John Cassady by Laura Braun
John Cassady by Laura Braun


John Allen Cassady, now 67, reflects on growing up with the king of the counterculture, the inspiration for Dean Moriarty in On the Road, the driver of Kesey’s Merry Prankster bus. It was a lot more stable of a childhood than anyone would have thought—thanks largely to his mother Carolyn, a stabilizing force for the whole Beat Generation inner circle

It has been 62 years since Jack Kerouac introduced the world to Dean Moriarty and cracked the very ideas of freedom and the American dream wide open for rebellious youth everywhere. Moriarty was, of course, based on Kerouac’s real-life partner in crime Neal Cassady, a personality whose life was infinitely stranger than fiction. Besides being the man who launched a thousand road trips, Cassady held many titles in his life: he was a muse, a Merry Prankster, “The Holy Goof,” and, yes, a family man.

Though his affairs were legendary, his marriage to the reluctant matriarch of the Beat Generation, Carolyn Cassady (portrayed as Camille in On the Road), was the closest he ever got to the white picket fence. The fabled couple shared three children and fifteen tumultuous years – two of which were spent by Neal in San Quentin State Prison on drug trafficking charges – until their divorce in 1963.

Bridging the gap between the Beat Generation and the hippies, Neal spent the last five years of his life hanging out and dropping out with Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters, and The Grateful Dead until his death in 1968. He died in Mexico just a few days short of what would have been his 42nd birthday and a little more than a year before his best friend Kerouac would die at age 47. Decades later, his name is still synonymous with the open road and an insatiable lust for life, as immortalized and romanticized by everyone from Hunter S. Thompson to Fatboy Slim.

An audio recording of Neal Cassady at the wheel of “Further,” the Merry Prankster’s bus on June 25, 1964, somewhere in New Jersey:

Neal Cassady has been a lot of things to a lot of people, but for the few who knew him as “Dad”, he was everywhere and nowhere to be found at the same time. A firecracker of a man known to all and yet still a complete mystery.

We were lucky enough to spend a few hours with his son, John Allen Cassady, now 68, to hear an eyewitness perspective on sharing DNA with one of counterculture’s most influential figures. John, named after Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg (but changed from Jack to John to avoid sounding like “Jackass-ady”), had his own Beat moment as “Timmy” in Kerouac’s Big Sur, based on a family vacation that he still remembers well.

We’re sitting at the kitchen table in John’s San Jose home that he shares with his son’s family when he just launches into it – a tangent so tangled and yet precise that there’s no mistaking it. This is the son of the wildly wordy, lightening-in-a-bottle Neal freakin’ Cassady.

John Cassady: I can’t help but say ‘thanks Dad’, because without him I’d be a normal schlub. I’d never meet people like Jack Kerouac, or Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, and Timothy Leary and Jerry Garcia. I would’ve never known any of these people! I had nothing to do with this shit. I was just lucky enough to be born into it all. I’m just really the luckiest son-of-a-gun. He always wanted to be a good provider for the family and boy was he ever, albeit, sadly, posthumously… I mean, my dad was gone a lot, but he was everywhere at once.

PKM: Both your parents were fascinated with Edgar Cayce and past lives, which feels kind of surprising for Carolyn, given her feelings on counterculture in her later interviews.

John Cassady: Well, Neal was brought up Catholic. He had to go to Sunday school and all that. Mom was brought up with more liberal views. She turned Neal and Jack and Allen on to all kinds of stuff like Buddhism, Taoism, and all this stuff because she was so well read. I remember once we were in England and I said, ‘You know mom, this counterculture stuff is all your fault.’ She goes, ‘I’m not taking responsibility for all these deadbeats in the park and Charles Manson!’

She turned Jack and Neal on to all this literature and counterculture stuff, like reincarnation. Neva Dell Hunter was the medium that they went to see for a past lives reading from Dr. Gordon and they took me. I was real skeptical. I was 12 years old. They sent us to Sunday school when we were real little – it was Christian Science. They pulled us out of that and instead we’d spend an hour Sunday morning where they’d read stuff like Cayce.

[At the reading] this gal would go into a trance and have a different voice. It was creepy! This is in the 50s or 60s! It was in Mountain View in a house just like this and she had a reel-to-reel tape recorder and she’d turn it on and say, ‘This is Dr. Gordon from the 7th plane of whatever…’ and I’m sitting there thinking it’s bullshit.

She would name off my friends and say, ‘This one is more important to you than that one,’ and it was really freaking me out, because there was no way this entity would’ve known this stuff, so I was sold! Then she went into the past lives with my parents and it was fascinating! For example, we allegedly had a lot of karma together – especially my sister and my mom! All kinds of intertwined marriages over centuries. A lot of it was true in a way that it couldn’t have been known to anyone else, so there had to be some credence in there somewhere…

Our dog Casey – I always thought it was after Casey Jones or something. They named him after Edgar Cayce! 


I’m just really the luckiest son-of-a-gun. He always wanted to be a good provider for the family and boy was he ever, albeit, sadly, posthumously…


PKM: Kerouac did some of his most prolific writing while living with your parents. Do you remember him spending much time around you growing up? There’s a great photo your mom took of him reading in a chair at your house.

John Cassady: That’s classic because that was Jack’s chair. I think other people sat in it over the years, but that was where he hung out and he was reading with his railroad boots on and right across the coffee table was the couch where I’d sit. Jack would tell me how the universe worked across the coffee table… Man, I wish I had one of those [pointing to the recorder]. Not for the money, but for the memory of what he was telling me. I was a 12-year-old kid. I didn’t know this shit. I thought he was cool as hell. He was in his Gary Snyder rucksack stage right around then. My mom would go, ‘Jack, there’s the couch.’ We had pillows and blankets, but he’d camp out in our backyard in a sleeping bag. He had a railroad lantern that he’d gotten from my dad, because Neal got him a job on the SP [Southern Pacific]. There was this one little oak tree, a sapling, really, 15-20 feet high and he’d hang the railroad lantern on a branch and he’d put out the sleeping bag. I don’t think there’s a tent involved. And by the railroad lantern, he’d read and write and drink his little port wine, I’m sure. Me and my two sisters in the morning would run out and jump on his chest and he’d jump and go, ‘OH!’ He’d been smoking and drinking all night I’d assume, but that was his little corner of the backyard. It was a quarter acre of dirt except for that little oak tree. 

Fast forward 40 years, my mom had to sell the house because she was out of money and I went there I think to take some pictures and asked the new owners if they’d mind. I walked out there and there’s the oak tree – of course, now it’s big – and the railroad lantern was still on the branch, but now the branch had grown over the handle! I took out a knife and I got it.


That was Jack’s chair. I think other people sat in it over the years, but that was where he hung out and he was reading with his railroad boots on and right across the coffee table was the couch where I’d sit. Jack would tell me how the universe worked across the coffee table..


PKM: I’ll bet you’ve got some amazing artifacts.

John Cassady: For example, The Grateful Dead! My dad kidnapped me from school and took me to a Dead concert at another school. They were still playing high school proms back then. I got all the band members on a matchbook cover, which I found 20 years later, but now who knows? It’s Jerry and Phil and Bobby! All I had was a matchbook cover and I had to borrow a pen from one of them.

I was a sophomore sitting in class bored out of my mind… I’m sitting there trying to stay awake and over the intercom, it goes, ‘John Cassady report to the principal’s office,’ and I go, ‘Oh shit, what have I done?’ So I grab my books and I’m trekking down the hallway… I open the door and there’s my dad and Kesey and they’re leaning on the counter with the principal behind it and they’re in these white jumpsuits painted all Day-Glo and stuff. I remember my dad was wearing Day-Glo orange Beatle boots and these American flag top hats. It looked like the circus was in town. The principal goes, ‘This man claims to be your father!’

My dad goes, ‘You forgot about your dental appointment?’ I quickly catch on and go, “Oh, yeah!” and play along. Dad takes his wallet out and shows him his picture ID, his California driver’s license – of course, it expired in 1948, but it had his picture on it and the principal’s hands are tied!

We go out to the car and it’s parked on the curb and it’s one of those giant Buicks. He opens the back door for me to get in, and of course pot smoke billows out. I turn around and there’s the dean watching. I jump in and there’s two or three hippie chicks in the backseat and Kesey gets in shotgun, of course Neal is driving. It was funny, because he was overprotective about dope with me. I guess he didn’t want me to turn out like he did. The first thing they do is pass around a fatty and he looks in the mirror and he goes, ‘No dope for the kid!’

We stopped by a couple of houses in San Jose, big old Victorians out there. I remember there were a bunch of hippie types running around. Of course, I didn’t know yet that he was a speed freak, as if he needed any more energy in his life. He used to mooch Dexedrine diet pills off of my sister because she was a ballerina and had to stay real thin. In this one house where we stopped, I could see down the hall and he was in the kitchen talking to people and he had a Bromo-Seltzer cap full of white powder. It could’ve been Bromo Seltzer, but I remember he slammed it and chased it with half a glass of milk or something. He gave me this look like he was busted. Anyway, we went to a couple of houses and I kept saying, ‘Dad, where are we going?’ and he’d keep talking to people and wouldn’t answer.

Why he kidnapped me from high school that day was because he was walking past my room (probably to go mooch Dexie pills or something) and he saw me on my bed. I had saved up my lunch money for the first Grateful Dead album. $3.50 at McCool’s Music. He saw the record and goes, ‘Hey, what do ya got there?’ and I said, ‘This great band called The Grateful Dead from San Francisco and he didn’t give me a clue that he knew these people well.

Well, we get out of the car and go straight to the teacher’s lounge and I’m wondering if I’m in trouble again. It was Awalt High School in Mountain View, which is long gone. There’s [George] Walker, and Kesey, and [Ken] Babbs, and I think Mountain Girl was there. There’s a whole troop of Pranksters going into the teacher’s lounge and they open the door and there’s the Grateful Dead! He loved to surprise me like that. There’s Jerry sitting with his feet up on the table in his Beatle boots and his black Les Paul and he’s sitting there noodling around talking to the teachers – there’s like six teachers around. They had neckties on and they’re just listening to him.

That’s when I got a matchbook cover out. Bobby’s talking to some other teacher, probably a female. They’re kind of scattered. Pig Pen is in the corner with a jug of red wine. I look up and Kesey and my dad are in the corner watching me, so happy, so proud of themselves that they’d pulled this off. Here’s my heroes!

We go down to the gym and the Dead set up and they’re doing their soundcheck and I’m right under Jerry, leaning on the stage. The doors open and I get crushed by 300 kids coming in for their prom! I remember looking around at the bleachers and there’s dad and Kesey and dad is wired out of his mind, eyes closed moving his shoulders to the beat. Just tweakin’ out. Kesey is on something else, because he’s just nodding with his eyes closed real slow. The most bizarre thing is that there’s four or five cheerleaders on either side of them in their little skirts and stuff doing their rah-rah to the beat. I thought ‘No one will ever believe this.’


I thought [Jack] was cool as hell. He was in his Gary Snyder rucksack stage right around then. My mom would go, ‘Jack, there’s the couch.’ We had pillows and blankets, but he’d camp out in our backyard in a sleeping bag.


PKM: Your dad and the Dead were tight for a while, right?

John Cassady: Jerry and my dad were partners in crime. They were two peas in a pod. They kinda matched each other’s intellect. They’d met each other’s match in each other. After my dad passed, I’d see Jerry and he’d tell me all these Neal stories. He had more than I did and I grew up with the guy! He was around more than people think, though. Like I said, he was a family man. He didn’t want a white picket fence, but he wanted the respectability of being a good father.

They were doing the Acid Tests in LA and Jerry came out in the morning – he’d go all night, ya know – and the sun was coming out and everybody had already left for the city and forgot about him. So Jerry’s sitting on the sidewalk going, ‘Where is everybody?’

Dad rolls up in a Hudson or Pontiac. Dad changed cars like we change socks. His record was 18 in our backyard until the city made him get rid of them. He could drive them, but he couldn’t fix them. He’d have some mechanic friend over and they’d have the hood up and I’d be inside pretending to drive. Well, they’d be under the hood smoking reefer – I didn’t know that! I loved the smell, but it wasn’t Camel straights! They’d be under there giggling for hours!

So, back to Jerry. Neal comes roaring up and asks Jerry if he needs a lift. He jumps out and put’s Jerry’s amp and guitar in the trunk and they roar off and Jerry says, ‘You know it’s like a six-hour drive up 101.’ Neal, of course made it in four.

He used to scare Jerry because he’d be driving and talking to you looking at you the whole time! Once in a while, he’d glance at the road or hit the wheel with his elbow or his knee. ‘Your dad didn’t miss a beat talking to me. He explained how the universe works in four hours.’ And I believed him. Jerry said he didn’t say three words the whole trip unless he had to pee.

The Dead were living on Ashbury at the time, ‘66 or ‘67. Dad roars up to 710 Ashbury, pulls the guitar and amp out while Jerry’s on the sidewalk and Neal hops in the car and says, ‘Gotta go!’ and roars down Ashbury, takes a right on Haight. Jerry said, ‘I never saw him again’. I wish I knew where he was going next.


I remember looking around at the bleachers and there’s dad and Kesey and dad is wired out of his mind, eyes closed moving his shoulders to the beat. Just tweakin’ out. Kesey is on something else, because he’s just nodding with his eyes closed real slow. The most bizarre thing is that there’s four or five cheerleaders on either side of them in their little skirts and stuff doing their rah-rah to the beat. I thought ‘No one will ever believe this.’


PKM: It must’ve been pretty wild to realize that your own heroes saw your family and friends as their heroes.

John Cassady: Jack and Allen were sort of both my godparents. Ginsberg would introduce me as Allen and say, ‘I’m his godfather. This is Allen Cassady.’ He’d come to visit the city a lot when he was living in New York. I was living in Santa Cruz and he called me and said, ‘Hey Johnny, there’s this gig. Ya know, Chet Helms? [Family Dog concert promoter]. There’s this giant concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. They want me to read there.’ He’d usually call me when he was in the Bay Area because he needed a ride somewhere. He’s from New York and nobody drives there. He’d have me take him to these events or deliver him to some boyfriend’s house in the Sunset District.

He told me to bring my guitar and I said, ‘Why?’ because he’d just read and do his little finger cymbals and go ‘om’ and all that crap. He goes, ‘[Bob] Dylan taught me the blues. I’m a blues singer now.’

So I bring my guitar and Peter Orlovsky is there playing banjo – he was pretty good, actually. I go to get a beer and I come back and it’s a who’s-who of my rock and roll idols lined up to meet Ginsberg! Paul Butterfield and Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop and all the local guys. I don’t think Janis was there, but a bunch of people from the Dead, Big Brother. Coulda been some Airplane there. I couldn’t tell ya, because I was in shock that they were all in line to meet Allen.

One by one, they’re all coming up to him and saying, ‘You’re my hero! I read all of your stuff!’ He was the rockstar of the show! It made sense because they got all their stuff from him. I mean, indirectly over the years. A lot of them wouldn’t even exist without Allen or Jack or even Neal’s stuff. They would’ve been janitors at the local elementary school. 

Visions of Cody was Kerouac's posthumous novel inspired by Cassady (Cassady was "Cody Pomeray" in the novel)
Visions of Cody was Kerouac’s posthumous novel inspired by Cassady (Cassady was “Cody Pomeray” in the novel)

PKM: Did you ever get to experience Furthur with your dad?

John Cassady: One story I do remember, my sister Jami and her friend Kim and I were hitchhiking up to Golden Gate Park for a Dead show or something. We’re in a little VW and the driver turns down one of those residential side streets and there’s the bus! It’s parked in front of this funky old looking church. The guy lets us off, so we knock on the bus and the doors open and Zonker, Steve Lambrecht, was sitting in the little couch seat. He’s got the headphones on and he goes, ‘Holy crap, Johnny. You’ve gotta hear this.’ He didn’t say hello or anything, he just put the headphones on me.

I could tell who it was. It was an acetate final mix of Sgt. Pepper. The reason they got it was because – I think it was John [Lennon], I don’t think Paul was as into acid as John was at the time – Kesey had sent the Beatles some Owsley Stanley LSD in film cans, 16mm or whatever. The Beatles were very happy with that and to say thank you, they sent an original acetate to Kesey! 

I said, ‘This is good shit! This is The Beatles, right? and he said, ‘Yeah, give ’em back!’ Months later, the record came out and I thought, ‘I remember this song!’ Mountain Girl told us later that Kesey had sent the Beatles a bunch of pure LSD and John Lennon kept a vile of it on his mantelpiece.

So Jami and Kim ask, ‘Where’s my dad?’ and they told us he’s up in the church. Dad is sitting around with Kesey and a bunch of Pranksters, or friends, or whoever and they’re sitting in a circle doing nitrous. They really liked nitrous oxide. They knew a dentist in Santa Cruz and he got them as many cans as they wanted for free. 

Neal, Carolyn, and little John

PKM: Did you spend much time with the Pranksters after your dad had passed?

John Cassady: [There was a] bus tour of the UK with all the Prankster juniors meaning, Sunshine Kesey, Trixie Garcia, Ken Babbs’ sons (I think he had three), so all the next generation was riding along with us.

What happened, which I regret now, was they were passing around a bottle of scotch or something and I was jonsin’ for a drink. Everyone knew what was going on except me. Kesey took the bottle and put it between his knees – I got dosed like you wouldn’t believe.

So he has this little Altoid tin and he opens it and there’s a braid of hair rolled up in this liquid and he pulls it out and puts the can down and gets a pair of scissors. He’s holding the braid with scissors to it over this bottle and all the kids behind me and going, ‘No! Higher!’ Well, it’s soaked in LSD from Owsley Stanley. I didn’t figure this shit out until about an hour later. She he clips off about two inches from this hair into the whiskey and shakes it up and passes it around. Well, it was Roy Sebern, one of the old Pranksters, sitting across from Kesey on the bus and the bottle is going around and I take a big ol’ pull off of it and it comes around again and Roy goes, ‘Johnny, I’d be careful about that stuff.’ and I thought he was being a mom about the scotch. ‘That’s really strong, I’d take it easy.’ I roll my eyes and go, ‘Okay, mom,’ and take a chug. 

We get to this castle and there are these old trees from probably the 15th century and I start to feel it come on. I’m telling you, I just went, ‘Uh-oh.’ I knew immediately. It was tingling behind my teeth and eyes. By the time we got there, there were like 300 people there to greet us and I was frozen in the back of the bus! I can’t talk. I can’t get off the bus. I can’t do anything. I don’t think I’d ever had a bad trip before. This was arduous. I didn’t know my name! I was frightened.


Kesey had sent the Beatles some Owsley Stanley LSD in film cans, 16mm or whatever. The Beatles were very happy with that and to say thank you, they sent an original acetate to Kesey! 


PKM: How did your mom feel about your dad’s relationship with Kesey and his life with the Merry Prankster crew?

John Cassady: Mom didn’t dig it at all. She thought the whole thing was madness. I can’t blame her, because it was. She didn’t expect him to be a stay at home husband, even though he worked for 12 years on the railroad. Once that was over, he kind of lost it. He’d lost his job, he lost his family more or less. He went nuts and said ‘Fuck it. Why bother playing a role that I don’t want?’

He’d still be around. We’d do little foot races in the backyard and he’d BBQ and hang out in the swimming pool. Once he got out of San Quentin, he’d done two years there, and he had to do a job, maintain an address (our house in Las Gatos), and he had to be a good parolee or he’d get in big trouble. So, he was home every night, but as soon as his parole was up, he was gone.

So he just hung out with Kesey a lot more and that whole gang. He was gone a lot because he didn’t have to report to the 9 to 5 every day being on parole. He only lived about five more years. He kind of just went wild and it was easier to just party and entertain all his friends, but it was sad. I remember he told me once when he came home all tired, ‘I feel like a dancing bear.’ He hitchhiked from Eugene, Oregon all the way to Las Gatos in his bare feet without a cigarette, which was unlike him. He was really kind of shook up and I remember he took a shower and just screamed for hours. As a 12-year-old kid, that kind of fucked me up. 

He just kind of lost it and everyone was feeding him LSD and speed and who knows what. Pot looked like it was for kindergartners to him by then… Yeah, it was sad to watch, but it was almost a relief. I remember when the phone call came that he had died in Mexico and my sisters cried and I was kind of shocked, but my mom said, ‘His pain is over.’

PKM: Kind of like losing someone to illness?

John Cassady: Yeah, I hadn’t seen him much in the past couple of years, so it wasn’t a devastating thing like your dad gets killed in a car wreck or something. It was a process and I felt kind of relieved because I just saw him deteriorate before my eyes. 

I remember mostly good stories, like that Dead concert or him just doing the funniest things. He maintained pretty good up until the last couple of years. He’d do the BBQ and a picnic and it was like home life.

He’d been gone a couple of weeks and he had some trinket from Mexico. He was always bringing us kids stuff and some of it was like he’d find it on the side of the railroad tracks and my mom would say no, but his heart was in the right place. So he had this little trinket from Mexico and we’re all sitting around like the Cleavers in suburbia right down to the red-checkered tablecloth on the picnic table in the backyard. So he puts this little wooden pig on the table, it was carved and painted, but only like two inches.

He goes, ‘Here’s what you do…’ He runs in the house and gets a fly swatter, ‘Now you don’t want to kill him. You just want to stun ’em,’ and he runs around and chases this fly for a while. He gets one and the pig had a little butt plug where the tail is and he’s got this poor fly in his death throes by the wing and he stuffs it in the pig’s butt and the pig had these little movable legs. He puts it on the table and it walks across the table! Can you believe this guy? Not only are the legs moving at a pretty good rate, but it’s little horns are going, too. Even my mom had to laugh at this one. 

John Cassady by Laura Braun
John Cassady by Laura Marie Braun

PKM: Your dad famously encouraged your mom and Kerouac to have a romantic relationship. Were you aware of that growing up? I’ve heard that Kerouac would make a lot of late-night calls to your house after your dad had passed away.

John Cassady: He’d be in his cups, obviously. I guess at 3 am you don’t realize you’d been up all night drinking, but maybe he did and wanted to call Carolyn anyway. He’d go, ‘Carol, Carolie…’ I’d answer the phone sometimes and he’d accuse her of having a man over, ‘How can you replace Neal?’

He was still in love with her. Her famous quote – and she’d just giggle like a school girl – “We were dancing in San Francisco and Jack said, ‘Neal saw you first.’” It really took her by surprise, but that’s how he felt about her until the day he died, I’m sure. They were lovers, too, of course.

My mom was doing some gig in the city and I drove her up with my sister Jami. Afterwards, she goes, ‘Let’s go to 29 Russell Street,’ where she lived with Jack and Neal… The whitewashed wall across the street is where she took the famous photo of them. She said, ‘I came out with a little brownie and stood right there on the sidewalk.’

We’re poking around and the door opens a crack and the owner invites us in. The three of us come in and right next to the door in the hallway was a daybed and she looks at it and turns to us and says, ‘That’s where I did Jack!’ I couldn’t believe it! She was all proud and giggling like a school girl. The daybed was still there – the same one! The same blanket on there!

I wasn’t aware of their romance growing up. Jack was one of dad’s best friends. I might’ve had a clue when I got older. I knew all three of them were in love, but I didn’t put a sexual thing on it.  I found out in high school. There was a flood of books and stuff, so I kind of put it together.


I remember when the phone call came that he had died in Mexico and my sisters cried and I was kind of shocked, but my mom said, ‘His pain is over.’


PKM: Kerouac’s death was not only close in time to your father’s, but at a pretty pivotal moment in history (1968 and 1969, respectively). If you don’t mind me asking, what was that time like for you?

John Cassady: My dad died in February of ‘68 and Jack was just about a year later. It was kind of apparent that Jack was on the way out. He claimed he was going to drink himself to death and I think he got his wish. 

I was still in high school when we got the phone call, so I knew when my dad passed. With Kerouac, I think I just heard about it and wasn’t really surprised, in a way. I had some great memories of him, but it was almost like Neal in that it was kind of a relief.

You knew when he was too loaded. The William F. Buckley show? Not his best work.  It must’ve been disappointing for Allen and my dad to see him decline like that. My father wasn’t a drinker, he’d have a quart of Brown Derby watching the football game or the news. He had to drag his alcoholic father from the Denver Bowery gutters and have to do unspeakable things at the bus station to get .25 cents just so he could pay for the night’s lodging for his alcoholic father. So he wasn’t much of a drinker. He’d have a beer occasionally, but he didn’t pound it like Jack did.

Neal being the bridge from the Beats to the hippies is accurate. He drove Jack around and then he drove Kesey around. That’s an American legend. As far as their passing, that was a turbulent time for everything. The war, the country and world were losing their romantic idealism, I think. That didn’t affect Jack and Neal personally, but they were burned out by life in general.

Acid Test Graduation poster - designed by Gut Terk
Acid Test Graduation poster – designed by Gut Terk

PKM: It makes sense. They set the standard for fast living.

John Cassady: Bill Craddock wrote this book in the 60s called Be Not Content. He told me, ‘I met your dad at a party in San Francisco and he was waxing poetic with a little crowd around him.’ He had read all about him and knew about Dean Moriarty and he was just fascinated. My dad slowed down for a minute and said, ‘I gotta go get some cigarettes,’ and he just picked Bill out of the crowd and says, ‘Hey, do you wanna go for a ride?’ Bill, of course, says yeah because he worships Neal from Kerouac. They go out in the street and they’re walking down a real steep street and Neal’s looking at these cars as they go and says, ‘Here we are.’ It’s an old yellow VW bug and they jump in and roar off down the street. Without warning, Neal cranks the wheel all the way to the left and rolls the car twice. Bill is freaking out thinking he’s going to be killed and is grabbing the dashboard screaming. It lands on its wheels and Neal just takes off like nothing happened and is still talking! Bill said he didn’t miss a beat in his story, whatever that was. The thing is all crushed and they park it right where they found it! Then they just walk right back into the party. They never even got the cigarettes.

Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg in conversation: