Walking Spanish

Just another Looking for Whitman weblog

Bob and Walt

Well I started this thing with Tom Waits but I think Ill finish it with Bob Dylan. Over the past two weeks I have had this poem on my mind. For some reason or another I feel that its appropriate to put here. I feel that this poem is something that Walt would have enjoyed had he had the chance to read it. It speaks to a lot of different topics like many of Walt’s poems and almost barrages the reader with its constant picking at this idea. It celebrates not only the self but a man who Bob admired for his ethos. Just like O, Captain! My Captain! celebrated Lincoln and his legend after death so does the poem Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie help to shine a light on the father of modern folk music. I hope that one of you out there read this and enjoy it as much as I have.

Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie

When yer head gets twisted and yer mind grows numb
When you think you’re too old, too young, too smart or too dumb
When yer laggin’ behind an’ losin’ yer pace
In a slow-motion crawl of life’s busy race
No matter what yer doing if you start givin’ up
If the wine don’t come to the top of yer cup
If the wind’s got you sideways with with one hand holdin’ on
And the other starts slipping and the feeling is gone
And yer train engine fire needs a new spark to catch it
And the wood’s easy findin’ but yer lazy to fetch it
And yer sidewalk starts curlin’ and the street gets too long
And you start walkin’ backwards though you know its wrong
And lonesome comes up as down goes the day
And tomorrow’s mornin’ seems so far away
And you feel the reins from yer pony are slippin’
And yer rope is a-slidin’ ’cause yer hands are a-drippin’
And yer sun-decked desert and evergreen valleys
Turn to broken down slums and trash-can alleys
And yer sky cries water and yer drain pipe’s a-pourin’
And the lightnin’s a-flashing and the thunder’s a-crashin’
And the windows are rattlin’ and breakin’ and the roof tops a-shakin’
And yer whole world’s a-slammin’ and bangin’
And yer minutes of sun turn to hours of storm
And to yourself you sometimes say
“I never knew it was gonna be this way
Why didn’t they tell me the day I was born”
And you start gettin’ chills and yer jumping from sweat
And you’re lookin’ for somethin’ you ain’t quite found yet
And yer knee-deep in the dark water with yer hands in the air
And the whole world’s a-watchin’ with a window peek stare
And yer good gal leaves and she’s long gone a-flying
And yer heart feels sick like fish when they’re fryin’
And yer jackhammer falls from yer hand to yer feet
And you need it badly but it lays on the street
And yer bell’s bangin’ loudly but you can’t hear its beat
And you think yer ears might a been hurt
Or yer eyes’ve turned filthy from the sight-blindin’ dirt
And you figured you failed in yesterdays rush
When you were faked out an’ fooled white facing a four flush
And all the time you were holdin’ three queens
And it’s makin you mad, it’s makin’ you mean
Like in the middle of Life magazine
Bouncin’ around a pinball machine
And there’s something on yer mind you wanna be saying
That somebody someplace oughta be hearin’
But it’s trapped on yer tongue and sealed in yer head
And it bothers you badly when your layin’ in bed
And no matter how you try you just can’t say it
And yer scared to yer soul you just might forget it
And yer eyes get swimmy from the tears in yer head
And yer pillows of feathers turn to blankets of lead
And the lion’s mouth opens and yer staring at his teeth
And his jaws start closin with you underneath
And yer flat on your belly with yer hands tied behind
And you wish you’d never taken that last detour sign
And you say to yourself just what am I doin’
On this road I’m walkin’, on this trail I’m turnin’
On this curve I’m hanging
On this pathway I’m strolling, in the space I’m taking
In this air I’m inhaling
Am I mixed up too much, am I mixed up too hard
Why am I walking, where am I running
What am I saying, what am I knowing
On this guitar I’m playing, on this banjo I’m frailin’
On this mandolin I’m strummin’, in the song I’m singin’
In the tune I’m hummin’, in the words I’m writin’
In the words that I’m thinkin’
In this ocean of hours I’m all the time drinkin’
Who am I helping, what am I breaking
What am I giving, what am I taking
But you try with your whole soul best
Never to think these thoughts and never to let
Them kind of thoughts gain ground
Or make yer heart pound
But then again you know why they’re around
Just waiting for a chance to slip and drop down
“Cause sometimes you hear’em when the night times comes creeping
And you fear that they might catch you a-sleeping
And you jump from yer bed, from yer last chapter of dreamin’
And you can’t remember for the best of yer thinking
If that was you in the dream that was screaming
And you know that it’s something special you’re needin’
And you know that there’s no drug that’ll do for the healin’
And no liquor in the land to stop yer brain from bleeding
And you need something special
Yeah, you need something special all right
You need a fast flyin’ train on a tornado track
To shoot you someplace and shoot you back
You need a cyclone wind on a stream engine howler
That’s been banging and booming and blowing forever
That knows yer troubles a hundred times over
You need a Greyhound bus that don’t bar no race
That won’t laugh at yer looks
Your voice or your face
And by any number of bets in the book
Will be rollin’ long after the bubblegum craze
You need something to open up a new door
To show you something you seen before
But overlooked a hundred times or more
You need something to open your eyes
You need something to make it known
That it’s you and no one else that owns
That spot that yer standing, that space that you’re sitting
That the world ain’t got you beat
That it ain’t got you licked
It can’t get you crazy no matter how many
Times you might get kicked
You need something special all right
You need something special to give you hope
But hope’s just a word
That maybe you said or maybe you heard
On some windy corner ’round a wide-angled curve

But that’s what you need man, and you need it bad
And yer trouble is you know it too good
“Cause you look an’ you start getting the chills

“Cause you can’t find it on a dollar bill
And it ain’t on Macy’s window sill
And it ain’t on no rich kid’s road map
And it ain’t in no fat kid’s fraternity house
And it ain’t made in no Hollywood wheat germ
And it ain’t on that dimlit stage
With that half-wit comedian on it
Ranting and raving and taking yer money
And you thinks it’s funny
No you can’t find it in no night club or no yacht club
And it ain’t in the seats of a supper club
And sure as hell you’re bound to tell
That no matter how hard you rub
You just ain’t a-gonna find it on yer ticket stub
No, and it ain’t in the rumors people’re tellin’ you
And it ain’t in the pimple-lotion people are sellin’ you
And it ain’t in no cardboard-box house
Or down any movie star’s blouse
And you can’t find it on the golf course
And Uncle Remus can’t tell you and neither can Santa Claus
And it ain’t in the cream puff hair-do or cotton candy clothes
And it ain’t in the dime store dummies or bubblegum goons
And it ain’t in the marshmallow noises of the chocolate cake voices
That come knockin’ and tappin’ in Christmas wrappin’
Sayin’ ain’t I pretty and ain’t I cute and look at my skin
Look at my skin shine, look at my skin glow
Look at my skin laugh, look at my skin cry
When you can’t even sense if they got any insides
These people so pretty in their ribbons and bows
No you’ll not now or no other day
Find it on the doorsteps made out-a paper mache¥
And inside it the people made of molasses
That every other day buy a new pair of sunglasses
And it ain’t in the fifty-star generals and flipped-out phonies
Who’d turn yuh in for a tenth of a penny
Who breathe and burp and bend and crack
And before you can count from one to ten
Do it all over again but this time behind yer back
My friend
The ones that wheel and deal and whirl and twirl
And play games with each other in their sand-box world
And you can’t find it either in the no-talent fools
That run around gallant
And make all rules for the ones that got talent
And it ain’t in the ones that ain’t got any talent but think they do
And think they’re foolin’ you
The ones who jump on the wagon
Just for a while ’cause they know it’s in style
To get their kicks, get out of it quick
And make all kinds of money and chicks
And you yell to yourself and you throw down yer hat
Sayin’, “Christ do I gotta be like that
Ain’t there no one here that knows where I’m at
Ain’t there no one here that knows how I feel
Good God Almighty

No but that ain’t yer game, it ain’t even yer race
You can’t hear yer name, you can’t see yer face
You gotta look some other place
And where do you look for this hope that yer seekin’
Where do you look for this lamp that’s a-burnin’
Where do you look for this oil well gushin’
Where do you look for this candle that’s glowin’
Where do you look for this hope that you know is there
And out there somewhere
And your feet can only walk down two kinds of roads
Your eyes can only look through two kinds of windows
Your nose can only smell two kinds of hallways
You can touch and twist
And turn two kinds of doorknobs
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital
You’ll find God in the church of your choice
You’ll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital

And though it’s only my opinion
I may be right or wrong
You’ll find them both
In the Grand Canyon
At sundown


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Visitors Center Script

The Bolton Group

The Bolton Group was formed in 1886 by Tom France, who wanted to create a local branch of the Social Democratic Federation in his home town, Bolton, England. The original group had thirty members and met at Tom France’s house. In the early 1890’s the Bolton socialists rented a place in Back Cheapside and opened the town’s first Socialist Club. They served beer, established a library, and held regular meetings, often with well know guest speakers. In 1898 the local branches of the Independent Labor Party and the Social Democratic Party were combined to create the Bolton Socialist Party. In 1905 Tom France and others set up a Bolton Social Hall Ltd, which helped them raise money to buy a house, which is still the location of the Socialist Club today. After the first World War the Bolton Socialist Party began to fade away, losing members to the communist party and the Labor Party, however the Party was never formally disbanded.

Whitman and the Bolton Group

The Bolton group were  devoted followers of Whitman and set up the Whitman Fellowship, and often referred to themselves as his disciples. Whitman never visited Britain, but he did develop close ties with Bolton through correspondences with J. W. Wallace and John Johnston. Both men visited Walt Whitman in America, and Johnston published the diaries he kept of his experiences as Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890- 1891.

The Bolton Group Today:

While the heyday of the Bolton group has long since past the Bolton group continues to act as forum for the discussion of today’s political problems in relation to socialism. They sponsor weekly events as well as a newsletter through which they help to continue the growth socialist political activism. They also continue on with the legacy of their founders by continuing to promote the work of Walt Whitman. Every year on the last Saturday in May close to Walt Whitman’s birthday members of the Bolton group as well as admirers of Whitman’s poetry come together to walk through the streets of Bolton in celebration of Whitman. This walk consists of members following a circular route along the streets of Bolton during which they stop to recite Whitman’s poetry and drink from the “loving cup”. The “loving cup” is a three-handled cup that was presented to the Bolton group by Whitmanites of the United States in a show of camaraderie. While the original cup is no longer used as it was donated to the Bolton Museum a new “loving cup” has been commissioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the walk.

Where Jayro found Whitman

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Plumbing and Row Houses

“Camden was originally an accident, but I shall never be sorry I was left over in Camden. It has brought me blessed returns.”

Whitman, Camden, and plumbing:

Before we can look at houses like Whitman’s house on Mickle Street we have to look at what it was that made Whitman stay in Camden, the short and confusing answer being plumbing.

Whitman’ younger brother George Washington Whitman was a pipe inspector for the city of Camden. He was worked part time while also inspecting pipes in Brooklyn and running a construction business. He was hired at a time when cities were growing much more quickly and would therefore need better infrastructure. The goal was to try and make up and coming cities like Camden sanitary and conducive to living a healthy life. It was a time in which scientist had realized the dangers of disease caused by sewage; This lead to more regulations over  water and sewage as well as demand for more modern infrastructure. This was accomplished by laying down better running water systems as well as creating Water treatment centers.

Before these revelations in hygiene the ways by which people took care of themselves was at best primitive. Before the 1840’s most water was provided by wells, local rivers that were often contaminated with sewage, or haphazardly built pipe systems depending on ones proximity to a city or body of water . Furthermore very few people believed in things like bathing which many viewed as hazardous to ones health or just unnecessary.  It was through these conditions that many illnesses like Cholera, typhus and typhoid fever were able to run rampant across the United States.

Culturally these findings meant that people became more informed about public health. They had easier access to clean water and were able to develop better hygienic skills. This in turn also meant that people were able to live longer because the spread of disease could be more controlled with good hygiene.

With the money that George was able to make from his various jobs he was able to build his own house for him, his family, and his mother. It was this house which Whitman visited in 1873 to visit his mother three days before she died. This left him depressed and after a short stint back in Washington D.C. Whitman returned to Camden to live with his brother. He spent the next eleven years there while paying room and board. It was after those eleven years that his brother George moved to Burlington New jersey and Whitman bought his house on Mickle Street.

Whitman House:

Walt Whitman’s house in Camden like most found in any city is a row house or terrace house. A row house is a house of medium density that shares one if not two walls with the houses next to it while also mirroring the façade of the other houses. Typically these houses tend to have no front yard with little to no backyard. These types of house originated in Europe during the latter half of the 17th century though. At that time and up until recently they were associated with the working class as they were inexpensive and favored over apartment housing. Furthermore these houses were very cost effective to build and easy to design.

The first row houses to be built in the United States were those of Carstairs Row in Philadelphia in and around the time of 1799 to 1820; they were designed by architect and builder Thomas Carstairs for the developer William Sansom. They were built as part of one of the first speculative housing developments in the United State whose goal it was to break up land in to smaller easier plots to both build on and sell. These houses with there uniform design were vastly different from what was typical of that time. Most houses in Philadelphia were made in varying styles and of varying dimensions and quality. As time passed row houses became very popular and spread across various cities of the United States, one of them being Camden. Culturally this meant a change in how people interacted with their neighbors.  It created much more tight nit communities in which everyone knew each other and looked out for one another. These communities were often centered on one similar trait that would be shared by members of the community whether it is their occupation, race, or religion.

Camden like many cities around the country is now mostly made up of row houses.

Walt Whitman’s house on Mickle Street is one row house that seems to deviate from what one usually expects a row house to look like as in seen in the picture below.

A lot of the other houses in Camden as well as row houses around the country tend to be truer to the original definition of row houses  as you can see below.

Whitman’s row house was built around 1848 and given its appearance was probably was probably a part of another set of row houses before they were torn down. Whitman bought it in 1884 for $1,750, he was seventy-two at the time and is the only house he ever himself owned. He paid for it through a personal loan as well through the royalties he received from the sales of Leaves Of Grass. Whitman remained there until his death on March 26, 1892.


“Walt Whitman House” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Whitman_House> Wikipedia.

“Walt Whitman House” <http://www.ci.camden.nj.us/attractions/waltwhitman.html> City Of Camden.

“History of Plumbing in America” Plumbing and Mechanical, July 1987.

Sill, Geoffry M. “Camden, New Jersey” <http://www.whitmanarchive.org/criticism/current/encyclopedia/entry_13.html> Walt Whitman: An encyclopedia

Transcendentalism in Song Of Myself

Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself is a poem which attempts to liberate both the poet and reader from the restraints of convention by thoroughly exploring and emphasizing transcendentalist beliefs of a common soul or spiritual state, known only in an individual’s intuition, which encompasses and goes beyond the materialistic and physical world. “I celebrate myself, and what I assume you shall assume, for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” (27). To Whitman, the self is both personal and universal. Every person is an individual with their own identity and own idea of their self, however, the world also maintains the idea of a unified, universal self, in which everything is indistinguishable and interconnected.

And I know that the hand of God is in the elderhand of my own,

And I know that the spirit of God is the eldest brother of my own,

And that all the men ever born are also my brothers…

and the women my sisters and lovers,

And that a keelson of the creation is love;

And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,

And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,

And mossy scabs of the wormfence, and heaped stones, and elder and mullen and pokeweed (30-31).


The idea that God is everywhere and that there is no difference between God and the self illustrates the belief that all things are equal; all things are a part of God. Even the most commonplace objects, such as leaves, ants, and stones, contain the infinite universe. When asked “What is the grass?” (31) by a small child, Whitman examines the object in question on a symbolic level. He sees the grass in the child’s hand not only as a symbol of rebirth in nature, but also as a common material linking all people together—the ultimate symbol of democracy. “Growing among black folks as among white, Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same” (31).

In the section of the poem where a woman is watching twenty-eight young men bathing in the ocean, imagining herself as the invisible twenty-ninth, Whitman perfectly outlines the paradox of transcendentalism.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,

You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather,

The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them” (36).

Experiencing the world comes from immersing yourself in it; however, you must also be far enough away from every situation to have some perspective, and invisible enough not to interfere with it extensively. Being able to find this balance seems impossible, yet Whitman optimistically accepts it as part of the ubiquitous universal plan.

The transcendentalist ideal that we are all a part of the same matter or energy is the essence of not only this poem, but also of Whitman’s consciousness as a whole. He sought to surrender to the senses and celebrate them. It is this ideal which allows Whitman to see the beauty in all things and the need to appreciate and enjoy everything—from a blade of grass to breaking waves. Admittedly, imperfections fester everywhere in the world, however, the universal self assures that evil is part of a natural design and everyone will has a chance for fortune and happiness in their next life.

Beauty Of life

As I thought more and more about what to write this week all I could think about were the opening lines of “Song Of Myself”:

“I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

These are by far the most well known lines of the entire poem and to me signify the meaning of the poem. Whitman was a man obsessed with the beauty of life, of everyone’s life. As I read these lines over and over I thought more and more about the poem ” The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski. It is one of m favorite poems and starts out with statement that has a similar sentiment, in my opinion:

“Your life is your life”

Both of these poems try to emphasize how important it is for an individual to appreciate themselves through promoting an understanding of the beauty of life as well how one must be proactive in controlling its direction. I feel that while Whitman and Bukowksi are vastly different people who  viewed the world through two separate points of view they both would agree that life is a precious and beautiful commodity that many people waste through inaction and low self esteem. I’ll end by inserting the full poem as well as a video of Tom waits (Who wrote the song my blog is named after) reading the poem.

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

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Image Gloss

“What is commonest and chapest and nearest and easiest is Me,

Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,

Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me,

Not asking the sky to come down to my goodwill,

Scattering it freely forever.

The pure contralto sins in the organloft…”

-Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855) p. 39

Contralto refers to the deepest singing voice a woman can have and is in between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano in terms of range. Contralto singers are usually referenced in terms of Opera even  though they are rarely used since most female parts call for much higher singing voice. When contralto singers are used they are typically given the parts that were originally intended for castrato singers.

The use of this reference gives a very dramatic feel to the stanzas which surround it while also giving some sexual ambiguity. The fact that most contralto singers sing the parts of castrated men gives an odd picture of sexuality and identity which it seems Whitman was a huge fan of . Furthermore, If you listen to a contralto singer singing something like “Ebarma Dich” while reading through the bottom of page thirty eight and thirty nine you get a a feeling of somber happiness. I feel that this audio helps to give another dimension to the many images that Whitman presents to us in Song Of Myself.

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Song Of Jayro


I celebrate myself,

and what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance ….Always

substance and increase,

Always a knit of identity …always distinction….always a breed of life.

To elaborate is no avail…. Learned and unlearned feel that it is so.

Clear and Sweet is my soul….and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.

Lack one lacks both….and the unseen is proved by the


till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.

I exist as I am, that is enough,

If no other in the world be aware I sit content,

and if each and all be aware I sit content.

Do you see O my brothers and sisters?

It is not chaos or death….it is form and union and plan

….it is eternal life….it is happiness.


Hes got himself a homemade special
You know his glass is full of sand
And it feels just like a jaybird the way it fits into his hand
He rolled a blade up in his trick towel
They slap their hands against the wall
You never trip, you never stumble
Hes walking spanish down the hall

Slip him a picture of our jesus
Or give him a spoon to dig a hole
What all he done aint no ones business
But hell need blankets for the cold
They dim the lights over on broadway
Even the king has bowed his head
And every face looks right up at mason
Man hes walking spanish down the hall

Litellas screeching for a blind pig
Punk sanders carved it out of wood
He never sang when he got hoodwinked
They tried it all but he never would
Tomorrow morning therell be laundry
But hell be somewhere else to hear the call
Dont say goodbye, hes just leaving early
Hes walking spanish down the hall

All st. barthelemew said
Was whispered into the ear of blind jack dawes
All baker told the machine was that he never broke the law
Go on and tip your hat up to the pilate
Take off your watch, your rings and all
Even jesus wanted just a little more time
When he was walking spanish down the hall

-Tom Waits

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