OTR Additional Tidbits

Moderator: Liz

User avatar
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 12971
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:13 pm
Location: The Left Coast

Status: Offline

OTR Additional Tidbits

Unread postby Liz » Sat Jul 03, 2004 12:02 pm

“On the Road was the turning point in my life.” ~Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead

Below is an excerpt from http://www.sfmission.com/famous/jerry_garcia.htm.
I found it while searching on Beats in SF.

His hero was Dean Moriarity, the existential wanderer from Jack Kerouac's novel, On The Road, who would dare anything for the sake of experience and living in the moment. Kerouac's book on alternative living would serve as a blueprint for the rest of Garcia's life by also consciously connecting him to a whole line of authors like R.W. Emerson, Thoreau, and Walt Whitman whose guideposts for living an authentic life had been dimmed from mainstream culture. In his junior year, Jerry dropped out of high school altogether. At 17, he was more concerned with perfecting his version of a mellow, guitar playing, Dean. (sound familiar?) For many years, Jerry would keep a picture of Jack Kerouac in his dressing room.

Little more than a year later in 1959, he left his mother's house in Sonoma county. He moved to Redwood City where his friend Laird Grant had fixed up a back yard chicken coop for him to live in. He was always welcome at his grandmother's place in the Mission as well. Jerry read, played guitar alone in the chicken coop, hitch-hiked around, picked fruit in the nearby orchards, and then at 17, joined the Army. "It was either go back to school or get into trouble," Jerry recalled.


Gary Snyder was born on May 8, 1930 in San Francisco, and brought up in Oregon and Washington State. He received his BA in Anthropology from Reed College in Portland, OR in 1951. Between working as a logger, a trail-crew member, and a seaman on a Pacific tanker, he studied Oriental languages at Berkeley (1953-6), was associated with Beat writers such as Ginsberg and Kerouac, lived in Japan (1956-64), later studied Buddhism there, and won numerous literary prizes, including a Guggenheim fellowship (1968) and the Pulitzer Prize (1975). Gary Snyder was one of the six poets to read at the Six Gallery on Oct. 7, 1955—that famous night when Ginsberg read “How”. He now teaches literature and 'wilderness thought' at the University of California at Davis.

from Jack Magazine

Recently, a friend told me that Gary Snyder doesn't consider himself part of the beat generation--but that the beat generation was formed by the writers who met up on the East Coast, such as Burroughs, Ginsberg, and Kerouac before they came out to the West Coast to meet up with poets like Kenneth Rexroth, Philip Whalen, Michael McClure, and others who'd been publishing in underground mags. While that may be true, I'd always associated Gary with Jack Kerouac's great and powerful book The Dharma Bums, at least until the past couple years when I began to understand how much Gary popped out of the seams of the beat generational 50s. There is a certain label and media projection of the beats--a public relations' eyeball, if you will--that needs to be transcended. Putting folks like Gary Snyder (or Gregory Corso, for example, who hated the label of beat) into that category is just an easy way of clumping them into something that's understandable for young scholars. That's sort of what this site has traditionally done: pull together the common players but then expand on them individually so that the transcendence hopefully is understood.

Gary was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. This mountainous area of the country gave Gary a lot of climbing and hiking experience. It also must have opened his young eyes to a world that abounded in an integrated, holistic, balanced way. I may be just assuming things, but like Gary, I also spent my childhood in woodlands and mountains, and I was in awe of every little thing around me and grew up to never lose appreciation for these things that are so sacred, yet so endangered. Like Gary, I also studied literature and anthropology during college; maybe these are part of the reasons I feel a certain affinity toward him.

Gary attended Reed College in Oregon, where he met Philip Whalen and Lew Welch. The three were also roommates for a while. Later, Gary moved to San Francisco and lived in a little cottage near Berkeley. His post-graduate work included Indiana University, where he studied linguistics, and UC Davis (where he currently is a professor in the English Department).

While In San Francisco, he was studying Zen Buddhism and saving money to go to Japan. Also he wrote poetry and was a part of the growing circle that's nowadays seen as the beat generation. Welch and Whalen had also moved to San Francisco. Let the poetry be known. Gary Snyder (who read "A Berry Feast"), Michael McClure, Kenneth Rexroth, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Whalen, and Philip Lamantia read at the Six Gallery (that famous night that appears to have bookmarked a defining moment, with the West and East Coast poets coming together) on October 7, 1955. During that year, Gary got to know Jack Kerouac and they took a hike up the Matterhorn, near Yosemite, which is described in Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. Gary also had let Jack know about his several watches up on Desolation Peak, which inspired Jack to make the same kind of pilgrimage and look-out (see the end of The Dharma Bums as well as Kerouac's Desolation Angels).

In 1956, he began his "Mountains and Rivers without End" project, and also went to Japan for 12 years. According to an article at Eco-Books, Gary "studied Rinzai Zen Buddhism, worked as a researcher and translator of Zen texts, and traveled throughout Asia, including a 6 month sojourn in India where he met the Dalai Lama in 1962." And I think of that grand farewell to Gary, as described in The Dharma Bums:

...His business was with the Dharma. And the freighter sailed away out the Golden Gate and out to the deep swells of the gray Pacific, westward across. Psyche cried, Sean cried, everybody felt sad.

Warren Coughlin said "Too bad, he'll probably disappear into Central Asia marching about on a quiet but steady round from Kahgar to Lanchow via Lhasa with a string of yaks selling popcorn, safety-pins, and assorted colors of sewing-thread and occasionally climb a Himalaya and end up enlightening the Dalai Lama and all the gang for miles around and never be heard of again."

Oh yeah, Gary was heard of again.

Gary's interest in culture, the environment, language, and Zen Buddhism pretty much drove him. Of course, these things are all intertwined--which anthropologic studies will tell you. When I studied anthropology, it was like learning what I already suspected: there's a pyramid model of cultural systems: at the bottom is the environment, then technology, then economy, then polity, and finally ideology. The broad base of environment moves the rest. The peakish ideology (or philosophy/religion) is the slowest to change. Each level of this model influences the level on top of it. It's like a model that can be applied to each and every culture on this planet, because it's open-ended. Insert language, part of technology, I think. Gary's works seem to have encompassed the whole of this system: he, probably from a young age, knew that everything was integrated, and admirably he has gone by that (not a model, but a way of understanding) in his life and studies.

Gary learned the Chinese language well. Early on, while still in San Francisco, upon a professor's (Chen Shih-hsiang) encouragement, he attempted to translate, and basically understand, the writings of Han Shan's (or cold mountain) poetry. Han Shan was a "hermit who scrawled his words on cave walls during the Tang dynasty" (see April's issue of Wired Magazine and the Talking to Strangers article). Gary's insight with translation was due to imagination, realizing that the habitat of Han Shan wasn't much different than his mountainous upbringing in Oregon.

After residing in Japan for 12 years, Gary returned to the U.S., to the Sierra Nevadas. Here, I'd suggest getting A Place in Space, where Gary talks about his family life, bats dashing in and out of rooms, mosquitoes, squirrels coming in to nibble on their salad, meat bees, and mouse-proof containers.

Gary has been recognized for his many contributions, not just to literature, but to ecological literature. His poetry includes: Riprap, Origin Press, 1959; Myths & Texts, Totem Press/Corinth Books, 1960; Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems; Four Seas Foundation, 1965; Mountains and Rivers Without End, Four Seasons Foundation, 1965; A Range of Poems, Fulcrum Press, 1966; The Back Country, Fulcrum Press, 1967; Earth House Hold, New Directions, 1969; Regarding Wave, Windhover Press, 1969; Six Sections from Mountains and Rivers Without End Plus One, Four Seasons Foundation, 1970; Turtle Island, New Directions, 974; He Who Hunted Birds in His Father's Village: The Dimensions of a Haida Myth, Grey Fox Press, 1979; Axe Handles, North Point Press, 1983; Passage through India, Grey Fox Press, 1983; Left out in the Rain, North Point Press, 1986; and No Nature, Pantheon Books, 1992.

His Mountain and Rivers Without End project was begun on April 8, 1956 (talk about devotion) and is considered an "epic of geology, prehistory, and mythology." When Snyder published this volume in 1996, he was awarded the honorable Bollingen Poetry Prize, the Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award (from the LA Times), the Orion Society's John Hay Award, the 1997 Award for Poetry from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association, and the Freedom of Expression Award from Focus magazine. He had also won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1975 for Turtle Island, and his No Nature made Snyder a finalist for the National Book Award in 1992.

Gary is not only associated with the beats, but also with Black Mountain Poetry. He has been called the modern-day Henry David Thoreau. He has been described as an eco-poet and an eco-warrior.

Gary Snyder's characters in some of Kerouac's books are Jarry Wagner in Desolation Angels, Japhy Ryder in Dharma Bums, and Gary Snyder in Vanity of Duluoz.

Currently, Snyder is a professor of English at the University of California at Davis. He still does poetry readings and talks (including speeches on his ongoing project Mountains and Rivers Without End). Recently (August 11, 2000), Gary Snyder read his entire epic-poem, Mountains and Rivers Without End. Ken Schumacher, who was part of the recording/audio crew for the event, wrote a wonderful review of it..

From: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/ ... snyder.htm

Thanks to Naomi for turning me on to this article:

March 14, 2004

Jack Slept Here: A Kerouac House Attracts Writers and Devotees



Deep in the soft suburban night came a pounding at the door, another stranger haunted by Jack Kerouac's language and legend, seeking a glimpse of this unlikely place he called home for a while.

"Is this it? Is this it?"

Believe it or not, it was: a tin-roofed bungalow in a pleasantly bland neighborhood here, with a back-porch apartment where Kerouac wrote, brooded and hid out in the months after his influential novel "On the Road" came out in 1957. The visitor, a Navy man stopping en route to this city's better-known cultural attraction, Disney World, was among dozens who have hunted down the Kerouac home recently, as Orlando has begun promoting it as the city's first literary landmark.

That the King of the Beats, a restless icon of nonconformism, would retreat near the peak of his fame to then-sleepy Central Florida with his aging mother, no less may be hard to fathom. But Kerouac's sister had moved here, and his mother, Gabrielle, wanted to be near her. A devoted son, Kerouac came along, arriving by bus from New York in December 1956.

Now, in the house at 1418 Clouser Avenue where Kerouac's typewriter clattered late into the night, writers from around the world try to channel his manic energy during three-month residencies. He did, after all, write "The Dharma Bums," his follow-up to "On the Road," in a two-week fit of inspiration here in 1957, and a poem called "Orlanda Blues." (see link below for a portion of the poem).

Marty Cummins, who owns one of Orlando's only independent bookstores, thought up the writer-in-residence program in 1997, after The Orlando Sentinel ran an article about the house. It had languished in obscurity for decades and was in sorry condition. Bob Kealing, a local television reporter, had discovered it after a friend from Kansas City tipped him off to the fact that Kerouac had lived in Orlando. Mr. Kealing says the Kerouac biographies do not even mention it.

What kind of literary scene exists in this city hemmed in by big-box retail, resort hotels and theme parks? "It's pretty thin," Mr. Cummins said, adding that he had put a restaurant in his shop, Chapters, because nobody was buying the books.

Yet people have been intrigued enough by Orlando's Kerouac connection to help along a nonprofit corporation Mr. Cummins created, the Kerouac Project. Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, fixtures of the Central Florida landscape, is among the donors who helped save the bungalow from developers. And while Orlando is not Yaddo, Taos or Key West, a steady stream of writers have applied to live on Clouser Avenue.

Ted May, a Chicago native whose residency at the house ended March 5, used his three months to work on a novel and a blues musical. On his last Sunday night here, he gave a reading at Stardust, a local coffeehouse, and was surprised by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd.

"A lot of people have asked me if I want to stay," he said. "Everybody is bending over backwards because they really want authentic people here, they really want to make things happen."

Yet Mr. May had a hard time persuading friends to visit him here, just as Kerouac did. In a 1961 letter to the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kerouac wrote, "On your trip to Taos and New Orleans, why not come to Orlando also and dig crazy Florida scene of spotlessly clean highways and fantastic supermarkets and Cape Canaveral?" Mr. Ferlinghetti declined.

Truth be told, Kerouac himself never stayed here long. There were trips to Mexico, Morocco and New York. After living with his sister for a few months, Kerouac, then 35, persuaded his mother to hop a bus with him to California. But she hated it, and they returned to Orlando in July 1957, renting the bungalow apartment. "On the Road" would be published months later, and Kerouac could have been living large in New York.

Instead, he and his mother lived in Orlando on and off for five years, eventually abandoning the bungalow for a ranch house in a subdivision called Kingswood Manor. Though more famous than ever, he lived there in relative anonymity, enjoying air-conditioning, a reclining chair and other bourgeois amenities but also mocking his surroundings.

"Across the street big boring Americans looking for togetherness," he wrote in a notebook unearthed by Mr. Kealing. "But won't get it from this old seadog."

In a new book, "Kerouac in Florida: Where the Road Ends," Mr. Kealing documents Kerouac's alcoholic decline and his travels back and forth between Florida, Long Island and Massachusetts over the last decade of his life, always with his mother in tow.

Kerouac's final move was to St. Petersburg, on Florida's Gulf Coast, in 1968. He had lived there several years earlier, moved to Massachusetts, then returned at his mother's behest, little resembling the intense young man who wrote like the wind in Orlando. He drank himself to death in St. Petersburg in 1969, at 47. His ghost is said to haunt Haslam's, a bookstore he frequented there.

Orlando has enjoyed more prominence than usual in the Kerouac pantheon this winter: it was the first stop for a traveling exhibit of the 120-foot scroll on which Kerouac wrote "On the Road." The scroll, which will move on to at least 11 other cities over the next four years, is at the Orange County Regional History Center until March 21.

Meanwhile, the trickle of pilgrims here grows. Besides the Navy man, whom he said he did not let in because it was 2:30 a.m., Mr. May met a local grandmother and granddaughter, a father and son from Louisiana and more late-night visitors whose camera flash glinted off the bedroom blinds.

A sign on the door now asks visitors not to disturb the writer in residence. But those who chance to gaze on the tiny bedroom where Kerouac wrote or the stoop where he ate tangerines from backyard trees might experience something strange.

"There's a great concentration of energy in the back of the house," Mr. May said. "I feel him back there; I do."

NOTE: For more info on the Orlando Project and pictures of the current Carolyn Cassady go to: www.kerouacproject.org/

For Orlanda Blues Excerpts:
http://members.tripod.com/~Raincloud771 ... rlanda.htm

To see a menu and recipes of foods from Jack Kerouac's books see the link below.


Scroll Schedule

Jan. 10 to March 21: Orange County History Center, Orlando, Fla.

Sept. 15 to Nov. 30: Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wis.

Jan. 19 to March 31: University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, Iowa
March 24 to May 15: Las Vegas Public Library, Las Vegas
June to August: National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.
Sept. 1 to Nov. 30: University of Texas, Austin, Texas

Jan. 14 to March 19: San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco
May 1 to July 31: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, Indianapolis
Aug. 15 to Nov. 15: Columbia College, Chicago

Jan. 1 to March 31: Denver Public Library, Denver
TBD: Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, N.M.
Sept. 1 to Dec. 31: New York Public Library, New York


Posted by: Naomi - 6/16/2004 (8:30) -

Another perspective as to how long it took JK to write OTR are the changes JK went through leading up to those three weeks spent writing the scroll. Jack always kept notes and journals and did make outlines and prior attempts to write OTR. But it was only after receiving letters from Neal (example below) did Jack decide to use Neal’s own spontaneous and uninhibited style as an influence for his own writing, going on to create the scroll in three weeks time. It’s ironic that the original reason Neal wanted to meet JK, was for JK to teach him to write, as ultimately it was Neal who mentored a new way of writing for Jack.

A letter from Neal to Jack re: writing

There is something in me that wants to come out; something that wants to be said. yet, perhaps, words are not the way for me .... I have found myself looking to others for the answer to my soul, whereas I know this is slowly gained (if at all) by delving into my own self only. I am not too sure that the roots of the impulse to write go deep enough, are necessary enough for me to create on paper. If, however, I find writing a must ( as you’ve seemed to) then I know I must build my life around this necessity; even my most indifferent and trivial hours must become an expression of this impulse and a testimony to it.

I have always held that when one writes one should forget all rules, literary styles, and other pretensions as large words, lordly causes and other phrases as such ... Rather, I think one should write as nearly as possible, as if he were the first person on earth and was humbly and sincerely putting on paper that which he saw and experienced and loved and lost; what his passing thoughts were and his sorrows and desires ...

(Selected letters;JK 1940-1956, p136


Posted by: Naomi - 6/17/2004 (7:51) -

Diane di Prima was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1934, a second generation American of Italian descent. She began writing at the age of seven, and committed herself to a life as a poet at the age of fourteen.

Diane lived and wrote in Manhattan for many years, where she became known as an important writer of the Beat movement. During that time she co-founded the New York Poets Theatre, and founded the Poets Press, which published the work of many new writers of the period. Together with Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) she edited the literary newsletter, The Floating Bear (1961-1969). In 1966 she moved to upstate New York where she participated in Timothy Leary’s psychedelic community at Millbrook.
(source: The Beat Museum)


In my dreams you stand among roses.
You are still the fine gardener you were.
You worry about mother.
You are still the fierce wind, the intolerable force
that almost broke me.
Who forced my young body into awkward and proper clothes
Who spoke of his standing in the community.
And men’s touch is still a little absurd to me
because you trembled when you touched me.
What external law were you expounding?
How can I take your name like prayer?
My youngest son has your eyes.
Why are you knocking at the doors of my brain?
You kept all their rules and more.
What were you promised that you cannot rest?
What fierce, angry honesty in the darkness?
What can you hope who had preferred my death
to the birth of my oldest daughter?
O fierce hummer of tunes
Forget, eat the black seedcake.
In my dreams you stand at the door of your house
and weep for your wife, my mother.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

By Craig Offman July 22, 1999 | Actor Johnny Depp has been known to pick up a guitar every now and then, but the "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" star may have decided that the pen is mightier than the ax. In "The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats," which Hyperion brings out on July 28, Depp has an essay called "Kerouac, Ginsberg, the Beats and Other Bastards Who Ruined My Life," a rambling tribute to the movement that provided "the teachers, the soundtrack and the proper motivation for my life."

Depp, who appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone last year when he starred in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," was introduced by Rolling Stone chief Jann Wenner to the book's editor, Holly George-Warren, that spring. When she asked Depp to write a piece for her upcoming collection, he seemed reluctant. "He was like, I'm just a dumb actor, but if you want, I could," George-Warren told Salon Books. A few months later, George-Warren received word from Depp's assistant in Paris (where he was on location for the upcoming Tim Burton film "Sleepy Hollow") that she would get the piece within two weeks.

Depp appears to have quickly absorbed the professional writer's attitude toward deadlines: It took him three weeks. "He didn't give me any excuse like 'my computer broke down,'" his editor said. "It was more like Tim Burton made him do a bunch of retakes." But George-Warren (who has also co-edited "The Rolling Stone Album Guide" and "The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll") added that once Depp turned in his piece, he took the editorial process seriously: "Lo and behold, it was damn good. And he really dug into the issues."

For example, in one paragraph Depp took exception to a serial comma. "I have been a construction laborer, a gas station attendant, a bad mechanic, a screen printer, a musician, a telemarketing phone salesman, an actor, and a tabloid target," he wrote, and he had to fight for that final comma. The two had a 20-minute exchange about it. Depp prevailed. ("In the end I believe he was right," George-Warren conceded.) They also locked horns over his use of Kerouacian ellipses.

Punctuation aside, Depp writes fondly in the piece about his friendship with Allen Ginsberg, whom he met during the filming of "The United States of Poetry." "He called me to say that he was dying, and that it would be nice to see each other again before he checked out," Depp recalls. "He then cried a little, as did I; he said, 'I love you,' and so did I. I told him I would get to New York as soon as possible, and f--kin' A, I was gonna go -- the call came only days later."

salon.com | July 22, 1999


Posted by: Naomi - 6/19/2004 (23:23) -

The below information about Neal’s childhood is from “The First Third”, an autobiography by Neal Cassady.

Neal Cassady Jr. was the son of Neal Cassady Sr. and Maude Svenson Daly. Neal Senior was a middle aged bachelor who was a barber. Maude was a widow with 5 children. Her first husband was an attorney and she lived a comfortable middle-class life. Short after Neal Sr. and Maude met and married in Sioux City, they headed west to “see the world”. Maude was already pregnant at that time. She went into labor in Salt Lake City and there Neal Jr. was born. The family was invited to move to Denver by Maude’s brother. Neal Sr, Maude, baby Neal and the three youngest kids from Maude’s first marriage moved to Denver where the couple had their second and last child, Shirley. Neal Sr. opened up a barber shop but started to drink very heavily. Maude’s oldest sons showed up in Denver, and made some money bootlegging and helped the Cassadys out financially. Then came the stock market crash of 1929 and things deteriorated from there.
Neal Sr. only had customers on Saturdays and drank more and more. Finally when Neal Jr. was 6 years old, Maude took baby Shirley and moved in with an older son. “Little Neal went with his wino father into the lowest slums of Denver.” p 46

“For a time I held a unique position: among the hundreds of isolated creatures of lower downtown Denver there was none as young as myself. Of these dreary men who had committed themselves, each for his own good reason, to the task of finishing their days as penniless drunkards, I alone, as the sharer of their way of life, presented a replica of childhood to which their vision could daily turn, and in being thus grafted on to them, I became the unnatural son of a few score beaten men.”

Due to the constant physical abuse both Neal Sr. and Neal Jr. took from Maude’s older sons, Neal Jr. was all too happy to leave the rest of the family . His older brother Jimmy was a sadistic bully who tortured Neal Jr. constantly. He referred to the impending move and to family get-togethers as follows, “I would now be spared the sight of violence every Sunday. With my father gone for good, my older brothers, Jack and Ralph, would not be able to pound his face bloody ............Mother used to cry and beg them to stop, but, as I observed many times in the years to follow, when these boys began using their fists, only exhaustion would stop their brain-blinding rages.” p 49

No matter what flop house Neal lived in with his father, his father enrolled him in school. Reading was one of the few joys in his life. When a bully stole the copy of “The Count of Monte Cristo” that Neal checked out of the school library, Neal couldn’t take any more books out and he was devastated. As for Neal’s life growing up in one flop house and soup kitchen after another, it is only worse you can possibly imagine.

One thing was worse for him. His older brothers decided Neal, Jr. should not be living in flop houses so his older brothers moved him back with his mother for the better part of each school year. He lived with his father the rest of the year in flop houses and hopping freight trains in the summer. Life with his mother was no picnic as his half-brother Jimmy was still home and he continued to emotionally and physically terrorize Neal on an hourly basis. Neal’s only refuge was school and church where he was an altar boy. The apartments his mother had were in marginal neighborhoods at best. Neal was exposed to sexual activity at a very early age; all types of sexual acts were going on in the dark corners of the apartment buildings.

Below is from Carolyn Cassady’s Off The Road”.

Out of all “the beats”, Neal ended up living the most “traditional life” with the woman he loved , Carolyn (Camille). In spite of his many affairs, he was an attentive father who held down a job with the railroad for many years and then found other steady employment after an injury at the railroad rendered him unable to work there anymore. He did sent child-support to Diana Hansen (Inez in OTR). He always smoked a lot of pot but didn’t like to drink or use other drugs. Yes, he did continue to see other women. He and Carolyn sent their children to church Sunday School and later followed the teachings of Edgar Cayce.

Neal accompanied Carolyn and the three kids once to Carolyn’s childhood home in Tennessee. She said Neal insisted on treated Africian Americans as equals during that visit, in spite of that fact that his egalitarian attitude towards those of another race was frowned upon in that time and place.

Jack Kerouac stayed with the Cassadys for long periods of time in the fifties , living in their attic, writing “Visions of Cody “ and other books. At one point, Jack and Carolyn did become attracted to each other and became phyically involved.
In spite of the partying as portrayed in OTR, Jack , Neal and Carolyn usually sat around the kitchen table, reading from Saroyan, Proust, Genet, Celine, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and Shakepeare. John Allen Cassady, the youngest child of Neal and Carolyn, has said that “don’t you know that G-d is Pooh Bear” from the last paragraph of OTR is something he said to Jack Kerouac when Jack was tucking him into bed one night.

Neal was busted and sent to jail for possession of two
joints. While in jail, he re-connected with Catholicism and wrote his wife and children long letters about that experience. Those letters have been published under the title of “Grace Kicks Karma”. During his first few years out of jail, Neal was with Carolyn and their three kids. Then Neal started to drift . Carolyn asked for a divorce and Neal became the driver for Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. That is when Neal took large amounts of LSD which brought on marked mental deterioration (memory loss, agitation, frequent disappearances). However he always did stay in touch with his kids and Carolyn.

After drinking and taking pills one night in Mexico, Neal was wondering on railroad tracks and was hit and killed by a train. His last words to Carolyn during a phone call a few weeks earlier were “I’m coming home”.


Posted by: Naomi - 6/20/2004 (2:55) -

From the American Legends website.

In an exclusive interview
with American Legends--conducted via e-mail over a two
year period from her home in London--Carolyn Robinson
Cassady recalls Neal and his buddy, Jack Kerouac.)


AL: How did Neal feel about being the central figure in On the Road?

CC: Neal had mixed emotions about his role in On the Road. Of course, he got a little ego boost but mainly he was unhappy about it because Jack glorified all the aspects about his character he was trying so hard to overcome. Jack may have intuited Neal's feelings somewhat because he often wrote that he hoped no one felt badly about his writing about them. Neal certainly did not resent Jack's fame. There were never two more mutual admirers than those two.

AL: Neal was also a central character in Tom Wolfe's book (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) about the Merry Pranksters--the group that drove around San Francisco with Ken Kesey in a bus painted in psychedelic colors.

CC: I can't speak for Tom Wolfe's accuracy about the Prankster years, other than I don't think he had any clue about Neal. Kesey told me he hated that book, so maybe that indicates something similar. It was so out of Wolfe's milieu.

AL: There are a number of stories about Jack's original draft of On the Road.

CC: The On the Road manuscript went through many changes and variations. At our house, Jack was writing what he called Visions of Neal. Parts of it became On the Road, parts Visions of Cody...Jack would read us bits of what he was writing, but I never saw the scroll or any of On the Road in manuscript or otherwise.

AL: Was there a dynamic that drew Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac together?

CC: Both Allen and Jack admired Neal's brilliant mind and memory, as well as his energy. Allen, of course, was in love with Neal physically, but his descriptions of their coupling are Allen's fantasies. As for Jack and Neal, in some ways it was a case of opposites attracting. Jack was terribly self-conscious, shy and gauche. Neal was confident, polite. He could relate to anyone on their own level. Neal approached women easily--Jack had great difficulty, so he admired and envied all these things in Neal that he lacked himself. Neal admired Jack's writing ability and his way of describing sensory perceptions. Allen was sort of a little brother to both of them. They admired his talent, and felt compassion toward him, but didn't go along with his radical, activist behavior--not that they condemned him. It was what made Allen, Allen.

AL: In one Kerouac biography, Jack's Book, someone refers to Neal as a "sociopath" who had to act out every impulse.

CC: A lot of Jack's friends, like Allan Temko, the now famous University of California [architecture] professor [Roland Major in On the Road] put Neal down. It was kind of a left-right bias...or snobbery.. or maybe jealousy...

AL: Over the years, there has been criticism of the Beats' attitude toward women.

CC: I was never bothered by their attitude. In those days, men were gentlemen, polite, and never swore in mixed company. Jack and Neal always treated me as an equal, listened to me, asked my opinion and advice, and I was happy being feminine and nurturing. I'm not a feminist, and I think they haven't the right take on what feminine power is. I chose a domestic life with free time for my own pursuits. It didn't turn out quite like my parents' but I made what choices I made. And I'm afraid I don't understand women who dress in a provocative manner and then blame men for treating them like sex objects.

AL: In his work, Jack Kerouac referred to Neal's "great sex" letter. Supposedly, this stream of consciousness letter influenced Jack to create the "spontaneous prose" method of composition he used to write On the Road.

CC: That letter was known as "The Joan Anderson Letter." It actually appears in the back of Neal's book The First Third [a posthumous collection of Cassady's autobiographical writings published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights]. It begins--"To have seen a specter..." Supposedly, some of the manuscript blew off Gerd Stern's houseboat, but what is left is a complete story. Neal may have written about other escapades, but I think this is the "lost" letter. A film was made of it last year entitled The Last Time I Committed Suicide. The material was turned into a superficial sitcom...

AL: Neal was also known for his monologues. Writer Pierre Delattre claimed that down in Mexico Neal would give his long raps backed up by a guitarist named Phil Santoro. He talked about everything from race car drivers to writers who had influenced him.

CC: Neal didn't do the long monologues until he was with Ken Kesey. Previously, he "discussed" subjects-- interested in the feedback from his listeners. When he'd given up trying and was waiting for death, he just babbled all the stored knowledge in his head. This was so vast, it impressed the groupies, even if they didn't understand it.

AL: Jim Morrison once told a friend, Linda Ashcroft, that he identified with Dean Moriarty in On the Road. Was Neal aware of Morrison, or James Dean, whose offbeat images were like Neal's?

CC: Yes, he was aware of his comparison with James Dean. We saw the movies together, but I can't recall any specific conversation. I don't know about Morrison. But the trouble was that the side of Neal that was celebrated was the side that he was trying hard to overcome--and be respectable. Neal sometimes said that he wished no one would read On the Road.

AL: In Grace Beats Karma, Neal's prison letters, he writes of how his Roman Catholic faith helped him survive San Quentin.

CC: In Grace Beats Karma, Neal was only trying to occupy his mind, so as not to act with the fury he felt. He had long ago figured how irrational his Catholic training was. But they start so early. He and Jack had that sense of fear, guilt, worthlessness buried in their genes and couldn't overcome it.

AL: It seems that after San Quentin Neal never got it together.

CC: Those five years he did his best to get killed-- rolling buses, taking any offered drug, behaving as he has been depicted, and filled with self-loathing. Ken Kesey doesn't see him this way and had no idea of all this--Neal still had that saintly something even when a performing bear. His last words to me from the Mexican border before he died were: "I'm coming home. I'm coming home."

AL: What would Neal Cassady make of America in the 21st century?

CC: It's hard to say what Neal would make of today's world. He battled so hard against his abnormal lust in the days when sex was a dangerous and forbidden fruit. Now, it is so blatant and crude, I don't know if he would have been glad of that or appalled at the disrespectful and degrading attitude toward what he considered, in essence, holy.

(The following books were helpful in preparing this interview: Carolyn Cassady, Off the Road, New York, Morrow, 1990; Arthur and Kit Knight, editors, The Beat Vision, New York, Paragon House, 1987; Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, New York, Quality Paperback Books ed., 1990; Neal Cassady, Grace Beats Karma, New York, Blast Books, 1993)


Posted by: SueC - 6/24/2004 (11:48) -

This was waiting for me when I arrived at work this morning.
A Supermarket in California
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for
I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache
self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went
into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families
shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the
avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, Garcia Lorca, what
were you doing down by the watermelons?
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber,
poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the
pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans
following you, and followed in my imagination by the store
We strode down the open corridors together in our
solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen
delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in
an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The
trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love
past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher,
what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and
you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat
disappear on the black waters of Lethe?
Berkeley, 1955

"Anything worth doing....is worth doing right." ~ Raoul Duke, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

Return to “Kerouac and The Beats”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest