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The Beat Museum’s Jerry Cimino Introduces Brian Hassett

April 30th, 2020 · 12 Comments · Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy, Kerouac and The Beats, Politics, Weird Things About Me

Introduction to Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy (April 2020)

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Sometimes you meet a person who thinks like you do, who views the world through a similar lens.  For me, Brian Hassett is one of those people.

We’re all products of our times, and Brian, being slightly younger than me, came of age in a different decade so our experiences are somewhat different.  But Brian understands history and he knows how everything in life must be viewed through an historical context.  I believe an understanding of history is critical to an understanding of life.  And Brian holds that same view.

Years before I ever met him in person, I had heard about Brian Hassett from our mutual friend John Allen Cassady, son of the Beat muse Neal Cassady.  John and I had first met in 1994 when he drove his mother Carolyn Cassady to a book signing at my wife Estelle’s bookstore in Monterey, California.  While Estelle interviewed Carolyn on stage in front of a hundred fans about the adventures she and her husband Neal had with writer Jack Kerouac as vividly described in her book Off The Road, her son John Allen and I walked across Alvarado Street to the Mucky Duck to grab a drink and swap stories.

I don’t remember if it was on that first night that John told me about his friend Brian Hassett who lived in Manhattan and worked in the rock ‘n roll world and had written for The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats, maybe that came later, but I do recall Brian’s name coming up many times over the years when John and I would meet up at various Northern California Beat Generation events, or for leisurely hikes in Big Sur with another mutual friend Steve Edington who was then President of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac.

I clearly remember John Allen and I discussing the possibility of meeting up with Brian in Toronto for a Beat Museum on Wheels event when we were planning our first East Coast tour in 2004 driving from California in The Mighty Beatmobile.  Unfortunately Canadian Customs insisted we inventory every single item we had on board in both the 35-foot RV and the 16-foot trailer that acted as a rolling bookstore.  This would have delayed us for days, so Brian and I were not destined to meet for another decade.

The moment of that great occasion didn’t occur until June 2015 when he came to San Francisco to host multiple panels at The Beat Shindig at Fort Mason sponsored and coordinated by The Beat Museum.  This became the largest Beat Generation gathering in the world since Allen Ginsberg organized the 1994 & ’95 NYU Conferences.  One day leading up to the Shindig, I was rushing down the stairs from my Beat Museum office when I turned a blind corner and bumped into a guy I immediately recognized as Brian.  We both stood back for a moment — realizing we were finally meeting face-to-face after having interacted from afar for so many years.  A big spontaneous bear hug ensued, and it was like we had never not known each other.  And that has proven true so many times since.

As I write this introduction for Brian’s latest book — his long awaited collection of stories on politics as he has known it up close and personal and as only Brian can tell them — I’m sitting in my office in North Beach directly across the street from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s office at City Lights Bookstore, delayed in writing and glued to the TV because of the impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate of Donald J. Trump.

It’s fitting for me to be in this situation.  I’ve come to know Brian through our association with the Beat writers, and along the way we’ve discovered our mutual love of politics, and us having similar dispositions.  And just as Brian knows the Beats and the Pranksters like few people I’ve ever met, and can spin a tale and draw connections most people would never even consider with an inimitable style that is as distinct as it is entertaining, I know he can do so in the political arena as well.

Brian is the kind of guy who is always inquisitive, always into multiple storylines and overlapping dramas, and who suddenly drops everything and takes to the road because there is a story to uncover, a secret to suss out, or an experience to be had.

Brian is the guy who “shows up.”  He showed up at The 25th Anniversary of Kerouac’s On The Road in Boulder in 1982; he showed up for Bill Clinton’s inauguration; for the On The Road auction in NYC in 2001; for Obama’s 2008 election night and inauguration; and to be with Carolyn Cassady in 2012 when she needed him.

Brian Hassett knows history and politics as well as anyone I’ve ever known.  He has a way with words, his ideas flow effortlessly, and his stories are cogent, brilliant and always on point.  Brian brings connections together with gee-whiz enthusiasm and exacting detail most people have never even considered.  He has uncovered Beat mysteries that lay dormant for decades and he relates those stories in unique and compelling ways.  And now he’s tackling politics.

As Carolyn Cassady always liked to say — “Brian gets things done.”

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You can get the Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy book here.

You can read all about that wild Beat Shindig Jerry mentions here.

Or the Boulder ’82 Adventure — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac — here.

You can hear a Democrats Abroad podcast interview about the book here.

Or a more wide-ranging interview on the book plus the Beats and Pranksters and life itself with the Subjective Perspective crew out of Northern California is here.

The Beat Museum that Jerry Cimino founded can be found here.

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by Brian Hassett

karmacoupon@gmail.com   —  BrianHassett.com

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there —

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

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12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Simon Warner // May 1, 2020 at 7:50 AM

    Brian Hassett, Beat commentator and raconteur of the road extraordinaire, switches tack with his new book, leaving the cool chaos of the counterculture for the windswept waterfront of politics USA. Like a latter-day Hunter S. Thompson, he straps on his laptop and heads out to the Wild West of Western democracy with sharp words his only defense. There is even an introduction from Beat Museum boss Jerry Cimino! What’s not to love?

  • 2 Dale Topham // May 1, 2020 at 12:37 PM

    Some fine words from Jerry Cimino!

  • 3 Duncan Lennox // May 1, 2020 at 7:21 PM

    Outstanding!

  • 4 Guylaine Knupp // May 2, 2020 at 12:21 AM

    Well said. Looking forward to this read.

  • 5 Alex Nantes // May 2, 2020 at 11:58 AM

    Wooooo-hooooo! Finally somebody said it!!! You GO GO GO my Beat Bro from the north country! We need a million more of you down here STAT!

  • 6 Dawn E Hagen // May 2, 2020 at 2:34 PM

    The title is just classic 🙂
    I do hope one day we’ll have the pleasure of meeting in person, my friend.

  • 7 Brian // May 2, 2020 at 5:15 PM

    Thanks, Dawn! And yeah — we gotta pull off the in-person before the movie’s over. 😉
    I wrote about how the title came about in the book’s front-pages —

    It was an emotional, joyous and cold day when Barack Obama was first inaugurated in January 2009. When I got back to the apartment at the end of that historic Adventure, it had all been so overwhelming, and my fingers were so frozen solid, the only words my hands could muster were . . .
    Blissfully ravaged in democracy.

  • 8 Sara Kendrick Thomas // May 2, 2020 at 7:47 PM

    Thanks Brian. Can’t wait to read it.

  • 9 Brian Humniski // May 3, 2020 at 7:02 PM

    Brilliant introduction. Looking for the book’s arrival before a retreat to the lake for some quality distancing and rich reading.

  • 10 Helen North // May 3, 2020 at 9:17 PM

    Congratulations!

  • 11 Nancy Jones Cook // May 4, 2020 at 11:41 AM

    I just added this book to my wish list. I know that I have said it before but I love your smile.

  • 12 David Rakes // May 5, 2020 at 2:44 PM

    I just received this new book by the very informed Brian Hassett. Looking forward to jumping in so I can give a review.
    Please consider ordering during your downtime and make it an uptime.

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