The city of San Miguel de Allende is a rock garden built into a chorus of hills and blooming with the vibrant colors of Mexico: ocher, rose, burnt orange, and bright green. Its narrow streets (sometimes comically so), which can be absurdly steep in the city’s core, proudly display the stone work, carved wooden doors, arches, courtyards, balconies, and fountains dating from the time of the Spanish occupation in the 1600’s. Rooftops, no more than three stories high, are graced with terraces and precariously placed potted cactuses and are frequently overflowing with bright bougainvillea or other fragrant and colorful flowers. A stroll down (or up) any one of these calles (Hildago, Zacateros, San Francisco, Relox or Correo) is a treat for the senses as it will very likely bring you into contact with the delectable aromas from a restaurant or café kitchen, the raucous laughter from a corner saloon, live mariachi music, heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables at a local market, or the smell of chickens roasting on a spit.
Established among the native inhabitants are a tapestry of expatriates from the US, Canada, Europe, South America, and many other locations from all over the globe. The magnet that draws these divergent groups to this enchanted place is a magical mix of caressive climate, visual beauty, and cosmopolitan culture. The ingredients that work their charm in 2010 are the same ones that were responsible for the influx of Americans who began flowing here in the 1950’s. One of those Americans was an intelligent literary legend and general roustabout named Neal Cassady, the man who inspired the character of Dean Morarity in Jack Kerouac’s landmark novel, On the Road.
Ever since reading this book with an almost guilty pleasure when I was a neophyte rebel in high school in the sixties, I’ve been intrigued by the man who inspired the novel’s Moriarity character. I’ve always been in danger of falling under the spell of larger-than-life people, who are fascinating because they are so much out of the ordinary. And the further out of the ordinary they are, the more I am drawn to them, be they artists, inventors, or entrepreneurs.
In the midst of moving to San Miguel de Allende in 2007, I found myself paying attention to the murmurs about the death of Neal Cassady in this small city on the cold night of February 5, 1967, a death that took place mysteriously on the railroad tracks leading out of the city towards Celaya. Most of these murmurings were being generated by the swirl of publicity surrounding the imminent arrival of a writing conference on the Beats which would be held at one of the largest hotels in San Miguel and promised an electrifying few days with someone who had known Cassady. How I managed to miss this conference is still a matter of personal conjecture, but miss it I did.
Making up for such a blunder is not easy, but this story is in some ways a compensation for that mistake. It is also a search for the psychological roots of our society’s tendency to become transfixed by the life of famous people and my own preoccupation with great artists and great men.
(This is a an excerpt. Read the full story at The Literary Traveler.net
Causes Anthony Maulucci Supports
Greenpeace, Amnesty Inernational, American Cancer Society, Red Cross, Save the Children