the 50th anniversary for the first time at the crown of the lawn of the Woodstock field . . .

like a rainbow framing the assembled — which happened for real the next night . . .

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Or there was the part where Arlo gave us a class in the History of Songwriting & Storytelling, performing Woody’s This Land Is Your Land, and Bob’s Gates of Eden, and Steve’s (The Train They Call) The City of New Orleans, plus his own Comin’ Into Los Angeles, where he told us how the mic was all screwed up on that, his opening song, at Woodstock ’69, and how they had to use another live audio version in the movie, and that’s why there’s so many cutaways, cuz they couldn’t synch up his lips and sound.

Or there was Carlos pulling off an extended Exodus by Marley with the Doobie Brothers joining him forming about a 20-piece orchestra; or John Fogerty weaving in a Give Peace A Chance with his sons. And there was Melanie playing with her daughter Jeordie at the Yasgur’s farmhouse site; and Arlo singing his dad’s songs at the Yasgur’s farm concert site. And there was Santana’s wife Cindy singing a rocking Imagine from her drum kit; and Fogerty’s son Shane solo & electric on the big stage delivering a respectably updated Star-Spangled Banner.

Or there was that wild moment when the rains hit during Santana and I climbed over the split-rail fence at the back and up some rocky outcropping under some trees, and nodded hello to a couple also crouched down in the dark taking shelter from the storm. Then through the splashing rain and concert din, I think I hear the guy say, “Are you an author?” but I sort of ignore it, assuming there’s no way he just asked me that. Then out of the darkness I hear louder, “Hey, do you write books about Jack Kerouac and stuff?” “What?!” thinks I, squinting over in the Huckleberry Finn riverbank-perched darkness. “Yeah,” I kinda mumble, not sure what’s lurking next to me in the midnight rain. “I came to your reading at the Golden Notebook last year.” (!) And sure enough it was a book-buying fan in the dark on the rocks in the middle of the rain in the middle of a concert at Woodstock!

Or there was the moment one of the guys from the Doobie Brothers mentioned from the stage that he’d just met Wavy Gravy backstage, setting off a flurry of activity in Pranksterland until it was concluded the guy must have been speaking metaphorically.

Or there was Tedeschi-Trucks’ 12-piece band stealing the whole damn musical show for the weekend, including pulling a Dead maneuver by opening with Santana’s Soul Sacrifice then weaving back into its ending later in the show. Or them climaxing the whole thing with Sly & The Family Stone’s I Want To Take You Higher that riffed and built . . . and built and riffed to a frantic sweating acid dancing peak. I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but this Deadhead made a note during the show that these guys were doing what the Dead and the Allmans strived for with the 2 drummers and improvisational soloing — but were doing it better. Yeah, I said it. The arrangements, the playing, the interacting, the drummers driving each other and in turn the band, the horn section, the harmony singers . . . those latter two additions being something those former two groups really coulda used — proving this more-than-capable modern ensemble was fulfilling the promise of their forefathers and truly taking it Furthur.

Or there was the stark contrast between Carlos Santana repeatedly praising the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia from the stage to grateful applause from the fifteen thousand assembled —

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versus the following night John Fogerty delivering a long & painfully tone-deaf rant about how bad the Dead were at Woodstock and mistakenly blaming them for the logistical/technical problems of that Saturday night in the rain 50 years ago. I walked out of there thinking less of John Fogerty than when I walked in — his self-serving sermon doing more damage to his reputation than his two hours of playing benefited it.

Or there was the part where they were going to show the revised director’s cut of the original Woodstock masterpiece of an Academy Award-winning documentary on the original field — in fact they billed the night as the “Film On The Field” but moved it in to the concert amphitheater at the last minute — an unfortunate setting, except for the benefit of it playing through the concert PA — so you’re hearing every note of every performance on a crystal clear full range 2019 sound system cranked to 11. Or there’s the part where Michael Lang’s first appearance elicited spontaneous applause from the crowd, and by his second appearance a full-throttled whooping. And then on the Monday following, when somebody mentioned Artie Kornfeld, I realized it was the first time I’d heard his name all weekend.

Or there was that time where I was sitting next to Arrowhead’s Rose during the screening and we both got choked up together at the overwhelming beauty of the movie and the audience-art interaction as though all the performances were happening in person right in front of us — and all experienced from our Dead-center free-show cushy-seats in an amphitheater full of the best kind of family.

Or there was the comical karma when the self-anointed Woodstock purists who wanked themselves off shitting on Michael Lang all year had to deal with their original farm host Jeryl warmly inviting him back to the garden and embracing the person without whom none of this weekend would be celebrated.

Our man Wiz on the scene at the homecoming hug between Michael and Jeryl on Yasgur’s farm.

Or there was the part where a big rain storm blew in right on Woodstock cue, but in 2019 they have radar weather satellites and saw it coming, and at Bethel Woods they evacuated the entire lawn telling people to return to their cars to ride it out, but a bunch of us just stormed the domed pavilion that had been the media center, and the privileged so-called reporters couldn’t handle the great unwashed having the gaul to invade their pampered bubble — and watching them trying to defend their sanitized world with actual people going to an actual concert was worth the price of invasion.

What there wasn’t was a unified collective hundred-thousand-person epiphany that can only be conjured in large crowds collectively peaking.

The idea and mindset of “Woodstock” is part of global language and culture. If the logistics and finances and laws and security and payola and permits and propaganda and paranoia and polarization and lots of other poop words made it impossible to do an actual festival in these bad trip times — The Woodstock Spirit was proven very much alive this past weekend.

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And the thousands of people who came from all over the world and manifested the vibe in such myriad ways proves this part of our collective consciousness is here to stay — coming to life in a collage of reunions collectively created across the canvas of the land. In our ad hoc krewe we had Danes and Irish and Canadians and Germans and Yanks from every region and persuasion all sharing the peace pipe around the bonfire — The United Pranksters of All Nations — brought together over an idea that “a half a million kids could get together for three days of fun and music, and have nothing but fun and music,” as Max Yasgur put it the first time ’round.

There’s a festival culture in a wear-what-you-want and love-who-you-want world that showed itself early and vibrantly in 1969 on an open field in an open time — and a lot of the best of that idea is still going on in the world we live in today.

God bless those who did it the first time . . . and those who are still doing in our time.

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Here’s a link to a book I wrote that was just published about the 25th anniversary of Woodstock.

Here’s a link to a little excerpt from it about the opening night at Woodstock ’94.

Here’s a link to an excerpt about how that festival opened.

Or here’s a story about going to Yasgur’s farm and meeting up with the modern day Pranksters in 2014.

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Special thanks to Jeanne Burgess & Rick Melnick for their hideaway estate-on-a-lake and the quiet natural sacred space following the Woodstockian madness to create this reflection.

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by Brian Hassett  —  karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there — https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Paul Krassner 1932 – 2019

July 22nd, 2019 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Merry Pranksters, Real-life Adventure Tales

Paul at Kesey’s car, as Babbs goes into the truck, Sunday, August 1st, 1982, Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado. Photo by Brian Hassett.

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Here’s the chapter on the now late great Paul Krassner from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac about the time I met him and a buncha his croanies at the big Kerouac summit in 1982.

I sent him this chapter when I was finishing up the book and he gave it his thumbs-up.

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ch. 23 The Realist

And so finally the ship-size sea-colored convertible sailed out of port to a coastline of waves, and slowly disappeared over the horizon, and all the faces sorta turned downward in silence as minds started processing past pranks and future chores, which for most people consisted of their own departure, but as usual I didn’t want the party to end, and another guy who didn’t seem to be hurrying off was Prankster Paul Krassner, the editor, publisher, writer, and political rabble-rousing leader in the spirit of Abbie. In fact, he was sticking around to do some benefit show the next day for “the incarcerated poet and the second black hippie, Jerome Washington. … Jimi Hendrix was the first,” he made sure I knew.

Even though he kind of scared me when I’d been around him earlier in the week — he has this rough tough crass (wink-wink) veneer, sort of a Corso meets Larry Flynt — but he’s actually really funny, soft spoken, thoughtful and gentle one-on-one. If you’ve ever read or heard him speak you know he’s super-smart and well-read — almost a Garcia mind that knows so many things about so many things. And we started talkin’ and right off he’s like, “I didn’t know shit about Kerouac.” 🙂

“Yeah, I know! … But what do you mean?” I asked.

Visions of Gerard, Tristessa, … even Visions of Cody — I still haven’t read that for some reason,” he said, listing some of the books he hadn’t cracked. Then, “On The Road, Dharma Bums, Big Sur, Subterraneans, Mexico City Blues … I’d read more than most people, but I’ve just scratched the surface. It was great Allen did this. There’s so much more to Jack than most of us knew.”

“Yeah, it was like I’d only been listening to the ‘Greatest Hits’ but suddenly somebody finally started playing his whole albums,” I said.

“Right, right,” Krassner laughed. “Perfect.”

“It seemed like kind of this whole rehabilitation thing,” I said. “Like Jack was finally being released from prison or something after serving some long sentence for the crimes of his youth, and now he was being released and making a new respectable life.”

“The Allen Ginsberg Halfway House For Rehabilitating Poets,” Krassner cracked.

“And this whole Duluoz legend thing,” I added. “I had no idea about that. The whole ‘one vast book like Proust’ routine. Now I want to go read the whole story in order.”

“Yeah, yeah, right,” he said as he motioned we start walking through the lily fields towards the exit. “And it was the effort, man. The dedication, the volume of work, the discipline over those years to keep writing when nothing was getting published … and that he never pulled a Faulkner or Fitzgerald and just went into the advertising business or Hollywood or some fuckin thing. Even after On The Road came out he could have written ten of those and cashed in but he stuck to his vision. Like Leaves of Grass except it was a bunch of books.

“Yeah,” I said, looking into the thick leaves of dark green mountain grass we were shooshing through. “John Clellon Holmes was talking about that commitment thing — and how Jack’d go into physical training before he’d start a new book — do push-ups or go running or whatever and approach it like an athlete starting a season. The seriousness and uh … like scholarly or professorial or a like scientist’s approach or something.”

“He was like a jazz musician always learning his instrument,” Paul riffed on. “Like Buddhism or enlightenment — always becoming, never there. He should have called his book ‘On The Path‘. (I laughed) It was that fucking booze that killed him. If he stuck to pot he’d still be here.”

“Yeah. And I was thinking about Lennon after Ken did that piece on him,” I said. “How John totally embraced Jack and I guess Neal’s idea of your life as your art, autobiographical — like ‘The Ballad of John & Yoko‘ and even ‘Help‘ or ‘God,‘ and everything on ‘Double Fantasy‘ … it so sucks … that Jack never got to write about growing old, or older, either, you know, cuz of the booze, and John cuz of that fucking asshole … that the two best autobiographical artists only got half their story written.”

“That’s true,” he said. And after we both walked a bit in silence, “But not everybody died. You didn’t. Ginzo didn’t. The Dead. Ken. There’s still voices. Maybe in the wilderness, but you can still hear them. They’re still out there.”

“Yeah, I guess. And we just heard a bunch of them,” I smiled to him. “Abbie was great.”

“Wasn’t he?! So glad he’s back. That’s another one,” Krassner said about him finally reemerging from six years in hiding as Barry Freed in upstate New York along the St. Lawrence River. “We could sure use him right now. Or a thousand of him.”

“Right. Man, he was on fire, eh?” I burst. “I’d never seen him in person before. What a speech!”

“Yeah, he can do that,” and he smiled at me, us both beaming over an old warrior in such fine fighting shape rejoining the battle.

And by then we were reaching the edge of the park and he was going one way and I the other, and we parted ways, but we’d end up reunited a couple years later with The Dead, The Band and Kesey at The Third Eye Ball in Toronto, and he was part of the ceremony in Amsterdam when I inducted Jack into the Counterculture Hall of Fame, and I ended up booking him onto a couple of the shows I produced in Greenwich Village, but this was the day that yet another friend-for-life bloomed in that flower-filled alpine poet’s field of Boulder.

From one of our appearances together in Amsterdam.

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by Brian Hassett  —  karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there — https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock ’94 — how it opened

June 30th, 2019 · Weird Things About Me, Woodstock

Excerpt from Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock — from Thursday evening as it was just beginning . . .

It was 10 PM, the gates had just opened, and beaming faces were exuberantly discovering the field by the thousand.  Fresh hay had been laid all over the natural amphitheater and it glowed like cashmere in the moonlight.  A back-log of ticket holders had built up because there was some delay in getting identification bracelets or something, but now they were all running around like kids in a playground, exploding with hours of pent-up energy.  Tents were being pitched, property staked, lawns pampered, hair brushed, and bottles popped.  People were even setting up tents directly in front of the stage.  “And I thought I had a good spot!” I said out loud to the ghosts of everyone I ever knew who was right there with me on this dewy field of Woodstock.

Futuristic gizmos and interactive cosmos were buzzing everywhere.  Up the hill behind the sound mix tower a huge spaceship had landed.  On closer inspection it appeared to be a giant mist machine for cooling people off.  As you walked underneath huge white space tubes, a gentle steam hissed out as though you were cooling off beside a waterfall.  Near that was a big wooden corral for horses, which on classroom detention — I mean closer inspection — turned out to be a frame to hold the piping that carried water to a hundred faucets pouring off it.  Surrounding this dead center water shed were layers of lava shale like a manicured garden.  The whole place looked like Versailles just waiting on ice for Josephine.

Across the entire quilt of a field there wasn’t a wrinkle anywhere.  But there were more rides than Disneyland!  Over by the stage I noticed some bleachers and immediately penciled them in my Itinerary.  Surrounding the massive field was a ring of huge striped tents that housed God knows what at this point.  Here and there, new things were everywhere!

Then some Wink Dinkerson deejay wanker came out and made a few straight-street opening remarks, welcoming us to history but sounding much more like Big Bird’s tour of a farmyard than the marching orders for a generation.

All of a sudden right above my head a giant light exploded!  I was standing directly underneath when they suddenly began projecting Easy Rider on movie screens approximately the size of the sun.  It seemed a little late to be starting a movie turned up so loud you could hear the pot crackling in the joints Fonda and Hopper were sharing.  The sound was Clean, Big & Precise, it certainly bore well for the music ahead, but probably not for those who hoped to sleep tonight.  I was suddenly overcome with a profound sense of joy and happiness that my tent was made out of a van, and wasn’t pitched in the middle of this decibel testing zone.

I crossed the giant drive-in — I mean sit-in — with all the kooky colored tents parked pell-mell as the campers watched the flickering road story or made love behind zipped flaps or just whispered collectively, “This is amazing!”  Wide eyes beamed white like headlights.  But this was only the jaw-dropped calm before the storm, while everything was still perfectly laid out the way the host prepared it before all the rowdy guests showed up and trashed the joint.

And speaking of a joint, it felt like it was taking a really long time to cross that field.  But by tomorrow the same route wouldn’t be passable in any amount of time.  The hay-laid bowl directly in front of the stage was currently free and open but would soon become a bodycrushing mosh pit for the rest of the weekend.  I crisscrossed its fresh carpeting several times, watching as wandering fans walked closer and closer to the stage like Lilliputians tentatively approaching Gulliver.  The structure was so huge it was intimidating.  It was loud.  It was alien.  But it was ours.  And very slowly we were getting used to that idea.

We were drifting in the islands, sailing in the tropics, singing on the road.  Easy rider.  Joy rider.  Raft slider.  Rum runner.  Song hummer.  “Mama, mama, many worlds I’ve come since I first left home,” as someone kept playing Brokedown Palace on the jukebox of my brain.  The peace.  The place.  The field.  The space.  The resonating bliss of the chimes of freedom ringing, people singing, memories zinging, bodies swinging, karma calling, mattress falling, pillow mauling, dream installing.

“In a bed, in a bed,

      By the waterside

I will lay my head;

      Listen to the river sing sweet songs

to rock my soul.”

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You can get the new 2019 Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock directly by emailing the author, or you can order it here.

Same idea with all three of the books in The Beat Trilogy:


— The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac


— How The Beats Begat The Pranksters


— On The Road with Cassadys

For a ton of videos & such — go here.

For a bunch of interviews & such — go here.

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by Brian Hassett  —  karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there — https://www.facebook.com/Brian.Hassett.Canada

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