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Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Beats Go On In San Francisco Museum

Jerry Cimino digs those beatnik poets: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady and -- oh, man -- Jack Kerouac. When he read Kerouac's "On the Road," the spirit of adventure and honesty "really spoke to me," Cimino said. "They were writers and musicians and artists who were following their passion."

For years, Cimino, 51, worked in the computer industry and quietly built up a collection of Beat memorabilia. Finally, he decided to devote himself full time to his passion. "I wanted to do something that would really change people's lives, and I think the spirit of the Beats can do that," he said.

This month he opened the Beat Museum in San Francisco, which he calls "the cultural epicenter of the Beat Generation." The museum features Cimino's collection of photos, letters and first editions. The grand opening coincided with the arrival at the San Francisco Public Library of Kerouac's manuscript for "On the Road" -- a 120-foot-long scroll the author taped together so he wouldn't have to interrupt his flow by shoving new sheets of paper into his typewriter. Hundreds of people have already passed through the Beat Museum, and locals are adding more to the collection.

The message, Cimino says, is simply this: "You can follow your passions later in life, too. Do what you want to do."

-- Sonya Geis


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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