No not those kind of beats. “The
Beats” you know… those crazy cats from the 1940’s
and 50’s. Those literary giants who shaped the world you
live in today, well that is to say any part of the hip and cool
world. You dig?
Jerry Cimino owner of “The Beat Museum” in Monterey
California and “The Beat Museum on wheels” definitely
digs. His museum, nestled in the historic buildings of downtown
Monterey, features a rare collection of Jack Kerouac’s works
along with other famous Beats such as Allen Ginsberg, William
S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady.
It was the poem “Sept. 16 1961” in Jack’s Book
of Scattered Poems that really made an impression on Jerry when
he was about 23 years old fresh out of college. “The poem
shocked me and blew me away,” said Cimino. “Living
in the moment, seeing the transitory nature of life and really
being awake in the moment to know you’re alive is what got
me hooked,” explained The Museum owner and fan.
The obsession went on from there and was a pattern that would
continue throughout his life. “I was literally broke, I
had 50 dollars to my name and I had literally spent my last dollar,”
said Cimino explaining how he bought up as many of Kerouac’s
and other Beat’s books as he could afford. Years later Cimino
now runs “The Beat Museum.” Cimino retired from a
job at American Express to follow his life’s dream.
The Museum is dedicated to the lives of the Beats and through
it Jerry has made friends with prominent figures who “carry
the torch” such as John Allen Cassady. Cassady is the son
of the late Neal Cassady, muse of authors such as Kerouac: On
the Road, and others such as Ken Kesey: One Flew Over the Cuckoos
Cassady and Cimino spent last fall traveling from coast to coast
in The Beat Museum on Wheels giving live performances which entail
giving a history of the Beats, reciting their poetry, telling
stories, playing music and having fun.
Their tour has been immensely successful. Cimino has a rap sheet
of letters of recommendation from the various colleges, high schools,
concert halls, and other such venues that hosted their tour, which
are posted to their web site. Cassady and Cimino are planning
another one of their tours for the east coast this fall.
Cimino explained part of Cassady’s role on the tour. “Cassady
is the son of three cultural icons (Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac,
and Allen Ginsberg) myth and legend and he carries it with grace
while giving people what they are looking for,” explained
John Cassady feels extremely blessed to be born into his unique
position. “I’m the luckiest son of a bitch on the
planet. I would never have had the luxury of meeting any of these
gifted artistic people,” said Cassady. “I wasn’t
even a gleam I had nothing to do with it. But I’m proud
to carry on the name, and carry the flame,” said Cassady.
On the tour John Cassady tells many stories that only he knows
about his father and in a way he seeks to reshape some of the
history that only focuses on one side of him. “What Tom
Wolfe wrote wasn’t my Dad,” said Cassady referring
to Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. Another book where Cassady is
a prominent figure. “My Dad was a freethinker and a poet.
Tom Wolfe remembered him as a hammer flipping meth head. My Dad
was sensitive and so excited with life that he inspired everyone
around him. By doing that he inadvertently created this whole
thing,” explained Cassady recounting a more true side of
his father not just the “myth and legend”.
Cassady explained further how his father completely revolutionized
Kerouac’s writing style and gave him his first ideas of
spontaneous prose and stream of consciousness. Ideas that eventually
influenced the heart of our entire American culture. Cassady is
chalk full of stories that were pivotal to how our culture perceives
itself today. Cassady’s stories range from how Ginsberg
offered the Beatles their first hit of pot to how Ken Kesey invented
the model of the modern day rock concert which, Bill Graham used
to mimic his events after.
“Now Johnny you’re growing your hair long, can’t
you afford a hair cut?” said John Cassady quoting his father
and explaining how he was parental and protective like most fathers.
But can you imagine hearing that from the man who practically
inspired the whole beat and hippy era?
“My father was most parental almost overboard about protecting
us. When I was 14 I was in the back seat with Kesey, Ginsberg,
and Mountain Girl they were passing fatties around, my Dad said
‘No dope for the kid, no dope for the kid.’ He didn’t
want me to go down that road.” These are just some of the
many interesting and unique stories that Cassady tells while on
the road with Cimino.
Cimino is on a journey to spread the true “spirit of the
beats” across the nation. To anyone who has never heard
of the beats he has this to offer. “Try it, dive into a
book or two.” But what about to those who still ask why?
“Whatever it is you are into you can find a piece of it.
It’s got something to offer for everyone.”
For more information on The Beat Museum, The Beat Museum on wheels
and Cassady, and Cimino’s adventures visit kerouac.com.