When I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago, a friend and I spent a day just walking up and down through China Town and then North Beach. We went to City Lights and then just for fun checked out the Beat museum across the street. And the place is small and they do what they can with whatever funding they have, but we ended up talking to the owner who was a really cool and inviting guy.
Part of what he was talking to us about was how important it is to tell the history of that era and generation because especially now, with that time even further fading away, there are hundreds of stories that people have of even just their own experiences that many have never heard before, but shed such great insight into that time. To spread the stories of what was happening, whether it’s something socially significant or even just something you can laugh at.
So he was telling us that just a few weeks before he had been talking to John Cassady, who’s the son of Neal Cassady who was the inspiring figure behind Jack Kerouac’s raving, mad, car thief, fiend, Dean Moriarity. John was recalling back to 1965 when he was only about fourteen or fifteen years old and he was up in his room just messing around with an old beat up acoustic guitar, playing a Grateful Dead line. And unknown to him, his father Neal must have heard him.
So the next day or week, John’s in school and is called down to the front desk for dismissal, but he wasn’t aware that he was getting taken out of school that day. And once he got to the main office, his dad was standing there saying,”Don’t you remember you have that appointment at the dentists?”… And standing there with him was Ken Kesey. And of course just to top it all off, members of the Grateful Dead were sitting in the teacher’s lounge. So I guess for an absentee father, Neal Cassady could be pretty cool sometimes.
By 1965, the on the road with Jack Kerouac days were gone and Neal Cassady ended up emerging out of the beats with the Merry Pranksters, the nomad group headed by Ken Kesey, who would travel the nation in a neon painted bus and referee polos advocating the mind-progressing power of LSD. And it’s at these parties and things set up by the pranksters that the Grateful Dead began playing and getting to know the group very well. And the bus driver through all of this was Neal Cassady.
So that was a pretty great story to sort of cap of the day.