Neal & Friends
Starting with my reading of "On The Road" in 1959 at the suggestion of a neighbor pal - with no
other knowledge of Jack Kerouac at the time - I was impressed with it as a classic American tale, essential
for anyone interested in the "Beat’s". It is a saga of innovative style by an outstanding story teller that I think
was greatly influenced by Neal’s style of letter writing with Neal’s free flow manner.I could identify with the two
main characters (Dean and Sal) with their travels - looking for adventure and choosing not to be conventional
with bread winning and security.I was a mechanical engineer (BSME Purdue ‘50) but was always artistically
inclined so the book was absorbing and impressive partly because I was about 4 months older than Neal and
we had the same picture of our times therefore - the era of the post war "50's - however different our
upbringing and opportunities were.
When Neal was paroled in 1960 my close friend, Rusty D’Anna (who was an outstanding talent in local
theater productions and a friend of Carolyn’s) asked me if I wanted to meet Neal. I had made Carolyn’s
acquaintance at cast parties and several productions which I was a part of. So I was happy to meet Neal on
July 4, 1960, fresh from San Quentin. That began an abiding friendship that continued for two years.I was
getting the San Francisco Chronicle every day and would save the sporting green section for him to check
out the racing results. So Neal would come by and hang out a while at least once a week. Carolyn was happy
to have him visit because he wasn’t supposed to see his old friends according to parole conditions.I went to
San Francisco with him several times - which were always memorable and exciting, especially if he was
In 1962 I leased a place in the hills of Portola Valley and on one occasion Neal came to visit with Ann Maxwell.
We had a falling out when I could see he wanted to use the place as a hangout. I was afraid of his chances of
attracting the law and involving my landlord.I didn’t see him again after that encounter in the fall of 1962 until
he called me up one Sunday morning in 1965 shortly before Kersey’s bust at La Honda. This was after the
cross country trip in the "Further" bus odyssey. They had a lot of movie film and audio tapes that Neal wanted
me to hear - of his raps.We went into Kesey’s side building-workshop full of disarray and he was unable to
get the tapes to play. He was strung out, having had no sleep. That was the last time I saw him. There wasn’t
much publicity about the bust. Kesey disappeared and I didn’t hear what went down with Neal. Carolyn had
much to say about the whole era when I renewed our friendship in the late ‘70's.
I’ve had many years to ponder over those days with Neal. I’ve looked back to try to come up with the realities.
It’s a pleasure to recollect the exciting times engendered by this outsized character. They are moments of
reflection that are indelible - recognizable as special even as they were happening.So however Kerouac
might have altered, enhanced or novelized Neal’s personality and behavior, there was a feeling in "On The
Road" that this man was justifiably portrayed as a legendary type. Neal has my vote as the most enigmatic
mercurial character in the canons of "Beat"! You could call me a beat beatnik.John Gourley May 18, 2007
San Jose, CA.
Site Voice... Kerouac Alley Dedication “The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promises of every cobbled alley so great”. ~ J.KerouacOn a glorious weekend in March, Randy and I headed up the coast to San Francisco for the dedication of Jack Kerouac Alley in North Beach..The alley had been called “Adler Alley” before and separated City Lights Bookstore and the Beat bar, Vesuvio Cafe. The alley runs east and west between Columbus Avenue in North Beach and Grant Avenue in China Town. The alley used to be a typical city alley with vehicle traffic and garbage, etc. It connected the great neighborhoods of China Town and North Beach. Now it is traffic free and was renovated and transformed into a beautiful new passageway, lined with inspired writings by Li Po, Confucius, Mya Angelou, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Steinbeck, as well as Jack Kerouac himselfWe had been in contact with the owner of Vesuvio’s, Janet Clyde, and she extended a warm welcome to us to stop by and get acquainted. We stopped by after we had checked in to The Royal Pacific and she was a very gracious and generous hostess! We were all excited about the next day’s activities.
We then headed over to Cafe Trieste and met our great poetess friend, Jessica Loos and some of her friends and had a delightful late evening.The next day we got up early to get to Vesuvio’s before the expected crowds. We grabbed a table by the window overlooking the alley and settled in.We were soon joined by my brother, John Allen, and his good friends, Judith and Dan. The place began to get crowded, so we would take turns going out to the alley to check on the ceremony and meet more people.One of our family’s great friends is Father Huerta, he did the Catholic blessing. He introduced me to Mayor Gavin Newsom... what a thrill!Then the dedication began, with dragon dancers and firecrackers! There were Italian opera singers and salsa bands, Chinese folk dancers and jazz and the SF Poet Laureate, Jack Hirschman, and many other fabulous entertainers, celebrities and dignitaries.
Cathy Cassady Sylvia
My sister, Cathy, and her husband, George, have just spent a month with our mother, Carolyn, in Bracknell, U.K!Their letters were full of all the movies, (they watched "CCM" "Carolyn’s Classic Movies");British T.V. shows and news and documentaries; sight seeing (Windsor, Bath, London, TheGlobe, etc.) and quiet time at mom’s gorgeous place...the garden, birds, walks, and bonding.George was a huge help in fixing and/or upgrading lots of things in the house that needed a "man’s touch". They will be back for July’s addition with lots of stories and pictures, I’m sure. Here’s a picture of Cathy and me by the pool in Monte Sereno... 1955...cutest cowgirls in the West!
While cruising a local bookstore in Los Gatos, Walden Pond, Randy came upon a book on French Intensive, companion planting. Along with our brand new organic philosophy, we all thought this was the way to go.At this time in her life, Carolyn was very much into astrology, having learned from the master in San Francisco, Gavin Arthur, so she decided that we would design the garden in an astrological design, circular and divided into 12 pie shapes, each one representing a different astrological sign. We would attempt to plant the garden with plants in the appropriate sign, under the appropriate rising stars and moon.In French Intensive, the garden is done in raised beds, and the plants are planted half the distance from each other (as recommended). This requires that the beds be at least 12 inches deep. You don't plant in rows, you plant in diamond shapes. And next to each plant, you grow something that gets along well with the other plants in close proximity. This not only keeps the weeds down but also the bugs that eat the plants, attracts the good insects that help the plants and gives you twice the crop with less work.Little did we know… First, it turned out that the entire yard had only a few inches of top soil and under that, hard clay! Since Randy was digging this by hand with a shovel (with help from Cathy's son, Bill), he soon learned this wasn't going to be easy. Digging down 12 inches in a pie shape that was six to eight feet wide at one end was, he soon learned, not really a good idea. At that time Carolyn had a good friend, we'll call Archie, who suggested that we pour sulfuric acid on the soil to make it what he called, friable. Archie assured us that this was very natural and wouldn't hurt the growth of the plants. He knew where to buy it in five gallon quantities and would show us how to apply it. So we went for it, and he was right. We put it in large plastic sprinkling cans and spread it around the area. Sure enough, it worked!Now, what to plant? As you can see by the chart drawn by Carolyn and the photos, we planted everything. Potatoes, soybeans, corn, squash, geraniums, artichokes, petunias, cow peas, Romano beans, eggplant, celery, leeks, red peppers, green onions, garlic, basil, bush beans, peas, radishes, spinach, chard, pole beans, snap peas, bell peppers, red onions, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, rosemary, sage, thyme, horseradish, melons, marigolds, strawberries, rhubarb, even peanuts and kohlrabi...what do you do with that? Carolyn knew. A spectacular crop! Born in Michigan and raised on a farm in Tennessee, father a bio-chemist, avid reader of Edgar Cayce, she was cooking naturally and seasonally before it was hip.Carolyn only ate whole wheat bread that she made herself Jami says the first time she tried "Wonder Bread" was when she left home and went to study ballet in New York.Carolyn always cooked her vegetables "al dente". The food at the Cassady household was exceedingly good, fresh and simple.
The Neal Cassady Estate is currently working on a cookbook/lifestyle of the Cassady's in the 50's and 60's. The recipes will also include what was happening at the time and stories from friends and family.
Neal Cassady was undeniably the real genius behind the Beat movement. He was a force of nature. The inspiration behind Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road”, the man Allen Ginsberg dedicated his landmark poem “Howl” to, the man who motivated and inspired William S. Burroughs, Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters, the Grateful Dead…and untold number of others.
Who was this man? To the world, he was an icon of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the psychedelic movement of the 1960s, the Holy Goof, Cowboy Neal at the wheel of the bus Furthur on the road to Nevereverland, To us, he was husband, father, and friend. We are the Cassady family, dedicated to bringing you the real Neal, the Neal we knew. Neal’s wife Carolyn Cassady and their children; Cathy Cassady Sylvia, Jami Cassady Ratto and John Allen Cassady wanted to bring the world the truth about the man, the myth, the one and only Neal Cassady.
So join us in this odyssey of discovery, learn the truth behind the myth as we memorialize not the legend, but the man, Neal Cassady.
Cath, Jami & John Cassady
Inside, Vesuvio Cafe was now very crowded! We met Amy Chung, David Sullivan, Ward Dunham, Daniel Macchiarini, and the beautiful daughter of one of John’s friends (and mine) in high school showed up, too! It was great to visit with Nancy Peters and Lawrence Ferlinghetti again.What a wonderful experience and such great history. Jack would have been so proud.A poem in the alley by Li Po reads “In the company of best friends, there is never enough wine”. How true!Please go and visit this historic alley and say hello to our good friends at City Lights Books and Vesuvio Cafe.
Jami Cassady and Randy Ratto
John Allen Cassady
The garden wasn’t the only thing that “grew” in the summer months of 1975. John and Michele had a beautiful, bouncy, tow-headed baby boy. Named after Jami Cassady (John’s older sister) and Neal Cassady (John’s father),little Jamie Neal Cassady was born on August 18, 1975.Jamie now lives with John in San Jose, California and owns a car dealership. His web page is California Autos/Nor Cal Imports.John is diligently working on his novel. We’ve read some of the upcoming chapters and it’s very good! Go, Johnny, go!
Jami Cassady Ratto
This month I am going to tell you about some events that Randy and I will be participating in....June 16th and 17th is the “La Honda Faire and Music Festival - A Day In The Redwoods!” It is held at The La Honda Gardens, in the California Redwoods at La Honda., California Proceeds benefit the La Honda Educational Foundation. It is a two day festival of music, celebration and community.Randy and I only heard about it this year but it has been in existence for many years! The past posters are really cool. As many of you know, my dad had a great connection to La Honda Randy and I will be there to meet and greet and support this wonderful venue. Thanks to Bonnie, Paula, Jeff, Charlie and all the others who make this event a success. We hope to see you there!In July we are planning to join Al Hinkle and his daughter, Dawn, in Lowell, MA for the annual Jack Kerouac Festival. Randy and I have never been to this event but my brother, John and my mother, Carolyn, have been there before, and I’m hoping John can come this year as well. Hey, Cathy and George...wanna join us?As this is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack’s groundbreaking book, “On The Road” we decided it is time that we go to see Jack’s home town and participate in the celebration. Our good friend, Stephen Edington will be doing an interview with Al Hinkle, (“Ed Dunkle”in “On The Road”) and has asked me to join in with some stories. Should be lots of fun. Please visit www.ontheroadinlowell.orgIn September is the 40th annual “Summer of Love” celebration in San Francisco ..whew! Please visit www.summeroflove.orgAnd who knows what other “happenings” are afoot let us know stay tuned.Jami Cassady-Ratto - May 26, 2007