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Red Roses, Green Gold theater review

October 17th, 2017 · Grateful Dead, Movies, New York City

New Hunter-Garcia Musical comes up Roses

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Hear ye!  Hear ye!  Behold — a re-imagining of the Hunter-Garcia songbook.  New life.  New arrangements.  New band.  New set.  New stage.  New story.

If you’d like a fresh way to approach Grateful Dead music — go to this show.

If you like the Dead and theater — go to this show.

If you like the Dead and musicals — go to this show.

If you’re not sure — go to this show.

Just as the Grateful Dead broke pretty much every rule there was in showbiz — their music and this production turns a New York theater show into a dancing concert.  However long you’ve been going to the theater, you’ll be breaking the rules you’ve learned to live by.  This isn’t hushed-in-your-seat passive theater going.  This is a collaboration between band & audience, just like Grateful Dead shows were since their birth at the Acid Tests.  You’re encouraged from the opening to sing along and get up and dance.  Which, once one person breaks the ice, a Dead show breaks out.  🙂 

By my count there were at least 17 classic Dead songs used to tell the tale of a kooky crazy saloon set sometime in the nebulous Old West.  There’s a narrator — Jack Jones, the Doodah Man — who’s kinda like the Stage Manager in Our Town helping guide the audience through the Twelfth Night-like comedy of interconnected couples and conflicted love and bad intentions and double crossings — but really it’s all just a vehicle to reinvent Robert Hunter’s rich storytelling lyrics in a playful, funny, high-energy dramatization.

Original Merry Prankster George Walker and myself (and others) caught the third-ever staging of this (outside of rehearsals) and were lucky enough to talk to pretty much everyone involved from techies to the producer, from Jeff Chimenti the musical director to the on-stage stars, and there’s very much a feeling of the Grateful Dead themselves in their earliest days.  The clay is still wet, the canvas not fully painted, and the arrangements still in organic growing glowing flux.

This is eight relatively unknown musician/actors who are sculpting something new out of something established and familiar.  All of them are good, but Scott Wakefield is the father-figure both in the show, and probably off, and has a mid-career Rip Torn vibe with under-the-surface dangerous energy goin’ on.  Debbie Christine Tjong as Bertha is a firecracker with a little of Shaky Willie’s Shrew and Kathy Griffin’s petite explosions.  The mother–daughter characters played by Natalie Storrs and Maggie Hollinbeck do a touching show-stopping duet on Brokedown Palace.  And Brian Russell Carey as the clueless comedic foil Dudley has the audience laughing out loud just about every time he opens his mouth.  But the breakout to these eyes was Michael Viruet in the central character of Mick Jones — not unlike Berger in Hair, the bad guy / good guy, the Neal Cassady of this sidways adventure.

The choreography is positively playfully Twyla Tharp.  And the set and prop design is someplace between M.C. Escher and Dr. Seuss, with a cameo by Bart Simpson on skateboard.

And the seconding of musicians is second to none.  I don’t think one of them played less than five instruments all night.  Besides the eight voices, a partial list I noticed included — a violin, acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, accordion, ukulele, upright bass, drums, upright saloon piano, electric guitar, electric bass, conga, cajon box, tambourine, chimes, cowbell, shakers, and a cello!

Besides all the full songs, there were a bunch of Deadly instrumental mood-setters sprinkled throughout, and no two were ever played by the same lineup.  And if that ain’t turn-on-a-dime unexpected Grateful Dead, I don’t know what is.

The old-timey instrumentation reminded me of Phil Lesh’s recent collaboration with the String Cheese Incident — the original jugband / bluegrass music that Garcia & Hunter were born out of.  Authentic.  Timeless.  Americana.

The costumes (especially the skeleton suit and Garcia’s American flag top hat detail) and broad staging is top-notch New York theater, but performed in a little one-block alleyway playhouse down in the Village, infused with that neighborhood’s spirit and grassroots organic non-uptown mindset.  When I lived around the corner in the ’80s, I second-acted Balm In Gilead there about 15 times just to experience Laurie Metcalf’s 14 minute monologue.  It’s as cool an Off-Broadway experience as you’re gonna have, on an ancient New York lane and street (both called Minetta) you might not even know exists, which also includes Serpico’s apartment from the movie.

Gratefully, this is not Cats or The Lion King — but more a Prankster Production — except with money and rehearsals and pros behind it.

What it is, is Fun.

Occasionally there’s a smidge too much exposition of a too convoluted plot that’s ultimately unimportant — cuz it’s the exuberant freshly-delivered songs and their productions and the joyous Spirit of the whole thing that you’re gonna take away from it.

Do it with friends.  Make a night of it in the Village.  And get the special dancing seats if you’re so inclined, wink wink.

Other than extreme purists who can’t listen to this music without Jerry, I can’t imagine a Deadhead walking out of this theater without a beaming Cheshire grin on their face.  Cuz that’s all I saw all night.

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Bumping into some of the cast on the streets of Village
after they finished at the Minetta and
we finished our Jack & Neal show at The Bitter End.

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“Red Roses, Green Gold” — at The Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, New York City.

Previews — Oct. 11th – 28th.

Official Opening — Oct. 29th and running through Dec. 17th at this point, but it will probably get extended once the word gets out.

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Here’s some info on the George & Brian “Jack & Neal Ride Again tour and shows.

Or here’s my latest book — “How The Beats Begat The Pranksters

Or here’s my prior book on all things Jack, Beat, Pranksters & Dead — “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

Or here’s a bunch of other Grateful Dead related stories.

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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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How The Beats Begat The Pranksters

September 17th, 2017 · Grateful Dead, Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters

How The Beats Begat The Pranksters

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Beat Carolyn & Prankster Babbs, Boulder ’82

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It all started on September 5th, 1957 when a certain book got published . . .

Or no . . . it all started in April 1951 when a guy sat down at a typewriter with a long scroll of paper so he didn’t have to stop writing every 11 inches . . .

Or no it all started when Neal Cassady came to New York, Christmastime 1946 . . .

Which really flips back to Denver’s Hal Chase coming to Columbia University and telling all his new soon-to-be-Beat writer friends about this catalytic conman he knew from Colorado . . .

Which waves back to Twain’s playful Huck or Shakespeare’s pranksterish Puck or eternity’s Irish luck . . .

But what I can tell you for sure is this — pretty much all the Merry Pranksters — from their Perry Lane / Stanford writers’ birthplace to the Bus-painting bohos of Ken Kesey’s house in La Honda — had read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road . . . before collectively taking their own Road trip with the real life Dean Moriarty hero of the book, Neal Cassady.

As Kesey used to say when asked how someone becomes a Prankster — “We just recognize each other.”  And one of the traits — one of those recognizable admission requirements — was that you’d read On The Road.

As Kerouac & Grateful Dead scholar Dennis McNally opens the Cassady/Acid Test chapter in his definitive book on the Dead et al, A Long Strange Trip, “Neal Leon Cassady was ‘Dean Moriarty’ in On The Road, a fundamental document of the cultural odyssey that all the members of the Grateful Dead would travel.”

They had also all heard of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl because of the internationally reported on obscenity trial in 1957 that was extra prominent in the local West Coast newspapers, although not many of them had actually read the book, and none of them cited it as a breakthrough work for them.  But it sure made everybody aware there was some chit goin on.

Nowadays there are over 50 Kerouac-written books in print, and gawd-knows how many biographies … and Allen books … and books by members of the Beat Generation who were never known of in the late ’50s and early ’60s.  But back then there was really only one book.

It’s hard for us in the present to imagine a world with only one Beatles record — but effectively that’s what it was for pretty much all the original gelling Pranksters and Dead.  It wasn’t “Beat” like we know it now — not a group show at the Whitney or de Young, or the latest hardcover collection, or multiple major motion pictures.  It was one book.  Even though by the early ’60s, The Dharma BumsThe SubterraneansBig Sur and more were in print, not one of the living Pranksters has ever mentioned to me any one of them being read in their pre-Bus-trip years.  It was an On The Road mindset that changed everything.  It was a way people were beginning to think.  “It wasn’t a club, it was a way of seeing,” as Prankster bandleader Jerry Garcia phrased what “Beat” meant to him.

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At this point this story goes very in-depth with quotes by Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Robert Hunter, Paul Krassner, Ken Babbs, Dennis McNally, Robert Stone, Sterling Lord and Paul Foster,

plus new interviews with Wavy Gravy, Mountain Girl, George Walker, Anonymous, Roy Sebern, Mary Microgram & Kesey biographer Robert Faggen —

Which appear in the new book How The Beats Begat The Pranksters & Other Adventure Tales — available starting Sept. 27th 2017 right here or wherever books are sold. 😀 

But here’s how the story ends —

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One other connection that I have no proof of — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true — is that the central character in the central book of Kesey’s canon is the same central character in the central book of Kerouac’s canon.  The Chief tells us Randle’s story, and Sal tells us Dean’s.

Knowing of Kesey’s association with Cassady, I assumed for years that Randle Patrick McMurphy in Cuckoo’s Nest was based on Cassady — until I found out it was written and published long before Neal ever showed up in Ken’s driveway on Perry Lane in 1963 — the reason for his unexpected arrival never disclosed to Kesey or anyone else, although Dennis McNally says of Cassady and that moment in A Long Strange Trip, “He’d read One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and felt a spiritual kinship with Randle Patrick McMurphy, and indeed there was a bond.”

McMurphy was a charismatic good-looking fast-talking Irish jailbird conman and master manipulator who had a way with women.  He instigated road trips, and stole a boat for a joyride in place of a car.  He had the gift of gab and unflinching confidence.  He loved to play and goof and get away with whatever he could between the cracks.  He sure seemed like Dean Moriarty in On The Road to me.  “McMurphy” & “Moriarty” even sound alike.  And not fer nuthin but Jack Nicholson coulda played both with manic aplomb. 🙂

Kesey told Faggen in the Paris Review interview, “The Irish names — Kesey, Cassady, McMurphy — were all together in my mind as well as a sense of Irish blarney.  That’s part of the romantic naiveté of McMurphy.  But McMurphy was born a long time before I met Neal Cassady.  The character of McMurphy comes from Sunday matinees, from American Westerns.  He’s Shane that rides into town, shoots the bad guys, and gets killed in the course of the movie.”

And indeed, both Cuckoo’s Nest and Road end on sad notes for their heroes.  Or antiheroes.  Yet their lives as recounted lifted them to legend.

And legend and myth are a big part of it.  “It happened even if it isn’t true,” Kesey would say with his leprechaun twinkle.  Or there’s his oft-quoted, “To hell with facts!  We need stories!”  Kerouac called his collected work “The Duluoz Legend” — unabashedly mythologizing and fictionalizing his real life.  Playing with reality is both an author’s and a Prankster’s mission.  As is having fun and Adventure — and capturing it.  As is “tootling the multitudes” and practicing “first thought best thought.”

Kerouac wrote on an endless scroll. Kesey filmed an endless movie.  Both were shaking up the conventions of America, which by 1964 was still not much different than 1954.  The Beats were the blooming and the Pranksters the fruition.  The Beats were the sprouts from the garden earth and the Pranksters the flowers that turned black & white to color and became something you could wear in your hair and turn round from square.

Kerouac captured the discovery of America by post-WWII modes and means . . . and the Pranksters turned it into a Bus with beans.  Kerouac made literature fun … and the Pranksters made living funny.  Kerouac opened up possibilities and the Pranksters closed the deal.

On The Road was the cardkey pocketbook you needed to pull out of your back pocket to get through the door of The Bus.  Neal Cassady was the guy who drove Kerouac on the most important Road trip of his life, then did exactly the same for Kesey — in case anyone missed the obvious.  Kerouac lived through and captured the birth of BeBop, and Kesey created the Acid Tests that birthed The Grateful Dead and the psychedelic revolution.  Kerouac and Kesey are next to each other in most alphabetical lists of great 20th century authors — but they were also 1, 2 in a much bigger chronology.  And so much of the world is still On The Road and On The Bus.

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Here’s the first time the book appeared before a microphone . . . unexpectedly at a small club show in Toronto just before the Fall On The Road 2017 tour began . . .

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To find out about how this is all playing out in live shows and where you can see them — go here.

For The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — go here or here.

For reaction to The Hitchhiker’s Guide … check out here, here and here.

For a Hitchhiker’s excerpt about first meeting Ken Kesey — go here.

For how this all got rekindled check out Woodstock with The Pranksters.

For the story of the last great Beat summit — The Beat Museum’s Shindig in San Francisco — go here.

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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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George-Walker-Brian-Hassett-Kerouac-Cassady

August 6th, 2017 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters, Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me

George Walker & Brian Hassett

Present

Jack Kerouac & Neal Cassady

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George Walker & Brian Hassett first met in Boulder Colorado in July 1982 at the historic Jack Kerouac On The Road 25th Anniversary Conference — where Hassett ran the projector for their multimedia “Cassady” show — and then hung again the following month at Ken Kesey’s home in Pleasant Hill Oregon.

Flashforward to 2015 and Walker is given a copy of Hassett’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac (about that very summit in Boulder!) by Jami Cassady (Neal & Carolyn’s daughter) and “read it cover-to-cover as soon as I got it – and loved every minute of it!”

This led Walker to read numerous other Beat and Prankster stories on Hassett’s website, prompting him to write, “I often wonder why I go on this damn thing [the internet] and then every once-in-a-while I find something like this!”

The following summer of 2016 they met up for the first time in 34 years on the tour for the “Going Furthur” film they both appear in.

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Walker was holding court with a half-dozen people behind the theater, and when Hassett first walked up after all these years, he blurted out to his crowd, “Now here’s somebody I look up to!”

An hour after they first saw each other again — already jammin deep

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Followed by a side “trip” to the Church of Sacred Mirrors (COSM)

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They next came together at the Merry Prankster / Twanger Plunker Family Reunion in May 2017 where Hassett opened the weekend festivities with a spoken word / theater performance, after which Walker said in bug-eyed amazement — “I’d never seen you on a stage before!  That was unbelievable, man!”

That afternoon, hanging in their mutual friend Spirit’s trailer,

with Walker still gushing about the show, Hassett said, knowing Walker’s close friendship with Neal Cassady, “We should do something together.  You read Neal and I’ll read Jack.  We could do that ‘IT’ part from On The Road where they’re sitting in the backseat talking like crazy,” and Walker’s face was bouncing up and down, “Yes Yes Yes!”

The next day, 15 minutes before the show, Walker read that part of On The Road for the first time in 30 years . . . and was Neal from the opening line of a cold read-through.

He’d first spontaneously channeled his good friend Cassady back in 1973, reading him aloud at fellow Kesey/Cassady pal Ed McClanahan’s house, whereupon everyone stopped what they were doing and listened to their old friend appear in the room.  Walker says he’s been trying to find a way to bring Cassady to life on a stage ever since.

Hassett has been performing Kerouac since at least 1994 when he started producing, hosting and performing in a series of Kerouac-inspired shows in Manhattan, L.A., Amsterdam, London, Toronto and elsewhere.  Although duetting with countless others over decades of shows, he’s never had a stage partner until now.

The duo flourished because it was loving magic from the first moment they got near microphones.

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And since things had gone so well the first time, they did it again on the outdoor stage the next night.

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And since that had gone so well, and Hassett was already booked to do his “Beat Café” show at the world-famous Beat Museum in North Beach San Francisco on Friday June 2nd to kick off the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, that became the first Hassett–Walker full show.

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Which brought more people into The Beat Museum than any event they’ve ever put on in their history (other than a memorial for a fallen giant).  And for the first time, the duo improvised on stage in character as Jack & Neal.

The show killed.

Here’s most of it, on video, in 3 parts . . . 😉

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Walker, Hassett & Mountain Girl (Carolyn Garcia) in the Haight, June 2017

Hassett was also booked at the landmark Tsunami Books in hometown Prankster headquarters Eugene Oregon, which then became the second Hassett–Walker show.

Mountain Girl introduced the pair  . . .

with her daughter Sunshine Kesey and Ken Babbs in the audience laughing and clapping, the show prompting Tsunami owner Scott Landfield to blurt out, “You just had that audience entranced for two hours.  That doesn’t happen.  You can’t do that with just spoken word.”

The show killed.  Video to follow.

Which prompted the duo to book a Portland show, and with a week’s notice, packed the classic Kerouacian American roadhouse, The Rosebud Cafe, which turned out to be the real birth of the duo.  For the first time, in a venue far far away, they both found their voice and rhythm on a whole ‘nuthur level.

The show killed.  Video to follow.

Which segued into the climax of the West Coast Summer of Love Tour in the home of the very first Acid Test — Santa Cruz.

Hassett, Roy Sebern, Walker, John & Jami Cassady, Angela Chesnut

And they were joined by Neal & Carolyn’s only son John Allen Cassady . . .

and their daughter Jami . . .

In fact the Huffington Post even wrote about this one!

The show killed.  Video to follow.

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Then they went and filmed the “IT” scene in the back of the ’49 Hudson (that was used in the movie On The Road) at The Beat Museum . . .

Video to follow.

Then over to the Cassady’s old house at 29 Russell St. where the classic Jack & Neal shot was taken by Carolyn Cassady in 1952 . . .

Which you can now get on a handmade custom-dyed t-shirt by Sky.  😉

 

And then out to touch base with The Bus that started it all . . .

The original 1939 International Harvester … with the original driver/mechanic.

The most famous bus in America — according to Time Magazine.

And while all this was happening they got booked at a few choice festivals & clubs & such in the Northeast . . .

This fall being the 60th anniversary of On The Road and all . . .

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On The Road – Fall 2017 Tour:

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Gate 403 — Sun. Oct. 1st  7PM — Brian solo sneak-peak show with Trevor Cape & The Field (403 Roncesvalles) — Toronto, Ont., Canada

Lowell Celebrates KerouacSat. Oct. 7th — 2 shows — 12:30 George & Brian / Jack & Neal duet at Jack’s old Pollard Library (401 Merrimack St.) — and 4PM Brian Hassett’s Road Show at The Old Worthen (141 Worthen St.) — Lowell, Mass. — admission: Free

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac — Sun. Oct. 8th — 1:30 — the Amram Jam — upstairs at The Old Worthen (141 Worthen St.) — Lowell, Mass. — admission: Free

The Bitter EndSun. Oct. 15th — Doors 4:00 – Show 4:20–7:30PM — 147 Bleecker St., Greenwich Village, New York City — including special guests Gerd Stern, Levi Asher, Aaron Howard, Toronto’s Trevor Cape and Tico Chango the 3D UV visual artist — admission: Free

The Woodstock Mothership — Sun. Oct 22nd — 7PM — (6 Hillcrest Ave.) — Woodstock, N.Y.plus the great Beat poet Andy Clausen – admission:  Free

Harmony Music Wok & Roll — Tues. Oct 24th — 8PM — (52 Mill Hill Rd.) —  Woodstock, N.Y. — admission: Free

Keystone Harvest TestSat. Oct. 28th (5PM) and Sun. Oct 29th (4:15PM) — (The Homestead — 1230 Beaver Run Dr.) — Lehighton, PA — admission: $45 — tickets available here

Junction City Music Hall — Fri. Nov 3rd — 8PM — (2907 Dundas St. West) —  Toronto, Ont., Canada — with Trevor Cape & The Field — admission: $10

The Moonshine Cafe — Tues. Nov. 7th — 8PM — (137 Kerr St.) — Oakville, Ont., Canada — admission: Free

The Creation Zone, Iroquois Ridge, Oakville Public LibraryThurs. Nov. 9th — 7–8:30PM — (1051 Glenashton Dr.)  Oakville, Ont., Canada — admission: Free

More to be announced soon.

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New handmade signed & numbered every-one-different tour shirts just came out of the studio and you can get them on Sky’s website.

Dig those colors and the flow.  😉

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Shows & Set Lists Thus Far . . .

Twanger Plunkers / Merry Pranksters Family Reunion, Bloomington, Indiana

1. Sat May 6th, 2017
George introes Brian
On The Road “IT” passage in big tent

2. Sun May 7th, 2017
On The Road “IT” on main outdoor stage

= = =  WEST COAST – SUMMER OF LOVE TOUR – 2017  = = =

3. The Beat Museum, San Francisco, CA — Fri. June 2nd, 2017
Jerry Cimino intro
Shindig Sutra excerpt
Rolling Stone Book of The BeatsThe Power of The Collective poem
The Prankster Address  (for M.G.)
Hitchhiker’s Guide — start of San Francisco chapter (27)
Duet — On The Road “IT” passage
Kerouac’s Pic — Bus / Road chapter
George tells story of the final Jack-Neal meeting in New York in 1964 —>
Duet — improv on Jack & Neal being at The Beat Museum
—> “Nebraska” road trip passage from On The Road
Hitchhiker’s Guide — climax of San Francisco chapter

4. Tsunami Books, Eugene, Oregon — Sat. June 17th, 2017
Mountain Girl intro
Duet — “IT”
George — “Trouble Ahead” ending
Brian — Hitchhiker’s Guide — ending – arriving at Kesey’s (ch. 28-29)
Duet — On The Road – Neal at the Hinkles’ party in Denver
George — storytelling
Brian — Hitchhiker’s Guide — Babbs’s house  —> Kesey’s Bus (ch. 30)
Duet — improv —> “Nebraska” from On The Road
George — Spit In The Ocean Kesey tribute — buying the first Bus story
Brian — Hitchhiker’s Guide climax & ending poem (ch. 31-32)
Duet — improv —> Kerouac’s “Hearing Shearing” —> On The Road driving south from New York

5. The Walker Estate, Scappoose, Oregon — Wed. June 28th, 2017
Duet — On The Road  “IT” — with Lee Taylor on tenor sax
Brian solo – Be The Invincible Spirit You Are

6. Rosebud Cafe, outside Portland, Oregon — Thurs. June 29th, 2017
Albert Kaufman intro
Duet — On The Road “IT” — with Lee Taylor on tenor sax
Brian — Hitchhiker’s Guide — how it began (ch. 1)
George — Trouble Ahead
Brian — Al Hinkle–Neal trapeze circus story —>
Duet — OTR Hinkle’s Party
Brian — Hitchhiker’s Guide — in Oregon & On The Road (ch. 2)
George — Cassady poem
Duet — improv —> OTR “Nebraska”

7. Radius Gallery, The Tannery Arts Center, Santa Cruz — Monday, July 3rd, 2017
John Leopold intro
Duet — On The Road – “IT”
Brian — Hitchhiker’s Guide excerpt, Carolyn/Jan/Edie (ch. 21)
George — Trouble Ahead — the opening, in the car
Duet — OTR Hinkle’s Party
Jami Cassady — Off The Road excerpt
George — Trouble Ahead ending
Duet — improv —> OTR Nebraska
John Cassady — two pieces from his Visions of Neal chapbook
Brian — Hitchhiker’s Guide Neal Cassady tribute by Dead members (ch. 13)
Duet — improv —> OTR – leaving New York

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George Walker

a natural storyteller and author of Trouble Ahead Trouble Behind about a fantasy road trip with Jerry Garcia and the ghost of Neal Cassady, and a contributor to the all-star All About Kesey tribute, Walker was there the day Ken bought the original Bus, and became its chief mechanic, as well as one of its drivers along with Neal Cassady on the legendary 1964 trip across America chronicled in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.  An active participant in all the early Tests — the puddle The Grateful Dead were born out of —  he became one of Cassady’s closest friends through the last years of his life, including taking several road trips to Mexico and elsewhere together.  Although his ironic Prankster name was Hardly Visible, he was just the opposite, remaining intricately involved in every Prankster production and Bus trip over the decades, including the Cassady show; playing the Tin Man in Twister; at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1997; on the Where’s Merlin? tour through the U.K. in 1999; as well as staring in and helping create both the original Prankster movies, The Merry Band of Pranksters Look For A Kool Place and North To Madhattan, and being the live touring Prankster face of the 2016 Going Furthur documentary.

For a great movie featuring lots of George Walker, check out Alex Gibney’s masterpiece “Magic Trip” about the legendary 1964 Bus trip across America . . .

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Here’s where Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir talk about George on the Tom Snyder show when he took a Grateful Dead flag and scampered up the Great Pyramid to plant it at its peak during the band’s trip there in ’78 (starting at about the 2 minute mark of the clip) —

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And here’s George as the flag model 🙂 . . .  then the actual pyramid-climbing flag-planting escapade captured on a handheld 8mm by the Dead’s dentist pal —

George Walker:  “I saw the flag pole up there.  We’d actually climbed up it two or three times already.  We were young and athletic then.  I asked Jerry [Garcia] if he had a Dead flag we could hoist up there.  And he opened up his guitar case and had this flag in there with his guitar.  He handed it to me, and I never let it out of my hands until we climbed up and flew it.  The top pole was really slippery and I had to get help getting up the last part.”

And here’s an excellent homemade Key-Z documentary on the Merry Pranksters made from all their personal footage.  George comes in about the 12 minute mark and is pretty much the main narrator from then on —

And there’s a nice little video bio on him in this chapter starting around 5:50 —

And here he is joyously riffing the story of how The Bus came to be . . . at the Kesey memorial at the San Francisco Library . . .

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Brian Hassett

author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac about the historic 1982 Kerouac summit, and contributor to The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats and the upcoming Kerouac On Record, Hassett first began producing multi-band multimedia Acid Tests in 1977.  He continued in show production, touring with Yes in 1979, and working in the office with Bill Graham putting together The Rolling Stones tour in 1981.  He produced the concerts at NYU in Greenwich Village for many years, including a massive Acid Test with Country Joe, Rick Danko, Paul Butterfield & the Joshua Light Show in 1982, which actually won him the Programmer of The Year at the university.  He became close friends with Edie Kerouac (Jack’s first wife), Henri Cru (Remi Boncoeur in On The Road), and Carolyn Cassady (the love of both Jack & Neal’s life).  He inducted Kerouac into The Counterculture Hall of Fame in Amsterdam, and co-inducted Neal Cassady along with Carolyn and John Cassady.  He produced and hosted the 50th anniversary of Kerouac writing On The Road shows in April 2001 in both New York and L.A. (along with S.A. Griffin), as well as numerous Kerouac-themed shows in New York & elsewhere in the 1990s and early 2000s.  He’s been a fixture at the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival the last several years, and regularly opens the Prankster Family Reunion each summer.

 

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Brian Hassett  —  karmacoupon@gmail.com

George Walker — georgewalkerax@gmail.com

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

https://www.facebook.com/gwalkerax

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With Phil Lesh at his July 4th party at Terrapin Crossroads

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Falling In Love in The Summer Of Love

July 30th, 2017 · Grateful Dead, Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters, Weird Things About Me

Falling in Love in the Summer of Love

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Yeah — it can still happen.  To anyone anywhere anytime.  Me mid-50s, she just over 40.

We’d met a year earlier at a Prankster Family Reunion.  I thought she was stunning.  But she had this boyfriend.  It was one of those couples that didn’t seem to make sense.  You’ve known some.  They seem more like opposites than a pair.  But you never know, cuz you’re not there.

She bought my book and read it non-stop in one day at a music festival.

People around her were protecting her.  “Don’t bug Sky, she’s reading.”

I didn’t really know much about her.  Just that she was cool and pretty, with long wavy hair, and really liked my book.

By the next family reunion (this year) there she was again, and so was the boyfriend, except they sure didn’t seem to be very together.  Don’t think I ever saw them within touching distance of each other the whole weekend.  But still — I’m not a guy on the make.  Not chasin chicks.  I’m married to my work, and happily so.  In fact so much so, I can sometimes be blind to overtures.

Next thing you know, it’s the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.  San Francisco.  Gotta be there.  In fact, I get booked for a show at the world famous Beat Museum in North Beach — on the first Friday in June leading into the historic summer — and the night preceding two Dead shows at nearby Shoreline Amphitheatre, which I’ve always wanted to go to since first hearing it was being built with Bill Graham as a major consultant.

At that same Prankster Family Reunion this May, I’d fallen in with a new stage partner.  Never had one before in my life.  A duo!  George Walker.  Original Merry Prankster.  A guy who was not only “on the bus” but on The Bus on their historic ’64 cross-country trip with Neal Cassady at the wheel.  George & Neal ended up becoming fast friends and did many road trips just the two of them, including down to Mexico multiple times, where they’d spend months living together carousing and Adventuring.

He was a big fan of my writing, but had never seen me on a stage before.  I’ve opened the last couple of these Prankster Reunions — delivering the keynote address, the mood-setter, the vibe overture, all with a healthy Beat flavor.  After this year’s opening show, we were hanging, and he was raving about my performance, so I said, knowing his closeness with Neal, “We should do something together — like, you read Neal and I’ll read Jack.  We could do that part from On The Road where they’re sitting in the back of the car talking about the ‘IT’.”  And his face lit, eyes bright, head nodding, “Yes yes yes!”

“We’d just need two copies of the book . . . “

That night I grabbed the one I had and started reading the “IT” passage, making performance notes in the margins — when it hit — “You’ve gotta go photocopy these pages and blow them up so you can write all over them and give George his own copy.”  And that’s what I did the next morning.  And when he & I sat down to go over it 15 minutes before showtime — he hadn’t read this part of On The Road in 20 or 30 years — he absolutely was Neal from the first freakin line on a cold read-through!

Needless to say, we killed.

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And since it’d gone so well, he said he’d join me on stage at The Beat Museum.  “We’ll bring Jack & Neal home.”

So a whole bunch of Pranksters came to S.F. that first June weekend, including Mountain Girl and Anonymous sitting in the front row — and more people packed in there for any event the Beat Museum ever put on [other than a memorial].

And a bunch of the Prankster girls were so excited about their Night At The Museum that they got themselves all dressed up extra pretty.

And boy did they look great!  Especially Sky!

Pre-show / pre-couple photo captured by our brother Gubba.

The show killed of course . . .

then we all went over to the secret hideaway alleyway bar, Spec’s, right around the corner from the museum . . .

and had a spectacular after-party until closing time.

Sky had also brought for me some tie-dyed pants and shirt she’d custom colored for me.

See . . . sometimes I’m clueless.

Anywho, the next day, the Shoreline Dead show, I wore them, and her and her Prankster sisters spotted me from about a football field away as soon as we got out of the car, and came running across the tarmac like Charlie’s Angels playing out the comic classic TV/movie running scene.

There was this huge party in the parking lot for hours before the show, a bunch of us ending up at Kesey’s Bus for all sorts of hugging reunions and crazy shenanigans non-stop all afternoon . . .

And we sat together at the show . . . her, me & George already becoming a somewhat inseparable trio.

It was a Grate show, of course . . . a Friend of The Devil … China Cat … Eyes … Wheel . . .

Then we all retired back to the Red Vic, this artists’ hostel right on Haight St. near Golden Gate Park, where a bunch of the Pranksters including Sky were staying.

It was your regular post-show dosey-doe mayhem — including a twisted game of Twister — but I had to get home cuz tomorrow at the crack of noon we were all meeting at the corner of Haight & Ashbury for a parade to Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park to celebrate the Summer of Love.

I went out on the street, but there wasn’t a car to be seen let alone a cab in the 3AM darkness.  (Plus, my Canadian cell phone to call one didn’t work in America – long story.)  Sky saw me through the windows pacing back and forth along the sidewalk, and thought, “Oh no, he’s looking to leave.”  If a cab had appeared, or my phone worked, none of the rest of this story would have happened.

It was starting to seem like I was stuck there, and I had to be a couple blocks down the street in 9 hours, so, I knew Sky was staying in a group room with four people, but I asked her anyway if I could crash over beside her.  And she said, “Yeah, I think I can squeeze you in.”

We eventually hit the room, and her space was up on this large raised loft bed, with everyone else below.  I followed her up the ladder, and the second we were beside each other we started kissing — slow and soft and delicate at first but quickly the latent feelings we each had for the other became obvious.  This wasn’t some random convenient hook-up.  I was kissing her neck and jawline and she was shuddering to the touch — two people who’d been longing to be in each other’s arms for a long time.  There was definitely something.  “The Unspoken Thing” . . . no explanation needed.

We did what couples do . . . even with at least four people in some level of sleep (or trying to) just below us.

The next day, we went to the noon Summer of Love parade / march — this huge group of assembled hippies and pranksters walking out into the middle of Haight Street and stopping the traffic, creating an impromptu protest parade right down the middle of the street leading all the way to the park just like they did in this neighborhood 50 years ago.

On the way we bumped into sister Jami Cassady and her hubby Randy and the Kerouac biographer Gerry Nicosia, so they all fell in with us, and suddenly we had one of my favorite things — a bunch of Beats and Pranksters in the same place!

Then, the funny thing was — and this is an important part of this story — I’m an idiot.  We get to the afternoon hang spot at the base of Hippie Hill, and Sky and I are holding hands and generally entwining our bodies as we lay in the grass while people read poetry or sang or riffed in a very organic authentic Beat/hippie scene.  And Jami notices us, so when we got a moment alone, asked in her big sister way, “Soooo . . . what’s this?!” with a big smiling teasing Prankster twinkle.

We didn’t get too much one-on-one time cuz it was a multitudinous crazy scene of all-star San Franciscans running amuck in the Summer of Luck, so when her & Randy were leaving, I walked them part-way out of the park, and along the way told them my dilemma that Sky was going to the second Dead show tonight, which I didn’t have a ticket for and didn’t really wanna go to [see “idiot” above] and I asked what they thought I should do.  Jami encouraged me, but Randy got positively bug-eyed surprised that I’d be asking the question.  “With that girl?!  I’d go!!” he said, nodding in an are-you-crazy? way.

I dunno — sometimes in life you have to hear somebody tell you something even if you already know it.

Like the no cab on Haight — I wonder how life would be different if I didn’t get this bit of coaching right when I needed it?  

Before we left the park I’d bought a ticket.

It was another Grate show, of course, with a Help —> Slip —> Frank —> Scarlet —> Fire —> Drums —> Other One — but as the magic continued to unfold — in the first set they dropped a They Love Each Other!

I mean — we already knew we liked each other, but just like hearing the coach’s voice articulating my reality a few hours earlier, here was the band unmistakably singing our theme-song to us, putting into words our sentiments before we had.

And we’re dancing side-by-side in perfect swaying synch, with particular knowing eye contact on “Lord, you can see that it’s true.”  And everyone could.  Just behind us were a few of her Prankster sisters cheering her on every time she’d turn and look at them while I was still looking ahead.  Apparently there was a bit of a cheerleading squad behind us.

Another key moment came when we were sitting down as Drums started, and she leapt up, gushing, “This is my favorite part!” — causing me to blurt out for the first time — “I love you!!”  Fortunately she didn’t hear me as her head was already up in the music and we got to save that magic moment for a little while longer.

That night, back at the ol’ Red Vic, we rather quickly retired to the room, in part to make sure we commandeered the biggest bed in the space, and jumped right on it and started makin out like crazy!  All our clothes still on you understand — but just goin for it!  We could hear all sortsa people comin and goin and talkin and I-don’t-know-whating beyond us, but we were so far away in each other’s eyes and lips it barely registered.

Then all of a sudden I felt this tapping on my shoulder, and it turned out about half-a-dozen glowing blazing Pranksters were standing around our bed!  “Hey you two!  Get up!” somebody said.  “We got a room for you.”

What?!  Just to tell you what kind of friends we have — one of these Pranksters had actually rented an extra room called “The Summer of Love Room” — the most romantic couple’s retreat in the building — just to give it away to someone if something like Sky & I happened (!)

So we get up from the bed, all tustle-haired and wuzzle-clothed, as the Pranksters backed out into the hallway and formed this impromptu line from our door to that one — the second cheerleading squad of the night!  In the daze of the moment, all I saw were these beaming happy faces lining the whole hallway, as one of them handed me the key and said, “Have fun!”

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The next day, our Prankster brother Dr. Turley was driving his massive RV from the Haight up to his place in Chico, with a stop in Mill Valley at Sweetwater to meet up with the Kesey Bus.  Not unlike the gifted room, our RV mates all agreed Bri & Sky needed to “take a nap” in the back bedroom.

And thus began the Adventure . . .

which, in this particular moment, led to us having the most amazing long-form sex with all the drapes and windows wide open on all three sides surrounding us in the back room through The Streets of San Francisco until soon the Pacific Ocean breeze was blowing over us as we passed alongside the flickering pulsating bright orange cables of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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“The greatest moment of my life,” I heard not long after.

“You better write about this.” 

And we’ve done nothing but keep going Furthur ever since.

 

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Here’s a story about meeting up with the Pranksters and Kesey Bus at Yasgur’s Farm.

Here’s one about the first Prankster Family Reunion.

And here’s the 2nd one with lots of pictures.

Here’s about the prior trip to San Francisco for The Beat Museum’s big Shindig.

Or here’s The Grateful Dead Played My 30th Birthday.

Or here’s a whole book full of real-life passionate stories like this — 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 follow things there —

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

 

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Long Strange Trip – Grateful Dead doc review

May 2nd, 2017 · Grateful Dead, Movies

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Let There Be Songs To Fill The Screen

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I remember when I first saw the long-in-the-works Beat Generation documentary “The Source” at its premiere in Manhattan with McClure, Amram and all these other luminaries and we all went to the afterparty at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and everybody was freaking out that finally a serious long-form Beat documentary got made!

Well, that night just repeated itself 15 years later in Toronto — at the International Premiere of the definitive Grateful Dead doc “Long Strange Trip.”

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The director Amir Bar-Lev (above) and his extended crew have been working on this for the last 14 years  (!)

Martin Scorsese executive produced.  Trixie Garcia and filmmaker Justin Kreutzmann were very involved, as were all the living band members.  And it includes basically all the “lost” / home-movie footage that’s ever been found.

This was only the sixth theater where it was shown on a big screen — and will be again in a nationwide one-off on May 25th which I highly recommend any Deadhead make the point of seeing if it’s in your town.

It’ll be streaming on Amazon Prime starting June 2nd — the same happy day I’m headlining at The Beat Museum in San Francisco.  Amazon Prime is a Netflix kinda thing, that they told me is $80 a year, and has all this original programming plus expedited shipping on everything you buy from Amazon.  If you don’t see it in a theater on May 25th, or in screenings in NYC & LA that weekend, your only way to see it is with this online subscription.  There’s no DVD release planned at this point.

And just to get back to the Beat thing — this epic opus opens and closes with Jack Kerouac  (!)

“Say what?!”

Not to give anything away — as the director joked, “don’t tell anyone, but the hero dies in the end” — but the last quote in the movie, Garcia’s sign-off moment, he says something like, “Kerouac broke open the doors for me — and I hope the Grateful Dead have been able to do that for other people.”

This is what I’m on about.

Here’s these filmmakers spending 14 years making this tremendous love-filled soulful take on the Dead — recognizing and making prevalent Jerry’s deep connection to Jack Kerouac.  And they even found an early photo of Robert Hunter in a plaid shirt that you would swear was Jack himself!

As I write in my book, the very last question Jerry was ever asked on camera, in an interview for the Silicon Valley Historical Society, was about Neal Cassady.  And he riffs rhapsodic — “I got to be good friends with him.  He was one of those guys that truly was a very special person.  In my life, psychedelics and Neal Cassady are almost equal in terms of influence on me.  

“Neal was his own art.  He wasn’t a musician, he was a ‘Neal Cassady.’  He was a set of one.  And he was it.  He was the whole thing — top, bottom, beginning, end, everything.  And people knew it.  And people would be drawn to it.  He was an unbelievable human being— the energy that he had, and the vocabulary he had of gestures and expressions — oh boy he was funny.  Phew!  I really loved him,” were the last words Jerry Garcia ever said on camera.

And now here — his very last line in the definitive Grateful Dead documentary — is him citing Kerouac as “breaking open the doors.”

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Besides that — which is really the whole puckin key as far as I’m concerned . . .  😀 

Deadheads Unite!

This is gonna blow your mind!

The first two hours cover basically up until the ’75 hiatus … and then there’s a nice “set break” before another two hours of basically ’76 till ’95.

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This was made in complete collaboration with David Lemieux (above, post screening) the Canadian Deadhead who took over from Dick Latvala as the Dead’s official audio/visual archivist.  Besides all the extended family members’ cooperation and inside insights, it was also made with a non-Deadhead editor & other key krewe who helped keep the perspective from being too insider.

One of the first comments in the Q&A with the director afterwards was a Toronto Hot Docs Film Festival regular saying he was not into the Dead at all but was blown away by the doc.  Several of the advance reviews in places like Variety and Vanity Fair were written by non-Deadheads who stated the same, and were similarly blown away.

Also in the post-screening talk, Amir said how part of the film’s motivation was as sort-of “marriage therapy” — that this was for people who “got it” who needed to explain it to their loved one who didn’t.  🙂

And they achieved their objective.

I sure wish my Mom was alive to see this.

Oh, and another thing — it focuses on the music!  It makes me wanna puke whenever I hear “music people” dismiss the music this band made.

It was formed by — and was a practicing amalgam of — a bluegrass player (Jerry), a blues singer (Pigpen), a jazz & classical composer/player (Phil), an R&B drummer (Bill), and an alt-folkie (Bob).

Then add in that they were born out of Ken Kesey’s acid tests, and had Neal Cassady as their driving headlight, and you’ve got an engine that’s a Bus that’s a circus that’s a movement that’s done nothing but grow till this day.  And it’ll be bigger tomorrow.  (Especially once more people see this! 🙂 ) 

There’s a lot of time devoted to the whole musical progression from their flukey formation and manic morphing —> the studio world, then the learned dedicated focus that produced the Workingman’s Dead / American Beauty masterpieces, and how it all played out from there.

I (and others in the theater) were brought to tears more than once — including the Morning Dew story from the climax of the Europe ’72 tour, and the writing and playing of The Days Between that Dennis McNally rightly calls “the last Garcia-Hunter masterpiece.”  Heavy stuff.

Then there were tons of seat-shaking rounds of laughter, including Hunter explaining the lyrics to Dark Star; the very British Sam Cutler’s various takes on things (one of them, roughly, “In America, people actually go ‘in search of America.’ No one in England goes ‘in search of England.'”); Warner Brothers’ Joe Smith explaining how he never “got it;” Al “Althea” Franken explaining how he did; and Deadheads goofing on clueless local reporters who showed up trying to ‘get the story.’

Something else that’s extraordinary and I appreciated was the storytelling.  The filmmaker spoke of it in the Q&A when asked about why some person or moment in their history wasn’t dealt with, then he and I talked about it afterwards.  It’s all about the storytelling, man — what you leave out, what you put in, how you arc, how you work themes and build suspense and pace mood.  A hundred different directors would make a hundred different movies.  And boy, I’m sure glad this guy made this one.

Something specific I loved was his ease with breaking strict chronology.  He would follow a trail on, say, sound systems, and then loop back to an earlier period to start another thread.  It’s to his credit that he knew he could play with time.  After all, as Kreutzmann says in the film, “It’s not about keeping the time, it’s about keeping the feeling.”

There’s also a nice tribute to Bear, and a lot of footage and stories about The Wall of Sound.

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When asked about how much more unseen home-movie type footage there was, the director said pretty much everything that was any good that they uncovered or was in the archives made it into the movie.  (see, also: Hours, 4) 

Plus, there’s a fabulous use of still photographs in all different manner of creative collages to tell the story.  Even for hardcore lifelong Deadheads like myself and the whole row of people I went with, there’s oodles of stuff you’ve never seen or heard before.

I was lucky enough to experience this on what the director said was the best screen and sound system it’s ever been shown on — the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto.  It was my first night out of the house since the election 5½ months ago (!) and the hardcore Deadheads in this town, led by Trevor Cape, set up a whole Dead scene with hanging tapestries and a six-piece band playing in the second floor lounge leading into the theater for an hour before the screening.  Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart.

Also, a guy I know, Steve Silberman, does some excellent storytelling himself about how an average kid from New Jersey discovered the band — sort of standing in for all who found their way to the sound & the furious party.  He also does a brilliant rap on how a Dead show’s crowd was like a Tibetan mandala with all these different pieces that make up the whole.  There’s the ones who every night go to The Phil Zone where they can hear and see him best.  Then there’s the Jerry people.  Then there’s the spinners out in the hallway.  Then there’s the Wharf Rats who are supporting each other through their sobriety.  Then there’s the tapers . . . and on and on with all these different groups that come together to make up the whole.

And I’m even in the damn thing!  Front & center at Radio City Music Hall in full Steal Your Face make-up dancing to Not Fade Away!

Somebody made a cool comment in the movie about the irony of — “The most ephemeral band in history became the most recorded.”  These guys were living in the moment for 30 years, only concerned with the next note played, and not with their official photos or albums or anything else built to last, and yet they created something that has an ever-present ever-growing worldwide life of its own.

Classic Albums made a Grate doc in 1997, “Anthem to Beauty,” about those transitional studio years — but there’s no doubt this is the show we’ve all been waiting for.  Deadheads will be throwing house parties around screenings of this for the rest of time, but even more importantly, it achieves the collective filmmakers’ objective of telling the story non-Deadheads will get.

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For more on The Grateful Dead and Jack Kerouac & The Beats — check out The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac or at Amazon here.  It’s got the most detailed exploration of the connection between the Dead and the Beats ever in print.

Or there’s lots more about it here on my site.

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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 Spilled Coffee Test

April 9th, 2017 · Real-life Adventure Tales, Weird Things About Me

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The Spilled Coffee Test . . . 

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How to know if you’re happy and centered . . .

Something I’ve being using for decades . . . 

Very simple — 

If I ding (or worse) my coffee cup (or whatever) and cause a spill on the table (or wherever) my split-second reaction is an infallible indicator of my state of mind and life.

This also applies to any other accident from your car to stubbing your toe to any kind of mishap one experiences in life.

There’s three types of instant reaction:

1) You laugh at the absurdity of it, the silliness, the test of it.  If your life is going well, if you’ve got all of your shit together, “spilled coffee” makes you laugh at yourself and circumstance.

2) You’re not bothered — it’s just something that happens and you clean up the mess unaffected one way or the other.

3) You yell a curse word in anger, maybe throw or kick something, or lash out at in anger.

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Someone might ask you, or you might ask yourself, if you’re happy (centered, grounded, in control, in love with your life, as ol’ JK would say) and you can give any kind of answer to that: what you think they want to hear, what you want to tell yourself.

But in that unexpected moment where you have a mishap / accident — and before you have time to think about it — that’s your real true reaction, the real true measurement of your mental well-being.  You don’t have time in that split second to remember what some self-help guru or religion or philosophy taught you.  In that split-second you either (basically) laugh or curse.

I monitor like a hawk this reaction in myself.  The majority of one’s reactions are probably in the middle — you just take it in stride, neither too upset nor laugh, but simply clean it up and keep moving forward.

BUT — when I curse I know something is really wrong in my soul —in my approach — in the equilibrium in my life.  You can’t b.s. this reaction.  In regular life moments you can come up with all sorts of rationalizations and explanations convincing yourself you’re happy — but if you catch yourself cursing at life’s minor misfortunes you really need to get off the field and sit on the bench until you’ve got yourself back to that happy centered place.

When I let out a little (or big) laugh at the misfortune / accident — I know I’m in The Zone.

And when “in the zone” it’s a time to go furthur — push yourself — go that other place — take chances — swing for the fences.  It’s a real-life occurrence you can observe in sports — when an athlete gets on an inexplicable hot streak and everything he or she does works for a period of time.  It can also be the case with an artist in any medium — when they’re channeling the Spirits and can almost do no wrong creatively.  Bob Dylan said he doesn’t know the person who wrote those songs circa 1964–66.  There are times when all the mental / spiritual / physical forces are lined up and the flow is pure and uninterrupted.  Ideally, that’s where one strives to live all the time — and when I find myself laughing at spilled coffee (or any other misfortune) I know I’m in that zone.

Conversely, when I get angry at a slight slip, and metaphorically, or worse, literally, throw the coffee mug across the room — I know it’s time for a “time out.”  This little moment is the Spirits’ way of showing you you’re off your game.  Getting back on your game is the subject of countless books and philosophies and prolly religions, too, and every person has to find their own way.  But “spilled coffee” is God or nature’s way of sticking a thermometer into your life and taking your mental health temperature.  And I pay close attention to the results of every such test.

And P.S. —

This is not to be confused with “don’t cry over spilled milk” which is a lesson about not worrying about something (small) that happened in the past.  That’s also a lesson to learn and internalize.  What I’m talking about here is a thermometer.  An instantaneous measurement of mindset that you can’t fake because it happens naturally and without planning.

And it tells you the truth about YOU.  😉 

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Here’s something along these lines — Everyday Is A Gift

Or you can simply Be The Invincible Spirit You Are

Or here’s a nice one — Love Is

Or here’s an uplifting tale of the Dalai Lama in Central Park

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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 Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac at The Beat Shindig in San Francisco

March 19th, 2017 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters, Weird Things About Me

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15 minutes before this show I was lying on the ground behind the Cassady’s booth trying not to lose consciousness. . . .

An hour into it I was running around the stage playing Gregory Corso on a football team.  The build from wounded wobbly to careening comedy is completely crazy.

Everything had been going more-than-well.  I’d done two killer hour-long shows the day before [see them here or below], then gone to the kick-off of the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well 50th anniversary all evening, and despite the non-stop madness, was holding up quite well — until I helped move some boxes of books just before showtime sparking one of my dizzy/pass-out spells.  I’ve seen doctors about it, and they tell me I have to get horizontal as soon as it happens or I’ll lose consciousness.  It was one of those.

This past month I’ve been editing & posting all the filmed shows on file from the last two years since The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac came out — and by flukey happenstance / karma / fate this was the final one revisited.

It’s by far the weirdest craziest strangest Beatest of them all.  I look like hell, and feel older than Ferlinghetti! . . . but then gather strength & steam as it progresses — in fact, beginning surprisingly a minute in when the “opening announcement” gets not one but two big laughs.  😀 

I appreciate a good drama — be it the stage the page or the screen — and love “the arc.”  But this is the only time I’ve ever done a show where it happens without being written into the script — from barely conscious … to sustained needle-pinning laughter.  It’s real-life reverse aging — where the character gets more youthful with each passing moment.  But it’s all natural / real / improvised and unrehearsed.

To me, this is my most Dead-like show.  It’s so weird, and so easy if you’re not inclined and don’t know there’s a pay-off coming to turn it off.  But this crazy thing happens . . . it just sorta builds and gets into its own groove and wild blossoms bloom . . . I can’t explain it, like you can’t really explain a Dead show.  But this is the closest I ever came to executing one.

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Tate Swindell, B, Jerry Cimino, Gerd Stern, Levi Asher, James Stauffer

Sunday, June 28th, 2015, The Beat Shindig, San Francisco

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Here’s the Cassady panel from the day before — featuring Jami Cassady, the great Al Hinkle, myself, and hosted by Levi Asher . . .

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Or here’s the funny interview with Gerd Stern about the infamous “Joan Anderson / Cherry Mary letter” . . . 

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Or here’s a playlist of the Woodstock Mothership show on the same day but the next year  . . .  🙂 

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Or here’s a playlist of the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac show in 2016 including the killer first-time-ever “Pic” . . . 

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Or here’s a playlist of all the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac clips from 10 different shows over 2 years . . . 

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Or here’s the group piece we did from the book release party at the Kettle of Fish in New York featuring Jami Cassady, Levi Asher and Walter Raubicheck . . . 

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Or here’s the opening of the Merry Prankster family reunion in 2016 . . . 

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For more on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac check out these reviews & reactions

Or here was a ton more including a bunch of the original Merry Pranksters.

Or so many kept coming in there was a whole nuther batch!

Here’s where you can get the book direct from the publisher.

Or here’s where you can get it on Amazon.

Or here’s where you can get an e-book Kindle version.

Or here’s a whole wild story about the whole wild Shindig.

Or for more on the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well shows check out this report from Chicago.

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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 Dalai Lama in Central Park in 1999

February 26th, 2017 · New York City, Poetry, Weird Things About Me

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Dalai-Rama!

or

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

is the Twinkle in Your Own Eye!

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In the days leading up to This Great Spirit Gathering in Central Park,
The news reports were predicting 20,000 people or something.
I was thinking, “This is going to be a LOT bigger than that!”

I entered The Park up by the big Reservoir,
and on the Perimeter Drive that circles around inside the Park there’s this
……….ten-person-wide parade
………………..of vegetarian yoga-sitting Buddhist whippets
…………………………all power-walking to Dalai-Land.

But when we get there,
the entire section of the Park that contains the Dalai’s East Meadow
………. is already full of people,
……………….. shut down, barricaded off by fences,
………………………… and an unfaltering uniformed line
…………………………of New York’s Worst.

Gushing around the East Meadow
………. is a sudden Flash Flood of people
………. overflowing the banks of the melting-pot amphitheater lake-size bowl.

The half of the roadway closest to the barricades has become this
………. Standing-Room-Only balcony
……………….. 30-people-deep
……………….. straining to see just a sliver of an angle of anything
……………….. that even resembled a stage,
………………………… or a tent,
…………………………………. or the top of a speaker tower.

So it was either, “Tip-toe through the Taoists” for hours,
………. or “keep movin’ on.”

That, and the slobbering bridles of the Four Horses of the Millennium Bucking into the back of your head as the Giuliani Spiritual Police
……….. hollered at us
……………….. “Keep it moving.”

It’s okay for a half-a-million Fat Frat Southern Cowboys
………. to come to the Park for Garth “Pepsi” Brooks
But get a few thousand Buddhists together and it’s
Noooooo . . .
………. We gotta impose a little order here.
……………….. We don’t want any of you
………………………… God-damn
…………………………………. Buddhists
………………………………………….. freely assembling
…………………………………………………… in a park!”

And then at one point I look over and there’s the poet Eliot Katz
………. caught in a crowd-current,
……………….. gushing along by the curb in the other direction.

A hip-kat caught in the flood,
With a Big Smile on
………. as he looked all around from his bobbing inner tube,
………. with his paws up on the side looking out in Happy-Katz wonder
………. as he bounced off the Rocky People.

And then a horse with a cowboy and a gun swims by
………. in the current between us,
Tossing and breaching all our little boats,
………. And Mr. Katz is gone forever . . .

Then as I look over at the amphitheater bowl,
………. At all those placid and pacific people in the Sea of Dalai,
There’s this big bulking crowd that was STILL –
………. already posed in tomorrow’s newspaper –

But you could see, if you looked long enough,
………. a gentle, subtle, tiny, barely-traceable
……………….. trickle of people
………………………… rippling in from the left.

So I let myself go with the current along the river Drive
………. like a poppedcycle stick
……………….. whippin’ past tree-lined banks,
Naturally flowing around the site
………. down the hill
And sure enough there’s this bridge
………. over the river K-why not?
……………….. bridging the field and the food stands.

There’s a half-dozen half-dozin’ cops caught coppin’ a yak
………. and they . . . seem to be . . . letting people pass!

Yass!

As I floated through the phalanx flashing my

Laminated All-Access Prankster’s Twinkle

There he was!
………. the little orange and red-cloaked bald & giggling man!

And then OHHH! My God! There’s the big bald & giggling man
………. on the Giant Screen!

Holy Drive-in Gurus, Batman!
………. It’s “I Love Lamy!” on the Jumbotron!

But there he is for real! The Dalai Rama!

Sitting in a big Captain Kirk chair in the middle of the stage,
………. one camera shooting-straight at him from the waist up
……………….. “just like Elvis”

A brilliant yellow bed of shimmering van Gogh sunflowers
………. wrapped all around him like he was already in heaven,
Except he was still here!
………. Bouncingly buoyant in his perch
…………like a little seven-year-old child in a fat first-class seat
…………………on his first airplane ride.

And man, . . . It was in-fect-ious!

There’s this powerful charge when a master of the spirit
………. plays to a packed house outdoors.

Everyone is unified simply by making the Journey.

I did Mass with the Pope in Central Park,
A freedom rally with Nelson Mandella in Amsterdam,
And danced to Dylan at Woodstock,
And there’s this tangible energy transformation that takes place when
……….10,000 people, maybe more
……………….. get together in one place.

First of all,
it burns India
………. in a way you can never forget.

Spend a day with a global guru in a temple like Central Park
with all the summer volunteers and extra-credit-motivated students
buzzing with the same energy-charge you’re channeling
with it flowing right out of the ground
and the whole field lights up like a flame scorching the soul for fun and forever.

And everyone, without saying a word, is reverentially quiet.

A cell-phone rings but is turned off without looking.

No one sparks a butt — in a tension-free crowd of thousands.

Nothing is heard save the stray whispering of an “Excuse me,”
………. as someone balletically tip-toes through the blankets and jack straw legs
………. in a slow-motion Twister dance on shoe-sized grass squares
……………….. making their way back to their loved-ones ahead.

And with a crowd like this,

What one of these Spirit Giants can do!

By first drawing us in,

then drawing us out,

Bringing us out of ourselves
………. to dance beneath the diamond sky
……………….. with a half-a-million strong.

Aretha did it in Washington at Clinton’s Inaugural,
………. raising a million Bubba’s off their picnic-blanket-butts
……………….. to shake it under in the national sun,
And here we were with the Salvation Dalai warming up New York City!

So he welcomed everyone as soon as he began,

He said it didn’t matter what religion we came here as:

we were all striving for the same things.

He called it “secular ethics.”

Yeah!

“Secular ethics”

Why didn’t I think of that?

And the whole time he was being really funny
………. and open
………. and laughing
………. and making fun of his broken English,

so he introduced his translator who stood by him the whole time and whenever he would hesitate on a word the translator would lean over with whatever was stuck on his tongue.

I wish I could have a “translator” travel with me all the time!

Talk about close couples finishing each other’s sentences,
………. here’s this guy
……………….. who can do it on the fly,
………………………… finishing the Dalai Lama’s thoughts
…………………………………. on stage,
………………………………………….. on demand.

And then the Dalai would go, “Yes-yes-yes,”
………. and then try to say the word in English . . .
……………….. ” . . . life – styyyle – yesssss.”

And all afternoon he had this simple innocent brilliance about him.

He was making these huge points about
………. your mental attitude being within your control
and how all of us have the power to change that in ourselves,
and he’d be going,
………. “I know, it is verrrry-difficult.
………. Verrrrrry, very difficult.

You try to sleep and there are . . .”
and he waves his hand around in the air looking for a word.

And the translator doesn’t know and tries whispering a few words to him,
then all of a sudden —
………. “ALARMS!!! There are Alarrrrrms, yeeeeesss.
………. They start to go off — and you cannot sleep!
………..And there are Engines of Fire that race past your window,
………………………… and it is very-very bad. Yes . . .
………. Life is very-difficult.
………. But we must keep Positive Mental Attitude.”

He almost had this Lenny Bruce-thing going on,
………. Using humor to convey the larger spiritual points,
………. Performing “shows” to articulate the truths
………. With humor as the medium to keep us alert and attentive
………. As he simultaneously tuned us clearly into the Channel.

And then he goes on and tells how he was taken from his parents when he was young, and then lost his whole country when he was 15,
and my own problems sure seemed a lot smaller after that!

Here was this guy laughing away in his Captain Kirk chair,
………. telling us that he was no different than any of us,
………..and that if he can change his mind and stay positive —
……………….. and not only that
……………….. but also pick people up and carry them with him —
………………………… it sure made me want to pick up my own game.

And as with any great artist,
………. the audience doesn’t just sit by passively and soak in his mastery —
………. but instead we become engaged,
………. making us all think,
and see the world in ways we never would have thought of –

And I suddenly imagined myself standing at a concert,
………. But I was in an upper tier,
………. and my seat was right behind a pillar so I couldn’t see the stage.

Then I realized all I had to do is take one step to the side,
………. and suddenly I could see everything.

You just take one tiny step and your entire perspective changes,

And then he says –

Be a garden of love that others can grow in and out of.”

The best thing you can do is allow someone else to spring from your heart.”

And he suggested:

………. “Be self-confident without conceit.”

………. “Have self-reliance without pride.”

And after this whole two-hour odyssey where he pulled the camera way up
………. into the outer spaces of consciousness
……………….. giving us all a guided tour of the psychic universe
………………………… and now suddenly he was saying, “Goodbye!”

And you’re realizing it’s over and scrambling,
………. “Geez, did I get it? What the heck was the point again?”

And right at that point, after all the different lessons he’d taught us,
………. he says,

………………..But the most important thing

………………………… is to be a nice, warm-hearted person.”

There he was, so kindly,

………. without asking,

……………….. gently telling us what we needed to hear.

But the most important thing

………. is to be a nice, warm-hearted person.”

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Here’s another heart-warmer poem — Spring Peace Piece

Or here’s one called Be The Invincible Spirit You Are

Or here’s another Rama Rising — where Barack is The Rock

Or here’s the essence of it all — 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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Finding Kesey

January 29th, 2017 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters, Weird Things About Me

Finding Kesey

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Following the November 2016 election I knew it was time to get my own house in order.  A year had been lost to a losing campaign, added to five years of On The Road domino-tumbling madness that had passed since my mother had passed in 2011, and there was a lot of work left undone on the homefront.

Since I first saw the treasures of Tutankhamen in London as an 11-year-old I’ve been in love with archeology, and have practiced it from the deserts of Arizona to combing through mounds of mounds in old Beats’ apartments in New York City.  But now I was digging through the layers of my own life.

A few years ago I unexpectedly began an extensive reconstruction of 1982, unearthing old journals and photographs and files and notes and letters as I wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac about the historic Beat summit I attended that summer.  Spent years on the project, all told, as the process spun off to events in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and a thousand other far-flung locales — which then all tumbled into the unprecedented Presidential primary and campaign of 2016.

After burning with Bernie in Bloomington, and marching against the madness in Cleveland, and being on the ground in hometown New York when the Hope Air plane crashed into that hideous black tower on Fifth Avenue, it was time to pull the troops back, return to basecamp, regroup, and refortify.

After years of combing through records for the book, and unearthing 64 photographs among other gems, I was quite sure everything from that life-altering experience had been uncovered.  How wrong I was!

You know your junk drawer?  Every home has one … or three.  The catch-all basin for the occasionally useful flotsam of domestic life.  I’ve still got one in my original office desk that I began using in the summer of 1981 when I moved into Phyllis & Eddie Condon’s apartment on Washington Square North.  That desk is now in the garage in Canada, and while pawing through it the other day, I came across all sorts of old employee badges from the World Trade Center to Rockefeller Center, and folk festivals from Vancouver to Bear Mountain . . . and upside-down at the very bottom of the drawer I lifted up a plastic-covered one and saw —

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I was sure everything in this homebase excavation site had been uncovered.  Then BOOM!  It was 1982 all over again!

“Have to put this in the next edition,” I thought, as I stopped whatever I was doing and just let the new gem shine in front of me for a few beers of reflection.

A couple days later, the supply inventory mission had moved on to textiles.  The old uniforms of war & peace.  The past pants of a much younger man.  The parent’s clothes that had been too close to home when it was still too close to their passing.

In the “Hiding Out In A Rock n Roll Band” chapter of the book where I take the reader to the Grateful Dead’s shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre during the Kerouac conference, there’s a paragraph about an important subculture within the subculture —

And then on a whole other level — there’s countless tourheads strolling the scene holding up gorgeous hand-dyed / hand-lived t-shirts for sale, who quickly flipped them around so you could see the back as well.  Asking 15, but they’ll take 10.  Some are printed with classic all-purpose Dead lines — “The bus came by and I got on” — and others are customized just for these shows with “Dead Rocks” or Mountain Dew” along with the dates.

Of course in retrospect I always wished I’d gotten one at those shows — they were so historic and fantastic — and with the book coming out had become some of my favorites of the 120 I saw with Jerry.

Feature my surprise (to use an old Henri Cru phrase) when I went through a drawer of ancient t-shirts from my rock n roll touring days and in between some Yes and Jefferson Starship employee shirts this fell out —

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The next edition of the book is certainly going to have a few more photos in it!  😀 

This was of course call for another stop-work sit-down-and-stare in disbelief at something else that somehow made it into my blue road backpack that summer — survived all the way back to Vancouver — then all the way to New York — then at some point into a long unexamined drawer at my parent’s place.

1982 lives! 😀

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I don’t know about your house, but in ours we always had stashes of stuff crammed in every conceivable corner.  It may have started with parents who grew up during the Depression who’d never throw anything out if they had one square inch to store it in.  This is the materiel supply & support outpost that I find myself padding around in now that the familial soldiers have left the battlefield.

A favorite stash spot in the three houses they had since I was a kid was underneath the basement stairs.  I’m sure it starts with good intentions, but over time it becomes a crammed jigsaw puzzle of items squeezed together with no space in between, and no hope of accessing anything.  By the time I started the long process of unpacking this final covered wagon I found old shotguns, plastic swizzle sticks from bars in cities they lived in in the ’50s, cookware unused since The Beatles were still together, dog collars from pets that died in the ’70s, Hot Wheels, Legos, Spiderman comics, Hardy Boy books — all in an endless Christmas-morning-revisited series of surprises.

After days of diligent digging, I finally pulled out the final trunk at the very back.  And boy was it one crazy treasure chest of weird stuff!  A top hat collection, plastic toy knights, Creepy Crawlers molds, bags of bizarre old matchbooks, silver goblets — and right on the bottom were a bunch of those big green Lego foundation pieces that you’d build a house or whatever on.  And I noticed they seemed to be sitting on something — not quite flat on the bottom of the trunk.  As I reached down through the bags of stuff and felt what was under there, my fingertips touched a piece of what seemed like packing cardboard.  And I felt a little more and there was a second one.  I thought, “No way!” . . . didn’t even allow myself to go to where this might be going.  “Don’t even think it.”

Perhaps this is a good time to refresh one little passage from the end of the book — when Kesey and I are sitting at the big round dining room table in his house —

We’re talkin’ about my route outta there, and I said, “Oh yeah, I gotta make a sign.  Do you have any cardboard?”  And we go find a nice piece because — as internalized now — selecting the right size, quality and cleanliness of your cardboard is essential.  As is scripting the calligraphy, of course.  So, I pulled out my trusty elMarko pen still with me since Portland, and started making the sign, and Kesey says, “No, no, you’re doing it all wrong.”

And he goes and gets s’more cardboard n says with faux anger, Gimme that,” and yanks the pen away and starts drawing this wild Home to Vancouver” sign with a giant cartoon thumb.  Ha!  “That’ll get me home!” I smile, as I hold it up like a rehearsal for my roadside attraction.

I made it home with all of the books he gave me, and to this day still have everything, including the conference poster, my holy notebooks, the cassettes, the ancient-even-then Kodak Instamatic X-15 camera, Brother Tom’s t-shirt, and that cool old John Lennon Rolling Stone issue I carried with me everywhere that Ken read from and I had him sign — but speaking of signs, my Mom didn’t cotton too well to me hitchhiking, and one Christmas I went home and that Kesey sign wasn’t there anymore.

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Then  —  BOOM!

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There it was!!

I hadn’t laid eyes on it in neigh-on 30 years and was sure it was gone for good.

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And just to go Furthur with that sign-making story in the book — the main thing Kesey didn’t like about what I scripted was the big peace sign I put on it.  I think he thought it indicated a flakey hippie.  For me, it was my lucky soul-symbol.  And as you may have read in the book, I had unbelievably good luck on the multiple hitchhiking trips thus far.

You can see it in the couple surviving sign shots from the trip —

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With the legendary Cliff Miller on the left

Full moon in Nevada skies, Aug. 4th, 1982

So, after Kesey draws on it and hands it back to me, there must have been a Flair type black felt pen handy, because you can see I had the balls to override the master — drawing a little peace sign up in the corner because I was not about to abandon the mandala that got me this far.  And once I drew it on, tiny as I did, he said from across the Big Table, “Oh, that’s okay.  Small in the corner like that’s alright.”  😀 

And speaking of corners . . . paging Forensic Files — the perp left partial fingerprints at the scene!  In the upper left corner is a super-distinct left thumb print (I’m guessing as that’s exactly where you’d hold up the sign to show it to me across the table with his freshly inked fingers).  There’s also a couple others — but that upper left one is clear enough to putcha away for life!

And although I stood up to the old man (who was actually younger at the time than I am now!) with my peaceful intentions, young Luke also learned from old Obi-Wan — because the other piece of cardboard my fingers felt underneath the green Lego was the sign I used on the final leg home to Winnipeg.  And unlike every other hitchhiking sign I ever made — there’s no peace sign.

“Just to Winnipeg” — in its new place high on a wall with some scored New York street signs and a Dr. Seuss book tower. 🙂

I’ve been writing and thinking about memory ever since stumbling down this rabbit hole back to 1982.  It’s fascinating how one item / photo / remembrance can cause to be retrieved a ton of other thought-erased files from the organic hard drive at the top of our temples.

Not long after my fingers gripped this cardboard for the first time since it was assumed lost in the ’80s, I flashed back to how it came to be where it was.

When my folks were moving out of Winnipeg, and trying to reduce costs, although they trucked a lot of childhood memories out to B.C., they drew the line at my cool collection of old foldover Rolling Stones and other Crawdaddy, Creem and Circus magazines, a collection of course I salivate at the thought of today.

The last night before the movers arrived, I’d been out carousing with my friends for one last send-off, came home late as usual, and this unsealed box was at the bottom of the basement stairs.  Buzzed as I wuz, I flipped the flaps to treasure the treasures that weren’t making the trip, and there in the mix were the two hitchhiking signs my mother didn’t approve of.

“These are important,” I remember thinking.  She didn’t know.  I barely did.  But a hitchhiking sign drawn by my hero Ken Kesey didn’t belong in the leave-behind box.  And since all the moving boxes were taped and she would recognize these things if she found them unpacking on the West Coast, I opened the tickle trunk and managed to hide them on the bottom underneath the Legos — probably the same way that copy of the Declaration of Independence was hidden safely and forgotten behind that painting bought at a flea market in 1989 — the very same year this was hidden away.

In the Spirit of Discovery — may finding buried treasure and having Christmas mornings of surprises be a part of your and all of our lives forever.

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The original title that this is an homage to — Finding Casey  🙂

And here’s a Kesey excerpt from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Here’s a ton of people’s reactions to the book.

Here’s a ton more including a bunch of the original Merry Pranksters.

And since they kept flowing in — here’s yet another whole ton of them.

You can get the book here in the States — or here in Canada.  

Or the full-color Kindle version’s here.

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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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Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac – reviews and reactions Part 3

December 10th, 2016 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Weird Things About Me

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

Reviews & Reactions — Part Three

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Here’s the first round of incoming reviews.

Or here’s a whole second round.

13490812_1107901192615880_1021099770358633596_o

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 I am bathing in the pages.

Your book is a page turner of improbable adventures and characters — one crazy one after another.  The writing is high spirited and matches the unlikeliness of it all!!!

Enjoying it immensely.

Teri McLuhan – author, filmmaker and Marshall’s daughter


 

Congratulations on a book that has continuing liveliness.

What an exceptional conference and a dear pleasure to have had the opportunity to talk with those people.

A bunch of my friends now know about your book.  A terrific fertile read.  So alive.

It brought back lots of memories including my own introduction to On the Road.  

Your book is an exquisite piece of literary history made so by your absolute engagement and your eye.  I figured I would like it — but I fell in love — beginning with “Meeting Your Heroes 101.”   Beautiful portraits.  Brought back my first glimpse and experience hearing Herbert Huncke.  As you wrote, he was so nice.  Actually nice squared.

Something that will stay permanently in my mind is your description of Babbs at home with his engaged children.  Pure inspiration.

And I want to thank you for something that tickled me — when you referred to me as a radio alchemist.  Lovely fun.

It appears that you have made a wonderful and fertile life for yourself.  And well earned.

Len Barron – Colorado radio & theater legend


 

YOUR BOOK IS FUCKING GREAT!!! 

I was reading your recent Lowell post … or was it somewhere else … and noticed the land record clocked in at 3½ hours …. shit man … I could’ve smashed that record if I didn’t want to savor the moment.  I limited myself to a chapter … or two … a night … and had a bit of postpartum upon completion.

Where is the video from your Shindig presentation on this???  I was shooting Richard Meltzer at the time and missed it.  [edit: Here’s the Shindig vid. 😉 ] 

Anyway … where was I … oh yeah that Lowell post … fucking ace!!!  I keep saying one of these years I’ll get there and that has to stop.  But the timing is bad for me … the harvest calls … tho perhaps next year is the year. 

I went down to L.A. a couple of weeks ago for the Bob Kaufman film.  Spent the afternoon with S.A. Griffin and I was telling him a few of my tales from the recent months, and he then says that you and me are kindred spirits and our stories are equally as mad to live and talk and it reminded me I needed to write and tell you about your book. 

Keep going furthur!

Tate Swindell — record producer & filmmaker 


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With Levi Asher, Jami Cassady & Walter Raubicheck
performing “The Professor in The Park” section
at the Kettle of Fish in Greenwich Village, June 14, 2016.


 

Merry Prankster George Walker’s intro at the Family Reunion, Saturday, May 6th, 2017 —

“Alright Pranksters, listen up. Welcome to the Beat Cafe.

Why ‘Beat’ you might ask. Well, all this Prankster stuff that we’re doing, that seems to endure for decade after decade, it all began with the Beats, with Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and all their friends, and all their strange intuitive literary works that endure to this day. In the spirit of that, were the Merry Pranksters, beginning in the ’60s, with Neal Cassady joining with Kesey and me and the rest of the Pranksters, there was a flow of energy that was continuous, and it continued on year after year, as it does to this day.

I remember a time, 1982, Kesey & I & Babbs drove Kesey’s old beat-up green Pontiac convertible all the way from Pleasant Hill, Oregon, to Boulder, Colorado, to a place called Naropa which is an institute studying Buddhism and the Beats’ influence and things of that sort. It was for a conference held on the 25th anniversary of the publication of Kerouac’s famous incredible novel On The Road. And we were there to take part in this as we’d in some way inherited the mantle, as it were, of this movement, this literary and psychic ongoing freeing event that we were all participating in.

We got there late, of course, as we almost always did. The fact that we got there at all was somewhat amazing in that beat-up old car. We didn’t quite make it home. I think we had to finally tow it a little bit, or at least it was howling and dripping oil — I know cuz the week after we got back I had to go to the nearest junk yard and get a whole rear end out of a Cadillac and put that into the Pontiac so he could keep driving it! But that’s not the point.

The point was that while we were there we met a man — a young man, who although young in years was broad in mind and clear of vision. So clear of vision, that he hitchhiked all the way from Vancouver, Canada — about 500 miles furthur than we had come — and of course it had only taken him about two hours more time to get there hitchhiking than we did driving non-stop straight through.

Brian Hassett is that man. And Brian, over the years, has taken that experience and has made it his life’s work to continue to present to us all of the insights of the Beats and the Pranksters and all the history, all the important things, that came out of that and have been perpetuated by the incredible vision, the incredible energy, of Brian Hassett, who is now one of our prime spokesmen, and we are so fortunate to have him with us here today.”


 

I luv your book!  😀 

Sandy Troy — author of “Captain Trips: A Biography of Jerry Garcia


 

I’ve just finished Brian’s book, and I highly recommend it.  Even though I was there for the entire conference and did many interviews with those same greats in attendance, the more than three decades since have led me to forget much of what happened, so Brian’s book really jogged my memory.  I don’t think a more definitive account of that time exists!  Thanks for writing this, Brian.  I’m betting it will be required reading in the future for people studying the Beats and this conference.

5.0 out of 5 stars

Hitchhiker’s Guide A Joyous Introduction To Kerouac and the Beats

I just finished this most excellent book and must say Brian really nailed it.  I was at the same event, reporting on it for a newspaper and wire service, and our paths must have crossed many times during that magical gig.  Brian writes with an obvious love of his subjects — and because I was interviewing and photographing the same great people — I can assure you he captures the excitement of the event, and the living essence of a group of people we were honored to be around.  The Beats are just about all gone now, but you’ll definitely feel like you know them a little better after reading this Hitchhiker’s Guide.  He writes with a youthful excitement, and he didn’t get anything wrong.

It was a pleasure reading this because after more than 30 years, I’d forgotten so much about the event.  It was a magical time, and while reading Brian’s book, it was almost like we were seeing this once-in-a-lifetime production through the same set of eyes!

It’s a great read and you will find out a million things about Jack, Allen, Gregory, and all the other Beats you didn’t know.  My hat’s off to Brian for a superb job!

Lance Gurwell — journalist / photographer 


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Your beautiful book just arrived and I’m already reading it.  It’s great.  What a valuable document.  And I love all the photos.  You were a real doll back then.  I bet Allen didn’t give you a moment’s peace.

This is great reportage and prose — really smartly written.  Very concise yet vivid.  It really takes you there.  You’ve got a real ear for dialog and eye for detail.

Raymond Foye — Beat chronicler and historian


 

Dawn is a huge fan of yours and loves The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — and so do I! —  and she uses it as her inspiration to bring Jack to new generations!

Thanks for loving him like we do!

Howard Neville — Kerouac sculptor 


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Reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide with David Amram & Kevin Twigg
at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, Oct. 9, 2016.


 

Congratulations!  I loved the book!  It’s so … You!  Could not have been written by anyone else, and surely no one else would have had that kind of adventure.  So many wild moments.

It’s a truly fantastic tale!  Honestly.  The hitchhiking — the journey you went on — the fact you were invited back to Kesey’s place.  And how you went out to see the International Harvester.  It’s all so great.

I read it in one go — 3 or 4 hours straight through while on vacation.  It was perfect.

Brother Tom was my favorite character in the book.  I loved how you met him!  And then going to stay in his house but he’s not there.  Sad he died so young.

I loved the whole thing about Kesey and Kerouac being on the same bookshelf and all those other similarities.  And all the Beat / rock n roll connections.  And it was cool to read Neal Cassady’s offspring’s intro.

I didn’t know about Kerouac being so out of fashion in 1982.  By the mid-’80s when I was in university his star had started to rise again by that point.  I guess this conference was sort of the beginning of the resurgence.  It really makes me want to read more Kerouac besides On The Road.

Barnaby Marshall — music executive and web designer


 

Brian Hassett’s book “The Hitchhikers Guide to Jack Kerouac” is the best new reflection on the Beats in the last 25 years!  It’s a wonderful place to start for anyone knowing a bit about rock n roll and not so much about literature.  It explains (better than anywhere I have found) how Jack Kerouac and other Beats influenced the culture that has become our world!

I have learned so much in the process.  This book has contributed so much to making Jack & company real to so many who are following in the footsteps without fully knowing.

Dale “Gubba” Topham — Merry Prankster


 

I’m really enjoying your book!  The way you write is so fun!  I feel like you’re telling me the story the way you would if we were face-to-face and I love that.  It makes for a speedy read! 

When someone asks Ken Kesey if he has any regrets and he says not being with his father at the end — I’m so glad you included that.  My parents mean the world to me, but a reminder is always good.  I especially love it because this whole “no regrets” notion is part of the free spirit ideal, but I just never agreed with that fully.  Regret is a natural feeling, it seems to be you can’t choose to regret or not regret something any more than you choose who you love.  I like feeling regret when I make a bad choice.  I think that feeling is the most motivating to change.  So, thanks for adding that.

I’m having so much fun reading your book right now and it’s so cool that the author is just a message away.  

Eliza Goehl — student of Bernie, Beats & Bob

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This is the best book I’ve read in a long time.  Cant wait for the next one.  Thanks for writing your story.

My girlfriend was asking me for a good book to read tonight, so I handed her my copy and she’s had her nose buried in it without a word for hours!

She got to “the professor in the park with a knife” chapter and started laughing … haha.

Can’t wait for our next gig.  I still to this day get asked who that guy rapping Kerouac with us was.  🙂 

Sunny Days — musician in Still Hand String Band


 

I finished the book last night — very fun.  I wanted to read it in small doses — not just race through.  I still haven’t read all the “Dessert” at the end because I want to let it soak in.

One thing that hit me was that it was an interesting juxtaposition of a story when you were 21 and all those insights you had then, but also filtered through the mind of someone writing about it 30 years later with all the experiences and wisdom you’d picked up over that time.

Here’s a review I wrote . . .

I can think of two types of people who would love this book — those that are big Beat Generation fans, and those that want to learn about the Beat Generation.

The author, Brian Hassett, has his own On The Road adventures and relates them in a freewheeling, psychedelic style reminiscent of the times.  You can hear the soundtrack by the Grateful Dead emanating from the pages.

Bitten by the Kerouac bug at an early age, the author makes his way to the event that is the centerpiece of the book, a Jack Kerouac conference in Boulder in 1982.  He’s the New Kid in Town, and not only meets many of his heroes, but is immediately accepted as a friend and peer.  Although a young man at the time, he already had many experiences and was not exactly a wide-eyed innocent.

What makes the book most appealing is that it was written more than 30 years later so is filtered through the prism of a mature man who has lived through many adventures and gained wisdom along the way.  The book covers a lot of ground both literally and figuratively.  

There’s portraits and anecdotes of the famous and less-than-famous, multi-talented and somewhat talented, poets, writers, musicians, filmmakers, big hearted souls who open their doors and lives to every hitchhiker, trips to Kesey’s farm, San Francisco, and points in between, the intersection of the Beat and hippie cultures to name but a few landmarks.  It’s a fun and revealing book and proves the road goes ever furthur.

Marc Spilka — Cassady family friend


 

This book is such a great read.  So many elements put together so well.  Serious and fun, with the perspective of time.  Fantastic.

Jeanne Masanz – Jack fan from the Heart land


 

Just finished reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac …  It was like saying goodbye to an old friend.

If you’re suffering from the winter blahs, pick up this book … it will put a huge smile on your face. 

I’ve read almost everything written by the Beats … was a member of LitKicks for a long while … although I am not a writer, I loved to read the articles on the site … and from there I saw Brian’s book on the web.  Had to have it.  It’s the trip I always wanted to make … still might do it one day.  Thanks for writing this story ….

Pierre Bouchard — the French Connection


 

It was a blast hearing you read the book in person at the Kettle of Fish.  I’ve been reading it ever since and am enjoying the hell out of it!

I’m happily inching my way thru it — it’s so full of new info, great quotes, things to ponder, and your enthusiastic, unpretentious, COMPLETELY FELT and therefore insightful take on things literary and worldly. Thanks for writing this!

Bryan Lurie — working musician in New York City


 

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Inside The Kettle of Fish, New York, June 14, 2016.

 

Fuckin’ awesome, Bri!!  Nic & I are taking turns reading the book aloud in bed.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  Yer killin us …..  we’re crying reading the Abbie–Gregory showdown.  🙂 

We both agree this is the best book about the Beats we’ve ever read — and we have shelves full.

We’re halfway through and don’t want it to end.  It is so fun and funny and soooo informative.

You are a natural.

That you capture these illustrious Beat pioneers in spirit as well as physical appearance — firsthand by being there — is beyond important.

The descriptions of Kesey & Babbs are killer!  We ordered a copy today to send to Diane D.

Oh and because you spoke so admiringly of John Clellon Holmes, we’re now re-reading “Go” which we both read years ago, but were not impressed.  You make such a good point about how “Go” allows one a different perspective on the Beat characters Kerouac introduces to us.  And we both dug how Holmes had a writing workshop in a small classroom and had about only 25 people!

Here’s the Amazon review we just left . . . 

The greatest book about the Beats that I’ve read in some time and I have a library full of the Beats and about the Beats.  A 21 year old Canadian pilgrim/narrator/writer takes us with him to the Jack Kerouac Conference in Boulder, Colorado (July 23 to August 1, 1982), hitchhiking all the way from Portland, Oregon (where he’s arrived by bus from Vancouver).  A more upbeat, intrepid traveler/narrator would be difficult to imagine.

His on the road is one ‘Pee Wee’s Great Adventure’ from inception to the Kerouac Conference and beyond to the Kens’, Kesey and Babbs, manors in Oregon.  Brian standing in the dark by the side of the road with his cardboard sign.  Brian sharing weed with a trucker who picks him up.  Brian sitting next to Huncke on a porch.  Brian at the Red Rocks Grateful Dead Concert high on Brother Tom’s acid groovin’ to the Dead at the Rocks.  Brian recording his rolling and rollicking accounts of the events.  The interlopers Timothy Leary/Abbie Hoffman/Ken Kesey ’60s participants and the ’50s original Beats, the entire then living pantheon, all come to life in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide‘.  Gregory Corso hurling insults at Abbie Hoffman, who’s onstage winning over the audience there to honor Kerouac.  Carolyn Cassady, Joyce Johnson, and Edie Parker, Anne Waldman, Diane diPrima — the great Beat broads … they are all present speaking in their own voices thanks to Brian’s omnivorous capacity to welcome it all in with wonderment and acceptance and delight, and thanks also to the small tape recorder he carried with him on the road.

The book has many photos and facsimiles of Brian’s hitchhiking notes, posters, and Beat ephemera.  It’s an exciting, vivid read right to the very end, where you learn about where they are now and what those still living are up to.  I’ve yakked on enough here.  Get this book and begin at the beginning: watch Brian kiss Carolyn Cassady’s hand, visit Furthur as if it’s a person ….  There’s no putting it down.  You’re with one helluva great inkslinging hitcher armed with laughter and serious scholarship.

Sloy & Nic — two lifelong Jackster Beats


 

Everybody needs to know the name Brian Hassett — an amazing writer and public speaker.

The Fabulous Fab  — P.A. Merry Prankster


 

Can’t say it enough … this book is GREAT!!  Soooooo good!!  Loved every minute of it!!

If you are a Kerouac fan or a Kesey fan or a fan of the Dead you will definitely enjoy this book.  The author takes you on his wild ride to the Kerouac conference of ’82 where he hangs with practically all of the great writers of the Beat Generation as well as members of the Dead and Pranksters.

I bought this book a few weeks ago but saved it till I was on a bus heading to NYC.  It was a great read to fuel my journey and has set my soul ablaze.  The author carries the Beat torch forward lighting the way for future writers, artists, and Pranksters.

Aside from Kerouac I have never read a book so inspiring to keep myself going on the road or on the bus towards experiencing life to the fullest.

Jason Pacheco — longtime Massachusetts Jackster


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Everybody loves your book, Brian.  It’s fucking great!!!!!

It has to blow your mind that one of the first things that people do is equate you with your subject.  Bet you didn’t see that one coming!

I read things like Brian doesn’t just write about Beat writers — Brian is a Beat writer.”

You have much to be pleased about.  You have done some amazing things and put a wonderful piece of work into the world that will serve not only the legacy of those you so admire, but it has also placed you among them.

Few writers have ever accomplished this feat.

I am really not surprised though.  When speaking with you at Yasgur’s farm, I was immediately impressed by the way you recall details.

I remember exactly where I had that realization.  It was in Sherry and Rick’s RV and you were talking about places you had lived and the people you lived with.  Your ability to put me in the rooms of these people’s houses convinced me then & there that you had what it takes to be a great writer.

Paired with your enthusiasm for the subject and quick wit — how could this not be a hit? Added to that is my sense that the timing could not be more perfect in my mind.  I just knew you had lightning in a bottle.

The Wizard of Wonder — Merry Prankster supreme


 

Started Hitchhikers finally.  So damn good.  The writing is superb.  It will be an inspiration for years to come.

J.H. Mendenhall — West Coast Beat


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I am loving Brian Hassett’s book!  This freeform style of writing is so interesting to read because you not only get the story from it, but you can actually pick up on the thought patterns of the author after a couple pages.

Everyone talks about how Kerouac’s writing always came alive when he would write about music.  He could write about it so well you could almost hear it just from his words on the page.

Brian is that way when writing about authors and poets.  Every time he talks about a lecture or reading he heard that he really enjoyed, or a poem he loves etc., his writing comes alive in that same way — the passion jumps right off the page.  And the passion is so strong that it’s contagious.  Writing about music well is hard — but I’d imagine it’s even harder to write about writing and still keep it interesting …. I am really quite impressed!

David Stewart — Vancouver Deadhead of cinema


 

Brian Hassetts book is a valuable resource on the meanings behind the myths of the Beats as well as a voice keeping the flame alive.

Luther Parris — Kesey sculptor and lifelong Beat


 

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This book is great!

I just completely melted at the end of chapter 4.

You’ve certainly followed the Light, my brother.  So inspiring.

This is like crack!

How you kept this journey to yourself so long is unreal!

I can’t quit turning the pages… ahhhhh!

Lyndsi Bennett – Indiana Prankster


 

Enjoying this book — it’s a real good read.  You captured it.  

I had no idea Sam & Ann Charters were an item.  Re: Winnipeg, I thought your “show me state” thing was hilarious. (page 286)

I love the bouncing between the historical connections and your own experiences.  So well done

Jim Robbins — Toronto musician and lawyer


 

I finished your book this weekend.  I really enjoyed it.  I could hear you.  Thanks.  I’m better now!

I missed a lot of the event this past weekend because I didn’t want to leave my book.  Ha!

I laid there (in the van) and read the whole thing — dyslexic and finished a book in a few days!  Means the world that the font and flow was so easy to retain.  I felt there.  Man, what a time!

Sky — Deep South Prankster

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I very much enjoyed the conversational style and evident enthusiasm and humor.

I could relate to so much of what you wrote because I grew up in Marin in the ’70s — lived or Sonoma County for 40+ years — and I love Kesey, the Beats, Jerry and the crew, and had quite a few contacts (I lived on Shakedown Street — at the Bermuda Palms !) with Lesh & Jerry back in the day, and have met some of the surviving Beats — including Carolyn Cassady, Al Hinkle and Michael McClure.  I’ve collected Beat lit for about 30 years.  I’m a huge Lew Welch fan.  I think the Catholic Church should canonize K — he’s already “beatified.”

Here’s a review I wrote — 

This is an exciting and interesting trip across the country with a natural-born raconteur.  Brian Hassett’s book on the historic 1982 Jack Kerouac Conference in Boulder is funny, insightful and informative.  I thought I was a Beat aficionado but Brian’s book exposed me to all kinds of new and interesting links to Kerouac’s influence throughout the music and publishing worlds.  Written with verve and zest, Brian’s breezy style is funny and conversational.  His enthusiasm and love of his subjects is clearly evident.

Howard McFarland — California Beat


 

Just finished reading Brian Hassett’s new book ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac‘ — and I really highly recommend it!  Really loved it …. fantastic job.

Really enjoyable to read … especially the style of writing!  It felt like I was there on the journey with him!

Swee Lee Gorman — British Beat


 

Your book was great, providing a wonderful chronicle of what has become a springboard event in the Kerouac “revival.”  My brother is reading it now.

Since I read it I know a little more about water.   

I like the effect of the red neon on the cover.  It gives your hair even more glow of the reddish-brown “Irish” tint you had.

Nice you got to see Abbie Hoffman before he passed.  One of a kind and so energetic.

Roger Cant  —  in an old-school hand-written snail-mail fan-mail from a Massachusetts Beat


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This is a fun book!  I’m at the part where the Grateful Dead are playing Red Rocks.  I love all of the stories and the fun way it’s written.  It’s probably one of the best collections of stories about the Beats themselves ever written.  I’m excited to see what you write next, Mr. Hassett.

Albert Kaufman — New Yorker in Portlandia


 

This book is incredibly exciting to read.  Not just the literature and it being one of the most interesting reads in a very long time, but the large font made it so easy to breeze right through.  We read it on the road between Oklahoma and Illinois in a 1959 VW Bus and highly recommend it.

Peter & Sky — Merry Pranksters at large


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Hey Brian, your Hobbit here wanting to let you know I loved, loved, loved your book.  You inspired me in so many ways.  Will be buying it and reading it again if & when it’s available on Kindle.  I’m working on finding used copies of the books about the women as well.  Thanks so much for writing this!

Hobbit 


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Hobbit — it’s now out on Kindle — which also means all the 60+ photos are in full color. 🙂

Here’s the link — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac on Kindle.

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Here’s the first round of reviews — including Beat Scene, and a bunch of interviews and all sorts of famous people chiming in …

Here’s the second round — including lots of original Beats and Merry Pranksters and others …

Or here’s an except from the book about first meeting a bunch of the Beats — Allen, Gregory, Holmes, Huncke & Burroughs — that you can also experience a reading of with their friend David Amram accompanying below . . .

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With David Amram & Kevin Twigg doing the “Meeting Your Heroes 101” part of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

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“The Professor In The Park With A Knife” with The LCK All-Stars, Lowell, 2015

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Here’s where you can get the book direct from the publisher (where the author gets the highest royalties)

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

or in Canada

or in the U.K. . . .

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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

→ 10 CommentsTags: ·····

Hillary Clinton Javits Center 2016

November 13th, 2016 · New York City, Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales

Election Night 2016 in New York City

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It was such a beautiful fall Tuesday in New York.

We were all in such a good mood.

But in retrospect there were some early warning signs I’d rationalized and dismissed: The tollbooth clerk I had a happy election exchange with but when asked who she was voting for answered, “I don’t tell people that.”  Or the random middle-aged poor guy in the New York deli who volunteered, “I like Trump.  That guy tells it like it is.”  Or the two women in the Democratic heart of NBC’s Democracy Plaza wearing “Trumplican” t-shirts.  Or the young cool-looking hippie-rebel dudes outside Trump Tower spending their days holding up pro-Trump signs.  Or when I left my Beat buddy’s apartment in Brooklyn in full Democratic regalia on election day, not one person responding positively — so unlike walking the New York streets in Obama gear in ’08.  Or when I was leaving the Port Authority Bus Terminal for the Hillary victory party at the Javits Center some construction worker type guy said as I past, “I pray to god you fuckin’ die.”

Another sign was when I asked a Clinton campaign worker in the afternoon about the evening’s planned fireworks over the Hudson and he told me they were TBD.  Then around 8:00 I was talking to a high-level security coordinator straight outta Scorsese Casting and he told me they’d been canceled.

It still didn’t dawn on me.

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Just to set the scene — it was glorious.  I got to the Javits about 3:00 — and by 5:30 was outside with thousands of fellow Democrats at a block party on closed-off 11th Avenue next to the glass-ceilinged building.

Oh and a funny thing — during my pre-scout the day before, when I saw how small the main room was inside the Javits and learned there would be a big outdoor party scene, I also noted how there were no seats or benches out there.  So when we were inside the airplane-hanger-like holding pen . . . 

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I spotted a woman pushing a cart stacked with folding chairs, buttonholed her, asked if I could have one, and managed to talk her into it!  “Okay, but don’t tell anyone where you got it.”  So now I was the only guy in a crowd of thousands with a chair!  Then when we went thru security, I folded it up and carried it with me!  When we were going out the door to 11th Avenue and I still had it, a cluster of cops were looking at me and the only woman in the bunch said, “Hey you can’t take that outside.”  And I said, “Yeah I can — they gave it to me to use.”  Ha!  😀 

So now I’m outside with the one & only chair on the avenue!

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Another funny thing was, the party space was this long rectangle — 4 or 5 blocks of 11th Avenue — and the first of us to arrive went to the stage that was about 7/8ths of the way down.  It was positioned sideways towards the camera risers on the sidewalk, so there was only a small area in front it — which was of course immediately sardined.  But those of us who arrived first went to the little area just beyond it that very few people seemed to know was there and we had all this whole space to ourselves — oddly right next to the reporter’s pen.

I went straight to the boom camera operators . . . 

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and told them how I needed the chair, and they let me fold it up and put over their barricade whenever I wasn’t using it.

I could see the images from the boom cameraman’s monitor that the crowd was just subways-at-rush-hour packed all the way north from the stage.  But those of us who broke on through to the other side coulda played frisbee back there!  You can see a picture of me in the open space in this Norwegian national news service story.

Then it hit me — this very Javits Center is where I first raised my hand and became an American citizen! 

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As the oath was being administered.

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And now a woman was becoming President in the very place where my mother’s dream for me came true — and where her dream of woman’s equality was finally shattering the last glass ceiling!

At 7:00 they turned on the giant two-sided movie-theater-size screen that faced both up and down the avenue — and suddenly we collectively had a news feed with blaring audio.  They started with CNN, and every 10 or 15 minutes would flip between that and NBC, ABC or CBS.  So it was kind of like being at home except some omnipotent hand was holding the remote control.

It was around this time my old Prankster friend Lucy popped in and beautifully colored the evening from here on out — including psychedelic perspective and big-picture grounding much later when the storyline changed.

Prior to election night, with the polls looking good, I was so convinced Hillary’d win 322–216 . . .

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(end of the day I only got 5 out of 53 wrong)

I drove nine hours to be at the party.  I only qualified my optimism by saying, “I’ll feel better when I start to see the first actual numbers come in around 7 or 8:00.”  And of course that’s precisely when things started to look less than positive.

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I was interviewed by a ton of news organizations over the course of the night including Time, the Guardian, the Boston Globe, Newsday (twice), W (the fashion mag), the Daily Beast, the Boston Daily Free Press, Fortune, Chinese, Czech & Norwegian television, Italian & Portuguese print press . . . and just like in full regalia in ’08 for Obama at NBC’s Democracy Plaza, had my picture taken about a million times.

And oh yeah — when I was talkin to one of them describing the contrast to when Obama won, I worked in “that was a whole night of strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand.”  Just sprinkling a little Grateful Dead magic into the election night media ether.  😀 

“Democracy isn’t something you have, it’s something you do,” as the great folk hero Granny D put it.  Politics is not a spectator sport.  And just as I was active and visible in person and online throughout the year of the primary and months of the general, election day & night is not a time to be bland and blend in but rather dress up and rise up.

And talking to the hard working journalists of all stripes from all over the world who were out there racing against deadlines to get the story I thought about the ridiculous “mainstream media” haters from donald trump to the Berners who parrot the meme that everyone who’s a reporter is part of some grand imaginary global conspiracy.  Many of the press haters are the same people who consider themselves too “smart” to vote for Hillary Clinton or think that “it’s all rigged.”  But of course most of them have never been in the presence of a Congressperson or working journalist in their lives — yet they know everything about the profession — and sound a lot like the guy not named Hillary running for President.

And here we were surrounded by them — from print to television to web-based, from 20-somethings to septuagenarians, from New Jersey to China, from the time I arrived until the time I left around 1AM — all working their butts off to capture the moment.

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Unknown journalist working hard on his story at 1AM

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Another of the early warning signs that things weren’t going well came around 9:00 when the first reporter asked me how I was holding up considering what was happening.  “Why — what’s happening?” I thought.  I didn’t know the depth of the bad news, so I improvised an answer about Democratic-leaning precincts not reporting yet, but could tell by her reaction that she knew I was grasping — and I knew she was onto something.

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And another crazy part of the night was — the few people who got inside Javits figured they had the catbird seat.  But the funny thing was — nobody including Hillary ever spoke to the crowd in there — and all the people who made appearances at the event did so at our little stage outside (!) which was broadcast onto the giant screens both inside and out.  And being in the secret little enclave just past the stage, I was about 10 or 20 feet from all of them all night.

 

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Katy Perry

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Gold Star father Khirz Khan

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Senator Chuck Schumer

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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

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Governor Andrew Cuomo

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Mayor Bill de Blasio

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Mothers of victims of violence (police and otherwise)

But even without us knowing the final outcome like I think some of the speakers already did, there was a distinctly perceptible inauthenticity in their voice as they said, “We’re going to win!” to flag-waving cheers.

Luckily I saw Lucy again around 10 o’clock, making that twice tonight, and she was blazing in my head clearly.

The information on the big screen was trickling in piecemeal.  The newsdesk projections were regularly overridden by the speakers on the stage, and the hard numbers on the bottom of the screen were often blocked out by the closed-captioning, and I choose to Adventure without the internet, so it was hard to read the trajectory.  But the numbers I managed to catch were not taking the upward turn they needed to be.  Suddenly we were seeing 95% of Florida counted and Hillary was still behind by a bunch.  Same in North Carolina.  And PA.  All the states that I figured Trump would win, had already been called.  But all the Hillary states were still “too close to call” … and she was behind in most of them.  There would be CNN’s dramatic drumroll signaling a projection coming and I’d stop answering some journalist’s question to listen … and it was … Connecticut!  A state that’s usually called at about 8:01 for the Democrats wasn’t being “won” until 10 or 11 at night.  And Florida was still about 100,000 votes in the wrong direction.  And Virginia still wasn’t locked up!  And Trump had broken 200 electoral votes and Hillary was still lingering at about 109 or something.

“This isn’t happening.”  “This can’t be happening.”  “There’s just no way.” — as the numbers on the screen continued to not add up.  “It’s just not possible.”  But the crowd had quieted down.  In fact, it was actually thinning out.  “This isn’t good.”

The environmental journalist from Grist I’d been talking to was absolutely ashen.  Others along his fence line were calling out for me to come talk to them — wanting the raw grieving parent quote.  I shook my head silently “no” and kept my face away from them — and went instead to my buddy Manuel from Switzerland who I’d met in line about eight hours earlier.  He was solemn but sanguine — no horse in the race.  But he was a calm familiar face and became something of a grounding touchstone.  

I finally embarked on a recon mission around the site at 11:30 or 12 — for the first time braving the sardine crowd.  But by now there was a single narrow one-body-wide path along the outer rail where a person could just squeeze through the football-field-length crowd stretching up the Avenue — and then it was open space to 40th Street, which was blocked off by dump-trucks to keep the bad-guys out . . .

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same as we saw in Cleveland during the Repugnant convention —

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I stopped at the porta-potties for a much-needed jazz cigarette break that was supposed to be the celebratory cigar after the victory but was now medicinally deployed.  “I gotta change my way of thinking, make myself a different set of rules,” Dylan started singing in my head.  And just as I stepped out of the door a ways down the row, cops were beginning a sweep search of the johns starting at the far end!  I felt like the guy stepping out of the Port-O-San in the Woodstock movie.  “Outta sight, man!”

By the time I headed back through the crowd, the narrow squeeze-through path had grown wide enough to walk your dog.  There’d been a steady flow of sad-faced souls streaming from the polls to the exit.  When they’d passed over this same pavement in the opposite direction hours earlier they were in the opposite mood — from a celebratory birth day to a grieving funeral in a few hours.

When I got back to my grounding chair and Swiss brother and tried to grasp reality, I felt like Mia Farrow in unscreamable horror in Rosemary’s Baby.  “This is really happening!”

Then one of the TV commentators said, “This is one of the biggest upsets in American political history.”

Yeah, . . . see . . . that didn’t help.

The crowd was thinning by the minute.  What was once 4 or 5,000 people, was down to less than a thousand.  Sometimes the big screen news channel would momentarily cut to the Trump event at the Hilton uptown and they were all partying like we were supposed to be — chanting, “Call Florida!  Call Florida!”  They were loud and crazy — and we were subdued and cold.  “This ain’t right.”  Having seen Victory Parties from both sides many times, I knew how this movie was gonna end.

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Now what?

I sat in that chair for a long time unable to come up with any place in New York I wanted to be right now.  I had no krewe anywhere.  In fact, the only person I knew who was On The Beat was my Beat brother formerly known as Levi Asher … who was already getting on a train home.

And that’s just what I thought of doing.  Getting the puck back to Canada.  This town was already not feeling friendly before tonight kicked in.  Now it’s gonna get downright ugly.  And I looked ridiculous.  This was gonna be one helluva “walk of shame” home tonight — with a top hat and 97 buttons for the losing team.  And there was nowhere to go.  But home.

Trump was at 244.  A state or two away from crossing the 270 victory line.  Some people on both the screen and in person were saying there was still a chance.  I didn’t wanna walk out of the moment and miss the greatest comeback in history.  I’d wander to the exit starting to leave … then, “Holy shit — it’s not over.”  “Yeah … get out of here … this isn’t happening.”  “You’ll regret it the rest of your life if you leave and she comes back and wins.”  “The streets were really ugly already and I need to get off them before the hounds are unleashed.” … back & forth until finally I split.  And Manuel sent me off with, “You deserve your beer now,” knowing my Canadian soul had been pining all night.

Some girl from some internet news station in China stopped me just outside the gates for one last interview.  I agreed to a couple of questions, and while I was answering, one of these same guido construction worker guys like who prayed I died earlier, stopped behind her and glared at me with his arms flexing and his eyes bugging out like he wanted to punch the shit out of me right now.  And as he lingered in red-eyed seething hate . . . I keep riffing for my life to the good people of China.  “It’s pronounced ‘Gina.'”

I’d only reached the borderline of the outside world — and this fist-clenching goombah was what it had already become.

Then it was out into the darkness of Port Authority Hell’s Kitchen where the street lights are still blown out like it’s the 1970s — with nothing but scary nuthin-left-to-lose street people lurking in nightmarish midnight shadows.  And I’m all velvet tails and Gatsby top hat with 97 buttons that say “mark”!

It was like leaving a Dead show in some strange city — where all night you’re surrounded by people like your offbeat crazy colorful self . . . and then wander into some ever-darkening streets that ain’t like the world you’re coming from at all.

And this is New York.  This is my town.  This is my home.  And it’s gone.  First it was that rabid rat Giuliani — whose nickname in town was “Saddam Hussein.”  Then Joe Bruno ending rent control.  Then the complete corporate Disneyfication of the whole city.  And now the redneck racists have won the championship.  They don’t have to be polite to niggers or faggots no more.  “It’s clobbering time,” The Things were saying.

And then right at this bizarre point … well, as I answered the cool Newsday reporter Emily Ngo’s question if I thought this result would happen, I said something like, “No. … I’m not religious … but there’s something,” and I looked up into the low lit-up clouds above Manhattan.  “There’s something.  And whatever it is, I didn’t think it would let this happen.  There’s just no way.”  And she was nodding and so getting it.

Whatever that thing is — he or she or it took the wheel at this point and I just went along for the crazy ride:

A split-second before swiping my card at the subway to head back to artist Aaron Howard’s studio I heard a cop inside the station tell someone the A/C/E lines weren’t running.  So now I had to walk from 8th Avenue right through the madness of Times Square to get to the 6th Avenue lines.  And I’m decked head-to-toe in losing Democrats — walking into “the crossroads of the world” where donald drumpf was now the proud flag-bearer of fuck-you.

But halfway there, this young blond-haired Swedish couple came walking towards me under the bright lights of 42nd Street — he wearing a blazing brand new blue Lundqvist Rangers jersey — and as I smiled he said, “They tell everyone this is ‘the city that never sleeps’ — but everything is closed!”  And he’s right.  New York is now a cartoon of its former self and just sucks.  But I’m still a New Yorker, and we take pride in our city, and don’t want anyone to not have a good time, so suddenly it’s my mission to do right by my Swedish Beat brother Johan Soderlund, and for all the great Swedish hockey players, and that admirable recycling-leading socialist-leaning country whose whole vibe and color scheme I love, so I escort them to O’Lunney’s, the very first bar I ever looked into the window of in New York City — but this involved walking through the packed throngs of madness in Times Square, which is ABC’s headquarters, where they’ve built an outdoor studio for the night . . .

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Crowdless photo from day before

and it’s just packed . . . with very dark energy . . . and I think of what this was like at this same time 8 years ago . . . and MAN is it different!  If not for the Swedish couple I never would have seen the contrast between Times Square when it was like the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup versus now with George Wallace realizing his segregationist dream.

Continuing to 6th Avenue I looked in car windows and saw women blankly staring in stunned shock.  “This isn’t good.”  Walking south down dark 6th looking for a deli beer to merge with my coffee cup prop, some guidos — and don’t get me wrong, I love Italians, and was effectively happily married to one for six years — but there’s a whole ugly side to that culture that was coming out on election day in spades, as I’m sure they’d love to phrase it.  And as I walked down the shadowy Avenue in the abandoned 30s a few of them got out of an SUV and were eyeing me with this vicious “I wanna fuckin kill you” look on their faces.

Once on the subway — take 2 — the train somehow skipped 14th Street where I needed to transfer and suddenly I was at West 4th — my home stop for my first seven years in Manhattan.  For some reason I’d been transported to my old home base.  “Why are the Fates putting me here?”  I was happily headed to Aaron’s and maybe the highway an hour ago.  And now two different transportation alterations brought me home.

Greenwich Village post-trump.  At least I knew I was safe in heaven alive (to riff on that great Village-mate, Kerouac).

Of course I went straight to the Kettle of Fish, but for once it was not a happy place.  Even the owner’s home state of Wisconsin hadn’t gone our way.  And it also wasn’t a political hotbed like it had been when Norman Mailer ran for mayor and used its former incarnation The Lion’s Head as his campaign headquarters.

So I continued back into the streets — where people were in shock.  We just looked at each other and made the tiniest gestures of acknowledgement.  As another Beat brother Tim Moran observed the next day — there was a silence on the streets not heard here since 9/12.  Or as another New Yorker put it — 9/11 – 11/9.

I thought of the night the Mets won the World Series in ’86 when I hosted a huge party right there on Washington Square North and how we poured into these same streets full of dancing screaming singing joy as I was supposed to be in right now.  But tonight tumbleweeds and depression were blowing down Fifth Avenue.

When I finally got to the L train platform, a 20-something German girl was sitting on the stairs staring into the distance freaking out.  When the train came, a middle-aged woman was crying uncontrollably.  When we got to the next stop, two different groups of young politically-centric people got on — and immediately merged into one.  When they saw me pouring another Heineken into a coffee cup, they toasted me and offered brandy from a flask.

And at the end of the car … two homeless people slept.

Whateverthehell happened tonight … you’re probably sleeping in a better bed than a subway car.  As bad as you think things are, you’re alive, you have people who love you, and a million blessings all around you, and you’re functioning, and can make a difference.

You can still be kind to strangers, you can still do the work you were put here to do, you can still be “a warrior” as Ken Kesey called us fighters, and you can still be part of the solution.

Van Gogh didn’t topple a government, Abbie Hoffman didn’t die in vain, John Lennon never remained silent, and neither should you.

This is the only shot each of us is going to get on this run,
so may as well leave the bleachers, and Get Things Done.

If you wanna ditch the darkness and dance in the sun,
I’ll see you on the field where it’s way more fun.

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

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Here’s the story of Obama’s election night in NYC in ’08 with a much happier ending.

Here’s election night in New York in 2004 — at Rockefeller Plaza and The Daily Show’s party.

Here’s the tale of my birth in politics — at a Gary Hart rally in 1984.

Here’s the story of a Bernie Sanders rally on the primary trail over the summer of 2016.

Here’s a piece I had published about Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in January 1993.

Here’s what it was like at Obama’s first inauguration in January 2009.

Here’s where my coverage of the Republican convention in Cleveland begins.

Here’s a funny strange story involving Al Franken and Howard Dean on the primary trail in 2004.

If you like this prose there’s a whole “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” you’ll certainly enjoy.

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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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Lowell Celebrates Kerouac review

October 31st, 2016 · Kerouac and The Beats, Real-life Adventure Tales

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In the Spirit of Jack — a spontaneous love ode that just flowed out …
to that thing they do in Lowell . . .

What’s cool about LCK is — everybody’s there for Jack . . . but all on their own terms.
Everybody has a completely different relationship with their family member.
You’ll hear a hundred different stories
all by people beaming in front of you
radiating energy;
coming from England or Germany or France or Canada
or Indiana or Kansas or Florida or Texas
because of On The Road or Maggie Cassidy or Dr. Sax
because of Walt Whitman or America or Dr. Thompson
because of wanderlust or adventure or a Doctoral thesis.

There’s all the guided firsthand tours you wanna ride,
and historians and scholars next to you wherever you roam,
and playful people off the clock just riffin in the beauty of all the assembled happiness.

There’s nonstop jamming and goofing and hugging interaction.
And there’s a million places to go — both on maps and not.
Dr. Sax’s woods
the Merrimack’s banks
the cobblestone streets and brick building labyrinths.

And all the local Lowell Jacksters come out from their hidings —
for the weekend they can let their freak flag fly.
And everybody’s got stories.
And you hear Jack lines you’ve read play back in your head,
as you walk with a krewe of your new best friends
from one scene to another
in places you’ve only imagined
and some you haven’t even!

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And it goes on for days … and days …
From the setting sunlit Worthen afternoon of Thursday —
leading into the epic “bar crawl” of Jack’s joints that climaxes at Cappy’s with David Amram riffin’ Pull My Daisy . . .
Until homeboy Bill Walsh’s final walking tour on Monday thru the secret lairs of Pawtucketville
which weaves back into our Worthen clubhouse
where the worthy who made it all the way
hoist and toast until the jam is done.

It’s Jack in the now.
Not in books.
Not online.

In person.
In front of you.
Right now.

Live it
or
lose it.

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Here’s a playlist of “Brian Hassett’s Road Show” at The Old Worthen Tavern . . .

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Here’s another Satori In Lowell — a day at Jack’s grave.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a Facebook photo album of the LCK 2016 Adventure.  Or here’s 2015.

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Or here’s the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” performance from Sunday at The Old Worthen with David Amram and Kevin Twigg —

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Or here’s a 6-minute movie by Philip Thomas with some of Saturday’s “Brian Hassett’s Road Show” including the Wizard of Wonder’s introduction —

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

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

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

 

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Jack Kerouac Gravesite Adventure Edson Cemetary, Lowell

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

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Satori in Lowell   —

The Intentional Nothingness of Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Or here’s the performance on Sunday with David Amram and Kevin Twigg upstairs at The Old Worthen . . .

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Or here’s Road Brother Philip Thomas’s 6-minute movie featuring the opening of “The Brian Hassett Road Show” on the same stage the day before, including the Wizard of Wonder’s introduction . . . ”

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

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Here’s another love ode that flowed to LCK.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a Facebook photo album of LCK 2016.  Or here’s 2015

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

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

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

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

 

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Jack Kerouac’s novella “Pic” Reconsidered

September 25th, 2016 · Kerouac and The Beats

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I Pick Pic

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

Years later, Duluoz has gotten its due.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where would he have gone as an author?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gary Hart rally 1984 Washington Square

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

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How Rock Concerts Led To Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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The First Presidential Candidate

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

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

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World War III

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

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

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

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The Reagan–Carter Debate

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

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

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

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

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

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The Moment Everything Changed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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How the 2016 Election Will Play Out

August 9th, 2016 · Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

moderate Republican voters stay home;

moderate Republican women secretly vote Hillary;

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

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

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

Obama’s favorables stay above 50%;

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

Trump’s tax returns are leaked;

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama’s favorables drop below 50%;

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

 

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

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

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

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

Here’s 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s Opening Day in Cleveland.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Republican Convention first-person account

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

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“This is a Shitshow”

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

Republicans are loons …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mika & Joe

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Me on MSNBC behind Al Franken 🙂

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

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

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And another David spotted in the mix

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

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Another reporter captured in the afternoon sun-speckled wild

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With Hugh Hewitt.  Fraternizing with the enemy  🙂

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

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Joy Reid having a good time on 4th Street

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With Robert Smigel and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

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

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The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza

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And the Post’s Dana Milbank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or here’s my 2012 election predictions.

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

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

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

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

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

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Repugnant Convention — Love and hate

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

Republican Convention — Day 2 — Tuesday July 19th 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out these stormtroopers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or here’s my 2012 election predictions.

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

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

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

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

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

.

→ 23 CommentsTags:

Cleveland Republican Convention Opening Day

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

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

Monday July 18th

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

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

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

Unreal.

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

and there’s armies of them!

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

How many huge political gatherings can you say that about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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and un —

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There are characters . . . 

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and clowns . . . 

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

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

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Or exactly whose convention I was attending.

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

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Ken, Panther, Freedom, and your friendly Beat peacenik

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

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

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

and platoons of cops with cameras on their heads!

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

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More as it develops. 😉

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Update:  You can read the next installment here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or here’s my 2012 election predictions.

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

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

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

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

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

→ 17 CommentsTags:

The Republican Convention, Cleveland, 2016

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

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

Roger that.

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

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

’92, ’08, and now ’16.

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

Suddenly I got it.

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

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

DAY ONE IN CLEVELAND — Saturday — July 16th

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

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

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

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BREAKING BOOZE!  The hosers are in town!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas is in the house.

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But not many other people are!

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

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

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And these streets are not blocked off!

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

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

Including my favorite —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Key Tower

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

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

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

 


 

Day Two — Sunday — July 17th

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

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

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

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

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“Love can heal what hurt divides”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You can see him on the right below.

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

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

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

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

And then another day in paradise began . . .

Which you can now read about here.  😉   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or how I first got involved in politics.

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

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

Or here’s my 2012 election predictions.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

→ 11 CommentsTags:

Going Furthur film review

June 3rd, 2016 · Grateful Dead, Merry Pranksters, Movies

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On The Bus and On The Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or via their Facebook page here.

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

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

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

Here’s the first Pranksters In Wonderland in 2015.

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

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

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

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 by

Brian Hassett      karmacoupon@gmail.com      BrianHassett.com

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Merry Prankster Reunion

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

A Secret Space of Dreams

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Somewhere in the Universe, Pranksters are gathering.

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

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

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Now designed for 2-legged wild wooly wanderers,

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

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

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

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

As more and more Pranksters fall into the scene,

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From wherever they’ve been —
A communal gene.

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Twanging & twinkling — tootling & toasting — 

30 people put on a play.

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30 musicians play all day.

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30 buses from far away.

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And 30 photos in this tray.  😉

As a Prankster drone captures an uncapturable krewe . . . 

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With women pirates capturing the island.

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

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As a UFO comes in for a landing . . .

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

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

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

Doctors and lawyers and chefs and sculptors . . .

Cooking with gas in their midnight threads . . .

Smiling faces in swirling spreads . . .

Colored lights casting circles of rainbows . . . 

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

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

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And there’s that UFO again!

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

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

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

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

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

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and you know where you’ve fallen . . .

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

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

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and the Oregon light show twisting the noodles . . .

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

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

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

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Surreal is real.
Surprises status quo.

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

Now suddenly it’s a barn stage peak —
People kickin’ up dust, raising up Spirits.
One More Saturday Night
Chaos.
Perfect
lose-mind-ness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@ gmail.com     BrianHassett.com

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Bernie Sanders Rally Bloomington Indiana

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

Front Row for The Revolution

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Photo by Jeremy Hogan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love life. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Showtime — on the rail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bernie throwing nothing in the air

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

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

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Purchased at the official Bernie merch table

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

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

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

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

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

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This was John Lennon as a politician.

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

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

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

see, also: Dead, Grateful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@ gmail.com     BrianHassett.com

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Democratic Party Unity in 2016

April 17th, 2016 · Politics

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live this.

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

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

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

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The core crew of Democrats Abroad in Toronto.

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Here’s how I first got involved in politics.

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

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

Here’s some insanely raving reviews of it.

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

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

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

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@ gmail.com     BrianHassett.com

 

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Rolling Stone Book of The Beats, Power of The Collective

March 6th, 2016 · Grateful Dead, Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters, New York City

Floating Universities  —

The Power of The Collective in Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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pull-my-daisy-1959-film-still

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

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

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living-theatre

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

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

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

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Acid-Test-poster-1965 - Version 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a cool exploration of Jack’s book Pic.

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

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

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

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

And here’s a whole bunch more.  😉

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

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

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

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 by

Brian Hassett      karmacoupon@gmail.com      BrianHassett.com

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