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Paul Krassner 1932 – 2019

July 22nd, 2019 · 9 Comments · 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

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9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John Kruth // Jul 22, 2019 at 4:57 PM

    We need a few hundred more Paul Krassners in the world to get back on the right track.

  • 2 Sweetbryar Ludwig // Jul 22, 2019 at 5:04 PM

    We had such a classic, Beat time in Amsterdam that year!! Paul was a true gentleman!

  • 3 Brian // Jul 22, 2019 at 6:14 PM

    Yeah, we sure did. Paul was inducting Allen, Robert Anton Wilson did Burroughs, I opened it with Jack, and John & Carolyn did Neal.
    A High Time was had by all, that’s for sure.
    <3

  • 4 Jack Mccarthy // Jul 22, 2019 at 6:51 PM

    God Bless Paul. Rest in Paradise.

  • 5 Debra DeMattio // Jul 22, 2019 at 7:29 PM

    So sorry to hear this.

  • 6 Dani DeVere // Jul 22, 2019 at 10:17 PM

    Personally, he was kind in an “off the cuff” way. I’m honored to have some of his signed books with “off the cuff” remarks.

  • 7 Kathy Rose Rex // Jul 22, 2019 at 11:12 PM

    So sorry.

  • 8 Selah Adams // Jul 23, 2019 at 12:24 AM

    I sang underground. Wish I would had stayed with it, but wanted to learn so so much more.

  • 9 Angelic Saupe // Jul 23, 2019 at 9:37 PM

    WE STILL GOT MORE LOVE AND GOOD TO SPREAD INTO THE WORLD … IN HIS HONOR LET’S DO IT.

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