We spent Saturday and Sunday not at the beach but at the Walt Whitman birthplace, in Huntington, Long Island, two hours west of here, where Mark was in residence for the weekend. Here he is reading, an especially good reading. And here is Walt's house, which was apparently built as a spec house by his builder father, before he moved the family to burgeoning Brooklyn.
The ironies of location. While Walt's house in Camden is across the street from the state prison, the house in Huntington stands amidst suburbia. Men's Wearhouse just a few feet to the south. Walt Whitman Fence, Whitman Jewelers, Walt Whitman Road, Old Walt Whitman Road. And a short walk away, the Walt Whitman Mall, where excerpts from Song of Myself are etched into the front of the building. The woozy surreality of seeing this radical, visionary text, repeated over and over, on the same structure that houses Saks and Bloomingdale's. I had the feeling that I might have been the first person ever to stand out there and read it, which might have accounted for the fact that I started to feel like I was about to be targeted as a security risk. How not to be rearranged by those lines? According to someone from the Whitman foundation, more than a few schoolkids come to the house thinking Walt was named after the Mall.