Sunday, February 8, 2015

CaSsAdY. NeAl. YoU. BiRtHdAy. HaPpY!

On Facebook I've taken to wishing people a happy birthday as follows:

YoU. BiRtHdAy. HaPpY!

The phrase is something I saw somewhere along the line and I added the interspersed capital letters. I think the latter gives it a whimsical quality. The phrase itself reminds me of how my French Canadian friends talk, putting "you" in front of sentences where it's grammatically unnecessary. For example, they might (lovingly) say, "You. Fuck you."

Given that Jack Kerouac was of that heritage, I can imagine him using this phrasing.

But I digress. The point of this post is that today, Neal Cassady would have been 89 years old. He was perhaps most well-known as the real-life role model for Dean Moriarty in On the Road, Kerouac's most famous work. Here's a quote about Dean from the 1976 Penguin version:
Dean was the son of a wino, one of the most tottering bums of Larimer Street, and Dean had in fact been brought up generally on Larimer Street and thereabouts. He used to plead in court at the age of six to have his father set free. He used to beg in front of Larimer alleys and sneak the money back to his father, who waited among the broken bottles with an old buddy. Then when Dean grew up he began hanging around the Glenarm poolhalls; he set a Denver record for stealing cars and went to the reformatory. From the age of eleven to seventeen he was usually in reform school. His specialty was stealing cars, gunning for girls coming out of high school in the afteroon, driving them out to the mountains, making them, and coming back to sleep in any available hotel bathtub in town. (Kerouac, 1976, pp. 38-39)
On Thursday I asked my first year college class for some adjectives to describe Dean after having read this part of the book. The first student answered, "player." There was general agreement about that.

Was Neal Cassady a "player"? I guess that fits pretty well.

In any event, I was thinking about the Holy Goof today and thought I'd post a little something in his honor. There's a weekend-long Neal Cassady "birthday bash" going on in Denver right now, so if you're in those parts I hope you partake.

How do you think Neal would be celebrating his 89th if the fates hadn't intervened in Mexico in 1968?

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