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Andy Clausen, Bob Rosenthal Beat Book Reviews

February 3rd, 2019 · Kerouac and The Beats

Storming the Bastilles

with Lungs Full of Nectar

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Pamela Twining, Andy Clausen, & Brian Hassett — photo by Shiv Mirabito, at the Woodstock Shivastan Poetry Ashram, 2016

Two new books in poignant prose by poets of the streets just came out from insiders looking at the life and times of the Beat Generation —

“Straight Around Allen: On The Business of Being Allen Ginsberg” by his aide-de-camp Bob Rosenthal,

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“BEAT: The Latter Days of The Beat Generation” by Andy Clausen.

Bob Rosenthal’s insider’s guide to life inside Allen, Inc. is the book I wish somebody’d write who worked daily with Ken Kesey or Bill Graham. It’s not about any one event or even time period, but rather about how the whole enterprise worked.

The David Wills-produced Beatdom book is designed in a nice large size with large print almost in double-space — like the legendary manuscripts that run through it where you could pencil in additions between the lines. It also features what I’d call “sidenotes” — like footnotes, except they appear in the side margins next to the text they relate to. They’re like a sidekick chiming in next to the main narrator, maybe a little comic aside, or some detail to add to the main narrative without actually breaking its flow.

This is also like an Allen scrapbook, in a way, with all sorts of photos, handwritten notes, poems, drawings, invitations, letters, all sortsa stuff stuck in there for posterity. And its pages take you inside his life — his charity shop home furnishings and Salvation Army wardrobe; his front door keys being tossed down in old socks from fourth floor windows; the East Village neighborhood where he was a prince of the paupers; his constant juggling of ne’er-do-wells and lovers, newspapers and notebooks; and the never-ending to-do lists that were left for the author and his ever-expanding coterie of confrères.

The book really took this old New Yorker and Village habitant back to the days where everything you ever needed was a short walk away and there really was no reason to ever go north of 14th Street or south of Canal. Rent strikes, squats, syringes, Tompkins Square, readings — the book’s as much a love letter to the old Village as it is to the old poet.

In fact the book is written by a poet for readers who don’t want bouquets of extra words. It’s to the point. Staccato. Almost like the no-frills to-do lists Allen leaves for the author/assistant each morning — the intent & imagery clear without distraction.

And this reader loved all the details of Allen’s writing — confessions of him sweating over lines, changing changing changing while honing the first thought being the best thought; his author/secretary sometimes inserting commas where they should be or removing them where they shouldn’t be in Allen’s letters or prose, then Allen always noticing and restoring his “mistakes;” and a favorite detail of mine, Allen’s insistence on his own rules for initial capitalization. Anybody who’s read my books knows I’m a lover of breaking rules and capitalizing for very good reason even if Strunk & White or Chicago Style don’t agree. (Hey, Simon! 🙂 )

Plus, I learned all sorts of things, like — “Allen’s introduction to Buddhism comes from Jack Kerouac.” And his favorite term for marijuana is “the ’40s jazz word muggles,” one I like to toss around myself. In fact there’s a whole fun chapter on drugs, which strangely enough is when I started penciling happy faces into the margins pretty frequently. 🙂

My Merry Prankster pals will appreciate that “Allen places high spiritual value on LSD,” and that he had a vial of tablets from Owsley in his freezer, with a note to guests, “Do not use without my or Bob Rosenthal’s permission.” . . . . . . Bob gives himself permission.

No alcoholic, what Allen was was a workaholic. (page 70, 99, … the whole book …) “Ginsberg uses drugs to accomplish a task.” This guy & I were so much more alike than I ever knew. But glad I do now.

I appreciate that Allen’s angry about some of his old friends who became neocons — something we can probably all relate to in our current surreal political nightmare.

Maybe I liked the book so much because I felt harmony with so many of the observations: Disliking the liberties taken in the movie Kill Your Darlings. The details of being a caregiver to an elderly person. And that all of the author’s portraits of all the the now-deceased Beat luminaries comports with my own experience and how I portrayed them in my various books, particularly The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac, about when I first met Allen and all this crew in 1982.

But mainly what came through was the depth of Allen’s generosity. In fact, “Allen’s entire office is built around the concept of generosity.”

“Allen doesn’t accumulate money; he lives from hand-to-many-mouths.”

“Allen’s office is an arts-service organization.”

“Success for Allen can only be measured in love units.”

And how Allen was always looking for the future Bodhisattva in all of us.

Something that is repeated throughout the book — “Take in the poison of the world. Breathe out the nectar.”

And reading this book was like lungs full of nectar.

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Andy Clausen paints a much broader & more colorful canvas.

Sure, there’s lots of Allen, Andy’s main cheerleader / coach / teacher / benefactor in Beatlandia, but Andy is spanning more decades, more geography, more scenes. This book is almost as much about Gregory Corso as it is about Andy Clausen. It jumps from Austin to Boulder to North Beach to the East Village faster than a speeding flip-book. It covers the giants but also uncovers the unknowns. It takes you inside poetry dorm rooms at Naropa and V.I.P. party rooms at Manhattan nightclubs. It’s honestly confessional about insecurity and poverty, and speaks from experience after a lifetime On The Path.

“All artists to accomplish must rise above the praise and criticism of their friends, their enemies, the money, the ones they admire, even the ones they love and especially mothers who wanted them to be a doctor or lawyer and to have a large family.”

Andy is a warrior of words, and an ethicist of the underground. He started out in San Francisco but soon hit the harder stuff — The Road, the deaths, the agendas, resentments, bitterness, phonies, drunks, drugs and mistakes. Now in his mid-70s, he’s still here (when so many aren’t) to reflect back firsthand and project forward ironman with the booming voice he’s always had from a stage. As a fellow poet advises him when he finds himself in a sticky wicket of rejection, “We need guys like you, otherwise pretty soon there’ll be nobody.”

And that applies to all of us. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not the CEO of a media empire or the host of a network TV show. But you are the host of your own show — your own voice, your own actions, your own choices, the center of your own circle of friends and colleagues and co-workers and neighbors, and if you’re reading this — we need people like you. You don’t have to be a household name to be an MVP in the game. By your fruits you shall be known.

And Andy knew a lot of fruits!

No, I mean, he bore a lot of fruit! After some 20 books of poetry, and thousands of performances all around the world, he has finally luckily for us riffed his memoir of madness in his war against blandness alongside the grandest of the 20th century rebels. You’ll meet Neal Cassady (“He was better than the book!”), Ken Kesey (“He thought his main calling was as an acid man more than a writer.”), and Abbie Hoffman (“… percolating sharp humor and positivity.”) but mainly you’ll take a ride with a conversational driver on a cross-country Road Trip telling stories in no particular order, but, rather, naturally as one prompts another prompts another prompts another. He’s remembering lost friends (Allen & Gregory & Ray Bremser most) and sharing life lessons (how the smartest people he met knew that all people had intelligence), but mostly it’s the word pictures befitting a poet of the moments that lingered after a life well lived: Arriving at the Human Be-In and seeing tens of thousands more people than anyone expected; that afternoon spent with Neal Cassady over a kitchen table covered in “a couple of keys of Mexican” pot; reading the raw manuscript of Kerouac’s Visions of Cody.

I first met Andy at the Boulder ’82 Kerouac summit and we bonded and exchanged numbers but it took about 30 years for our circles to spin in unison again. After reconnecting at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac in 2015, we ended up sharing some stages in his now-hometown of Woodstock, and he’s definitely still got “Neal Cassady’s Energy Transmission,” as Allen Ginsberg described him.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” another life-affirming poet told us last century, and thank the Great Spirits that poets like Andy Clausen took that to heart and continue to rage to this day.

This might be subtitled “The Latter Days of the Beat Generation,” but his book and life are about a still-Beating generation of word-warriors still storming the Bastilles.

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Here’s where you can read about one of my books — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Or here. Or here.

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Or here’s an improvised video one-time first-thought best-thought riff to a recently fallen Last Man Standing . . .

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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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Al Hinkle Hero of The Humble

January 31st, 2019 · Kerouac and The Beats, Poetry, Weird Things About Me

Al Hinkle — Hero of The Humble

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Gracious Giant,

Gentle Giant.

A Literary Giant’s

Character for Eternity —

Still alive in every copy of On The Road in every country In The World,

The lovable affable portable — Big Ed Dunkel,

The Everyman in the car, man.

Not a Cassady — Not a Kerouac,

But a YOU,

And a me.

Everyone who wasn’t a hero could be in that car

In the person of Al,

Blocking the wind, running for smokes,

Driving through nights, playing with folks,

And planting the flag!

In the Southern Pacific Railroad Earth

That beckoned the charmers, the dreamers, conductors

Of generations of players in the symphonies of cultures

That filled the halls and spiked the balls and wooed the dolls

With an easy laugh and a generous hand.

Al was a man who had a plan:

To hit the road and not be told

What to do — cuz he already knew

It’s up to YOU

To catch your magnificent friends on the flying trapeze.

Al always practiced this, taught this, caught this, shared this.

A hero of the humble.

An explorer of the quiet.

A romantic of the road.

A swashbuckler of the rails!

A watchman with cocktails!

A map-man with muggles!

A Helen-man with snuggles!

A mighty man who juggles

90 years of adventures into one magic trick of LIFE!

We should all be so lucky!

As all those who knew him were.

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Here’s an improvised video riff to Al full of stories and photos . . .

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Or here’s The Beat Museum’s founder Jerry Cimino performing Hero of The Humble at the “non-memorial memorial wake” in San Jose on Sunday January 27th . . .

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Or here’s a similar video tribute to the late great Carolyn Cassady . . .

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Here’s a story about The Beat Museum’s big Beat Shindig where Al makes a couple of appearances back in 2015.

Here’s my tribute to his and my close friend Carolyn Cassady when she passed.

Here’s some riffs on my book that Al loved — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

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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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RIP – Big Al Hinkle – 1926 – 2018

December 27th, 2018 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales

“The Last Man Standing” is no longer standing

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Update — A memorial tribute will be held to Al at the Cafe Stritch (374 S. 1st St.) in San Jose, CA — on Sunday, January 27th, starting at 5PM.  All are welcome.

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Here’s a riff with visuals . . .

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The last real-life primary character in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road has sadly gone to join his wife and best friends on that Big Adventure in The Sky.

Al Hinkle, aka Big Ed Dunkel in On The Road, Slim Buckle in Visions of Cody and Desolation Angels, and Ed Schindel in John Clellon Holmes’ Go, finally toppled after proving for nearly a century that nobody could knock over this giant. 

When I asked him how tall he was, he told me he was “6 foot 5-&-a-half.”  I thought it was so funny & telling that he didn’t round it up to 6’6″ and take credit for an extra half inch he didn’t own, but also wanted to make sure he got credit for that half inch above 5.  🙂 

He was an absolutely great human being — kind, heart of gold, funny, easy to laugh, a real people person, who I’ve been told are the luckiest people.  He was a committed shit-kickin’ libertarian, and a funny storyteller who loved to practice his craft.

And speaking of “libertarian” — the reason Al wasn’t at the legendary super-summit for Jack & the Beats in Boulder in 1982 that I wrote a whole book about was because he was running that year as the Libertarian candidate for Congress in the San Francisco / San Jose district in that 1982 midterm election.

Al was an absolutely essential person in Beat history.  He kicked in the extra hundred bucks Neal needed to buy the Hudson that would go on to change history.  He & Helen were the Cassadys best friends and stabilizing force in San Francisco during all those pivotal years.  Carolyn may have enticed Neal to come to S.F., but it was Al who got him the job on the Southern Pacific Railroad that allowed him to actually live there.  And as John Cassady reminded me last month in Lowell — he worked there for 12 years!

Also, I often joke about the relatively unknown fact that the reason the Beat Generation ended up having San Francisco as their secondary base to New York was because that was where Carolyn Robinson (before she became a Cassady) had moved and that Neal (then Allen & Jack) followed her there.  An even lesser-known fact is — the reason Al chose S.F. to move to and thus get his Denver buddy Neal a job that sustained him was . . . because of allergies!  Yep.  The reason Neal was able to pollinate San Francisco was because Al Hinkle suffered pollen allergies in Denver and his doctor told him to move to a climate like San Francisco’s.  🙂  True story.

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One other funny thing — since Al was born before the ubiquity of automobiles, they were kind of a big thing for him.  And until the day he died, I don’t think he ever said the word “car” in his life.  He always referred to them reverentially and respectfully by their proper term, as in — “We put gas in the automobile and took off.”  🙂 

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Another funny Al memory — John & I were sitting in a theater watching a screening of Walter Salles’s Searching For On The Road documentary . . . well, here’s from my recent book of our Adventures . . . 

A funny classic moment happened when Al Hinkle was on screen telling a story about he and Neal, and he mentioned, “There may have been a little bit of marijuana involved,” and both John & I spontaneously blurted out loud in unrehearsed unison — “A little bit?!”  🙂 

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Here’s my favorite picture I took of Al — with Merry Prankster Anonymous, at the Beat Shindig in S.F. 

I captioned it in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — 

“There wasn’t a bridge between the Beats and the Pranksters — it was a loving embrace.”

When I told Al that line the next day, he bellowed out a giant rolling loving laugh.

I know this may sound crazy, but I can play back in my head almost anyone I’ve ever known’s laugh.  And Al had two in particular.  One was a kind-of high-pitched almost little kid’s giggle, usually short, but pronounced and loud and shooting out straight ahead.

The other was — I swear this festive December week — a bone fide Santa Claus Ho Ho Ho!  Which is what he did after I told him the caption line.  He had an ample body size, and particularly if he was standing, he could really shake the room like the best Saint Nick you ever heard.
Seriously.  Hearts on.  Full gear.

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Here we are with Jami Cassady … who first introduced me to her godfather … who was there at the hospital the day she was born . . .

. . . and here we are on stage together in San Francisco . . . Jami pointing to a picture of Al with his daughter and Jack with the Cassady daughters . . . 

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. . . and last year with brother John . . .

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. . . and signing Sky’s copy of the On The Road scroll version underneath Carolyn Cassady’s portraits of Al and his wife Helen . . .

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A favorite group shot — David Amram, Jami Cassady, Al, Levi Asher (Marc Stein) and myself at The Beat Museum’s Beat Shindig in San Francisco in 2015 . . . with a copy of my book in his hand!  🙂 

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He liked to play with the lighthearted moniker he adopted from Steve Edington — “Last Man Standing” — that he’d mention with a twinkle, whether on a stage, when signing a book, or even titling a book . . . 

His book signed to me . . .

My book signed to him . . . 

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When I met the actor at the London premiere who played Al in the On The Road movie, I said, “I know you!  You’re Al Hinkle,” and the British guy in Britain was pleasantly chuffed I knew not only his character but the person it was based on.

🙂

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Like Carolyn, and unlike Jack & Neal, Al stuck to his college studies and earned his first degree from San Francisco State, then studied for his Masters at Stanford (!) in geography, which he then tied into multiple 6-month leaves from the Southern Pacific to go travel the world.

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He was always gracious and joyous and smart and articulate and playful and sparkling and had an amazing memory filled with vivid image-splashing details like a novelist spontaneously creating a radio drama before your ears. 

And he remained a committed ladies’ man to the end — flirting with my girlfriend right in front of me . . . in his 90s!!  🙂 

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Here’s a 3-minute hit single — The Beat Museum’s Jerry Cimino reading my tribute poem perfectly and rhythmic at the “non-memorial memorial wake” in San Jose . . . 

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Here’s an excellent video with lots of Al, plus Jami Cassady & myself, hosted by Levi Asher, on stage at the big Beat Shindig put on by The Beat Museum in 2015 —

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Or here he is being funny & cool a decade earlier at the grand opening of The Beat Museum in San Francisco in 2006, shot by Warren Dean Fulton . . .

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Here’s a funny, fun, info-filled 2012 interview with Al upstairs at his home-away-from-home — The Beat Museum — with several of his favorite people in the world — his daughter Dawn, John Cassady who Al remembers being born, and The Beat Museum’s Jerry Cimino who gave Al many of the best adventures outside of the house in his last decade or two, and in fact was the guy who suggested to Garrett Hedlund and John that they stop and pick up Al when they were driving the ’49 Hudson used in the On The Road movie from L.A. to its soon-to-be home at the Museum in North Beach.  And in fact, the classic photo used in the San Francisco Chronicle obit on Al was taken with Al in the back seat on that car trip.

There’s more fun & laughs and lotsa Jack content in part 2 . . .

And here’s more storytelling including some On The Road & Burroughs tales . . .

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Here’s sumore early-era Neal storytelling including their time together as a trapeze act (!) and them being there the day Jack received his first copies of On The Road . . . filmed by the great Beat documentarian Tate Swindell at a 2013 event at the legendary Sweetwater club in Marin County which also featured Ramblin Jack Elliot, Clark Coolidge & Joanna McClure . . .

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Here’s a funny Al anecdote from Garrett Hedlund starting around 2:50 about them calling Al via Skype to learn about using Benzedrine inhalers . . . 

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Thanks to The Beat Museum’s Jerry Cimino, a thorough obit appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Al-Hinkle-railroad-man-and-character-in-13496805.php?#photo-16701766

Here’s a nice piece from the San Jose Metro where he lived . . .
The Final Beat: Remembering Al Hinkle

Here are some other great Al & Neal stories that Jerry from The Beat Museum captured.

Here’s The Beat Museum’s page on Al’s Memorial in San Jose, including lots of video clips filmed by the great Tate Swindell.

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Al is survived by his son Mark, his daughter Dawn, and his grandson Logan.

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The great Al Hinkle

Sept. 4th, 1926 – Dec. 26th, 2018

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Two Cassadys, two Carolyn portraits,
one Hinkle, one Hassett

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Here’s some memories on the passing of our mutual friend Carolyn Cassady.

Or here’s an alternate video version on YouTube.

Or here’s the wild story of one of our crazy collective hangs . . .  The Beat Shindig in San Francisco in 2015.

Or here’s a book of mine with some good Al stories — How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.

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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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John Cassady & Brian Hassett Present Cassady & Kerouac Live

November 28th, 2018 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales

You Tell Me

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We were talkin’ about gettin’ together, ol’ John Cassady and me.  Seen each other off and on, and he even stepped up to the mic at one of the George Walker & Brian shows last year, but we hadn’t really shared any serious duetting theatrics in some 17 years.  (There’s that number again!)

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George & I’d been bringing John’s dad to life on stage along with his Uncle Jack for the past year, and John & I thought maybe we should give it a try. 

We got booked into the world’s premier annual Beat festival, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) in Jack’s old hometown — and on Saturday night in prime time to boot!  All of a sudden — BOOM!  It’s showtime!

Mind you, there were a few who had their doubts — including the two of us!  We loved tellin’ stories and shootin’ the shit and draining some adult bevies, but “rehearsing” and “pacing” were not two of our strongest “ings.”

We’d tried video chatting coast-to-coast before getting together, but it rather quickly deteriorated into ketchup and relishing the connection.

John’s family & friends were rooting for us, as was all our distant pals & relatives in Beatlandia, but it had been a long time since ol’ Johnny & I headlined a show, and between our aging eyes, ears and knees we weren’t exactly the starting line on The A Team.

People flew in from the west coast, the south coast, the north coast, you name it.  We did a little warm-up show the Friday night before the Saturday, and boy it was a good thing as Johnny got a serious case of stomach rebellion just before showtime.  Poor guy barely made it.  But make it he did!

Then we miraculously pulled off a bona fide run-thru in the afternoon, and after Friday’s challenge, Saturday night rocked royally.  I have a vivid image of show producer Mike Flynn rushing up when I stepped off for John’s solo encore with two thumbs-up to his shoulders and a blazing beam!

But the folks back home would never know or believe us!  😀 

“You know,” I said to Johnny when it was over, “When anybody asks ‘How did it go?’ just tell them to watch that video Caroline shot, and say ‘You tell me,'” and we both laughed.

In fact, that became our catch-phrase about the rest of the weekend ’til I dropped him off at the Boston airport a couple days later.

“How did those Lowell shows go?”

“You tell me.”  😉  🙂

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Here’s where you can get the new book — On The Road with Cassadys.

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

Here’s where you can get How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.

Here’s a bunch more live videos.

Here’s a bunch of interviews and news pieces.

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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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Canada’s Marijuana Legalization — The Mad Dash of The Mad Ones

October 17th, 2018 · Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me

The Mad Dash of The Mad Ones

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Me and my bright ideas.  Of COURSE there’s going to be throngs of people in downtown Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, celebrating the Midnight Moment marijuana becomes legal nationwide.  Banners, signs, speakers, bands, drum circles, wandering guitars, “high” fives all around like when we won the hockey Gold Medal in the Olympics — in fact, we’ll go back to that Dundas Square / Times Square where we shut down the whole center of the city that Olympic day! 

Rustle up friends for the historic Moment — have Prankster PattyCake drive in from St. Catherines by the border, Hummer in from Winnipeg, Mac T from my distant ’70s Winnipeg past now somewhere out East, every other person I know in the Tea Dot — but only a handful step up and step out — and we agree to meet at the Imperial Pub right next to Times Square / Dundas Square, arriving at 10:30 for The Midnight Moment — only . . . there’s no one there! . . .  . . . . . . WE’RE the party.  Doh!

What a disaster!  Reminds me the moment I chronicle in the opening of my new book (On The Road with Cassadys) where I pictured massive crowds outside Kerouac’s building in Manhattan on the 50th anniversary of him starting to write the On The Road scroll . . . only to find absolutely No One There when I arrived that night.  And now here I am in the blistering cold of an October temperature drop night on the cement of an abandoned post-apocalyptic deserted windswept moonscape in vacant desolate Toronto.  Nuthin.  Nobody.

I find my friends in the downstairs (not even cool upstairs Library) of the Imperial Pub who have now ordered dinner and the whole night is lost.

But not giving up — there’s gotta be my peeps SOMEwhere in this town on this night at this moment — so about 11:15 I leave my krewe at a table full of red wine and warm food and start power-walking to nearby Nathan Phillips Square where there’s the big lit-up TORONTO sign and where I’ve seen the past 420 protest parties on the evening news . . . but tonight there’s even less people there than when I brought girlfriend Sky & stage partner George to this exact same time last year — and there’s absolutely NOTHING happening — EVEN LESS PEOPLE there!  Holy crap!  Complete disaster!  A handful of tourists, and three teenagers smokin a joint!

Keep burning burning burning calories as I keep power-walking down Queen Street to the Friendly Stranger pot store head shop where I’d read somewhere THAT’s where they were having a countdown party . . . until I get there and the entire street is shut down!  But not shut down like a street party — shut down like it’s the middle of the night on a Tuesday, which it is!

I call back to the Imperial dinner krewe.  We gotta make the dash to The Mod Club — the only place we’ve found that’s having ANYthing.  I want an outside street party — but some party’s better than no party.  Tell them to call a Lyft — have Hummer meet me at my car near Massey Hall — it’s 11:27 and we’ve got a major relocation happening! 

Power-walk back to the dicy dark Bond Street — car still safe, Hummer nearby — jump in — we gotta get to Little Italy in the West End in minutes.  Pull onto Dundas right behind a cop — go to hang a right onto Yonge Street but notice at the last split second a “No Turns” sign — almost got pulled over breaking the law right in a cop’s rearview mirror!  Follow him one more block — Bay Street — home of Hugh Reilly’s That Channel who we almost met up with — north to College — hang a left — PattyCake told me the address — 722 College — Hummer looks at the numbers — “172” — “Oh shit” — it’s 22 minutes to midnight by old-school rotary clock in the Blue Bomber’s dashboard — one lane traffic’s a crawl — sprinting through yellow lights, just-turned red lights, any lights, GO!  Hummer’s calling out addresses — 224 — 346 — 412 — 16 minutes to midnight — 570 — 642 — 12 minutes to midnight, I’m tapping the clock so we both register how it’s clicking away — then BOOM! around a slight corner and there’s the news crews!  Vans & satellite trucks CP24 — CTV — CBC — Global — huge mob clustered at the Mod Club — fly into the packed grocery store parking lot across the street — cop cars patrolling it — find the last spot there is — hop out — no time for smuggling beers — just grab some paper & pen in case brilliance strikes — power-walk through parking lot — some petit pretty babe smiles and says of me to Hummer with a laugh, “He’s gotta get in there before midnight.”  🙂 Cross the street — there’s our friend Lawrence McT being interviewed on camera after telling us he didn’t trust cameras being everywhere capturing our lives like some Big Brother nightmare — but there he is — all 50-something years of him saying to the broadcast cameras of the world that going forward the persecutions of all who have come before will end and from this day forward these unjust laws will no longer imprison the innocent — and we collectively hustle up the wheelchair ramp entrance where the big burley guard says, “Tickets please.”

Wait — what?

No way.  “Tickets please.  You gotta have a ticket.”

“Wait — I heard this was free.”

“It is.  But you have have to have a ticket or an email confirmation.”

“How do we get one of those.”

“You can’t now.  That ended two days ago.  It’s a free event, but it’s ticketed, and its sold out.”

“But we gotta get in there.”

“Well, you can’t without a ticket.”

Nooooo.  PattyCake chimes in, “Who can we talk to?”  And he points silently to some doorman with a clipboard.

Up the ramp — “Hi!  Hey!  How can we get into this thing?”

“You can’t if you aren’t on this list.  We’re sold out and the place is packed.”

“But it didn’t say anything about needing a ticket and we came all this way,” as the petit girl from the parking lot whisks past us with her wristband already.

Clipboardman says “No No No,” but PattyCake keeps asking him questions and not moving, the two of us immovably right in his face, until finally . . .  “Lemme see what I can do,” and he goes inside, and at least for a moment there’s hope.

Until he comes back out and shakes his head and says, “No, it’s packed, there’s nothing I can do.”

And I tell him we’re all from out of town and we’ve come just to be here.  “I’m from New York, she’s from St. Catherines, he’s from Winnipeg . . .” and PattyCake tells me later my face is a dripping candid canvas of disappointment atop my head-to-toe colorful tie-dyed attire thanks to my colorful girlfriend a world away in non-legal America.  I ask about people who didn’t show up for their reservations, and PattyCake asks about who else we could ask, until the guy finally says, “Lemme ask my boss,” and goes back inside again.  And of course it’s what?  One minute to midnight?  Already past midnight?  Who knows.  We’ve missed it.  There’s no watch.  No time.  Looking at the bleak street-front pavement of nothingness Toronto.  Cars and idiots and cold and old tumbleweed newspapers blowing through ghost-town streets you want no part of.  And the security guys have been trying to kick us off the front stoop the whole time we’ve been there.  And one of them comes back out from inside, “No, you can’t come in.  You gotta go.”  And I’m thinking, the clipboard guy only said he was checking with his boss just to get away from us so security could clear the deck, and it’s mean and it’s cold and the guards are big and the building’s a bank vault with no slippery side doors, and the night’s a disaster.

And then, behind the big mean security guard blockers, the little clipboard man fragilely appears again, meekly behind them, looking at me between big black coats — and then subtly with his one free hand held low, turns it palm up, and motions silently with his fingers towards him to come!  BOOM!

Ushered through the door!  All five of us!  Into the dark packed club . . . just as a giant three-foot Christmas tree of a marijuana bud is lowered from the middle of the ceiling and the band on stage (called Dwayne Gretzky!) is riffin on the powers of the plant and then begin a “Ten, nine, eight . . .” countdown to the Midnight Moment of legalization when explosions of glossy sparkling confetti go off and sprinkle the room in a shimmering shower that we made it inside for by one freakin’ minute!

It may not have been The Golden Goal celebration of the Olympic triumph — but Canada just pulled off something of even greater global impact with this national moment!

This was one small toke for man — but it was one giant puff for mankind.

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Post show joy —

In the new haze with the CN Tower lit in green behind us  🙂

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Here’s where you can get another great real-life Adventure Tale — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Or here’s more Adventures of discovery in the sometimes drug world — How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.

Or here’s a bunch of different interviews and press and such.

Or here’s a bunch of live videos of various 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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Brian Hassett Fall Shows 2018

September 22nd, 2018 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Weird Things About Me

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Fall  Shows  2018

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In celebration of the new On The Road with Cassadys, & Furthur Visions and the just-completed Beat Trilogy.

 

Friday Sept. 28th 8PM “The Hammer & The Hassett” with Robin “The Hammer” Ludwig the mighty blues master who I’ve done shows with for 20 years from Amsterdam to CBGBs to On The Road‘s birth day — at The Mothership in Woodstock, NY (6 Hillcrest Ave.)

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Saturday Sept. 29th 6PM — The Beat Trilogy Comes To Life in a sonic symphony at the coolest bookstore in New York State — The Golden Notebook — 29 Tinker Street in downtown Woodstock, NY — with an afterparty back at the Shivastan Garden (6 Hillcrest Ave.)

 

 


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The following shows are all part of the 30th anniversary of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac in the Beat author’s hometown:

Friday Oct 5th, 7:30PM — The Brian Hassett Roadshow with a three-ring cast of colorful characters — at Zorba’s Music Hall, 438 Market St., Lowell, Mass. (followed by the David Amram Trio’s “Jazz & Jack” show).

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Saturday Oct 6th, 7:30PM — Cassady & Hassett Bring Cassady & Kerouac To Life — with John Allen Cassady the subject of the most recent book and an on-&-off stage partner of 20 years — at Zorba’s Music Hall, 438 Market St., Lowell, Mass. (followed by Massachusetts’ own Slim Gaillard – Vance Gilbert).

Here’s the show via local Lowell TV . . .

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Sunday Oct 7th, 1:30PM — The Amram Jam — Hassett with the Amram Trio bringing a little Vincent and a little Jack into the house — at The Old Worthen — 141 Worthen St., Lowell, Mass.

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Sunday Oct 7th, 5:30PM — introducing “Loving Vincent” — at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitors Center, 246 Market St., Lowell, Mass.

Check here for my review of its first theatrical run.

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“You’re a tough act to follow.” Rob Burton, Mayor of Oakville, Ontario

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You can get this one …....   ..… here.

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Or this one …......….. here.

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Or this one ….... ..….. here.

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You can read a bunch of interviews and such here.

Or about The Birth of The Trilogy here.

Or a bunch of Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac reviews here.

Or about the How The Beats Begat The Pranksters shows and tours with original Prankster George Walker 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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The Birth of a Trilogy

August 31st, 2018 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me

THE BIRTH OF A TRILOGY

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I never expected any of it.

A few years ago, a few people asked me on a Facebook group to tell them about a Kerouac gathering I was at back in 1982, and my response to the question became a book . . . in eleven days, it took.

A couple years later, original Merry Prankster George Walker and myself were batting around the idea of how the Beats begat the Pranksters, and it suddenly struck me, “This is a book — Do it as such” . . . and two weeks later we had the book for sale.

This past March, John Allen Cassady & I were talkin about doing some shows together — bringing his dad and Uncle Jack to life on stage — and suddenly it struck me I should write that book he and I joked about writing decades ago . . . and five months later to the day, I was proofing the first copy.

As Kerouac says, “My books are my children.”

And for me, not one of them were planned.

I had three accidents.  In a row.

All unexpected.  Not a single one had been in my mind the day before the birthing process began.  No “Great American Novel” contemplated.  No writing workshops or Go Fund Me’s.  Just a handful of Go Write Me’s.  And Bob’s your Hope — there they were — a stained glass triptych staring me in the face.

“Or no, wait.  There’s another word for it.  What is it?  Trifecta?  No.  Wait.  Trio?  No — that’s a musical combo.  Triad!  Or no — that’s a David Crosby song.  What the hell is it?  There’s some word for three books.  Trilogy!  That’s it!  Ha!”

Yes, yes — a trilogy!  Three connected books that all stand on their own as separate works, or can be experienced as an interconnected whole.  Yes!  Three books that have characters in common through multiple stories.  Yes!  Three books that are created around the same time, and especially if in sequence.  Yes!  Three books that are created with the same motivation, and done in the same style.  Yes!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!  Lord of the Rings!  The Nova Trilogy!  Oedipus!  Snopes!  Good company!

As unexpectedly as I stumbled into each of those individual births — I unexpectedly found out I’m the father of triplets!  🙂 

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You can get this one … .    here.

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Or this one …..…… here.

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Or this one….. ….. here.

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Here’s what a bunch of people thought of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Here’s what a bunch of other people including original Merry Pranksters and Beats thought of The Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Here’s a wee excerpt from the new On The Road with Cassadys book.

Here’s an excerpt from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Here’s an excerpt from How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.

Here’s a bunch of recent interviews and press and stuff.

Here’s a ton of different live videos performing these various books and such.

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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 Interviews and Such

July 31st, 2018 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Interviews, Kerouac and The Beats, Weird Things About Me

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Here are a few different print, radio & video interviews and stories and reviews and such . . .

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Here’s the front page above-the-fold story in the hometown paper Jack used to write for on occasion, the Lowell Sun, that we were all happily surprised to discover when we pulled into town for the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival (Oct. 3rd, 2018).

“Hassett’s performances — a mix of scripted dramatizations and pure improvisation — capture Kerouac’s wild, untamed spirit and bring him back to life.”


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Or here’s what the Woodstock Times had to say of the show & books in the town that spawned the festival . . . 


 

Here’s a Sept. 15th 2018 interview with Mike Flynn at WUML in Lowell about the upcoming LCK (Lowell Celebrates Kerouac) and the meaning of life and tips n tricks for writing and all things Beat & Prankster and such . . .


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Here’s an August 2018 interview from the very cool AMFM Magazine about how The Hitchhiker’s Guide … got written, plus Kesey & Kerouac & the Pranksters & all that jazz . . .

https://www.amfm-magazine.com/the-hitchhikers-guide-to-jack-kerouac-author-brian-hassett-interview/


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Here’s a really fun lively wide-ranging optimistic laugh-filled radio interview on The Jake Feinberg show in 2015 about the Grateful Dead, Red Rocks, Jack and jazz and the impact of On The Road, the Beats, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Phil Lesh, Bill Graham, Ken Kesey, Neil Young, born leaders, consciousness expansion, love, community, smoking marijuana in the ’40s & ’50s . . . it’s a helluva riff . . .  🙂 

http://www.jakefeinbergshow.com/2015/11/the-brian-hassett-interview/


 

Here’s a 2018 interview for the Cleveland Scene magazine about the writing process, Kerouac’s writing process, the live show process, the Sept. 2018 On The Road With Cassadys book, working with Bill Graham and all sorts of other stuff . . .

https://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2018/06/14/author-brian-hassett-to-bring-his-one-man-variety-show-to-visible-voice-books-and-macs-backs


 

Here’s a print interview with Michael Limnios at the great Blues – Greece magazine & website about the most important life lessons & advice, life-changing moments, the meaning of ‘Beat,’ its impact on culture, its connection to rock n roll, and lots more . . .

http://blues.gr/profiles/blogs/canadian-writer-poet-traveler-brian-hassett-talks-about-the-rock


 

Here’s the Kevin Pennington interview for The Sunflower Collective about the mindset behind On The Road and the Beat Generation, and how it manifests today, and the Merry Pranksters and the Acid Tests, and the Beat Museum’s big Beat Shindig and a whole lot more  . . .

http://sunflowercollective.blogspot.com/2016/08/tsc-interviews-brian-hassett.html


 

Here’s Lance Simmens’ piece in The Huffington Post . . . 


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Here’s a review of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac in Beat Scene magazine (#75, Early Summer 2015) . . .

 


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Here’s the new book On The Road with Cassadys in Beatdom.


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Here’s a piece about George & my tour in The Oakville Beaver in Canada . . .


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Or here’s this from the Woodstock Times when I first appeared there with the first book . . .


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Here’s where the founding owner of the historic Bitter End club on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village New York City wrote about me and my shows in his autobiography . . .


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Here’s where I interview Beat legend Gerd Stern at The Beat Museum’s Shindig in San Francisco in 2015 about the Joan Anderson letter that He Did Not Lose, and Allen Ginsberg & Jack Kerouac & Neal Cassady, and the whole San Francisco scene back in the ’50s and ’60s, and his pioneering multimedia art . . . . . .

 

Here’s the lively & funny Cassady panel discussion at The Beat Museum’s big Beat Shindig in 2015 with Al Hinkle, Jami Cassady, & myself, moderated by Levi Asher (now Marc Stein) . . .

 

Here’s a funny wild crazy Adventure Tale video interview response for filmmaker Noemie Sornet’s On The Road film project . . .

here’s part 2 —

 

More’ll be added as I do them or find them in the archives or get around to converting the old TV interviews on VHS tapes and radio riffs on cassette.  😉

 

 

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Here’s a bunch of live video performances in various media.

Here’s a wave of reviews and comments on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Here’s the next wave including a bunch of original Merry Pranksters.

Here’s some author / performer background.

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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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Tom Wolfe Made Me Cry

June 17th, 2018 · Merry Pranksters, Weird Things About Me

Tom Wolfe Made Me Cry 

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We’ve had a flood of famous & important people dying the last few years.  2016 was the recent one most think of as the mass kill-off year that had us all praying for it to end — which it did, sadly, in November, with democracy and decency being cremated before our eyes.

The last famous person’s death that really threw me — well, it was two in 2014 — Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams, both completely unexpected, and both inspirational teachers in my life.

But Tom Wolfe’s passing on May 14th brought me to unexpected tears several times that day.  And it was really because of one work — The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

That book changed my life as much or more than any other.  When I first read it at age 15 it blew open what was possible to this comfortable kid in Mayberry, Manitoba.  Acid Tests . . . the Grateful Dead . . . road trips in a bus . . . a new way of talking . . . a new way thinking . . . a new way of being.  A Prankster!  Playful & goofing, but productive & curious.  These weren’t people sitting around waiting to be entertained — everything about them was proactive, about doing, about making things happen.  And being funny!  I wanted to be one of them — and I became one of them by my own actions, in consort with others.  That book changed my approach on how to live, how to interact with others, how to be part of a collective, and I carried it with me into high-end concert production & low-level club shows, into life in a giant corporation & life within a tiny community.

As the years rolled on, I read a lot of other books — including Kerouac, who Wolfe in part hipped me to by writing about this Neal Cassady guy on the bus — and I began writing more and more seriously as the years went on.  I was influenced by Dr. Seuss and William Shakespeare, James Joyce and Hunter Thompson, Dave Barry and Eugene O’Neill, the Beats and the rock poets.  But as my writing and life evolved, I read less of the playwrights of my formative 20s, only occasionally dipped back into Dr. Seuss’s playful mastery, and retained the lessons of Joyce without rereading him too often.  But the one prose canvas, more than On The Road or Huckleberry Finn or Fear & Loathing that I kept returning to with jaw-dropped awe was Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

As Kerouac wrote in a piece for the Writer’s Digest titled “Are Writers Made or Born?” — “It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”  And Tom Wolfe applied that playfulness to his playful subject, so perfectly reflecting in prose the scatological waves the Pranksters thought and operated.  It’s the greatest, most effective long-form blend of prose and subject I’ve ever come across.

Kesey said to me in a “you gotta hand it to the guy” way, and also thankfully put it on the record in this 1989 interview with NPR — “Wolfe’s a genius.  He did a lot of that stuff, he was only around three weeks.  He picked up that amount of dialogue and verisimilitude without a tape recorder, without taking notes to any extent.  He just watches very carefully and remembers.”

Looking back on the oeuvres of literary masters of the 20th century, Wolfe joined a pretty esteemed group that included Jack Kerouac, John Clellon Holmes, Allen Ginsberg and Ken Kesey who wrote about that singular inspiration Neal Cassady — “smiling and rolling his shoulders this way and that and jerking his hands out to this side and the other side as if there’s a different drummer somewhere, different drummer, you understand …. “

When I was writing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac, every night that I went to bed still having the mind strength to read, it was Electric Kool-Aid that I’d open the pages of.  Not On The Road or Fear & Loathing, but rather the guy who stretched language even Furthur, who left me in awe with the rules he would break paragraph after paragraph, while still maintaining a clear, gripping, fact-rich narrative.  He was moving James Joyce up to the 1960s; he was breaking more rules than The Subterraneans; he was simultaneously being Pollock and Rembrandt.

Some people over the decades disparaged Wolfe, and Electric Kool-Aid in particular, and I think that caused me to not speak up for the book as much as I should have.  But when he died, I realized how that one work changed my life.  Twice.  First in its subject matter . . . and years later in the mastery of its prose.  And what brought me to tears was that I never told him that.  Or anyone, really.  I met and spent time with most of the authors I admired who were alive when I was.  Except Wolfe — even though we lived in the same city for a quarter century.

I regret not thanking him for changing my life.  I regret not defending his writing.  I regret not standing up for him, and not celebrating his book.  I regret letting other people silence me, or make me think I must be wrong in my take on that book.

With Wolfe’s passing, and my uncontrollable tears that day, I learned the tough lesson to never again be silenced by anyone else’s opinion of a work of art — especially writing!

I need to get in touch with Kinky Friedman and Aaron Sorkin and Matt Taibbi before its too late!

Love your inspirations.  And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.  And if you can tell the creators while they’re still alive — do it.  Thoughts & prayers & platitudes aren’t going to cut it for you or them after it’s too late.

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(my original copy, bought at The Bay in Winnipeg in 1976)

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Here’s where you can get my book — How The Beats Begat the Pranksters.

Here’s a piece about meeting Ken Kesey — at the Kerouac summit in Boulder in 1982 — an excerpt from my book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac which you can get here.

Here’s meeting up with the 2014 Pranksters at Woodstock.

Here’s another piece about valuable life lessons — Love Is.

 

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

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna follow things there —

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

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The “On The Road” Scroll’s 50th Birthday in L.A.

May 31st, 2018 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales

 

An excerpt from my upcoming book (Sept. 2018) — On The Road With Cassadys & Furthur Visions — 

This bit is about 2001’s 50th anniversary of Kerouac writing his On The Road scroll — and a show we put on for the occasion in L.A. on the day he finished it, April 22nd, after one held in NYC on the day he started it (also covered in the book).

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I arrived at the Short Stop speakeasy well before showtime and it was already a chaotic circus of crazy creatives carving up the scenery, led by the director of today’s movie, S.A. Griffin.

Amazingly, he’d had a shirt made emblazoned with the classic OTR line about “… the mad ones … DESIROUS of Everything AT THE SAME TIME …” written in creative font-smashing text covering his chest — broadcasting its meaningful message in a playful style, perfectly reflecting his prankster essence.

The club was already a buzzing hive full of L.A. actors and poets and show people decorating the large performance space with bodies and actions — a room that looked like a fancy Goodfellas’ lounge from the ’50s or ’60s with almost no lighting so the celebrities and gangsters and cops could discreetly entertain in deep red booths surrounding the open dance floor in the middle — the only lighting being flickering candles in large red-tinted translucent holders on every table as well as lining the perimeter of the stage.

In the middle of the dance floor lay a giant 3-foot-by-4-foot photo of the first part of The Scroll — and scattered all around it like fallen leafs were page leafs of On The Road that throughout the celebration people would pick up any random one and read it from the stage, a la Burroughs’ cut-up method, except whole pages to collage the poetry of the prose into a swirl of images and passages and dialog and details jumbled together proving how powerful and consistent the wordsmithing was that you could hear chapter 1 or 51 and it would still fit together like a matching set.

S.A. created something I’ve never experienced at any Jack show before or since — a massive mad celebratory krewe of joyous orgasmicly LOUD participatory audience–stage–melding dancing dingledodies — AND I mean, LOUD!  It was MAD high energy at 6PM on a Sunday like it was a midnight on Saturday night at Mardi Gras.

The room became more than packed.  The pages on the dance floor were soon blown up to the lip of the stage as it filled with men & women floor-dancing in floor-sitting crosslegged positions, and the doorways crammed with faces peering in.

And like the rock star he was, Cassady came strolling in just before showtime with his latest babe on his arm and perpetual smile on his face.  He was laughing and she was beaming and the party was screaming and I felt like I was dreaming.

From the moment S.A. stepped to the microphone to open it — and he’s one guy who doesn’t even need a microphone to fill a room with his booming performer’s voice — the souls he’d assembled soared and roared like an arena rock show.

I kicked it off with the beginning of the original Scroll text that I’d gotten from maestro master Dave Moore transcribed from the two photographs of it that had been published by 2001, and right from the first line people were Howling “Go!” and “Yeah!” and “Wow!” and laughing and cheering.  And the next readers began improvising off-script and working the room, the audience riffling in lines in harmony with Jack’s in a collective kaleidoscopic recreation of the creation of the Beats.  As loud and orgasmic as new life comes! with beaming faces and embracing hugs and love and sweat and knowing twinkles between bubbling souls.

There were no rehearsals, no memorized scripts, just the chaos of people running to the microphone with parts of the Scroll or part of the Book in what S.A. coined “Bop Bingo!”  And people were yelling “Go Go Go!” from the swirling booths, and S.A. copping “the mad ones” line in this mad hang-out as it blazed from his chest in case anyone missed the obvious.

Then one of his crazy Carma Bums co-conspirators, Scott Wannberg, stepped up to speed-read Jack at the tempo he probably typed, causing even faster “Go”s from all over the room.

Then Michael C. Ford drove into the spotlight all high-energy — the Grammy-nominated spoken-word artist who performed with Jim Morrison back in the L.A. day, and recorded with all the other Doors since — he took the wild Slim Gaillard club show part of On The Road out for a playful right-orooni ride, getting all Putti-Putti all-rooti, as the audience started laughing-orooni with all the be-bop-orooni a-la-vooni shim-sham jimmy-jam thank-you-man howdy-doody, all-rooti!  The room was howling and the stage raging and spirits dancing and Jack’s typewriter clacking a thousand miles an hour as the high-powered Ford fired on all cylinders to crack the code and break the barrier and spike the sound and remind us all that — “To Slim Gaillard the whole world was just one big orooni!”

Then John and I took the stage, the Bebop Brothers flip the page, bringing back the driving sage, pinning needles on the gauge.

Johnny riffed on how his Dad was just a big grown up kid, and how he’d come home and be fun and funny as hell, often bringing strange gifts, like a little hollow wooden pig he brought back from Mexico that if you put a live fly inside it, would actually cause it to walk across the table. (!)

And how he loved his Dad, and even if other people claimed Neal was off having Adventures with them, it felt to John like his Dad was home all the time.  And how his Mom had to be the disciplinarian, and how he grew up with a fairly idyllic childhood — one parent providing the roof over head and meals on the table, and the other being a big playmate.

And we traded off On The Road readings, John partial to the jazz joint riffs, punctuating them with personalized details and comedic asides.  “Everybody was rocking and roaring.  Galatea and Marie with beer in hands were standing on their chairs, shaking and jumping.”  —  “What a party!  Where was I?!”

And every time Jack would quote his Dad yelling, “Whoo!” or “Go!” to the jazz, the audience would yell it back to John creating a call-and-response song out of a prose-and-participate book.

And sitting right in the front was a gorgeous cross-legged L.A. woman dancing from the waist up, arms flowing in hypnotic figure-eights, fingers snapping … then exploding like slow-motion fireworks, all in an above-waist interpretive dance — part sign language, part snake-charming seduction.

And Sugar Magnolia, as I took to calling Aurora, was half the time on the side of the stage, half the time against a wall in the light in our joyous view, and half the time at one of the tables taking notes.

And John & I hit The Road together — reading the Jack & Neal car-riding “IT” section from On The Road that George Walker & I would later appropriate and open every one of our 20 shows together 20 years later, but this was the first time either John or I ever duetted it, and he had the Neal rhythms down.  Naturally.

“… everybody knows it’s not the tune that counts — but IT!”

And speaking of tunes, the most musical of all the Cassadys, Johnny C. Goode, broke out his electric guitar and filled in the colors as I read the part of On The Road after his Dad dropped off Uncle Jack in the California sister city of San Francisco and he started to have hunger-induced hallucinations.  “I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm …” as Johnny accented the “wonderment” with his crystalline lines.

And with the Ken Burns’ Jazz series having just aired on PBS, we thought we’d offer up Jack’s own history of jazz in one of the OTR riffs that Kerouac’s principal musical collaborator David Amram remembered as one of Jack’s favorites that he liked to read aloud — the “children of the American bop night” paragraph that begins, “Once there was Louis Armstrong blowing his beautiful top in the muds of New Orleans …” where he lays out the whole evolutionary tale in one page that Ken Burns took 20 hours to tell.

And Johnny picked up on the Johnny B. Goode echoes when Jack wrote of “Charlie Parker, a kid in his mother’s woodshed in Kansas City, blowing his taped-up alto among the logs, practicing on rainy days” and how that was captured so similarly by Maestro Chuck — “Way back up in the woods by the evergreens, There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood . . . He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack, Go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track,” as John melted Bird and Berry into a single rockin Bebop-a-Lula, and oh boy that little country boy could play!

Ragtime became Swing became Big Band became Bop became Rock n Roll became the Acid Tests became Woodstock became a million bands that burned burned burned like fabulous roman candles across the land.

Then John & I took a trip “to see George Shearing at Birdland in the midst of the long, mad weekend,” as Jack opened another of his favorite On The Road passages that he read to Amram’s backup back in the day, now with a Cassady in on the tune, and Johnny warmed up, effortlessly pealing off riffs, “slowly at first, then the beat went up, and he began rocking fast, his left foot jumped up with every beat … his combed hair dissolved and he began to sweat!”

The audience was now howling like a collective mad Moriarty yelling for us to “GO!!” as Cassady soared and the audience roared with every new chord that felt like a sword pulled from a stone!  Excalibur!

“There he is!  That’s him!  Oh God, Oh God, Cassady, Yes! Yes! Yes!”  And Johnny was conscious of the madmen in front of him, he could hear every one of their gasps and imprecations!

“That’s right!” they said.  “Yeesssssss!”

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Here’s an excerpt from another book — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Here’s where you can get The Hitchhikers Guide …

Or here’s an excerpt from How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.

Here’s where you can get the Beats – Pranksters book.

Or here’s another live Jack show tale — the Northport Report — about Big Sur’s 40th.

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

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna follow things there —

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

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