last week, my family and i traveled west to the city of denver to attend the graduation party of a good friend of ours. with the graduation party being on saturday the next few days were spent catching up with our friends who we hadn't seen in a while. home made barbeque was enjoyed, shows were attended and shopping ensued. our last day, however, involved something different. we decided to try out denver's light rail system and venture downtown! having brought along "one the road" as i'm now on part three, i tried to figure out if there was anyway to actually visit a few spots mentioned in the book. thumbing past pages and taking down notes of streets and landmarks, my search quickly moved to the internet where "google-ing the words "denver" and "beatnik" brought me to an amazing site! "denver's beat poetry driving tour"! an amazing source filled with exaclty what i was looking for!
with this website bookmarked in my phone, i was ready to take the tour! that morning we all rode the light rail train to downtown. arriving at union station, the ladies decided to hit the 16th street mall, the guys went to a sporting goods store, and i headed out to begin the tour. being on foot i couldn't follow the tour exactly or to it's full extent but i was able to take in a few of the sites mentioned. now although kerouac and ginsberg spent time in denver, most of the sites realted more to neal cassady, who was raised in denver, and was also the inspiration for "on the road's" character, dean moriarity.
my first stop was confluence park, where cherry creek and the platte river merge for a bit. now i'm sure this isn't what the park looked like in the 40's and 50's but this is the area where neal cassady and his father would take sunday trips and meet with other bums of the denver area.
a short distance from the park is a bar called "my brothers bar". not only is this denver's oldest bar still serving drinks in it's original location, this also happened to be the bar where neal drank a lot and hence racked up a tab, which he later asked a friend to pay for, in a letter neal wrote from a clolorado reform school. the bar was incredibly quaint with a copy of the letter from neal framed on the wall. i sat at the bar, got some local history from the bartender and a few locals, and ate lunch.
after lunch i met up with the rest of the guys, and we walked along the sidewalks of 15th street until we reached larimer, a street where neal spent the better part of his youth. the tour suggested taking a look at the 15th block of larimer. at this location most of the buildings have been preserved, and represent a little more of what denver would have looked like in the 40's and 50's. with the shops and stores located on the street now, it was hard to believe that in cassady's day this represented the "skid row" of denver. i almost felt bad enjoying a gelato from one of the stores......almost.
after this stop we wandered over to 16th street and meet up with the rest of our party. it was suggested that we start heading back towards the train, to try to avoid the afternoon rush. so although i only took in a few of the sites on the beatnik tour of denver, and i'm sure my family and friends thought i was geeking out hard core, there was something enjoyable about physically being in the places portrayed in the words of the pages.