Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Kristen Hersh Talks About Her New Book on Vic Chestnutt, Green Apple Books, San Francisco, October 27, 2015

Kristen Hersh, of 4AD's Throwing Muses, is on a book tour promoting her new book about her late, great friend and compadre Vic Chestnut. Last night, she spoke about the book to an adoring crowd at San Francisco's Green Apple Bookstore, full of fans of her music and Vic's.

Vic was a brilliant singer-songwriter who took his own life in 2009. He had been confined to a wheelchair for many years after a car crash and was prone to severe physical and psychological pain.

Vic Chestnut Wikipedia page...

This book was the result of a request by the British newspaper The Guardian and Kristen said she barely remembers writing it; it just came pouring out.

Although Kristen said that she and Vic both had "the suicide gene", and had mutually supported each other for years in an effort to "not die and not suck", she still said she was shocked when he actually died, "Dead forever?", she asked, ".... he didn't seem the type...."

The amount of love they obviously had for each other, and the amount of the love in the room last night, were both readily apparent.

There was a lot of sadness, but also a lot of love and humor. It was as if writing this book helped Kristen deal with this tremendous loss, and the book tour is helping all kinds of people affected by the music of Kristen and Vic, many of whom are still at a loss to explain or understand Vic's abrupt departure from this mortal coil.

P.S. Wikipedia says:  "Coil" is no longer used as a synonym for "disturbance".....

Order The Book Here from Univ of Texas Press...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Lawrence Ferlinghetti Reading "At Sea" (Fragment), October 20, 2015, City Lights, San Francisco

 Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 96 years young, read last night from his new book of his travel writings. Ferlinghetti, poet, painter, publisher, and proprietor of San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore, was prosecuted and acquitted (a major free speech victory) in 1957 for "obscenity" in Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl", which he published and sold at the bookstore, which became a nexus for The Beat Generation and the San Francisco Renaissance.

Lawrence_Ferlinghetti on Wikipedia

Lawrence read from the new collection (as did his two editors), told stories related to the travel described, and finished with his poem "At Sea", for Pablo Neruda.

City Lights Bookstore was crammed to capacity with admirers of all ages.

We got there about a half an hour early, but the store was already full, with a sign on the door informing folks there was no more room.

We joined the line, hoping to be admitted as people left, and saw Bob Dylan's old pal Dave Whittaker there. He recalled being at City Lights in 1957, and seeing Ferlinghetti placing copies of "Howl" in the front window.

We were fortunate enough to get in (big thanks to the staff, who did a great job, despite the stress and demands of the overcapacity crowd and those waiting to gain admittance out front).

It was wonderful to see Lawrence, still active and full of life at 96.

He read from his entry about being in Cuba shortly after the Revolution, and meeting Pablo Neruda there. I recently read a biography of Federico Garcia Lorca, and Chilean poet/diplomat Neruda was a great friend of his. It was so amazing to bear witness to someone who personally knew Neruda and the subsequent connection to Garcia Lorca.

But this was someone who also was in Paris in 1968 for the great student-worker uprising (which he also read about from the new collection) and was a friend and colleague to Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (Ferlinghetti lent him his Big Sur cabin to dry out), William Burroughs, and so many others.

What was remarkable was his humor, which constantly was on display. He complained about glaucoma messing up his eyesight, but otherwise seemed to be in excellent shape.

The crowd, obviously adored him.

He is a national treasure.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Neal Cassady

                                            Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady on the bus Further

Neal Cassady (1926 - 1968) - inspiration of the Beat generation and hippie movement, associated with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, and The Grateful Dead. He grew up in Denver and was frequently arrested as a teenager for stealing cars (he loved driving). Through a Denver friend he wrote to the nascent Beat Generation writers such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, centered around Columbia University in New York City and later went to visit them and travel with them. He inspired some Kerouac's and Ginsberg's finest writing. His letter writing and ability to tell stories was often cited and he wrote a book of memoirs The First Third. Cassady's Joan Anderson Letter shook Kerouac and caused him to completely re-write On The Road and re-think his approach to writing and life. Believed to have been lost for 50 years, the manuscript has been recovered and will be published in the near future. In the 1960's, Cassidy befriended Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and drove the psychedelic bus Further across country with the Merry Pranksters, conducting the Acid Tests with The Grateful Dead. Cassady died unexpectedly in Mexico aged 42.


Photos: Neal Cassidy and friends

Video: Documentary: "The Other One"

Lyrics: “That’s It For The Other One” (song)

Audio: “That’s It For The Other One” (song)

Text (Prose & Poetry): John Barlow, Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady

Video: Jami Cassady (Neal’s daughter)(original video)


Instructor Lecture: Neal Cassidy, The Beats, and The Merry Pranksters

Watch “The Other One” - make transcript, compare to master transcript afterward.

Read lyrics and listen to recording of “That’s It For The Other One” (Classroom discussion)

That's It For The Other One: The Faster We Go, The Rounder We Get (Bob Weir/John Barlow of The Grateful Dead)

Spanish lady comes to me, she lays on me this rose.
It rainbow spirals round and round,
It trembles and explodes.

It left a smoking crater of my mind,
I like to blow away.
But the heat came round and busted me
For smilin’ on a cloudy day.

Comin’ around in a circle.

Escapin’ through the lily fields
I came across an empty space
It trembled and exploded
Left a bus stop in its place
The bus came by and I got on
That’s when it all began
There was cowboy Neal
At the wheel
Of a bus to never-ever land.

Comin’ around in a circle.


A reading and listening exercise (Readings done in class by instructor and various students):

From Jack Kerouac ‘s On The Road: “...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”

From Allen Ginsberg's Howl:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull...

From John Barlow's essay on Cassady:

The first of these was the ineffable, inimitable, indefatigable Holy Goof Hisself, Neal Cassady, aka Dean Moriarty, Hart Kennedy, Houlihan, and The Best Mind of Allen Ginsberg's generation.
Neal Cassady, for those whose education has been so classical or so trivial or so timid as to omit him, was the Avatar of American Hipness. Born on the road and springing full-blown from a fleabag on Denver's Larimer Street, he met the hitch-hiking Jack Kerouac there in the late 40's and set him, and, through him, millions of others, permanently free.
Neal came from the oral tradition. The writing he left to others with more time and attention span, but from his vast reserves flowed the high-octane juice which gassed up the Beat Generation for eight years of Eisenhower and a thousand days of Camelot until it, like so many other things, ground to a bewildered halt in Dallas.
Kerouac retreated to Long Island, where he took up Budweiser, the National Review, and the adipose cynicism of too many thwarted revolutionaries. Neal just caught the next bus out.
This turned out to be the psychedelic nose-cone of the 60's, a rolling cornucopia of technicolor weirdness named Further. With Ken Kesey raving from the roof and Neal at the wheel, Further roamed America from 1964 to 1966, infecting our national control delusion with a chronic and holy lunacy to which it may yet succumb.
From Further tumbled the Acid Tests, the Grateful Dead, Human Be-Ins, the Haight-Ashbury, and, as America tried to suppress the infection by popularizing it into cheap folly, The Summer of Love, and Woodstock.


Neal's daughter Jami lives in Northern California and tries to preserve the legacy of her father and his friends:


Writing exercise (due next class): What did The Beat Generation and hippie movement stand for?