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Part 1 of 4 10/06/04

ROCKAWAY YOUR BABY

By
John Allen Cassady


Wednesday, October 6th, we left Steve’s in Nashua, NH, and landed at David Amram’s fantastic farm in Peekskill Hollow, New York, in the Hudson River Valley. The weather was sparkling, and we were greeted by David in his red lumberjack shirt and baggy jeans, sans his trademark necklaces. He jumped onto a tractor and pushed a pile of wood and ashes around that he was burning. Jerry and I spent the night there and went with him to a gig the next night. His trio were playing at City Island, the Bronx, at a great club, right on the water, called Trader John’s. The jazz was as cool as ever, and the crowd loved it.

The next day we arrived at Rockaway Beach in Queens and finally dipped our collective toes in the Atlantic Ocean, after almost a month on the road from the Pacific. Garland drove down from New York City with his good friend Miguel Algarin, the poet and founder of the Nuorican Poets Cafe. We set up for an outdoor gig the next night at Fort Tilden, sponsored by the Rockaway Artist Alliance, which was well attended by Beat fans of all ages. Our host was Sal, the local theater director and a Beat scholar in his own right. He and I drove out to Ozone Park Saturday afternoon to see the house where Jack Kerouac lived between 1943 and 1946 while attending college at Columbia, as mentioned on a plaque installed above the front door by the Borough of Queens. We then went across the street to tip one at the bar that he frequented, and which now has articles on the walls about him. Later we met up with Geoff, the Director of the Rockaway Artist Alliance and sponsor of Art Splash, and he gave us a tour of the exhibit.

Sunday the 10th found us crossing the Tappan Zee bridge into Nyack, New York, to visit an old colleague of Jerry’s from his IBM days and had a great Mexican dinner with him. While waiting in the parking lot this guy pulls up to the RV and is enthralled with the Airstream. As we got to talking he told me he was an opera singer – I said, “Oh, yeah, sing me twelve bars of an aria” and the guy starts belting it out on the lot. Then it was on to Harrisburg, PA, to stay with Jerry’s brother Jack and Jack’s wife Diana for a welcomed 2-day break from the road. They were most gracious and Jack and Jerry gave the brown museum panels a terrific new look.

We next headed to Lewistown to pick up Garland at the Amtrak station after his ride to meet us there from Penn Station in the City. We watched the Bush/Kerry debates in a real gone, funky bar called the Dutch Cellar. The lone Bush disciple, a Democrat, struggled to defend his position while the rest of the crowd harangued him. After hours more of playing 8-ball with the bartender, Melinda, we retired to the RV parked by the tracks in front of the bar for some much-needed rest.

The next day found us 30 miles to the North on the campus of Lock Haven University with our host Bob, the Chairman of the English Department. Hundreds of students came through the Beatmobile with assignments to complete about the Beat Generation. The show that night was one of the best yet from a staging aspect, with 2 stages, a giant movie screen and an excellent sound system. Afterward, half the crowd followed us to yet another funky bar in town to continue the good will.

On Friday, October 15th, we arrived at the Grand Midway Hotel in Windber, PA, for the long-awaited, annual Kerouac festival at which the patrons read the entire book “On the Road” from cover to cover, accompanied by some great jazz players, including David Amram on keyboards and all manner of flutes, penny whistles and other exotic instruments. There were also incredible guitar and bass players, and some talented readers of Jack’s classic. We started at about 2:00 PM on Saturday, October 16th, and Amram read the last line at around 4:00 AM Sunday morning. Whew, what a night! The hotel, bought 3 years ago by our host Blair Murphy, is a wonderland of huge pictures on the walls of the characters from the book, including Neal, Carolyn, LuAnn Henderson, Burroughs, Ginsberg, and all the usual suspects, as well as fascinating art and all sorts of intriguing knick knacks. The whole place is the epitome of funky chic.

The next day saw the survivors straggling out into the harsh light of day for photos and farewells. We met some truly remarkable people, a real highlight of the road trip thus far.

 

Peekskill Hollow Farm

Stream running through it

At the Farm

David multitasking on the phone

Tending the fire

'I know it was right here'

Tony, David and John.

Driving like 'Neal at the wheel

Meditating in the Woods

David leaving for the evening's show

Amram is welcomed to the stage at City Island.

John & Kevin have been playing with David for many years.

Ed painting as the group jams

Ed paints as John joins in on the guitar.

David's son Adam sits in on a set.

Father & Son

John, Ed, Kevin and John.

The audience loved the show!

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