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Kerouac in Provincetown

December 4th, 2019 · Kerouac and The Beats

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

Kerouac’s and Otherwise

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

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

Ka’Boom!!

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

It was all a wild harmonic refrain of when some unseen Bill Cannastra photos surfaced earlier this year.  Cannastra was the guy who had the loft in New York where Kerouac met his wife Joan Haverty and where he found the scroll paper he used to write On The Road and change history.  You can read that full story here

Same year.  Same medium — old black-&-white family photographs that had never been seen outside of the shoebox in the attic.  And the same detective and I started shooting fabulous roman candles out of the top of our heads!

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

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

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

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

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

Similarly, in 1964 Jerry Bauer went to Kerouac’s house at 7 Judy Ann Court in Northport and took over 100 photos of Jack in all manner of poses — holding his cat, going through his immaculate filing cabinets, holding his unfurled Dharma Bums scroll — and yes, sitting at his typewriter.  Interesting to think that the buttoned-down man in the picture below is who Neal Cassady picked up on July 25th of that year and drove him into Manhattan to meet Ken Kesey and his psychedelic Merry Pranksters for the historic acid-fueled party at Madison & 89th Street — the last time Jack & Neal would ever be together.

From black & white to full-color crazy . . .

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

I’ve heard suggestions there was another more dynamic shot of Jack at the typewriter that night, but Gloria S. McDarrah who was there doing the typing, let me know — “There aren’t any photos of Jack typing that night as he didn’t type anything.  Yes, at one point I went to the bathroom and he sat behind Fred’s typewriter and looked at what he had dictated to me.  And he may have erased something, or pointed out a mistake or two to me.  But he didn’t type.  He drank beer and smoked cigarettes and laughed and gossiped with Lew and Al about their trip.  No typing.

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

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

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

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

Well — good news!  We know!

When the Cape Cod National Seashore (the National Park Service) wanted to tear down the shacks in the early ’60s, Jack actually wrote a letter to Hazel, who was one of the people leading the preservation movement, adding his famous weight to their cause, confirming to her in writing, “I was working on On The Road there, summer of 1950, and also on poems and articles.”

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

So that makes this not only the only shot in existence of Jack Kerouac actually working at his instrument — but by his own declaration, he’s working on his most famous creation.  Granted, it’s not in the 454 West 20th Street apartment where he wrote the definitive scroll version in April of 1951 — but it is Jack, and it is On The Road.

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

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

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

The first discovery of the photograph

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

The touched Finn, Inka Leisma, began a now years-long journey into telling the story of the woman in the photograph — Hazel Hawthorne — who, it turns out, was a descendant of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and also a Massachusetts novelist in her own right, including one set largely on these very sand dunes, Salt House (1934), and she was something of a Gertrude Stein of the Provincetown arts scene.  Besides the novels, Hazel also had poems and articles published, including in the New Yorker, and, as Inka writes, “She is a footnote in the biographies of many literary giants such as John Cheever, Edmund Wilson, and John Dos Passos.”  Footnote or main player, everybody knew who she was.  She was referred to in print as “the grande dame of Provincetown.”  Others called her “the original Beat,” as Inka uncovered, because she embodied their ethos even before Jack turned the phrase.  And many pointed out she was an environmentalist and feminist before either term was coined.  The writer/actor/director Larry Santoro who knew her circa 1970/71 described her as “lean, straight, palsied, her voice thin, reedy, cut-glass proper,” and that she “never did like pomposity and disdained arrogance.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now . . . these shacks . . . and that is what they were . . . rough, small one-room wooden shacks with no electricity or running water.  There was a well nearby where you had to pump your water and haul it back home.  Located in the pacific sand dunes next to the Atlantic Ocean, one family member described them as “a millionaire’s view in a hobo’s shack.”

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

Jack’s first shack

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

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

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

And lo, it was good.

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

Yep!  It was August or early September 1950 — two or three months before this exact proposal scenario would repeat itself, when he would meet and fall for Joan Haverty and, as we know from history, and as he wrote in his journal — “Nov 7 – Met Joan Haverty, first night decided to marry.

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

Photo courtesy of the Hazel Hawthorne Estate
Uncovered by Inka Leisma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since old family snapshots don’t come with photo credits, we can only guesstimate as to who took the historic shot of Jack writing on the deck outside the shack, but it seems likely that since Nancy was spending so much time with him there, and he was her “boyfriend” at that moment, it makes sense that she was in the familial to take the candid one-of-a-kind shot of Kerouac at work.  Plus, the printed snap was in her collection of photos.

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

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

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

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

But what if Nancy had said “Yes!”

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

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

So . . . what if Nancy had said Yes?

How history would be different.

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

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

Would he have had more time to write, or less?  Would he and Nancy have got along better than he & Joan did?  Would he have bonded more with Kurt Vonnegut than John Clellon Holmes?

Or what if Nancy had come to New York?  A smart, beautiful, book-&-arts-centric young woman living through that golden time of creativity in New York City.  There’s a ton about New York 1945-55 in this piece.  Would her & Holmes’ wife Marian have become close?  Would she have gotten a steady job as a school teacher that allowed Jack to write?  Would she have gotten involved in the burgeoning modern dance world, as was one of her passions?  Might she have been a Hettie Jones type and spearheaded a literary magazine like Yugen?  Would she have been the catalyst for more of a cohesive Provincetown cadre within the Beats, including Holmes, Allen, Lucien, Cannastra & Helen Parker who all dabbled in the Cape?

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

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

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

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

And what if Nancy had said Yes?

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

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Huge Thank Yous are in order.

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

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

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

And of course to my two fellow Beat Detective Agency investigators Jerry Cimino for encouraging me to write this from the get-go — “You’re the guy to tell this story. Nobody else could write this. You’ve got the knowledge and contacts and skills and way of explaining it, and your gift for connecting things together;” And Dave Moore for his combination of superhuman archaeological abilities as well as his 30,000-foot perspectives

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

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

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

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

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How The Beats Begat The Pranksters
& Other Adventure Tales

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On The Road with Cassadys
& Furthur Visions

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

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

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Pranksters for Proactive Politics

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

Ken Kesey's Furthur Bus
Photo by Sky Lyons

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

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

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

As the great political philosopher Granny D taught us — 

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

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

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

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

Everybody for President!

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

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

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

George Walker — gwalkerax@gmail.com

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

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

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Ode to Neal

October 31st, 2019 · Kerouac and The Beats

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

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From Dean Moriarty . . . to Dead immortality,

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

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

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

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

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

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

His passengers even today.

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The abandoned pup . . . pulled himself up —

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

Till finally he found . . . his rock solid ground

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

Midwestern sense . . . while big-city intense —

Carolyn with brushes . . . fighting off the rushes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Generating generations . . . in their latest incarnations,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here’s a nice ode to his wife Carolyn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ode to Jack

September 30th, 2019 · Kerouac and The Beats

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Jack fights back

from off the Beaten track

still alive

at 95

with 55

books in print

after his track star sprint  —

through the pages of history,

seeing around corners like Neal at the wheel,

knockin over grammar cops

and blowin past the door stops

to hidden darkened jazz joints

puffin on a Mezz joint

never missing THE point

of dancing with the mad ones

and singing with the sad ones

and drinking with the bad ones

and skipping past the madhouse

and steering clear the jailhouse

heading for his mom’s house

to write another epic

soaring while he’s manic

catchin’ all the magic

of mysteries dark & vast,

he channeled spirits till the last

he hitched the roads, had a blast

he wrote it down really fast.

Now it’s 50 since he passed

let’s hoist his flag up our mast

salute the work he amassed

“Have you ever seen a canon so vast?”

So let us all

take a moment to thank

the Pollard for the books

the Young Prometheans for the camaraderie 

the Columbia cabal for “The New Vision”

Neal Cassady for The Letter

Bill Cannastra for the paper

Joan Haverty for the apartment

Malcolm Cowley for the championing

Gilbert Millstein for the reviewing

David Amram for the playing

Allen Ginsberg for the . . . everything

Lowell for the Celebrating

You for the being

We for the seeing

The glowing light of the golden eternity!

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Thank you Jack for all you shone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Woodstock 50th Anniversary in New York

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

A Festival of Festivals

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

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

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

Full Adventure available here.

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

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

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

The artists are hidden in their work.

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

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

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

The colors of control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Prankster bracelet on the plate in the lower right.


The Pranksters strike again. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Krassner 1932 – 2019

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

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

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

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

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ch. 23 The Realist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From one of our appearances together in Amsterdam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In a bed, in a bed,

      By the waterside

I will lay my head;

      Listen to the river sing sweet songs

to rock my soul.”

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

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

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


— The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac


— How The Beats Begat The Pranksters


— On The Road with Cassadys

For a ton of videos & such — go here.

For a bunch of interviews & such — go here.

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

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

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

→ 5 CommentsTags: ··

Brian Hassett Set Lists

May 31st, 2019 · Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, Kerouac and The Beats, Merry Pranksters, Weird Things About Me, Woodstock

Midwest Tour — May 2019

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Thomas O’Shea House Party — Berea, outside Cleveland Ohio – Friday, May 10th, 2029

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac – the Marin Epiphany – from ch 26 – The Airplane Hanger in Marin 
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac – ch. 3 – Dancin’ to The Boulder Boogie – Who All Was There
I think there was another Holy Cats! piece in here before the climax
Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock – Sunday climax

source: memory


Photo by Thomas O’Shea

Visible Voice Bookstore – Cleveland Ohio – Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Jack Kerouac – ch. 30 – Babbs and The Bus
How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch 10. – Pranksters In Wonderland
On The Road with Cassadys – ch 5 – On The Road to the Hall of Fame
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac – ch 14 – Hiding Out In A Rock n Roll Band
How The Beat Begat The Pranksters – ch 2 – Lowell Celebrates Kerouac
On The Road With Cassadys – ch 3 – The On The Road Scroll Auction
Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock – Sunday climax

source: handwritten setlist


Gubba shot – Blockhouse Bar, Bloomington, May 16, 2019
Light show by Mike Buck

Bloomington Writers’ Guild – The Blockhouse – Bloomington Indiana – Thursday May 16th, 2019

Intro – Tony Brewer
On The Road with Cassadys — I Knew / Not Knew Neal Nameste
How The Beats Begat The Prankstersopening, with George Walker
The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats – The Power of The Collective
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac – the Marin Epiphany – from ch 26 – The Airplane Hanger in Marin
Tony Brewer – mini set
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac – ch 4 – Meeting Your Heroes 101
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac – ch 12 – The Chautauqua Porch Scene – Kesey meets John Holmes
Travis Puntarelli’s musical interlude
How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch. 2 – Lowell Celebrates Kerouac
On The RoadThe “IT” scene – with George Walker
On The RoadRoad South – with George Walker
Joan Hawkins mini set
Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock – Thursday – Getting waved in
On The Road with Cassadys – The On The Road Scroll Auction

source: handwritten setlist


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Pranksters In Pepperland – The Merry Pranksters / Twanger Plunkers Family Reunion – Bloomington Indiana – Friday, May 17th, 2019

The Prankster Address
How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – ch 9 – Woodstock with The Pranksters (2014)
On The Road – Driving into New Orleans – with George Walker
On The Road – Chicago Jazz – with George Walker
Love People vs. Mean Things
Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock – pre-Dylan, ode to photographers
Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock – Sunday climax

source: video review


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Pranksters In Pepperland – The Merry Pranksters / Twanger Plunkers Family Reunion – Bloomington Indiana – Friday, May 17th, 2019

On The Road – The San Francisco Epiphany – during the song Made In The Shade with the Dee Maple Band


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Photo by Dancin’ Chuck Mayfield

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Pranksters In Pepperland – The Merry Pranksters / Twanger Plunkers Family Reunion – Bloomington Indiana – Saturday, May 18th, 2019

George Walker & Brian Hassett Present Jack & Neal Ride Again

Brett Chamberlain intro
Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
Duo:  On The Road — “Hinkle’s Party”
Duo:  On The Road — “Go To Italy”
Duo:  On The Road — “Nebraska”
Duo:  On The Road — “Road North”
Duo:  On The Road — “Driving South”

source:  handwritten setlist


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Pranksters In Pepperland – The Merry Pranksters / Twanger Plunkers Family Reunion – Bloomington Indiana – Sunday, May 19th, 2019

Woodstock Revisited – Max Yasgur’s speech 


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West Coast Summer Fun Tour 2019

poster by Brandon Loberg

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A Beat Prankster Party — with George Walker & John Cassady — The Beat Museum — San Francisco, CA — Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Jerry Cimino introduction
Brian:  On The Road with Cassadys — “The Scroll Auction” 
George & Brian:  On The Road – “IT”
George & Brian:  On The Road – “Road North”
George & Brian:  On The Road – “Driving South”
George Walker:  tells Neal story
Jerry Cimino:  “America” by Allen Ginsberg
Brian on Al Hinkle
George Walker, Brian Hassett & Niko Van Dyke:  On The Road – “Hinkle’s Party”
John Cassady — Neal by the bus stop story;  the Go-Kart Story;  Midget car races
Brian & John:  growing pot; Neal couldn’t fix anything; Amsterdam; High Times parties; Anne Frank House; Rembrandt’s house
Brian:  On The Road with Cassadys – “The Queen & The White Knight”
John on going back to 29 Russell St.
Brian:  On The Road with Cassadys – intro tribute to John
Brian & George:  The ’64 Party
George’s birthday — “Happy Birthday” to George
George on Neal’s last birthday (Feb. 8th, 1967) 
Brian:  Holy Cats!  Dream-Catching at Woodstock – climax

source:  video review


The Front Deck by candlelight at The Sanctuary, Sebastopol, CA, Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — the Marin Lesson


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At the Dead Again show at The Big Easy in the big castle — in Petaluma California — Friday, June 28th, 2019

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — On The Bus at Kesey’s


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“Colorful Saturdays” at Wonderful Things — Sebastopol California — Saturday, June 29th, 2019

On The Road with Cassadys — I Knew / Not Knew Neal Namaste — with Alison Coulter & Terry Ann Gillette on violins, Lonnie Coulter on guitar, Don the bass player
On The Road with Cassadys — Haiku for Carolyn — with Terry Ann Gillette on violin
On The Road with Cassadys — Opening poem —> The Power of The Collective (originally from The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — Jack Manifested as Music – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — Lord Buckley
*  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — Hiding Out In A Rock n Roll Band — arriving at Red Rocks 
On The Road with Cassadys — The Royal Woods of Cassady County

Second Set
How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — opening & closing
How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — Mariam Yasgur on how Woodstock happened
*  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — Pranksters In Wonderland
How The Beats Begat The Pranksters — Be The Invincible Spirit You Are

source:  video review



The Beatniks Coffee House, Chico, California Wed. July 3rd, 2019
Brian & George — On The RoadRoad North


The Rosebud Cafe, Scappoose (Portland), Oregon, Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
George:  Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind — abbreviated poetry version
Duo:  On The Road — “Chicago Jazz”
Brian:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – with a cameo by George on the Neal showing up on Perry Lane part
Benzedrine inhaler / Al Hinkle stories
Duo:  On The Road — “Road North”
Duo:  The birth of the full “’64 Party” piece, beginning with George & Kesey’s ’63 drive across the country
Brian:  On The Road with Cassadys — “I Knew / Not Knew Neal Namaste” 
“The Grateful Dead: Jack Manifested As Music”
Duo:  On The Road — “New Orleans” 
Brian:  Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock — climax

source:  video review

Here’s the full show on YouTube — thanks to the mighty Simon Babbs —
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8tykhrlr-8


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Outside Kesey’s Furthur Bus, Oregon Country Fair, Veneta, OR, Saturday, July 13th, 2019

Duo: On The Road – Road North


Quiet Camp Stage, Oregon Country Fair, Veneta, OR, Saturday July 13th, 2019

Duo:  On The Road – IT
Duo:  On The Road – Chicago Jazz


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Beatniks Coffee House & Espresso Joint, Chico, California, Tuesday, June 16th, 2019

Introduction:  Randy Turley
Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
George:  Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind — abbreviated poetry version
Duo:  On The Road — “Road North”
Brian:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – with a cameo by George on the Neal showing up on Perry Lane part
Dedicated to Cathy Cassady who was seeing her first show — 
Brian: On The Road with Cassadys — Carolyn Haiku;  and I Knew / Not Knew Neal Namaste 
Duo:  improv riffing — the ’63 drive —> the ’64 Party
Dedicated to the painter Philippo LoGrande — 
George:  improv storytelling about Neal in Mexico
Duo:  On The Road — “Mexico”
Duo:  On The Road  — “On The Road with Memere”
Brian:  Holy Cats!  Dream-Catching at Woodstock — climax 

full show from Facebook livestream here — 
https://www.facebook.com/lonnie.coulter.98/videos/138514067353094/

https://www.facebook.com/lonnie.coulter.98/videos/138514067353094/


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Venice Beach Music Festival, Los Angeles, CA, Sat. July 20th, 2019

Duo:  On The Road — “Nebraska” 

Pro-shot capture of our piece.

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Kerouac, Cassady, Kesey & Company, Beyond Baroque, Los Angeles, CA, Sunday, July 21st, 2019

Richard Modiano intro
Duo:  On The Road — “IT”
George:  Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind – abbreviated poetry version
Duo:  On The Road – “Road North”
Brian:  How The Beats Begat The Pranksters – cameo by George on the Perry Lane part
Duo:  On The Road – “Driving South” 
Brian:  Holy Cats!  Dream-Catching at Woodstock – climax
World Premiere of — “The Pranksters Drive to The Beat Party” — with S.A. Griffin and a cast of contemporary Pranksters

Here’s the full show from the live stream by Lonnie Coulter . . . 


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MeloMelo Kava Bar, Santa Cruz, CA, Friday, July 26th, 2019

Brian:  The Prankster Address
Duo:  On The Road – “IT”
Duo:  On The Road – “Hinkle’s Party”
George:  solo storytelling about ’63 New York trip
Duo:  On The Road – “Go To Italy”


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The Pranksters’ original stage under the Redwoods in back of Kesey’s famous house in La Honda, CA, Monday, July 29th, 2019

Brian:  The Prankster Address – from the front porch (video to follow)
Duo:  On The Road – “Driving South”
Duo:  On The Road – “Chicago Jazz”


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Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2019 

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The Al Hinkle Memorial — as part of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac — at Zorba’s Music Hall, Friday, October 11th, 2019

Al Hinkle: Hero of The Humble


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The Brian Hassett Road Show — part of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac — at The Olde Worthen, Saturday, October 12th, 2019

introduction by Brett Sigurdson
The Lowell Celebrates Kerouac “theme song” from How The Beats Begat The Pranksters
Howling at the Jackmoon from On The Road with Cassadys
Arriving at the Kesey Bus from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac
How Rock Concerts Led to Politics from the forthcoming Democracy is Something You Do
The Power of The Collective from The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats
Ode to Jack — with Kevin Twigg (dumbek), Rene Hart (upright bass) & Jason Eisenberg (guitar)
The Woodstock climax from Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock — with Kevin Twigg (dumbek), Rene Hart (upright bass) & Jason Eisenberg (guitar)


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The Amram Jam — as part of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac — at The Olde Worthen, Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Tribute to Graham Robinson
Ode To Jack — with David Amram (piano), Kevin Twigg (drums) & Rene Hart (upright bass)
The Woodstock climax (from Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstock) — with David Amram (piano), Kevin Twigg (drums) & Rene Hart (upright bass)


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Jack’s Gravesite, Edson Cemetery, Lowell, Mass., Monday, Oct. 14th, 2019

Ode To Jack 


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

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

Same idea with all three of the books in The Beat Trilogy:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac
How The Beats Begat The Pranksters
On The Road with Cassadys


For more on the George Walker / Brian Hassett collaboration — go here.

For a ton of videos & such — go here.

For a bunch of interviews & such — go here.

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

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

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

→ 12 CommentsTags: ······

Bill Cannastra & Joan Haverty’s Loft

April 21st, 2019 · Kerouac and The Beats, New York City

The Home of The Scroll & The Girl

Newly uncovered photos and corrections to history.

“Bill felt completely at home on the rooftops of Manhattan.”
Joan Haverty-Kerouac on Bill Cannastra

I knew I loved this guy! 🙂

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To all in Beatlandia

Pretty much nobody’s ever seen these buried Beat family photos in a hundred years of forever . . . but both The Beat Museum’s Jerry Cimino and I stumbled upon them within 24 hours of each other in the subterranean ancient Beat catacombs with flashlights in a corner-turning Spinal Tap lost moment of surprise!!

As a refresher — Bill Cannastra is probably best known as the source of the paper Jack Kerouac used to write the scroll version of On The Road, and as the person who was best friends with a young Joan Haverty, who lived in the loft following Bill’s tragic death trying to climb out the window of a moving subway car, and who would meet and marry Jack there within days.

Bill Cannastra —
probably while attending Harvard.

Cannastra was a graduate of Harvard Law School, although he never practiced much, preferring to practice debauchery being a legendary party host & catalyst among some pretty legendary partiers including Tennessee Williams, Dylan Thomas, W.H. Auden, Jackson Pollock, Larry Rivers, the Landesmans, as well as core Beats, Jack, Allen Ginsberg, John Clellon Holmes, Neal Cassady, Lucien Carr & others. Joan Haverty, in her memoir Nobody’s Wife, described Bill as having “circle upon circle of friends, like an endless series of rings. They ran the gamut from artists and educators to bums and hustlers.”

Although of modest means (here is the 2-family home Bill grew up in at 525 Pennsylvania Ave. in Schenectady, NY), Bill’s Italian immigrant parents recognized his exceptional intelligence, and his mother (who spoke 4 languages) enrolled in a book club just so she could supply her voraciously reading son with all the classics, and she also bought him a wide range of music including opera, classical, Gregorian chants, and jazz.

He was the subject of installment #6 of Al Aronowitz’s now-famous 12-part series on the Beats in the New York Post in 1961, even though he died 10 years earlier (on Oct. 12th, 1950). He was a complex character — highly intelligent yet painfully foolish; proactively catalytic yet hopelessly irresponsible; exuberantly full of life yet many saw a death wish as he teetered on building ledges.

Even though Jack has a version of him in Visions of Cody (named Finistra – as in “fini” in French … finished), the two most vivid firsthand accounts of Wild Bill are in John Clellon Holmes’ Go (Bill’s pseudonym being Agatson) and Joan Haverty’s Nobody’s Wife. Gerald Nicosia has probably the most complete and well-compiled “biography” of him within his Kerouac biography Memory Babe.

Cannastra’s apartment was always referred to as a “loft” which made anyone familiar with New York lofts picture the typical large high-ceiled industrial spaces big enough to play football in. Turns out, it did have many of the qualities of a loft — a floor-through design with windows at both ends, no interior walls (except around the stairwell), a classic pressed tin ceiling, and wide rough-cut floorboards — but it was in a standard 4-story New York brownstone with a 20-foot frontage, and being the top floor, it had a much lower ceiling than a traditional loft.

Inside Bill’s loft looking towards the back where there was the kitchen area and the fire escape over to Lucien’s.

It was a perfect party space for the Beats as they were birthing in Manhattan in the late ’40s. As Holmes describes the officially non-residential / industrial Chelsea building in Go: Cannastra “lived in a drab district of warehouses, garment shops, and huge taxi garages. His loft was at the top of an ugly brownstone, unoccupied but for a lampshade factory on the second floor. … The loft itself was one of those floors-through with low windows, several grimy skylights that opened out on chimneys, and a sort of kitchen alcove at the back. It was always a fantastic litter of broken records, dusty bottles, mattresses, a slashed car seat, a few decrepit chairs from empty lots, and stray articles of ownerless clothing.”

Here’s how the exterior looked in 1940 — (the building with the truck at the bottom of the stairs and reflectors on the doorframe) —

http://nycma.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/detail/NYCMA~5~5~232544~502684?qvq=w4s:/where%2FWest%2B21%2BStreet&mi=158&trs=264

Although John describes the skylights as “grimy” they were multiple and large, and Joan said, “Bill loved the light in the place,” as she made the decision to take over his lease and preserve it as he had it, becoming one of the “clandestine loft dwellers,” as she put it. Although, truth-be-told, with her & Jack being busy getting married in November, they never got around to working, so ended up moving out after just one month, and into Mémère’s house in Richmond Hill, Queens.

And in today’s installment of Eventful Times in World History — it was that very month (December 1950) that Jack would receive the “Joan Anderson – Cherry Mary letter” from Neal Cassady that would blow open his approach to writing.

Joan Haverty describes the famous loft in great detail in her confessional 10-years-in-the-works memoir of this period Nobody’s Wife (assembled posthumously & nobly by her half brother-in-law John Bower, which you can read about here) — “The loft was huge, sixty feet by maybe thirty feet at the front and back ends, but the center lost some width due to the stairwell, giving the whole apartment a squat U shape. There were no interior walls. Areas were designated by placement of the few pieces of furniture. The kitchen only gave an impression of being separated, because it was located at one end of the U. [the back] The center sleeping and sitting area was set apart from the kitchen and the large front studio [facing onto 21st St.] by waist-high storage cabinets, which extended into the room at right angles to the wall. Between the cabinets were a double bed, with a red spread, a small oak table, and a chair, which Bill and I had re-webbed and reupholstered in blue plush the previous winter.”

Taken from the bed area towards the front — Bill with his books and homemade bookshelf, and the “low windows” (as Holmes described them) facing 21st St. behind.

In late summer 1950 no less than Lucien Carr moved into the same floor of the brownstone right next door! It was like a Beat sitcom!

Lucien moved into his girlfriend Liz Lehrman’s loft — just as Jack would soon move into Joan Haverty’s — example # 50,002 of how the women were the real anchors of this drunken Beats boys club. They had adjacent apartments in adjacent buildings — each architecturally identical both inside and out — with a partying badass beatnik & all his gone pals on whichever side of the wall you fell!

The two most famous (infamous) New York City deaths in Beat history — Lucien murdering David Kammerer and Bill’s tragic accident — were living right next to each other in that brief window of time between Lucien getting out of jail and Bill getting out of a subway.

Liz Lehrman, who later changed her name to Liza Williams, became a columnist for the L.A. Free Press, where she wrote her own firsthand memory of Bill’s tragic death.

Courtesy of the Cannastra family.

Also — Bill’s loft is where Jack met his wife . . . and Lucien’s loft is where he went when he left her six months later.

And in a related story — Lucien’s is also where his dog Potchky chewed off the historic end of the historic tracing-paper-tasty scroll!

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And speaking of paper! Oh my gawd! There has never been a piece of paper in all of history that’s been more talked about than Jack Kerouac’s original On The Road scrollwhich sold at auction in 2001 for the most anyone ever paid for a literary manuscript — and it has been positively definitely definitively declared by different people to be everything from Japanese drawing paper to Chinese art paper to onionskin paper to teletype paper to glassine paper to wax paper to shelf lining paper. (!)

But, despite all the speculation and misidentification, for the eternal record, the On The Road scroll was typed on straight-up tracing paper.

The first time anyone in history ever referred to it in writing was just 5 days after Jack finished it in his 20-day spurt and had given it to his best novelist friend John Clellon Holmes to be the first to read it. Holmes wrote in his diary on April 27, 1951, “He wrote it in twenty days, and it is one long strip of tracing paper, one hundred and twenty feet long.”

The second time it was ever referred to in writing was a few weeks later on May 22nd when Jack himself wrote of it to his brother Neal to tell him he’d just finished writing his new masterwork — “Went fast because road is fast . . . wrote whole thing on a strip of paper 120 feet long (tracing paper that belonged to Cannastra.)”

And according to “the guardian of the scroll,” the world-renown manuscript preservationist Jim Canary, it is NOT “Japanese drawing paper” or “drawing paper” at all from Japan or anywhere else, but rather, as he specifically told me, “I have gotten samples of the same paper stock sold today to compare it to. It is more like a drafting tracing paper. It doesn’t seem to be like any Japanese drawing papers I have seen. I have a 1961 letter from [legendary Viking editor] Malcolm Cowley where he says Japanese drawing paper, too. I think many people see a very thin paper and assume Japanese drawing paper or rice paper even, though most Japanese paper is made of anything but rice — actually 3 main fibers, all inner bark of plants.”

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And then there’s The Girl.

The Cannastra loft may have been famous for the days-long parties thrown there and the tracing paper salvaged after its resident’s passing, but it was also the treefort clubhouse for a curious and adventurous young woman from the suburbs of Albany when she relocated to exciting post-war New York City after an eye-opening summer at an artists’ retreat in Provincetown where she first met Bill who was working as a scallop fisherman on a boat.

She moved to Manhattan in the late summer of 1949 as an 18 year old into a shared Upper West Side apartment arranged by her mother, but spent most of her time with Bill on adventures in the Village. Although they were never really boyfriend-girlfriend, they never “did anything to contradict the widespread assumption we were lovers,” as she put it in her memoir. “He loved the drama and storminess of Cathy & Heathcliff [of Wuthering Heights fame, and in fact Bill took to playfully calling her ‘Cathy’] . . . he always acted as a big brother to me,” including advising she wait until marriage before having sex. She called him “my companion, confidant, buddy and playmate, commiserator and confirmer, affirmer, counselor and advisor, but never my judge, critic or reformer.”

A couple weeks after Bill’s death, when ol’ blue-eyes Jack came by and hollered up from the street on a night when neighbor Lucien was throwing a party (a scene captured at the start of Part Five of On The Road), she was fairly captivated by him from the jump — aided by the literal and literary foreshadowing of Bill having suggested him to her earlier. He told her he’d been trying to play matchmaker between the two but could never get them together at the same time. And when Jack had described his ideal woman to Bill, Bill told him it sounded like he was describing Joan perfectly.

Then add to the volatile mix of the half-century-year madness the sudden stone-cold death of the Wild Young Men’s matinee idol & edge-dancing maniac — plus Jack was approaching the dreaded 3-0 — suddenly settling down was in the air. But as Joan describes Jack’s approach, it was beyond unromantic to the point of being more of a practical job application for a replacement for his mother. He wanted a woman who could cook, sew, and keep their apartment clean while he went out in the world and did things to write about. For all the Beats’ being ahead of society’s curve on things like sexual & racial equality, psychotropic drug exploration, spontaneous art, celebrating the Real World, road trips, Bebop, Howling raps and freedom from corporate conformity — gender equality was not exactly their strong suit.

And boy that extended to monogamy. And Cannastra’s loft did not help matters! Not only was it there that Jack met and proposed to Joan while he was still married to his first wife Edie, it was at a Cannastra party (in late ’49) that Neal met and soon bigamously married his third wife Diana Hansen.

John Holmes was there the night of the meeting and described it rather brilliantly & vividly in his tribute to Neal that first appeared in Kesey & Babbs’ Spit In The Ocean Cassady tribute issue:

“… that night in Cannastra’s Caligari-loft, amid smashed records, empty bottles, 25 watt shadows, where sullen, end-of-the-world whoopees were hopelessly raised against the inevitability of hangover-dawn, [Neal] cottoned to a girl, Diana, somebody’s ex-wife, sojourning among the lost that year, who melted out of her midtown hauteur under his acetylene concentration, his laughing cajolery, wickedly raised brows, and roving hands through which the shoulder’s electricity pulsed with strange grace till she drowned in such attention, knees spread around him on a stained ticking, feeling a pierce of Western sun warm New York’s barren womb …”

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Inside Cannastra’s loft — from Joan’s Nobody’s Wife
“When we came to the sole painting on the wall, Cezanne’s
Mardi Gras, I stopped and stared at it. I always thought it was in the wrong place, somehow. Not above a bed, as you’d expect, but on the adjacent expanse of bare wall. It was as if it waited for a specific piece of furniture to be set beneath it.”
Then later when Jack moved in —
“I took one end of the desk so we could set it in place under Cezanne’s
Mardi Gras.”
Then later when Jack was writing there —
“He sat back for a moment, gazing at the Cezanne. What would he see ther
e, I wondered? Who would be the harlequin and who would be the clown?”

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Another revelation from Joan’s memoir was the address of Bill’s historic loft. Like the widespread plethora of claims of the type of paper On The Road was written on, there’s never been more different addresses for a single apartment in the history of conspiracy theories! In Cannastra’s New York Times obituary and Al Aronowitz’s 1961 New York Post profile, it’s listed as 165 West 25th Street. At the first big Kerouac symposium at Salem State College in 1973, Allen said it was on 23rd Street. Joyce Johnson calls it 121 West 21st in her Voice Is All book. Even the Cannastra family long thought it was 165 West 21st St.

But by far the most common mistaken address is 125 West 21st. You see it everywhere. Problem is, 125 was not a brownstone; was not next door to Lucien’s; was 5 stories not 4; was fairly isolated in terms of fire escape roof traversing; there were no stairs up to the front door as Joan mentions at the end of chapter 7 (and every brownstone has); and the windows don’t match Holmes’ description or those in the now known loft photographs.

You can see the 125 building here, circa 1940 — (directly above the sign, car in front, white windowed second floor) —

http://nycma.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/detail/NYCMA~5~5~232554~502674?qvq=w4s:/where%2FWest%2B21%2BStreet&mi=168&trs=264

If anyone was really going to know, it was the person for whom the address meant the most — the person who had her best friend & mentor & big brother die horrifically when she was only 20-sponge-sucking-impressionable-years-old and who had been enticed to The Big City by him repeating the address to her over and over again — an address she went back to a thousand times in her first year in New York. Anyone who ever moved to the City remembers forever the addresses of the places they first felt “home.”

Plus it was the first apartment she actually moved into on her own in New York, and tried to preserve as a memorial to her fallen friend. Not to mention the place where her first husband met her and proposed to her. And all this by a person who has a memory for addresses and gets the other ones she mentions in her book correct and re-read the manuscript pages many times over — that woman remembers distinctly the address of the fulcrum of her life as being — 151 West 21st Street.

You can see it, circa 1940, here (with a truck at the bottom of the stairs) —

http://nycma.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/detail/NYCMA~5~5~232544~502684?qvq=w4s:/where%2FWest%2B21%2BStreet&mi=158&trs=264

And as further corroboration, Joan describes vividly how their mutual friend Lucien Carr lived in the adjacent twin building next door, and were both on the same top floor to boot, and how the lights in their windows were in a line, and how they’d regularly visit each other by just scooching over the back fire escapes. Allen also talks about them living next door to each other in a letter of November 1950 to Neal Cassady (where a fluctuating Allen also confesses to pursuing Joan at Lucien’s prodding!) And if they were not in adjacent buildings, Jack’s own account of calling up from the street to Lucien’s party and Joan hearing him and throwing down the keys couldn’t have happened. And through all of this — Lucien’s address was . . . 149 West 21st.

You can see here a picture of how his building looked next door to Bill’s in the burned-out nearly-’70s days of 1984.

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And speaking of photos, this whole journey of discovery began with a photo! An entirely different one (!) that appears to be Allen Ginsberg, a well buzzed Jack Kerouac, and Neal Cassady — the first known photograph with all three in it — plus a fourth man that no one has been able to identify thus far.

Nothing is known for sure about this photo recently uncovered by painter & Beat buff Jonathan Collins, but after a lengthy colloquy among a wide range of Beat scholars and aficionados it seems to be the consensus that it was taken in New York between March and May 1950, when Kerouac’s first novel The Town and The City had just come out and he was making suit-wearing formal appearances as the aspiring rising young author, and when all three big Beat lights were burning bright in the big city.

Many speculated the mystery man was Bill Cannastra, which prompted both myself and The Beat Museum’s Jerry Cimino to try to track down any living member of his family who could weigh in definitively on the matter.

Turns out, we both found at almost the exact same time one of only two Cannastras of that generation still living! And it turned out she was extremely nice and cool and friendly and with-it and had a few pictures of her Uncle Bill that had never been seen outside the family. And she wanted to share them!

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And this is the thing — her Uncle Bill was a frickin HUGE figure in the history of the world.

And yeah, that’s right. I said “world.”

It was Bill who set up Joan and Jack. And it was that (short-lived) relationship that gave Kerouac the temporary stability outside his mother’s house to have his creative breakthrough that changed history.

And not only that — but the very same guy who provided The Girl — also provided The Paper!

No way!
I know!
C’mon! Yer makin’ this up.
There’s no way!

Who is this guy? The Fonz?
The Cassady?
The catalyst?
One guy?
Who Lucien Carr moved in next to?!
What?!
Who partied with Jackson Pollock and Jack Kerouac?!
And Tennessee Williams and Dylan Thomas?!

The guy who was James Dean cool before there was a James Dean.
Had Elvis hair before there was an Elvis
Lived Gonzo before there was a Hunter Thompson.

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Maybe just for a moment his time can come and somebody can say Yeah!

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Inside the legendary Cannastra loft at 151 West 21st St.
Note the bongos on the shelf. From a Nov. 28 1950 John Holmes letter to Neal Cassady about the afternoon of Jack’s wedding —

“Everyone was in a furor, the phone was ringing continually, Jack would rush from shaving to the bongos (Cannastra’s old bongos) to accompany some wild Mambo that poured out of the radio.”

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The makeshift kitchen nook with what is probably one of the old car seats (under the blanket) that both Holmes & Joan Haverty mention in their books.
Describing the morning after they first met, Joan wrote in “Nobody’s Wife” (ch. 9) —

“We took our coffee to the kitchen and Jack sat on the car seat which, combined with the low table, served as a breakfast nook.”

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Anybody who ever visited me during my nearly 30 years in Manhattan
will get a kick out of where this shot was taken.
😉

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EVERYbody smoked back then!
And even The Wild Ones rarely had a hair out of place.

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Quick Historical Clarification —
You always see it writ that ol’ Bill went out on the town on Oct. 12th and darned if he didn’t die.
Well, fact is, he went out on the evening of Wednesday (of all days of the week!) October 11th for the carousing activities that led to an unfortunate moment on a subway — but the point is — he died a few minutes into the 12th. The obit was in the Times the morning of the 13th. There’s a Rashomon of accounts of what happened on that subway car, but time was running linearly, and he was out on a Wednesday night the 11th being bad, so just leave Thursday right out of it.

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Here’s an excellent video of the NYC subway in action in 1949.
At the 4:00 mark there’s a good view of open windows.

From Holmes’ Go — just after hearing of the death, the characters based on he & his wife get on a subway downtown —
“Kathryn sat beside Hobbes on the subway, peeping every now and again at the window across the aisle, and once she said, ‘The goddamn fool! Look at the size of it!'”

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Someone (not Bill) sitting in the front lit “studio” workspace with
the “low windows” that you can also see are exactly the same
from the outside in the New York City archive photos linked above.  
Or what the heck here’s the link again . . . 
http://nycma.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/detail/NYCMA~5~5~232544~502684?qvq=w4s:/where%2FWest%2B21%2BStreet&mi=158&trs=264

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Double Bonus Hysterical Clarification —
How did you always pronounce “Cannastra” in your head (or out your mouth)? I always said it and heard it like the card game “Canasta.”
But in fact the family actually pronounces it more like “canister” … Cann-i-stra.

Bill Cannastra — 1921 – 1950

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Extra Special Video Bonus cuz ya read this far — here’s Jan sharing a short excerpt from her mother’s Nobody’s Wife manuscript pre-publication — filmed Friday July 30th 1982 at the historic “On The Road Jack Kerouac Conference” in Boulder Colorado.
On stage with Jan (left to right) is Ray Bremser, Joyce Johnson & Gregory Corso.

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Photos reprinted by permission of the Cannastra family.

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For more riffs n fun n stuff like this . . .

There’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac about a whole Adventure to that biggest Beat gathering ever in Boulder in ’82 (that Jan’s at above) . . .

Or there’s the one about How The Beats Begat The Pranksters that brings a whole buncha crazy worlds together . . .

Or there’s the most recent On The Road with Cassadys that’s just what you’d imagine . . .

Oh yeah and super-soon there’s gonna be the Woodstock ’94 book . . . 😉

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

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

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Woodstock ’94 Concert Opening

March 31st, 2019 · Music, Real-life Adventure Tales, Woodstock

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While I was stopped behind the stage carefully taking notes on the human traffic flows, I heard the promoter John Scher start talking from the stage. “Holy smoke! It must be 10:00!” I realized. “Sounds like he’s opening the show!”

In the press kit they gave us at the Friar Tuck I noticed a sheet on Native Americans they’d scheduled for the Opening Ceremonies, and knowing they’d be the most direct spiritual masters of the weekend, I was in the crowd before Scher could finish his sentence.

The front of the field was surprisingly open, so I sashayed right up to the stage. These amazing gurus in their full peacock feathered regalia were chanting and dancing and blessing up a storm. And there was Michael Lang on the side of the stage in his fringed leather jacket, grinning his cherubic, beatific grin. I kept wondering: If the guy’s such a capitalist prick as so many bitchers complain, what’s with the full hour of Indian tribes opening his Woodstock II? Even if he “sold out” to Pepsi, he didn’t have to invite all these spiritualists and give them their own tepee field for the weekend . . . and then stand on the stage and watch them in crossed-hand reverence. If they would have appeared for five minutes it would have been a perfunctory gesture. But he had them on stage for an hour with their various blessings, speeches and prayers in different languages, eliciting that singular tranquility only felt in the presence of true spiritual masters no matter the faith. It hushed the crowd. For an hour this supposedly heathen generation of moshers paid attention to a tribal overture about listening to your heart and how we’re all a part of our future. It may have been the last time they were quiet until about next Tuesday, but they were quiet now.

And a wide variety of blessers it was too, including that pop art pillar Peter Max who said, “We’ve come here in the name of peace and music. The whole world is watching, as it did 25 years ago. Let us conduct ourselves with peace and love, and let it shine all over the world.”

Even after the recent wide-spread yuppie epidemic, with its Beavis and Butthead after-effects, we proved that a half-million nineties kids could still find their way to a designated location and stand on their hind legs in unison. And maybe it was even more than that. But it was these ancient Americans who were putting a voice to it before it even happened.

Chief Jake Swamp was the Grand Poh-Bah of the whole shebang. He introduced a gorgeous singer named Joanne Shenandoah who looked like a goddess in a white flowing gown, while all around her were sage burners, flag wavers and drum players celebrating her arrival. They created with voice and music a transcendental sense of oneness, of all of us being part of a single body. We were hypnotized into a silent unity by a harmony and a beat. And it’s pretty much stayed that way through Gabriel on Sunday.

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From my new book Holy Cats! Dream-Catching at Woodstockavailable here.

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You can order any of the prior Beat Trilogy books direct from the author and get them colorfully signed, or you can order them here —

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

How The Beats Begat The Pranksters, & Other Adventure Tales

On The Road with Cassadys & Furthur Visions

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

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

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