Have you ever gone to Springfield, IL?
I only spent a night there, so what do I know, but walking from my hotel, an anonymous box plunked down at a crumbly corner, along the hem of the downtown, squared off and bright, to a vegetarian restaurant and a surprising flawless Manhattan; then walking back, thinking after giving away all my singles to the sniffly figures who sidled up to me with videogame regularity, hmm, perhaps this isn't the safest area of town. But I felt safe enough. I liked the humanity of the place, the sense of historic occasion and the dowdy stucco side by side, that it had and is both, can only be both.
It reminded me in that way of Graceland, or I guess really of Elvis, why we love him: the silver-tongued sexy mama's boy with the kookballoons sandwich prefs who died taking a crap. Not even taking a crap; trying to take a crap. It's why he's one of our secular saints, that any one of those things makes him a man, makes him a star, but that all of those things together make him…American. Glorious. Ridiculous. Sweet, and fat. His museum is his home, because of course it is, and the sightings of him persist, because of course they do — he's family, and ghosts come because we need them, not the other way around.
If you think this is about to segue into a discussion of Donald J. Trump's similarities to Elvis, the garish taste, the living larger, it isn't. I would say the similarities end right about there, and…well, maybe it's useful to look at their respective homes, Trump's gold and cold, not a pajama pant or Dr Pepper can anywhere, but then at Graceland the commitment to comfy means a carpeted ceiling that you, the paying customer, can touch. Can and will. But what I mean is the sense of late, in the last few months, that "home" is not here, "home" is not safe. Sitting sullenly over another excellent Manhattan last night, listening to that preening Volvo commercial that co-opts Whitman's "Song Of The Open Road," I thought about Whitman, that he really did contain multitudes, a bunch of them RULL annoying and druncly, self-important, embarrassing; and I came home and got all dusty digging up my old Norton and reading "When Lilacs Last In The Dooryard Bloom'd," my inane margin notes in my try-hard bubble print and for some reason a mention, in marker, of the death of Vladimir Horowitz, beholding my own multitudes, some of insight, mostly pretension, all waiting at that time, waiting to understand anything Whitman had to say about death, or anything else.
Whitman found family in country — the physical land, America and all its birds and smokestacks — and I do think there's something to that, to going into it and through some hills and seeing how many things it is. But it's hard, today, to think that might restore anything, because of that feeling of dislocation, of danger, of definitions dissolving. The wonderful, exhausting, beautifully disastrous thing about the U.S. is that all the different ways and days that we struggle to reconcile, the differences and the struggle both make us what we are as Americans. We can only be every AND either, and like the man said, the hard is what makes it great, but a lot of people don't see it that way, and hate me, and hate my friends, and my head hurts, and I'm tired and I'm afraid.
And I'm grateful, and I'm furious. I'm Springfield. I'm Whitman. I'm Elvis. And I'm going to fuck some shit up. You should come along, so we can keep each other safe.
See you at home.
Tags: Donald J. Trump Elvis Presley poetry politix Vladimir Horowitz Walt Whitman