Back On the Road Again

Anyone with at least one toe in Jack Kerouac’s waters knows that Beat godhead and energy-spinner Neal Cassady — aka Dean Moriarty of On the Road — grew up on Denver’s skid row, the streetwise reform-schooled son of a drunk. It’s not a stretch to say that the whole Beat joie de vivre even originated here with Neal, who came along and stirred up the literary pot for such Cassady-loving luminaries as Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Ken Kesey. So, says local fan and Beat historian Mark Bliesener, it’s more than apt to celebrate the late, great figure’s birthday in Denver.

To that end, he’ll be hosting the second annual Neal Cassady Birthday Bash, an official fete supported by Cassady’s family members, including his children, Jami and John Allen, who will both be here when the party and reading begins tonight at 8 p.m. at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, along with musician David Amram and many others.

“It means so much to the family to see Neal get long-overdue recognition in the city that carved him,” Bliesener says. “The whole event, to me, is an opportunity to say, ‘Wake up, Denver: Let’s be aware of the incredible literary history that flowed through the streets of this town.’

“I don’t want to be highfalutin' about it,” Bliesener continues, “but it is important to be aware of the major cultural impact Neal had as an archetypal Beat pop-culture influence, and so much of it is pure Denver, pure Western. San Francisco might be more important to Beat history, but Denver and the West were places for those guys to escape to, where they found freedom and openness and the wide-open spaces you need to put the pedals down and really go on the road.”

Admission to the party, which includes birthday cake, is free; for more information, visit or call 303-294-9281.
Fri., Feb. 4, 8 p.m., 2011

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd