Carolyn very much objected to drugs as well as a lot of the nonsense she witnessed along the way, which was no surprise after reading her book. Here’s an excerpt where she speaks of Ken Kesey, The Merry Pranksters and the only Acid Test she attended, which she maintains was the last:
“The Pranksters were now engaged in running up and down the coast going to colleges or other gatherings and giving shows they called ‘acid tests’. Refreshment was Kool-Aid spiked with LSD, loud rock music, lots of Day-Glo paint and splashing coloured lights. From all I could glean from Neal’s efforts to make some sense of them to me, they consisted largely of a lot of sensory self-indulgence and pointless nonsense, not to mention danger.”
“Neal came to see me on his return, and told me Kesey planned a big Halloween party, the last of the acid tests, and he’d wear a costume so as not to be recognized by the police. I seriously doubted that, but they all thought it terribly daring and exciting. It was to be a ‘graduation’ from LSD, Kesey planning some charade about reassuring the authorities that he would now inform young people it would be better not to take LSD after all. Neal urged me to come. I would never have considered it, especially alone, but when I told Helen about it, she was curious, and thought we should learn about these things, having gullible kids of our own. Neither of us had seen any of the psychedelic world first hand, only the descriptions in the media, which we knew often distorted things.”
“On the day of the party, Helen and I went to Gavin’s to await directions from Neal. I had no desire to see or hear Neal ‘perform’. I had seen enough photos and heard enough – more than enough, and I only wanted to cry at his humiliation. I couldn’t help thinking of the tragic professor in the film The Blue Angel, whose obsession resulted in his degradation into the role of performing bear. Neal had now added sound to the non-stop sentences he once only wrote. He exploited his brilliant mind by talking incessantly ‘on three levels at once,’ Gavin pointed out, and it was too much for me. When he and I were alone and he’d start talking, I’d attempt to stay with him and his lightning shifting thoughts until my mind would spin from the effort, and I’d have to beg him to stop. It took a great effort on his part. Whatever I could digest made good sense, but it took too much concentration too long to follow all the leads. I knew he was simply letting out all the thoughts he’d had most of his life that he couldn’t write down – just ‘getting them out’ with no aim or purpose. That wasted mind.”
(They went to the Acid Test, in which Kesey had been bailed from jail so he could attend. It was Graduation Night and it was held in a warehouse in the Mission district. It ended up being too much for Carolyn and her friend, Helen, and they left never having seen Neal who was somewhere else.)
“I thought the Pranksters just wasted a lot of time and energy, when they could have used both to create something to benefit mankind, such as Ken’s book. It was not only proving to be of great value to psychologists, but was also beginning to carry weight towards a reform of the disgraceful mental health system. I believed that was the way to change objectionable factions in society, surely, rather than the kind of influence he was exerting over young minds now.”
Cassady, Carolyn. Off the Road (pp. 395-396 & 398-400)
Here are two emails in one, Carolyn addresses my burning questions from the previous blog post and I respond to her in BOLD.
From: Peebler, David
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 1:55 PM
To: ‘Carolyn Cassady’
Subject: Wow, wow, wow!
I have made a few comments in Bold blue under yours below.
Having worked at Warner Bros. for ten years, I never asked for anyone’s autograph (except for Harry Potter’s last year for my girls). I was wondering if you would do me a very special favor and inscribe a little something in my copy of your book. I would be so honored. I can send the book to you along with a 20 quid note for sending it back to me. I would be most grateful.
Je vous envoie la paix et l’amour,
From: Carolyn Cassady
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 1:09 PM
To: Peebler, David
Subject: RE: Wow, wow, wow!
Dear David —
Thanks for explaining a “burn”. I have mixed emotions about it, but sounds worth a look- in. Hmm—the “Burning Man” part—have you ever seen the film called “The Wicker Man”? In that is a ritual burning of some official they don’t like. He is put in an enormous wooden structure in the shape of a man. The victim is put in his face, which is the last part to burn. Pretty ghastly. Burning must be the most painful way to die! I just hope nature does the same mercy as for amputees—after the initial sharp shock, pain is cut off. I saw where Joan of Arc was burned and it makes you think. And I have worked with burn patients. (You can smell them coming when they leave their room). Enuf!
Funny you mention Wicker Man. I have seen it many times. The man who came up with the idea of Burning Man has maintained from the year Dot that he had never seen the movie prior to creating his vision for Burning Man. The idea for the Burning Man, in my humble opinion, is to symbolize the death of one’s old self (and ways of being, thinking and living), so that a new, better and more whole person can rise out of the ashes and carry on with their life. I must say that as far as I’m concerned, I feel totally rejuvenated and energized after attending a burn. I hope to make it to Burning Man someday…we’ll see.
I know “Bank” holidays are a joy to workers but a nuisance to us loiters. I recall when my daughter and I first landed in London it was a bank holiday. We thought it meant the banks were closed not EVERYTHING! Why do they call it that, I wonder.
Bank Holidays are so called because banks were always traditionally the last institutions to close, so when there is a Bank Holiday it means that everything is indeed closed.
Ah, Chelsea “football” club: I have only one grandson—2 granddaughters. John’s son is the Chelsea fan. The others know very little about “soccer”, tho we used to watch our local team until they became hopeless. Of course, in the US, real football is the big thing. To me it’s as bad as boxing as a “sport”–the point being to injure the other guy.
Oh gosh, gee, well—thank you for your kind words re my book. I am always glad when someone gets the real story, and I am especially grateful for feedback. I just got a notice from some film company who want to make a film about Neal (groan). So far any such have concentrated on his wild Kesey years—when his soul was already dead. So I’ll have to check them out and their intentions. I asked my famous filmmaker friend, Walter Salles, what he thought. He suggested I ask them for DVDs of former films. Ah, that should give me some idea, tho not their view of Neal, which I shall pursue.
Hey, you know what Carolyn, I have always found that people are going to do what people do. I was attracted to Neal initially through his association with Kesey and The Merry Pranksters, but then as you have heard/witnessed my interest has sprouted to encompass his entire life and the various perspectives of it out there in the world. While your perspective is as far as I’m concerned the authority and the one that is the most fair and accurate, I enjoy it all. Or almost all. As long as the filmmakers are sensitive and fair, what more can you ask of them. That’s just my two cents. I for one am dying to see ON THE ROAD. It is released shortly and has a good buzz to it already. AH HA! I just looked it up online and noticed that Walter Salles is the director! How cool. Can’t wait!
Now to answer your questions:
1. Divorce, hmm. Didn’t I say in the book? I think I regretted it fairly soon after, but I’m not sure. It came with the realization I explained in the book.
In the book you indeed mentioned that you have regretted divorcing Neal, but made no mention of how you came to that conclusion. No problem. I am curious about the most benign matters sometimes. It must be by far your biggest regret. The people who emphatically state that “one should have no regrets” do not understand Life. Everyone has regrets, the key is to place them in a box and put the box aside. I firmly subscribe to an intention not to let regrets rule/ruin my life, but it is a fact that every human who has ever lived has had regrets.
2. Yes, I still miss Neal as a companion when we were “together”. I’ve never met anyone with an enquiring mind such as ours were. I love discussions.
I so get that, Carolyn, I really do.
3. Ah, acid. By the time he took it up he loved it—the best way to get away from himself as well as express some of his genius. But it messed up his logical thinking and responsibilities and destroyed him in the end—along with the other drugs.
I had enough information to have come to that conclusion myself (but didn’t). It makes perfect sense.
4. It does seem strange to me, too, that I never ever met another man remotely possible as a mate. Even if I had, Neal is a hard act to follow, eh?
He is an impossible act to follow, but based on your intellect, wisdom, ability to discuss anything and your obvious beauty (in & out), I would’ve lost a lot of money betting that you had at least one meaningful relationship post‐Neal. I really did enjoy seeing and hearing you on WHAT HAPPENED TO KEROUAC. What a wonderful film that was!
5. OH dear me—that’s a big one! And there was a statement I used to quote a lot—but, alas, I’ve forgotten it now! I shall think of it and let you know. But the other great insight that motivated us was a statement a man made after he was buying a newspaper. The news agent was very abusive, but the man paid no attention and did not reply. Another man standing near him asked him “Why didn’t you answer that awful man?” The man said, “Why should I let someone else tell me how to feel?” How true, how true, and how rarely does anyone respond that way. But one of Neal’s was “God is not mocked!”. The meaning personal, I think.
Love that, thank you!