WW: Why is it important to remember Neal Cassady in Denver? DA: He was representative of so many wonderful things about the West that most people take for granted. Jack and Allen and everyone else got that Denver connection, but instead of it being wonderful, most people considered being from the West to be an impediment. The intellectual world was geared more toward New York City and Europe. Even in San Francisco, people were left out of the picture. Unless you were in Hollywood or New York, everything in between was a like a wasteland. But people like Kerouac and myself who came from the East Coast saw Denver and the West almost like a mythological place, and Neal represented a real picture of that Western spirit of independence, ingenuity and doing for oneself. Acknowledging Neal in a place in Denver -- that's about acknowledging him as a good person, not dismissing him as a cliché.
WW: In some ways, he became a tragic figure. DA: Neal was a terrific family person. He was very old-fashioned in some ways. He was a crazy guy when he was out there partying, but he also had a job and a purpose in life that he was trying to fulfill. But one of his tragedies is that he'd put a lot of stuff he'd written in a big bag that got lost and disappeared. Neal never really got the chance to come to believe in himself, to have that creative outlet. By the time he was riding the bus with Kesey, he'd become like a cartoon character of himself fifteen years prior to that.
WW: What place in Denver reminds you most of Neal Cassady? DA: Audrey Sprenger led a walking tour of places Neal lived in Denver that went on, and there was a wonderful section when she took us walking through Five Points, where KUVO -- which is only the best jazz station in the country -- is located close to places where he used to hang out. There was something about that all those years later, there was still a resonance of something in the air. It was a chance to walk through the remains of Larimer Street and the time when Neal lived there, when it was still a rugged place, with that beautiful old feeling that gets lost when cities get so redeveloped that you don't even know where you are anymore.
During David Amram's stay in Colorado, he'll also perform with his quartet at Dazzle at 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday; on Tuesday, he'll give a free guest recital from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Grusin Hall at CU-Boulder's Imig Building (call 303-492-8008).