I have more than a small obsession with Jack Kerouac. I have all of his books and I treasure them, often re-reading them and each time finding something new and eye-opening in their pages. On the Road was the first one I read, and then re-read when I was literally on the road taking my own journey across the country. Dharma Bums probably had the most profound effect on me, and I read Big Sur shortly after visiting that place for the first time. While living in San Francisco I found myself influenced by my surroundings and diving deeper into the psychedelic culture of the 60s– it was around that time I read The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, a manic tale about the bus called Furthur and the acid-fueled journey of Ken Kesey and a colorful troupe of companions (called the Merry Pranksters, with nicknames like Stark Naked and Gretchen Fetchen) including Neal Cassady -On the Road’s Dean Moriarty. I don’t know what it is that fascinates me so much about this time period, but there’s something about the spirit these people had that is so magnetic.
So when I found out there was a new documentary about this very trip, called Magic Trip, I was pretty much floored. I knew that the Pranksters had been filming a lot of what went on during their journey, with the hopes of making a film, but none of that footage had ever been seen. Until now.
I think what blew me away the most was seeing the footage of Neal Cassady talking nonstop, being his erratic, speed-driven self. He was, word for word, exactly as Jack Kerouac described him in On the Road. He painted the picture so clearly that I almost felt like I had seen this person before.
The journey starts at Ken Kesey’s Northern California home and follows the Pranksters and Furthur down Haight Street and across the country, with various antics and acid trips along the way, ending in New York with a stop at the World’s Fair and Timothy Leary’s home. Their destination, however, does not live up to the journey itself, which is where the true spirit and feelings of ultimate joy, freedom and peace are alive.
Jack Kerouac and the Grateful Dead (then called the Warlocks) also make appearances – what more could you possibly need?
I was completely captivated by the troubled beauty Stark Naked, who’s real name is Cathryn Casamo (pictured above with Neal Cassady, and below).
Mountain Girl and Jerry Garcia
Ken Kesey sitting on Furthur.
Timothy Leary and Neal Cassady.
Whether you’re into the sixties or not, this is a piece of history worth checking out!
Have you seen it? Let me know what you think :)