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Meeting with Al Hinkle
Wine Country Film Festival
Beat Angel screening
In Napa, CA, July 31

Steve Edington, author of Kerouac’s Nashua Connection, flew in to Northern, CA from New Hampshire last week on a mission – he had a follow up interview scheduled with Al Hinkle. Al and his wife, Helen, were life long friends of Neal and Carolyn Cassady and Al worked with Neal on the Southern Pacific for many years. They were even featured in some of Kerouac’s books – in On The Road Al was Big Ed Dunkel and Helen was Galatea. In Visions of Cody they were Slim and Helen Buckle and in Book of Dreams Al was Ed Buckle. Al reminded us that one of the things many people either forget or never realize is Neal was with the Southern Pacific for ten years and had an impeccable work record except for when he broke his ankle in 1954.

John Cassady had introduced Steve and me to Al a few months back and Al agreed to an article Steve is writing for Kevin Ring’s “Beat Scene Magazine”. I was fortunate enough to sit in on the interviews, along with Nancy Lewis who runs Red Hot Promotions ( where you can find David Amram’s touring schedule.

Nancy Lewis & Al Hinkle
Steve Edington & Al Hinkle

It became apparent during our talks Steve will have a magnificent story to tell of what Al related to him. Al knew Neal in Denver when they were kids. He was with Neal the very night Neal met Carolyn for the first time. Al and Helen Hinkle lived close to the Cassady’s in Los Gatos and it was Helen and Al that Carolyn often turned to in times of trouble – when Neal was serving time in San Quentin on the pot charge – when Neal was on the road with Kesey. Neal visited Al and Helen the morning he left for his final trip – the one he never returned from.

Look for Steve’s article when it comes out in Beat Scene in a future issue.

Beat Angel screening in Napa on July 31, 2004

A week later Estelle and I had a gig in Napa at Sequoia Grove Winery where the Steve Ashton of the Wine Country Film ( Festival was screening Beat Angel ( It was a pleasure to meet up with Randy Allred, Frank Tabbita and Vincent Balestri again. We also met Jim Allen, who owns the winery was an extremely gracious host and if you’re looking for a wonderful cabernet check out his winery (

Sequoia Grove Winery, Napa

Wine Country Film Festival Logo
Beat Angel Promo Card

People watching movie Under the Stars at the Wine Country Film Festival


We were hoping Lawrence Ferlinghetti would be making an appearance at the screening of the movie as he had expressed an interest in seeing it at Big Sur a few weeks before, but Doug Stevenson told me when we arrived he had met up with Ferlinghetti the night before at a booksigning at Black Oaks Books in Berkeley and Ferlinghetti expressed his regrets he was not going to make the screening. Prior to showing the movie Vincent Balestri gave a reading as Jack that everyone loved.


Vincent reading as Jack
Sweeping Motion

Of course Beat Angel was as good as it was the last time I saw it – even better, really, as now more and more people are hearing about it and their reactions are confirming my own feelings about it – this is one hell of a film! The story line is sharp and tight and Vince’s words as Jack leap off the screen – “It’s already happened” we hear in a voice over as Frank Tabbita as Gerard hops a freight train to get to Desolation Peak and gaze upon Hozomeen in his search to find himself. And the aerial shot of the freight in the distance and the mountains and the trees and Vince's voice over as Jack reminding us “we're all in heaven, now” – Ah!

We saw lots of familiar faces including Attila Gyenis who used to publish Dharma Beat and has continued it online (


Estelle & Jerry sipping wine in Napa
Attila Gyenis & Jerry Cimino

The surprise of the evening was when Lisa Niemi and her husband, Patrick Swayze, showed up. Lisa’s actually one of the actors in the film, yet with their travel schedule this was the very first time she and Patrick have seen the completed movie and they were both blown away by the purity of the story.

Left to Right: Rick Boden, Frank Tabbita, Lisa Niemi, RandyAllred, Vincent Ballestri, Steve Ashton.


Patrick was a real approachable guy. Most of the people in attendance didn’t even know he was there – he kept a low profile with a ball cap on and leather jacket and jeans and looked just like anyone else. It was never announced to the audience he was there – maybe he didn’t want to overshadow his wife or the movie itself or maybe he just didn’t want to be a celebrity that night. In any event, he was gracious to those of us who met him. Later in the evening I directed him to the men’s room and since Estelle and I watched “Dirty Dancing” on video like a dozen times ten years ago I was very tempted to say, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner,” but I held my tongue as I figured he probably hears that once a day even in 2004. You can read more about Patrick and Lisa at their official website (


Patrick Swayze, Lisa Niemi & Rick Boden.

So, heading home from Napa to Monterey in the Beatmobile I called John Cassady as I knew Steve Edington was at his place in the Bay Area and neither of them have seen the new vinyl wrap. Steve was ready to go visit Leon Tabory in Santa Cruz ( but we all had time to get together for a quick drink at John’s house. The neighbors weren’t even put out to see the big Beatmobile rumble into the neighborhood and little kids on bikes and scooters all wanted to know who all the people were in the bigger than life photos. None of them knew who Bob Dylan was and when John pointed to Neal and told them that was his dad I’m not sure they understood – those black and white photos may as well be of Abe Lincoln to a ten year old!


Jerry Cimino, John Cassady & Steve Eddington outside John's house.

The next day John and I were talking on the phone and he decided to climb on board the Beatmobile for the three-month tour I had just started to map out. We’ll be coming to a town near you so keep checking our schedule for updates (

For more information about The Beat Museum On Wheels click here