Jim Karagas, cultured gentleman and owner of Brother's Bar at 15th and Platte, usually closes his doors on Sundays. When I see him I think of Anthony Quinn and "Never on Sunday." But Sunday, February 7th, Jim opened the door of his historic establishment to celebrate Neal Cassady's birthday. And today Cassady and Kerouac aficionados filled the back room and spilled over into the bar section. Two of Cassady's kids, John and daughter Jamie, came in from California for the first Denver Cassady Birthday celebration. San Francisco has hosted a Beat Birthday for Cassady for some years now, at the Beat Museum, across from City Lights Publishing.
Cassady chummed with Jack Kerouac and mentioned lots of Denver sites in their writings. James Joyce described sites and used actual Dublin addresses in his books. In Dublin if a developer applies for a permit to tear down a building where something happened in a Joyce story, the whole nation gets involved in an uproar and the government usually steps in and preserves the building. Joyce has done more to preserve old Dublin than all the historic preservationist committees together. The preservationists argue that tearing down the historic structure would hurt tourism. Joyce readers around the world want to come and see his buildings. But sadly 7 Eccles Street, where Molly and Leopold Bloom devoured the innards of animals and slept head to toe in Ulysses, felt the stinging blows of the wreckers ball and has been scraped off the Dublin skyline for many years. A slight consolation, one can see the front #7 door in the James Joyce Museum on the North side of the River Liffey, Dublin's Platte, and a mighty river it is.
Organizers of Sunday's happy event kindly asked me to give a welcome on behalf of the city and share stories. And I did.
I told John and Jamie Cassady that they could be related to Bill Clinton because Bill's mom was a Cassady and not spelled the usual Cassidy. Cassady faithfully served mass at Denver's Holy Ghost Church when he wasn't trying to drag his dad out of various Larimer Street beer joints. He attended Ebert school which is still on Park Avenue. But despite Cassady's dad having the awful Irish curse, the drink, Cassady loved his dad and always capitalized "Father" when writing about him. I thought of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds..." Just because your Dad is a raging alcoholic doesn't mean you don't still love him. I reminded the crowd that God made whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world. I shared that the Gallaghers had lots of drinkers in the family and we could be spiritually related. I guess we relate through the family suffering.
Like James Joyce's alcoholic dad, Cassady's father a Denver barber,drank away the family money. It is said he never missed a day's barbering, but on Saturday nights spent his earnings at local Larimer bars. But Joyce got the lucky chance to go to two Jesuit schools: Clongow's Wood College in Kildare and Belvedere College in North Dublin. Cassady, by contrast, spent 10 months in the Colorado Reformatory in Buena Vista for stealing cars. He wrote a letter from the reformatory to a Denver friend asking him to drop by Paul's Place, now My Brother's Bar, and pay the bartender $4.00 owed. In the next sentences he talks about new books and authors he wants to read. I added that if Cassady has the luck to end up at Regis Jesuit high school instead of the reformatory his stories might be preserving endangered historic buildings here in Denver.
All things considered, it was a great afternoon and John and Jamie read a poem about their Dad to the beat and rhythms provided by the gathered throng.
Next year the organizers want to have a three day conference on Cassidy and Kerouac. They mentioned an event at The Mercury Cafe. Maybe next year I will tell the story about my conversations with Beverly (Babe) in Kerouac's On the Road when she visited me in the Senate Chambers.