Neal Cassady: The Man Who Set The World Free Neal Cassady grew up as a quasi-homeless wayfaring boy with his alcoholic, unemployed father in the projects of Denver. His unconventional upbringing led to adolescence rife with theft, drug use, and extreme sexual awakening at a young age. Cassady grew up quite quickly and led an overexposed life, which foreshadows his death at the age of 42 of exposure, next to railroad tracks in Mexico. His life, however, seems to be regarded by many as the eighth wonder of the world. He was full of an interminable curiosity and energy, and was considered by many as the herald angel of the Beat Movement. The oft-used term to describe Cassady, "Damaged Angel," has its source in CassadyÃÂÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs childlike face and immortal physical appearance but with eyes and a soul that suggested he was somehow damaged. This man, in turn, would not suprisingly become one of the most influential individuals during the 1950s and 1960s.
For a time I held a unique position: among the hundreds of isolated creatures who haunted the streets of lower downtown Denver there was not one so young as myself. Of these dreary men who had committed themselves, each for his own good reason, to the task of finishing their days as pennyless drunkards, I alone, as the sharer of their way of life, presented a replica of childhood to which their vision could daily turn, and in being thus grafted onto them, I became the unnatural son of a few score beaten men.
(Neal Cassady The First Third) With him as not only the legendary driver of On The Road but also as the driver of the bus with the Merry Pranksters in tow, the two generations were symbolically connected by this great man, this damaged angel, Neal Cassady.