A Beat Gathering in San Francisco, June 27 and 28

The Beat Museum in San Francisco is hosting a major literary conference this summer. The Beatnik Shindig or 2015 Beat Generation Conference will take place at the Fort Mason Center on San Francisco’s beautiful waterfront from June 26 to June 28 … and I will be one of the participants!

Hey, it’s one of the benefits of a last name that begins with “A” that I can appear on this lineup next to the soulful David Amram, my favorite jazz piano player and ethnomusicologist, who famously jammed with Jack Kerouac himself back in the day. David will be leading one of several poetry jams this weekend, and I hope this entire conference will loudly fill not only the Fort Mason Center but all of North Beach and the entire Bay Area with the joyful sounds of syncopated music and spontaneous spoken word, allowing us all to travel back in our imaginations to the incisive 1950s and 1960s when the first generation of Beat writers pounded these streets.

There will also be a live poetry performance by Ruth Weiss, who is scheduled to close out the entire event with her own jazz band, and another by David Meltzer, whose new book Two-Way Mirror has just been published by City Lights. I know these will both be historic shows to catch, and I’m looking forward to feeling the vibe in the room when these two seasoned Beat poets each hit the stage.

I’m also looking forward to meeting and hearing from Eric Drooker, Will Durst, Neeli Cherkovski, Herbert Gold, Dennis McNally, Christopher Felver, Jack Hirschman, Brenda Knight, Hilary Halloday, Marc Olmsted, Ryan Cassata, Jonah Raskin, Marian Wallace and V. Vale, and really every single person on this lineup. Even more, I’m looking forward to meeting the people who will attend this weekend event, and I hope everybody who can be there will attend the two exciting panel discussions I will be moderating on Saturday the 27th and Sunday the 28th.

The first of my two panels (on Saturday June 27) is dedicated to the legacy of Neal and Carolyn Cassady, the two real-life figures who Jack Kerouac transformed into Dean and Camille Moriarty when he wrote On The Road. This panel will feature five guests: Jami Cassady, Cathy Cassady, John Allen Cassady, my good buddy Brian Hassett (who has a new book out, and who I haven’t seen in years), and a person I’ve never met before but always wanted to meet: Al Hinkle, the real-life model for Neal’s easygoing traveling partner Ed Dunkel in On The Road. This is going to be a great discussion, and if you know anything about me you’ll know that I plan to skip all the obvious and conventional questions and instead come up with some original and probing topics to discuss. I’m also looking forward to hearing what questions the audience members want to ask.

My second event, on Sunday June 28, will be an onstage interview with Gerd Stern. Gerd is a fascinating and brilliant experimental poet and pop artist who fell in with the Beat crowd as a young man after befriending then-unknowns Allen Ginsberg and Carl Solomon inside the harrowing walls of a New York City mental institution. Stern and Ginsberg and Solomon all managed to escape this particular Cuckoo’s Nest, and Gerd apprenticed around the hip scene with Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac during the 1950s before taking his countercultural journey to the next level during the turbulent 1960s. This journey led him into friendly relationships with folks like Maya Angelou, Marshall McLuhan, Richard Brautigan and Huey Newton. I have a feeling I’m going to need to dedicate an entire blog post to my upcoming onstage interview with Gerd Stern, so all I’ll say at this point is that we’re going to have a lot to talk about, and that I hope you can be there to hear it live.

Old friends of Literary Kicks may know that I haven’t done a lot of public events like this one, and also that I haven’t been out to California in many years. This conference already feels to me like an attempt at a significant journey in my life. Literary Kicks was born 21 years ago this summer. The site has broadened its focus greatly since it launched, but I know that many people still think of Literary Kicks as the little website about Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg that launched in 1994. While Litkicks is no longer devoted to the Beat writers, it’s a fact that this site was originally built with Beat-inspired style and attitude. I think this style and attitude has remained a constant at Literary Kicks, and has served the site well through many evolutions.

Litkicks seems to me to be at a crossroads in 2015. I am personally at a crossroads at this point in my life too — well, aren’t we really all at a crossroads, always? This fact makes me think of a trip I took to San Francisco many years ago, which I ended up writing about in a short story called “The History of the California Burrito” that became a part of my 1995 writing project Queensboro Ballads.

This is a story about a confused guy in a rotten mood who visits his sister in Berkeley (near San Francisco) and finds revelation in an organic taqueria. It was on the real-life California journey that inspired this story that I first began seriously reading Jack Kerouac and the Beat writers. So, in a sense Literary Kicks was born in San Francisco. The site probably wouldn’t exist at all if I hadn’t once taken my chances on a big jet plane, searching at the time for something I couldn’t find at home.

A couple of years after I wrote this story, I read “The History of the California Burrito” to the beautiful minor-key piano accompaniment of David Amram in a smoky New York City bar. That was nearly two decades ago, though, and today I don’t think “The HIstory of the California Burrito” really represents where my head is at anymore.

If I get a chance to do some spoken word at the Shindig, I don’t know what I’ll read. However, I do plan to eat a California Burrito at some point during this weekend of festivities. Whole wheat tortilla, soy cheese, brown rice and all.

I hope the Beat Museum’s 2015 Beat Generation Conference and Beatnik Shindig will be a significant literary, social and personal exploration for every single person who can attend. And most of all, if you can be there between June 26 and June 28, I hope we’ll get a chance to meet and talk. Don’t hesitate to find me and say hi!

8 Responses

  1. This sounds like a great
    This sounds like a great gathering.

    If you get to Berkeley check out Remy’s which took over when my favorite Mexican restaurant, La Fiesta, closed. Have a burrito!!!

  2. Hi Levi,
    Hi Levi,

    It says 4 comments, but I only see two. This comment would be the third one.

    This sounds great. Put me on the guest list!

    San Francisco, North Beach, City Lights etc… is my old stomping grounds.

  3. TKG, am I going to get to
    TKG, am I going to get to actually meet you at this Shindig?!

    If so, that is the best news I’ve heard all week! Can’t wait!

  4. Great news, Levi! I know this
    Great news, Levi! I know this event will be a success and hope its a blast.

    I’d be interested to hear your take on (my favorite) pizza joint….Tony’s…its in little italy only a short walk from north beach:


    Also, have you read this already? Extensive interview with Gerd Stern that may be useful in your interview with him. Hope it helps.


  5. Hi Levi,
    Hi Levi,

    Yeah, I’m going. 

    It’ll be like old times. I used to spend hours down in the City Lights basement waiting till later in the evening when my band would be playing at the Mabuhay Gardens, or later the On Broadway, a couple of blocks down the street from City Lights in North Beach. 

    It’s was great. Where else could I read all sorts of underground magazines or esoteric foreign literature. Where else to buy books on Luis Bunuel or be able to pick up Essai Poulet by Victor-Lévy Beaulieu, his rumination on Kerouac in French Canadian Joual and English at the same time with Chicken essay side by side on the page. 

    I’d buy the books from Vale at the check out counter. 

    I always saw what we were doing in the punk rock scene as part of a continuum with the Beats, and Surrealists, Dadaists and others. But I seemed to be one of the few who saw things in that context. For example, there was some overlap in the generational counterculture scene in that Ginsberg and Corso were booked to do a reading at the On Broadway, the venues above the Mabuhay where we played with all the other bands after the Mabuhay stopped putting on shows. 

    I went to this Corso and Ginsberg reading, and showed up early to hang around inside. I met Ginsberg early in the afternoon before the show, as I wrote about a bit about in the Ginsberg memorial tribute. There was one fellow there who’d been in a punk band and was working the On Broadway shows and when he saw me he asked, “what are you doing here?” as if it was out of place. And it was true, there were no other punk rock, under grounders there that I saw. I did get to stand by Tim Leary for the reading. 

    Vale put out the great Search and Destroy punk rock magazine. I’d not known that Lawrence Ferlinghetti provided the funds to start it up. 

    Later Vale put out RE/Search after S&D ended. Finally the connections were being made — RE/Search put Burroughs on the cover of one of the issues.  

    Vale is going to do a session on this inter generational connection. It happens, of course, to be at the same time as one of your sessions. 

    Such is my luck. 

    Talk to you later. See you later. 

  6. Did I miss any mention of the
    Did I miss any mention of the Stern-related
    Rediscovered Relic ie Neal’s Joan Anderson let-/manuscript?
    It was last winter to be auctioned-hopefully released, then entered a legal limbo
    with NC-JK estates each claiming rights. [Gerd’s claim to infamy unfounded! —Thanks loads, Allen!]

  7. have a blast Levi……that
    have a blast Levi……that get together with the Cassady’s & Ed Dunkel is monumental…..

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!