Monday, 24 November 2014

Catching Up with Walt Whitman

It all began when I was driving a group of Beaver College (Glenside, PA., suburb of Philadelphia) students back from a night on the town (Cape May, New Jersey on the Atlantic Ocean) to celebrate Alice Mazurie turning 21. As we approached the Walt Whitman Bridge (which connects Camden, New Jersey, 60,000, with Philadelphia, 2,000,000), Alice asked, "Doctor Hazard, have you ever visited Walt Whitman's grave?" 

Shamefully, I had to admit I hadn't! Ever. And as an articulate fan of WW. So I swerved off the access road to the WW bridge--and suddenly we were aghast at the sight of a mausoleum falling apart! The 1891 concrete was crumbling. Shame on all of us alleged fans of WW! Now by what we AM Lit folks call "a remarkable providence", the National Council of Teachers of English was holding its annual convention in Philly over Thanksgiving. So I phoned the brass in Illinois and ask if I could collect money for repair by circulating at the convention with shoulder boards exclaiming (front) "SAVE WALT'S VAULT" and (rear) "A BUCK FOR THE BARD'S BONES".

The stuffy brass replied: "You may collect money if you reject that shameful rhetoric!" When I find a phrase that pleases me, I'm very reluctant to abandon it. So I didn't. Still I managed to wring $838  from the tight-fisted English teachers. We started repairing it immediately. But a more important result was a Whitman revival. 

We started the tradition of a cemetery fest on his birthday-May 31- with local poets reading their "newies" and seniors like me repeating the Golden Oldies. The opening fest was a gangbuster. For an entire hour, National Public Radio broadcast to the entire USA over its daily feature "All Things Considered" our shenanigans. WW worship was no longer an empty promise! Every year now it's an expected ritual. We've repossessed our hero.

Germany does quite well in some ways, I've noted, with its writers. But I despise Goethe (though I love "Faust I and II, and mock the country not to have balls enough to stage Faust III. (I had ro sneak around just to find it when I arrived in Germany. And there's something pathetic about a man who was a virgin until he was 38, and fucked a beautiful woman for eight years before marrying her! (The French soldiers stormed G's door, whereupon he pissed his pants and turned over the door to his unmarried "wife". She told them to get the fuck out of theatre--which they promptly did!° Goethe married the next day! (As an 87-year-old observer, I find it pathetic that the Big G was chasing a teenager abroad at 83!) "Different Chokes for Different Blokes;" which was never a black American aphorism.

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