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Long Strange Trip – Grateful Dead doc review

May 2nd, 2017 · Grateful Dead, Movies


Let There Be Songs To Fill The Screen




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

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



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

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

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

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

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

“Say what?!”

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

This is what I’m on about.

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

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

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

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


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

Deadheads Unite!

This is gonna blow your mind!

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


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

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

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

And they achieved their objective.

I sure wish my Mom was alive to see this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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by Brian Hassett  —   —

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

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The Spilled Coffee Test

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



The Spilled Coffee Test . . . 


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

Something I’ve being using for decades . . . 

Very simple — 

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

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

There’s three types of instant reaction:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And P.S. —

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

And it tells you the truth about YOU.  😉 


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

Or you can simply Be The Invincible Spirit You Are

Or here’s a nice one — Love Is

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


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by Brian Hassett  —   —

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


by Brian Hassett  —   —

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

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The Dalai Lama in Central Park in 1999

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




The Light at the End of the Tunnel

is the Twinkle in Your Own Eye!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


As I floated through the phalanx flashing my

Laminated All-Access Prankster’s Twinkle

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

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

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

But there he is for real! The Dalai Rama!

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

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

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

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

Everyone is unified simply by making the Journey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with a crowd like this,

What one of these Spirit Giants can do!

By first drawing us in,

then drawing us out,

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

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

So he welcomed everyone as soon as he began,

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

we were all striving for the same things.

He called it “secular ethics.”


“Secular ethics”

Why didn’t I think of that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then he says –

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

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

And he suggested:

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

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

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

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

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

………………..But the most important thing

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

There he was, so kindly,

………. without asking,

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

But the most important thing

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



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

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

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

Or here’s the essence of it all — Love Is

Or here’s a fun storytelling Adventure poem featuring Vincent Van Gogh — Visiting Vincent

Or .


by Brian Hassett  —   —

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Finding Kesey

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

Finding Kesey


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

1982 lives! 😀


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Then  —  BOOM!



There it was!!

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


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

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


With the legendary Cliff Miller on the left

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Or the full-color Kindle version’s here.



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

by Brian Hassett  —   —

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

→ 13 CommentsTags: ······

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

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

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac

Reviews & Reactions — Part Three


Here’s the first round of incoming reviews.

Or here’s a whole second round.



 I am bathing in the pages.

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

Enjoying it immensely.

Teri McLuhan – author, filmmaker and Marshall’s daughter


Congratulations on a book that has continuing liveliness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Len Barron – Colorado radio & theater legend



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

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

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

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

Keep going furthur!

Tate Swindell — record producer & filmmaker 



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I luv your book!  😀 

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


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

5.0 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

Lance Gurwell — journalist / photographer 


full_cover12 copy


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

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

Raymond Foye — Beat chronicler and historian


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

Thanks for loving him like we do!

Howard Neville — Kerouac sculptor 



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Barnaby Marshall — music executive and web designer


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

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

Dale “Gubba” Topham — Merry Prankster


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

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

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

Eliza Goehl — student of Bernie, Beats & Bob



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

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

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

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

Sunny Days — musician in Still Hand String Band


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

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

Here’s a review I wrote . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Marc Spilka — Cassady family friend


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

Jeanne Masanz – Jack fan from the Heart land


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

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

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

Pierre Bouchard — the French Connection


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

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

Bryan Lurie — working musician in New York City



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


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

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

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

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

You are a natural.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sloy & Nic — two lifelong Jackster Beats


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

The Fabulous Fab  — P.A. Merry Prankster


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

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

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

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

Jason Pacheco — longtime Massachusetts Jackster




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

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

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

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

Few writers have ever accomplished this feat.

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

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

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

The Wizard of Wonder — Merry Prankster supreme


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

J.H. Mendenhall — West Coast Beat


11032055_10205736926836978_2471350312316260427_n (1)


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

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

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

David Stewart — Vancouver Deadhead of cinema


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

Luther Parris — Kesey sculptor and lifelong Beat



This book is great!

I just completely melted at the end of chapter 4.

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

This is like crack!

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

I can’t quit turning the pages… ahhhhh!

Lyndsi Bennett – Indiana Prankster


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

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

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

Jim Robbins — Toronto musician and lawyer


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

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

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

Sky — Deep South Prankster



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

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

Here’s a review I wrote — 

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

Howard McFarland — California Beat


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

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

Swee Lee Gorman — British Beat


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

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

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

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

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




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

Albert Kaufman — New Yorker in Portlandia


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

Peter & Sky — Merry Pranksters at large


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



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

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





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

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

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


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


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


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

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

or in Canada

or in the U.K. . . .

 . .


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

by Brian Hassett  —   —

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

→ 10 CommentsTags: ·····

Hillary Clinton Javits Center 2016

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

Election Night 2016 in New York City




It was such a beautiful fall Tuesday in New York.

We were all in such a good mood.

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

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

It still didn’t dawn on me.


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

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


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

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



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

I went straight to the boom camera operators . . . 


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

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

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


As the oath was being administered.


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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



Unknown journalist working hard on his story at 1AM


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


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



Katy Perry


Gold Star father Khirz Khan


Senator Chuck Schumer


Senator Kirsten Gillibrand


Governor Andrew Cuomo


Mayor Bill de Blasio


Mothers of victims of violence (police and otherwise)

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

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

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

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

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

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


same as we saw in Cleveland during the Repugnant convention —



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

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

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

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

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

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


Now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Crowdless photo from day before

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

by Brian Hassett  —   —

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


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Lowell Celebrates Kerouac review

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




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

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

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

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

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



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

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

In person.
In front of you.
Right now.

Live it
lose it.





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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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by Brian Hassett  —   —

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


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Jack Kerouac Gravesite Adventure Edson Cemetary, Lowell

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


Satori in Lowell   —

The Intentional Nothingness of Everything


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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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



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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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




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



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


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


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Here’s another love ode that flowed to LCK.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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by Brian Hassett  —   —

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


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Jack Kerouac’s novella “Pic” Reconsidered

September 25th, 2016 · Kerouac and The Beats



I Pick Pic


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

Years later, Duluoz has gotten its due.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where would he have gone as an author?

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





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

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

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


Brian Hassett  —   —

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

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