I was just going to blog on Tsunami Books because Neal Cassady hung around the City Lights Book Store, then – was ON THE BUS! Ken Babbs did the sound at the Trips Festival where The Loading Zone played. Above is the pic I took of my childhood friend, Nancy Hamren, of yogurt fame. talking to Ken who I talked to for a hour about his book at Nancy’s wedding.
TONIGHT… you can listen live to what may the last broadcast of two Hippie Beat Bohemians who are close with the Grateful Dead.
TONIGHT – THE BIG EVENT! MARCH 6th.
Ken Babbs and Walker T. Ryan will be streaming live from Tsunami Books in Eugene, Oregon at 7:25 PM PST. You can watch at either of these two sites:
Lawrence Ferlinghetti had a long and successful and productive and enlightened life and used his talents to connect through words and public appearances and the book store with millions of people in a positive way. I was fortunate to meet him and spend some time with him at a Beat symposium at Naropa in Boulder Colorado in the mid seventies. Also, when Ken Kesey and I were doing the small literary magazine, Spit In The Ocean, in the seventies, I edited Spit Six, The Cassady Issue. While we were working on it, Ed McClanahan sent me a manuscript that had been written by Cassady and retyped by Kerouac and then written all over in pencil by Neal, up and down the margins and between the lines and I retyped it, including Cassady’s corrections and additions. Ed said he got the manuscript from Gordon Lish who was an editor at Knopf, and we published it in Spit Six: The Prologue To The First Third, The First Third being Neal’s history of the Cassady family. When Kesey and I finished putting Spit Six together, I sent the Prologue to the First Third to Ferlinghetti at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and he then added it to The First Third. Photo: Bob Donlin, Cassady, Ginsberg, Robert Lavigne, Ferlinghetti.
Ken Babbs explains the trip to New York on the bus writing, “We were going to Madhattan in 1964 and needed a rig for fourteen people and all our filming and taping equipment. Hagen spotted a revamped school bus in San Francisco that was for sale and the symbolism was we were on the road with a jug full of orange juice”. The bus became known as “Further” and still is sitting around today sinking into a swamp. A movie was filmed of their trip and later shown at the infamous “Acid Tests”.
That famous bus movie is available to purchase and watch today at http://www.key-z.com
Ron Wolfe wrote a book called, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test about the bus trip. Babbs says of the book, “Tom Wolfe blows swell truth”. Babbs talks about something that happened on the bus trip: “The time when we stopped for ratburgers and when it came time to pay I only paid for $10 instead of the $20 I ordered. Cassady saw me and years later when we were playing pool and he was jiving with some women instead of watching the game, he accused me of not making a shot, saying, ‘Babbs lies.’ I told Neal that might have been true oncet, but largely because of Neal’s influence me, it wasn’t true any more and I did make that shot.”
The way the Pranksters met Neal Cassady, Babbs stated, “He came roaring into Kesey’s yard in a jeep station wagon in 1960 soon after he got out of San Quentin. He was doing two years for two joints. The back end went out of his station wagon and he spent four days under the car fixing it. He never stopped talking while all around him Kesey and his friends played a game of croquet. He wanted to meet Kesey, Cassady being a literary character”.
Cassady had gained fame in the Beat era as the character of Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s book On The Road. By him meeting Kesey he influenced the second half of the Social Revolution that was influenced by Kerouac in the fifties. Cassady had traveled with Kerouac across the country several times in the 1940s. Those road trips made up On The Road. Neal Cassady died in the late 1960s of exposure in Mexico.
Most people don’t realize some of the pranksters served in the military. Ken states his position as, “I was in NROTC in college, took the marine option and was commissioned a second lieutenant”. He was a helicopter pilot when his squadron got orders to go to Vietnam.
When asked his opinion of the Vietnam war, Mr. Babbs states;” I had no perceptions of the right or wrong of the situation before I went to Vietnam, but it took about six weeks to realize we were wasting our time there”. He also stated that among the lessons he learned, “Being humble. Respect local customs, learn the language, and helping does more good than hurting.”