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"Jack Was Here" graffiti pays stenciled homage to Kerouac

A "Jack Was Here" stencil on the Central City opera house, posted on jack-was-here.tumblr.com blog
A "Jack Was Here" stencil on the Central City opera house, posted on jack-was-here.tumblr.com blog

Sixty years after Jack Kerouac filled a 120-foot scroll in a haze of lust, creative ambition and amphetamines that resulted in the original On the Road, producer Francis Ford Coppola is actually making a movie of the book — his third attempt. But while On the Road is a distinctly American classic, he's filming the entire movie in Canada.

That snub is particularly egregious considering that Denver factors prominently into the action — in fact, you could argue that our fair city is a main character in the book. While, sure, some of the action takes place on either coast, Denver is like the meat of that literary sandwich, providing the book with a prodigious amount of its soul, not to mention its hands-down best character: one Dean Moriarty, known in real life as Neal Cassady, Denver boy and Beat god.

And in the rabble-rousing spirit of Cassady himself, at least one team of "elite street thugs" is not taking the slight lying down. For the last few months, cloaked in secrecy and carrying a copy of On the Road and a handful of stencils, this group has been visiting known Kerouac hangouts and doing the writer a favor he may or may not have gotten around to himself: tagging them with a likeness and the words "JACK WAS HERE."

"I got the idea when I heard about the film adaptation coming out," explains the artist and ringleader, a shadowy figure who calls himself only Theo. "The filmmakers substituted Gatineau, Quebec, for Denver. I've been a Kerouac addict for years, and I've always wanted to pay tribute to the author in some way, but it only recently hit me just how this could be done: It's just a simpler reminder that Kerouac was here in Denver and not some small town in Canada that no one's ever heard of. I think it's an appropriate gesture to celebrate one counterculture with another."

You can find the art in the 2100 block of Larimer Street and the Taco Bell on East Colfax (it wasn't a Taco Bell when Kerouac was here, by the way); a tag put on the opera house in Central City, where Kerouac spent time, has already been removed. And this Friday, the Kerouac Project, sponsored by the AWE Collective, will take its show on the road — at least to Crash 45, a new bar and gallery space at 321 East 45th Avenue. Until then, watch for a Q&A with Theo on our Show and Tell blog.

A Jack Was Here stencil on My Brothers' Bar in Denver.
jack-was-here.tumblr.com

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