The Beat Automobile Tour

"She navigate!"
-- Neal, the the Ken Dobbs/NC Acid Test Tapes

My Brother's Bar, 15th and Platte (2376 15th Street), is a great Beat site. It's a short drive/long walk from lower downtown. Just go toward the mountains on 15th. You'll cross the Platte River Valley as you go there -- Cassady was all over this area as a kid. He called it his "beach."

This is a bar where Cassady definitely drank -- and it's been in continuous operation since the days when Neal drank here. There's no sign -- never has been, but it's on the southeastern corner, across from Shakespeare's Poolhall (modern site) and Maxfield's Bar (great building, lousy sports bar). Back by the pay phone, hung on the wall, is a letter from Neal to Justin Brierly! Cassady is writing from juvy hall, asking Brierly to come to this bar at 15th and Platte to pay off his bar tab. Great stuff. Almost as great is the famous ``JCB'' - jalapeno cheeseburger -- eat it, enjoy it.

(Oh, in his autobiography, Neal Cassady talks about his happiness at seeing the familiar yellow streetcars of Denver after a trip to Los Angeles with his father. In the parking lot of My Brother's Bar you can see, next to the Forney Transportation Museum, one of these streetcars.)

Elitch Gardens, 38th Avenue and Tennyson St. If you're at My Brother's with a car you should probably check this out while you're at it. (Continue up 15th to Zuni, right on Zuni to 38th, left on 38th to Tennyson) The new Elitches is soulless and downtown; the old Elitches (closed a year ago) was a century-old garden spot with cool, old rides and Edenic landscaping. Family picnics were the norm; same for the Beats: Kerouac, Cassady, Ginsberg and other Denver friends came here and smoked pot in the picnic area -- and ``Elitching'' became the gerund phrase among them for getting high.

Denargo Market, 2901 Broadway. (Go up Market to Broadway (diagonal st.) then look for 2901) This is the former produce market where Cassady worked; and where Kerouac worked for a day in the summer of '49 before being asked to not come back (If you're driving, check this out on you're way up to the Cassady boy block at 26th and Champa).

The Colburn Hotel, 9th and Grant Street (980 Grant). (Take 17th Ave. east to Grant, south on Grant) Another important Beat site near downtown in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood. In the summer of 1947 Carolyn Cassady lived here (third floor) when she met Neal Cassady. The quasi-famous love triangle went into overdrive when Ginsberg came out for the summer (Cassady was driving Carolyn, Allen and Luanne Henderson crazy at the same time, in shifts, though, on one occasion Neal, Allen and Luanne end up in the same bed at the Colburn. Ginsberg took a room in the same place until he ran out of money; then moved in with Neal and Carolyn. Ginsberg wrote "Denver Doldrums" here and on August 23, 1947, his last day in Denver, watched two bricklayers working and wrote notes that later became "The Bricklayer's Lunch Hour," a poem that Ginsberg has categorized as one of his first mature poems.

Civic Center Plaza, Broadway and Colfax. On one end is the state capitol building, which both Cassady and Kerouac mention in letters (Kerouac watched bats fly around the dome at night; Cassady and Luanne had a major blow-out on the capitol lawn). On the other is the City & County Building (Ginsberg in "The Green Automobile": ``Denver! Denver! we'll return/roaring across the City & County Building lawn..."), and the current Water Department building, which was the main Carnegie-given public library when Cassady was a kid; but Cassady also would have been in the library at its current site across the park at 14th and Broadway.

6100 West Center, Lakewood, Colorado (formerly Westwood). Kerouac's Home, June-July, 1949. Modest suburban home in Denver's western suburbs. Take Broadway south to Alameda, right on Alameda out several miles. Take a left at the street before Pierce (sorry, can't remember the name)(if you get to the shopping mall, you've gone too far), south for a few blocks, then a right on Center--- second house from the corner on the left. Kerouac used his thousand-dollar advance from The Town and the City on this house with the idea of moving his mother, sister and brother-in-law here. He'd spent the previous year fantasizing about Colorado (see letters to Ed White in The Missouri Review, 1995) and the experiment was, at one level a failure -- his mother and family hated it and moved back within a month to get their old jobs back. Kerouac, alone, did valuable research for On The Road, wandering the downtown streets where Cassady once lived. Robert Giroux, his editor at Harcourt Brace, visited him here to go over The Town and the City. Kerouac left Denver for San Francisco at the end of July. The ubiquitous photograph of Cassady and Kerouac side-by-side was taken shortly after this Denver period.

Out Colfax, eastward, are a couple of Beat sites. Cassady attended East High (Colfax and York)(so did singer Judy Collins -- Dylan met her here in '59) and met Justin Brierly, who taught English here. Kerouac attended a civic luncheon here with Brierly on June 10, 1949.

At High Street look for 1729 East Colfax. The was a hang-out for teenagers called The Oasis in 1945. Gas stations remain. Cassady and "Cherry Mary" Fairland came here after the famous "Cherry Mary" event at her home near 16th and High (I've search the city directories but cannot find the exact address for any Fairlands living here in the forties).

Onward to ...

The Beat Beatific Shuttle

The Beatific Beat Train

Literary Kicks
Neal's Denver Contributed by Andrew Burnett