Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Neal Cassady

Regular followers of The Daily Beat know that today is Neal Cassady's birthday. The "holy goof" would have been 85 today (that's how old both my father and mother were when they died, 20 years apart). Instead, he died at age 41 after attending a wedding in Mexico, cause officially "unknown" but drugs and/or alcohol were likely involved. He was 4 days short of being 42, so even Jack outlived him in age and even by the calendar.

Of course, we all know Neal as the real-life inspiration for the Dean Moriarty character in On The Road and Cody Pomeray in other Kerouac novels. If you haven't yet read Visions of Cody, it's time. Jack credits his writing style to Neal's spontaneous prose he sent to Kerouac in long rambling letters, the most famous one being lost (the "Joan Anderson letter," mentioned in this blog previously). After a falling out between the two, Neal went on to notoriety as the driver of Ken Kesey's bus, Furthur (for a trip into that world, read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe).

I'm currently reading Neal's autobiography, The First Third, and so far it's been an enjoyable glimpse into his childhood. Neal didn't leave behind much of a written literary legacy, but both his writing style and his memory will live on forever in Kerouac's roman a clef novels.

In honor of Neal's birthday today, my best advice to you is be spontaneous and dig life. Go go go!

P.S. By way of coincidence, today is also the birthday of my great friend, Keith, who introduced me to Kerouac in the first place. Synchronicity. HBD, Keith.

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